It would be hard to pick a more fitting site for the North Carolina Transportation Museum. At one time, its web of train tracks and buildings served as the largest servicing facility for Southern Railway Company's steam locomotives. Today, it performs a different service: preserving an authentic slice of locomotive history, with some early planes and cars thrown in for good measure.
Richard Petty was a race car driver for more than 30 years, an epic career that earned him the nickname "The King" and a slot in NASCAR's Hall of Fame. His last race was in 1991, and he's now happily retired. But at Richard Petty Driving Experience, civilians can re-create his glory during race car rides of their own.
At NASCAR tracks around the country, Petty's eponymous company provides a broad spectrum of high-speed experiences. Amateurs can hop into the driver's seat of a streamlined, 600-horsepower race car and hit the track for as many as 50 laps. However, they can also opt for a ride-along, and enjoy speeds of up to 145 mph without the hassle of steering or hand-cranking the engine.
At FastFrame, highly trained framers enhance artwork, memorabilia, photographs, and other keepsakes with custom-crafted frames. Like a magic 8 ball's opinion on investment portfolios, the prices at FastFrame vary wildly, hinging on size and scope—many projects start at around $100. Accent mementos with a complementary wood or metal frame, or prevent precious fine art from escaping walls and joining traveling art shows. Framers can add mats to ensure a dramatic, polished presentation, and seal the back of frames to guard works from dust and debris. FastFrame safeguards client satisfaction with a 30-day design guarantee, allowing owners to return pieces if they can't play nicely with nearby light fixtures, in addition to a lifetime craftsmanship guarantee.
Unlike their mythical cousin, the velociraptor, modern-day raptors are real birds of prey that strike like death from the sky. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of these fearsome creatures, from eagles to owls, some of which can be seen up close and personal at one of the center's several live programs and tours. On a clear day, fortunate guests can catch a clear view of the resident raptor, Emma, a white barn owl taken under the wing of the center following a series of broken bones. Too fragile to survive in the wild, Emma now pitches in around the center, raising wildlife awareness and taloning up rogue litter.
Linda Minor, a member of the North Carolina Society of Goldsmiths and a former fashion buyer for J.C. Penney and Belk department stores, sells handmade creations within Bead Me’s spacious shop. Her first designed jewelry, which has been recognized as American-made by Martha Stewart, was chosen to be given to First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of the city of Charlotte, NC. She draws from her style expertise to create necklaces, earrings, and bracelets with pearls, coral, turquoise, Swarovski crystals, and semiprecious gemstones. Many of her pieces incorporate copper, an antimicrobial metal that resists fading. During fun, BYOB jewelry-making classes, Linda imparts her beading know-how to students of all skill levels, giving them hands-on practice with metal-manipulation techniques such as fold forming and reverse psychology.
Sisters and native Charlotteans Neha Negandhi and Monika Shah didn?t let respective stints in Seattle and Alaska keep them away from their hometown arts scene. Inspired by similar BYOB painting sessions seen during their travels, they harnessed their diverse experiences with event management and Alaskan train tours to open their own studio, where they encourage students of all artistic levels to tap into their inimitable creativity just as they did. Joined by an impressive cast of local artists, the sisters unfurl a calendar stocked with a barrage of painting options, allowing students to portray a sailboat with an impressionistic mast or a seahorse wearing a gilded saddle.