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.
Size: a 57-acre site covered in diesel train engines, steam train engines, and interactive exhibits devoted to transportation
Permanent Mainstay: Graham County Railroad #1925, a steam locomotive from 1925 that was commonly used on logging railroads
Crown Jewel: a narrated, 25-minute train ride of the site, during which guests are pulled in passenger cars by an antique diesel engine
Eye Catcher: Visits begin at theBarber Junction Visitor Center, which resides in an authentic train depot from 1898
Don't Miss: Some of the non-train relics on display, including a 1929 Model AA Fire Truck and a full-size replica of the Wright Flyer
Special Programs: behind-the-scenes tours, the chance to operate a real steam engine, and birthday parties held in a caboose
Pro Tip: It takes about three hours to see all the exhibits and ride the train
Old Salem Museums & Gardens whisks visitors to the cozy streets of a reconstructed 18th-century Moravian town that encompasses 100 restored and reclaimed buildings and expansive, pristine gardens. As they stroll through the 90-acre homage to early Americana, visitors can interact with hands-on activities, such as the German paper-cutting art of Scherenschnitte or the colonial tradition of libeling a governor with accusations of actually governing. Old Salem's horticultural marvels include the Miksch Garden—a living illustration of Moravian subsistence farming—and the Family Gardens of Salt Street, which demonstrate the innovative practice of seed saving. In addition to year-round attractions, special exhibits rotate through town, celebrating momentous occasions, notable people, and game-changing presidential pets. After traversing the grounds, visitors can peruse souvenirs at a number of gift shops or sidle into Winkler’s Bakery for a piece of renowned Moravian sugar cake.
Surrounded by the carefully clipped hedges of a formal garden, Reynolda House Museum of American Art lets visitors contemplate canvases in the stately surroundings of a turn-of-the-century tobacco baron's mansion. Armed with personalized membership cards, members gain free admission to the museum’s permanent collection, which includes works by Mary Cassatt and Georgia O'Keeffe. Gorge hungry eyes on the soulful iron-horse portraits of railroad photographer O. Winston Link, on display until June 19, or pick up pointers from the Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (October 7–December 31). Reynolda House will be the two nomadic exhibitions’ sole stop in North Carolina this year before wandering off in search of new adventure.
Amidst the painted pots and chalk drawings in the Children's Museum of Winston-Salem's Surprise Garden stands the Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam's Kaleidoscape, reflecting the museum's motto, "where learning happens through play". Far from a hands-off installation, the multi-colored, crocheted structure is always covered with swinging, climbing kids. Clambering is an equally popular activity inside the nonprofit museum, whose lobby is full of wavy platforms and a beanstalk climber that stretches all the way to the second floor.
But climbing isn't the only way to stay busy at Children's Museum of Winston-Salem. At other exhibits, youngsters can pretend-steer a rowboat, man the conveyer belt inside a child-sized Krispy Kreme factory, and construct buildings with magnetized blocks. After full days of play, kids can unwind during staff-led story times in the museum library or gather with other children for programs such as teatimes.
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.
Every year, Green Hill Center's 7,000-square-foot main gallery displays five exhibitions of contemporary work, usually by artists who live and work in North Carolina. A single membership entitles the Groupon-holder to discounts on programs in the main gallery space, discounted tickets to the Collector's Choice holiday gala, invitations to opening receptions, and more. With the household membership, families get all the benefits of a single membership plus free admission to ArtQuest, Green Hill Center's hands-on art studio for kids and families. Check "Become a Member" information under the "Get Involved" section of Green Hill Center's website for a full listing of membership benefits.