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.
We had the most fabulous day at Conner’s Prairie. A friend from Indiana recommended the place and it did not disappoint. We arrived when they opened at 10am and stayed till almost 5:00. We were able to see everything, do all the extra activities, and have a very short lunch during this time. When we arrived they were not doing this balloon ride because of weather which was disappointing but they opened it up several times during the day. I suggest keeping watch for it if you really want to do it. We were able to catch a ride right after lunch. The area tells of the history of balloon venturing in a fun interactive way. The exhibit includes the first airmail flight flown by Professor John Wise. He wanted to fly from Lancaster, Indiana to New York City but only made it one county away. The balloon is more of a ride than a true balloon ride but the kids enjoyed it.
The next area you arrive at is the 1815 Lenape Indian Village. Here you will find a trading post and a wigwam. This is a fairly small area but has some fun activities. In the morning we learned how to make fire and heard a great story about how fire came to be. In the afternoon, both kids took turns at being silversmiths.
The third area is 1826 Prairietown. Before you get into town you will come to William Conner’s homestead where you can tour the house, see his animals and even make a beeswax candle. A little down the road you will come to the town. In town you can assume a role or character or just visit. We had a great talk with the doctor in town, the school teacher, Claire helped make biscuits, toured the tavern and much more.
The last area is the 1863 Civil War Journey. The area is based on a raid by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan on July 8, 1863 in the town of Dupont. This was the highlight of Cobey’s visit because he got to shoot an Enfield rifle. This area was probably the best at telling the story of what happen on that day. It had two multi-media movies to tell the story. It also had a field hospital, a depot, a general store, a telegraph station and a home.
There are also two interactive rooms in the welcome center. One seems geared for younger kids and one for older. They visited the older area where they made circuits and chain reactions. This was a great full day and I would highly recommend you go if you ever get the chance. It was a hit for all. We ended the day in the downtown of Noblesville. I recommend going there and walking around the square. Don’t forget ice creams at Alexander’s On the Square.
Mecklenburg County has so much to offer, you can’t possibly cover it in one day or even two. The kids considered past trips when ranking. Cobey said the Whitewater Center was the only reason that the county made it to the top. Previously, we have been to NASCAR Hall of Fame, Raptor Center, Latta Plantation, Discover Place, and Rural Hill. Our first stop was Mr. K’s Soft Serve which has been family owned since 1967. The kids both got ice cream which they said was good but not the best. The place was very friendly and great atmosphere. The rest of the menu looked good also.
For the rest of the day we got to tour with the Browns which always makes exploring a county more fun. The next stop was The Mint Museum on Randolph Road. The museum has history of the mint in Charlotte, and a variety of art. Claire was very interested in the fashion exhibit and the conservation of the clothing items that was taking place. They have many interesting decorative art pieces including wedgewood and pottery. We were all interested in the political pottery pieces. Many of the galleries at activity bags to make the museum more interactive for kids and they also had an interactive room. We really rushed through the museum and Claire wants to go back as soon as possible.
We then went to Brook’s Sandwich Shop for what is said to be the best burger in Charlotte. Brenda agreed that it was the best burger in Charlotte but Cobey said it was not the best burger in the state. Claire had a BLT which she loved!
We then went to the Rosedale Plantation. We had a great tour where we learned about the family that lived in the house and interesting features of the house. The last stop was the Charlotte Museum of History. The museum is also home to the largest bell in the country. It is also home for the 1774 Hezekiah Alexander House who was a signer of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. This is the largest surviving house in Charlotte. We toured the house, small garden, kitchen and springhouse. We saw lamb’s ear in the garden which they used for toilet paper. The museum also houses a large interactive display with a replica stone house and garden. We ended the day with the First Annual Baby Bundle project hosted by Susan Tillis. These baby bundles go to new babies born at Fort Bragg for E4 families and below. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day.
Greene County is a small county but had an unfair advantage because of our personal tour guide- native Charles Taylor. He did a fabulous job setting up things for us to see and people to talk to. We stopped by the courthouse which recently had a fire and had boarded up windows. We then stopped by St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. This Carpenter Gothic church was built in 1887. It is a charming church has a church bell outside and a graveyard. Our first appointment was a tour at Happy Jack. This is a family run business since 1946. It was great learning about the inner workings of the business.
