Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens - Belmont, North Carolina
Just outside of Charlotte, DSBG boasts garden after garden and in my opinion, rivals the Smithsonian Botanical Gardens on the National Mall. We spent hours walking through the expansive grounds finding a new green space around every turn. They also have an orchid house and do a big event around the orchids every year. I think perhaps because of its location just slightly outside of Charlotte, it's not the most well known destination. But I assure you, it's worth a trip.
Foamhenge - Natural Bridge, Virginia
In WestERN Virginia (the ERN is very important), there is a collection of oddities within the confines of Natural Bridge. Why? Well, no one is really sure....but if you ever find yourself there, Foamhenge is a must stop. A full size replica of Stonehenge was created by one man, a bunch of foam, a vision and an awesome sense of humor. While over time, the foam has started disintegrating, the spectacular views of the Blue Ridge and the hilarity of the spot have not been diminished. It will not take you long, but the look will be worth the awesome story.
Kazoobie Kazoo Factory - Beaufort, South Carolina
Ever wonder where Kazoos are made? Well, I didn't until I discovered this little gem right outside of Beaufort, SC. The very enterprising owner of Kazoobie Kazoos has opened the small factory to the public and provides neat little tours, a suprisingly informative Kazoo museum, a giant kazoo mailbox and the most hysterical video on the history of kazoos ever. It was a delightful afternoon and the free kazoo that came with my tour sits on my desk for those moments when I need a smile and a John Philip Sousa moment. If you ever need to buy kazoos, buy from Kazoobie...they make everything in the US, which is totally awesome. And if you're in the area, stop by. It is more than worth the $4 admission.
King Family Vineyards - Crozet, Virginia
Virginia is FULL of amazing little vineyards, tucked away in scenic locations boasting some decent, some amazing wines but consistently amazing views. King Family goes a step further. The wine is great, but every Sunday from Memorial Day through October, Roseland Polo comes out and takes advantage of the beautiful land. While some of the Polo Sundays are big to-dos, most are relaxed, lovely opportunities to spend some time with friends watching the matches and color change in the mountains. So pack a picnic, buy some King Family wine, and enjoy a day outdoors. And never fear, if you don't buy enough wine in the tasting room to get you through the afternoon with a bottle or two to-go, a handy "Wine-Way" will come along with a portable credit card machine. Heaven in Virginia.
The Mary Washington House - Fredericksburg, Virginia
The Mary Washington House is my go to location for in town guests. Why? Because who doesn't love a historic house that was bought by a son as a gift to his mother. That's right, George Washington bought this house for his momma, Mary Ball Washington in 1777. It is now open as a museum with a delightfully guided tour.
The best part? The gardens. In the summer you can even pick strawberries and have a little snack while visiting. It is, hands down, my favorite historic site in the Fred.
Old Sheldon Church Ruins - Yemassee, South Carolina
Tucked off the road under trademark southern live oaks, Old Sheldon Church is one of the most serene and mysterious sites I've ever experienced. Built pre Revolutionary War, the actual story of how it was destroyed and rebuilt is still unclear. If you find out, let me know! Regardless, it's one of those places you have to see to appreciate. The pictures could not possibly convey the size and grandeur of what remains. Today, the site hosts an occasional wedding and an Easter Sunday service. Otherwise, it's open to the public to take a look...just adhere to the parking rules and respect the history of where you're standing. It really is an incredible site.
Peach Park - Clanton, Alabama
While traveling to Birmingham via I-65, I saw a giant billboard for "Peach Park." So I ask my Alabamian husband "What is Peach Park?" His reaction was, "Peach Park?? You don't know what Peach Park is??" The next thing I knew, I was at one of the most bizarre and wonderful fruit markets I've ever seen, complete with a giant peach, great little area for roaming, and the BEST peach ice cream I've ever had the pleasure of licking. Disagree with me if you like, but there's not much else to see on I-65...so it couldn't possibly hurt to stop.
Rachel Carson Reserve - Beaufort, North Carolina
Spending the day on an island = always awesome. Spending a day on an island that is a national park and home to a herd of wild ponies, fiddler crabs, beautiful birds, and other sea creatures = the best day ever. We took a ferry out of Beaufort and arrived around high tide. After quietly hiking and finding the ponies, the tide had gone out enough for us to cross over to Bird Shoal which boasts a white sand beach and (that day) no people. We enjoyed our picnic lunch together then hiked back through the muddy to the boat pick up. Too many pictures were taken, too much sun was soaked. It is one of the best days I've ever had.
Solomon's Island - Patuxent River Region, Maryland
Southern Maryland is really a hidden gem of a place, and one of it's greatest features is Solomon's Island. It's a small community right on the water (where the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River meet) that has a charming village feel with great restaurants, bars and even a few stops on the Patuxent Wine Trail. I highly recommend the key lime pie (my favorite) and delicious oysters when in season. We were there in March, and while it was a bit chilly, it was a great day to spend with friends.
Starr Hill Brewery - Crozet, Virginia
Artisanal brewing in the hills of Virginia. And the beer is GOOD. So if you find yourself out and about near Charlottesville, stop here. The beer is awesome and they have a brew tour that will teach you everything you need to know about making beer. Or at least how you make beer with impressive machinery and dudes who really love what they do. Grab a growler and try their chocolate made with the Dark Starr Stout.
Tryon Palace - New Bern, North Carolina
It's a palace in the new world! Burned during the revolutionary war (probably because it was the biggest, baddest, in your colonial face symbol of British rule you could possibly think of), it has been rebuilt just as it was. The gardens are astoundingly lovely and my favorite part was the view from the back "porch" where the English governor no doubt took his morning tea. When we went, the flowers weren't quite in bloom yet, but it was all very impressive none the less.