Wild kids fun at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, family friendly activities under $10

Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach has lots of exciting things to do for children.

Here you can see up close and even interact with some of the rarest tigers in the world: Royal Bengal, Amur, Siberian and Golden Tabby tigers. For free you can watch and photograph adorable tiger cubs play in a relaxing uncaged environment.

TIGERS Preservation Station live tiger exhibit

Feel the love for the most exotic cats in the world...while we still can

Jump, kick, flip and goof around on the mini “slingshot” trampoline ($9 per session), located in front of Dino’s restaurant.

Safe aerial jumps for little children North Myrtle Beach

This is going to be fun!

Feed turtles, ducks, and catfish ($.25)

Free kids entertainment activities Myrtle Beach

Adorable little turtles asking for a snack

Cool off at the Coca-Cola Cool Zone (free)

Relax under the mist machine

Ahhh...this feels good!

Dare to enter the mind-boggling Mirror Maze ($7.99 all day pass, $1 off coupon available). Very young kids can ride the historic carousel ($2 per ride).

Fun is divine in North Myrtle Beach!


Wilmington during Civil War: blockade running bonanza, yellow fever, despair and profits

The Cape Fear Museum downtown Wilmington features an extensive Civil War exhibit. There are hundreds of original weapons, model blockade ships, artifacts recovered from the battlefield, photographs, news articles, letters and more. Admission is $7 adults, $6 seniors, military and students, and $3 for children 3-17.

Civil War photos Confederate Army Wilmington

North Carolina Confederate soldiers ready for duty

Wilmington played a key role during Civil War. It was a major arms, food and materials supply hub, and by 1865, the only lifeline to Confederate troops fighting on the Eastern front.

It was the largest producer of salt, a critical ingredient that helped the population deal with chronic food shortages.

Once Fort Fisher was captured, Wilmington surrendered and the supply line of the Confederacy was severed. The Civil War was soon over.

This post highlights what life was like in the city during the blockade. There are also some remarkable statements from several Confederate soldiers. Historic data and quotes are from the museum exhibit and The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Narrative of a Blockade-Runner, by John Wilkinson.

The Gibraltar of the South
“After the Capital of the Confederacy , there was not in the South a more important place than the little town of Wilmington, North Carolina…

John Railey and Lionel Forrest model of Wilmington Harbor Civil War

Wilmington was the only remaining blockade runner port late into the Civil War

Through the port were brought all the stores and materials needed, cannon, muskets, and every munition of war, and with medicines, cloth, shoes, bacon, etc.” – John Johns, Confederate officer stationed in Wilmington, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine

The Union navy found Wilmington a difficult port to blockade. Two entrances to the Cape Fear River allowed blockade runners to enter the port.

The Union had to position its navy along a 50 mile arc to guard against ships trying to enter the river.

“From Smithville…both blockading fleets could be distinctly seen, and the outward bound blockade-runners could take their choice through which of them to run the gauntlet…the United States fleet were unable wholly to stop blockade-running. It was, indeed, impossible to do so;” – John Wilkinson, The Narrative of a Blockade-Runner

Medicine cabinet home remedies Civil War fever

What people used to treat the yellow fever epidemic in1862

The yellow fever epidemic

In 1862, hundreds of Wilmington’s residents died of yellow fever.

The disease was brought in by the crew of the blockade runner Kate.

Lacking proper medicine people resorted to old home remedies like castor oil, foot baths in salt water, mustard plasters and wrapping the sick in warm blankets.

“Medecine does little for the yellow fever. Nursing does much.

Not fussing and disturbing a patient, but skilful care to do what is right, and to avoid what is wrong…”

Taking on salt
Once the Union blockade cut off the South’s supply, during the first year of the war

Residents fighting to keep preserve food during Civil War blockade

Using salt to preserve perishable food at the end of Civil War

the Wilmington Journal urged citizens to “make Salt…by evaporating sea water…To cure beef, pork and so forth.” People built salt works along the coast to provide “the necessary article”.

Men of every age and race were recruited to transport salt from the salt marsh to town.

