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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Enjoy a family adventure before summer ends
Choose a destination, plan a vacation, and go
 
Published Saturday, August 2, 2014 12:43 pm
by Michaela L. Duckett

Even though it’s already time to start preparing for back to school and getting the kids off to college, summer isn’t officially over for another eight weeks. That means you still have time to take a family vacation, but before the journey can begin, you must first decide where to go.

From beach hopping down the Carolina coast and diving for buried treasures to sipping wine and feasting on fine cuisine, here are a few exciting adventures to consider. Just pick a destination, plan your trip and go!

Take in the view from Blowing Rock

Taking on Big Momma – the 300-foot high, 1,600-foot long zip line at Sky Valley Zip Tours (www.skyvalleyziptours.com) in Blowing Rock – is an exhilarating experience you will not soon forget. The fourth zip on Sky Valley’s 10-zip canopy tour, Big Momma soars high above the tree canopy reaching speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Not only does it provide a high-octane adrenaline rush, it offers one of the most breathtaking views you can have of the N.C. High Country.

TRAVEL TIP: Just a two-hour drive from Charlotte, Blowing Rock is a great destination for a day trip.

Before leaving, be sure to visit The Blowing Rock (www.TheBlowingRock.com), North Carolina’s oldest tourist attraction. Known for being “the only place in the world where snow falls upside down,” The Blowing Rock is an immense cliff 4,000 feet above sea level that overhangs Johns River Gorge. From the observation deck you can see the vistas of Hawksbill Mountain, Table Rock, Grandfather Mountain (the highest peak of the Blue Ridge chain) and Mount Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Rockies).

Kiss the sky from Grandfather Mountain

Take a CD-guided tour to the top of Grandfather Mountain (www.grandfather.com), and gaze down upon the lush valleys below the famous 228-foot long Mile High Swinging Bridge. Located one mile above sea level, the bridge is America’s highest suspension footbridge. It sways and sings like a harmonica when the wind blows. Don’t let the adventure end there, get out and explore the mountain by foot on one of the 11 hiking trails, which range from leisurely walks to heart-pounding, lung-busting alpine adventures.

TRAVEL TIP: Visit the nature habitats for up-close encounters with animals you might not normally see (or may not want to encounter) in the wild – such as bears, white-tailed deer, cougars, bald eagles and river otters. The best time to go is early morning when the animals are most active. Don’t leave without paying a visit to the fudge shop for a treat. Trust us, it’s some of the best fudge you’ve ever tasted.

Affordable family fun in Raleigh

Whether your passion is art, science, history or music, Raleigh is a treasure trove of fun and “edu-taining” adventures. Learn about animals past and present at the Museum of Natural Sciences (www.naturalsciences.org). The natural history museum is the Southeast’s largest and includes the rare Acrocanthosaurus dinosaur. Visitors can conduct experiments and interact with scientists in the Nature Research Center. Admission to the museum is free. Other free attractions include the N.C. Museum of History (www.ncmuseumofhistory.org) and North Carolina Museum of Art (www.ncartmuseum.org), which is home to a world-class art collection that includes over 30 Rodin sculptures on display. With over 80 concert venues, Raleigh is also known as the place to be for live music. Log onto www.visitraleigh.com for listings.

TRAVEL TIP: Don’t miss out on Raleigh’s thriving culinary scene. For a big southern breakfast head downtown to Big Ed’s (www.bigedcitymarket). Craving a slab of barbeque ribs or in the mood for flavorful Texas-style brisket? Get a table at The Pit Authentic Barbecue (www.thepit-raleigh.com) for dinner, or dine with the locals at Poole’s Downtown Diner (www.ac-restaurants.com/pooles), and be sure to order the macaroni and cheese.

Road trip down the Crystal Coast

Dig for buried treasure and dine on fresh seafood along the North Carolina’s Crystal Coast (www.crystalcoastnc.org) featuring 85 miles of silken shoreline and the colorful seaside communities of Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Morehead City, Beaufort and Cape Lookout. Stop in Beaufort, where the infamous pirate Blackbeard roamed, and take a tour of the historic Fort Macon. Fish in the Gulf Stream waters of Morehead City, tour Shackleford Banks and discover wild horses roaming free or visit the Olympus Dive Center to wreck dive in a German U-352 submarine.

TRAVEL TIP: A day of wreck diving and surf fishing can easily work up an appetite. From down home cooking to delicious seafood shacks and drive-in cheeseburger stands, practically every restaurant in the area has fresh seafood on the menu. However, not all dining experiences are created equal. Take caution particularly at seafood buffets, where quality can be compromised. For the best chance of a favorable dining experience, ask locals for recommendations on where to eat.

A heritage tour of Tallahassee

Venture south to Florida and explore the deep-rooted heritage and culture of Tallahassee. Florida’s capital city features some of the state’s most significant African-American historic sites – ranging from early homes, schools and churches to Leon County’s new Civil Rights Heritage Walk. Tour Florida A & M University (www.famu.edu), the oldest black college in the nation, and see the Black Archives. This collection of African-American artifacts is one of the most extensive in the nation. It houses more than half a million documents and thousands of artifacts from all over the world including a 500-piece Ethiopian cross collection and rare African books and maps, some dating back to the 1700s. Another popular stop is the John G. Riley House Museum (www.rileymuseum.org), a historical landmark and the second home in Florida to be owned by a black person. Find more information on African-American heritage in Florida’s capital and sample itineraries at www.visittallahassee.com.

TRAVEL TIP: For a memorable experience and down home good time, step off the beaten path and in to the Bradfordville Blues Club (ww.bradfordvilleblues.com), an authentic chittlin’ circuit stop, designated with a National Blues Trail marker. This iconic blues club may be considered a whole in the wall in comparison to more contemporary venues but delivers the best in live blues every Friday and Saturday night. Percy Sledge, Johnny Rawls, E.C. Scott and Johnny Marshall have all graced the stage.

Relax and sip in the Yadkin Valley

Home to over 30 wineries, the Yadkin Valley is known as North Carolina’s Wine Country. Visit McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks  (www.mcritchiewine.com) in Thurmond, where you can not only sample wines but also sip hard cider and learn about their sustainable methods of working on the land. Spend a lazy summer afternoon lounging on the “Crush Pad” or spacious patio at Round Peak Vineyards (www.roundpeak.com) in Mt. Airy, where you can sip wine and watch the sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains. If wine is not your drink of choice, order a craft beer. Round Peak recently opened an onsite brewery.

TRAVEL TIP: If you visit the second weekend of August, check out the annual Vine & Dine Gala of the Very Surry Wineries August 9 at Grassy Creek Vineyard & Winery (www.grassycreekvineyard.com). It’s a relaxing evening under the stars featuring fine food, wine and live music. The event, a collaborative effort of 10 wineries, begins with a wine tasting from 6-7:30 p.m. followed by dinner, courtesy of Heaven’s Scent restaurant in downtown Elkin. Rental cabins are available for the evening. Visit www.surrywineries.com for more information.

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