Things to Do in North Carolina
The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best scenic routes in the eastern part of the United States, making it an ideal road trip destination. The Blue Ridge Parkway takes its name from the Blue Ridge Mountains through which it runs, a chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. The road winds through Virginia and North Carolina, with the Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park at either end.
Some popular points of interest along the Blue Ridge Parkway include the 19th-century Appalachian farm at Humpback Rock, the early 20th century Mabry Mill, the stepped waterfall at Linville Falls, the reflective Looking Glass Rock, and Waterrock Knob – the highest visitor center along the parkway.
Named for its former status as a branch of the U.S. Mint, the Mint Museum was, when it originally opened in 1936, the first art museum in North Carolina. Having outgrown its original Federal-style building, the museum was split into two locations in 2010.
The Mint Uptown is focused largely on American and European art from the 18th century on, but also features craft and design galleries of (largely) North Carolina-produced glass, pottery, jewelry and more. There are generally two rotating exhibits here – often by photography and new media artists – and the ongoing exhibition of local artist Romare Bearden’s modernist paintings and prints.
The Mint Randolph houses four permanent collections from the original Mint Museum: Art of the Ancient Americas, including Aztec and pre-Colombian clay and gold objects; a historic costume and accessories gallery that spans three centuries; Native American Art, including performance masks from Mexico and Guatemala.
Visitors get a feel for times of the past strolling through Charlotte’s Fourth Ward. Located in the downtown area, it’s home to 100-plus-year-old Victorian houses and tree-lined streets. Knowing a bit of the Fourth Ward’s history helps you appreciate its persevering charm. In the mid-1830s the city of Charlotte was divided into four political wards. The Fourth Ward was considered to be a prosperous area. The area went through a period of decline and neglect in the late 1900s, before a renaissance in the late 20th century. Now along with restored Victorians there are luxury condominiums, apartments and businesses. Fourth Ward Park is popular place to get outside and enjoy a sunny day. The three-acre park features a playground, walking trails and decorative water fountains.
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is one of four distinct components of Charlotte’s Levine Center for the Arts. The Bechtler collection includes more than 1,400 works by 20th-century modern artists including Picasso, Calder and Warhol. Visitors should set aside an afternoon to enjoy the Museum in its entirety. A free audio guide and museum map can be picked up at the visitor services desk. The Bechtler also has special materials available for visiting families.
Built by American magnate George Washington Vanderbilt II, the Biltmore Estate was modeled after the mansions of Europe when it was constructed in the late 19th century. At more than 8,000 acres in size and with 178,000 square feet in the home, it is the largest privately owned house in the United States and a prominent example of America’s Gilded Age. With a copper lined rooftop and Indiana limestone walls on its exterior and an ornately decorated interior full of antiques and artifacts, the estate provides for hours of exploration and enjoyment. Its unique Chateauesque architecture drew inspiration from the Renaissance chateaus of France.
Its exterior is splendidly surrounded by manicured park landscape, including a timber forest, formal gardens, and ponds. With 36 bedrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, and a 10,000 volume library, the home is impressive in scale alone andthe property is also home to 8,000 acres of vineyards.
More Things to Do in North Carolina
What is now Uptown, Charlotte’s main business district, was historically known as Brooklyn, the centre of the city’s black community. One of Uptown’s main attractions is now the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture, an important art museum in a city that is, over 150 years after the Civil War, still divided along racial lines. Providing well-rounded insight into the black communities of both Charlotte and the South as a whole, the museum presents art exhibits, stage performances, lectures and more.
Named for a prominent local architect who served as Charlotte’s first black mayor in the 1980s, the museum’s modern building features an outdoor staircase called “Jacob’s Ladder,” a powerful symbol of African-American ascent through education and enlightenment. A unique pattern of slanted lines symbolizes textile patterns used in West Africa and in quilts during the Underground Railroad era.
Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, Independence Square sits at the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets providing a place to take in public art, admire local architecture and people watch. Those who visit the attraction should know they’re standing on a piece of important history, which can be explored through the public art standing on the square.
Littered around Independence Square you’ll find four bronze statues created by sculptor Raymond Kaskey titled “Transportation,” “Commerce,” “Industry” and “Future.” The Transportation statue is of an African American laborer, paying homage to the city’s first railroads from the 1850s. The creation of this metro is what laid the foundation for Charlotte becoming a major transportation hub. You’ll also notice an eagle, which gives a nod to the city’s advancements in aviation.
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