Communicating With Your College Kid

Tips and tech for staying connected


Published:

Photo courtesy of Oberson/Shuttestock.com

Your soon-to-be college student doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t have access to just about anything on demand. But as he heads off to college, the one thing he will no longer have instant access to is … YOU.

Your child also won’t have your guidance in the ways he has been used to over the last 18 or so years. Whether he realizes it or not, it may take time for him — and you — to adjust.

Whether your child attends college across town or across the country, college life is a world away from his experiences at home. He will have new responsibilities, friends, challenges and life lessons to learn — one of which is the importance of communication in healthy relationships, and how distance can play a substantial role in shaping how he communicates with you.

Here are a few tips and some technology options for staying connected with your child when he heads off to college.

Prepare for a Change in Communication Style

College students and their parents have never been so accessible to each other — no matter the distance. While there are lots of apps and technology that allow you to connect with loved ones thousands of miles away whenever you want, all of this access can become burdensome if not approached thoughtfully.

To avoid misunderstandings, discuss how you are going to maintain communication before your child leaves for college. Give her the freedom to lead the discussion about the arrangement. Encourage a healthy dialogue about boundaries and goals, and use this as an opportunity for her to have an adult conversation about communication styles.

Consider asking the following questions to get the conversation going:

1. What could we use as our primary form of communication?

2. If we want to “check in” with each other, how might we accomplish that?

3. If something is urgent, is it best to communicate via a voice call?

NOTE: Avoid using words like “should” when discussing your communications arrangement, which implies obligation or pressure.


Use an App to Make Communication Fun

Many apps can help you stay connected while your child is away at college. The easiest apps to use are native smartphone messaging apps. Some families choose to use a family group text to share quick messages, images or audio between each other. Others prefer to use FaceTime or other video chat apps. Here are some options to consider. Unless noted, these are all available for iPhone or Android devices.

WhatsApp – WhatsApp allows your entire family to share messages, videos and photos on one chat. Unlike some native smartphone messaging systems, WhatsApp messages can be synced between phone and desktop devices. WhatsApp also supports sending voice messages, as well as making voice and video calls using data or Wi-Fi.

Houseparty – Houseparty allows group video chat on mobile or desktop devices for up to eight people at the same time. Similar to AIM, a pioneering chat app that was discontinued in 2017, Houseparty informs others that you’re “in the house” and available to chat. You can also identify yourself as being “away” or log out completely.



Image courtesy of Houseparty

Messenger – Connected to your Facebook account, Messenger can handle text, audio, video or photo messaging between you and other family members. Like WhatsApp, you can communicate with groups, but with Messenger you can also send money to your family members securely or play games together in real time while you video chat.

Bitmoji – While not a social networking app, Bitmoji is a favorite communication tool because it allows you to create your own personal emojis and share them with contacts. Bitmoji images can be shared via text message or email, or within SnapChat.


Go Analog

Don’t forget about surprising your college student with physical care packages. These are popular during holidays and exam weeks. Although college students are a part of what San Diego State University psychology professor Jean M. Twenge calls iGen — a generation that’s continuously connected to their smartphones — care packages never go out of style for them. In addition to using digital communication, periodically send your child a care package with her favorite homemade goodies, snacks, sundry items, gift cards, shower accessories or dorm room supplies.

Make your own or consider one of these care package resources:

Edible Arrangements – Send beautiful and delicious fruit and candy bouquets. 

Sugarfina – Gift your child with candygram gift boxes of (non-alcoholic) champagne, gummy bears and other sugary treats. 

Insomnia Cookies – Send your child a box of warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies, which can be delivered until 3 a.m. on weekdays and weekends since there are locations in 43 of the 50 states with many setting up shop in college towns. 

Amazon Prime – Consider gifting your student with an Amazon Prime Student membership for saving money on textbooks, snacks, toiletries and other items. 

• Digital photo storage sites – Sometimes you want more than a picture in a text message. Create custom photo books, mugs and more with digital photo storage sites such as Shutterfly and Snapfish.


Don’t Assume the Worst

It’s safe to assume that your primary mode of communication with your child will involve texting. According to the October 2017 issue of Inc. magazine, 75 percent of college-age students prefer texting over voice messaging as their primary mode of communication.

However, try not to assume how your child is feeling based on his responses — or lack of responses. The tone of a reply is sometimes hard to discern from brief, texted communication, so if you’re getting short responses, don’t automatically assume something is wrong. Sometimes “OK” just means OK.


Be Flexible

Once your child is away at college, keep in mind that the responsibilities, excitement and pressures of college life may be different than any of youanticipated. Be nimble to your communication style evolving over time until your child gets used to his new lifestyle. If you need to renegotiate your communication arrangement, take time during home visits to discuss whether the current agreement is working for all parties.

Additionally, be open to using new apps and forms of communication with your child. Software and systems go in and out of fashion with college students at the “speed of byte.”


Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s

1. Keep the ratio of who initiates contact one-to-one. If you feel the urge to reach out to your child more frequently than she reaches out to you, resist it, so you won’t seem overbearing.

2. Send “low pressure” messages. Don’t always ask a ton of questions that make your child feel like she needs to write an essay to respond. Send quick messages or ones that don’t require a response at all.

3. Consider texting before you request a video call. Your child may not be in the best mood, location or situation to FaceTime with you, so always text before you FaceTime and encourage your child to do the same. If you need to talk to your child urgently, use voice only.

4. Mix up your communication style by using text, videos, images, virtual stickers, Bitmojis and other fun technology to express yourself. Yes, college kids think it’s sort of cheesy when their parents jump on digital trends, but they also think it’s cool when parents “get” their communication style or preference.

Photo courtesy of WhatsApp


Don’ts

1. Dictate the communication structure. Communication is a two-way street, and a mutually beneficial communication style will require negotiation and compromise on both sides.

2. Use social media to communicate personally. Resist tagging your child on social media when you want his attention on personal matters. Public social networking sites are not the place to hash out family discussions. Use private communication tools to do that.

3. Assume that the face-to-face time you had with your child while he was at home will now be converted into time spent talking on audio or video calls. Some college students prefer to speak with their parents every day, others don’t. Discuss your desired frequency of communication with your child before he leaves.

4. Send sensitive information via third-party apps.  If you’re sending your child confidential information, like account numbers, these are situations where a direct text or phone call is warranted.


Tivi Jones is founder of Hey Awesome Girl!, a creative house for women. She is also a contributing writer for “U Chic: The College Girl’s Guide to Everything,” now in its fifth edition.

 

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August 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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June 30-August 12; 8:30 a.m.– 5:00 p.m. Come to Historic Yates Mill to see a new temporary exhibit, Rich in the Rare, on loan from the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Cost: Free

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Fidelity Bank Parking Lot
100 W. Chatham St.
Cary, NC  27511
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Contact Name: Leslie & Jessica
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Dorothea Dix Park
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Raleigh, NC  27603
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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
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Contact Name: Rebecca Cope
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Cost: $2/child

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Crabtree Valley Mall
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Raleigh, NC  27601
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Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: Free

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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Cost: Free

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Whole Foods Market (North Raleigh)
8710 Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Cost: Free

Where:
Chick-Fil-A
2720 Timber Dr.
Garner, NC  27529
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Sponsor: The MelodyMaker Entertainment
Telephone: (919)639-9328
Contact Name: Melody Scruggs
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Cost: Free

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Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
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Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
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Cost: $4/child

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: $5/person

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405 Brooks St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Cost: Free

Where:
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1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Take your own poles or borrow one from the park through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Contact Name: Rebecca Cope
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Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2761
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Little ones enjoy storytime.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Ages 7-12 enjoy fashion and design activities from 11 a.m.-noon.; ages 13-18 enjoy the same activities from 1-2 p.m.

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
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Cost: Free

Where:
City Market
306 Parham St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
Contact Name: Sara Buxton
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Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Experience the the excitement of wheelchair basketball in preparations for August Madness. Whether your team is practicing for August Madness or you're looking for a fun Friday activity, all...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Campus YMCA 'Cage' Court
304 Blackwell Street
Durham, NC  27701
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Sponsor: Bridge II Sports
Telephone: 18668802742 x12
Contact Name: Katharine Doyle
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Take a walk with a park naturalist to explore the woods and fields at this special time of day.  Register online.

Cost: $3

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson Nature Preserve staff
Website »

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See the PG-rated movie under the stars at Booth Amphitheatre. After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother,and her friend to space in order to...

Cost: $5 ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
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Kindergarten students entering the traditional school calendar practice a lunch line, get moving at recess, hop on a school bus and more.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Take a walk in the woods and discover the animals and plants that call the park home. Help collect data for our Natural Resource Inventory Database and other citizen science projects. All...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Young entrepreneurs, ages 6 -14, have an opportunity to sell their products or services to the general public. Participants can keep any profits from sales they make at the fair and will earn cash...

Cost: Free

Where:
Park West Village
Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Triangle Children's Business Fair
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Enjoy a celebration of products, services and resources for families featuring local organizations focusing on education, health and wellness, safety, special needs, child care and more....

Cost: Free

Where:
JD Lewis Multipurpose Center
2245 Garner Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Sunshine Family Expos
Telephone: 813-463-2712
Contact Name: Melinda Perez

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Enjoy live entertainment, hands-on projects and gallery hunts.

Cost: Free

Where:
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy an interactive dance story and craft time. Ages 3-7. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Graceful Expressions Dance Education
312 W. Chatham St., #103
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Graceful Expressions Dance Education
Telephone: 191-975-86003
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Search for snakes, salamanders, turtles and more. Ages 10-13. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
5959 Triangle Town Blvd.
Cary, NC  27616
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Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace
201 E. Davie St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

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220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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