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North Carolina Travel Tips


Statehouse, Raleigh (919) 733-4944
Completed in 1840 to replace the first statehouse destroyed by fire, the North Carolina Capitol stands today as one of the most well preserved examples of a Greek Revival public building. The exterior is constructed of local granite called gneiss, (pronounced "nice") quarried in Raleigh only a mile and a half from the Capitol. The architectural details, the columns, moldings and honeysuckle crown over the copper dome are patterned after ancient Greek temples, such as the Parthenon. The interior walls are made of massive stone, as are the large tiles on the corridor floor leading to the Rotunda at the center of this cross-shaped building. The impression of this stony interior on the first floor is one of strength, but the staircases to the second floor are more gentle, open, airy, preparing the visitor for the more sublime legislative rooms upstairs, where the Rotunda is quieted by lustrous oak accents. The House of Representatives to the left of the Rotunda is patterned after a Greek theater in the ornamental Corinthian style, while the Senate Chambers across the hall is fashioned in the Ionic style of the Erechtheum. The third floor, which contains the old State Library, is perhaps the most fascinating of all rooms. Stepping over the threshold the visitor is transported back to 1840. Books open on the desks, wooden stacks bulging with old books, the old stove in the center of the room, the candles on the desks, all speak of a time when legislators led more simple lives.

Check it Out. . . The centerpiece of the Rotunda is a copy of the life-sized, 1816 marble statue of George Washington, carved by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova. Since Canova had never met Washington he used a portrait image to carve Washington's face and relied on his imagination to carve Washington's body. Canova's Washington is dressed in a Roman tunic, writing on a tablet -- in Italian -- the beginning of his farewell address. In both legislative chambers are lithographs of Lafayette examining the statue during his visit to North Carolina in 1845.

Check it Out. . . .This old Capitol is enmeshed in legends . . . secret rooms, secret tunnels, and a secret "whiskey room" on the second floor called the "Third House" where legislators raised issues over a raised glass or two. (Dents on the staircase where whiskey barrels were dragged up to the "Third House" validate this rumor.) And of course, there are the Capitol ghost stories. Strange music, unexplained footsteps, a screaming woman on the third floor and sightings of a Confederate soldier on the second floor have been reported by night watchmen.

Tip: On the second floor is a wooden dais with a television screen. It's an automated system of information. Just go to the screen, point at what your interested in and read about the architecture, legends and other stories relating to the Capitol and the city. You can even print out your own copy of the info as a souvenir.

North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh (919) 715-0200
This museum has championed North Carolina's history for 100 years. Fred Olds, the museum's founder traveled to every county searching for objects, artifacts and stories to not only show the history but to establish a personal connection to the people of the past. Changing exhibits and programs include folk art, concerts, demonstrations and plays.The first floor has a circular walkway that begins with pre-colonial days and ends at the present. *FREE.* (Note: The North Carolina Art museum and Natural Science museum nearby are also free.)

Mordecai Historic Park, Raleigh (919) 834-4844
This 1785 plantation home of the Lane and Mordecai families contains original furnishings, portraits, and books. A separate kitchen was added in 1842. Also on the grounds are an 1810 law office, the 1847 St. Mark's Chapel, and the relocated 1795 house where the 17th President of the United States, Andrew Johnson was born. When President Andrew Johnson was born in 1808, his father and mother lived in this small house, originally attached to Raleigh's Cassos Inn where they both worked.

Wright Brothers' National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, Outer Banks (919) 441-7430
The story of how the Wright Brothers went from pedaling bicycles to peddling airplanes is beautifully told at the National Park Service museum. The rangers do a great job of depicting the engineering obstacles that Orville and Wilbur Wright had to overcome. Documents, diaries and dioramas -- as well as two actual size replicas of their 1902 and 1903 airplanes are on display. Also on display are their unique wind tunnel and a recreated model of their rustic workshop/living quarters, which Orville and Wilbur built themselves. Here they worked alone on this windy, sandy, lonely spot testing their theories, and testing their mettle in a ferocious battle against loneliness, setbacks and mosquitoes. It's a great story. A 1930s monolith memorial that looks like a giant stone cereal box towers over the landscape, commemorating the brothers and the significant event that took place here.

