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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.

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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.

 

Urban Trail

 

 

 

North Carolina Arboretum 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.

 

 

11954810_10206275918111558_122406355404593091_n11232129_10206275914111458_4375354067668124217_n 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.

Thomas Wolfe HouseWe 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.

11951869_10206275903471192_8679276978285113411_nThe 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.

Ultimate Ice Cream

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11987104_10206301221544128_466116147548740139_nBecause 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.

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11902497_10153453222548950_1943773066144332891_nOn 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.

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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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Jeff’s Boat- OIB

 

We have decided to partake in a travel challenge. Our plan is 100 NC counties, 50 states and 15 countries before Cobey graduates in 2020.  We have a few rules. We are not redoing states or countries. Driving through a state does not count. You have to eat something and do something. The same goes for the counties. The kids will be ranking the counties as we go and they can consider things we have done in the past in the county. I hope you will follow along with us on the adventure.

We started with Brunswick County because that is where my brother lives and we were in town for his birthday. We have been to many good restaurants at Ocean Isle Beach and Oak Island. We have also been many time to the Museum of Coastal Carolina at Ocean Isle Beach. It is a great small science and history museum. We have even climbed the scary lighthouse at Oak Island and explored the Fort Caswell. For this trip we decided to focus on Southport.  We started at the Visitor Center which is at Fort Johnston. After checking out the small museum which has some cool movie artifacts we decided on a golf cart tour.

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We went with the Southport Fun Tours which lived up to their name. The tour had a lot of information about movies and TV shows have been filmed in the area. The tour also had a lot of information about the history of the area. There is history back to the Native Americans and lots of Civil War history. It was a great balance and kept us all entertained. I highly recommend this tour. We headed for Provisions for lunch but the line was too  long and we were starving so we ended up at Fishy Fish. I really love the decor and atmosphere but the service and food were not great.  I had the worse peel and eat shrimp that I have ever had.  Cobey and Claire liked their meals better but it was not over the top. I guess we should have waited for Provisions. We walked around downtown and took a photo with a tree that the Native Americans used to mark a trail. We then headed back to OIB. Southport is a really cool quaint town that is worth a visit. Check it out!

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Mordecai House and Trolley Tour

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Aug 28, 2013 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, NC History, North Carolina, Travel

Trolley RideNC Homeschool Adventures had a tour of the Mordecai House and  a trolley tour of downtown Raleigh. Our group went into the house first were we learned a lot about the family of lived there and about how people lived during the time period. We also learned that we had been saying the name wrong. Our tour guide was very informative and knowledgeable. We next went on the trolley ride. The trolley ride was a lot of fun where we learned a lot about the houses and people that lived there.. The kids learned that the prisoners made the bricks in front of the Governor’s mansion and that when they had finished a stack they would put their name on it. They kids remembered and the next week when we walked by the mansion the kids were looking for the names. There are several other houses on the grounds but you can not go into them. Great place to visit and highly recommend it.

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We have been to Old Salem as a family and for homeschool days but this was our first time for Scout Day. We had a great visit. They were  very well organized as usual and check-in went smoothly. The activities for the day were clearly outlined for us. Our  troop coordinator did a great job of having everything prepared she wanted the girls to do for to earn the badge. We stayed together for a few ours then we split up. We went to the Tavern where George Washington stayed and in the kitchen they learned about cooking during the time period. In the barn, they learned about pulleys. We went to the boy’s boarding school, where they learned about dying thread, tin work and other trades. The kids loved the visit to the bakery with sample cookies to try. In the square, they got to try the old fashion fire engine. The best part was the doctor’s home where they got to learn how old fashion scales work and help make lye soap. I love how there is always something new to see and learn at Old Salem. It is worth a visit.

 

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Junior Historians Exhibit at NC History Museum

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Jul 18, 2012 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, NC History, North Carolina

On Sunday we took Grandma, Pawpaw, and Uncle Jeff to see Claire’s art piece at the North Carolina Museum of Art.  Claire also showed us her favorite gallery and her favorite piece of art.  Then we headed downtown to the North Carolina Museum of History. We wanted to see Cobey’s two contest winners from NC Junior Historians. He had won two first places in the photography category. This exhibit was so impressive and more than we expected. We now understood why it took so long to put together. It was not just projects laying on the tables but it was professionally put together. Cobey’s photos were a printed part of the exhibit.  You could see some projects on computers and others were in glass cases.  After we checked out the  exhibit, we had a nice lunch at Pharaoh’s at the museum. Between all of us we had hotdogs, Cuban sandwich, hamburger,  and salad. Everyone enjoyed their food and  it was priced reasonably. We then went through The Story of North Carolina exhibit. It is a great  exhibit with hands-on parts for the kids. There are plenty of things they can touch that kept them interested. It is a well-put together exhibit that makes you feel you are traveling thru NC history. We then went to the Call to Arms exhibit because Cobey was very interested in that.  The last stop was across the mall to the new wing of the Museum of Natural Sciences. We thought it was way to crowded and decided to come back on a weekday when it would less so. If you have not been downtown to the museums lately, then you should take the time to check them out.

