The Fantastic Four! Most famous American women pilots honored at NC Aviation Museum

One of my favorite things to see at the NC Aviation Museum in Greensboro was the honor wall dedicated to famous women pilots, aviation pioneers and inspirational heroes for generations to come.

Harriet Quimby
She obtained the license in 1911 and only a year later became the first woman to fly solo over the English Channel.

First woman to fly solo over English Channel

The shooting star and social butterfly

She did it using the 55 horsepower Bleirot monoplane.

Her meteoric life and aviation career ended abruptly.

On July 1, 1912, Harriet made a publicity stunt flight at an aviation exhibition near Quincy, Massachusetts.

As hundreds of spectators watched from below, Harriet and her passenger fell from the craft when it suddenly pitched forward.

Her dramatic accident sparked a fury of continued speculation.

See additional photos and an excellent bio summary “Who was Harriet” by Giacinta Bradley Koontz.

Bessie Coleman
Bessie Coleman was unable to secure flight training in the United States. So she went to France and on June 15, 1921 became the first African American to receive a pilot license from FAI.

First black pilot to get FAI license

The Brave Girl 'Queen Bess'

Her dream was to establish a flying school for African Americans. In 1925, she moved to Houston and succesfully performed exhibitions shows and parachute jumps throughout the South.

In April 1926, Bessie came to Jacksonville to pick up her first plane.

During a maintenance flight test, the plane malfunctioned and the mechanic, who was piloting the plane from the front seat, lost control of the plane.

Bessie fell from the open cockpit several hundred feet to her death.

Three years later, her dream of a flying school for African Americans became a reality when William J. Powell established the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles.

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart most likely is the most glamorous and well known female pilot,

First woman ever to fly over Atlantic

Amelia Earhart 'Lady Icarus'

the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She did it in 1928, in a Fokker F-7 aircraft called Friendship.

In 1937, Amelia Earhart disappeared during her attempt to fly around the world. She and her navigator, Fred Nooman, left Papua Guinea on July 2nd 1937.

They sent a radio transmission nearby Howland Island in South Pacific and then they were never heard from again.

To date no readily identifiable plane wreckage has been found although the search continues…

Here is a long list of her aviation achievements.

Jacqueline Cochran
Jacqueline Cochran, “The Speed Queen”, is by far the most accomplished female pilot in the US aviation history.

First woman to break the sound barrier

The Speed Queen broke most aviation records at the time

In 1937, she was the only woman to compete in the Bendix race and by 1938, was considered the best female pilot in the United States.

She was the first woman to break the sound barrier, to fly a jet across the ocean and a bomber across the Atlantic, and to land and take off from an aircraft carrier.

She was the first pilot to fly above 20,000 feet with an oxygen mask and the first to make blind (instrument) landing.

Jacqueline Cochran was the only woman to ever be President of the Federation Aeronautique International (1958-1961). She was an important contributor to the formation of the wartime Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

Admission to the NC Aviation Museum is $8 adults, $5 students and free for kids 5 and under.


Good times roll at the Greensboro Children’s Museum!

My 5 years old daughter loved this place! She made me promise we will come back to Greensboro just so she can play there again…

The Greensboro Children’s Museum is located downtown, across from the public library. Admission is only $6 (free for kids under 1), however you can get in for just $3 every Friday evening 5 – 8PM.

Kids can climb on board a real fire engine

Lets go, lets go, lets go! There is a fire going on!

The museum has a plethora of fun, hands-on exhibits geared at children younger than 10 (although I had as much fun as she did…)

Kids can’t get enough playing at the:
• Real fire engine, police car, NASCAR car, mail truck
• Miniature train with a steam-engine locomotive
• Doctor office and nursery
• Grandma’s house and kitchen
• Performance stage and TV station
• Fresh super-market and oven-fire pizza restaurant

While in Greensboro make sure to visit the super cool, wildly fun Natural Science Center where dinosaurs come to live! Their Animal Discovery Zoo is one of the best small size zoo I have ever seen.

Lionel train set magic at Wilmington Railroad Museum

The Railroad Museum in Wilmington is one of the most pleasant travel surprises this year. It has everything! Large scale and intricate layouts, a “build it yourself” play room for kids, amazing historic artifacts and even ghost legends!

The ACL Steam Engine

In front of the Railroad Museum

Outside you can climb aboard a real steam engine, wander through a red caboose, and experience the hobo lifestyle in a Atlantic Coast Line boxcar…

Best of all my daughter loved it!

Lionel O scale layout in Wilmington

Go Thomas! Go!

Hours and Ticket Price

The museum is open Monday to Saturday 10AM – 4PM and Sunday 1 – 5PM (except in winter when is closed). Closed on major holidays. Admission is $7 adults, $6 seniors and military and $3 children 2-12.

The Railroad Museum is located downtown Wilmington at 505 Nutt Street, right by the river next to the Chamber of Commerce and the Community College.

Let the train show begin!

Forever young at the Wilmington Railroad Museum!

