National Narrow Gauge Convention 2011
D September 7-10, 2011
Hickory, NC 28601
Additional Regional Activities
Western North Carolina offers multiple opportunities to “get out and do something”. Following are a few suggestions of things to see and do while the guys are out looking at train layouts. Some are very close by, while others are day long excursions. And don’t worry ladies, all these suggestions have Nothing to do with Trains!
1. Valley Hills Mall
Located less than a mile from the hotels/convention center, this facility is the largest in all of western North Carolina, and has a little bit of everything… except a hobby shop! Check out www.valleyhillsmall.com
2. Shoppes on the Parkway
For those whose other half is participating in the Private Train Afternoon at Tweetsie Railroad, you might be interested in the Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway Outlet, located on Hwy 321 about three miles before you get to Tweetsie. You can go to Tweetsie, drop him off, and double back three miles for some great deals on designer name items. There is also downtown Blowing Rock, a getaway location for the wealthy and nearly so for over a century. Specialty stores abound in Blowing Rock, from Persian Rugs to Solid Brass items. And don’t forget, in both locations be sure to stop in at Kilwins Ice Cream Shoppe. They make their own ice cream, fudge, and various chocolate delights. It is delicious. Oh and don’t forget to go back to Tweetsie to pick up the guy with cinders in his hair.
3. The Blue Ridge Parkway
In case you don’t know, the Blue Ridge is a series of mountains that run as an almost solid ridge from northern Georgia to northern Virginia. You climb 1,500 feet up a mountain, and it is flat on the other side! In western North Carolina, the top of the Blue Ridge is the Eastern Continental Divide, separating the waters flowing to the Atlantic and the Mississippi Valley. Along this ridge is the 400+ mile long Blue Ridge Parkway, built in the 1930s and 40s as a scenic highway to display the beauty of the untamed mountain wilderness. It is a Federally Protected strip 800 feet wide that has no development whatsoever, insuring that future generations will have the opportunity to see untainted vistas, wildlife, and lovely flora, all within reasonable distance from eastern population centers.
From Hickory, two day trips on the Parkway are possible. For both, travel up Hwy 321 to Blowing Rock. Taking the Parkway south from Blowing Rock, you will drive along world famous Grandfather Mountain and cross the Lynn Cove Viaduct, a technological marvel that allowed a road to be built on a fragile mountainside. Many miles further on is Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Rockies, accessible only by the Parkway. Traveling many miles further, following a long steep ridge, you will arrive in Asheville, only to find that you are within about an hour of getting back to Hickory, via I-40.
The second day trip involves going back to Blowing Rock and heading north on the Parkway. More scenic vistas are available in that direction, including long areas of pasture land, and rugged mountain terrain. By the way, the Parkway is closed in the winter, because no one lives in these rugged areas. You will actually pass into Virginia on this stretch of the Parkway, which was the very first section of the highway opened in 1938. At Fancy Gap you will cross I-77, and the next exit will allow you to access that road to travel back to Hickory in about an hour and a half.
Oh and if you find yourself short of time, getting off the Parkway and taking most of the numbered highway “down the mountain” will put you back into civilization very quickly, and give you access to one of the Interstates that will get you back to Hickory. Both trips are triangle shaped, meaning you are never really too far from the hotel.
4. Mt. Airy (better known as Mayberry)
Most everyone knows about the Andy Griffith Show, about a Sheriff who lives and works in a town that never has any crime. It is a television classic! Andy is from North Carolina, and the town of Mayberry was based on the little town of Mt. Airy, located less than an hour and a half from the Convention Center. Mt. Airy has embraced its Mayberry heritage, and has remade its old down town to look and feel like the Mayberry of B&W TV fame. There’s Floyds Barber Shop and many other businesses that make you feel like you are back in time. You can even tour the town in the back of a 1963 Ford Galaxie Police Car, with a thin deputy driving the car!
Oh yeah, the narrow gauge Mt. Airy & Eastern Railroad once ran here. A stop at the local history museum will get you a look at their HO scale model railroad, and someone there might even be able to tell you some railroad history of the area.
