North Carolina has much more to do than you might imagine. We chose to use our visit to the Tar Heel State for educational purposes and put our Association of Science and Technology Centers’ (ASTC) museum membership to good use. We did just this, and had a fabulous time exploring and learning in some wonderful museums.
If you have an ASTC, Association for Computing Machinery, Association of Zoos and Aquariums or Time Travelers membership, I highly recommend a visit to North Carolina for an amazing assortment of educational institutions. If you are a Thousand Trails member, you will also find two wonderful campgrounds to stay in.
This means North Carolina could easily be the best state to visit when you need to stick to a tight budget. I know after our jaunts through some of the pricier locations on the east side of the country, we gladly welcomed the savings we found in this southern state.
We stayed in the Winston-Salem area and found we really liked the location, as we were within an hour-and-a-half of Charlotte and less than an hour from Greensboro. This left us with a wide range of choices for things to do and see, all easily accessible within a reasonable amount of time.
Although there are plenty of great places to stay in this beautiful state, we will focus on the Winston-Salem area for this article.
This museum was on the smaller side, but still offered plenty to do and was just the right size for our easily tired preschooler. They offer special events and activities on occasion, and the assortment of permanent exhibits are well-maintained and interesting for the elementary and middle-school set. Some favorites included the race track and “Flying Turtle” scooters, the air-lift chair, and the tree slide.
They do also have one room that features a traveling exhibit. When we were there, the room was home to a cute little nature explorer exhibit, but it looked like the exhibits in this room change fairly often.
This museum is a part of the ASTC program and accepted our home-town museum pass without an issue.
We were allowed to bring in our own lunch and eat in the cafeteria. They did not have a cafe or restaurant. www.sciworks.org
This is a huge and modern museum that was well worth the long drive. We spent hours here learning about (and even holding) various animals, making our own stop-motion videos, watching science demonstrations, and creating duct tape shoes.
There is something for everyone at this museum, even the teen and adult crowds. I highly recommend visiting this museum.
Discovery Place offers reciprocal benefits to ASTC members and gave us free admission without hesitation.
We did not try to bring in food, but did notice a small cafe serving healthy food items. www.discoveryplace.org
Greensboro Science Center
This science center doubles as a small zoo, and is a great way to spend a day. Interactive animal experiences and awesome marine-life presentations set this museum apart from others in the area. They also have a great dinosaur exhibit and “Healthquest,” a fun exhibit where visitors can learn about their bodies in an interactive way.
Greensboro Science Center is a member of both ASTC and AZA. If you are a member of both, you may get a better deal with your ASTC membership depending on where your home AZA zoo is located.
We didn’t bring food with us to this museum, but they do have a cafe. www.greensboroscience.org
Truly the coolest library I have ever had the pleasure of visiting, ImaginOn is a one-of-a-kind children’s library located in Charlotte, NC. The library has a huge assortment of children’s books, a traveling exhibit area, a children’s theater, story times, and other fun activities and events.
If you have children and will be in Charlotte, you simply must stop by this awesome library. www.imaginon.org
Other notable attractions
- Old Salem Museums and Gardens — This attraction is a fantastic step back in time. Visit historical buildings and exhibits, shop the old-fashioned town, and eat some fantastic, farm-fresh food as you explore North Carolina’s history. www.oldsalem.org
- Greensboro Historical Museum — Plenty of interactive exhibits, staff answering questions, and a well-kept space give this museum some pretty high ratings. The museum is free to the public, and Time Travelers members receive a gift shop discount.www.greensborohistory.org
- Greensboro Children’s Museum — Exhibits at this awesome children’s museum are set up to resemble a town. Kids can play and explore in a tiny pizza parlor, pretend camp site, kid-sized market, and more. This museum is a part of the ACM and offers 50% off museum admission to members of ACM. www.gcmuseum.com
- Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem — With a focus on encouraging children to read, this museum offers a collection of fun exhibits which help children gather the tools they need to become fluent readers. As a member of ACM, the Children’s Museums of Winston-Salem offers half-price admission to ACM members. www.childrensmuseumofws.org
Where to Eat
Corners Coffee — This cute community hot spot is located in Advance, N.C. It was just minutes from our campground, which was very convenient. The shop doubles as a framing studio and has a lot of beautiful art on display. They also offer community events on occasion, such as yoga classes. Free Wi-Fi is available in the shop and the beverages are delicious. www.cornerscoffee.com
Krankies Coffee — The coffee at Krankies definitely lived up to the hype. I ordered a frozen mocha beverage which had something in it that reminded me of Christmas. It was amazing! The Wi-Fi is excellent, and the food menu is pretty extensive, so grabbing a bite to eat with your coffee wouldn’t be a problem. www.krankiescoffee.com
The Factory Coffeehouse — This tiny local coffee shop was the perfect place to get some work done on a rainy day. It is located in the quaint town of Mocksville, N.C., right next to an adorable bookstore. The ladies working were helpful, the drinks were tasty, and the pastry selection was wonderful. We used the Wi-Fi to work without an issue, and there were plenty of outlets available as well. www.thefactorycoffeehouse.com
Bill Spoons Barbecue — Frequently called “the best barbecue in Charlotte,” Bill Spoon’s Barbecue lives up to this label. It is eastern U.S.-style barbecue, which means the sauce is vinegar-based and adds just the right flavor to the delicious pulled pork. Their hush puppies are amazing, and the banana pudding is to die for. Be sure to look for a Groupon before you visit! www.spoonsbarbecue.com
Taqueria El Azteca — If you are looking for some authentic Mexican food in the Greensboro area, you have to check out Taqueria El Azteca. This place is absolutely delicious, and surprisingly affordable. The “build-your-own” combos are a great deal. www.taqueriaelazteca.com
Where to stay
Oak Hollow Campground — A nice, city-owned campground, Oak Hollow offers restrooms, laundry facilities, a playground, and more. It is located near a marina, as well as a golf course. 50-amp sites are available for $35 a night, and 30-amp sites are $30 a night. This campground is located about 30 minutes from both Greensboro and Winston-Salem, and 1.5 hours from Charlotte. www.highpointnc.gov
Forest Lake RV Resort — Located in Advance, N.C., Forest Lake is a secluded, wooded RV resort offering plenty of amenities, including laundry facilities, a playground, two pools, a hot tub and a store. The campground is located about 1.25 hours from Charlotte, 40 minutes from Winton-Salem, and 1 hour from Greensboro. This is a Thousand Trails resort, making it an awesome option for Thousand Trails Members. The general public will pay around $59 a night to stay here. www.rvonthego.com/north-carolina/forest-lake-rv-camping-resort
Lake Norman State Park — If you are looking for a budget option, this lovely state park is likely your best option. Sites do not have hook-ups, but shower houses are available. Sites are only $15 to $17 a night, and with nearby hiking trails and swimming beaches to entertain you, they are well worth that price. The campground is 45 minutes from Charlotte, 1 hour from Winston-Salem, and about 1.25 hrs from Greensboro. www.ncparks.gov/lake-norman-state-park