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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.

 

 

 

Old Jail - Clay County

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.

 

 

11745599_10205991138192238_2103406100570381214_nThe 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.

 

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11755107_10205986132987111_2583226367954054928_nI 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.

11800336_10205986933927134_4495951521674656386_nWe 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.

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11745436_10205984728431998_8246457334648000331_nWe 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.

11751440_10205984809394022_3851740904946553025_nWe 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.

11745348_10205986961767830_4482054335220159397_nOur 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.

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Mingo Falls

River TubingElkWe 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.

11227030_10206072930276989_265167319595775487_nThe 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.

 

11825730_10206072929596972_4711823288886704445_nWe 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.

11745710_10205980663290372_2527020725966491683_nThe 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.

11836802_10206072925876879_5884235511601061389_nWe 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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

First

Mecklenburg

Tied for second

Greene

Gaston

Union

Cumberland

New Hanover

Tied for Seventh

Cleveland

Harnett

Halifax

Tenth Nash

Tied for Eleventh

Granville

Hertford

Anson

Tied Thirteen-

Avery

Tied Fifteen

Brunswick

Hoke

Seventeen- Bladen

Eighteen- Northampton

Tied for Last

Columbus

Edgecombe

 

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Become a Junior Zookeeper at Indianapolis Zoo

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Jun 24, 2015 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel, Zoo

11402931_10205781076860836_6230966643007750309_nWe 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.

11218173_10205781074660781_4697642178762626424_nThe 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.

Relaxing While Claire Feeds the Birds

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Conner’s Prairie – Fishers Indiana

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Jun 24, 2015 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

The Balloon Voyage 1859

Hot Air BalloonWe 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.

Cobey's Silversmith PieceThe 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.

PrairietownThe 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.

Cobey Shooting EnfieldThe 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.

 

Alexander's On the SquareThere 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.

 

 

 

 

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Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Jun 22, 2015 Under Children's Museums, Claire, Cobey, Kid's Corner, Travel

Children's Museum of Indianapolis

10469218_10205757805319062_1520622651547755356_nWe arrived around noon and stayed till closing which was five o’clock. Cobey is thirteen now and the time has arrived. He thought he was too old for the museum. I wish it was renamed the Indianapolis Science and History Museum because then I think he would have been fine. It was very interactive and fun but also had lots of good information. He said his favorite part was the Mario Cart. Really? Sigh!!!

 

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Claire ,who is ten, loved the entire museum. She especially loved the small fashion exhibit which was right up her alley. She also liked the Treasures of the Earth which was a great exhibit on a Pharaoh’s tomb, Captain Kidd ship wreck and Terra Cotta Warriors.  She had a great time being part of the pit crew in the Hot Wheels exhibit. We watched two well done programs in the Planetarium. One was on the history of flight and one was on returning to the moon.  I was most impressed with the number of programs. They have something going on all the time. You could easily spend an entire day just going to programs. Claire participated in one that was a science experiment and another that taught about Chinese characters.

They claim to be the biggest and best children’s museum. It did seem to be the biggest although there seemed to be a lot of wasted space. It certainly was one of the best we have been to. I guess I am a little sad that my years of visiting Children’s Museums is coming to an end.

 

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Mr. K's Soft Serve

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Mint MuseumFor 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!

 

Charlotte Museum of HistoryWe 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.

Baby Bundle Shower

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Snow Hill SIgn

St Barnabas Episcopal Church Happy JackGreene 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.

 

 

 

Simply Natural Creamery 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.

Monument - Greene County

 

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