French Broad Chocolate Lounge

 

Treats at Frenchh Broad Chocolate Lounge Cobey went to the beach with his grandparents so Claire invited a friend and we headed to Asheville for the Downton Abbey Costumes. We got to town in time for an afternoon treat at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It took a little searching because the place has recently moved and the website took us to the old location. We walked around the corner and up the street and Claire spotted.  I had chocolate creme burlee. Claire had chocolate mouse and a chocolate truffle. Alana had milk and cookies ice cream and chocolate truffle. They were all yummy. We then went to the factory and did a self-guided factory tour. They do guided tours on Saturday which I think would be better but they have done a good job with the self-guided. They have a great sheet spelling everything out and signs to mark everything.  Don’t forget to taste afterward.

Basilica  of Saint Lawrence The next stop was the Basilica of Saint Lawrence. The architect was Raphael Guastavino, who came to work on the Biltmore House in mid 1880s. The church was completed in 1909.  The style is Spanish Renaissance. The outside is interesting but the inside is amazing. If you are any where close, you should take the time to go inside. It has beautiful stain glass windows, statues and carving. I can’t believe I have never been in this place. They have a great brochure inside with the history and information.

 

Window at Basilica of Saint Lawrence Cederic's CollarWe ended our day with a bite to eat at the Cederic’s Tavern at Biltmore Estates. The girls had soup which they both enjoyed. We had pimento cheese that was quite good. I had a Bison burger which was delicious. The service was excellent and the atmosphere was nice. The girls loved the dog collar and all the photos of the dogs throughout the restaurant.  I would go back for sure.

The Biltmore Inn

Claire has been wanting to stay at the Biltmore Inn so when they offered a  special for passholder’s we took it.  The room was very spacious with two double beds,  two chairs, small breakfast table and chairs, large closest and a desk. It is beautiful place but  would not stay again without a similar reduced rate. You should always check to see what rate they are offering.

The Moment Alana saw Biltmore for the first time.

 

This was the moment that Alana saw the Biltmore House for the first time. The expression was priceless. The girls were up all night watching old Downton Abbey episodes. They were eager to get inside and see the costumes.

 

 

 

 

 

10361331_10204813506512182_7832790773665421654_nThe girls did the kids audio and I did the adult. I am so glad we did. The kid’s audio is based on the Cedric the dog. It tied in perfectly with dinner last night and they loved going through the house searching for the lost bone. The costumes were wonderful and in almost every room. They had descriptions about each one and information about the time period. It is well put together and we loved it.  We are looking forward to our next visit in the spring.

Biltmore House

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Roberts-Vaughan House 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.

Flying Machine

 

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.

Tavern 125

Tavern 125

 

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!

Parker's Ferry

 

Chowan CollegeWe 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.

 

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Rick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar – Snead’s Ferry

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Feb 1, 2015 Under Good Eats/Not So Good Eats

Rick's - Sneads Ferry

 

Last night the girls went out for dinner while we were enjoying a weekend at the beach. It was fantastic.  We started with a mix drink and none of them disappointed.  We had a  Mango Martini, Sun City Sunrise (like Tequila Sunrise but add midori) and then Snickers (has Godiva liquor). We had crab dip for appetizer which was good. The main dishes were awesome. I had a steak with their specialty rub and crab cake. My friends had a Salmon Florentine special and Shrimp Scampi. We took home M and M ice cream pie home for dessert. It was good also but the drinks and main dishes were the best. Oh and our waitress was a hoot!  Her quote of the evening- Thankfully I am not  drinking anymore but lately I have been. …

The previous night  we ate Riverview Cafe.  We had a while before a waitress came over but once we did the service was great and food came out fast. The hush puppies may be the best I have ever had.  Our main dishes were just okay but I think we ordered the wrong thing. I had peel and eat shrimp and my friend had grilled tilapia. We also had the crab dip which was just okay. I suggest sticking with fried seafood. I hear that is great there.

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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.

Old Mill at Puppy Creek

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.

Claire Skydiving

 

Cobey Skydiving

Me

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,

Hoke County Courthouse

Overall, this kids put it last on the list. They absolutely LOVED skydiving but overall not much in Hoke County.

