It was suggested that I write a couple of columns about places to see, things to do, establishments to eat in, and interesting people to talk to — a sort of tear-out-and-save compilation of ideas for when company comes.
The first thing that came to my mind was when some Chinese work colleagues of my husband’s visited this area. Before they returned to their homeland, they walked across Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge, took a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and saw the Hickory Crawdads in action as well as an area high school football game.
When a Lutheran pastor from India visited my church, my husband and I were tasked with taking him to dinner one night. We wanted to provide a memorable occasion, so we took the reverend to Sims Country BBQ in the Dudley Shoals community. On the way, I whispered to my husband that maybe we’d made a mistake. I’d always heard that a lot of people in India didn’t eat meat, particularly Hindus. Well, he wasn’t Hindu, but was he vegetarian? We entered the restaurant, explained the process, and then watched him dish heaping quantities of chicken, beef, and pork onto his plate. Whew! He not only loved the food, but he appeared thoroughly entertained by the bluegrass music and square dancing.
My point in sharing these two stories is that when you’ve got family, friends, or business colleagues coming to town, you have to give the idea of entertaining them some careful thought. What ages are they? What are their likes and dislikes? Hobbies? Where are they coming from? Do they have adventuresome spirits? Do they like to play games? Are they history buffs? Outdoorsy or indoorsy? And so on.
The list I’ve created includes places I like, those mentioned by other people, and some that I simply researched, paying close attention to reviews. It’s certainly not a complete list, and I welcome recommendations for a follow-up column.
Let’s start with three suggestions that require immediate attention if you’re interested: Hart Square Village’s annual festival at 5055 Hope Road in Vale. It will be on Oct. 26, and because it’s such a popular event, I suggest buying tickets ASAP. You can do so at www.hartsquare.com. Hart Square is said to include the world’s largest collection of historic log structures, but it’s so much more. Going to Hart Square is almost as good as actually stepping back in time.
The second idea is the Historic Morganton Festival in downtown Morganton Sept. 6 and 7. I’ve loved this city’s downtown area for years: great shops, galleries, and excellent places to eat, such as King Street Café at 207 S King St., which is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday. Besides the good food, there’s the lovely ambiance one enjoys when eating in a Victorian-style home.
My third thought is that you might enjoy the Caldwell Arts Council’s 34th annual Sculpture Celebration on Sept. 7 at the T.H. Broyhill Walking Park. The free event will offer lots of family friendly activities as well as the sculpture competition. If you can’t make it on Sept. 7, you can always take guests on a sculpture tour of the Lenoir area. The arts council has over 80 publicly-displayed sculptures, the majority of which are outdoors. You can find photos as well as a map at www.caldwellarts.com. This would be fun for anyone but especially for children. You can call it a sculpture hunt and offer a prize for the person who spots the most sculptures first.
Like the permanent sculpture collection, the following suggestions are possibilities most any time of year.
Beanstalk Ziplines at 701 Sanford Drive, Morganton, is great for groups as well as individuals.
The 1895 Bunker Hill Covered Bridge at 4160 U.S. 70 East in Claremont is a must-see for history lovers; however, it’s currently closed for repairs. Check the bridge’s FaceBook page for updates or call the Catawba County Museum of History at 828-465-0383. When you go, have some facts ready to share with your guests. You can find information at www.catawbahistory.org.
Speaking of the history museum, why not take your guests there? Located on the square in downtown Newton, the museum is housed within a 1924 building that used to be the Catawba County Courthouse. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free but donations are accepted. If you go on a Wednesday, be sure to plan your trip so you have time to eat chicken pie at Callahan’s Café, which is across the street from the museum. The café’s address is 11 N College Ave. It’s open until 2 p.m. on weekdays.
Another family friendly place to go is the Emerald Hollow Mine at 484 Emerald Hollow Mine Drive, Hiddenite. With the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Christmas Eve, this place is open daily from 8:30 a.m. until sunset – rain or shine. As a teacher, I experienced several field trips to gem mines, and I can say without reservation that I’ve never encountered a young person who wasn’t interested in rocks. I’ve known some grown-ups who liked them as well. If your guests aren’t coming until next March, you can take them to Emerald Hollow Mine and then follow that up with a stop at the gem and mineral show. It will be held March 27-29 at the Hickory Metro Convention Center.
When I think of taking kids on field trips as well as when I reminisce about people I’ve interviewed, the Catawba Science Center at 243 Third Ave. NE, Hickory, stands out. There’s so much for people of all ages to enjoy: a science technology children’s museum offering hands-on exhibits, salt and freshwater aquarium galleries, and a state-of-the-art digital planetarium theater. And, there’s lead naturalist Bruce Beerbower, who ranks high on my list of interesting people to talk to. From dinosaur digs to feeding – or not feeding – the wildlife that live in your backyard, Bruce can offer information and sometimes personal experiences related to just about any living creature.
Next door to the science center is the Hickory Museum of Art, a place I’ve visited and written about many times, but I’m going to have to save the art museum for my next column. Be sure to look me up on Sept. 8 when my suggestions for things to do when company comes continues. In the meantime, if you want to share an idea, let me know. I’m especially interested in where and what people like to eat in the Unifour.
Share story ideas with Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org