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For 2 short years we lived in North Carolina and it is time to say goodbye!  My husband finished his MBA and we are moving to California!  The best part?  We are driving there and are sharing our adventures along the way.  We will be squeezing the four of us, luggage and supplies for the next 3 months, equipment etc into our small economy car… so we ended up getting this awesome Yakima CargoPack Cargo Bag to take everything we needed!

I will always be fond of the time we got to spend there and how many wonderful memories we made with our friends there and with family who came out to visit and the adventures we shared.

Whether you are living in North Carolina, in the Triangle area, or coming for a visit, here are the things I loved and you just may as well too!

North Carolina: Triangle Bucket List

  1. Asheville
  2. The Biltmore
    1. This place was a dream to visit!  We went in the fall, which I recommend!  And visited the Biltmore house, which is the biggest house in America… Mansion, that is.  It always kills me not getting to take pictures inside the beautiful tours we get to go on at places like this but I guess that keeps the mystery alive, so you will just have to go check it out for yourself!  And if you haven’t check it out, Serafina and the Black Cloak is a new book out that takes place at the Biltmore house. It was beautiful with all the fall color! I was in picture heaven taking pictures as fast I could with each stop with the short time we had.  The place we stayed (a house we all rented) had a neighbor with chickens we were invited to feed and the kids thought that was fun.  Everywhere we drove  was a beautiful sight, a painting waiting to be painted.  Matt and his sister went zip-lining through the trees, and the rest of  our crew went downtown in Asheville to enjoy a wonderful lunch at a quint little cafe called the Creperie Bouchon.  Then we walked around a bit exploring some of the little shops (which truthfully was a not a kid friendly activity, but nice to window shop for a bit) And we came across this building with a village of mini doors on the side where the “fairies” live.  The kids thought that was the best.
  3. The Museum of Life and Science
    1. We loved loved this museum!  My mother in law was kind to gift us a yearly pass so we went often!  The kids would beg to go here often and especially for those colder winter days, it was the perfect place to get their wiggles out.  They have a butterfly house, a train, some smaller animals, a huge playground area outside, science themed experiments inside, giant foam block fort building, a ball zone for the smaller children, imaginative play areas, blocks and puzzles , a mini space craft… and so many more cool things.  I go to  photograph a wedding here too,which was fun and unique for me and we even got to attend a winter ball “Prom” there for my husbands school.  I also loved to explore the kids shop there with so many fun toys and games for Madeline and Milo.  One of my favorite purchases there were these snowballs for indoor.  So fun!
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  4. Duke Basketball
    1. We had the opportunity to go to two games while we were here in Durham at the Cameron Indoor Stadium and it was such an experience!  We got to go to the award ceremony for Coach K’s 1000th win and that was both inspiring and wonderful to see.  I just learned that he has been coaching the Olympic basketball team for the last 20 years.  When we were there I also had a special experience getting to do a “backstage” behind the scenes tours or the offices, work out rooms etc of the team.  My biggest surprise, the locker rooms were fancy schmancy!  And another cool fact was the room the team gets pupped up in before each game, with black lights and such before they make their grand exit. Anyway, I cannot share any of my pictures of that but it was a cool experience! We took Madeline and Milo to one of the games and held them for most of the game.  I wasn’t sure how much they loved it… cuz lets be honest, kids only hold so much attention for a prolonged period of any event or activity… anyway , I dropped Matt off another time to a game and Madeline cried and cried that she didn’t get to go to the basketball game.  It is hard to not get to do what you want all the time as a kid.
  5. Walking the Eno River
    1. The forests all over North Carolina are just beautiful.  We had fun exploring.  Matt and I were use to having some kind of elevation to climb up to actually get a work out in, so when we went out prepared to go on a “hike” we thought we might actually get a heavy work out of sorts.  It was so humid there that after a few minutes of this nature walk, stepping over the occasional root, we well, got sweaty… covered in humidity is more like it!  But hey, at least you feel like you are getting a work out in.  There were actually a lot of fun trails to go running on, such as the Washing Duke Trail, which is a gorgeous setting in the fall.  Anyway, a fairytale setting.  When we were at the Eno River we saw a turtle.  And when it rained every once in a while with a torrential downpour, toads would greet us at our doorstep. Same with lizards and tree frogs… and a lot of spiders .  One thing I always wanted to do but never got around to it is having a lazy day and just float around on the river there with tubes.  It was so peaceful. Those HOT summer days in North Carolina can get sticky and uncomfortable, so that is a great way to kick the heat.
  6. Chicken and Waffles
    1. Have you ever had these? I thought that sounded like such a funny combination.  But every once in a while when you do allow a bit of gluteny, this is worthwhile.  We went twice while there to the famous Dame’s Chicken and Waffles. Basically they have a variety of amazing syrups and smears to go with their tender moist fried chicken and delectable waffles.  I also tried grits for the first time.  I think the best grits I have ever had while in NC, is at Watts Grocery which was a favorite girls day out brunch spot.  We also loved the Parlour, located in downtown Durham.  It is a wonderful ice cream stop and delicious.  They catered to my last event I captured with their cute ice cream truck and it was a sweet way to say goodbye to the wonderful cuisine of the Triangle area
  7. Sarah P. Duke Gardens
    1. This garden was a treasure to visit and I was fortunate to capture many family and couple photographs and a wedding there.  Our family enjoyed many peaceful walks and picnics here.  Getting out into nature in general is food for the soul.  I so enjoy walking a beautiful garden and seeing the different items in bloom.  I also enjoyed exploring the JC Raulston Arboretum near the NC State Fair Grounds. Whenever we go out on a nature visit or just to the park for playdate at places such as these, I have loved using a Outdoor Water-Resistant Sandproof Camping Picnic Blanket Beach Mat it doesn’t pick up mud and dirt and I don’t bring the mess with me. It is also lightweight!