In 1863 the Wilmington saltworks made 5,000 bushels of salt while the price for a two-bushel sack of salt increased from $12 to $100!

David G. Worth, the state salt commissioner complained that “the present workforce is hardly sufficient to carry on the whole of the works…are always more or less unavoidable absent – some on account of sickness – while others, especially married men…have families entirely dependent on them for support.”

As few get rich the life in the city deteriorates
By the war’s end Wilmington became the only major port on the East Coast still open to blockade runners. The town’s 3 railroads, especially the Wilmington & Weldon, carried supplies to troops in the field. Blockade runners made hundreds of successful trips into Wilmington, more than any other Southern port.

One Five Twenty Hundred Confederate dollar bills

Dollar bills issued by the Confederacy fom 1861 to 1864

With a busy trade between New York, Philadelphia, and the Caribbean islands, Wilmington emerged as one of the most important cities in the Confederacy.

The slow pace, quaint small city lifestyle changed for the worse…

“The staid old town of Wilmington was turned “topsy turvy” during the war. Here resorted the speculators from all parts of the South, to attend the weekly auctions of imported cargoes; and the town was infested with rogues and desperadoes, who made a livelihood by robbery and murder.

Civil War brought hunger despair poverty and social chaos in Carolina

People lining up for rations during a brutal Civil War blockade

It was unsafe to venture into the suburbs at night, and even in daylight, there were frequent conflicts in the public streets, between the crews of the steamers in port and the soldiers stationed in the town, in which knives and pistols would be freely used; and not unfrequently a dead body would rise to the surface of the water in one of the docks with marks of violence upon it. The civil authorities were powerless to prevent crime.”
– John Wilkinson, The Narrative of a Blockade-Runner

Letters from soldiers…Homesick, hungry and courageous

How Civil War soldiers passed time bible tobacco cards family photos

The few but cherished possessions of a soldier

“Your company is better than all the company there is in the world. We have preaching and fiddling and card playing but all that doesn’t satisfy me like being with you.”

“I have a good pair of English shoes minus a sole”

“I had nothing to eat for two days. Finally I got a piece of pickled beef, and I had small piece of tobacco in my pocket, which I traded for bread and mighty glad to get it.”

“I want them to give me some thing to eat if they are going to try to keep me here.”

“I shall stand to my post and go wherever duty calls me.”

Learn about Carolina’s history at Cape Fear Museum in Wilmington!

Free walking tour of historic Southport, half an hour between Wilmington and Sunset Beach

Nestled on the mouth of Cape Fear River, Southport is one of the most charming cities along the North Carolina coast, with an incredibly rich naval and military history.

Oak Island Lighthouse

Southport Ferry to Fort Fisher on Cape Fear River

In 1500s and 1600s European explorers such as Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon and William Hilton discovered its riches; in 1700s ruthless pirates like Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet ravaged its canals.

During the Civil War, cunning river pilots defied the blockade, and in 1900s businessmen tried in vain to make the city a prominent railroad center. Nowadays, movie directors have “conquered” the city and shot more than 50 films for the last 20 years.

This post highlights some of the attractions you can enjoy along Southport’s self-guided walking tour. Most data comes from historical markers and outdoor exhibits, and the walking tour brochure you can grab at the Visitor Center.

Any visit to Southport must include a stop at the NC Maritime Museum (free admission) and a family fun ferry boat ride to Fort Fisher ($5 per car one way) and the exotic NC Aquarium ($8 adults, $6 children 6-17, free for kids 5 and under).

Stocks and Pillory at Old Brunswick County Jail

Funny punishment Old Brunswick County Jail

Walk the walk, talk the talk at Old Brunswick County jail

Built in 1904 for $6,738, the Old Brunswick Jail served the county until 1971, when an annex was completed. Both buildings were discontinued in 1978 when the county seat was moved to Bolivia.

The 1st floor provided living quarters for the jailer and his family. The 2nd floor had 2 cell rooms containing 4 bunks, a commode and washbasin and a small runabout.

