North Carolina has a long list of unique attractions. While we’ve talked about nice, relaxed
day trips, what is so wrong with taking a trip to see the weird, the wonderful, and the downright wacky?! Here are fifteen found in North Carolina.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. The Last Shell Oil Clamshell Station, Winston-Salem
Flickr / Chuck Coker
A quirky idea faded into oblivion, the Clam Shell station represents the glory days of gasoline when things were simpler. Built in the 1930's and used as a two-for-one marketing tool, one pump became not enough, and really, the logistics of operating a gas station inside a clam shell proved to be, a bit silly. The eight operating clam shell stations slowly faded away...except this one. It was used as a lawn mower store until the 80's, and then saved, just in time, by Preservation North Carolina. This little yellow shell now exists as its own museum.
2. Homeless Jesus, Davidson
Outside of St. Albans Episcopal church in Davidson, a quiet man lay, draped in robes, resting calmy on a bench. Members of the town are startled and have never witnessed such a sight...they approach the sleeping man, slowly. Maybe to offer some food, or some spare change. When approaching they realize he has an uncanny resemblance to Jesus, and then they realize, it is Jesus...but a sculpture of a homeless, sleeping Jesus. This 'story' just told has happened to SEVERAL Davidson residents upon first witnessing the statute by Timothy P. Shmalz. With its smaller twin-statue being blessed by Pope Francis, this controversial statute, and the 'controversy' surrounding it could be the message the sculptor was going for...
3. Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky, Raleigh
Nature is overrated, or, can it be experienced better? This cloud chamber answers that question. This small mound of bricks, mossy roof, and enclosed light-sealed inside make it a sight to see, from the inside. One small hole in the roof chamber acts as a camera obscura. Meaning, this optic trick projects a mirror image of the area lit, thus projecting trees, clouds, and a Carolina blue sky throughout the small enclosed section of the Cloud Chamber. Personally speaking, it seems like a medieval genius of the art-lamps I had as a child. This one-of-a-kind object can be experienced behind the North Carolina Museum of Art.
4. Shangri-La Stone Village, Prospect Hill
Using rock blasted from his own land, Henry L. Warren set out to create this gnome-sized village after his retirement. Past the days of being a tobacco farmer, Henry would work tirelessly with a cigarette in mouth and a Coke in hand. Over nine years he created the Shangri-La Stone Village which included a theatre, a gym, a hotel, even a water tower. Sadly, Henry was working on a hospital at the time of his death. Remaining in good condition, this little slice of history can still be viewed. Just follow the arrowhead path constructed by Henry himself.
5. Frying Pan Tower, Atlantic Ocean
What was once a fully functioning lighthouse 40-miles off the coast of NC has now turned into, can you guess it, a bed and breakfast! Wildly enough, this isolated B&B can give you quiet, and private, lodging to extend your deep sea fishing trip.
Editor's Note: Since original publication of this article, this unique B&B is rumored to have closed.
6. Creation Museum, Taxidermy Hall of Fame, and Antique Tool Museum, Southern Pines
Really, the name says it all. The owners of this Christian bookstore, I guess couldn't decide on which 'theme' they were going for, so they did a bit of everything. Home to over 200 realer-than-life animals, that have won national taxidermy awards, this 'museum' is something to see. Read up on...creationism...or browse antique tools. Really, I don't think you'll find much boredom here.
7. Land of Oz Theme Park, Beech Mountain
Once a bustling theme park dedicated more to the original Wizard of Oz book, than the movie, is now a forgotten yellow brick road. The Land of Oz Theme Park was added to Beech Mountain as a unique idea to keep attracting tourism. Like some other uniquely creative ideas on this list, not all can prove successful. Now, the Wizard of Oz theme park sits silenty on the side of Beech Mountain. Once a year the streets of Emerald City light up for the Autumn in Oz Event.
