Latta Plantation is a historic home and living history site located approximately 30 minutes outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. Guides and re-enactors portray life in the Carolinas from 1800-1865. The site features a Federal style house, built in 1800, a detached kitchen, a farm with animals, a slave cabin, a log cabin, and several other outbuildings.
We visited during their annual “100 Years of Christmas” event. The house and its outbuildings are decorated for the holidays, and costumed interpreters are on hand to demonstrate historical crafts. Each building is decorated in a holiday style specific to a different time period in history, including the Colonial times, the Victorian Era, and the Regency Period, and rooms contains placards explaining period holiday traditions. Re-enactors from local Colonial militias and civil war companies are encamped onsite in order to show you what life was like for a soldier or camp follower. You’ll also be able to peruse the booths of local craftspeople and vendors. I particularly enjoyed the wares from a Scottish trader from who I purchased some scones and decorations for my UK-themed Christmas tree.
Latta Planation is located at 5225 Sample Rd, in Huntersville, North Carolina. Click on the map below for specific driving directions.
Stepping onto the grounds of Canterbury Shaker Village, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the area and the sense of peace and relaxation that the site exudes. By the time that I left, several hours later, I was amazed by the generosity, ingenuity, and spirituality of the Shakers. A trip to Canterbury Shaker Village is, by far, one of the best things to do in the state of New Hampshire.
Canterbury was the largest community of Shakers in New Hampshire. There’s so much to see in the village that every member of your family will find something intriguing to explore. The Shakers embraced and invented new technologies, and in your visit, you’ll see their steam engine-powered washing machines, a generator that powered some of the first electric lights in New Hampshire, and state-of-the-art innovations, of the time, including early telephones, radios, and TVs. You’ll see modern artisans recreating Shaker crafts including the making of period clothing, furniture, oval boxes, and brooms. Children will love exploring the old schoolhouse, running through gardens, and interacting with the farm animals.
When visiting Canterbury Shaker Village, I recommend taking one of the guided tours to get an introduction to the Shakers and an overview of daily life in the community. On the tour, you’ll see several building which aren’t open to the public (including the laundry whose many technological inventions made it one of the most interesting places in the village), and you’ll learn about Shaker beliefs and practices such as gender and racial equality, suffrage for women, communal living, pacifism, and support for the poor, orphans, and victims of natural disasters. After the tour, you’re free to explore the buildings on your own. Visit the Dwelling House to ring the Paul Revere bell, marvel over the Shaker’s built-in furniture and incredible organizational system, check out the kitchen and bedrooms, and learn about how the Shakers even put on concerts and plays for the community! Here are some other sites not to miss:
the recreated syrup shop, where the Shakers made cooking and medicinal syrups, canned goods, and jams and jellies
the Sisters’ Shop, where you can see staff making Shaker clothing and textiles
the Brethrens’ Shop, in which artisans show how the Shakers created furniture and wooden boxes
the Carpenters’ Shop, featuring broom and printmaking demonstrations
Consider ending your day with a visit to museum store where you can purchase artisan-created Shaker arts and crafts as gifts for others or mementos of your visit. If you get hungry during your time in the village, food is available from the Shaker Box Lunch, which is run by the local food co-operative and features many ingredients grown on-site. The bookies and baked goods were especially tasty!
I’ve been to many historical and religious sites, but I was, frankly, blow away by what I learned and saw at Canterbury Shaker Village. The staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and they show pure joy in sharing their enthusiasm for the Shaker way of life. Ask questions about what they’re doing and what you’re seeing so that you, too, will be amazed by all that the Shakers were able to achieve and create. To make the most out of your visit, check out their website for information about daily tours and special seasonal events. Canterbury Shaker Village is the best thing to do in Concord, New Hampshire, if not the entire state!
Canterbury Shaker Village is located at 288 Shaker Rd. in Canterbury, NH. Click the map below for directions
If you’re visiting Tampa, Florida, then you’re probably enjoying a vacation of fun in the sun. Did you know that people have been visiting Tampa for its wonderful tropical weather since the late 1800’s? You can see how these rich “high rollers” of the past spent their vacation days at a former opulent Victorian hotel that’s now a museum. And it’s right in the heart of downtown Tampa! Visit the Henry Plant Museum.
