Currituck Beach Lighthouse

DSC_0015After school let out for the summer we headed with friends to Duck, NC for the weekend. The Town of Duck is located on the northern section of the Outer Banks mainland, not far (physically) from the Virginia border. We wanted to take advantage of staying in the northern Outer Banks, so we explored the Currituck Beach Lighthouse one morning.

Ever since watching Pete’s Dragon as a child, lighthouses and light keepers always fascinated me. After reading “The Light Between Oceans” my fascination only grew stronger. Maybe I love the simplicity of their lifestyle or their strong connection to the water and ships they protect. Whatever the reason for my fascination, I’m thankful for being able to explore these historical landmarks.

History

Currituck Beach Lighthouse is located north of Duck in the historic village of Corolla, NC at 1101 Corolla Village Rd. In 1873 construction began on Currituck Beach Lighthouse to fill the gap of coastal darkness between Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia Beach and Bodie Island Lighthouse, just south of Nags Head, NC. It stands 162 ft tall overlooking the Currituck Sound and Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse is unique in that they did not paint the exterior bricks. The lighthouse keepers and their families lived in the adjacent Victorian-style home until the 1930s when the U.S. Coast Guard assumed lighthouse duties. The U.S. Coast Guard automated the beacon, which continues to flash in 20-second intervals to alert ships at sea.

The lighthouse sat abandoned for decades after automating the beacon. In 1980, the non-profit Outer Banks Conservationists began to slowly restore the lighthouse over the next decade. The lighthouse opened to the public in 1990 and one of the keeper’s houses opened later as the gift shop. The main keepers’ house remains closed until restoration efforts finish.

DSC_0054Climbing the Lighthouse

The base and first two landings of the lighthouse feature interesting exhibits about the lighthouse’s history. After paying the $10 admission fee and signing the waiver, I made separate trips with both girls up the winding 220 steps. Small landings between each floor offer chances to catch your breath and let others pass. We climbed slowly, but still reached the top of the lighthouse in a little over 5 minutes. We (so very carefully) walked around the outside of the lighthouse admiring the gorgeous panoramic water views. 

When climbing the lighthouse stairs, small signs display in the windows letting patrons know the height and cardinal direction. The girls enjoyed learning how high up they climbed and looking out the windows. After climbing down the lighthouse we visited the museum gift shop and walked around nearby Historic Corolla Village.

Thumbs up: beautiful views, informative lighthouse museum, friendly volunteer workers

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Columbia State Historical Park (Columbia, Ca)

Columbia Historical State ParkFor part two of our northern California park visits we visited the Columbia State Historical Park. Columbia is a real working town that was restored to its 1850s gold-rush business district. Visitors travel back in time to the gold-rushing days where business staff dress in period clothing so visitors can experience stage coach rides, mine for gold, and much more!

Columbia State Historical Park is located at 11255 Jackson St, off highway 49 in Tuolumne County, Ca. Columbia has seen its ups and downs since its cry of “Gold” in 1850 – it survived multiple fires, water supply troubles, and population decline. In 1853 Columbia was one of the largest cities in California with a population of nearly 30,000. When the town became a state park in 1949, restoration efforts preserved the buildings and history.

IMG_6899Strolling down Main Street, we first stopped at Parrott’s Blacksmith Shop to watch the workers forge iron into handmade goods. They make interesting outdoor art, decorative indoor items, horseshoes, unique furniture and more! Then we visited the museums, including the interactive old-fashioned bowling alley. The dentist office exhibit gave us lots of “eeks” as we glimpsed into some of the old fashioned tools and supplies used to clean and pull teeth.

Then we visited Nelson’s Candy Kitchen, a fifth-generation owned and operated candy store. My aunt and uncle are personal friends with the current owner, Janice Nelson, who was extremely kind and patient to give us a personal tour of the candy making.  Needless to say, the girls’ bright eyes didn’t miss a moment of this tour! The shop uses a lot of the same recipes and equipment from when Janice’s family opened the store in the late 1800s. During the tour we talked to some of the candy makers who prepped milk chocolate chocolate turkeys for the busy Thanksgiving season. They dressed in period clothing and hand mixed all of the milk chocolate. The smells were priceless!