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  1. Strawberry Picking
    1. I had never gotten to do this before until moving to North Carolina and it was such fun! We went a few times and the last year we were there we went with all the family that came out for my husbands graduation.  It made for a fun outing.  Afterward we made a LOT of jam together in the kitchen and that made for some fun bonding time. Madeline and Milo enjoyed running up and down the isles at the Strawberry farms and helping collect the good ones.  They have an assortment of cute baskets there but I did bring this cute one along Two farms we loved were Waller Farm and Jean’s Berry Patch.
  1. The DPAC
    1.  We enjoyed two shows at the DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center) while there.  Wicked and Phantom of the Opera . They were wonderfully done and a fun date night out. I always love listening to the romantic music of The Phantom Of The Opera.
  2. Historic Yates Mill
    1. This was just an all over lovely place to visit.  The mill was interesting to learn about, but I loved the way the waterfall spilled over and the afternoon light reflected off the mist coming off of it, so I came back again and again for pictures for engagements and family photography sessions.  We even did a costume photo shoot here and Madeline was dressed as a witch. One thing that I really learned to quickly be cognizant of is the the bugs come out in the NC humidity! They always eat me alive, so I usually just keep some bug spray in the car ready to go!
  3. Bennett Place
    1. The kids and I were out and really I just saw one of those road signs pointing the way to a historic site (have you ever just followed one of those out of curiosity?) And we checked out Bennett Place! It is the place of the largest surrender of the Civil war.  While that is a very deep topic, the kids and I just toured the grounds a little and peeked in the houses talking about the way people use to live in those days.  As for the war part, they can learn about that when they are a bit older.
  4. The Outer Banks
    1. We got to visit the Outer Banks 3 times while we were on the east coast and I loved it.  I think the most fun we had with actually swimming on the beach was at the end of the summer once the kids had gone back to school and we didn’t fall into that category  yet so it was cheaper to rent a house with my family and we just had a blast! The other two times we went at the beginning of May and it was still a bit chilly since the season hadn’t started but still pleasant.  The little ones really just love the giant sand box that is the beach anyway.  I dressed the kids up in some adorable nautical children’s clothing and we did a photoshoot out by the Bodie Island Lighthouse there in Kill Devil Hills (which gets its name from the heavy wind (which could kill a Devil).  You can read more about our adventures from our first year trip to the Outer Banks here. We also loved going to see the Wright Brothers Memorial and Museum there.
  1. The NC State Fair
    1. It had been quite some time since I had gone to a fair before and let me tell you… this is the largest State Fair in the US.  It is crazy!  I went the first weekend for a carnival themed photo shoot  and not only was it crazy packed but never ending!  I think I counted 6 carousels, 6 merry go rounds etc.  I honestly started to feel a but claustrophobic… when it was time to leave and I was trying to find the exit and it felt like being stuck in Alice and Wonderland or something.  Just going and going.  So if you go with kids, be sure to go on a weekday, in the morning.   They have a petting zoo, rides and such of course, a bazaar, and all the contest areas, like the best carved pumpkins, fairy houses etc.  How fun is that!  I love that community part of state fairs.  So Americana.  A favorite movie of mine is the 1945 version of the State Fair.  The kids loved it of course.  They would love it even more now since they are a little older and less frightened of all the crazy noises and such.  When we were at the fair there was plenty of greasy food galore.  When we were there with family I laughed with my mother in law, “I can feel myself breaking out” as we walked through the food isles.  But if you are in the south and haven’t tried it before, allow yourself to try at least one Hush puppy!  Why they are called Hush Puppies?  Apparently, they use to feed them to the dogs to keep them quite during hunting… “hush puppy”!  Why that should make you excited to eat them… they are not just for dogs! lol… but seriously amazing though!

