- North Carolina
Sometimes it’s almost impossible to prepare for what you might find in a new destination.
The region known as the Heart of North Carolina – including the cities and towns of Archdale, Asheboro, Franklinville, Liberty, Ramseur, Randleman, Seagrove, Staley and Trinity in Randolph County – is filled with enchanting people, places and activities. Maybe it was the call from the animals in the North Carolina Zoo, the warm breeze of the Uwharrie Mountains or the central location to visit other towns and cities in the region. The rolling hills, lush greenery and friendly locals guided me to some of my new favorite places.
Exhilarating Visit to the North Carolina Zoo
As an animal lover, I couldn’t wait to explore what has been recognized as the world’s largest natural habitat zoo at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. I booked a tour of the grounds and was guided through this 890-hectare expanse on what is known locally as Purgatory Mountain. The ride was exhilarating, and I was able to see so many majestic creatures, including rhinos, elephants, antelopes, ostriches and giraffes.
But don’t stop there; the zoo also has over 300 birds in the R.J Reynolds Aviary, a gorilla habitat and the largest polar bear exhibit in the USA.
Regal elephant at North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro
Seagrove: Handmade Pottery Capital of the USA
I have tried my hand at pottery a couple times, and I have a couple of what I like to call “abstract” pieces on display at home, but here in Seagrove, genuine potters are creating the most beautiful pieces for you to take home. Seagrove has more than 70 pottery shops in 24 kilometers. If you need a breakdown of what’s what, head to the town’s visitor center off Interstate 73/74.
I stopped by Original Owens Pottery, which is the oldest pottery shop in North Carolina, established in 1895. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into this wood cabin store, laden with all manner of tableware with signature red paint designs. Mr. Owens himself was there to give me a quick tour, point out his best sellers and tell me his family's history.
Home of NASCAR Legend Richard Petty in Randleman
I have always loved Formula One racing but in the Southern USA, NASCAR is king. Seven-time championship winner Richard Petty is honored in Randleman. I was greeted upon entry to the Petty Museum by some lovely Southern belles who had grown up with Petty, and it was here that I learned about the legendary driver and his family. The museum includes tributes to four Petty family members inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I also strolled through the Petty family home and Petty’s garage, where the original vehicles he used are displayed.
Petty Museum in Randleman, North Carolina, in honor of famous driver
Downtown Asheboro: Fine Dining, Shopping and Mountain Views
For dinner, I headed to downtown Asheboro’s Historic District and Bia’s Gourmet Hardware, a fine dining experience in a modern yet rustic setting. Chef Bia came out to meet me and run down the mouth-watering dishes on the menu, which pairs delicacies from around the world with wines and cocktails to suit every bite. Bia’s also puts an emphasis on supporting local farms and traders in the Asheboro area.
Strolling downtown Asheboro after dinner, I knew I had to return in the daytime so I could take a look in local shops filled with art, antiques, jewelry, clothes and, of course, pottery.
The Heart of North Carolina offers that enchanting mix of Southern charm, mountain beauty, attractions and culture that simply must be taken in, just like the fresh mountain air. I left feeling inspired, exhilarated and armed with fabulous gifts for my loved ones back home.