If you told someone you visited a 100-year-old steam-driven car, they would probably picture a curves ball, a leisurely ride through the countryside, with occasional treats from neighbors.
The only thing between that and a box of chocolates is a dog sled, and the ride from the nearest airport to most likely a snowmobile as well.
That’s pretty much how I feel when I visit a new city, yet I’m soon to find out that there is more to the South Carolina backcountry than meets the eye.
Nottens, Rowboats, and Victorian homes nestle at the edge of forests on clapboard siding at the North Carolina Buckhead Overlook. This is the best place to see birds, squirrels, foxes, maybe even a raccoon or two, but it’s best to have your car radio on at all times.
Also at the Overlook is the Revolutionary War bunkhouse the Dunbar-Bowers built in 1777. It is the only historic lodging in the area built prior to the Revolutionary War. A restored house, the house is private and may not open during the winter season.
But that’s about all I can say about the city’s tourist attractions because there are way too many wonderful things to see and do. For starters, the city is home to Dollywood, the nation’s largest amusement park. In this Parisian-style atmosphere guests can dance to nearly 30,000 square feet of music, or witness one of Dollywood’s famous landmark dresses being made. Meals are served in the Sleeping Village, a replica of a historic Revolutionary War house with beautiful, old oak trees taken care of by an arborist near me. Activities abound in Square Live, a town comprised of small streets and shops that are strung together.
Dollywood is not, however, the only entertainment that draws vacationers to the city. Perhaps the most famous performance is the Dixie Stampede, a great old-fashioned rodeo that draws thousands of performers to the city each summer. Since the Stampede’s inception in 1923, it has celebrated the influences of country music, bluegrass, today’s country and contemporary rock. Today, the Stampede is a certified money-maker for the city and its residents. Despite a national downturn in tourism in the last couple of years, the Stampede is still a major attraction, drawing well over 13 million visitors each year.
The city is also home to the highly-regarded Belmont Park. Founded in 1884 by philanthropist Andrew Hill Belmont, the park is a Fields of roses landscape that encompasses nearly 40 acres of beautiful gardens. A museum of Belmont’s life and art, special events and activities provide an opportunity for those visiting the park to learn more about the history and development of the city.
The Zoo Gordon priorities in education are to provide hands-on interaction experiences and to engage families with learning. The Zoo staff actively participates in a variety of learning workshops and programs, including the Hands on the Farm program. The Zoo also hosts the April in the Garden program, where local residents and visitors can learn about gardening and environmental issues. Various animals and plants can be viewed from multiple angles and questions can be asked by the animal handlers.
Located just northeast of downtown Charlotte Amalie is theodtrain museum, one of North Carolina’s oldest and largest museums. The museum complex houses many historic artifacts relating to North Carolina’s citrus industry as well as an exoticulture collection. Exhibits include a botanical wonderland grown in a replica of a Chinese grove, a grain silo, a NC limestone cave, the Carolina Opry and an old-fashioned craft shop.
Over at the North Carolina Aquarium lies another great way to spend a morning. The triple-audition marine science show at the aquarium shares the ocean with a diverse array of Florida’s marine life including sharks, dolphins and stingrays. Participate in the show and judge other animals in real time during the tsunami exhibition. If you spend the day at the aquarium vote for your favorite aquatic friend to win the public’s choice awards.
Whether you decide to join a museum, feed the animals or nature, Charlotte Amalie is a great place to visit during your vacation.