By Joan Rykal
In case you’re travelling with a whitewater rafter and you find you’d rather stay on terra firma, we’ve got a few non-water highlights of some of the areas featured in this month’s Mid-Atlantic Whitewater Rafting story. Visiting these places will still offer you plenty of fun, and possibly thrills and chills, but you’ll stay a bit dryer than your water-bound companions.
The Laurel Highlands (Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania)
To start, there’s the 68-mile Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway – a perfect mix of natural, as well as man-made wonders. There’s something for everyone along this picturesque drive where you’ll see rolling farmlands, covered bridges and rushing waterfalls.
Speaking of waterfalls, this area is home to not just one, but three Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes, including Fallingwater, considered one of the architectural triumphs of the 20th century. The lesser known Kentuck Knob, also known the Hagen House, can be found in Chalk Hill. After seeing the masterpiece that was Fallingwater, the Hagans commissioned Wright, who 86 at the time, to build them a home on 80 acres they had purchased in the mountains above Uniontown. The result was a stunning example of a Usonian home, Wright’s signature style. There is also the Duncan House in Polymath Park, another example of Wright’s Usonian design which actually offers overnight stays! To learn about tours of these splendid architectural gems visit www.fallingwater.org, www.kentuckknob.com or www.polymathpark.com.
The Covered Bridge Scenic Tour is a roughly 16 mile scenic bike tour that begins in Osterburg and takes you through several covered bridges in the area as well as through the rolling farmlands. If you’d rather relax while touring these century-old man-made bridges that have stood the test of time, there’s also a Covered Bridge Driving Tour of the bridges of Bedford County. For information on the bridge driving tour, visit www.visitbedfordcounty. For the bike tour, go to www.thealleghenies.com and check out the land activities link which also has information on bird watching and hiking in this gorgeous countryside.
What goes better than beer and football? Check out the town of Latrobe where Rolling Rock beer is brewed and the Pittsburgh Steelers host their training camp each summer at Saint Vincent College. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to visit the camp (unless you made your visit request before June 1) but it’s still fun to know all that football talent is in the same town you are (unless you’re not a Steelers fan!). On the beer side of this equation, there’s the Latrobe Brewing Company – Rolling Rock Gift Shop and Visitors Center. The beer in the green bottle with its mysterious number 33 is now brewed in Newark, New Jersey, but you can learn all about the history of Rolling Rock, the beer that was brewed right in Latrobe from 1939 until the summer of 2006 with a visit here.
The lush landscape of the area makes it a fertile region for grape growing and there are more seven wineries in the area. Explore them all on the Southwest Passage Wine Trail. For details visit www.southwestpasswinetrail.com.
If you’re up for a cave exploration, don’t miss Laurel Caverns, Pennsylvania’s largest cave, where you can choose to go spelunking or rappelling. There’s also Kavernputt, a 10,000 square foot eighteen-hole miniature golf course inside a simulated cave. For more information about things to see and do at Laurel Caverns, visit www.laurelcaverns.com.
Charlotte, North Carolina
For the whitewater rafter, the jewel of Charlotte is of course, the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC), but there are plenty of gems to discover if land-loving is your thing.
Everyone will find something of interest at Discovery Place, a science museum that makes science fun for everyone with “interactive exhibits and explosive experiments.” For children seven and under, there’s KidScience featuring hands-on fun with water tables, wind tunnels, blocks, gears and air tubes. Project Build targets your inner architect urging you to create building sketches and floor plans while World Alive explores the earth’s biodiversity with an aquarium, a rainforest and learning labs.
Don’t miss the museum’s latest IMAX feature movie, National Parks Adventures. To mark the 100-year anniversary of the national parks, world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker teams up with adventure photographer Max Lowe and artist Rachel Pohl to hike, climb and explore their way across America’s national parks.
For more information visit www.discoveryplace.org.
A city founded in 1768 has to have a ghost or two. Hear about them all during a Haunted Walking Tour of Historic Charlotte. By guided lantern, you’ll walk the streets of Charlotte’s Uptown and learn about spirits that are said to inhabit the area and why they won’t leave!
The Green, a one and half-acre park in Uptown features sculptures and fountains and is a perfect place to picnic. Pay close attention to the art installations as the park has an overall theme based on world literature. You’ll find quotes by famous writers as well as other fun literary related art.
More than your average farmers market, the 7th Street Public Market hawks homegrown produce as well as local favorite like coffee and pizza and is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. From crepes and confections to artisanal breads and beer soap (yes, it’s made with beer), the 7th Street Public Market is a must-see when in Charlotte.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is a 150,000 square foot museum honoring the drivers from this thrilling sport. With interactive exhibits, artifacts and a state-of-the-art theater, the museum is a thrill for race fans of all ages as they learn about the history of the sport as well as the drivers who fly around the track at average speeds of 210 miles per hour. For details about the museum’s hours and exhibits, visit www.nascarhall.com.
Speaking of flying, the Carolina Raptor Center is a zoo-like setting that features more than 20 species you can learn along the three-quarter mile outdoor trail. The Center’s Summer Flight Show showcases native and exotic birds in free flight. For Center information and Summer Flight show times, visit www.carolinaraptorcenter.org.
Designed by Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia Capitol is 226 years old this year. The Virginia General Assembly held its first session there in 1788 which gives the building the distinction of housing the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere. It was modeled on Maison Carree, an ancient Roman temple in Nimes, France. For tour information visit www.virginiacapitol.gov.
A visit to Maymont, a 100-acre Victorian estate, includes such highlights as exquisite Japanese and Italian gardens and an arboretum, a carriage collection with more than 20 vehicles, as well as tour of the mansion where you will can view life as it was upstairs, as well as belowstairs where the domestic staff worked. Maymont is also home to animals, including black bears and bald eagles and also has a children’s farm and nature center. For more information visit www.maymont.org.
Where can you find Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Arthur Ashe all in one place? On Monument Avenue – a residential boulevard featuring monuments of the aforementioned men. There are more statues to be seen in Capitol Square including those of George Washington and Edgar Allen Poe. The Executive Mansion can also be found in Capitol Square. Tours of this National Historic Landmark are available Tuesday through Thursday. You can also see the Bell Tower, which was completed in 1825 and still tolls its bell to call the General Assembly into session.
If you’re in Richmond on June 25 and toting a carload of kids, don’t miss Mess Fest – the Science Museum of Virginia’s fun, but messy, event that features slingshot painting, erupting volcanoes, a Slime Zone, and geyser eruptions. The event will run from noon to 5 p.m. at the museum. The museum also features exhibits about space, health, electricity and Earth. For more information, and to learn more about the Science Museum, visit www.smv.org.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Made famous by John Brown’s Raid during the Civil War, today the quaint, historic town of Harpers Ferry is home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters as well as the John Brown Wax Museum and the Civil War Living History Museum. Harpers Ferry Historical Park is considered done of the best walking parks offering views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Potomac and the Shenandoah Valley over roughly 20 miles of hiking trails.
West Lansing, West Virginia
It really is all about the white water rafting here, but you can start your day, whether you hit the water or say shore side, with a visit to Tudor’s Biscuit World for an out-of-this-world biscuit breakfast. Or try Vandal’s Kitchen for what people are saying are the best chicken and waffles you’ll ever eat. Gumbo’s serves up authentic Cajun while the Cathedral Café has sweet potato pancakes and more offered in a unique setting, plus a gift shop that features the work of local artisans. All restaurants are in nearby Fayetteville.
So, no matter the whitewater destination your companions choose, you can find something to keep you busy while they ride the rapids – and you can hold their wallets!