IMG_6908Janice showed us how they mixed and rolled the jelly candies, candy canes, and ribbon candies.  The process is very exact and relies on the mechanical workings of old machines, molds, and ovens. We were so grateful for Janice’s personal tour of her beloved candy shop – it was so neat to learn about candy making and hear her personal stories about the shop. No candy store visit would be complete without buying some nibbles. The girls loved gawking at all the sparkly candies and squealed in delight while tasting the different jelly candy and chocolates. My personal favorite was the salted chocolate almonds while the girls loved the flavored jelly candies.

To come down off our sugar high we continued walking down Main Street towards the old Wells Fargo building. Sadly we didn’t have time to pan for gold or ride the old-fashioned stage coach, but we did quickly walk through the old Wells Fargo office that features original scales, maps of stage coach routes, and other banking exhibits. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon or a few overnights exploring the gold-rush days, be sure to visit the small town activities and special events of Columbia. I only wish we had more time to explore the local businesses, especially the saloon!

Thumbs up: uniquely restored businesses, museum exhibits, kid-friendly activities/exhibits, town’s friendliness

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Museum Park Blue Loop Opening

img_3025About a month ago we attended the Museum Park’s Blue Loop opening at the NC Museum of Art.  It was the perfect spring morning to spend with friends while walking the new trail and enjoying live bluegrass music.  The Blue Loop is a one-mile trail that includes a new cut-through between the pond and Lowe’s Park Pavilion and extends through a wooded section on the southwestern side of Museum Park.  It was made possible by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

The FREE celebration featured live music from Big Medicine Bluegrass Band and the A&T Drumline, healthy snacks from local food trucks, and a celebratory lap around the Blue Loop.  Special guests included Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, NCMA Director Lawrence Wheeler, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina CEO Brad Wilson.

The NC Museum of Art is located at 2110 Blue Ridge Rd.  View the Museum Park map for a complete look at the Blue Loop.

Thumbs up:  lots of shade and open space, wide paths, rolling hills (perfect for a challenging run/walk)

Thumbs down: nothing to report

Museum Park

The Museum Park is located on the grounds of the NC Museum of Art at 2110 Blue Ridge Rd just outside the beltline.  Part of the trail through the park is shared with the Reedy Creek Trail greenway, which connects Meredith College to Umstead Park and Schenck Forest.  The museum was renovated a few years ago and besides biking the greenway past the museum, I hadn’t really stopped to visit this park.  So, we parked in the museum parking lot and followed the paved trail towards the very easy-to-read information board.

The information board highlights four different walking paths to take and breaks it out by distance, walking time, calories burned, and features you’ll see along the way.  Because it was a very hot Sunday and we had the stroller, we opted for the one-mile Ambler path, which allowed us to explore several works of art on the paved trail close to the museum.  For those planning ahead, here is a map of the park.



Information plaque with details about the park

Paved trail around the park
View of the East building

Here are the works of art we passed along the Ambler path:

Wind Machine by Vollis Simpson
Collapse I by Ledelle Moe
Gyre by Thomas Sayre
Close up of Gyre filled with concrete and covered in dirt residue
Another view of Gyre
Bill & Ashley under the Gyre
The Conversationalist by Chakaia Booker
Lowe's Pavilion by Mike Cindric and Vincent Petrarc
Another view of Lowe's Pavilion, made of steel, wood, aluminum, and concrete

A photographer’s dream shoot, the Museum Park has a gorgeous landscape of rolling hills with a sprinkle of wooded forests between the East Museum Building and the outdoor works of art.

