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,

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!