Yet another reason why Raleigh is where I’m meant to be is because it’s called the “City of Oaks.” I have been fascinated with the symbolism of oaks since I was a teenager. Oaks symbolize strength, wisdom and longevity. A mighty oak springs from a single tiny acorn. Such a great reminder that even small dreams can lead to big achievements.
On our way out to the coast, we stopped for lunch at Jack Mackrel’s in Kure Beach. It is a tiny dark restaurant, with inventive sandwiches. During the winter hibernation, there isn’t a lot of choices and this one will do!
The main destination for the day was visiting the fishes at North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The ample aquarium has lots to see and do. It’s open 9 am to 5 pm, 362 days a year, ticket prices range from $6 for children to $8 for adults.
A highlight for all ages is seeing Luna, the rare albino alligator, and the freshwater tanks highlighting North Carolina native fish. There were sharp teethed gars and lazy alligators. We even tried to find box turtles in a long leafy habitat with no luck.
There are lots of hands-on activities including a large touch tank with horseshoe crabs, sting rays, star fish and a wide-variety of of sea urchins. We also fondled a moon jellyfish on an education touch cart, it felt exactly how you’d think it would feel – like a silicon boob.
The displays are beautiful. See huge spiny lobsters scamper around a large circular habitat and try to wedge themselves in rock caves. Watch North Carolina native small bonnet sharks, skates and stingrays zoom around a monochromatic Shadows on the Sand tank near the Gift Shop. For an immersive experience take some time with the two-story Cape Fear Shoals tank.
This was one of the most healthy aquariums I have ever visited. None of the fish looked overcrowded or sickly (It’s sad how many aquariums there are that don’t meet this basic standard). The tanks are well organized by complimentary organisms and well adorned with ornamental structures.
Your trip isn’t done with the tanks inside, in warmer weather there are nature trails outside for bird and duck watching. Hope you can find the huge frog statue, so cute!
On our way back home we stopped at the at the Civil War historic site Fort Fisher. First was ambling on the rock fortification on the ocean then a quick stop at the Information Center. All free and worth the wander.The day closed with an early dinner at the Shucking Shack, one of our favorite restaurants in North Carolina. It was busy, but we belled up to a pound of shrimp, fried pickles (big quarter spears) and hushpuppies. As always it was served with a smile and good service.
Ahhhh, this is why we moved to North Carolina. To be near the ocean that we love so much. What a wonderful day for two love fishes like us.
Distance From Raleigh: 2 hours 30 minutes – Get the Map
Wander Well Tips:
- It’s a haul out to Fort Fisher from Raleigh, start early
- Don’t expect to spend all day at the Aquarium, plan a second stop for beach hiking or shopping in the beach towns
- The rocks and pylons around Fort Fisher make great locations for photo opps
Wonderfully cute and fuzzy, these were in bloom during the middle of February on the grounds of the North Carolina Museum of Art. Anyone know what kind of tree it is?
It feels like the fates are working hard to help us ease into our new home in the South. First, it was snow on the day after Christmas so we didn’t miss having a white holiday. Next, Raleigh was the lucky home of the NHL All-Star Game in 2011. Hockey is Brian’s favorite sport to watch and play so it was nice to have a little revelry in our new hometown.
Of course, we get a little homesick every once in a while. Mainly we miss our friends, but not the snow or dry climate (especially since Colorado is expecting a high of 2 degrees on Tuesday with snow and Raleigh will be sitting pretty at 57 degrees with wide blue skies). It’s hard to miss Colorado too much when we have so much fun and exciting new things to explore and experience.
Raleigh hosted the NHL in style – southern style. She recreated the local summer staple Raleigh Wide-Open to become a chilly cousin NHL All-Star Wide Open Street Fair complete with street vendors, a giant paper mache puppet parade, roller derby girls and free live music. It is a nice reminder of why we moved to the South. We strolled down the streets downtown with just a sweater (or just a t-shirt in Brian’s case) in late January. Warm weather wonderful-ness.
My two favorite things were the snow mounds in the WRAL booth and the sledding hill . Both were more ice than snow, but such a nice nod to hockey’s snowy roots.
The street fair was centered around the Raleigh Convention Center which was host to the NHL All-Star Fan Fair filled with fan appreciation activities. For just $10 a person (advance tickets were even cheaper at $8) everyone got a chance to test their chances at being an all-star.
