For three generations—and more than 70 years—the Nicholsons have harvested crops that complement both family farms and family tables, a tradition that Jack and Ryan Nicholson continue today. Fresh from their forest, the Nicholson Farms crew delivers and spreads pine straw of myriad varieties. Potting soil, mulch, and other landscaping materials keep outdoor areas healthy, and wood playground cushioning protects kids from the hard surfaces of playgrounds and the even harder realities of tax law. In the garden, a bountiful vineyard and orchard yields homegrown fruits and vegetables ranging from blackberries, blueberries, and watermelons to squash and peppers.
The sound of feet slapping on the padded ground and little voices twisted by constant motion fill Xtreme Play. Jeff and Julie Austin, owners of the play center, have five children, so they are familiar with the busy chorus. The duo and its staff are also well prepared to keep an eye on youngsters as they bounce from inflatable obstacles or squeal down slides. At a miniature arcade, small hands grab Wii and PlayStation controllers, simulating adventures through castles and the civil-service tests to become a castle inspector. The babble of special events drifts from private party rooms, where pizzas fuel fetes.
Elizabeth Schafer and winemaker Jeffery Oliver, owners of Southern Medley Wine Cellar in Uptown Wadesboro, bring their respective talents together to create a tasting room that is at once vintage and modern. The lounge and wine-making facility's decor and menu are inspired by the couple's historic 1837 house. Each of the seven wines, which the couple make on-site in small batches, are named for aspects of the home and its original owners, Joseph and Elizabeth Medley. The Cellar provides regular tastings to help guests explore each wine, and the brick-face building with black awning makes this business easy to locate.
Cold Blooded Encounters fills guests' days with a variety of science-related exhibits, interactive presentations, and games. The newly-opened Science Center schools visitors on topics from fossils and gemstones to fun kitchen chemistry and turtle races. At the Reptile Zoo meanwhile, an affable red-footed tortoise named Confucius and a gentle black rat snake named Oreo greet visitors. Secluded and multispecies habitats house more than 150 species of amphibians, fish, reptiles, and invertebrates, including fire salamanders, jewel cichlids, Kenyan sand boas, and whip scorpions.
Annual memberships grant gift-shop discounts, guest passes, and a family photo posed with an animal. Cold Blooded Encounters also reaches out to school groups from preschools to colleges with effusive educational programs and sends ambassadors to birthday parties, where children can help feed turtles or pose for photos with 8-foot snakes.
Situated on a former World War II training base, Carolina Motorsports Park continues its locale’s history of tutelage with an array of racing lessons and events. The park’s 2.3-mile road-course track gives stock cars, Formula One cars, motorcycles, and street-legal vehicles an outlet to wrap tires around 14 turns and launch speedometer needles into passengers' laps. Rentable Birel N35 Rock go-karts rev their 9-horsepower Honda engines around the 0.7-mile kart track and a 0.21-mile tri-oval track for guests 12 and older. The facility, which hosts regular racing events, also boasts 24 open-air day garages and a 200-foot skidpad where drivers hone their handling and cars practice their moonwalk.