By Vanessa Infanzon
In between North Carolina’s mountains and beaches is the heart of the state. It encompasses nine towns in Randolph County. It’s also home to Seagrove, the Handmade Pottery Capital of the United States, and the North Carolina Zoo, the world’s largest natural habitat zoological park. Spend the weekend discovering what makes the Heart of North Carolina beat.
Here are a few diversions to consider:
Start With Good Food
Asheboro’s downtown offers several choices for homemade meals and treats. The Table Farmhouse Bakery features a full menu with pastries and breads. Try the fried chicken or grilled pork chops at Magnolia 23. Be sure to ask for a glass of their homemade lemonade. Search for gifts and art at the Brightside Gallery while munching on locally made sweets and drinking Carriage House Tea.
Animals and Art
Walk off brunch at the North Carolina Zoo’s African or North American sections. Look for alligators, elephants and lions. Spy baby rhinos, chimpanzees, bobcats and more. Time your visit with a feeding or schedule a behind-the-scenes tour.
Stop for an overview of Seagrove’s pottery at the North Carolina Pottery Center first. Take a self-guided tour of the permanent and rotating exhibits. You’ll learn about the history of pottery and its evolution from making utilitarian plates and cups to creating face jugs and using techniques for more complex designs.
“Mother Nature and geology have been very kind to this area,” says executive director of the North Carolina Pottery Center Lindsey Lambert, “and allowed for the creation of a lot of clays, a lot of very good clays.”
More than 80 potters reside throughout Seagrove – most with studios adjacent to their homes. Choose three to five to visit. However, call to make sure they’re open before stopping by. Make sure to ask the artist’s history. Some are seventh and eighth generation potters with interesting stories.
If you want a hands-on experience, sign up for a class with Thomas Pottery. Make a tray, bowl or wall vase with the help of Bobbie Thomas. She walks you through the process, demonstrating easy techniques that will impress family and friends.
More Good Food
Seagrove Family Restaurant treats guests to home cooking. Look for meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chopped BBQ, liver and onions, baked ham and ribeye on the menu. Burgers, sandwiches, salads and wraps are perfect for a picnic. Just pack them in a cooler for lunch. Don’t forget to order the pig pickin’ cake, a traditional Southern dessert. It’s made with vanilla cake and pieces of mandarin oranges and fruit juice for added moisture. It’s topped with a whipped icing.
The Heart of North Carolina’s event calendar stays full. Meet six Seagrove potters at tea parties on Mar. 15 and Aug. 15, 2020. Browse, shop and sip flavorful teas from Carriage House Tea in the potters’ studios and galleries. Head to Asheboro’s annual Fall Festival in early October for live music, children’s activities and arts and crafts. Take a ghost tour through the town on a Tuesday in October with the Asheboro Cultural and Recreation Services Office. Finish your holiday shopping at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters and Seagrove Pottery Festival the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Plan and Stay
AAA Travel Agents will help you plan your getaway to the Heart of North Carolina. Many attractions and hotels offer discounts to AAA Members. The Fairfield Inn & Suites and the Comfort Inn in Asheboro offer discounts to AAA Members. These hotels are conveniently situated for easy day trips to Seagrove, the zoo and other sites.
For a bed and breakfast experience, reserve a room at the mayor’s house. Seagrove’s Mayor David Fernandez and his wife, Alexa Modderno own Seagrove Stoneware Inn & Pottery.
“When you stay here, you’re welcome to come into the studio for a tour,” says Modderno. “You can turn on the wheel and get an introduction to pottery making.”