Sissy Spacek is considered the jail’s most famous “criminal”! She stayed here in the summer of 1986, during the shooting of Crimes of the Heart.

The jail is now a museum and also home to the Southport Historical Society. The annex is home to the Southport Friends of the Library.

The museum is opened April through October.

The Railroad’s Come to Town…Willing, But Slow
Between the Civil War and the construction of the Panama Canal in 1904, local residents and investors desperately sought to surpass Wilmington in building the railroad link to the Appalachian coal fields. Smithville will become the railroad first refueling stop, thus bringing fame and fortune to the small fishing village.

Happy Southport Residents welcome the new train station

Willing, but slow...the short lived Southport train service

So in 1890, with much fanfare, a huge coal dock was built on Rhett Street and the town proudly changed its name to Southport, the “Port of the South”.

For 20 years, 15 rail companies failed to build the railroad, until Wilmington, Brunswick and Southern finally succeeded in 1911.

By then, technology has changed and ships had begun to burn oil and not coal, causing some investors to lose fortunes.

On November 25, 1911, a huge celebration marked the train’s arrival with bands, speeches, boat races and picnics. The trip from Wilmington took 2 hours and 36 minutes. Nicknamed “Willing, But Slow”, the passenger service continued until 1933. The station burned in 1940, never to be rebuilt.

Nearby is the 18th century Old Burying Ground, peaceful resting place to prominent families ship captains, soldiers an driver pilots. Note “The winds and the sea sing their Requiem and shall forevermore” obelisk mark honoring river pilots and seamen lost in the 1872 and 1877 storms.

Fort Johnston – Cape Fear River Guardian and Civil War Blockade Runner
Established as a British port in 1748, Fort Johnston was the first commissioned fort in North Carolina and the state’s only fort to serve under 3 different countries! Until 2004 it was considered the smallest working U.S. military installation.

The outer fortification was built of tabby rock, a mix of oyster shells, sand, lime and water. Some sections are still visible at low tide. On July 19, 1775, unable to defend the fort against British troops, NC militia destroyed the fort.

On January 9, 1861, an armed body of civilians overwhelmed Fort Johnston’s lone occupant, Ordinance Sgt. James Reilly, and demanded the keys. Reilly quickly surrounded them and received a receipt in return. However, North Carolina Governor John W. Ellis ordered few days later that Fort Johnston and other strongholds be restored to the Federal Government.

The Confederates reoccupied the fort on April 16, after the fall of Fort Sumter, and again took possession from Sgt. Reilly. He soon resigned from U.S. Army and joined the Confederacy as an artillery officer. Ironically he had to surrender the fort once more in 1865, this time to the Union forces!

Home to successful Civil War blockade runner

1868 Capt. Thomas Mann Thompson House

During the Civil War vessels running the blockade passed through the Cape Fear inlet en route to Canada, Bermuda, Caribbean and Cuba.

They returned to Wilmington carrying military supplies, which railroads transported north to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Eventually the Union blockading squadron sealed ever Southern port, except Wilmington which was protected by Fort Fisher and Fort Johnston.

One of the most successful blockade runner and river pilot was Captain Thomas Mann Thompson, now buried in the Old Ground cemetery. His 1868 house was Southport’s first home with a cupola and a Widow’s Walk.

The NC Oldest and the US Brightest Lighthouses
From the serene Southport Waterfront Park you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Cape Fear River Canal, bustling with big ships, ferry and fishing boats, and noisy seabirds. The jewels are the two lighthouses:

Southport Waterfront Park

1958 Oak Island Lighhouse brightest light in US

Bald Head Island Light built in 1817, is the oldest in the state.

Oak Island Light built in 1958 is one of the youngest in the US (only the one on Sullivan Island was built since) and features the country’s brightest light:

On good conditions it can be seen from 24 nautical miles.

The Oak Island Light is made of black, white and gray color concrete blocks thus it will never require repainting…You can reach Bald Head Island by ferry and Oak Island Coast Guard Station on Caswell Beach by taking Hwy 133.