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Carl Sandburg National Park

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Jul 16, 2012 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, National Parks, NC History, North Carolina

After we picked up Cobey from Camp Arrowhead  and got a quick bite to eat, we headed a very short ride to Carl Sandburg National Park. All I knew about Carl Sandburg was that he was a famous American Poet but you know we never drive pass a National Park unless we have to. The parking lot was full when we got there but the park did not seem too busy.  You have to take a short hike up to the house and the vistors center which is in the bottom of the house.  We bought tickets for the next tour and got Junior Ranger books. The books are really simple and they did all the activities to get a badge and a patch.  The house is not particular impressive but interesting. It gives a great glimpse into the life of Carl Sandburg and his wife Lillian Steichen.

The first thing we learned was he was a socialist. Glad, I did not know that before.  I really loved the story about not getting into West Point because he failed his entrance exam in grammar.  Despite his failure in passing grammar, he becomes a very successful accomplished writer. I  love stories of overcoming obstacles and not giving up. His wife was very famous in the world of goat breeding. She breed a goat named Jennifer that produced 3 gallons of milk per day. That was a world record that stood for many years. Most of the things in the house are originals. You could almost see him working at his desk.After we had the house tour, we went into another building and had a talk on how to make goat cheese. Claire enjoyed tasting the cheese and liked it. We also visited the barn where we saw goats and an exhibit on processing goat milk.  The kids turned in their books and then we headed home.

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Greensboro Historical Museum

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Tuesday Mar 6, 2012 Under Claire, Cobey, Kid's Corner, NC History, Travel

 

We had a great time today at the Greensboro Historical Museum. We took a trip to Greensboro around 1900, and visit the Porter School, the Richardson & Fariss Drug Store, Steam Fire Engine Company No.1, Hotel Clegg and the Crystal Theatre. In the school, we learned what life was like in a one room schoolhouse and got to practice on a slate. In the Drug Store, we learned about formulas that the pharmacist would come up with it. In the Fire Station, we learned about the fire station in the early 1900s and got to practice a bucket brigade. In the hotel, we learned about the hotel and about how the phone system worked during that time. In the Crystal Theatre, we watched old movies which was interesting for the kids. This was an awesome hands-on program. It added so much to the museum experience. I highly recommend it to any group. After the program, we walked through the rest of the museum and then headed out.

 

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Oak Island Lighthouse

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Jan 11, 2012 Under Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, NC History, North Carolina, Travel

We are spending the week at Oak Island. The two weekends are for moms only and the during the week is with the kids. Yesterday, the older kids went to climb the Oak Island Lighthouse. There was an age restriction so I was planning on staying at the house with Claire but a friend volunteered to watch all the little guys. They also convinced me that the lighthouse was a short one. When I drove up, I realized they lied. It was a pretty tall lighthouse. And that was not going to be the ONLY problem.We went into the first landing where we  saw not a nice spiral staircase but a series of ship ladders. That is when it got scary. She told us that 1 out of 10 did not make it to the top. I can understand why because it is intimating.

I was had thoughts myself. Our host gave us a brief history of the lighthouse and then guided us to the top. It is 160 feet above the water and it is 131 steps to the top. That is ladder steps not stair steps by the way. It was completed in 1958 for 110,000. It use to be the second brightest lighthouse in the world but they have since changed the bulbs twice and is no longer the second brightest. We had two that decided not to climb and several that were nervous about climbing including myself. The rest of us made it to the top and back down. I really felt like I had accomplished something when I finished.  We conquered our fear and the ladders. The view is great from top and would have been much better if we had a clear sky. I don’t think I will go and find out. If you have not climbed the Oak Island Lighthouse, put it on your bucket list. You have to be seven to enter the lighthouse and nine to climb. All the moms said they would not question age restrictions again. You have to make an apt during off season to make the climb. During summer season they have tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. You can find more information about tours and the history of the lighthouse at  http://oakislandlighthouse.org.

 

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