Asheboro’s landscape of lush rolling hills inspired us to see some attractions outside of the zoo on our second day. To begin our day, we made our way to the Uwharrie National Forest which is the piedmont’s only federally-designated wilderness area. The forest spans over 5000 acres and features hiking trails throughout. The kids enjoyed spending a little time running along the trails, playing in a stream and observing some woodland creatures in their natural habitat.
A short ride from the entrance to the forest is the Pisgah Covered Bridge, one of NC’s two remaining historic covered bridges. I was excited to see this structure and learn about a bit about its history. The bridge was built in 1911 at the cost of 40 dollars. It was washed away by a flood on August 9, 2003, but was rebuilt the next year using about 90 percent of the materials salvaged from the original structure. Because of its rich history, the bridge was designated a historical landmark in 2010. Not only is this structure interesting to look at and walk around, it is also a great place to take photos!
After our morning in the forest, we drove back into town for lunch at a wonderful restaurant called Something Different. The restaurant is located in a strip mall on Zoo Parkway so you could easily pass by and never notice it was there. However, when we entered the crowded restaurant, you could tell that the delicious fare was no secret to Asheboro residents. Serving a wide variety of hot dishes, salads and sandwiches, the restaurant had a bit of something for everyone. I had the special of the day which was chicken pastry and it was very tasty!
With our tummies full, we were ready to head back to the NC Zoo to visit the animals of Africa. Upon entering the park, our first stop was the Forest Edge, home to zebras, giraffes and ostriches. This area also includes Acacia Station which is a giraffe feeding station (open April-October from 10 AM-2 PM). There is an additional charge of $2 to enter this station but it is worth the price! Hand-feeding a giraffe is a truly amazing experience as it puts you face to face with these exceptional creatures.
Watani Grassland Reserve, our next stop, is home to 7 elephants, 7 rhinoceroses, 8 species of antelope and 2 species of large birds. The elephants were very close to the observation areas so we got a good view of them hanging out near the watering hole. As we traveled to different viewing areas, we were able to see the rhinos and antelope in the distance. Next time we will bring binoculars for a better view since the habitat is so large!
Lemur Island was a big hit with the kids since they are familiar with these creatures from the movie Madagascar. Right next door in the half-acre Forest Glade exhibit we got to observe three lowland gorillas which are an endangered species.
The African Pavillion was next on the agenda. This facility has an outdoor exhibit that is home to Hamadryas baboons which you can see as you approach the building. The interior of the building currently contains tropical plants native to Africa. The exhibit is slated to be replaced with a new exhibit focusing on Africa’s aquatic ecosystems.
The next structure we visited is one of my favorites, the Forest Aviary. Before entering the aviary, we checked out the flamingos at the entrance. My daughter loved these big, pink birds! Inside, there are more than 3000 tropical plants and 35 species of exotic bird. It is a bird-watcher’s paradise and a great place to sit on a bench and enjoy nature’s splendor.
Upon leaving the beautiful aviary, we headed to the Kitera Forest exhibit, home to a troop of 13 chimpanzees. This distinctive exhibit features overlooks that allow visitors to watch the chimps climb and play alongside an enclosure with many educational displays including some very interesting video presentations.
The final animal exhibits we visited were the lions and red river hogs. The pair of lions was basking in the sun in their habitat, while the red river hogs were quite active in theirs. The kids found these “big pigs” amusing!
We ended our day at the zoo with a ride on the endangered species carousel and a viewing of the 5 minute 4-D movie about dinosaurs. The carousel is great for all ages, but the movie was a bit intense for children under 5.
Our amazing day concluded with a meal at Bistro Forty Two and dessert at De’lishi Frozen Yogurt Bar. Then it was back to the Hampton Inn for a swim in the indoor pool and a good night’s rest!
If you are interested in taking a trip to Asheboro, please visit www.heartofnorthcarolina.com for more information.