From the Virginia line all the way to Raleigh the pace is easy. Farmlands, flowers, smoked ham and smiling faces make a deliberate case for life out of the mainstream. Clotheslines and vegetable gardens, patriotic slogans and mobile homes are common; pick up trucks are even more so. Along the way diversions and discoveries are waiting to be enjoyed, the list below is just the beginning.
Hope springs eternal. Dedicated to the premise that preserving the past leaves a legacy for the future, the Spring Hope Historical Museum features exhibits on local and state history. This tiny piece of Southern life is typical of the uniqueness of rural North Carolina. (Spring Hope. 1 (252) 478-4381)
A walk through time. Located along the old canal in Roanoke Rapids, the Roanoke Canal Trail features some of the best-preserved and most impressive early 19th century canal construction in the nation. The Roanoke Canal, completed in 1823, was built as the North Carolina contribution to the Roanoke Navigation System. Its original purpose was to connect the Blue Ridge Mountains (in Virginia) with Norfolk, a distance of four hundred miles. (1-800-522-4282, or http://visithalifax.com)
They’re not braggin’. Fort Bragg, the “Home of the Airborne”, and Pope Air Force Base offers tours to the public. Visitors can see actual airborne jumps with paratroopers floating in the sky overhead. With prior arrangements visitors can also opt to enjoy complimentary activities. These include a visit to the headquarters of the Golden Knights (a world-renowned award-winning team of parachutists that perform death-defying aerobatics), a chance to observe how parachutes are prepared for a paratroopers’ jump, and an opportunity to see how military dogs are trained to detect drugs and terrorist threats. 1 (910) 394-6366, 1 (910) 396-5401)
May the Force Be with You. The Airborne and Special Operations Museum features graphic coverage of scores of combat missions including Operation: Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation: URGENT/FURY. The museum is a tribute to the United States Airborne and Special Operations units as well as the men who served in them. There are also extensive displays of equipment, weapons, insignia and uniforms of the Airborne and Special Operations Units. (Fayetteville, 28302. 1 (910) 483-3003 or www.asomf.org or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Get your art together. Artspace, a not-for-profit gallery and workspace, encourages visitors to observe artists at work in their “natural habitat.” Artspace’s open studio environment features more than forty local artists at work and the gallery features the work of local, national and international artists. Discovery: Special opening receptions in the Artspace gallery as well as surrounding City Market galleries occur on the first Friday of every month. (201 E. Davie Street, Raleigh. 1 (919) 821-2787 or http://artspacenc.org)
Let’s do the timewarp again. With exhibits covering everything from North Carolina’s role in the Civil War to North Carolina’s medical history and feats of engineering, the North Carolina Museum of History has something on everything in the state’s history. There’s an exhibit on the famous first flight in Kitty Hawk. In the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame visitors can watch historic moments in professional and college baseball, football and basketball with the touch of a button. (5 E. Edenton Street, Raleigh, 27699. 1 (919) 715-0200 or ncmuseumofhistory.org)
The stars at night are big and bright. Visitors welcome; no telescope need. Several times a week the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill features lectures on stars, as well as outdoor lectures and scheduled viewing of meteor showers, eclipses and other celestial events. (UNC-Chapel Hill, 27599. 1 (919) 962-1236 or www.moreheadplanetarium.org)
Make global connections. Through hands-on exhibits and family programs Exploris encourages connections with the people of all cultures. The Exploris Global Learning Center offers visitors the chance to see how the world works and conveys the many ways humans make a difference in its wellbeing. One exhibit, entitled “Many Voices” encourages guests to discover the voices of the world through unfiltered news recordings from more than forty countries. (201 East Hargett Street, Raleigh, 27601. 1 (919) 834-4040 or www.marbleskidsmuseum.org)
Walk through a world of wonder. With 70,000 square feet of walk-through environments, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a fantastic place to visit. The four floors of exhibits feature great whales, the world’s only acrocnathrosaurus (known as the “Terror of the South), and Willo, the dinosaur with a heart. Throughout the museum visitors can see live animals as well as the natural world through the unique perspective of North Carolina’s diverse geology, geography, flora and fauna. (11 W. Jones Street, Raleigh, 27601. 1 (919) 733-7450 or www.naturalsciences.org)
Go hog wild. Located on the second floor of the East Coast’s largest Harley dealership is the Legends of Harley Drag Racing Museum. On display are more than six decades of American motorcycle history, including Harley Davidson bikes representative of each era from 1936 to the present. Some of the bikes are still in original condition, while others have been lovingly restored. A visit to this museum is a must for bike lovers. (1126 South Saunders Street, Raleigh, 27603. 1 (919) 832-2261 or http://www.raypricemotorsports.com/news/ray-prices-history-featured-harley-davidson-museum-exhibit)
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