Looking down at the Gyre artwork
Looking back towards the Wind Machine artwork
Greenway to Meredith College
Part of the unpaved trail on the Museum Park grounds
An unpaved pathway through the park
Great shady pathway for a picnic on the bench

Next, we explored one of the newer (to me, at least) features of the park, The Pond area.  With over 20,000 plants installed, this area helps with runoff, water pollution, and settling for sediment.  The terraced landscaping and even spacing of the plants had an Asian design feel to it, but what do I know!  Here’s a list of the various plants installed and some pictures to detail the beauty of this area:

What outdoor museum would be complete without an amphitheater and outdoor movie screen?! The NC Museum of Art holds several outdoor concerts and movies throughout the summer months.  Having finally made it to an outdoor movie last summer to see The Fantastic Mr. Fox, I can attest to how much fun they are.  So, bring a picnic dinner, lawn chairs or blanket, and some cash (for the beer/wine tent) and you’ve got the perfect, cheap summer night planned!  Btw, The Social Network movie is playing tonight at 8:30pm.

Some of the seating areas for outdoor movies
Looking towards the amphitheater

Overall, this park offers much more than any average park.  Whether just passing by on the greenway, planning a trip to the indoor museum, or watching a movie or concert be sure to plan enough time to explore the artwork in the Museum Park.

Thumbs up: picnic spots, rolling hills, outdoor artwork, outdoor movies/concerts, The Pond landscaping, information plaques/maps, parking

Thumbs down: few pockets of shade

Historic Oak View County Park

Historic Oak View County Park is a must-see park for people of all ages located at 4028 Carya Drive in east Raleigh.  I had first visited this park several years ago when I volunteered with the Raleigh Jaycees and Wake County Animal Shelter during their Annual Mutt Strutt and was so surprised at how large and unassuming it was given that it’s right in a business park.

As you pull into the park you pass a small pond, large open fields, and shelters to the left and limited parking on the right.  There’s a walking path that snakes through the open fields.

 

Keep straight on the road to get to the main attractions of the park – Visitor’s Center, Cotton Gin Museum, and Main House.  First, check in at the Visitor’s Center and get a walking map of the area.  Inside the Visitor’s Center, you’ll find some agricultural exhibits to visit and a ton of educational activities for children to do.  It also seems like the center has children’s programs available during the week, so call them to learn more.  Begin your journey by heading out the back doors through the patio.

Benches outside the Visitor's Center

Our first stop along the paved walk was to the cotton fields and the Cotton Gin Museum.

Signs directing you to the different attractions
Plaque with information about the Cotton Gin House
Cotton fields that are available for groups to help with throughout the year
Plaque explaining the seasonal work for producing cotton
Wagons outside the Cotton Gin House
The Cotton Gin House showcases historical and educational information about producing cotton

Just past the Cotton Gin House is the Williams family cemetery.

The Williams family cemetery
Head stone marking the Williams family

Next, we visited the gorgeous Main House, which is an 1855 Greek Revival home.  During our visit the temporary exhibit, “Morning to Night: Domestic Service in the Guilded Age South” was being showcased.  The exhibit tells the story of the African-American work force in the south.

Entrance to the Main House
Front side of the Main House
Another view of the Greek Revival Main House
Inside the Main House

Just outside the Main House is the Cedar Plank Kitchen, which was unusual for this part of the country because of the costs of cedar.  The kitchen was built separately from the main structure in the event a fire broke out it would not destroy the entire home.

Back side of the kitchen
Plaque of the Cedar Plank Kitchen

Another site to see on your trip through the park is the Herb Garden, which has everything from basil to horseradish!

Other buildings to explore on your visit include the Barn, Carriage House/Tenant House

Carriage House
Barn
Information about the Farm House
Brick walkway through the park
Great spot for photos
Benches along the way

Thumbs up: Visitor’s Center, educational activities, cotton museum, walking path, herb garden, signage, benches, shelter areas
Thumbs down: location of park being within business park