Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Deal alert! Wrightsville

We like to travel to the Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach area because it's usually civilized and it's near. Hop on Interstate 40, and you're less than two hours away if you live in the Triangle...not much more than three hours even if you're as far west as the Triad.

That said, seven firms are offering special discounts for booking through mid-March. They include the Holiday Inn Resort, Shell Island Resort and the Blockade Runner.

Here's the link: www.wilmingtonandbeaches.com/Wrightsville-Beach/Winter-Highlights2/Special-Offers?cmpid=Email_3061

What's sweet about the southern barrier islands is how warm it can be even in midwinter. A long weekend does wonders for a harried marriage or an overly busy family.

Go for it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gotta Go: Old State Capitol

In the middle of the 1800s, North Carolina built a fine stone capital building in the center of Raleigh. By the 1960s, state leaders tired of the graceful "old" building and instead designed a modern legislative building a block away.

In a fit of wisdom, officials decided not to tear down the first capital. Go visit it. Take the youngsters, or your spouse.

What's there?

Our early state leaders naturally included separate House and Senate chambers. They survive, quaint and majestic at the same time. Old timey desks complete with inkwells from the period rest contentedly on luxurious carpeting. Fireplaces abound, and a self-guided tour explains the massive pile of firewood on the first floor that stewards had to wheel upstairs every winter day to keep the high officials warm during their deliberations.

The granite building was carefully crafted after features of ancient Greek temples. Exterior columns are Doric, modeled after those of the Parthenon. Crowning the structure is a magnificent rotunda. At nearly 100 feet from floor to rounded top, the feature still inspires awe.

Busts and statues adorn the capitol inside and out. There's a good chance you'll see a real-life political leader wander through the building while you're touring.

There is, of course, much to see in the core of the state's capital city besides the Old Capitol. The new history and natural sciences museums are directly across the street from the Capitol, as well as across Jones Street from the new Legislative Building. Restaurants abound. The Marbles kids museum is nearby.

We often overlook wonderful and important historic sites because they are familiar. But the Old Capitol Building is a gem. It'll make you sink your roots in your home state.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Vacating vs. touring

Regular blogging forces you to think, and for me that's meant thinking hard about why people leave home to visit elsewhere.

For readers of a travel blog, are you here because you're looking for a place in North Carolina to vacation? Or do you just like to visit - tour, if you will - different towns or attractions in the state? There's a difference, and the question for me is which type of traveler is Nearly There trying to serve?

In large measure, my answer is tourists, although surely you'll find places to vacation if you follow this blog.

Before I proceed, a few definitions...totally subjective on my part.

Vacation, to me, is getting away. It's rest, recuperate, get in some recreation. You can go to the beach or camp on the side of a mountain, and never leave your vacation spot.

Tourism, on the other hand, has a purpose. It's to go to see. Or go to learn. Or go to experience. To me, touring usually is a day trip, or an overnight. Maybe a long weekend. But it's short-lived and focused. We've spent an overnight near Bath to give us a full day of exploring that old village. Greensboro is no vacation paradise, but we've driven there a few times, to spend the day at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park or to discover Bicentennial Greenway.

Sure, touring can be part of vacating. What's a week in Emerald Isle without a day trip to Beaufort or the occasional visit to Fort Macon?

So there's vacating and there's touring, and the twain can meet. But not necessarily so.

The usual focus for Nearly There will be tourism, but you'll find a dose of vacating, too.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

VERY nice travel sweepstakes!!

There is a very nice prize to a drawing on North Carolina's official travel and tourism website, visitnc.com.

You can win high-class digs for a few nights in Asheville and Bryson City, $500 for expenses, a few meals, two tickets to Biltmore, and other goodies.

You have to enter by Jan. 31. Go to this link to get your name in the running.