If time permits visit the terrific Cape Fear Serpentarium, the world’s largest selection of venomous snakes (live shows on Saturdays and Sundays at 3PM) and the fun-packed Wilmington Children’s Museum. Both are located on Orange Street and admission is $8 for each.

Be awed, inspired and humbled aboard North Carolina, the most decorated battleship during WWII (admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors and military, $6 children 6-11 and FREE for children 5 and under).

At Seagrove magic pottery wheels keep on turning…

Love pottery crafts? Looking for exquisite Christmas gifts? Then drive to Seagrove, NC the pottery capital of the world!

Join the 28th Annual Seagrove Pottery Festival on November 21 and 22 at Seagrove Elementary School.

Native Americans, the First Potters(data from NC Pottery Center exhibits)

Native Americans in the Carolina have been making utilitarian and ceremonial vessels for more than 4,500 years. The first pots were carved from soapstone. About 3,000 years ago indigenous tribes across the Southeast started to transform the clay into fired pottery.
Replica of 4000 years old Indian fire pit and clay vessels

• Women were the primary potters, digging the clay, mixing it with sand, crushed rocks or mussel shells to give the vessel strength and firing it in simple pits.

Pinching, coiling and hand-working techniques were passed from generation to generation.

• The fire pit model on display at the NC Pottery Center contains vessels with surfaces textured by beating with carved paddles, impressing textiles or burnishing with a polishing stone. Vessels were warmed around the edges then gently rolled into the coals to continue hardening.

• Native Americans did not use a wheel to make pottery. Instead they created wares by a process called coiling. Pots were built from a pinched base by stacking coils one on the other, or the reverse upside-down from a large coil on the rim to the pointed bottom. The smoke created black patterns as seen on the ones in the exhibit.

The European Influence

Early European pottery kiln methods

• At the time of European settlement, the most prominent tribes were the Tuscarora in the coastal plains, the Siouan in Eastern Piedmont, the Catawba in Western Piedmont and the Cherokees in the mountains. The Cherokees and the Catawba tribes are still active potters today.

• The earliest European wheel-turned and chambered fired pottery was found at the Santa Elena archaeological site on Parris Island, a Spanish fort established in the 16th century.

• During the 1700s potters of English and German descend emigrated to North Carolina where they set up shops which produced lead-glazed earthenware.

• In 1800s they transitioned to higher fired stoneware and alkaline and salt glazes.

A taste of local flavor…

See all tools of traditional pottery in an authentic shop replica
The 19th century shop on display at the Pottery Center (including the tools and glaze mill), are an exact replica of the one used by Harvey Rienhardt and Burlon Craig in Henry, NC.

• Potters referred to themselves as “turners”

• Wheels are “lathes” (pronounced “lays”)

• Kilns (pronounced “kills”) are “burned”, not fired.

The NC Pottery Center, located downtown Seagrove, is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10AM to 4PM. Admission is $2 adults, free for kids 12 and under and for NCPC members. Every Saturday come enjoy Free pottery making demos with a local artist.

Just half an hour away is the NC Zoo, one of the best zoological parks in the country.

Kids love the Zoo! Best family attraction between Charlotte and Raleigh

Be wild, be free at the North Carolina Zoo, home to most amazing creatures you will ever see!

Gorgeous Elephant Habitat at NC Zoo

Gorgeous Elephant Habitat at NC Zoo

The beautiful 500 acres park is located at the foot of Uwharrie Mountains, just south of Asheboro and half way between Charlotte and Research Triangle Park.

The Zoo is open daily from 9AM to 5PM (4PM November through March) and admission is $10 adults, $8 seniors and $6 children 2-12.

TIP! Save $3 with a combo ticket and get 2 tickets to either 4D Theater or the Carousel. Riverbanks Zoo members get in for half price.

Admire over 1,100 animals and 40,000 plants native to Africa and North America spread along 5 miles of shaded pathways.

Just for kids fun things to do

• Buckle up for an exhilarating safari in Kenya! In the Wild Earth Africa 4-D ride you can literally feel the elephants stomping, get showered by rhinos and tagged with a veterinary dart (Junction Plaza, $3 admission, open 10AM – 3PM daily March 1 – November 30).

• While at Junction Plaza, climb aboard the popular Carousel ($2 per ride)

• Be Spider-Man at the Garden Friends Playground, best place for young children to run wild.

• Build a fort, dig in the garden and draw with chalk at KidZone. Enjoy live animal presentations Thursday – Sunday at 1:30PM (near Garden Friends Playground. Open April 6 – November 1 from 9AM to 4:30PM).

• Feed Giraffes at the new Acacia Station (daily from 10AM to 2PM)

• See how honey is made watching a live bee hive at the Honey Bee Garden

Durham Life and Science Museum is THE undisputed family weekend gateway in RTP area

Rain or shine the fun is divine at the Life and Science Museum in Durham, NC. Cloud Machine When I lived in RTP that was our weekend Thing-To-Do. My little one learned about tornados, space shuttles and earthquakes before she did her ABCs. We spent hours outdoors exchanging funny faces with the lemurs, trying to spot the cute black bear cubs on the TV camera and getting wet from head to toes at the water pumps.

