The Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, which was improved by Civil War general Herman Haupt, the late 19th-century Historic Murray's Mill, which boasts a 28-foot high waterwheel, and the Harper House, which showcases its intricate Queen Anne stylings, all have something in common: They're maintained and shown by the Catawba County Historical Association, an organization dedicated to preserving and exhibiting historical sites throughout North Carolina.
The Catawba County Museum of History, situated in the former Catawba County Courthouse, depicts the lives of the Catawba River Valley's original settlers and their decedents through artifacts such tools made from hand-dug iron ore, military uniforms, and hand-stitched quilts. Visitors can step back in time into the ornately decorated, Queen Anne–style Harper House, whose period-accurate color schemes, wallpaper, and architectural details paint a picture of southern life in the Victorian era. The Murray & Minges General Store's shelves are still stocked with old-fashioned toys and treats, which at one time must have kept the Murray family children occupied as their parents helmed the Murray Mill. Guests can tour the mill and imagine workers grinding corn and wheat with the tools on display, toiling away to make their sacrifices to the Corn Gods in hopes of one day receiving Fritos.
The vision of a local North Carolina man, Zootastic Park sends animal lovers on an educational, interactive journey with an ever-expanding selection of exhibits, attractions, and activities. Owner Scottie Brown?who, along with his family, has been working with exotic animals for more than 30 years?transformed his dream into reality in 2009, when the zoo finally opened its gates after several years of construction and growing inside a kangaroo pouch. Today, the zoo's themed areas, such as Western Town and the Barnyard Petting Zoo, let visitors explore reptiles, farm animals, and exotic beasts including antelope, birds, and tigers who go by the names Sasha and Jasmine. Zootastic Park also hosts or furnishes animals for special events and can provide an exotic feel for events including birthdays, weddings, and corporate gatherings. When winter rolls around, the zoo morphs into a wonderland of lights, complete with an appearance from a Santa Claus who is clearly just a zebra wearing the sheep's cast-off wool.
Display cases filled with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are a treat for the eyes at any jeweler's, but at Colburn Earth Science Museum, they dazzle visitors intellectually as well. More than 1,000 cuts from around the world make up the museum's extensive gemstone collection, which guests learn about via a gem-mine replica featuring a faux dynamite charge and gem pockets. The museum's additional exhibits showcase mineral specimens from the museum's collection of more than 4,500, as well as fossil specimens including teeth from a wooly mammoth complete with calcified floss.
Guests can take a more hands-on approach to scientific discovery during the museum's school programs and spring-break camps, which focus on subjects such as fossils, gravity, and space rocks. Voyage deeper into the galaxy during Spaced-Out Saturdays, when a digital spaceship whisks passengers on journeys throughout the solar system. After expeditions, stop by the Museum Gift Shop to pick up your own minerals or crystal-filled, 44-million-year-old geodes that museum staff can crack in half for you during your visit.
Grovewood Cafe could very well be a cottage from a fairytale. Greenery seems bent on overtaking the restaurant and completely surrounds its patio, where whimsical sculptures from Grovewood Gallery pop up from the ground. On the inside, flowers bring color to tables bathed in light from oversized windows. And, like many a Brothers Grimm character, chef and owner Larry Waldrop depends on local farms for sustenance.
Larry believes that the best meals are made from scratch, and without too much help from machinery. He prefers to chop his meat by hand, for instance, rather than use his government-issued butcher robot. His menu of Southern-inspired plates gives credit to several area farms?there's grilled meatloaf from Hickory Nut Gap Farm, pork from Heritage Farms, and chicken breast from Ashley Farms, which arrives encrusted in crunchy walnuts. Every day, there's a special free-range omelet available for lunch. And if you're in the neighborhood on a Sunday morning, stop by for the Grovewood's take on eggs benedict with fried green tomatoes, grilled Sunburst Farm trout, and swiss chard.
Celebrating five years under the current owners, Frame It to a T boasts a staff experience in a multitude of aesthetically driven fields—from visual art to interior design—but they specialize in conservation framing. The specialists expertly match jerseys, diplomas, photos, and artwork with acid-free mats and eye-catching frames. Ultraviolet-filter glass prevents sunlight from bleaching artwork or keepsakes, ensuring that prized childhood toys age as imperceptibly as a Twinkie. Those who do not already have artwork they wish to frame can peruse the shop’s selection of art and prints.
Named one of the top 100 Art & Framing Retailers by Decor magazine in 2006 and 2007, BlackBird crafts custom frames to preserve pictures and keep walls stylishly clothed. With an ensemble of framing options and three picture framers certified by the Professional Picture Framers Association, BlackBird honors each item with a frame that complements and enhances its appearance. In addition to framing paintings, photographs, and diplomas, the professional portrait preservationists have successfully mounted sports jerseys, steering wheels, fax machines, bowling ball halves, and electric guitars that music legends have used to practice their penmanship. Plus, TruGuard UV Protection glass options, such as anti-reflective museum glass, enable customers to display their favorite pieces of art while blocking nearly all the harmful UV rays that emanate from the 10,000-degree fireball our planet floats around.