From 1891 to 1932, Henry B. Plant, a railroad and steamship millionaire, operated a grand hotel for the rich in the new, rustic resort known as Tampa. Today, the former hotel is the Henry Plant Museum, where you can explore what it was like to stay at this sumptuous, state-of-the-art resort. Henry Plant spent $2.5 million dollars to build the hotel and then traveled through Europe to collect $500,000 worth of furniture, antiques, and collectables to decorate it. His hotel was the lap of luxury and featured splendors that were almost unknown at the time, including electricity, telephones, and private bathrooms in each room! Visit a recreated suite and learn how guests were pampered and waited on hand and foot. Wander through room after room of fascinating artifacts and displays about how visitors were lavishly entertained (by celebrities!), wined, and dined. If you love Downtown Abbey, you’ll be in heaven at this hotel museum!
When you’re finished exploring the Henry Plant Museum, you can wander through the remainder of the hotel, which is now used by the University of Tampa as an administration building. Don’t forget to take pictures of the glistening, metallic minarets and sweeping, exquisitely carved verandas. Sit for a spell, close your eyes, and imagine yourself as a Victorian gentleman or lady enjoying your tropical vacation. Now that’s the life!
Getting hungry? How about some Cuban food? La Bamba is a Cuban restaurant frequented and beloved by locals. The food is as good and plentiful as eating in your abuela’s kitchen. Don’t be put off by the exterior, which makes the restaurant appear to be an office building. Grab a tray, get in line at the cafeteria-style kitchen, and allow the staff to explain to you the variety of meals available that day. Your taste buds will be as happy as your wallet, because meals are only $7.00! Just be aware that his hidden gem is only open for breakfast and lunch (closing at 3:00), so fit it into your plans accordingly. You won’t be disappointed!
If you’d like to make a day out of your time in Tampa, I suggest visiting the 56-acre Lowry Park Zoo. In 2009, it was voted as the #1 family zoo in America by the readers of USA Today! The zoo is divided into “park areas” including, but not limited to, Wallaroo Station, Safari Africa, primate world, Asian gardens, and the Florida wildlife center. There are also rides for kids and animal shows. My favorite part is feeding the giraffes!
The Henry B. Plant Museum is located at 401 West Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, Florida. It’s located on the grounds of the University of Tampa. Free parking is available in the adjacent admissions lot (ask for a parking pass inside the museum). Click on the map for directions.
La Bamba Restaurant is located at 4815 West Laurel Street in Tampa. Click on the map for directions.
The Lowry Park Zoo is located at 1101 West Sligh Avenue in Tampa. Click on the map for directions.
If you can’t jet set across the pond to visit Europe, then set your compass north and travel to Quebec City instead. This historic provincial capital has the charm of a European city at a quarter of the cost. The French-speaking natives will make you feel like you’re a continent away, and the food will make you feel like you’re in heaven! Here are my top six destinations to add to your Québécois itinerary.
#6 Fallin’ for These Falls
Located just 15 minutes outside of Quebec City, Montmorency Falls are almost 100 feet (30 meters) higher than those at Niagara! The falls are located at the mouth of the Montmorency River where it breathtakingly drops over a cliff to empty into the St. Lawrence. You can climb a staircase up to the falls, but I would recommend taking the cable car instead. At the top, a suspension bridge offers access to both sides of the surrounding park and allows for some incredible views. We visited when the cable car was closed, but we still enjoyed amazing views. Before going, check the website for the hours of operation. Even if you can’t make the ascent in the cable car, seeing this natural wonder is definitely worth the short trip.
#5 One of the Best Meals of My Life
One morning, we were browsing through a gift shop in Quebec, and the friendly sales clerk asked where we were from. Hearing that we weren’t locals, she asked if we needed any advice about places of interest or restaurants. I’m always eager to hear from locals about the best places to eat. When you’re traveling, you want to dine where the locals do because the food will be better, and often cheaper, than at restaurants frequented by tourists. She raved about a restaurant located across the river that served farm to table food at reasonable prices. Need she say more?! We got in our rental car and made the 30 minute drive across the St. Lawrence River to the city of Levis, located directly opposite Quebec.