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Friendly County-Northhampton County #12

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Jan 21, 2015 Under 100 County Challenge, Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

We needed to go to Jackson, NC for a project Claire was working on so we decided to make Northampton county number 11. We started our visit at the Northampton History Museum. It is a small one room museum but it has some interesting exhibits and the person working there was very helpful and informative. We then went to the Chamber to see one of the costumes from The Lost Colony. The costume designer is from the county. We then headed to lunch at Embassy Cafe.  I had the great BLT! Cobey said his barbecue sandwich was one of the best and Claire enjoyed her tuna salad. Bring cash!

BLT

 

After we ate lunch, we went to the Northampton County Courthouse, built in 1858. The courthouse is still in use and we were able to take a peek inside the courtroom.  This was the spot where Lafayette was welcomed officially to the state. We then did a self-guided walking tour of the town. They have some interesting buildings and worth a quick walk.

Northampton County Courthouse

 

 

We then headed for the Trapper’s Cottage, also known as earth house. You need to be sure to visit. Claire and  I were fascinated by this place.

Tapper's Cottage ??????????????????????????

 

We then stopped at the Battle of Boon’s Mill and the marker for Sir Archie. If you stop at the Sir Archie marker, you can still see the Moxie Plantation down a very long driveway. We were wishing we could go tour the place.

Claire at Sir Archie

Cobey at Battle of  Boon's Mill Northampton County is not a flashy county but we were surprised at the rich history so for its population it was nice.  It was not one of our favorite counties but because of the history and nice people we were sad about that fact.

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Five Days in DC

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Jan 11, 2015 Under Claire, Cobey, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Politics, Travel

Arriving DC at Union Station We had the most fabulous time in DC.  I have decided it was a great week because even though it was bitter cold and it snowed, the museums were empty.  Also, the hotels were a lot cheaper.

Triple Chocolate Bread PuddingWe stayed in a Hilton Garden Inn on First Street. It was a newer hotel and the staff was some of the best we have experienced. We ate several times at the restaurant for breakfast, dinner and snacks. The service was good and the food was very good. We loved the triple chocolate bread pudding.  There is a Harris Teeter attached so you can easily pick up anything you may have forgotten or some snacks.  I highly recommend the hotel.

We used Uber for the first time and we also loved that. It was easy and cheap and kept us from freezing. Most of the time it was cheaper for the three of us to take Uber than to take the metro. They were fast, friendly and professional.

The only disadvantage that I found for that time of year was worrying about travel to get there. We solved that by taking the train. The train worked out well for us. We didn’t have any long delays. We ended up getting to sit together. We ended up saving money when you factor in gas and parking in DC.  I would do it again..

Day One  

National World War II Memorial When we arrived, we were picked up at Union Station by Brian with Bi-Partisan Tours for a private night time tour of DC. If you can only do one thing in DC, do a tour with them. It was fabulous. We saw all the monuments, the White House, US Capitol, Ford’s Theater and more.  We got great information that was interesting and fun.  It was the best overview in the shortest amount of time.

 

 

 

 

 

Day Two

 

Swearing In of Thom Tillis

The Crowd

 

Cobey and Senator Thom Tillis

We spent the day watching and celebrating the swearing in of our newest Senator Thom Tillis. It was a wonderful ending of two years of hard work. We started out with a tour of the US Capitol which was interesting and the rotunda is just beautiful.  After watching the swearing in, we then had time before the evening party. We dropped in the Botanical Gardens with our friends the Mixons. The gardens were just beautiful and worth a stop in, We loved the statues of all the monuments.

Cobey at Botanical Gardens

 

Day Three 

We started the day at the National Archives with a tour and possibly future appearances on 60 minutes. (They were filming a show) We really didn’t have a long time there but it was interesting and Claire enjoyed the Kid’s room. We had lunch at the cafeteria which was good not great.

