Cobey is working on a project about Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign. The goal of this trip was to see and learn as much about the campaign as possible. Well, for me to learn since Cobey already knew a lot about the campaign. We spend about two and half days on this project. We were based out of Winchester at a friends house. I would say you would need at least this much time. We were rushed and didn’t get to everything and plan a returned trip.
The first stop was at Kernstown Battlefield where Jackson’s only defeat took place. I would give yourself at least two hours. There is a small museum, a house and a battlefield walk. The staff and volunteers were very helpful and friendly. Claire and a friend did a scavenger hunt which I highly recommend for elementary age children. The Pritchard House was built in 1854 and was there during the battle. You can find a walking tour in the museum and the way winds throughout the battlefield. The battlefield is only open on weekends so be sure to check times.
We had a wonderful visit to Stonewall Headquarters in Winchester. I highly recommend this museum. The costumed guide was very knowledgeable and informative. They have many original items in the house and items used by Jackson. The only disappointment is there are no photos allowed in the house. We also went by and saw the plaque for the Winchester Battle and the Rose Hill Farm. The farm is where part of the battle of Kernstown took place.
After lunch, Cobey and I headed to Front Royal. We purchased a driving tour at the visitor center. I had my laptop in the car which was nice because Cobey could look at the photos and listen in between stops. The tour includes a DVD and a book. It is very well done. There was only one stop, the last one that we could not find the marker. The rest were easy to find if you followed directions and the information was great. It says it takes around three hours. We listened to stories in between stops so it took us about half the time that it suggested. The stops included the one above of Prospect Hill which has a memorial to the Confederates. There is a confederate from every state buried here. The picture to the left is where town square was and urban warfare took place in this area.
The next day we had a full day as we headed South. Our first stop was at the Harrisonburg Visitor Center where we watched a short film and got some information. The next stop was the Heritage Museum in Dayton. There is a presentation of the Jackson Campaign with an electronic map which is quiet good and a great overview. This is a small but good historical museum. I wish we had more time to spend in the exhibits but we had a full day planned.
We then attempted to find the civil war markers throughout the area for the Battle of Cross Keys and Battle of Port Republic. Some were hard to find even with address and GPS. There was one on private property that said you had to have permission to see. After the driving tour at Front Royal, this was disappointing and frustrating but we did find a few makers. We did find the memorial where General Turner Ashby died. He was the general over Jackson’s cavalry. We then ran out of town because we had an appointment at 3pm in McDowell.
The road to McDowell not only was a VERY curvy mountain road , it had road construction. At the Highland County Museum, we saw a film on the Battle of McDowell. We also visited the exhibits and got some helpful tips of other things to visit in the area. The museum is housed in the mansion house where I loved the painting they found under the wallpaper. The walls were painted to look like wood. It was quiet interesting. (although nothing to do with Jackson Campaign) We then made stops at the house down the street that was Jackson’s Headquarters for two weeks and a church down the street which was hospital. We attempted to hike the mile up the mountain to find the battle markers but the trail was not marked and we found one but don’t think we found the one at the top.
We have been to Asheville several times and decided to official complete Buncombe County with field trip friends. In previous trips, we have been to Biltmore multiple times. We absolutely love it. We have eaten at the Stables and also Cederic Tavern. They have the best audio for kids staring Cederic the dog. If you go to the area, don’t miss Biltmore it is worth the money. Homeschoolers check out Homeschool Days to save money. We have stayed in Biltmore Inn also which is nice but not worth the money unless you get a special. Just my opinion. Having said all that, this trip was about exploring different things.
The first stop was a tour of Basilica of St. Lawrence. The tour was informative but not my favorite tour guide. The church is breathtaking. It is open to the public and a must see. There is parking beside the church and a brochure in the church that will give you more information. Raphael Guastavino who worked on the Biltmore House was the architect for this National Treasure. After the tour, we took a walking tour of the Urban Tour in Downtown in Asheville. The tour has 30 stops with whimsical statues. It was a fun walk with a little history worked in. One tip, be careful not to get lost and try to cut through the parking lot of the Federal Building. They really don’t like that.. The photo below is from the trail.