Tony the Ghost, Quarantine Office and the Oldest House in Southport
Not far from Fort Johnston, on beautiful Bay Street, is the 1859 Brunswick Inn, a prime lodging spot for the high society. Its 30 rooms rented for a whopping $5 per month!

The Inn’s most famous resident was “Tony the Ghost” aka Antonio Caseletta, an Italian musician, who drowned while sailing. The following morning his harp was found with all strings ripped out. To this day people believe his spirit roams the building and can they still hear mysterious sounds.

Besides Brunswick Inn is the Quarantine Office built after the Civil War on pilings in the middle of Cape Fear River and used to decontaminate ships and personnel in the 1930s.

Next is the 1800 Walker-Pyke House, Southport’s oldest surviving house made of ballast stone from sailing ships.

Keziah Memorial Park and the Indian Trail Tree

Cape Fear Indians sites

Magnificent 800 years old tree, the start of the old Indian Trail

Named after local newspaperman Bill Keziah, the park is home to the Visitor Center and the Indian Trail Tree.

Cape Fear Indians, members of the Siouan Nation, have lived in this area (they called it “Chicora”) for centuries.

By 1720 none remained in the lower Cape Fear region.

Legend has it they bent the tree when it was sapling as a trail marker. The tree is estimated to be 400 to 800 years old.
Sixty years ago children could easily crawl under its arch.

Movies and TV Series
Southport’s peaceful marina, exquisite Victorian architecture and oak-lined streets make it a perfect setting for movies and TV filming. Here are just a few:
• TV Series – One Tree Hill, Dawson’s Creek, The Runaway and Matlock
• Movies – I know what you did last summer, The Secret Life of Bees, Pirate Kids I and II, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Domestic Disturbance, Lolita, The Butcher’s Wife and Raw Deal

Be forever enchanted in Southport North Carolina, where history comes to life!

in the summer of 1986

Happy ferry ride from historic Southport to Fort Fisher

Thinking about visiting the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher? Then get there in style! Take the ferry from historic Southport (home of the North Carolina 4th of July Festival). Cars, bicycles, pets and even horses are welcome!

On our way to NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher

Oh what fun it is to ride ...on the Southport Ferry

You will enjoy spectacular views of the Cape Fear River, lone barrier islands, ships of all sizes and a bonanza of birds. Look out for two majestic lighthouses:
• 109 feet tall Bald Head Island Light is the oldest in NC (built in 1817)
• 169 feet tall Oak Island Light has the brightest light in the country and second brightest in the world!

Tips to know before you go

Park and ride to Fort Fisher

Happy cars enjoying the ride on Cape Fear River

1. Make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure. Spots fill up quickly in the weekends.

The ferry has enough space to accommodate about 30 cars/SUVs.

2. Bring your own food and drinks. You can purchase snacks from the ticket booth in Southport. There are very limited food and drink choices once onboard.

3. Make the kids happy and let them feed the seagulls. They’ve been trained to follow the ferry as long as there is food available (see video below).

This makes for fun free entertainment and great photo shots.
Of course safety comes first!

Ferry Rates (one way) and Hours

• $1 Pedestrian, $2 Bicyclists, $3 Motorcycles
• $5 Cars 20 feet and under,
• $10 cars 20 to 40 feet, $15 vehicles 40 to 65 feet

The ferry operates year around from 5:30AM to 6:15PM. Last departure from Fort Fisher is at 7PM. The trip takes about 35 minutes. Here’s the full schedule and additional information.

Fun kids activities in and around Wilmington

• Visit the “Showboat” NORTH CAROLINA, one of the most decorated battleships during WWII ($12 adults, $10 seniors and military, $6 children 6-11, free for children 5 and under).

Be a kid again at the NC Railroad Museum home to one the largest model trains layout in Southeast ($7 adults, $6 seniors and military, $3 children 2-12).

• Be awed, bewildered and amused at Cape Fear Serpentarium, featuring the world’s largest collection of deadly venomous snakes ($8 admission, live feedings in the weekend).

Fun things to do with kids in Wilmington: learn, play, explore at the Children Museum!