Bodie Island Lighthouse, Oregon Inlet, Outer Banks (919) 473-2111
The Bodie Island Lighthouse, with its two black and three white rings encircling its obelisk form, is one of four lighthouses on North Carolina's Outer Banks. The other three lighthouses are either all white, or sport varying black & white geometric themes, such as diamonds, spirals, and circles. The Bodie Lighthouse was built in 1847, rebuilt in 1859, blown up by Confederate troops in 1862, and rebuilt again in 1872. For 150 years this pillar of light, flashing its 160,000 candlepower over 19 miles of treacherous sea served as a celestial beacon to ships lost in the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." The name Bodie was originally spelled Body and is still pronounced "body," as in "body of water." Several stories circulate about the name: Some say that it was because so many bodies washed ashore at the foot of the lighthouse. Others claim that, as an island lighthouse, it sat on a "body of land." Others believe it was the name of the first lighthouse keeper. Whatever the story, the Bodie Lighthouse is uniquely North Carolina -- full of ghost stories, legends, and excitement. *FREE.* (Note: The black & white spiral designed Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at the Hatteras National Seashore is more famous of the four Outer Banks lighthouses, however it is now being moved from its original site farther inland, and not quite as enchanting with all the construction around it. We decided on visiting the Bodie instead.)

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Roanoke Island (252) 473-5772
In 1585 Sir Walter Raleigh sent 108 men to the New World to establish a military base against the Spanish. With the help of nearby Indians they found a fertile, well-watered and defensible spot on Roanoke Island and immediately built a fort. After a demoralizing winter, all but 15 of the men returned to England. Raleigh sent another expedition in 1587, this time he included 117 women and 9 children to establish a permanent colony with John White appointed as Governor. Each settler was promised a 500-acre plot of land. Originally they were to establish this new colony farther north where the Indians were reportedly more friendly, but when they stopped at Roanoke Island to resupply the 15 men who had been left there the previous year, the pilot refused to go any farther. Even though none of the fifteen men were still on the island "only the bones of one of the fifteen" remained, the colonists remained here to wait out the winter. During this time, Governor White's daughter gave birth to a baby girl named Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World. After the birth of his grandchild White left for England to amass more supplies. However, war with Spain prevented him from returning to his daughter until three years later. When he arrived, the place was empty. No traces of human remains, no signs of struggle. Nothing. The only clue was the word "Croatoan" carved on one tree and "Cro" on another. Many theories have been entertained about the so-called "Lost Colony," yet it remains a unexplained. The Visitor Center shows a film depicting one probability, and the museum features paintings, relics and document about the men and women of the Elizabethan time. The earthworks outside were considered part of the original fort. *FREE*

Tip: Summer is the best time to go to the park and the nearby Elizabethan gardens (described below) because the park offers ranger talks and the gardens are at their most beautiful. The park also contains an outdoor theatre designed in an Elizabethan style where for the past 60 years, the symphonic "Lost Colony" is performed every weekend from mid-June to late August.

Elizabethan Gardens, Roanoke Island (252) 473-3234
This magnificent Elizabethan garden of perfumed air, radiant colors, soothing fountains and antique statuary on a pine-laden path by the sea is a memorial to the first English settlers in 1587, the people of the Lost Colony. The entrance is a beautiful, recreated 16th century "Orangery," what today would be called a greenhouse. From here begins a walk through a most glorious arrangement of native trees, plants, flowers, fountains and statuary ever to behold. The walk begins with a small herb garden from which a path of soft pine needles leads to a wooded area of magnificent magnolia trees and brightly colored camellias. To the left is a quaint Rose Garden enclosed in small brick fortress. Beyond the Rose Garden is a beautiful formal garden with an ancient fountain, surrounded by beautiful shrubs and seasonal flowers. From here, the piney path leads directly to the shore where a delightful gate opens to the sea. A left turn leads the bedazzled visitor to an authentic 16th century thatched gazebo overlooking the sea. The path takes a turn into a land of greenery, a feathery forest of varying shades of green and colorful ground coverings. Birdbaths, statues, stone and wood benches, gnomes and chirping birds add the finishing touches to this most exquisite garden by the sea.


Stayed with friends --did not use any campground facilities.

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