With gas prices up, folks stay put for holiday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

By Scott Jenkins
SALISBURY — The kids are out of school next week. But with gas pushing $4 a gallon, a good many local parents will be looking for ways to fill up those days instead of filling up their tanks to take the tykes on vacation.
That’s OK, says James Meacham, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Rowan has a lot to offer folks who choose a “staycation.” And with next week’s days forecast to be sunny and in the 80s, it’s a good time to take advantage.
“Spring break week, pretty much everything is up and running, which is great,” Meacham said.
Most of what’s available to do and see costs not much money, he said. And a lot of it costs nothing at all.
He recommends starting the break by taking the kids out to the old ballgame. The Kannapolis Intimidators are playing Friday and Saturday evenings at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium before taking off on a road trip the rest of the week.
One day can be filled along N.C. 150 in western Rowan, Meacham says, by visiting Patterson Farm and Lazy 5 Ranch. At Patterson Farm in Mount Ulla, parents and their children can pick strawberries and take a tour. At Lazy 5, they can get up close to exotic animals.
“Those two alone, that’s a great day of family fun for under 20 bucks per person,” Meacham said. He compared that to a trip to Carowinds, the huge amusement park just over the state line south of Charlotte. “The cost of getting to Carowinds, the cost of going to Carowinds, you’re out a couple hundred bucks.”
All next week, Patterson Farm will also offer geocaching, high-tech treasure hunts where the hunters use GPS devices to search for buried booty around the farm. The cost is $8 per person and $30 for a family of four.
For another day full of activity that gets the family outdoors, Meacham recommends going east to Dan Nicholas Park, Dunn’s Mountain and Eagle Point Nature Preserve.
Hiking up Dunn’s Mountain to take in the view — on a clear day, you can see downtown Charlotte — and walking some of the 41/2 miles of trails on 200 acres at Eagle Point, which are two free ways to get back to nature.
Dan Nicholas offers a playground, splash pad, nature center, walking trails and more at no charge. The park charges fees for the petting barn, gem mining, putt putt golf, train rides and other activities.
After getting out on the farm and into nature, Meacham said, a family can spend an affordable day in downtown Salisbury. Among the possible activities are a walking tour of the new sculpture show around town, more art indoors at Waterworks Visual Arts Center and a history lesson at Rowan Museum.
And being in Salisbury on a warm spring afternoon is a good excuse to indulge in some ice cream at Spanky’s, he said, after grabbing a bite at one of many downtown restaurants such as lunchtime favorite Hap’s.
“There’s nothing like grabbing a hot dog at Hap’s, which is very affordable,” Meacham said.
If you’re in the city after dark on April 29, you might see some of Salisbury’s former residents. At least, you can be entertained with stories about the ones still hanging around what was once called the “wettest and wickedest” town in the state on the Downtown Salisbury Ghost Walk. It’s $10 for adults and $5 for students. Kids younger than 5 get scared free.
He also recommends looking to Spencer, where planes, trains and automobiles — and well-preserved examples of other modes of getting around — await at the N.C. Transportation Museum, along with information on the history of transportation.
“And get in now, before there is a ticket price to get into the museum,” Meacham said. The museum doesn’t charge for its exhibits but might have to start because of looming state budget cuts.
And save some time to explore, because Rowan has plenty of hidden gems, Meacham said.
One is the Price of Freedom Museum on Weaver Road, which displays military artifacts and is dedicated to men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. Another is the village of Gold Hill, a gold rush town that’s now a mother lode of history and culture with a 70-acre historic theme park and new shops in the old buildings.
“That’s worth exploring, and getting into the community as well,” Meacham said.
For those thinking of a staycation next week, there are plenty more things to see and do in Rowan. For details, log on to the Salisbury-Rowan County Convention and Visitors Bureau website at www.visitsalisburync.com.
Contact [0x13]Scott Jenkins at 704-797-4248.