Specifically, the "High Altitude: Travel Guide Sweepstakes" provides the winner with prizes that include:
  • Two nights accommodations at The Grove Park Inn. It includes a spa day pass for two, signed centennial history book documenting 100 years since The Inn first opened, breakfast in the Blue Ridge Dining Room and name included in the 2013 centennial time capsule.
  • Two nights at Great Smoky Mountains Cabin Rentals in Bryson City.
  • Two adult tickets to Biltmore, billed as America’s Largest Home and including the estate's gardens, winery and Antler Hill Village.
  • Scenic rail excursion for four on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
  • Two adult passes for a canopy tour at Navitat Canopy Adventures.
  • Dinner for four at The Fryemont Inn.
  • Whitewater rafting and wilderness survival training course for four at Nantahala Outdoor Center.
  • A $500 Visa gift card.
Go for it!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Battle of Fort Fisher...again

If you've traveled to Wilmington, you've probably heard of Fort Fisher. If you've seen the recent movie "Lincoln," you're sure to have heard of the place.

Just a few dozen miles south of Wilmington, the Civil War-era military bastion was built to guard the important port city from Union attack up the Cape Fear River. Once North Carolina seceeded from the Union in 1861, the city -- and thus the Fort -- became a prime target for the Union.

On Jan. 19, the Fort Fisher State Historic Site will host a living history program to commemorate the anniversary of the Second Battle of fort Fisher, the largest land-sea battle of the war. Here are excerpts from the state's news release:

"Kure Beach, N.C.: The year 2013 marks the 148th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. ... Thanks to the recently released Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln” and its multiple references to Wilmington, North Carolina and the Battle of Fort Fisher, millions of movie-goers are now more familiar with the fort’s important historical role as the last fort to fall to Union troops during the Civil War. Fort Fisher embraces this new spotlight and welcomes history buffs and fans of the movie year-round to explore its Civil War battlefield, monuments, museum, and special events.
As part of the state's observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources’ Fort Fisher State Historic Site will host “Sheppard’s Battery: Confederates Defending the Left Flank,” a special living history program on January 19, 2013. This year’s anniversary commemoration will focus on the Confederate defenders at Sheppard’s Battery and around the “Bloody Gate” on the left flank of Fort Fisher. Re-enactors will set up displays of Civil War camp life and talk with visitors about the life of the Confederate infantry and artillery troops during the January 1865 campaign. Other highlights include Civil War authors, artillery and infantry demonstrations, cannon and small arms firings, including the site’s rifled and banded 32-pound cannon atop Sheppard’s Battery. Events begin at 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.

Volunteers in period costume will bring history to life throughout the day. Guest speakers include local historian Ernie Kniffen, who will discuss new findings on his extensive research of Confederate sailors and Marines. Author Richard Triebe will sign books and discuss N.C. troops who were captured at Fort Fisher and sent to a prison camp in Elmira, N.Y. Also on site will be author, educator, and member of the Wilmington Railroad Museum board of trustees, James Burke, who will sign and promote his book, “The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad in the Civil War.” At 12:30 p.m., the N.C. Underwater Archaeology Unit will dedicate a new highway marker for the Civil War blockade runner Modern Greece, which ran aground and sank near Fort Fisher.

Fort Fisher’s programs afford visitors a wonderful opportunity to learn more about local history and Fort Fisher's role in the Civil War. Fort Fisher, the largest earthen fortification in the Confederacy, once protected the port of Wilmington and the vital blockade running trade on the Cape Fear River. After two massive bombardments the fort fell to a Union infantry assault on January 15, 1865. With the capture of Fort Fisher, Wilmington’s port—the “Lifeline of the Confederacy”—was closed to foreign trade.

Fort Fisher State Historic Site is located in Kure Beach, just 20 miles south of Wilmington, at 1

Fort Fisher State Historic Site is located in Kure Beach, just 20 miles south of Wilmington, at 1610 Fort Fisher Blvd. S., along US Highway 421. Visitors, residents, and motorists are advised of loud explosions during cannon firings and artillery demonstrations. ... "

If you've never been to a re-enactment, you'll want to catch this...especially if you're a Civil War buff. And enjoy a chilly walk on the beach while you're there.