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North Carolina is a state with varied landscapes, diverse people, a range of climates and a rich history. Which means, it is also a treasure trove of cultural experiences. Whether you’re into art, history, folklore or music, you’ll find endless options for enrichment and enjoyment all over the state. From large city attractions to small town festivals, and everything in between.
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When you visit the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC, you’ll feel as if you’ve just stepped back into the 1700’s. As an authentic working Cherokee village, you’ll see many centuries-old traditions taking place right before your eyes, like pottery-making, the sharpening of arrowheads and blades, and the carving of canoes. You can also observe traditional singing, dancing and drumming, and participate in “Hands On Cherokee,” where you can create your own jewelry, baskets, pottery and more.
Also located in Cherokee, just a short distance from the Oconaluftee Village, is the Mountainside Theatre, where you can watch the famous outdoor play, Unto These Hills. The live show has been in production since 1950, with over six million people coming to see it over the years. The drama tells the story of the Cherokee from 1780 to the 21st Century through beautiful imagery, exciting action scenes and even a little pyrotechnics. The show is a family-friendly production and it begins at 8 p.m. every night (from June 2 to August 18), so be sure to bring along a blanket to snuggle under for the show!
The Bascom is a non-profit center for the visual arts, which features a variety of exhibitions and programs for both adults and children. Set on a six-acre former horse farm property, there are opportunities to learn about art both indoors and outdoors – from the covered bridge dating back to the 1800’s that sits at the entrance, to the main building with over 27,000 square feet of museum space, to the rebuilt barn which houses several studio spaces and outdoor terraces. There are also several walking trails to explore, as well as gardens with water elements and gorgeous views of the Western NC mountains.
The Carolina Ballet, a professional dance company based in Raleigh, NC, has performed over 100 world premiere ballets and has gained attention both nationally and internationally. In addition to their annual performance of The Nutcracker during the holiday season, you can also catch other classics like Sleeping Beauty, Dracula and Swan Lake. Many of their shows also include live orchestra music.
Every year, thousands of visitors travel to the small town of Benson, NC for the oldest continuous Gospel sing in the country – the State Annual Singing Convention. The annual event, which takes place in June, is free for both contestants and audience members and typically features over fifty different singing groups, both amateur and professional. Since the singing is held outdoors in downtown Benson, be sure to bring your lawn chairs with you, so you can enjoy the sunshine while you listen to the show!
The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC, will give New York City a run for its money when it comes to high quality entertainment. The complex, which is located in the heart of uptown Charlotte, is home to multiple artistic organizations, including the Charlotte Ballet, the Charlotte Symphony and Opera Carolina. With so many different genres under one roof, you can always find something here to see, no matter what your tastes are, from magicians and improv, to poetry slams and a cappella, as well as Broadway shows, concerts and even movie nights.
The Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum is North Carolina’s first historic site honoring the state’s African American heritage. It’s named after Charlotte Hawkins, a Northern-educated teacher who opened the Alice Freeman Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia. This African American school started out as an agricultural training facility, but ended up growing into a fully-accredited preparatory school that graduated thousands of students during its ten years of operation. Now, the site serves as a memorial to Ms. Brown, as well as an educational museum for African American and women’s history.
As one of America’s oldest plantations, Poplar Grove in Wilmington is both beautiful and historical. The rustic site, which dates back to the 1800’s, features a majestic main house, basket weaving studios, a blacksmith shop, farm animals and a small gift shop. You can also enjoy the outdoors by roaming around the relaxing green lawn dotted with massive oak trees or nearby Abbey Nature Preserve, which features over sixty acres of dog-friendly walking trails.