We made a stop that evening at the North Carolina Arboretum. I had been wanting to go for a while. It was not a good call. After a morning hiking at Mt Mitchel and then a long walking tour, we were worn out. Claire loved the Bonsai collection which is phenomenal. We also liked the section that had a quilt pattern with flowers and the one that showed dye from different flowers and plants. There are a ton of trails you could enjoy and spend half a day easy. We were just too tired and hungry and headed out. We had a terrific meal at Stone Ridge Tavern. Cobey liked it so much that he asked if we could come back the next day. Cobey had gator bites, Claire had basil tomato soup and I had Greco Chicken. We had good service and good atmosphere. I highly recommend it and hope to make it back there.
The next morning we started with a tour of Vance Birthplace in Weaverville. The Vance family purchased the property in 1795. There is a small visitor center with information where we learned more about civil war. In the house, we learned more about Governor Vance and about how it would have been to live during that time. The program was well put together. They recommended we had lunch at nearby Stoney Knob Cafe. This place was out of this world. They handled a large group seamlessly. The food was fresh and delicious. Go check out Vance Birthplace and then grab a bite to eat at Stoney Knob Cafe.
We then went to Thomas Wolfe House for a tour. Thomas Wolfe was a famous writer who wrote “Look Homeward, Angel” in this home which was a boardinghouse his mother had. The house was built in 1883 and the second owners called it Old Kentucky. Thomas had a troubled childhood with an alcoholic father, distracted mother and a brother that died. We watched a film and had a tour of the house. There is also a small museum which we unfortunately did not have time to enjoy. The photo on right was taken by Kim Biglow.
The final day tour was at Asheville Botanical Gardens which is on the campus of UNC-Asheville. We started a talk by the director of the gardens. He did a great job of telling us about things to look for in the gardens and gave some background. It was clear that he was passionate about his work and I love for my children to be exposed to people like that. Some of the highlights of the gardens were bullfrogs, the moon tree from a seedling that went to the moon and a hummingbird moth. I actually liked this place better than North Carolina Arboretum. I loved the native plants to the Southern Appalachia and natural feel. It is a beautiful area. Our last stop for the county was Ultimate Ice Cream. We had been hearing that it was the best in town. Cobey tried the Brown Sugar Maple and Bacon Ice Cream which they are famous for and he said it was great. He said it did not disappoint. They were not stingy with the samples and everyone enjoyed the ice cream.
Because of scheduling issues, we ended up doing Yancey County in two parts – Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning. We arrived in Burnsville at lunch time on Sunday. We soon figured out Sunday may have not been the best day to visit. We had a hard time finding a restaurant that was open. We finally found Sam’s Regal Beagle and decided to give it a try. After we sat down, we began to hear a table in the next room loudly complaining. They complained about how long it took to get food, the waitress, and the quality of the food. The restaurant ended up charging them very little for a large party. We couldn’t help but wonder if this was a bad decision. We stuck it out and ended up pleasantly surprised. They were out of some items but we were happy with our orders. Our waitress was the same one and she was friendly and attentive. Our food came out in a timely manner. It was not great but good. Glad we had a better experience.
We then rode around the town looking for something open without much luck. We did enjoy looking at the quilt squares and the many murals in the area. The photo above and the photo to the right are all from the area.
On Tuesday morning, we had a foggy but beautiful drive to Mt. Mitchell. It gave the background about the tallest mountain not only in North Carolina but the Northeast. The mountain is named after Elisha Mitchell who measured the mountain three times. The last time he fell to his death. There are several great trails. We split up into several groups and tackled several different trails. Cobey had a great time and Mt Mitchel helped saved Yancey County from the bottom to closer to the top. Claire and I went on a shorter hike and then went to lunch at the Mt Mitchell Restaurant. I had a burger and Claire had soup. It was a good lunch with a nice view. Mt Mitchell makes Yancey worth the visit.
I went to Appalachian State University for college. I love the area and I wanted my kids to love it also. I was determined to have Watauga shine. We took the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway into the area. We stopped at one of my favorite college hangouts – Price Park. It was a nice day and there were lots of people but we finally found a place to park and walked around a bit. We decided against renting a boat at Price Lake and headed on to Moses Cone Manor. We enjoyed the views from the house and the beautiful crafts. If you have never been this is not your average crafts, the quality is excellent. Moses H Cone was a textile magnate who built this 20 room, 13,000 square foot home in 1901. It is a must stop when you are on the parkway.
