Saturday, July 19, 2014

Is There a Pot of Gold at the End of Jake Alexander Blvd in Salisbury, NC?

Sunflower Field in Salisbury NC © Katrena
Those who are searching for beauty while traveling may be surprised by unexpected places without signs, touring brochures, or even admission fees. While visiting many places in and outside of North Carolina, there are those moments when our family simply has to gaze in amazement, whether the unexpected treat is a double rainbow arching above the trees or an albino squirrel munching on a nut.

Beautiful Sunflower Field in NC © Katrena
One such unsung, beautiful place is a sunflower field in Salisbury, North Carolina in Rowan County. Local folks traveling between Salisbury and Mocksville will miss the field entirely if they take the shortcut. It is worth the extra mile to drive out to the light. Driving down Jake Alexander, head past the bowling alley and past the old Salisbury Mall and McDonald's and keep going straight.

Rowan County Sunflowers © Katrena
The field lies on the right just before the road ends. Some days, you might see a lone farmer wearing a wide-brimmed hat. He works the field by hand, one row at a time, walking and spraying his field that is appreciated by numerous birds and a few in-the-know motorists. You won't see this farmer on a tractor or toting fancy equipment. I cannot imagine the number of hours he puts into his field each year.

Sunflower Field on Jake Alexander Blvd © Katrena
The sunflower field tends to peak in mid-July as the flowers adorn their attire of yellow and brown beauty. Our family has driven this road for many years. The kids know the shortcut is never an option in July because we would miss seeing the pot of gold at the end of Jake Alexander!

Beautiful Places in North Carolina © Katrena
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University - Plants Galore!

Reynolda Gardens in Winston-Salem NC © Katrena
Reynolda Gardens, located at 100 Reynolda Village in Winston-Salem, North Carolina greets visitors with beautiful plants before visitors even enter the building. The parking lot has a beautiful area that begs for photos as soon as guests arrive...and the beauty has just begun! Touring the gardens is free of charge and open to the public.

Beautiful Flower Garden Near Wake Forest University © Katrena
Upon entering Reynolda Gardens' Garden Boutique, you will find all sorts of items, from topiaries to decorative doormats to figurines to pillows. The small shop is inviting and air conditioned, a great benefit on those North Carolina summer days that feel as if they could melt a lump of coal.

Reynolda Greenhouse in Winston-Salem © Katrena
The boutique has a back door that leads directly into the greenhouses. These greenhouses are brimming with a beautiful array of flowers. Some are large and flowing while others are tiny, dainty, and hanging. I could easily spend an hour in the greenhouse, exploring the various plants.

Free Flower Garden in North Carolina © Katrena
The gardens lie on the back side of the greenhouse. You might catch a glimpse of parts of the garden from the greenhouse windows, but you really have to walk out there to appreciate all the small details. We visited on an incredibly hot day, and I saw two gardeners working in that heat - kudos to them because many people would have been begging for mercy and an air conditioner on a day approaching 100 degrees F.

Beautiful Places to Visit in Forsyth County © Katrena
The gardens are manicured and feature various plants pleasantly arranged in a way that visitors can enjoy the beauty of each section. The purple coneflowers and other plants near the front give way to a nice vegetable garden in the middle area. This was a great opportunity for my 6-year-old to learn more about vegetables since we do not have a garden at home. Beyond the vegetables lie more flowers with a nice sized rose garden at the back.

Water Garden in Reynolda Gardens © Katrena
The various sections have several shaded areas with benches that lend themselves well to quite contemplation, watching for birds, or simply enjoying nature. If you are walking around the edges of the garden, make sure to walk up the center path as well. A water garden with goldfish and water lilies awaits!

Vegetable Garden in Reynolda Gardens © Katrena
Reynolda Gardens is a great place to enjoy plants, flowers, and a bit of down time from a rushed routine. Each season holds different gems within its borders. You might also purchase tickets to tour the house or walk around at the various shops at Reynolda Village while you are there.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Towns with Strange Names in North Carolina

North Carolina Towns with Unusual and Quirky Names
If one were to ask someone who lives here what makes North Carolina interesting and unique, the responses would probably be as wide and filling as my great-grandmother's dinner table where folks could easily feast for a week on the abundance of good food. Perhaps we are known for our barbecue or the Biltmore Estate. A few people might argue about whether or not we were first in flight. As the story goes, that historic flight did take place on our coast, but most folks around here probably know not too many native North Carolinians were named Orville and Wilbur, right? The younger generation might tune in to hear how well some folks from NC sing while nature lovers might be impressed with our synchronous lightening bugs (that's fireflies for those of you not from around these parts).

