Travel: A Week in North Carolina

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My (likely) final trip of the 2019 calendar year is now behind me, after a wonderful week spent down in North Carolina with my sister and nephews. I’m really glad I was able to make this trip happen; they moved from Buffalo in 2016, and this was my first time going down to visit them. It was also quite an adventure considering I went alone, got on a plane (for just the second trip of my life) and drove 800+ miles around the state (more driving than I do in a month typically.)

Here’s a rundown of my trip and some recommendations I have along the way!

Saturday, August 17 – I caught an early flight out of Buffalo. As in, very early. As in, 5:06 am departure early. But honestly, as much as I hated getting up so early, it gave me the chance to maximize my time and have really the entire day in NC, from the time I landed in Charlotte before 7 AM.

My first stop: Bojangles, of course. One of the many food spots on my list and I was happy to check it off with a tasty egg & cheese biscuit, hash brown & drink for breakfast. From there, it was about a two-hour drive to Hidden Creek Camping Resort, where I met my sister, brother-in-law, nephews & their dog for a night of RV camping (also a first for me!) It’s a great campsite with a lake, arcade, etc. During the day we also stopped at Ingles and had lunch at Zaxby’s. Dinner was on the grill, and of course, we ended the night with s’mores.

Sunday, August 18 – We got an early-ish start leaving the campsite, to begin the roughly two-hour trek to my sister’s house in Walnut Cove. Again, that’s already a lot of driving for me & more than I’m used to, so I’m really proud of myself for all the driving I did! It was a quiet day spent mostly at home, but we did grab dinner at East Coast Wings & Grill, where I had the most yummy fried chicken mac & cheese. They also have amazing pretzels.  We drove around a bit and ended up at Dairi-O for dessert before heading back to the house.

On Monday, August 19, we dropped the nephews off at their daycare before my sister headed to work, and I drove out to Greensboro. My first stop was the Greensboro Bicentennial Gardens, which I only walked through about half of. They’re beautiful and it was a wonderful chance to get outside; but I’m glad I went early, when it was still in the upper-70s instead of the 80s or 90s. From there, it was breakfast at Biscuitville, then off to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.

What an experience that was. Honestly. It was thought-provoking and uncomfortable and educational and so incredibly important. We cannot ignore the transgressions of the past and present in this country – segregation, racism, violence, etc. and this museum really forces you to consider these things. I ended up taking a guided tour which lasted just over an hour and I learned so much; if you ever find yourself in Greensboro, go.

A few more stops along the way, including at Lowes Foods, and then it was back to Walnut Cove to relax for the evening with my nephews once I’d picked them up from daycare.

On Tuesday, August 20, I spent much of the day in Winston-Salem, including at Old Salem Museums & Gardens. The electricity in the visitor center actually went out while I was there, but I was still able to read the panels on the town’s history and learn a bit about the Moravians. I walked through a bit of the village, but it was hilly and incredibly hot. From there, I found a nearby library, the Forsyth County Public Library, and spent about an hour there. I am, after all, a library nerd and love to visit other libraries while on vacation!

After picking up chicken finger subs from Publix, I visited my sister at her work and we had lunch together. I then headed back to Walnut Cove and stopped at Oma’s Chocolate Factory & Coffee Shop, mainly to use their Art-o-Mat machine. What an invention, repurposing old cigarette vending machines to vend art instead! I then picked up my nephews from daycare, took them to get their own art, and went home before we got “Taco Tuesday” dinner at El Cabo.

I then drove out to Raleigh on Wednesday, August 21 for a few hours. I got to see PNC Arena, home of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, and did a quick self-guided tour of the North Carolina State Capitol. Per suggestion via Twitter, I had a to-die-for BBQ lunch at The Pit, which I highly recommend. I had the BBQ turkey with mashed potatoes and mac & cheese; it also came with a biscuit and hush puppies, and all for under $12.

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A few more stops in Raleigh, including Deco gift shop and the Take Warning mural at West & North, before I headed back to Walnut Cove. My sister, nephews and I had dinner and spent the evening at First Baptist Church for a night of summer-ending fun with a religious twinge.

On Thursday, August 22, the kids and I went to Kaleideum North. They’d been before, but we had a blast and spent about three hours there – including 25 minutes in a planetarium show, a few minutes in a live animal show with a bearded dragon, and a half hour in the traveling exhibits hall. Definitely a recommendation if you’re ever in the area with kids!

We then had lunch at Cicis (pizza/salad buffet), hung out at the house and spent the evening at their school for open house. Dinner was at the local Olympic Family Restaurant and was delicious.

Friday, August 23 was a quiet day. We went to The Grand Theatre for Angry Birds 2, stopped at the Walnut Cove Public Library and spent time relaxing at the house. In the evening, we went to Dewey’s Bakery before hibachi at Arigato Japanese Steakhouse in Winston-Salem. This was my first hibachi experience, and it was quite the experience! I’m glad I went there hungry; I certainly left stuffed.

On Saturday, August 24, it was haircuts at a free community event for the nephews, then lunch at the local Sam’s Pizza (a pizza/salad buffet). By 4 pm, I was on the road to Charlotte for my last long drive of the trip before returning my rental car. I stopped by Bojangles’ Coliseum, home of the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, and then headed to the airport. And yes, I got Bojangles for dinner! (Plus picked up some extra biscuits to take home!)

My flights were all very smooth and I was back in Buffalo by 9:30 pm. (By the way, I flew with American Airlines!) Overall, it was a wonderful trip and something I’ll look back on fondly for a long time.

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