On the way to the county museum and visitor center, we stopped into the ABC store and learned about a sweet potato Vodka called Covington. It is distilled in the county. The county has a large sweet potato production and a sweet potato festival. The museum is one room and the exhibits change. They currently had a hat collection exhibit. There was a flag from the county and some information about the forming of the county. Otherwise, not much to the museum. We then headed to Simply Natural Creamery where we had a tour and had ice cream twice. The tour was very informative about the running of the farm. The ice cream moved to the top of list for North Carolina ice cream. We then headed to Ribeyes of Snow Hill. It was the first of the franchise and the owner of the franchise lives in Greene County. The best part of the day was our guest at lunch. Ben Rayford is a WWII vet and past Greene County Mayor and town council member. He told a story of coming face to face with Paton and being in France when the war ended This was the highlight of the trip for me.. After lunch, we meet with the warden of one of the three prisons in the county.
The last stop on the way out of the county was the monument to remember a battle at Fort Nooherookuh where almost 1,000 members of the Tuscarora Nation were killed. They attack took place on March 21-23, 1713. It is now the largest burial site of Native Americans in North America. The monument located on farmland is quite beautiful and unique. It was a great end to a wonderful visit to Greene County. Cobey bumped newly placed New Hanover County and placed Greene County as number one.
We visited our 17th County- New Hanover. This was a extra special county because my brother joined us and we had special friends John and Pam show us around. We had high expectations with the owners of AllAboutWilmington as our guides. The did not disappoint. We have been to New Hanover several times. We have been to the Battleship North Carolina, Fort Fisher Aquarium and the Wilmington Children’s Museum. We have eaten at some great restaurants in the past including Carolina Cupcakes. Last Year, Claire learned all about Bonsai trees at the Painted Lady Bonsai. We knew the area had lots to offer. We wanted to revisit Fort Fisher since we have not been in while, and then see some new things. We took the ferry from Southport and started at Fort Fisher. We watched the fiber-optic battle map first. It had a sign not to push the button that it was only for school groups. We pushed it anyway. It is a great overview of the battle there. We walked around the tour trail and read some of the wayside. When we came back in to the exhibits Claire read about a confederate spy- Rose O’Neal Greenhow. She was very interested in the story and wanted to find her grave at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.
The next stop was Carolina Beach State Park. They have a small exhibit about carnivorous plants. We had a very good and informative talk from Ranger Helms about the plants and his job. We were then off to lunch at Winnie’s Tavern. It is a little off the beaten path and not a fancy place but it did not disappoint. My brother said the burger alone was worth the trip. You should look it up the next time you are in town! We then headed for Oakdale Cemetery. We stopped by the office and got a map of the famous grave sites. They have some really interesting ones. Along with Rose O’Neal, the designer of the Lincoln Memorial, the first governor of NC elected by poplar vote, and a girl buried in a run barrel . I love the history you can find in a graveyard.
We headed for the Cotton Exchange. I am not much of a shopper but I really love this place. I love the history written throughout the plaques all the wall. I love the small unique shops. We got toffee at the General Store and dog treats at the Dog Bakery. We then headed to Bellamy Museum Mansion. There we started out by watching a film of the overview of the house and then a house tour. The house has sparse furnishing but some beautiful architecture detail. The tour was almost two hours. He was very knowledgeable but tour was a little long especially after a full day of touring. He also could have skipped some inappropriate stories with my kids and other kids even younger in attendance. So the mansion ended up being an plus and minus for New Hanover county. After the tour, we headed home but there is even more to explore in New Hanover County.
After our day spent in New Hanover and considering the things we have done in the past. New Hanover moved to the top of Cobey’s rankings. He also gave Winnie’s the honor of best burger. Claire ranked New Hanover tied for first with Union, Cumberland and Gaston. I loved The Cotton Exchange so I am giving it best for shopping so far not that I know much about shopping. And although the tour was long it was my favorite home so far Bellamy Mansion is worth checking out just don’t get the long tour.
We have not officially done Cumberland County yet but we have been spending some time downtown working on Claire’s history project. First, let me say if you have not been to the Cape Fear Regional Theater- check them out. We have been to several play there and we are NEVER disappointed. I have really been surprised with downtown and growing to really like it. They have some great restaurants, interesting history and it is relatively clean. Claire is still not over the condition of the Lafayette statue. Take another look at photo above. The first place we ate at was across the bridge from downtown at Riverside Grill which is attached to a bait shop. Claire got a hot dog and chili fries. I got a cheeseburger. The food was quick and good and we were pleased.
