As you can tell from my snapshots of license plates, North Carolina is home to the scenic Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway in the western part of the state. It also proudly touts that it was "First in Flight" with the Wright brothers' historic first controlled powered flight in the small town of Kitty Hawk in the northeast portion of the state.
We specifically spent a long weekend at Dave's parents' house in Cornelius, which is situated within Mecklenburg County (i.e. in the greater-Charlotte area). Mecklenburg is the state's most populated county and provides a number of attractions as well. At the top of the list for me is Lake Norman. Sometimes referred to as North Carolina's "inland sea", Lake Norman was created in 1963 by Duke Energy. Its unique "finger-like" configuration allows for a ton of lake-side property, a major cha-ching for realtors I'm sure.
Sidenote: On the short drive over to the lake, I realized how prominent brick homes are down here. There was brick everywhere.
Not only will you see these red brick homes, you'll notice piles of russet-colored pine needles that are used for mulch on every lawn. Even a lot of the exposed dirt is red down here. It's a shade of red bonanza for your eyes!
Realizations of red were quickly gone from my mind as I set my eyes on the stunning marina by the Lake Norman Yacht Club glistening in the mid-February sun. After the winter we had up in the Northeast, it really was a welcomed sight.
|Note the red dirt!|
We walked around for a good hour taking in all of the different boats and beautiful lakefront homes. I learned from Dave's parents how much activity centers around this lake: fishing, Club/social gatherings, jet-skiing, State Park trails and sailing to name a few. I snapped a bunch of pictures (of course) and started getting excited at the idea of visiting in the warmer months when we could actually partake in a lot of these activities.
Another attraction the area has to offer is the exploration of Historic Latta Plantation in Huntersville.
In its heyday in the early 1800's, this cotton plantation encompassed 742 acres of land and had over 30 enslaved people. As far as its architecture, you may be thinking that these buildings don't fit with your own personal image of the southern plantation. For instance, my mental picture of a southern plantation is a huge white home with columns and a wrap around porch. The reason for its architectural divergence is that James Latta decided to design it in accordance with what he was familiar with during his time as a traveling merchant: Philadelphia colonials.
Today, the property has been restored and is open for daily tours. The acreage previously used to yield cotton has been donated to the county and is now open to the public as a Nature Preserve. When we were driving in, I saw people having picnics, walking trails and riding horses.
We decided to take the hour-long tour. I must say that the tour guides (in traditional attire) were a pleasure and added a Valentine's Day theme seeing as though we were so close to the holiday. Not only did we hear all about the history of the family and what their day to day was like, we had the added benefit of learning what "courting" was like for the 3 Latta girls and their overprotective father.
I enjoyed taking walks along the grounds, taking in the old barn and separated kitchen (in case of fires which did happen a lot actually).
|Off season cotton|
It was particularly fun to see the plantation animals. I guess I haven't been to a petting zoo in too long because I was finding them so cute.
|Luther the Red Devon Cow|
|HUGE Queen Charlotte who was grunting up a storm|
|I dont know his name, but he is a Hampshire Hog|
If you're in the mood for an interesting, interactive history lesson, make sure to find some time to stop in to Latta.
A trip to downtown Charlotte is also necessary. The city looks walkable (not unlike Boston for me up in the Northeast) and also very clean.
I want to make sure I walk around the city a little bit more next time, but I quite enjoyed our destination on this day: the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Seeing as though I am not even remotely close to being a gearhead, I would never have guessed I would actually enjoy exploring this place. However, the Hall opened only within the last couple of years and was extremely well thought out! It allows you to personalize your experience by giving you your own "ID card" which tracks your participation in over 50 interactive attractions. Dave and I found ourselves competing with each other and, really, with any other attendee that had more points than us on the leader board. We ran around trying to find ways to earn points such as track simulators, pit stop challenges and digital kiosks with games on photos finishes, inspections and trivia.
I also enjoyed learning a few tidbits about NASCAR as well. For instance, I never knew it got its start essentially from bootleggers trying to outrun the police during prohibition. It was hard to imagine people racing in these big ol' hunks of metal.
I'm sure this section which displayed restored cars from the beginning until modern day was more meaningful to big fans who might remember the drivers that actually drove these cars but, for me, it more fun to make observations. For instance, I couldn't help but noticing just how many more advertisements made their way to the cars as time went on. Look at Earnhardt's car:
Dave finished the day #2 on the leader board, and I finished a respectable #17. My take: if you're a NASCAR fan, get your butt over here ASAP; if you're NASCAR clueless, it really is more fun than you would think.
Another to-do is a walk through Davidson. It is of course home to Davidson College, a very well-respected liberal arts school. We enjoyed our last morning here, taking in a yummy breakfast at Toast Cafe and walking around Main Street. I was feeling nostalgic for my time at UNH, especially after seeing that Davidson and UNH share the "Wildcats" nickname.
The streets were quiet during my time here and it felt very quaint. I noticed small plaques embedded in the brick sidewalks which indicate the stores' original inhabitants.
All of the interesting art, people buzzing about it bookstores and students walking around in their Davidson sweatpants made we want to stay and reminisce about being an undergrad. Too bad I had to catch that plane back up to the cold Northeast.
My last piece of advice for any of you thinking about stopping through this area, make sure to to get out and enjoy breakfast!!! Southern breakfasts made this trip even that much more memorable. I had my first Bob Evans experience and, accordingly, my first biscuits and gravy experience and WOW. That about covers my feelings about it. I already mentioned the great eats at the Toast Cafe in Davidson and, not to be outdone by its neighbor, The Egg was fabulous as well. No matter where you go, I don't doubt that your breakfast will fuel you well until dinner time, leaving you with plenty of energy to get out and enjoy some of these Mecklenburg County treasures.