On our 3rd visit to historic Wilmington my daughter and I stopped by the

Ahoy Wilmington ship exhibit

Black Beard wannabe

Children’s Museum.

After some online research I figured it will take us little over an hour to go through all the exhibits.

Well 3 hours later we were still strong into it…

Admission is $8 (free for kids under 1).

The museum is located one block from the awesome Cape Fear Serpentarium and is open 9AM – 5PM (1PM Sundays).

What kids like to do at the museum

Get their hands dirty and create masterpieces. This is one of the better organized and supplied “Arts and Crafts” room I’ve seen.

Be an artist in Wilmington

Little Picasso

Be a rock star, play in the glow room and try on many cool outfits.

Karaoke stage Wilmington Children Museum

Lets dance!

Drive the magic school bus, climb the Spider Man’s web and play inside the little cottage.

Play inside a real size school bus replica

Hop on in kids!

Put on your scientist hat and discover all the wonderful things of Mother Nature.

Lets do science

Future biologists under the miscroscope

and the list goes on… play doctor at the Teddy Bear Hospital, test your Circus skills, shop at the supermarket and go camping and kayaking.

More fun places to visit the family downtown

• Check out Southeast’s largest museum-quality model layout at the Railroad Museum ($7 adults, $3 children 2-12).

• Get a thrill at the Cape Fear Serpentarium, featuring the world’s largest collection of deadly venomous snakes like the black headed bushmaster, Gaboon viper, Tropical rattlers, Fer-de-lance, and King Cobra ($8 admission, live feedings in the weekends around 3PM).

• Be awed and inspired aboard the most decorated WWII Battleship, The North Carolina ($12 adults, $10 seniors and military, $6 children 6-11, free for children 5 and under).

There’s always something fun going on downtown Wilmington!

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).

Stars shine at Ingram Planetarium! Family Fun in Sunset and North Myrtle Beach

“Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are!”

Reach for the stars at Ingram Planetarium in beautiful Sunset Beach NC. The fun packed observatory just half an hour away between North Myrtle Beach and Wilmington.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for kids 3-5 years old and free for those 2 and under. Ingram Planetarium is opened Friday and Saturday from 12:30 to 5PM and astronomy shows start at 1PM.

Ingram Planetarium

Ingram Planetarium

Fun things to play with at the Planetarium

Race into Space! – Shoot water at astronauts toys to see who gets up faster.

• Nebula Ball – Watch the light respond to your touch and gather around your palm and fingers to create beautiful swirling formations.

• Bernoulli’s Lift Off – Make an airplane fly. Fast moving air over the wings creates lift causing an airplane to fly. Same is true on a race car, the faster the air, the faster the car drives.

• Gravity Machine – Let gravity draw art for you!

Grownups love it too!

Grownups love it too!

• Hear sounds coming from Pan’s Pipes – Pan was half man half goat that entertained Gods by singing on a flute he made from hollow reeds. Sound is a form of energy that is transmitted by vibrations called sound waves. The pipes trap sound in the room and channel it to your ear. The shorter the pipe the higher the pitch.

• Measure electromagnetic radiation using Crookes “light mill” – The radiometer is an airtight glass bulb containing partial vacuum. The vanes rotate when exposed to light. The more light the faster they go.

• Watch cool NASA movies. Did you know the Solar wind output is at 50 year low?

Look mom I'm flying into space!

Look mom I'm flying into space!

Special Events at Ingram Planetarium
(beware the planetarium will be closed May 1 through 22 as it goes digital!)
• March 14: Space and Pi Day
Celebrate the number 3.14 and other math games. Space Day activities.
• April 2 – 4: 100 Hours of Astronomy
Look through a telescope as Galileo did 400 years ago.
• 3rd Friday and Saturday of each month: Rock ‘n’ Roll Laser Shows

March 20 and 21 – 5PM Hypnotica, 6PM Laseropolis, 7PM Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”
April 17 and 18 – 5PM Pop, 6PM Beatles, 7PM Led Zeppelin

Here is a list with the songs played during each show.

Experience the sky legends at Ingram Planetarium!