The highlight of the event is Lord Stanley’s Cup which was on a riser, dead center in the Convention Center with a 2+ hour line worth of fans snaked at its feet. And yes, we did standing in that line and touched the Stanley Cup for approximately 30 seconds as they took our picture. It was totally worth the wait. It’s inspiring to be so close to a trophy hoisted by so many famous people. We also saw the Stanley Cup’s keeper, fancy.
Another highlight was the Bauer booth where you could try on the latest high-tech hockey equipment. Brian enjoyed watching me fit my noggin in a goalie mask (it was hot and tight). Bauer also hosted a high-speed video slap shot booth where hockey hopefuls could see the physics it takes to make a winning goal.
A very cool aspect, to an event planner and general brand nerd like me, was the big reveal of the NHL’s new branding campaign, The Guardian Project. This new project tapped the mind of Stan Lee to transform the spirit of each of the NHL’s 30 teams into superheroes. When guests entered the Fan Fair they were held in a staging area that included a simple light show and voice-over giving back story to The Guardian Project. Once the story completed patrons were ushered into a hall with the new images of each of the superhero team mascots. Huge 20′ tall panels of the new branding was overwhelming and impressive. It was an exciting way to enter the event and an invigorating introduction to the new branding. One weird aspect was once they decided the patrons “were done” with the hall it went completely dark to keep the crowd moving. Very disappointing for a girl like me who wanted to see the new art.
Just a two hours from Raleigh, Wilmington is a great day trip destination. Even in the cooler winter months, this coastal town has lots to offer. From shopping to shipping off on a patriotic adventure, this historic harbor town is well worth the wander.
Start the day in historic downtown district for shopping in quaint, local shops. There is something for everyone from sorting through great vintage clothing finds at Flashbax to cute gift stores like Cresent Moon. Plan your perfect shopping day on the Downtown Wilmington website.
For lunch, stop by Front Street Brewery for brews, classic pub food and friendly faces. This restaurant on Front Street is a warm and homey place to get a meal. The management team is very active on Twitter so give them a tweet if you are in the area
Home of Wilmington’s only brewery, the beers are fresh interpretations of classic recipes. Pairing the Dram Tree Scottish Ale with the Riptide Raspberry Wheat creates a raspberry truffle tasting beverage that amplifies the sweetness of both brews.
Start the meal with a serving of the fried pickles. These thick cut pickles are vinegared right at the restaurant. Dip the crispy disks of deliciousness in the spicy Tabasco aoili. Worth every calorie!
The entrees are generous. The beer battered fish fillets and peppery “chips” is served with a sassy sweet side of coleslaw. If you’re looking for a more traditional fare, try the American Burger for good olde comfort food.
For a sweet afternoon snack stop by the Hot Pink Cake Stand. Yes, it’s as cute as it sounds! Nosh on made from scratch cupcakes, muffins and other delectable baked goods. They even have vegan cupcakes. YUM!
For an afternoon adventure, drive across the bridge to Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. The USS North Carolina is a World War II era battleship that housed 2,339 lives on missions to protect America’s freedom. Open every day of the year, the reasonable admission prices (Adults $12, Seniors and Military $10, Children $6, Children under 5 are free) grants you access to a fascinating ship steeped in patriotism.
Winding over 9 levels of the ship, the self-guided tour of the Galley, engine rooms, bunks, sick bay and bridge give visitors a peek inside the daily life of a sailor. The sheer day in and day out grind of a sailor’s life was incredible. Stations throughout the tour share facts about life on the ship and snippets of testimonials from the brave men who served on the ship. These, along with the stark emptiness of the ship, it’s hard to not be reminded of those we’ve lost in war.
A true hands-on adventure, kids of all ages can climb into the bunks, sit down in the dining hall, and pull knobs and flip levers. There are significant physical requirements of the below decks tour with steep stairs, tight turns and ample opportunity to stumble over the guts of the ship. For those not up for an ambling adventure, there is lots to explore on the upper decks.
The tour takes a few hours. We wandered for about two hours and felt like we needed at least another 30 minutes to see it all. After the tour, stop by the Gift Shop to take home a piece of history.