National Cathedral Creche Exhibit

10891533_10204606208129852_1856787978464719168_nThe magic of the day started when Claire and I went to the National Cathedral for Tea and a Tour. We arrived a little early for our tour so we were able to visit the Creche Exhibit.  Since I collect them, it was probably my favorite exhibit in DC.  It is an annual exhibit and so worth the visit if you are there at the right time. They are from around the world and all very unique. Afterward, we had the best tour of the cathedral. It is so beautiful and has so much history. Our tour guide was awesome..  We ended our visit with a very special tea in the tower. It is not overly pricey and so worth it.

 

 

Hudson and the BoysWhile the girls where having tour and tea, Cobey was with friends having another tour of the Capitol. He said the tour was fabulous. It was set up by one of our favorite people, US Congressman Richard Hudson.  They also got to sit in the gallery and meet with Hudson.  That night he told me he wished Hudson was our representative.

We all met up and had dinner at the Matchbox which was really good and a great ending to the day.

Day Four 

Rail Car in Holocaust MuseumWith two days left, I let each child have a day to decide what they wanted to do. Claire got to pick this day and she started us out at the Holocaust Museum. She has read a lot of books on the time period and had been wanting to go. She liked the section geared toward kids – Daniel’s Story but she was disappointed in the rest. She thought the one in Richmond was better.  We had lunch at the museum cafe which we really enjoyed. They had several Jewish dishes that were different and good.

After lunch, we went to the Museum of History.  We  could have spent a lot more time there. They enjoyed the food and transportation exhibit but Claire’s favorite was the First Ladies’ Inaugural Gowns. She absolutely loved this collection and wants to go back. We then rushed over to the National Postal Museum. Brian on the first night had told Claire about Owney, the postal dog and she really wanted to go.  It is a smaller museum but one of our favorites. I highly recommend trying to fit it in your visit.

We had dinner across the street at Kelly’s Irish Times. The food was good but the service was terrible. I got the feeling we were not welcome at all. I am not sure whether it was because we were not local or because I had the kids.

Claire and Owney

 

Day Five

Berlin Wall

National Building MusemThis was Cobey’s day and he made some great choices. We started out  at the Newseum  This was my first time at this museum and I loved it!! It had great interactive and interesting exhibits.It is like seeing history thru the lens of news reports.  This museum needs to be on your list. We stopped in at the National Building Museum. You should at least go in and take a look at this magnificent building. It is one of the most beautiful in DC. You can walk around for free but there is a cost to go into the exhibits. I would say skip the exhibits and enjoy the beautiful building and great gift shop.

Our last stop and Cobey’s favorite of the day was the International Spy Museum. It is a very interesting and fun museum. You start by getting a spy identity which the kids really got into. It was neat seeing history through the perspective of spying. The museums ends with a James Bond exhibit. We left the next morning to come back home. We could have easily stayed another week and can’t wait for our next visit.

International Spy Museum

Cobey’s Favorite – Tour of Richard Hudson                                                                            Honorable Mention – International Spy Museum

Claire’s Favorite- Bi-Partisan Tour                                                                             Honarable Mention Owney at the National Postal Museum, First Lady Gowns & International Spy

My Favs- Bi-Partisan Tour, Tour and Tea at the National Cathedral, Creche Exhibit, Newseum.

Favorite Place to Eat- Matchbox

 

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7 Night Disney Cruise

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Dec 15, 2014 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

Disney Cruise 2015

This was our 5th Disney cruise and was my favorite so far There were so many magical moments and it was completely relaxing. The cruise was on the Fantasy and went to Castaway Cay, San Juan and St Marten.  I will just try to touch on the highlights of our trip

On The Ship

Claire, 10 at the time, was still in Club. She did not spend as much time in club as she had on previous trips. I think she felt a little old for it. We got permission for her to go to Edge with Cobey but she didn’t want to do it. Event though she didn’t enjoy club as much as she did on other cruises, she had a great time on the ship. She enjoyed watching movies, the shows,  swimming and she read a lot. Cobey on the other time spent a lot of time at the edge but also enjoyed the movies.  I had a seaweed wrap and massage which was delightful. I really enjoyed the shows and spent a lot of time read.