I lived in the area almost five years but never made it to the tourist traps. I decided this was my chance. The first stop was The Blowing Rock. There is a town called Blowing Rock but there is also a tourist attraction. There is a Cherokee legend about the Blowing Rock that explains why there is a perpetual wind from the rock. It has fabulous views and I got a great but scary photo of Claire. (the photo at top of blog) But honestly, there are places like this throughout the area and you don’t have to pay but you may have to hike a little bit. Glad I went once but don’t know that I would pay to go back. The same goes for Mystery Hill. The kids liked it and had fun but it was a little hokey. You also get to visit the museum with your admission. It includes a huge arrowhead collection and the 1903 Dougherty House that once stood on the campus Appalachian. The house shows life in the 19th century.
After Mystery Hill, we headed for Kilwin’s in downtown Blowing Rock. Downtown is cool and quaint and fun to walk around. One of my favorite downtowns in the state. The kids liked the ice cream at Kilwin’s but they loved the orangeade. They claimed I had been depriving them. We walked around and stumbled upon the The New Public House. Fortunately. they had room for us at a table in the bar. This was one of our best meals during our challenge. The kids shared Jambalaya and I had Free Range Chicken. The service was great and the atmosphere is neat.
After dinner, we drove to Boone where I showed them the stadium and my old dorm. The second dorm I lived in has been torn down. Claire got a photo with “The Rock” and the footprints. We got a photo of what is the ugliest courthouse we have seen so far and then headed to the hotel.
The next morning we ended up going gem mining at Foggy Mountain Gem Mine. They both enjoyed it, worked together and ended up with a bag full of gems. The staff was friendly and helpful. I would go back for sure. Of the three paid attractions we did in the county, it was by far the best. They both decided that Watauga County was pretty good even if their mom liked it and it is still tops for me.
We had a fabulous day in Clay County. The kids had previously been to Clay’s Corner doing work on a history project but I had never been. It is the smallest county in the state but it is well rounded. It had something fun to do, preserved history and great places to eat. Our first stop was Chucky Gal Stables. We had a two hour ride that was great. We took a trail up the mountain. We had a break by a waterfall that was nice but not great. The ride would have been even better if we had a great view at an overlook or of some falls. We were at the side of the falls at the top which was just okay. I would ride with them again because they were great to work with and the horses were wonderful.
We then headed to the Old Jail where the Clay County Historical Museum is located. The museum has many exhibits including one of a local doctor, a jail cell, moonshine, Native Americans and kitchen. Claire especially liked the exhibit of fabrics from old feed sacks. Down the hill there is small Indian Village replica with information on wayside boards. We checked out the the old courthouse and the square then headed for lunch.
The true test of every county is can we find something good to eat. Clay County did not disappoint. We ended up at Chevelle’s 69. Do not be scared away with the Biker’s Welcome Sign although it did give me pause. This place is great! They have a fun atmosphere not scary, prodigious menu and great service. Cobey was thrilled with separate menu with all burgers and selected a Greek Burger. Claire got pasta and I got salmon. Claire said there was too much Parmesan cheese on her pasta. How can you have too much cheese? Otherwise, every thing else was great. Who knew you could get great salmon at a Biker Bar. They have great specials throughout the week. If we are ever anywhere close, we would go back for sure. You should also.
I struggled to find something for Graham County. I believe the best thing it seems to have going for it is Fontana Lake which is quiet beautiful but we really could not find much else. I highly recommend not depending on GPS or your phone for directions. We lost signal and directions several times. We started our visit at the Fontana Dam which has a beautiful view. This was the last stop of our Cherokee field trip and our crew had dwindled to three families. The photo to the left is of the kids left standing on the end of Day 3. They have a small but nice visitor center that talks about the building of the dam and energy. It is free and worth a look.
