Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA – AZALEAS, FISH, AND TRAINS

Our home in Wilmington.

The marching band.
 We had no problem filling our days in Wilmington with sight-seeing and eating. Our 4-day jaunt started with a quick trip downtown to catch the 64th annual Azalea Festival. Downtown Wilmington really comes alive for this event. The festival included musical concerts, fireworks, arts and crafts, home and garden tours, food vendors, and a parade. The festival had a definite small town feel and was a stark contrast to the festivals we were used to in New Orleans, albeit a feeling we enjoyed. The parade was filled with everything Wilmington had - marching bands, fire trucks, a coast guard boat, military Humvee’s, Miss Wilmington, Little Miss Wilmington, and various other nicely decorated floats carrying pretty little waving girls through town. Food vendors lined the streets, there were games and rides for the kids, face painting, and a free tour of a Coast Guard ship. The food “street” reminded us of state fairs because of the conglomeration of all kinds of foods.
Pretty little waving girls.
Airlie gardens azaleas.
While the town was vibrant with blooming azaleas, we did not see the Holy Grail until we went to Airlie Gardens. This 67-acre site boasts having over 100,000 azaleas. To complement the azaleas were dogwoods, camellias, tulips, and daffodils – all at their peak of colorful perfection. A 0.9-mile path leads visitors through the gardens and structures which provides unmatched tranquility and beauty. The Airlie Oak is an approximately 500-year old live oak that is draped with Spanish moss and sits in an open field framed with breathtaking color. Structures on the property include a chapel, tranquility butterfly garden, and a memorial made from glass bottles. The memorial honors Minnie Evans, the gardens beloved gatekeeper from 1949-1974 and considered to be one of America’s most visionary artists.
Minnie Evans memorial at Airlie Gardens.
We spent one day visiting nearby Kure and Carolina Beaches. Kure Beach is worth the 30-minute drive just to see the North Carolina Aquarium. This great little aquarium is one of three aquariums scattered throughout the state. The aquarium features wonderful exhibits designed to promote an understanding and awareness of North Carolina’s diverse natural and cultural resources.
Along the nature trail at the Aquarium.
On our way home from Kure Beach, we stopped at Michael’s Seafood to try their award winning chowder. This delicious bowl of creamy, seafood goodness has won the Carolina Beach Chowder Cook-off so many times that it is now for sale in grocery stores. While eating our bowl of chowder, our waiter told us about Carolina Beach’s other famous food – Britts Donuts. The best donuts we have ever had! (Check out the last post for more information on the donuts.)
Before we left Wilmington, we visited the Railroad Museum. The museum is an enjoying mix of all things train. Exhibits focus on the history, technology, and impact of the rail industry. The most popular part of the museum is the more than 20 operating scale model trains. The model trains race through towns that depict North Carolina scenes. The museum is so serious about their model trains that they are vying for the title of world’s longest model train. On April 23rd, the museum will attempt to engineer a train that includes over 34 locomotives and 1700 cars.  The train has to travel 650 feet in order to beat the record set in Hamburg, Germany in 2008. Guinness Book officials will be there to verify this feat and the public can purchase a $3 ticket to watch and support the Museum. We were lucky to be there when we were because the guys who are assembling the model engines and trains were testing them. They were happy to have us so interested and spent time with us explaining the entire operation.


More pictures .....

Food vendors at the Azalea Festival.

A one-man band at the festival.

The world's largest gummy worm.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter "Dilegence."

A tiger ride at the fair.
 Scenes from the aquarium.



More pictures of Airlie Gardens.








The Railroad Museum.






Having fun with Raul (the cardboard cut-out at the KOA).  He was really sweet.




1 comment:

  1. Hello, I happened upon your site this morning and enjoyed it very much. Great topics and pictures too! The “one man band” was really something, wondering if he was good to listen to.


    John
    relaxedrush.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete

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