The region around Hickory was know a half century ago as the Furniture Capital of the World. Many of the famous names in furniture was and is still made in the area, like Kincaid, Henredon, Broyhill, Thomasville, and American Drew, though Chinese imports have taken their toll. Furniture stores abound in the Hickory area, including the Hickory Furniture Mart, located a few blocks down from the Convention Center.
6. North Carolina Vineyards
Vineyards and wine making is a growing phenomenon in western North Carolina. There are numerous small vineyards in the region, and they all offer tours, and fine wine for sale. Lots of information is available on these vineyards at www.visitnc.com and www.visitncwine.com . Many of these facilities are within an hour or so drive from Hickory.
7. NASCAR Hall of Fame
Its not just a guy sport… lots of ladies like fast cars too. The recently opened NASCAR Hall of Fame is located in Charlotte, just a little over an hour from Hickory. Home layouts will be open in the Charlotte area on Saturday (and other days), so you might be able to get in a visit while in the area. Information on this new tourist attraction in North Carolina is at www.nascarhall.com .
8. Appalachian State Football
This college football team has become nationally known in recent years, winning Championship after Championship. Appalachian State University is located in Boone, NC. Yes the same Boone that was the end of the line for the original narrow gauge ET&WNC (Tweetsie). The weekend after Labor Day is almost always a home game, so take the opportunity to see a nationally known football team at home. You can see a game and still get back to Hickory in time for the Convention Closing Ceremonies. Oh, and its pronounced Appa-latch-ian State, not the other pronunciation.
9. Old Salem
The city of Winston-Salem used to be two distinct communities. The community of Salem, NC was settled by a group of Moravians in the late 1700s, who wanted to be far away from others, in order to preserve their distinct religion and heritage. At that time, this section of North Carolina was several days’ journey from “civilization”, closer to the mountains and the Native Americans than anything else. The tract of land purchased was call Wachovia, which is where the modern day Wachovia Bank gets its name.
A visit to the preserved village of Old Salem is literally a step back in time, as this living history museum shows the community from 1766 to 1840. The district was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. A miniature version of Colonial Williamsburg, local actors portray life from now two and a half centuries ago. Several buildings have been meticulously restored, including a tavern, church and private homes. This attraction is a little over an hour from Hickory, and can easily be enjoyed in a long afternoon. More information on Old Salem is available at www.oldsalem.org
Down south, we still do things the ol' fashioned way. We still say Ma’am, we expect to open a door for a lady, and most of the time we watch our language. We also know that we can’t forget the ladies who come to a National Narrow Gauge Convention. The Committee has planned a couple of fun activities for you’ all to participate in, and there is plenty of things to do in the area for you to spend your time.
Unlike other events you have to endure, we want you to get up and get outside and have some fun! You’ve been to scrap booking clinics until you are sick, and who really wants to make more needle point or knit scarves? The weather in North Carolina in September is almost always very warm to hot, so it will warm you heart and your fingers to get out and see the Carolinas. The guys car pool to things… take your car out to see things too.
Scheduled Activity 1: Tour of Historic Valdese, North Carolina
On Thursday, September 8th, a tour has been arranged of the historic town of Valdese, located less than 20 miles west of Hickory on Interstate 40. Valdese was founded in 1893 by a group of 29 men, women, and children, known as the Waldensians. They moved from their homeland in northern Italy to start a new life in North Carolina, and brought with them their traditions and customs. Their life in North Carolina literally began by climbing down from a railroad passenger car in the “middle of nowhere”.
The Waldensian heritage continues to live on through the various sites and attractions in this small town. Spend a day in Valdese and get a guided tour of the Waldensian Heritage Museum, where the Waldensian story is chronicled in the museum through artifacts such as baptismal gowns, wooden tools, and other furnishings. FYI, the Waldensians were a group of Northern Italy Pre-Reformation Christians who had been persecuted for centuries before gaining official recognition and acceptance. As their numbers grew some immigrated to America, where they set up new communities where they could practice their lifestyle and religion freely.
