How We Saw the Best of North Carolina in a Week

I cannot say enough good things about our experience in North Carolina!  On our 50 states in 50 weeks tour of the United States we spanned clear from the East Coast to the West border of North Carolina.  We enjoyed the harbour of New Bern, the beaches and sand dunes of the Outer Banks and the Mountains of Asheville.

If you are looking for family friendly activities in North Carolina or are passing through, check out our adventures.

New Bern

I was really excited for North Carolina! One of my favorite authors is Nicholas Sparks and many of his novels originate from North Carolina.

Nicolas Sparks is what brought us to New Bern. My heritage, with my grandparents coming from Switzerland, also intrigued my curiosity of the town. New Bern was named in honor of the first settlers hometown, Bern, Switzerland.  The painted bear statues around town are fun to walk past.

We didn’t spend long here but it is a quaint little town. The Saturday we showed up was spring festival. We spent most of the day there dancing with the DJ, and scoping out games we could play!

One of the biggest attractions for us at the festival was the airplane. They had an acrobatic pilot flying over head. It was amazing and I am in awe how he could keep flying. Colter loved the tricks because he personally loves to fly.  Our whole family stood there and watched the plane dancing in the sky.

After the festival we went to find the pharmacy where Pepsi Cola was created. With me being a pharmacist, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The pharmacy is set up like it was in the olden days with the drink fountain.  The back story is hard to find but the original Pepsi Cola formula decorates the far wall and many souvenir products are available to buy in the shop.

Since we were there in THE building we couldn’t pass up buying a soda.  Colter was astounded when I told him I wanted a sip of Pepsi.  His jaw pretty much dropped.  In my defense I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have Pepsi where Pepsi originated.

Outer Banks

Before we arrived in Eastern North Carolina, I had no idea the Outer Banks was the birthplace of flight.  We made sure we got our flight history in.  Even to the point we took hang-gliding lessons.

Camping on the beach at Oregon Inlet Campground we were deciding what exactly we wanted to do on the coast.  The wild horses intrigued us but it wasn’t a for sure thing we would see them.  Driving along the coast and finding lighthouses seemed like a beautiful drive but the little girls were tired of driving.  Then I mentioned to Colter that maybe we could take hang-gliding lessons.

He got to work on that idea and even Blakely and Tessa were able to hang-glide off the dunes!  We actually took lessons from Kitty Hawk Kites.  The day was beautiful and everyone, even Saylor had a great time.

Ground school was first.  We learned how the glider works and watched a short video inside the school and then it was go time!  We got fitted for helmets and harnesses and then walked to the dunes.  The sand beneath my feet was soft and warm.  Tessa holding my hand in excitement made my heart glow.

Once we reached the top of the sand dune we took turns in the glider.  Blakely started, then Tessa, then me, and Colter brought up the rear.  Two instructors helped each of us get situated, fly and then they carried the glider back up the dune.  We had so much fun!  Saylor played in the sand and we were able to watch her while the other was flying.

It is pretty neat to have my first flight lesson in the same area the Wright Brothers flew and it was nice we could do it together as a family.

With walking around the sand dunes and flying half the afternoon we were hungry!  Since we were on the coast I was dying for some sea food.  Our family ended up getting a smorgasbord platter and the girls were curious about the shells and crab.  They had a lesson on sea life food over dinner.  Shrimp is still my favorite sea food, I like lobster and crab is growing on me!  Oysters and clams I can do without.

Wright Brothers Monument

Going to see the monument of the Wright brothers where the actual first heavier than air plane was flown was pretty incredible.  The rain was pouring down the day we went to see the monument but I had planned to just drive the RV around on the pavement and not get out.

I should have known better than to think we would just drive around.  Looking at a replica of the scene that day of flight from over a hundred years ago wouldn’t do it justice viewing from the RV.   So we got our raincoats and umbrellas out.  Viewing the statues and the replica was great.  It was hiking to the top of the sand dune that was a little over-the-top for our three little girls.

At the top of the hill the wind was blowing and the rain was beating down on us.  Saylor couldn’t keep her hood on and she was soaked.  Capturing a quick video and picture was all I wanted and then we could run back down to the RV.

The girls were not impressed.  I ended up taking Saylor and Tessa to the RV and coming back to get Blakely because she refused to walk any farther.  She was crying and done.

By the time we got back to the visitors center I told the girls they could stay in the RV with dad while I ran to see the stones marking how far each flight went that day in 1903.  Surprisingly all three girls wanted to come.  It was better they came with me because Colter was on a phone call, working.

Blakely and Tessa wanted to get their Junior Ranger Badges for the Wright Brother’s National Monument so the Visitors Center was our last stop.

Chapel Hill & Raleigh

We knew we wanted to see and do things in both Chapel Hill and Raleigh.  This led us to Parkers Creek Campground around Jordan Lake which was between both cities.  Little did we know that our car dolly was about to break or broken which is another story in itself.