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  1. The Scrap Exchange
    1. This is a environmentally conscious craft recycling center I visited in Durham and it was a crafters/ artists dream of a place to visit.  I went with a group of friends the first time, as part of girls day out just for fun and we explored it.  And you find things for super cheap.  It was the perfect place to go to create the pinterest project you have been wanting to create or something completely fresh of your own invention.  If I were a mom helping with a play at my child’s school creating set pieces on  budget, or making the unique science project or art piece, this is a fun place to go collect the supplies.  It didn’t really have a plan for anything specific until I walked in and my creative wheels started to spin!  This is where I found a cement tube and scrap foam for these cute Toadstools I made.  They had oodles of things like buttons and soda pop bottle lids (that you might want to make cute magnets with), a found some old book binders and board game parts that I got for practically pennies which me and the kids are making our out version of a board game and quiet books for fun.
  2. The Kids Exchange
    1.  This GIANT consignment sale out at the State Fair Grounds was a hoot to go to!  We found tons of fun new toys and cheap clothes for the kids and it was a big sale that was fun to explore.  I went with my mom when she was in town and we had such a blast.  It was like Christmas for the kids. One toy we bought that we love is this Little People Carnival Set and this Little People Wheelies Stand ‘n Play Rampway which Milo loves as it is the perfect height for him to play with.

When we moved there, I did not have family nearby.  But it worked out just fine as I quickly found that everyone else was in a similar boat, many other small families, doing school, or recently out of school, not a big budget to spend on activities etc.  Here is what I recommend doing if you are moving to a new place away from friends and family.

  1. Don’t wait to make friends! 
    1. We made friends quickly through church and through my husbands school and playgroups. But if you do not have these social settings, then seek them out or look for settings such as the library.  There are many fun groups where you can start there.  We went to several “music classes” made just for toddlers to do little dancing and get some wiggles out.  This is one of many ways to be able to have the much needed social interaction with other moms!  And if you are shy, step out of your shell!  Say hello and strike up a conversation. Chances are, chatting it up with another mom may make her day as she may just as well be in a similar situation!
  2. Get involved
    1. While my husband went to school, it was wonderful the activities they had for the “partners” or non-students to be involved in.  One of the moms leaving that year when her husband graduated suggested I helped on the committee for planning the family activities at the school.  They had seasonal parties and weekly get together.  I accepted and myself and another mom helped make all these events fun! We put together a carnival party, a Halloween party, a Christmas party and a Valentines party as well as planned play-dates etc for the moms/ dads.  I got to know the other moms and my kids could play with their kids much more then we might of otherwise!
  3. Get out and explore!
    1. As a wedding and portrait photographer, spending years building a clientele and then having to move away from that was hard!  So when we first moved to NC, I was a bit tired and put out by the idea from starting from scratch, but soon I got out with the kids and we went ‘location scouting‘ and went on family outings and quickly fell in love with all that this beautiful state had to offer!  And soon enough I couldn’t wait to find and photograph some new clients!  We went and toured historic places, beautiful gardens and found fun new playgrounds, museums and the zoo!
  4. Plan get together’s
    1. If you are not finding the fun,  create the fun. Be the one to make the plans and make friends that way!  We had a playgroup rotation playgroup at our church, taking turns hosting, so I hosted!  Arranging a regular playdate on a set day of the week, such as at different parks or moms homes was such a blessing to my kids!  It is something they eagerly look forward to each week and in regularly seeing the same children, they are able to work on building relationships and socializing at that young age.
  5. Throw yourself into your surroundings
    1.  I already talked a bit about getting out with the kids but this is all about simply looking at what your community has to offer and taking advantage of it.  So maybe that is nature based, or maybe there are great farmers markets you could go explore.  And if there is not that fun something you are looking for, than perhaps you can be the one to start it!  One summer I did a fun “art in the park” for local community children.  This was before kids, but if I were to do that now, I am sure they would love it just as much.  Maybe there are beautiful trials in your area, so you could start a walking group and go walking together with the kids on a regular basis.

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Things to do in North Carolina


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