We then went to Fontana Village Resort for dinner. We were told by locals that there was nothing to eat in Robbinsville. We ate at the Wildwood Grill. Cobey had a burger, Claire had nachos and I had a salad. The service was good but the food was just okay. The atmosphere was a little dissappointing along with the rest of the feel of the resort. I really expected a quaint charming resort but didn’t find it. We ended up driving by Historic Taboco Lodge which was more what I expected. We ended up wishing we had eaten there and Claire wants to go back and stay.
We drove through Joyce Kilmer park which was nice but we didn’t see the huge trees. We then went into the downtown – Robbinsville and found the courthouse which was not much to speak of. We also after some effort found the Junaluska Memorial. We hiked through a small Traditional Medicine Trail that had interesting information about plants and uses. We had to pass a heap of beer bottle and trash to get to the trail. When we got to the top with the Memorial, we were disappointed to find it over grown, broken tiles, and broken lamps. It was really disgraceful and says a lot about a county that would let a memorial deteriorate like this.
We made it to the farthest western county – Cherokee County. This county we also did with our field trip group which made it extra fun. We started the day driving about a half hour out to Murphy to Field of Woods. This site was the first we did for our history project that will show “curiosity” of North Carolina. They have the 300 ft wide ten commandments which claims to be the word’s largest. There are also other attractions including Psalms of Praise wall, empty tomb, all nation cross and more. I would plan to spend about hour to check everything out and climb to the tomb.
We then went back into town for a tour at the Cherokee County Historical Museum. We loved this tour with Mr. Palmer and Wanda Stalcup. It is a small museum that is packed full. We learned so much and you could tell our guides loved their county and history. I wish we had more time there. This is one of my favorite small town museums that we have visited and the people is what made it. I loved learning about the symbols on the bear, the story about fairy crosses and the story about the mask made for the museum. We then went to Main Street USA for lunch. It was a tip from the museum and it was cheap and good country cooking.
Our next activity was a three mile walking tour where we saw the spot of Fort Butler where Cherokee were held before the Trail of Tears, the first White Settlers monument and the spot where Cherokee got water on Trail of Tears. On the way out of town to Graham County, we stopped at the little church on the hill where Abraham Lincoln’s biological father is buried. We ended our day back in Murphy at The Sweet Tooth where the kid enjoyed some great ice cream.
We started our adventure in Swain County with a trip to Mingo Falls. It is beautiful and only a short hike to get there. You may want to ask for directions or print directions before you go because several people lost cell and GPS signal. The next activity would be river tubing with Cherokee Rapids River Tubing. It will take you four hours or more and for $10 per person that is a pretty good deal. A couple of tips. If you want to stay with someone then I would tether to them especially kids This river is swift in places and slow in others. If you start where we did, be ready it was a swift start. The coolest part was two elk eating on the river bank as we floated by. Claire also love the rope swing and took a few turns. I would do it again and Claire would have done it again right then.
We grabbed some food at the cooler and then headed to the outdoor drama- Unto the Hills. I highly recommend you see this show. It gives you a great overview of the history of the Cherokee. I suggest you do that before the other attractions for a great overview.
The next morning we started with a program with invertebrates with the Great Smoky National Park. The program was held at Mingus Mill. The kids collected and studied invertebrates and then heard one of the Cherokee folk tales. The mill is interesting because it does not have a wheel but its powered by with a millrace. I had never seen a mill like that before so it was interesting. After the program and mill, we went to the Mountain Farm Museum about on half a mill down the road. The farm has several buildings collected throughout the area. There is a log farmhouse, barn, apple house, springhouse, and a working blacksmith shop. Be sure to get an inexpensive self-guiding booklet at the beginning that gives more information about all the buildings. There is also a small yet informative visitor center and a nice gift shop at this location. We then had a great lunch at Wize Guys Grille. They have two different food places under one roof. One has burgers and fries and the other pizza and Italian places. Everyone found something that they wanted to eat and enjoyed there meal.
We next went to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The museum starts with a movie of one of the many Cherokee folk stories. The museum has many interesting exhibits and many built on the information we learned at Unto the Hills. We liked seeing one of the rifles that killed Silas. The statue with three sides representing the three different factions during the Cherokee removal was interesting. We learned a lot about Henry Timberlake and Emissaries of Peace exhibit. There is lot to look at in the museum but there is not a lot of interactive things. It depends on how much you read but I would suggest at least an hour and half.