After the museum, you will enjoy a catered meal at one of our local restaurants, then
stroll down Main Street and visit some of the shops and antique stores.
The tentative lunch menu is: Chicken Parmesan, Green beans, Potatoes, Salad, Roll, and banana pudding for dessert.
Next stop is the Waldensian Trail of Faith, where you will see and be told about displays that illustrate the faith and perseverance of the Waldensian people through exact replicas of their homes, churches, and much more.
A major stop in Valdese is the Old Rock School, built by the Waldensian people in 1921. Built out of stone, some of the walls of this old structure are eighteen inches thick! Now a center of public activities, the Old Rock School hosts art exhibits, craft fairs, and concerts in the 423 seat auditorium. Oh, and just in case the model railroader in the household is interested, the Piedmont & Western model railroad club has a large HO scale layout and a railroad museum in the basement. The P&W will be open at various times during the convention.
Finish your Valdese day trip by relaxing at the Waldensian Heritage Winery, where you will enjoy sampling their numerous wines and learn first hand about the wine making skills of the Waldensians.
The cost for all this activity is only $25.00, which includes the catered lunch. Those interested must sign up in advance. You will be responsible for getting to Valdese on your own, as the train doesn’t stop there anymore. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to visit, explore, shop, and taste all that Historic Valdese has to offer.
Day Trip Itinerary:
Leave Hotel/Convention Center 9:30 am
Waldensian Heritage Museum 10:00-11:15 am
Catered Lunch and time for Shopping 11:30-12:45 pm
Trail of Faith 1:00-2:30 pm
Waldensian Winery 2:45-4:00 pm
Arrive back at Hotel/Convention Center 4:30 pm
Scheduled Activity 2:
Motor coach Trip to Biltmore House
Called the “Largest Private Residence in America” the Biltmore House was completed in 1895, after five years of construction. The project was so huge that a three mile railroad was built to haul in construction materials. Built by George Vanderbilt, famous in railroad circles as one of the “Railroad Tycoons” of the 19th Century, the Biltmore House has 250 rooms, and sits in the middle of an 8,000 acre estate. Now open to the general public for tours, Biltmore House is a must see for any visitor to western North Carolina.
Participants in this special activity will leave the Convention Center on Friday morning, September 9th, on an all day trip via motor coach to the mountains. Travel time to Asheville is approximately one hour. There will be time for a self guided tour through the open areas of the house, which covers several floors, where you will see grand entertainment rooms, family bedrooms, servants quarters, and even the food and laundry facilities in the basement. A buffet lunch is included in this package, at the Deerpark Restaurant on the grounds.
The Gardens at Biltmore are outstanding in the spring, summer, and fall. This trip will coincide with the “Flower Carpet” special event at the gardens, which is usually a beautiful time to visit the Gardens. Another stop on the tour will be new Antler Hill Village, where the Biltmore Winery is located (free samples), along with the Biltmore Farm, Legacy Theater, and Village Green. Simply traveling through the 8,000 acre estate, with scenic vistas and beautifully maintained grounds, is enjoyable.
The cost for this day long adventure is $80.00. Please be sure to reserve a seat on your registration form. Seats are sold on a first come/first serve basis. If the first coach sells out, another will be scheduled only if there is sufficient demand. The Convention Committee reserves the right to cancel the trip or extra coaches after September 1st for insufficient interest. Please don’t wait until Registration on Wednesday to sign up or you may be disappointed.
More information and views of the estate can be found at www.biltmore.com
Tentative Schedule for the day
8:45 am- Leave Hickory Metro Convention Center
10:00 am- Arrive at Biltmore Entrance/Group sales center.
10:30-12:30- Self guided tour of the Biltmore House & Gardens
12:30 pm- Board coach for trip through the grounds to the Restaurant
12:45- 2:00 pm- Buffet Lunch at the Deerpark Restaurant
2:00 pm- Board coach for travel to Antler Hill Village
2:15-4:30 pm- Time for shopping and enjoying the Antler Hill Village & Winery
4:30-6:00/6:15 pm- Travel back to Hickory Metro Convention Center
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