The Historic Smithfield Plantation invites visitors to step back into 1774. The house has sheltered the Preston family through the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and now stands as a document of the past with a home and plantation grounds.
While stationed on Long Island to conduct secret war research for the U.S. government during World War II, O. Winston Link started snapping photographs of the Long Island Railroad tracks behind his lab. Eager to capture large-scale railroad pictures at night, he built his own customized flash equipment. After the war, Link harnessed that creative curiosity by spending five years photographing the Norfolk and Western Railway, the last large steam-powered American railroad. From his 20 trips to the railway's tracks in four states, Link collected 2,400 pictures.
His work didn't garner attention until the 1980s, when he published his first collection of railroad photos in the lauded book Steam, Steel & Stars. The West Virginia Historical Society continues to preserve his legacy with the O. Winston Link Museum, which showcases Link's Norfolk and Western project while filling in its historical context. Throughout seven galleries, patrons hear the sounds of bustling locomotive engines, adjust the lighting of an interactive diorama's photograph, and ogle Link's original photographic equipment, including flashbulbs, power boxes, and super power boxes. The museum underscores its edifying galleries with a plentitude of tours, workshops, and ongoing photography programs.
In the 1850s, the Norfolk & Western Railway made its way to Big Lick, Virginia, transforming the sleepy town into a locomotive hub of the south. The Virginia Museum of Transportation walks visitors through this industrial change with its historic steam and diesel engines, cabooses, model trains, and rail collection, which features more than 50 pieces of rolling stock, including some of the most advanced Roanoke-made steam engines ever built in the Norfolk & Western Class J-611 and Class A-1218. Railway exhibits recount the exploits of the industry’s most renowned names and provide an opportunity for visitors to hop aboard an actual diesel locomotive and complain loudly about the lack of complimentary peanuts. Additional engine-powered attractions include a century’s worth of automobiles and the recently reopened Wings Over Virginia Aviation Gallery collection.
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.
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.
The Avoca Museum & Historical Society was once the site of the Revolutionary-era home of Colonel Charles Lynch and the centerpiece of a sprawling plantation. Today, it houses native artifacts and Civil War memorabilia curated to preserve local history.