More family fun in North Carolina

Taking the rapids at the US National Whitewater Center -- don't worry; it's only 3 feet deep.  (Scarborough photo)My article research trip for Automotive Traveler is almost finished (check out the online magazine’s Issue Two, just posted) and here are a few more family-friendly nuggets that I’ve found in this part of North Carolina.

Obviously there are plenty of NASCAR-related activities in the Charlotte NC area, but I’d like to mention a couple of other worthy attractions.

You don’t have to be a big outdoorsy jock to enjoy the US National Whitewater Center, just outside of town. It’s the largest and only man-made recirculating whitewater venue of its kind in the world; 12 million gallons of water flow through it.

They offer guided rides in everything from two hours of flat river paddling (all ages, on the Catawba River) to rock climbing (age 4+) to whitewater rafting (ages 12+) to mountain biking on 11 miles of trails (no age specified, “technically challenging.”) You can rent everything you need right there, or bring your own gear.

The US Canoe and Kayak teams train here — pretty cool. It’s an amazing facility.

This past Sunday, I walked through part of Charlotte’s pretty downtown (did you know that it’s the #2 banking center in the US behind New York? I didn’t know that, either.) The very well-executed Levine Museum of the New South does a terrific job of detailing the rise of this area “from cotton fields to skyscrapers” using interactive exhibits and voice and music recordings. See the inside of a sharecropper shack, some original cotton mill equipment (this is the home of Cannon towels, among other mills) and a section of an old Belk’s Department Store.

At the start of my 3-day road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway this past week, I stopped at the former home of noted author and poet Carl Sandburg, in Flat Rock NC.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for both his multi-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln and his poetry (“the fog came on little cat feet”) and his home is preserved by the National Park Service to look exactly as it did when he and his wife Lillian lived there, down to the period magazines, furniture and calendars on the wall. Lillian also raised championship goats on the property; kids love playing with their descendants, who are still there.

The Parkway deserves its own post, so I’ll do that early next week, although I did discuss a couple of neat mountain train rides over on Kid Trippin’, my family travel blog on Disney’s

Tomorrow, it’s the Coca-Cola 600 race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway! The NASCAR site has all the details.

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