My family has visited quite a few wonderful places in North Carolina, each unique and many memorable. Someone who does a lot of traveling might look for a variety of destinations in North Carolina, but a few souls looking for a challenge might want to drive to uniquely named Tarheel destinations just to say they have been there. I remember when my family went on a quest to visit an interesting spot in Virginia...and I think it was only a spot where two roads crossed, but we could officially say we had been there by the end of the day! Quite a few towns in NC might make you smile or leave a person scratching her head.

Here are some of my favorites (town names are in blue):

Welcome to North Carolina - Whynot stay a spell? We are tickled as Toast that you decided to travel to our fine state this Millennium. Although it is true that we are in the United States of America, you might find Egypt, Cuba, Bolivia, and Peru within our borders. What? Were you expecting to see Pot Neck and Possomtrot in this Southern town? Perhaps you were looking for Blackbeard's Seven Devils and The Black Cat? If you are searching for these places, be careful not to get a Tick Bite, especially if you see the Lizard Lick. You probably should be aware that the Elf with the Black Ankle just might ride an Old Ford to Burnt Chimney Corner. Some people find life here very comfortable and may prefer Loafers Glory to Nags Head. I'll keep this post Brief, and I hope it gave you a bit of a Chuckle!

Have you been to any places in North Carolina that feature an unusual name? Feel free to comment below.

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2014 Gem Theatre $1 Movie Schedule in Kannapolis

2014 $1 Movies at Gem Theatre in Kannapolis - Photo by Nicholas Perrault III
The Gem Theatre, located at 111 W. First Street in Kannapolis, North Carolina, is chock full of great history and fun times. My kids particularly like the upstairs balcony, where patrons can enjoy the area's oldest single-screen movie theatre from up above!

Summer months mean discounted summer camp rates at the Gem Theatre. On certain Tuesdays, the theatre will feature a movie at a discounted rate of $1.00/person at the 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. show times. If you have a group of more than ten people, check the Gem Theatre web site for details regarding discounted snacks. Here's the 2014 schedule:

$1 Movies at
Gem Theatre
in Kannapolis
2014 Summer Shows at
10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
June 17
How to Train Your Dragon
June 24
July 1
July 8
The Croods
July 15
We Bought a Zoo
July 22
July 29
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3
August 5
Rio 2
August 12
The Lego Movie
August 19
The Nut Job

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

14 Fun Family Freebie Summer Activities in North Carolina

Looking for fun family activities and boredom busters that won't break the bank? I've got you covered! These activities do not charge an admission fee, so the main cost involved would include gas money and any extras you might want to purchase. By saving money on free admission, you might consider supporting some local businesses while you are out!

Here's my quick list of free and fun family summer activities in 2014 in no particular order – feel free to mention your own favorite free summer activities in the comments section below!
NC State Parks - free summer activity © Katrena

Go hiking at a NC State Park

Hanging Rock State Park offers trails to three waterfalls, several trails that go up to peaks or meander around the beautiful scenic area. South Mountains State Park offers a very fun, interactive educational welcome center and a really nice handicap accessible trail by the water. My kids loved the climb to get to see the beautiful waterfall up there. There are nearly 40 state parks in North Carolina – it is pretty likely that one may be near you!
NC Museum of Natural Sciences - Photo by Mark Turner

Visit the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Yep - admission to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh is free. They have exhibits, collections, educational programs, and more. If summer days are sweltering or rainy, it's also great to have an indoor activity on the potential list of fun freebies! You might also catch one of their traveling educational programs in your area.
Summer Reading Programs at Public Library © Katrena

Sign up for your public library summer reading program

The library is chock full of so many resources! Of course they have books, but you can also check out music, books on CD, movies, and many now offer eBooks that do not require something like a Kindle to read. Our area library provides a password to access NC Live, a huge database of resources with web pages that one would normally have to pay to access. While signing up for the reading program, check out their schedule of programs – we've seen a wide variety of programs from Mad Science to musical programs to magic shows and about everything in between. Kids that continue to read all summer feed their brains even when they are out of school!

Check out your local Smart Start office

This program is not Head Start – for years I thought they were the same, but they are not. Your local Smart Start office offers all sorts of educational and fun resources for parents, caregivers, and kids. If you are searching for childcare options, this office may provide quite a few tips for helping you to make a wise choice. Our local Smart Start office has a toy library where people can check out toy kids for the kids sort of like one might check out library books. You might find information there or at the library about Dolly Pardon's Imagination Library program in which kids receive a free book in the mail monthly up to age five.
Lewisville NC Free Outdoor Drama © Katrena

Go out to an outdoor drama outdoor drama is not free, or is it? Well, you'll have to pay an admission price for most outdoor dramas, but there are a few free ones out there. Lewisville is offering a free outdoor musical The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in early to mid-June. Asheville features Montford Park Players, a non-profit production that relies on donations as people enjoy Shakespeare productions. You might have to do a little searching, but there are some free outdoor dramas out there.
Mocksville Cruise In Free Car Show © Katrena

Cruise over to a car show in Mocksville

Don't they charge admission to get in car shows? Well, some do charge, but Mocksville offers a large free Cruise In on the first and third Monday each month during warmer months. Listen to some older music and check out some cool rides. Lots of folks will give you a little history about their vehicle if you ask. Here are the Mocksville Cruise In 2014 dates.

