BY MEGAN TAYLOR
Every day on my way to work, I pass by the old Shell Gas Station on Sprague and Peachtree Streets in Winston-Salem. This little hidden treasure has a longstanding history in the Triad. First built in 1930, the station was created to bring awareness of Quality Oil Co. in the Triad. In 1976, the building was put on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, you might be wondering what makes this Shell Gas Station so special; after all, they are all over town. The answer – the station is in the shape of a giant scallop shell. Also, it is the only one of at least eight left in Winston-Salem. After researching this unique, but unknown gem in my city, I began to wonder what other sites in North Carolina I was missing. I bet many people don’t know about these hidden treasures that everyone in the Tarheel State should visit at least once.
The Land of Oz Theme Park in Beech Mountain
This attraction might not be as hidden as some of the others, as it has been gaining in popularity the last few years. The Land of Oz theme park first opened in 1970 and was built as a complement to the Beech Mountain Resort. Unfortunately, the park closed down in 1980 after a fire. However, the Land of Oz is currently a private property and opens a few times a year for events, including the Autumn of Oz, Journey with Dorothy, Dining with Dorothy, and Showcase Saturdays. Visitors can take a walk down the Yellow Brick Road, meet Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Lion, and the Scarecrow, the Wizard of Oz, and other characters, and experience sites from the classic film. For more information about the Land of Oz, visit: landofoznc.com/.
Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Bird Island
This hidden NC treasure sounds like something right out of a Nicholas Sparks’ book. For over 30 years, a communal mailbox, known as the Kindred Spirit, has sat in the sand on Bird Island, which is a short distance from Sunset Beach. Local residents and volunteers run this site, which includes journals and pens inside the mailbox. The journals hold messages, secrets, letters, and more for visitors and residents who travel to the Kindred Spirit mailbox. According to an article from Our State magazine in 2015, it is estimated more than 100,000 people have visited the site. So, the next time you make a trip to the coast, make sure you stop by the Kindred Spirit mailbox and leave a note. You can learn more about this hidden treasure at thekindredspirit.net/.
The Musical Parking Garage in Charlotte
We can all admit parking garages aren’t our favorite things. Yet, add in a little music and the stress of a parking garage could be erased. The unusual 7th Street Parking Garage, also known as the “Touch My Building” in Charlotte, was designed by architect and sound artist Christopher Janney and includes nine-stories of transparent blue and purple rectangles, which are connected to 30-foot tall red fins. All guests have to do to get the party going is touch the fins, which then will light up and play music. The unique parking garage is part of the Janney’s “Urban Musical Instruments” series. For more information, visit: janneysound.com/project/touch-my-building-charlotte-nc/.
“Unto These Hills” at the Cherokee Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee
You may be familiar with the outdoor play, “Horn in the West,” which describes the life of frontiersman Daniel Boone and the settlers of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This drama is performed at the Daniel Boone Amphitheatre in Boone. After seeing this historic site, visitors can travel up the mountains just a little more to Cherokee and take part in another outdoor play, “Unto These Hills,” at the Cherokee Mountainside Theatre. Performed from June through August every year since its debut in 1950, “Unto These Hills” portrays the story of the Cherokees’ history from 1780 to the twenty-first century. Audiences will see the Native American’s hardships, triumphs, broken agreements, and more. According to the play’s website, the show is a “family-friendly production that is a “keep you on the edge of your seat” experience.” Learn more about this can’t miss show at visitcherokeenc.com/play/attractions/unto-these-hills-outdoor-drama/.
The list for the hidden treasures in North Carolina doesn’t stop with these four. Set aside time for a road trip through the state and visit some of these sites before they are gone.