After dolly issues we eventually found a camp spot and settled in for the next couple of days.  The trees were so green, the grass was vibrant and the lake beautiful.  We were excited to spend time here.

Marbles Kids Museum

Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina was our first day in the area.  Blakely and Tessa had been begging me to do a children’s museum and I had heard this was a great stop.  It was a great stop!  The kids played and played!

My favorite part about this museum was the water play area.  The selection of play wasn’t huge but the two areas of water were at a good height so the older two girls could reach.  This allowed them to play for at least an hour in the water.  Saylor was asleep with dad while dad was working.

The outdoor garden area was really neat also.  Showing the girls how plants look after they have grown is really intriguing for them.  Planting their own fake seeds inside was a lot of fun for them also.

Upstairs was Blakely’s dream come true!  They had a lemonade stand, and a pizza parlor where she could ‘make money’ and sell products.  Tessa loved the pet adoption area and taking care of her kitty.  As a mom, I loved the money section concept where they could work to make money and then take their money to the bank.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to make every section of the museum because we had so much fun in other areas.

University of North Carolina and Carolina Basketball Museum

Colter wanted to stop by the University of North Carolina and take a tour of campus.  His mom and dad attended school here and Colter grew up a Tar Heel fan.  The campus is beautiful with trees throughout.  It feels as if you are in the middle of a forest, but you are on campus.

Our first stop was the Carolina Basketball Museum.  Colter and I both really like basketball and enjoy playing the sport.  The basketball museum did not disappoint.  The men’s program at UNC is phenomenal and they have the trophies and rings to prove it.

My favorite part of the museum was the basketball court with the spots where key shots were made.  These circles had the player, the game and the date.  If I were the jaw-dropping kind of person, my jaw would have been dropped through the whole museum.  There are some pretty incredible athletes in the world!

After the museum drove around the UNC campus.

As we were driving around campus it was fun to watch the students.  I imagined in my mind where they were coming from and going to.  That lady walking with the medical school sweatshirt was coming from a long day of class to catch the bus back home.  One of those girls playing soccer in the field was clear across the country from her hometown to pursue her dreams.

Feeling the excitement around campus was fun.  I don’t remember feeling excited going to college except maybe the first week and the week I graduated.   Maybe I felt the excitement because I am past the class stage of my life and appreciate everything that catapulted me to my career and a life of learning.  It was a good drive.

Colter had to work some more that night.  Luckily we were parked right by the basketball and tennis courts.  I took the girls down and we worked on some eye-hand coordination.  Blakely loved it!  She loved it so much that she had a total meltdown when we had to leave.  It looks like we need to play some more tennis.

Old Fort

Our initial plan was to go straight into Asheville but we found a campsite in the Pisgah Mountains at Curtis Creek Campground for $5 a night.  Score!  It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies though because we did get slightly nervous as we passed over a single lane bridge that was the width of our RV.  We weren’t sure if we were supposed to keep going or if we needed to turn around.  To be safe we unhooked the car and I went ahead and scouted out the campground.

I am not sure how we lucked out but there was one campsite that was not reserved for the two days we were planning on camping at Curtis Creek.  Little did we know about the Eastern Whip-poor-will that was also camped at Curtis Creek.

After we had gone to sleep that first night I was soon awakened by a loud, shrill, whistle-like sound.  What in the heck was it?  I looked out the window to see some fellow campers flashlights.  Was the sound a car alarm?  Would they please turn it off so I could go to sleep?  Then it went away for a few minutes.  Phew.  Then it started again.  I looked out the window again and my movements awoke Colter.

He was nice enough to get dressed and go outside to scope out the situation.  There was another guy outside walking along the road.  Colter went and talked to him.  After a short conversation this gentleman informed Colter of the bird.  An Eastern Whip-poor-will.

No quick fix here.  We were to endure the entire night listening to the constant call of a Whip-poor-will.  My sleep was sketchy, off and on.  The bird only stopped singing about two or three times that night for maybe a minute.  Early in the morning was when I had my best sleep.  Exhaustion fell upon me and I had continuous sleep for two or three hours.  Then it was time to be awake for the day.

Since we were in the mountains Colter wanted to go for a hike.  The hike was beautiful.  We crossed streams, stopped to have snacks, and made it to the end of our trail.  The girls were tired at this point but we still had to make it back to the RV.  Let the games begin!  Tessa was focused on beating Blakely down the mountain and I kept Blakely occupied counting trail markers and writing the number in the dirt.  It worked great!  We finally made it to the RV.

That afternoon we painted rocks, chatted with the camp hosts, whom are super nice, and had a campfire.  As we were going to get ready for bed the bird started its song.  We left.

North Carolina was an adventure!  We learned how to hang glide, walked the beaches, collected shells, and drank Pepsi where it originated.  Our tow dolly broke and we purchased a new one.  I will never forget the song of a Whip-poor-will.  Through it all North Carolina will hold some firsts for us and a lot of great memories!

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