See & Do
Get close to owls, hawks, vultures and bald eagles at this bird sanctuary. The Raptor Medical Center next door treats about 1,000 injured and orphaned birds a year. The ones that can’t be safely returned to the wild find a home in one of the big cages along the center’s Raptor Trail. 6000 Sample Road, Huntersville. 704-875-6521, carolinaraptorcenter.org.
Historic Rural Hill, Huntersville
This 265-acre historic farm and nature preserve details the history of early Scottish settlers in the area. The site also is a working farm that replicates 19th century agriculture with oddly wooly Scottish highland cows grazing the fields. 4431 Neck Road, Huntersville. 704-875-3113, ruralhill.net.
Jesse Helms Center, Wingate
As a well-known U.S. senator, Jesse Helms had strong opinions as he served three decades starting in 1973. This center, in his home county, features a replica of Helms’ office in Washington, many photos, editorial cartoons and his “no” stamp – in honor of his nickname, “Senator No.” 3910 U.S. 74 East, Wingate. 704-233-1776, www.jessehelmscenter.org.
This is an authentic western town, right down to the dusty street where horses are encouraged and cars are banned. There are saloons, a general store, a gift shop, a western store and 100 miles of horse-riding trails. Overnight visitors can camp, stay in a cabin or bunk at Miss Kitty’s Room and Board. 169 Henry Martin Trail, Love Valley. 919-349-3541, www.townoflovevalley.com.
N.C. Music Hall of Fame, Kannapolis
Ben E. King, Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, John Coltrane and many more are featured at the hall, housed in a small building that used to be a jailhouse. Singers’ outfits and guitars are on display, along with plaques about the artists that tell the story of North Carolina’s role in the music industry. 600 Dale Earnhardt Blvd., Kannapolis. 704-934-2320, northcarolinamusichalloffame.org.
SALT Block, Hickory
Sciences, Arts and Literature Together, in one block. The SALT Block houses several growing enterprises that enhance life in this valley – the Catawba Science Center (including an aquarium and planetarium), the Hickory Museum of Art, a folk arts hall, a performance hall, rehearsal space, a lawn for outdoor movies and a library. 243 Third Ave. NE, Hickory. 828.324.4906, saltblockfoundation.org.
Schiele Museum of Natural History, Gastonia
Opened in 1961 as a small collection of preserved fauna, flora and rocks in dioramas, it has grown into a world-class museum, adding a planetarium. There are several specimens from prehistory, including dinosaurs and a mastodon (a T. Rex skeleton towers over the lobby); live animals and a hall on the history of Native Americans. 1500 E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia. 704-866-6900, schielemuseum.org.
The Green, Charlotte
A serene acre and a half in the middle of uptown Charlotte, The Green opened in 2002 with a literary theme. Two huge sculptures celebrate literary giants: Whitman, Haley, Bronte, Emerson. And directional signs point to distant towns whose names form tributes to great writers – such as Alice (Texas, 1,273 miles) and Walker (Arizona, 2,058 miles). 400 block of South Tryon Street, Charlotte.
Browse & Shop
Lost N Found Vintage Mall, Mooresville
Downtown Mooresville is home to several antiques stores, but there’s a reason this one doesn’t have “antiques” in its name. Its wares are quirky enough to attract shoppers and gawkers of all ages. Among the oddball items on sale: vintage bowling pins, a TV dinner tray from the movie “E.T.” and a newspaper sales rack from the days when the price was 15 cents. Ask owners Alex and Sharon Yonchuk for their strangest items, and they’ll pull out bottles of century-old snake oil and embalming fluid from behind the counter. 101 S. Broad St., Mooresville. 704-664-1977.
Eat & Drink
Ass Clown Brewing Company, Cornelius
To find Ass Clown Brewing, you’ll have to drive around an office park in Cornelius until you see a terrifying clown face above a door. Inside the small tap room is a chalkboard with more than a dozen unique beers: Chai tea hefeweizen, orange mint IPA, peach fig pale ale and smoked maple bacon black ale among them. The name stems from a lighthearted insult the brewers used to throw at each other. 10620 Bailey Road, Cornelius. 704-995-7767, assclownbrewing.com.
Cafe 100, Huntersville
Why not eat breakfast for lunch? It’s an option at this cozy house-turned-restaurant at the center of Huntersville. Sure, they serve standard lunch fare, too – sandwiches, wraps and burgers – but it’s hard to pass up the build-your-own breakfast burritos, which can include anything from chorizo sausage to goat cheese. 100 Huntersville-Concord Road, Huntersville. 704-274-5932, thecafe100.com.
City Lunch, Lincolnton
A timeless diner with wooden screen doors, Formica bars, walls adorned with high school football photos and a letter-board menu with a Cheerwine ad. Bring a hunger for more than nostalgia. The Big Boy breakfast – two eggs, grits, flapjacks, sausage, bacon and livermush, with toast and coffee – will satisfy. 113 Court Square, Lincolnton. 704-472-3994.
Keaton’s Barbecue, Cleveland
People are still drawn to Keaton’s for a taste of pork or chicken with sauce made from the late B.W.’s Keaton’s secret recipe. The chicken is only served one way: fried, then briefly dipped into the magical sauce. Story has it that the Schlitz brewery once offered Keaton $10,000 for his recipe, but he said he wouldn’t sell it for less than $100,000. 17365 Cool Spring Road, Cleveland.704-278-1619, www.keatonsoriginalbbq.com.
Mooresville Ice Cream Company
Sold under the DeLuxe and Front Porch brands, the Mooresville Ice Cream Company’s 40 flavors include some Southern specialties: banana pudding, fried apple pie and blackberry crumble. Peek in the windows of the factory to get a glimpse of the ice cream production process, then stop in the old-style ice cream parlor next door for a taste. 172 N. Broad St., Mooresville. 704-664-5456, deluxe1924.com.