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.
Wooden Stone's airy, 5,000-square-foot gallery space showcases fine American crafts that blend artistry and function. Now representing more than 600 American craftspeople, 100 of who are Carolinas natives, Wooden Stone primarily highlights work made by small numbers of artists at a time. The selection of finely crafted, functional artwork ranges from furniture to jewelry, and each of the pieces—composed of materials including ceramics, wood, glass, and metal—greets buyers with its own distinct feel and favorite knock-knock joke.
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.
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.