We here at Gadling love maps and infographics, so we’re enjoying this tongue-in-cheek US map of stereotypes, ranging from “rainy hipsters” in the Northwest, to “old peeps” down in Florida by blogger and artist Haley Nahman. We’re a bit puzzled over some of the stereotypes such as the “fashion bloggers” in the Carolinas, but can’t argue with the “mountains and meadows and maybe some animals” in Montana and the Dakotas. Hawaii and Alaska aren’t included on this map, but I’d guess something involving “hula and LOST” and “Eskimos and strip clubs.” The artist is a “life of the party” Californian and seems to be partial to food and animal descriptions. Which stereotype of the US do you hail from?
North Carolina has long harbored a startling wealth of attractions the “natives” have quietly keep to themselves. But no longer. From the undiscovered locales of Carolina’s magnificent coast to the lesser-known spots further inland, it’s time to share these venues with the rest of the world. Come along as we investigate some of North Carolina’s most picturesque and unique attractions.
The North Carolina Coast
Start on the coast in Wilmington at EUE Screen Gems Studio’s “Hollywood East,” the largest movie studio this side of the Mississippi. Home to more than 350 films, television shows and commercials, tours run on Saturdays and Sundays at noon and at 2 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Other times of the year, tours run on Saturday only. The one-hour walking tour takes visitors through sets for the series,”One Tree Hill.” It’s like being an insider to the film industry, looking at back lots and stages during an easy walk.
Within a 30 minute drive of the studio is Carolina Beach State Park where carnivorous Venus Flytrap plants live. Ask the ranger for information, as the plants are protected. Native in a 60 to 75 mile radius of Wilmington, the modified leaves of these plants trap insects, then secrete a digestive fluid so they can absorb nutrients from the insect. The park also offers camping, nice walking trails and a small beach suitable for launching kayaks into the Cape Fear River. Fort Fisher and the NC Aquarium are only minutes away.
Continuing up the coast, head to Topsail Island, which is home to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. It’s worth standing in line for a short while to get a close look at turtles cared for in the facility. Most of them have head and carapace fractures due to boat propellers or injuries from being caught in nets. Whatever the ailment, they are treated with medications and lots of love by a cast of volunteers. Jean Beasley, Animal Planet’s 2007 Hero of the Year, started the center in honor of her daughter in 1996. Closed in winter, the center is open June through August from 2 to 4 p.m.; closed Wednesdays and Sundays.
Continuing on the coast to Beaufort, look across at wild horses–looking back at you–from the islands paralleling this historical town. The Rachel Carson Coastal Estuarine Reserve serves as a sanctuary for these ancestors of horses left ashore by crashed boats in centuries gone by. Tame horses can be rented for beach rides in the area and kayak rentals give visitors a superb way to explore the coast. Nearby Cape Lookout, accessible only by water, offers the chance to explore the lighthouse and search for photo-perfect sea shells. You can arrange for a water taxi from Harkers Island.
North Carolina Inland
North Carolina’s hidden sights aren’t just on the coast. There’s plenty to see further inland as well. Head toward Seagrove where many eighth and ninth generation potters continue crafting their work. Visitors make a day of trailing around from one potter’s studio to another, chatting with the artists, finding every texture, style and glaze she could want.
Pack the pottery in the car and finish in the western part of the state at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Cool in summer, but hot with activity on seven different rivers–you can paddle, raft, fish, or ride the rapids. Take it easy with children as young as three or whoop it up on Class IV rapids. The store at NOC stocks all types of outdoor gear, so you can look good even if you stand on the bridge and observe.
No matter what your interest, these North Carolina sights offer something worth discovering – check them out!
Back in February, I attended a wedding in Puerto Rico. Staying at a hotel in Carolina, I found myself a few blocks away from Club Gallistico de Puerto Rico, one of the larger cockfighting arenas on the island. Not one to pass up the opportunity to experience a local sporting event (I’ve witnessed street kids in Barcelona playing baseball and joined a pickup cricket game in India), I rallied some daring souls to join me.
It is worth mentioning that cockfighting is legal in Puerto Rico. Louisiana was the last U.S. state to allow the blood sport but its ban took effect in August 2008. For a more detailed analysis of the legalities of cockfighting, you can check this out.
Now, legality and morality are two very different things. As my group of cockfighting novices approached the arena, one of us noted that his biggest fear was that he would enjoy it. For $10 (women can attend for free), we gained general admission and took our seats. What followed was exciting, terrifying and confusing.
The roosters are “armed” with a cockspur, which acts as a knife attached to their feet. They are purposely agitated by men whose job responsibility appears to be solely bird agitation. The roosters kick and peck at each other. Feathers and blood fly. Members of the crowd make bets with one another and cheer vigorously for their favorite rooster to make them money. Scantily clad waitresses serve $3 beers and chicken wings (yes, the irony is thick at Club Gallistico de Puerto Rico). Eventually, the match is stopped when one bird succumbs. Which is a nice way of saying that it stops fighting. Usually because it has stopped living.
I wish I could say that I walked out in disgust. That I wrote a letter to my congressman imploring him to ban cockfighting in the remaining U.S. territories that allow it (the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam being the others). But I had fun. Maybe I’m desensitized to violence. Maybe I was just caught up in the adrenaline of being on vacation and experiencing something new. But I found myself cheering, making bets and generally blending in with the regulars in attendance.
I didn’t flinch when the roosters were lowered from the ceiling with much of the same pomp and circumstance reserved for a Rocky movie. I didn’t blink when a staff member cleared the ring of stray feather by using a dust buster. And I didn’t look away when blood began to appear on the outer ring of the fighting area. It will surely make animal rights activists and animal lovers cringe to read those words. I suppose I should feel more remorseful as I do consider myself a fairly progressive thinker. But the fact remains that I enjoyed myself.
Would I go back? Well, I was in Puerto Rico again last week and had plans to attend the fights but got back from Culebra too late and the arena had closed. When I do have a chance to return to Club Gallistico de Puerto Rico (or any other locale that hosts such events), I’d like to speak to more of the people involved. I’d be interested to speak to the men who raise and train the roosters. To learn why they do it and how deep the tradition is ingrained in the fabric of their culture. I’d like to speak to more of the patrons to learn their motivations for spending a beautiful Caribbean afternoon in a fluorescently lit modern day gladiator arena. And I’d like to see if I’d enjoy it again. Entertain me once and I can claim that is was the novelty factor. Entertain me twice and I may have some soul searching to do.