Porthole We had had rooms with balconies, inside rooms,and portholes. For our family, we never used the balcony and  Claire loves reading in the porthole so that is our preferred room. We love that Disney Cruise rooms have two bathrooms one with a sink and toilet and  one with sink and shower. Also, the rooms have great storage for a small space.

Food

????????One of Cobey’s favorite things about a cruise is eating.  He is a very adventurous eater. It is great he can try so many different things. I think the food is overall very good and sometimes great.   Bruce and I ate once at Palo.  You have to pay extra to eat at Palo and Remy. I always say I am not going to go back. I have never had a bad experience but just don’t think it is that much better for the money. Then I see all the rave reviews and I always go back to see what I am missing. Well after this time, I am not going back. (Someone please remind me.) The food was good, not great, but the one thing I didn’t like is now for the first course you have to get up and go to this buffet  where you point to what you want and they put it on your plate. I hate buffets and I certainly not paying extra for it.

 

 

Shows

Elsa Making it Snow

The quality of shows are so much better than on  other ships.  We loved Aladdin and  Dreams. The first night show is just okay so if you go the first night and don’t like it then don’t give up. You should go back for sure. We skipped the pirate show this time but we really have enjoyed it in the past. They had a special Christmas one in the lobby where Santa came and the highlight was Elsa making it snow. We always love the Farewell Party in the lobby  because you can see lots of characters in a short amount of time.

Characters

Photo bombed by Goofy

Sword Fight With Captain HookI always worry that this will be the trip that Claire will not want to see the characters but she was still interested. Cobey will take a few but overall he is not interested and hasn’t been in years. They have changed the princess gathering and you now get a free ticket from guest services. So when you get on the trip ask about tickets. This made the line very short and nice. W also got a ticket to see Elsa and Ana. Claire loved seeing them. One magical moment was when we were photo bombed by goofy when we were trying to get a photo for our Christmas card. Another one was when Claire had a sword fight with Captain Hook.

 

 

Royal Court Tea

Royal Court Tea

Royal Court Tea

This was extra and quite pricey but so worth the money. This was Claire’s favorite thing on the ship and probably mine too. Maybe even more than my seaweed wrap.  I may do a separate  blog in more detail about this alone. For now, it was a show, many gifts, great food and being treated like royalty all wrapped in one. She got a doll, a very nice scrapbook/autograph book, a music box, and a charm bracelet with charms from each princess.  Each princess came to each table and had photos with each child.  It was truly magical.

 

St Maarten

St Marten

????????We did the Tour of Two Flags. This was a tour of both sides of the island. It had a little history of the island and took you to different spots. It was disappointing and I wish we had just hired a taxi and done it on our own. This has never been my favorite island so that may have been part of it. The best part by far was the Italian gelato at Carousel Gelateria Bar which was delicious but I didn’t need a tour guide for that. Claire had fun on the carousel but  she is still talking about the key lime gelato.

 

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Horseback Riding  El Yunque National Rainforest

Claire

 

The boys were suppose to go diving but their tour was cancelled. They ended up touring the fort and of course eating. Claire and I had a great excursion horseback riding.  It was in the rain forest which was beautiful. The best part was the stop for at swim at the river. The guides showed Claire how the Native Americans made paint from the rocks in the river and they painted her face. We also had almonds straight from the tree. They showed us a magical leaf that held water and turned silver when wet. These “extras” are what made this excursion so special. I hope to be able to do the excursion again when we go back in January 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Castaway Cay

 

Claire and Me Parasailing

We all went parasailing and it was awesome.  It was highlight of the trip for sure. When we were high up in the air, Claire said this is the best Disney Cruise ever. And I have to agree it was the best Disney Cruise ever. It will be hard to beat..

 

 

 

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Eating Our Way through Granville County #8

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Aug 27, 2014 Under 100 County Challenge, Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

Granville County Courthouse

Granville County Historical MuseumWe started our day in Granville with breakfast at Finch’s family restaurant. It has been around since 1945 and you can see why. They had good food and great service. Claire loved her french toast with powdered sugar.  We then headed to Oxford to check out some beautiful buildings and the 1840 courthouse with weather vane on the top. We spent some time in the Granville County Historical Museum. It is small but has some interesting stories about Granville and rural North Carolina. It is held in the old jail.