8. Cameron Barnstormer Murals
This old tobacco town got an artistic, NYC style facelift when native David Ellis decided to pay homage to the place he grew up. Having fond memories of the area, he invited fellow NYC artists to reinvigorate the town, and what was left. Today, each barn, house, even lawn mower is decorated in unique, artistic fashion. The grafitti artist got their names as the "Barnstormers" by locals.
9. Acid Park, Wilson
Damepodare / DeviantArt
Between unique urban art, and a rooted Urban Legend, Acid Park sure is interesting. Legend has it that a young woman was driving home on LSD, crashed her car, and died. Her father claims to have seen what she saw, and set out to recreate it with Acid Park. In truth, these "whirligigs" are told be "driving entertainment" by creator Vollis Simpson, whose daughter is very much alive and well. Oh well, the story does add to the super intrigue of these little random structures.
10. Mary's Gone Wild Folk Art and Doll Baby Museum, Holden Beach
A story of divine intervention, artist Mary Paulsen says God has spoken to her, twice. First ,to build a small town for her collection of 6,000 dolls. Next to paint, using windows as her canvas. God had some good ideas because Mary's Gone Wild is a unique, quirky treasure positioned unassumingly in Holden Beach. The village consists of playhouses filled with Mary's doll collections, some representing a specific location like school or church. The Doll Museum is apart from the village and made entirely from glass bottles. Visitors can purchase leftover dolls and scraps from the original endeavors. Mary says she sees her village as a 'cheerful place' with many of her own quotes, or favorite bible verses, painted vibrantly along the walls. The 'town' is open daily even when Mary is not there.
11. Kindred Spirit Mailbox, Sunset Beach
Possibly a mirage, or possibly a really good idea, story has it The Kindred Spirit mailbox was erected after 'the' Kindred Spirit saw a mailbox floating out in the distance along the beach. Today, the mailbox sits, waiting to receive the hopes, dreams, and wishes of those who look out onto the whirling sea to write down, and understand, what they truly want. Kindred Spirit Mailbox has also acted as a preservation tool, located on what was once a well-sought future tourist destination, locals and visitors pleaded with letters placed in Kindred Spirit to keep Bird Island just the same. Today, it is a nature preserve. The Kindred Mailbox still sits quietly and people still write letters and place them inside.
12. Church of the Frescoes, Glendale Springs
After returning from leave in Vietnam, then a seven year apprecitiship in Italy, Ben Long wanted to share his craft with his native state. Today, these 'frescoes' painted in the traditional Italian style on wet plaster, adorn small churches in rural, NC. Ben Long used locals for models and now has work featured in the Smithsonian. Visitors claim visiting the site gives them a sense of serenity.
13. World's Largest Hammock, Nag's Head
This laid back hammock represents a better time when family vacations meant, stopping on the side of the road to get a picture with whatever giant object marked just how close you were to the beach. The world's largest hammock invites you, and 8000lbs. to relax and take a nap on your way to the beach.
14. Judaculla Rock, Sylva
Rooted in Cherokee folklore, this mysterious rock has petroglyphs dating back to 2000 B.C. Native Americans claim it to be the work of Juacalla, an ancient giant-like creature who landed on the rock between jumping from mountain to mountain. Two other rocks claim to be in the area but with much of the area used for mining, their location is unknown. Ghost stories surround the rock and an unmarked graveyard lies a few hundred feet away. Either ancient carvings, or perhaps, Juacalla, this rock can now be viewed during daylight hours.
15. The Fugitive Train Wreck, Dillsboro
Once used in the popular Harrison Ford movie 'The Fugitive' this train vs. bus wreck still sits deep in the Smoky Mountains. Before the days of CGI, way back when in 1993, the crew decided to just do the real thing, and staged a life-size train wreck for Harrison Ford to narrowly escape. Now, it still sits, rusting in its former spot and has become a popular destination for Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones fans.
Have you been to any of these places? If so, which ones are your favorite? What about ones not mentioned on the list? Lets discuss in the comments!