The next time we were in the area we ate at Circa 1800. It was opposite end of the spectrum from the grill. Claire and I split a salad and crab cakes. We also got bruschetta. It was all delicious. The service and atmosphere were great. We really loved this place and would go back for sure. The last place we have tried is The Sweet Palette. We took home mini cheesecakes, cake pops, and cupcakes. They were all delicious.
Yesterday, we made quick trip to Hertford County. We are working on Claire’s project on Lafayette and decided to explore the county at the same time. I was quite surprised what the county had to offer.We first stopped in Murfreesboro. They have so much history and many preserved buildings. We first stopped at the Roberts-Vaughan House (1790-pictured above). We got a tour of this house and learned a little about the town history. We next went to the Agriculture/Transportation Museum. It is small but fascinating. We got to see a replica of a flying machine that was built 30 years before the Wright Brothers flight. We also saw the corn husker that gave Gatling the idea for rapid fire gun. We saw a few other houses and buildings from the outside then went for lunch.
We had lunch at Tavern 125. Cobey had a burger (pictured below), Claire had clam chowder and I had philly steak. The kids had key lime pie(pictured below) for dessert. The food was very good and reasonably priced.
We then went to the Parker’s Ferry. It is one of the last cable ferries in NC. It can only carry two cars at a time. The kids actually thought it was fun!
We then drove thru Winton which was not very impressive. They had one museum that was not open and a few old buildings but many were in disrepair. We stayed a few minutes then after some searching headed to Chowan College for our walk in the county. It was the best we could find. The ponds on campus were nice and we walked around for a bit then headed home. It will not make the top of our counties but it will not be at the bottom either. We will be back for sure either for a field trip I set up or one of their second Saturdays that they start in April. Lafayette visited here and you should too.
This was a post from my facebook page.
Tips for New Homeschool Moms
1- DO NOT try what I call school at home. This is when people try to duplicate what school does at home with desk and textbooks and stuff. They are not in school for a reason STOP!
2- Your two year old DOES not need curriculum. For that matter, your 3,4,5,6 year old does not need it. READ, PLAY GAMES REPEAT
3- If you pull your kid out of public school, DON’T start book work right away. They need time to decompress and adjust. When you do start, start with a few subjects and then add.
4- You do not have to “have school” 180 days. The whole attendance think is laughable to me. Homeschooling is a lifestyle not a school day so I count everyday as “school”.
5- School should not take all day. If your early elementary students are going past lunch then that is too long unless you don’t get up to lunch which sometimes happens in our house.
6- DON’t prepare your kids for testing that is what is wrong with the system. Test them glean, what you can, and move on.
8- The beauty of homeschooling is the relationship. Don’t miss it by putting them in front of a computer all day or worrying about getting them in to Harvard. You will miss the best parts.
9- Speaking of Harvard, don’t worry about getting them into college at all. They will get into college and not because you worried about it. Instead focus on finding out what your kids are passionate about and fan the flame. Tailor what you do around what they love.
10- Don’t try to prove to the world you did the right thing by trying to prove they are smart. Don’t try to push them in to classes they are not ready for. Don’t have them study for the hours for the spelling bee, Geo Bee, History Bowl, etc if they hate it. Let them spend the time exploring THEIR interest. If you stop trying to prove yourself, then people will see this homeschooling thing is working.
Bonus- Stop asking dumb questions. FIRST, do a little research like all of us veterans did, then if you have a question ask it. You are driving us crazy. My guess is the people who I am talking to have not read this far. They are off posting another question on Facebook
Hoke was our 13th county and the first county visit that it rained the entire time. I am glad our main activity was indoors. We decided we would fly a mile instead of walk a mile.
We started our visit at The Mill at Puppy Creek for lunch. The food was a mix of Italian and bar food. My side salad was not so good but the lasagna was good. The bar food was good also. The service was good but took awhile to get our checks. We really liked the atmosphere – big windows overlooking the old mill and river.
After lunch, we were unsuccessful in finding another place to have dessert or something interesting to see so we headed for the main attraction in Hoke- Paraclete XP, Indoor Skydiving. It was a homeschool field trip and we had 15 flyers – age 8 to adults. The staff was awesome. We first went to a classroom where they explained everything and taught hand signals. We then went and got all our gear and suited up. Once we went in the tunnel, I did get a little nervous. We each got 2 one minute flights. It was fun and everyone had a BLAST!! The staff is so patient and professional. We could not have had a better first flight. Claire is begging to go back.
The kids were not impressed with the courthouse. They thought it was to tall for the width but at least it was not one from the 80s,
Overall, this kids put it last on the list. They absolutely LOVED skydiving but overall not much in Hoke County.