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Tourist attractions in the Carolinas
Q-Notes picks our favorite fun, unusual and quirky places to get away without having to drive too far

by Jesi Harris and Donald Miller
Looking for some fun and entertainment or perhaps a quick weekend getaway? We spent hours pouring over what North Carolina and South Carolina had to offer — and here’s what we came up with. Rather than pick the obvious, we decided to go with the thought-provoking, unusual and out-of-the-ordinary.

If you’re looking for a good time — here’s your guide!

North Carolina

• Discovery Place
301 North Tryon St., Charlotte
Since 1981, Charlotte’s Discovery Place has fascinated children with interactive exhibits, classes, a rainforest, an Imax theater (that houses the largest movie screen in the Carolinas) and more. Features and ideas change periodically, but the principle that edification and entertainment can be intertwined does not. Located in Charlotte’s Uptown among eateries and shops, the experience can’t be beat.

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is located on Harkers Island off the coast off North Carolina.
• Cape Lookout Lighthouse
131 Charles St., Harkers Island
Completed in 1812, the Cape Lookout lighthouse was reconstructed in 1859 to its height of 163 feet and, today, is still an acting aid to navigation. The keeper’s quarters is accessible to visitors on a seasonal basis as a window into history and the world of natural science. There is no access by road to the undeveloped islands of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Ferry services are available from Davis, Atlantic, Harkers Island, Beaufort and Morehead City.

Grandfather Mountain is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge mountain range.
• Grandfather Mountain
U.S. 221 & Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville
As the highest peak in the Blue Ridge mountain range and a renowned nature preserve, Grandfather Mountain has also been known to baffle the human psyche with 360-degree views of mountain ridge after mountain ridge retreating to the horizon.

• Mystery Hill
129 Mystery Hill Lane, Blowing Rock
The N.C. headquarters of unusual occurrences makes its home in Blowing Rock! Brooms stand at attention and balls and water roll uphill in a place in time and space that defies gravity and the laws of nature. There’s an artifact museum (which boasts the possession of over 50,000 pieces of genuine Native American artifacts), log cabin rentals are available and low admission rates make this attraction fun for the entire family.

• North Carolina Zoo
4401 Zoo Parkway, Asheboro
Asheboro’s pride and joy is home to 1,100 different living specimens representing 250 different species of reptiles, mammals, insects, and birds. One of the first zoos in the country to implement the natural-habitat philosophy, the Asheboro Zoo spans over 1,400 acres and is separated into continental regions. The facility includes a picnic area, restrooms and nursing stations.

South Carolina

• Hollywild Animal Park (Hollywild Zoo)
2325 Hampton Rd., Wellford
Lions and tigers and bears are certainly not indigenous to Wellford, S.C., but at Hollywild Animal Park, they roam as if they were. With low general admission, a free safari and exotic animals, this is sure to be a trip discussed for years to come. Birthday packages are available.

Traditional African attire/artifacts at the Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon, S.C.
• Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village
56 Bryant Lane Highway 17, Sheldon
Founded in 1970 by King (Oba) Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I (yeah, we can’t pronounce it either), this African village has figuratively sanctioned itself in Sheldon, S.C. Underpopulated and obscure, it proves a spiritual awakening for some, an historical revitalization for others. Tourism is encouraged during festivals.

• South Carolina Aquarium
100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston
To see underwater life without getting wet visit the South Carolina Aquarium. Equipped with galleries, labs and exhibits, no one will be left out of the discovery process. The admission is a bit pricey, but the displays are worth the cost and include over 60 exhibits located throughout the Aquarium that focus on five major regions of the Appalachian Watershed: the Mountains, the Piedmont, the Coastal Plain, the Coast and the Ocean. The changing exhibit space currently showcases the Secrets of the Amazon, displaying a variety of plants, animals and habitats from the Amazon River basin. The Great Ocean Tank is the largest exhibit in the Aquarium. It extends from the first to the third floor of the Aquarium, holds over 385,000 gallons of water and contains over 300 animals.

• Haunted Jail Tour
40 North Market St. Charleston
Here were housed the bodies and spirits of some of 19th century South Carolina’s most intimidating figures. Pirates, prisoners of war and thieves were kept incarcerated here from 1802 to 1939. Supposedly, their bodies have passed on but some spirits still lurk. For this chilling-excitement-meets-historical-education exhibit, family and individual passes are not too expensive and the establishment is conveniently located in historic Charleston.

Ripley’s Myrtle Beach includes an “odditorium” that displays incredibly gruesome and grotesque ‘items.’
• Ripley’s
North Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach
Ripley’s Myrtle Beach attractions include an aquarium, an “odditorium” displaying incredibly gruesome or grotesque items, a three-story haunted house and a theater. All moderately priced, you could simply use each as an excuse to make four separate trips to visit the gorgeous beach-front town.

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