 

We almost skipped the lunch- Harvest Restaurant  because of the sign on the door but we went decided to go ahead despite Cobey’s objections. They had a variety of interesting sandwiches. The food was good not great. The restaurant is housed in an old house which gives it a nice atmosphere and the service was good.

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The snack after lunch made up for the lackluster lunch. They loved Snocrazy’s Snowballs. This place was great with lots of flavors. Yum!! Don’t miss this place if you are in the area.

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We drove around and saw more beautiful houses, churches and the Oxford Orphanage.  We then had the honor of a tour with John Turner in Butner. He told us about the history for the Butner and his vision for a Veterans Life Center.  This center is so needed to help our Veterans heal and they deserve that and much more.  VLC – Cares and so should you.

We visited the town hall where they have an interesting exhibit about Camp Butner. A large part of the town was acquired by the US Army during World War II. The built 3,500 structures in just six months and could house 35,000 soldiers. The area was used for training, a hospital and a POW camp for German prisoners. They have photos before it was taken over and after.  We asked someone in the town hall for a place to walk. We were told about a greenway that went by Rite Aid. I asked about a trail maybe in the woods. I was then told we don’t walk in the woods unless we are hunting. We also visited he memorial across from the town hall.

With some help from google, we ended up taking a nice walk at Lake Devin.

Lake Devin

 

We also made a quick stop through Stovall and found this beautiful church. It once was the Stovall Episcopal Church. I would love to find out more about the church. I love it!

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Grammie's Kitchen After our walk, we went make to Creedmoor for not one bakery but two. We first meet one of my high school friends at Grammie’s Kitchen. They had a great selection and we even picked up diabetic friendly treats for the grandparents. It was really yummy and they have a few tables so we could rest for a bit. We then crossed the street to Raleigh Cake Pops which was a huge hit with lots of different flavors. They ship cake pops all over the country.

Raleigh Cake Pops

 

We ended the day at Bob’s BBQ! Claire and I loved it and thought it was the best BBQ yet but Cobey still loves Parker’s. We ended up eating our way through Granville County and having a great day!!

 

 

 

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Mt Tabor School 1870

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On the way home from the beach we decided to hit two more counties- Columbus and Bladen.  On the way we stopped at the Mt Tabor School from 1870 for a quick photo. (photo above)  Our first top was the visitor center in Fair Bluff where we took a walk on the trail along the Lumber River. They have a nice boardwalk and trail which made for a great walk.

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We then did our own car tour of the area. We picked up the brochure at the Visitor Center.  They have some great old buildings including a Trading Post (1802) and Depot (1897). The depot has a small museum but it was closed that day.  There were many more beautiful buildings and one of Claire’s favorite cemeteries.  We ended our visit with ice cream at Elvington’s Pharmacy.

 

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After we went through Chadborn, we stopped at the NC Museum of Forestry.   It is  very small museum inside with some fossils found in White Lake. We were more interested in the things outside.  There is also a short tree trail where the trees are marked and a fossil dig. You can check out tools in the museum. The best part was the Whispering Giant sculptor found in the front.  Peter Wolf Toth a sculptor who immigrated from Hungary made a series of these to honor Native Americans. There are 74 statues with at least one in each state. We stopped at the courthouse in both counties. Neither where impressive.

 

 

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We started our visit to Bladen County at  the  famous Melvins burger in downtown Elizabethtown.  This was Cobey’s favorite burger.  They put out some hamburgers and watching the system is entertaining. We then visited a graveyard behind an old church and the local park where on August 27, 1791 the Battle of Elizabethtown  took place.  This is were 60-70 Whigs crushed over 300 Tories. They used a ruse of commanding phantom soldiers to make the Tories believe they were much larger and then engaged them during a disorganized retreat.  There is a marker to commemorate this event.

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We ended our trip to Bladen County with a stop at Houston’s Peanuts for a snack and then Lu Mill Winery. Claire loved the winery were she got a slushy and jam sample. They have a great gift shop. We also explored the grounds were Claire loved the little church. It was a great end to a full day.

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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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