Distance from Raleigh: Round about 2 hours and 10 minutes – Get the Map
Wander Well Tips:
- Bring your walking shoes. There is so much to see in downtown Wilmington
- Come hungry. Front Street Brewery has generous portions that will fuel all your adventures
- Plan lots of time for the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. The ship is so fascinating and there is so much to learn. Make sure you have ample time to see every nook and cranny
- Tweet the friendly folks at Front Street Brewery, Battleship NORTH CAROLINA and Crescent Moon for insider tips, deals and additional information to make your wander perfect
- Brian, Herman and I moved from the Rocky Mountains to the beautiful South in two cars across six states in 1,600 miles – Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina
- We went on three?! vacations – Raleigh, Cape Canaveral/Daytona Beach and Orlando
- I traveled to four new cities on seven business trips – Atlanta (twice), Chicago, Philadelphia (twice) and New York City (twice)
- We watched a space shuttle launch
- Made so many new friends in the Triangle to add to our wonderful friendships in Colorado
- We had lunch in the Magic Kingdom
- Both got new jobs (I got three new jobs, but that’s a whole other story)
- Fell in love with Krispy Kreme
- Achieved my dream of living near the ocean
We hope that 2011 is a little bit more quiet, but I doubt it. It’s just not our style. No matter what 2011 will be filled with more wonderful wanders, more photos of our friends in the South and more life-long memories.
Enjoy a pictorial review of our 2010 in ’round about 4 minutes. And here is to many new adventures in 2011!
What is this? A white day after Christmas? What a beautiful treat! We got about 5 inches in our neighborhood, but others in the area recorded as much as 7 to 10 inches. Hope these photos leave you a bit frosty!
Take a quick peek inside our home. It’s cute!
I love scary movies. The more spooky, gory and frightening the better. Now, with my cultivated taste for horror movies comes a little paranoia. I know how to kill a zombie (blunt objects and head shots are key) and I have a repertoire of ways to defend myself against crazed killers. You’ll never see me doing drugs and then having sex because that equals death for sure.
On our first trip to the South, I was a little freaked out. The thick woods, still black swamps and elegant Spanish moss only reminded me of my favorite movies. I mean, come on, if you breakdown on a back road that means you’ll be eaten by some crazy cannibals guaranteed, right?!
In Colorado we do not have these mysterious woods. It is very open, when you crest a hill you can see for miles around. Not in the South. There are mysteries shrouded in the thick forests and shanty houses at the end of deserted roads.
Okay all joking aside, I don’t really think I’m going to die a fantastical death in my own backyard. I know I’m just as safe here as anywhere else, but it is fun to think about. I like the thrill of imagining all that could be happening deep in the woods without anyone knowing.
It’s obvious that the South has been an inspiration for horror writers and directors for years. There is an amazing collection of movies that were filmed in or set in the South.
One of my favorite examples is Deliverance. The psychological thriller is set in Arkansas then filmed in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. My home state is the location of “dilapidated town” Sylva. I’m sure that the town is lovely, but when I visit there I’ll be hearing this.
The diversity, heat, weird sounds, and mystery of the South is what makes it great. It also kick-starts the imagination to create great story lines about its residence and the struggle to survive.
If you are looking for a Halloween weekend wander or a sample of southern chillers to rent, check out this list.
And a little tip for wanderers this weekend, make sure you have a baseball bat in the trunk of your car. It is by far my favorite horror movie weapon. It can help you fend off zombies, crazed killers and wild animals. It works wet, never runs out of bullets, and can get you out of the trunk if need be. Happy haunting!
Horror Movies/TV Shows Shot in the South:
- 2001 Maniacs – Georgia
- American Gothic – North Carolina
- Cape Fear (1962) – Georgia
- Cape Fear (1991) – Florida & Georgia
- Child’s Play 3 – Georgia
- Dance of the Dead – Georgia
- Dark Remains – Georgia
- Day of the Dead – Florida
- Deliverance – Georgia, North Carolina & South Carolina
- Devil’s Advocate – Florida
- Grindhouse – Texas
- Hatchet – Louisiana
- Interview with a Vampire – Louisiana
- Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI – Georgia
- Kiss the Girls – North Carolina
- Manhunter – Florida, Georgia & North Carolina
- One Missed Call - Georgia
- Pet Cemetery II – Georgia
- Scream 2 – Georgia
- Silence of the Lambs – Tennessee & Virginia
- Slaughter – Georgia
- Sleepaway Camp II – Georgia
- Stragglers – Georgia
- The Crazies – Georgia & Iowa
- The Last Exorcism – Louisiana
- The Signal – Georgia
- Walking Dead – Georgia
- Zombieland – Georgia
Set in the South (But Sadly Shot Else Where)
- An American Haunting – Tennessee
- Donny Darko - Virginia
- Slither – South Carolina
- The Decent – Appalachian Mountains
- Wrong Turn – West Virginia
Did I leave off any of your favorite southern chillers? Let me know and I’ll add them with a credit to you.