Last week, I could feel Labor Day weekend creeping up on me, signaling the end of Summer travel season. I knew I needed to squeeze in one more NC Summer day-cation. This time I wanted to go back to where I lived upon first moving to North Carolina some twenty odd years ago. Earlier this year, I paid a brief visit to downtown Greensboro (when attending Fire in the Triad in May), and was surprised to find so much had changed in ten short years. Then I heard on the news that SciQuarium had opened at the Greensboro Science Center recently. That news was all the impetus I needed to make a mid-week day trip back to Greensboro.
First, the science center is more than just North Carolina’s only inland aquarium (though it’s really cool all by itself). There is a mini zoo, with cute mammal faces…
…and a reptile or three (including a gator who preferred his picture not be taken. I obliged). There’s also a science museum filled with natural history and environmentally focused exhibits… and a big dinosaur that roars at passers by. And there is the SciQuarium, which was the hub of activity.
Kids were having a ball, watching penguins being fed, looking at sharks swimming by, dipping their fingers in the harbor lagoon to gently touch passing rays. Parents seemed to be enjoying the activity too. The Science Center has plenty of features that will keep the family entertained for hours and there’s an onsite Fresh Market Cafe when everyone gets hungry.
I was getting hungry too, but my agenda included a trip to downtown Greensboro (just a little more than 4 miles from the science center). I had tacos on my mind. 🙂 I happened upon a noon music performance at City Center Park… and there happened to be a taco food truck near by. But I kept walking along S. Elm Street towards my lunch destination, just beyond the alley water feature…
…Crafted, where the sign out front points one direction towards “real life” and another towards “Beer, tacos and fun”. I know which way I wanted to go!
I love the interior of Crafted, an eclectic mix of contemporary and rustic with warm and bright colors, creating a vibrant atmosphere. When you enter the restaurant, you walk a long, narrow hall towards the seating area, passing the Plexiglas half-wall kitchen where cooks and chefs are busy preparing dishes. The lunch menu had a lot of tempting options and two tacos are standard with any order. But don’t feel obligated to have two of the same tacos. I mixed mine up and chose one “Hoodie” (falafel with spicy pickled cucumbers and a house sauce) and one “Messenger” (chorizo, scrambled eggs, pico, potatoes, avocado and crumbled queso). The menu is as eclectic as the decor, and just as delightful. I left Crafted very happy (and wishing they’d open a Durham location).
Feeling the need to walk off a few of the lunch calories, I continued exploring along S. Elm Street, stopping in local shops Just Be (where they feature products made in the US or fair trade items) and Civic Threads. Natty Greene’s Brew Pub can be found on S. Elm Street too, in case you need a local brew to quench your thirst. And if you’re interested in a bite of something sweet, walk down the alley to Loaf (no affiliation with the Loaf we know and love in Durham).
I crossed the railroad tracks just beyond Natty Greene’s and found myself in the hub of the downtown Greensboro arts district at Elsewhere.
My friend (and the director) with Triangle ArtWorks had clued me into Elsewhere but I had no idea I was going to fall head over heels for this collaborative, collective “play space” for artists and the community. Do you remember the feeling you had the first time you walked into a toy store? All the shelves filled, from floor to ceiling, with boxes of dolls, games and play things you couldn’t wait to get your hands on… Exactly how I felt walking into Elsewhere. I must have walked around the first floor with my mouth agape, in blissful wonderment for thirty minutes.
It’s challenging to describe in words all that you see in Elsewhere. Some collection or installation occupies nearly every square inch of wall space. Yet, it doesn’t feel cluttered. There is organization and structure underneath a surface of chaos. You need to go see it yourself, and soon. In November, they will close for restorations and won’t reopen until Spring 2014.
I ran short on time this visit, but next time I’ll be sure to include the International Civil Rights Center & Museum on my itinerary. It feels especially important these days to honor past sacrifices and to understand the struggle continues still.
If you’re feeling that almost-end-of-Summer itch to get away too, but don’t want to fight Labor Day weekend beach crowds, I recommend heading west on 40 to Greensboro for an NC day-cation. You’ll have a ball!