Hunt for barn quilts in Iredell County

Barn quilts are becoming quite popular in the Tarheel state. Iredell County is dappled with splashes of colorful barn quilts throughout much of the county. I believe the Quilt Trails facebook page is still available with pictures, but I'm not sure that the page is active. We found a helpful brochure at our local Chamber of Commerce that provided pictures and directions for quite a few barn quilts in Iredell County. If you go to your local Chamber of Commerce, you might get some excellent tips for additional fun family activities in your area. You decide to visit Iredell County again in October to see their Balloon Festival and Night Glow.

Enjoy a movie under the stars

Several county parks and recreation departments now offer family-friendly entertainment options, including movie nights under the stars at a park. Many of the movies are fairly new – for example, Salisbury Parks and Recreation is offering Frozen, Despicable Me II, and the Lego Movie in 2014. There's nothing like the excitement of watching a movie on a big screen with a group of family and friends! Many movie theaters offer summer movie programs in which you can enjoy lower prices and some air conditioning. One of our favorite movie theaters in the state is the Gem Theater, an old theater in Kannapolis with an upstairs balcony that is very near Village Park, which also shows movies in the park and has fireworks on select dates.

Peer at a meteor shower

Pull out the lawn chairs and hang out with the kids in the back yard. Meteor showers can be a blast to watch, especially if the kids see lots of those shooting stars! It looks like early morning on May 24 and the night of August 12 would be the best bets for the summer of 2014. If you are enjoying a staycation with the kids, you might try setting up a tent and camping in the back yard or visiting my Wildflower Bouquets site map for my scavenger hunts, printables, and fun game ideas.

Visit a local park

County parks often offer a wide range of recreational activities. Some recreation departments will let folks check out balls, Frisbees, tennis rackets, etc. Even if you aren't really into sports, this might be a great time to practice or learn a sport with the kids or to enjoy a picnic lunch and simply play outside. One of our favorite parks in Dan Nicholas – it features quite a few free and low cost activities for the family.
See World's Largest Chest of Drawers in High Point - Photo by Cmalaspina

See the world's largest chest of drawers in High Point

You might expect to find all sorts of things near a busy intersection, but seeing a nearly 40-foot chest of drawers is a rather memorable experience. This unusual attraction and unique photo opportunity just might knock your socks off and leave them hanging from the middle drawer!

Go to a 4th of July Celebration

One of the best known 4th of July activities in North Carolina is the Faith 4th of July Celebration, but many other communities offer a parade and fireworks show to celebrate Independence Day. You might even try your hand at some fun ways to fix watermelon or fire up the grill and enjoy a meal together.

Visit the Ashe County Frescoes

These unique fresco paintings are found in area churches in St. Mary's in West Jefferson and Holy Trinity in Glendale Springs, and the public is welcome to tour the churches. Donations are accepted. While in this area, you may wish to enjoy a great family-style meal in Glendale Springs and a tour of the cheese factory.
God's Acre at Old Salem in Winston-Salem NC © Katrena

Visit Winkler's Bakery & God's Acre at Old Salem

Although tours of Old Salem do include an entrance fee, anyone is welcome at the bakery and God's Acre at the historical Moravian village without paying a fee. If you time your visit well, you might have the opportunity to see goodies baking in the old oven and perhaps even be treated to a free sample. The cemetery called God's Acre is a place that lends itself to quiet contemplation.

So, how many of these places and activities have you enjoyed or plan to enjoy? I hope you will find these free ideas helpful in making your summer plans. North Carolina also offers quite a few low cost options for entertainment. I have included links to web sites that you might find helpful within this article. If you would like to see more of my articles, simply hover over "pages" near the top and you'll see a link to my site map and other pages on this blog. I hope you and your family have a great summer!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

5 Great Reasons to Visit North Carolina State Parks

Many people have lived in North Carolina for years and have not yet discovered the wealth of wonderful outdoor opportunities offered through the NC State Park system. Here are five great reasons to explore North Carolina's state parks with your family!