• See how it feels like inside a real Apollo space capsule
• Train ride on a scale replica of the historic 1863 Huntington locomotive
• Start up a 13-foot tornado
• Stare at the live Gigantic Fox 6 foot wingspan bat
• Wonder at the “Play to Learn” learning and interaction area for infants and toddlers.

Tips to Know Before You Go
1. Go visit Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday to avoid the big crowds. Playing drums The busiest day is Saturday followed by Wednesday when Durham county residents get in for free. Best to visit in the morning (museum opens at 10 AM) when it’s cooler, there are less people around and the kids will be less cranky. The animals are usually more active as well.

2. Start your visit outdoor with the Wild Animals exhibit or the Train Ride and work your way to the front. Leave the indoor exhibits last; the building is air-conditioned so you can go there anytime. Besides most visitors get stuck in there and rarely make it outside.

3. If you live in the Research Triangle Park get the membership; it pays for itself after few visits and you will not find a better entertainment in the area.

4. The Grayson’s café has great selection including plenty of healthy food choices. There is a covered patio if you prefer to eat outside (or you have rambunctious kids :-))

Example Day Schedule (worked well for my toddler girl):
1. First thing get on the train ride to get that out of the way

2. Tour the zoo then cool off at the duck pond and let kids chase around the fake tadpoles. If needed pit stop at the restroom.Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles...
3. Turn around and have lunch at the Grayson’s café. Visit the Butterfly House (never get tired to watch some skin-crawling worms!). Most people herd around the tropical exhibit showcasing butterflies and hummingbirds. That’s nice for the first few visits. The real action is in the giant cockroaches’ room.

4. Say Hi! to all the farm animals. My favorite was the cow listening to classical music and Lana loved “talking” to the wild turkey.

5. Spend half an hour at the Loblolly playground. You get to rest, maybe read something, while kids are busy making friends at the sandbox or trying their acoustical skills at the drums station.

6. Go home if kids are acting up; otherwise get indoors to checkout the interactive exhibits. Required stops at the bubbles station, cloud machine and the balls gravitation exhibit.

7. If an extra person is around go to the 2nd floor. Here we try unsuccessfully to build an earthquake-proof machine (my husband is convinced otherwise…but it got to last for at least 15 seconds!) and we snap sounds from outer space. Building an earthquake proof structure I always get mesmerized watching the giant ant colony at work with their intricate society, distribution of labor and astonishing teamwork.

8. By this time we are all at each other throats so is time to say goodbye. If you’re lucky you can avoid a trip to the museum store otherwise settle for some stuffed animal most likely the dog will end up playing with.

Best for infants and toddlers
“Play to Learn”, train ride, sandbox and drums, “Carolina Wildlife” and the outdoor “Explore the Wild” zoo.

Best for young kids
Apollo Space Capsule (this is the real thing), the 13-foot tornado and earthquake simulation exhibits, the Farmyard and the Magic Winds Butterfly House.

Best for older kids
All the interactive physics exhibits on the 2nd floor, like landing on the moon and outer space radio communication. The water pumps at the splashing zone and being a boat captain “Catch the Wind” a 5,000 sqft sail pond.

Durham Life and Science Museum Toddlers in the sandbox outside Admission fee is adults $10.85, seniors $8.85, children ages 3-12 $7.85 and for children under 3 is free. Military personnel $8.85. Train rides are an additional charge of $2 per person.

The museum is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, except on Sunday when is from noon to 5 PM. After Labor Day, museum closes on Monday to the public (members can still get in).

Here are links to the museum exhibits, current events, an indoor map and the Google Map to the museum location.

Let your imagination run free at the Life and Science Museum in Durham!

Pullen Park One of World’s Oldest Amusements Park (free things to do in Raleigh)

Ok so it’s the other Carolina. Guilty. But gotta give them credit for some wonderful and mostly free to enjoy downtown Raleigh family friendly parks.
Like the Pullen Park, established in 1887 is one of world’s oldest public amusements parks. It features an Olympic size swimming pool, a kids magnet carousel operating since 1921, a red real-life caboose, an Aquatic Center, Arts Center and air-conditioned indoor Theater.

Main attractions at the park are the merry-go-around, the Huntington train ride and the bumping kiddy boats (this is a God’s send in the hot summer days)

Of course you can do the usual things: stroll, jog, bike or just walk your dog around the gorgeous lake; bring your kids to burn energy at the 3 well-equipped and age appropriate playgrounds; feed ducks and geese (that always steals the show with the little ones…just be careful some of the papa geese can get quite grumpy!); paddle the boat up and down the lake (there are some pretty romantic spots under several intimate bridges :-)); picnic and enjoy free summer shows.

Most rides are $1; renting a paddle boat is $5 per hour. The park offers delicious hot-dogs with the works (for only $2) right by the admission booth.

All in all this is a great family weekend getaway when you’re visiting Raleigh, home of the mighty Wolfpack.

Have fun in the great Carolinas!