Au Grain de Folie Bistro (which roughly translates to “to the grain of madness” – how cute!) is a tiny restaurant that serves food with a huge flavor punch! The menu, which is written in chalk on the wall, changes with what is available at local farms. If you can’t speak French, don’t worry! The friendly and helpful wait staff will translate for you (as they did for us) and offer suggestions regarding courses and wines. The chef, who frequently visits with tables, is masterful and prepares food that is out of this world. We ordered several courses, and by the end of dinner, practically had to wheel ourselves out of there because we ate so much. I am not exaggerating when I stated in the title that it was one of the best meals of my life. If you’re in Quebec City and you have a car, make the short drive to this restaurant. Your taste buds will be glad that you did! As a bonus, you’ll even get a lovely view of Quebec City from the small park across the street.
#4 La Citadelle: Stormin’ the Fort & Changin’ the Guard
Quebec City is built high up on the promontory known as Cape Diamond for good reason; it needed to be protected from attack by the British and, later, those pesky Americans (he,he). The walls surrounding the Old City are the oldest in the Americas, north of Mexico, and are, in their own right, a UNESCO world heritage site. After the War of 1812, the British, who then ruled Canada, knew they needed to shore up the defenses of Quebec, and so they built a state-of-the-art fort, La Citadelle, which was completed in 1850. Today, La Citadelle is the largest fortress in North America, a functioning military installation, and a viceregal residence. The fascinating tour (available in French or English) takes you through over 300 years of the history of Quebec and introduces you to some of the traditions of the Royal 22nd Regiment, which garrisons the fort even today. For you royal watchers, you can also tour the residence of the Governor-General, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in Canada. Even better yet, you can see the Changing of the Guard daily at 10AM, from June 24 to Labor Day, right at La Citadelle. No need to go to Buckingham Palace to see royal soldiers in crimson uniforms and bearskin hats! If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of Batisse, a goat that is the royal mascot of the regiment. Now, that’s a photo that you’re not going to get anywhere else! Speaking of photo-ops, the ramparts of the fort provide spectacular views of Quebec City and the Chateau Frontenac. So bring your cameras for the urban and hircine views.
#3,2,1 A Shopping, History, and Food Tour of the Oldest Part of Quebec
While the Old City is beautiful, with its picturesque gateways and massive stone ramparts, it’s actually not the oldest part of Quebec. For that, you have to go to the Basse-Ville, or Lower City, and the most enjoyable way to get there is to take the funicular. Head up towards the Chateau Frontenac, and you’ll see signs for the funicular, which has been operating since 1879 (don’t worry, it was renovated in 2004!). The funicular is a type of cliff railway that takes you from the upper city to the lower city. It’s a fun trip for adults and kids alike.
Stepping off the funicular, you’ve arrived in Quartier Petit Champlain. Named after the founder of the city, this charming neighborhood of shops and restaurants is the oldest commercial district in North America. Spend some time exploring the boutiques. One of my favorites is Sculpteur Flamand, at 49 Rue du Petit-Champlain, the only shop in the city that specializes in wood sculptures. Everything there is made by hand, and you can often see the artisans at work. On our last visit, we bought several gifts, and a little something for ourselves as a souvenir of the city. If you’re hungry, and it’s breakfast time, I recommend La Cochon Dingue at 46 Boulevard Champlain.
Once you’ve shopped to your heart’s content, you should be ready for a little history. Take the short walk (see the map below) to the historic center of Quebec, the Place Royale. It was there in 1608, that Samuel de Champlain founded the city of Quebec as the capital of New France. You can learn all about the early history of the city in the Musee de la Place Royale (and dress up in period costume like I did!), visit the oldest stone church in North America (Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, 1688) and take some lovely photos of the picture perfect square.
The last stop on our tour of the Lower City is the Marche du Vieux-Port, or Market of the Old Port. At the market you can find a huge variety of local food products, from maple syrup to fresh produce to fine wines. Snack your way through the market, do some shopping for gifts, or pack up a French picnic lunch. A “must-eat” is a sausage from So-Cho: Le Saucissier, which makes a terrific quick lunch or tasty snack. Also, keep your eyes open for a chocolate stand that sells homemade marshmallows. They’re magnifique!
Montmorency Falls is located at 5300 Boulevard Sainte-Anne in Quebec. Click on the map for directions.
Au Grain de Folie Bistro is located at 2286 Chemin du Fleuve in Levis. Click on the map for directions.
The Quartier Petit Champlain is located at 61 Rue du Petit Champlain in Quebec. The best way to get there is to take the funicular, as described above.
The Place Royal is located at 27 Rue Notre Dame in Quebec. Click on the map for directions.
The Marche du Vieux-Port is located at 160 Quai Saint-André in Quebec. Click on the map for directions.