A Weekend in Asheboro
Situated south of Greensboro and west of Raleigh, the Piedmont city of Asheboro tucks away treasures worth finding. Visit zoo animals in their natural habitats, discover the pottery-making heritage in the region, learn about some history at the North Carolina Aviation Museum and Hall of Fame and then do some flying of your own through the North Carolina outdoors at Richland Creek Zip Lines.
The North Carolina Zoological Park, one of only two state-owned zoos in the country, gives Asheboro its best-known attraction and fourth-largest tourist attraction in the state by showcasing the animals of North America and Africa. The first zoo in the United States to embrace the natural habitat philosophy, it strives to recreate a natural living environment for its animals. It’s also the largest land area zoo in the world with 2,200 acres, 500 of them developed.
SEE MORE: Hi Honey: North Carolina Zoo Bee Exhibit
“We are a very large park,” says Rod Hackney of the zoo’s marketing department. He notes that while the average city zoo elsewhere includes about 55 acres including parking lots, the North Carolina Zoo has one exhibit alone that spans 40 acres. Bring your walking shoes, dress appropriately for the weather and plan to make a day of it, he says. The walking paths on the property total five miles, which will take you around the world to see everything from African lions, to swamp alligators, polar bears and birds of the Sonora Desert.
For a different type of bird watching, head to the North Carolina Aviation Museum and Hall of Fame. Open since the early 1990s, this Asheboro museum offers guided tours for those who call ahead. Drop-ins can browse the hangers to see and read about everything from Twin Beech aircraft to Swiss war planes and home-built planes. Special events at the museum, such as fly-ins and USO-style dances in the hangers, as well as pancake breakfasts to honor veterans, are open to the public (sometimes for a small fee depending on the event).
History lovers with a proclivity toward arts and crafts can check out the region’s long tradition in pottery making. While Seagrove, about 15 miles from Asheboro, is best known for pottery, the craft has deep roots throughout the area.
Bruce and Janice Latham of Latham’s Pottery, for example, opened their shop in 1992, but Janice says the tradition of making pottery goes back to the 1800s on her husband’s side of the family.
The Lathams taught themselves the craft from the family tradition. Their shop features hand-turned coffee mugs, pie plates, vases and dinnerware, as well as Bruce trademark baskets with handcrafted flowers as decoration. You can also browse through the many other pottery shops in the Seagrove area, which has been called the largest community of potters with the longest continual history of pottery making in the United States. (The Seagrove Area Potters Association lists more than 40 shops on its website at discoverseagrove.com.)
SEE MORE: Watch a video on Seagrove Pottery
About 10 miles north of Asheboro, the Richard Petty Museum tells the story of the racing legend who took home 200 career wins and seven NASCAR championships. The museum, which includes Petty’s personal collections, as well as history on racing, recently returned to its original headquarters and Petty’s birthplace in Level Cross, where it first opened in 1988.
Finally, to experience the natural beauty of this region, head south to the Uwharrie National Forest, the Piedmont region’s only national forest, which covers about 50,000 acres.
Though the Uwharrie National Forest stretches farther south than Asheboro, hikers have an Asheboro man to thank for the Uwharrie National Recreation Trail. Joe Moffit, an old-time trapper’s son, blazed the trail more than 25 years ago. The Scoutmaster started the project in 1972 to help Boy Scouts earn an Eagle rank.
If you’d prefer to soar through the forest rather than hike it – and stay closer to town – choose the Richland Creek Zip Line Canopy Tour in Asheboro. You’ll glide across 14 different cables with the highlight at Mendenhall Falls along the company’s namesake Richland Creek.
For additional information about Asheboro, visit the Heart of North Carolina Visitors Bureau at heartofnorthcarolina.com.
Know Before You Go
North Carolina Zoo
4401 Zoo Parkway
Asheboro, NC 27205
Richland Creek Zip Line Canopy
2728 Fairview Farm Road
Asheboro, NC 27205
Uwaharrie National Forest
Seagrove Area Potters Association
North Carolina Aviation Museum
Richard Petty Museum
311 Branson Mill Road
Level Cross, NC 27317
– Jennifer Justus