Enjoy North Carolina State Parks © Katrena
#1 Variety

North Carolina boasts 39 state parks scattered across all regions. The Tarheel state offers a nice array of topography, from coastal regions and plains to the foothills and mountains. State park visitors might enjoy an amazing view atop Mount Mitchell, go kayaking on the Dismal Swamp Canal, explore on a Turtle Talk at Fort Fisher, enjoy rock climbing on Rumbling Bald Mountain at Chimney Rock, or camp along the Jacob Fork River at South Mountain. This is a great way to beat boredom by going outside and getting active with the kids.

Fun Family Activities at NC State Parks - Petting a Ferret! © Katrena
#2 Fun Family Activities

Before packing the car and heading out, consider exploring options with the family, getting input from everyone in order to determine an adventure that appeals to everyone. After determining preferred activities, you can easily navigate the NC State Parks web site to choose state parks that offer those activities and more. Family pets are also welcome on a leash, a big plus for those who love to enjoy vacations with the furry family members. The parks offer some areas and even hiking trails that are handicap accessible – research individual parks to determine which ones best suit your needs regarding special accommodations.

Learn About Plants and Wildlife at NC State Parks © Katrena
#3 Natural and Unique Beauty

North Carolina state parks highlight the area's natural beauty, encouraging an appreciation for nature. Outdoor activities provide a unique experience as each day brings different flora and wildlife to enjoy. Visiting the same park during different seasons might offer a completely different backdrop dappled with views reflecting the temperature and time of year. Those who enjoy nature may be more likely to strive to preserve our natural resources for future generations.

Low Cost Family Vacations - Great Way to Relieve Stress! © Katrena
#4 Minimal Cost

One can enjoy most of North Carolina's state parks absolutely free. Only three of the parks charge an entry fee: Falls Lake, Jordan Lake, and Kerr Lake. A mini vacation at a state park can be very reasonably priced as one might only spend gas money to travel to the destination. Many people who visit the state parks pack a picnic to enjoy together. Enjoying a state park can become a time of rejuvenation without all the electronic devices and modern conveniences that tend to get in the way of one-on-one conversations and interactions. The lack of commercialism is a welcome relief to many people who have discovered the often unsung beauty of nature.

Hands-on Educational Activities at North Carolina State Parks © Katrena
#5 Educational

Learning opportunities abound at North Carolina state parks! Taking a nature walk always provides educational opportunities. Many of the parks offer guides related to the animals and plants commonly found in the area. Rangers may offer a wealth of information related to the park as well. Children can participate in the Junior Ranger program that offers educational activities, newsletters, and patches related to the parks. Curriculum guides are available that highlight competency goals in science, social studies, math, and language arts that are unique for each park as well. In addition, the state park system highlights a different animal with educational events, games, and quite a few resources geared toward the chosen topic. This year, 2014, is the Year of Lepidoptera.

If you have not discovered the amazing opportunities found in North Carolina's state parks, perhaps today is the day to begin a new family journey! Feel free to share your own experiences in North Carolina state parks in the comment section below.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Adventure Landing Arcade – Indoor Fun for the Kids in Winston-Salem NC

Arcade at Adventure Landing in Winston-Salem NC © Katrena
Lots of folks might speak of mini golf or even bumper boats if asked about Adventure Landing in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at 1600 South Stratford Road. Adventure Landing does have those fun outdoor activities, and they also offer an indoor arcade, full of a wide variety of games.

Fun Indoor Activities in Forsyth County © Katrena
If you have kids of different ages, interests, and abilities, it can be pretty challenging to find activities to enjoy together as a family. One nice benefit of the indoor arcade at Adventure Landing is that they have games that might appeal to different ages and personalities. After purchasing tokens, the kids can try their hand at seeing how many tickets they can win. Those tickets can be redeemed for prizes.

Rainy Day Ideas Near Hanes Mall© Katrena
Some games are basically games of chance, those that might appeal to the kids who just want to play without having to think a lot. Not very coordinated? Games of chance can be lots of fun!

Fun Ways to Connect with the Kids © Katrena
Other games encourage those who lean toward sports. Those who are very skilled might earn quite a few tickets at the sports games. These games can encourage hand-eye coordination. Games of strategy often appeal to the thinkers in the family. Can they outsmart the machine and go for the big prize? These games might encourage critical thinking skills. My kids were particularly drawn to the Deal or No Deal game.

Fun Ideas for Families with Kids © Katrena
Some games resemble motorcycles and other types of transportation. These might appeal to those who like to combine screen play with riding skills and might give the kids a good core workout. A few games look like updated pinball games – I noticed several parents who tended to gravitate toward those!

Indoor Arcade on Stratford Rd © Katrena
Need a rainy day family-friendly activity in Forsyth County? Adventure Landing Arcade might provide a fun time, and the kids can redeem coupons for prizes. Prices for the tokens vary – you might find some special online deals at the Adventure Landing web site.

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