The last stop in the town of Cherokee was the Oconaluftee Indian Village. The kids really enjoyed the Indian Village. They have a guided tour of the first part of the village where they demonstrate many of the traditional crafts. They have a dancing demonstration and lecturers throughout the day. I highly recommend the lecturers they are only around 20 minutes and they are very informative. We spend about two hours at the village. They only doing the dances at certain times so check schedule and plan accordingly.
We stopped at Sassy Sunflowers Bakery and Cafe for dinner. Cobey and I had salads and Claire had a sandwich and soup. This place was so good and the food was fresh. It was our favorite meal in the county. We then headed for Bryson City to see the courthouse and for desert. We stopped at Soda Pops for Ice Cream. The place has a great atmosphere and the kid’s loved the ice cream. We stopped at the Courthouse and walked around the downtown. This is a very charming town and I would like to go back when we have time. There seemed like several neat places to eat also. We then headed to Murphy. On the way, we stopped at beautiful overlooks and we stumbled on a pedestrian bridge that was wonderfully scary and fun. The bridge was a great ending to a county that we want to go back and visit again soon. Swain ranks in the top of the counties so far.
We started our day with a picnic with friends “on the square” in Shelby. It was a nice way to start our visit and a great idea and complete with homemade blueberry pie. This was the first county that Bruce was able to join us and it turned out to be a great county for him to come to. After lunch we made a quick to Shelby City Park.
We took a ride on the 1919 carousel and the train. It is one of the most beautiful carousels I have ever seen. It is beautiful and you can take a ride for fifty cents. We had a driving tour of Shelby on the way back to our next stop at the Earl Scruggs Museum. I am really not a bluegrass fan but I really enjoyed this museum. Each person gets a set of ear buds so you can hear various exhibits and there are many places to plug in. The story of Earl Scruggs and his wife was interesting. They also had general history of Cleveland County. There are three small exhibits and a movie so not a huge museum but worth the stop if you are in the area even if you are not a bluegrass fan. There was a volunteer from the area that added to the museum. I would give yourself an hour to explore. Claire found some new favorite songs and I gained an appreciate for bluegrass and its influence.
We next hurried to Kings Mountain for the play Liberty Mountain at Joy Theater. The play was about the battle at Kings Mountain and all that led up to it. The battle was very well done and great history of the area. It was loud at parts with gun and cannon fire. There is a good amount of action. I heard they are going to extend the dates so you should try and make it before it ends. We walked around Kings Mountain and then had dinner at 238 Cherokee Grill. The food and service was very good. The only problem is Claire and Betsy ended up with spicy nachos after ordering mild sweet chili. They ended up using lots of sour cream. It was a nice ending to a full day in Cleveland County.
Claire’s Rankings – She said Cleveland may have been better if we had a chance to see everything. Several things were closed because it was Sunday. The second grouping isn’t bad though.
Tied for second
Tied for Seventh
Tied for Eleventh
Tied for Last
We only had a few hours to spend but we packed in as much as possible. What I love about zoos is they all have a different twist. There were several highlights from this zoo. One would be the dolphin show which was pretty good. My only complaint was it was hard to understand what the trainers were saying. We also went to the All-Star Dog show. It was also entertaining. They had where you could feed the birds and giraffe. They also had the now obligatory rides at the zoo. They had a train, a carousel and a decent roller coaster.
The part we like the best and didn’t figure out till we had been there for a while was the Zookeeper Challenge. There are kiosks throughout the park where you can tap your unlimited wrist band and get started. You tap at the kiosk near of the animals and then back to the station where it ask you a question. The challenge really teaches you a lot in a fun way. You get a reward at the end at the gift shop. We only had time to do about half but Claire loved it and it made getting the all inclusive package worth it. If you want to save money then only get the package for the kid that wants to do the activity. We only got it for Claire. She rode the carousel, fed the birds several times and did the zookeeper challenge so it paid for itself.
We stayed around four hours. We didn’t get to hear any zoo chats and didn’t do all the rides but saw both shows and most of the animals. You could easily spend a day here or even less time if you only walked through and saw the animals. It was a good zoo and worth the visit.