This year, give them North Carolina

Published December 9, 2021

By Tom Campbell

 Face it. Everyone has someone on their list for whom it is difficult to shop. What do they like? Is it the right color or size? Do they already have it? Gift cards seem so impersonal and how do you know they eat or shop there anyway? More likely than not you wander around the mall (or more recently the Internet), hoping the heavens will open and you’ll get an inspiration. You have to get them a gift, so in desperation you choose something, fully realizing that the day after Christmas has become the second biggest retail day of the year. If they don’t like it, they can return it!
For years our adult children complained about how hard it was to shop for us. Whether they collaborated or not they each came up with the most wonderful idea. They gave us North Carolina. Not the whole state but a North Carolina experience. We once lived in Wilson, so our daughter and son-in-law gave us a trip back to visit the Whirl-a-gigs, the baseball museum, antique stores, ride around our old neighborhood and eat lunch at the always wonderful Dick’s Hot Dogs. Our son and his wife gave us a weekend visiting Yadkin Valley wineries that concluded in a three-hour concert featuring The Embers. And the very best part of these experiences was that our children shared them with us. What could be more magical than happy times with your children? We begged them to repeat the idea again this year.
What other state has so many opportunities for rich experiences? There’s no place more wonderful than Biltmore at Christmas, but the Candlelight Christmas Tour at Tryon Palace or the lights at McAdenville, aka Christmas Town USA, come close. It doesn’t have to be Christmastime to enjoy a tour of the USS North Carolina and stroll through the waterfront in Wilmington. We love the front porch music festival at picturesque Oriental but Wilkesboro’s Merlefest or Raleigh’s Bluegrass festival are hard to beat. If you love beach music Atlantic Beach’s annual event attracts shaggers from all around. An evening at the North Carolina Symphony or Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol are also delightful experiences. There are concerts, plays and interesting sites in just about every community.
Did you know we have 35 museums in our state? Their subject matter ranges from baseball, cats, trains, motorsports, fossils, the US Army Airborne, country doctors, Ava Gardner and our state museums of Natural Sciences, Art, and History? And no state has such wonderful state parks as does North Carolina. We’re not known as the Variety Vacationland for nothing.
Some good friends comb through the pages of Our State magazine each month to learn about events and interesting places they might choose to visit, but there are several books available on day trips, camping, hiking trails and historic sites. Our daughter enriched our experiences by giving us an old-fashioned picnic basket, complete with plates, glasses, silverware and a Thermos. We’re thinking about a ride on the Piedmont or Carolinian with a stop for a picnic lunch.
There’s nothing wrong with buying presents, especially if you know something the recipient wants. But if you want to give someone something in which they will know that you really thought specifically about them, let me suggest you give them a North Carolina experience this year…..and go with them if you can. I promise they will look back on the experience –and you - with fondness for many years.