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 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 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.