Right on Track

All Aboard for Summer Adventures via Amtrak

Cary Amtrack Station
Cary Amtrack Station
Bechtler Museum, Charlotte
Bechtler Museum, Charlotte
Greensboro Science Center
Greensboro Science Center
Greensboro Science Center
Greensboro Science Center
Antique Market Place, Greensboro
Antique Market Place, Greensboro
Penguin VIP Experience, Greensboro Science Center
Penguin VIP Experience, Greensboro Science Center
Nascar Hall of Fame, Charlotte
Nascar Hall of Fame, Charlotte
Nascar Hall of Fame, Charlotte
Nascar Hall of Fame, Charlotte
Mint Museum Uptown, Charlotte
Mint Museum Uptown, Charlotte
Mint Museum Uptown, Charlotte
Mint Museum Uptown, Charlotte

One of the best parts of community journalism is exploring the state to confidently highlight the standout attractions within the Triangle and across North Carolina. Earlier this year, the team from Cary Magazine (Main & Broad’s sister publication) punched their tickets on Amtrak’s Piedmont Regional line to craft an itinerary of family fun, art exploration, and NASCAR know-how.

Come along with the team as they venture from Cary to Greensboro and Charlotte.

As told by Dena Daw, staff writer.

All Aboard to Greensboro

The early bird gets the worm at the Cary Amtrak station, which is quiet and mostly empty for a 7 a.m. Wednesday departure for Greensboro. A quick and seamless boarding process helps the train depart on schedule, with quick stops in Durham and Burlington before reaching our first destination to explore.

More to Explore Greensboro:

FOOD & DRINK: The Sage Mule, Stamey’s Barbecue, Pig Pounder Brewery, Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing

NATURE: Bog Garden at Benjamin Park, Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden, Gateway Gardens, Greensboro Arboretum

ARTS & CULTURE: Elsewhere Living Art Museum, International Civil Rights Center and Museum, Greensboro History Museum, The Carolina Theater

FAMILY FUN: Wet’n Wild Emerald Pointe Water Park

After breakfast at The Sage Mule, a locally owned gem that has been serving up all-day breakfast and lunch since 2019 (note the amazing corned beef hash enjoyed by three out of four staff members), we headed to the Greensboro Science Center (GSC). Home to 2,852 individual animals, GSC is North Carolina’s only dually accredited AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and AAM (American Alliance of Museums) science attraction, an honor just 14 attractions in the nation can claim.

“We have lots to do, like exploring our aquarium, museum, and zoo. Guests can also check out our high ropes course, SKYWILD, soar over Country Park on our FLYWAY zipline, and take a ride on the Rotary Club of Greensboro Carousel,” says PR & Digital Marketing Coordinator Bekah Robinson. “I’d highly recommend catching a morning or afternoon penguin talk, a Shark Reef dive show, and Revolution Ridge, our zoo expansion, which opened in 2021, that includes an okapi, southern cassowaries,
and pygmy hippos!”

During our visit, we splurged on two VIP Experiences, private animal encounters that allow guests up-close and personal interactions with the animals. These customizable experiences are available to all visitors at the zoo, with prices starting at $125 per person for a 45- to 90-minute experience, and can include meeting a keeper, observing training, or assisting with feeding.

Cat House VIP Experience, Greensboro Science Center

The Cat House VIP Experience introduced us to four species of small cats: fishing cats, servals, a sand cat, and a black-footed cat. Despite their appearance as adorable cuddle buddies, “These guys do not make good pets,” says Hankins. “I know they’re in captivity and they seem nice and chill and pretty and sweet, but they are still wild animals with wild behaviors and wild tendencies.”

Penguins are one of GSC’s most beloved attractions, and the center offers multiple opportunities for visitors to go behind the scenes with these engaging and social animals. Penguins Newt and Raven joined our team for a Penguin Encounter, a private 45-minute hands-on and educational interaction. The Penguin Feeding Experience is also popular with visitors, who can go inside the African Penguin habitat and feed the animals their afternoon meal.

Ample fun at the GSC also includes the OmniSphere Theater shows, similar to an IMAX, the Kiwanisaurus Treehouse Adventure, science-focused museum exhibits, aquarium tanks, and more.



Another unique Greensboro attraction draws shopping and antiques enthusiasts — the Antique Market Place, a 45,000-squarefoot mecca of fine antiques and collectibles, with over 150 dealers of Civil War relics, glassware, coins, furniture, Native artifacts, and much more. Serious antiquers won’t want to miss this treasure trove of relics, enough to spend all day exploring every nook and cranny of the vintage paradise.

“We get people from all over, because you can see our sign from the highway,” said Lori Gray, a showroom designer and seller at the market. “I’m glad to share the enthusiasm and the love, because I think our young people need an education on how to mix the modern and the old.”


All Aboard to Charlotte

Hop back on the Amtrak line for a second leg to Charlotte, a two-hour trip from Greensboro. Once there, much of the city is accessible by public transportation options such as the LYNX Blue Line Light Rail or the Charlotte Area Transit System.

More to Explore Charlotte:

DINING/SHOPPING: Camp North End, a 2-minute walk from the light rail station at Graham St. & Keswick Ave.; The Market at 7th Street, an urban food hall located at 7th Street Station; Merchant & Trade rooftop bar

NATURE/ADVENTURE: US National Whitewater Center, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Crowders Mountain State Park

ARTS/CULTURE: Levine Center for the Arts, Public Art Walking Tour

FAMILY FUN: Carowinds, Discovery Place

Die-hard fans and NASCAR newbies should both consider a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I know next to nothing about NASCAR, but this place was a blast.

“We have immersive, interactive, hands-on experiences; a 278-seat state-of-the-art theater that provides an exciting overview of NASCAR’s 74-year history; and historical artifacts and exhibits that tell the authentic story of NASCAR’s legends, evolving history, celebrated heritage, and family-oriented traditions,” says Executive Director Winston Kelley.

This facility boasts nearly 50 different interactive experiences and kiosks, the realistic racing simulators and pit crew challenge among the most popular.

“The NASCAR Hall of Fame is truly a one-of-a-kind attraction that is authentically North Carolina, where roughly 80% of NASCAR’s national series teams are based,” says Kelley. “Guests from all levels of knowledge and interest in NASCAR consistently reaffirm we are meeting our objective of having something for everyone.”

Hall of Fame visitors can also enjoy the High Octane Theater show, which details NASCAR’s history, the Hall of Honor, and various exhibits highlighting the vehicles, people and moments in racing’s storied history.



Arts enthusiasts won’t want to miss Uptown Charlotte’s double-header of art museums, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and Mint Museum Uptown, across the street from each other and easily accessible by Charlotte’s light rail. The Bechtler showcases mainly midcentury modern works by European, American, and British artists.

Amtrak Facts

  • No security, metal detectors, or check-in needed.
  • Tickets are checked as you board or as the train is in progress.
  • Six Piedmont trains offer daily service to Charlotte, Kannapolis, Salisbury, High Point, Greensboro, Burlington, Durham, Cary, and Raleigh.
  • Wi-Fi and electrical outlets available onboard.
  • Passengers are allowed two pieces of luggage, not including purses, laptops, strollers, etc. Bags may not weigh more than 50 pounds each. Checked baggage available at certain locations.
  • Average price from Cary: $11 to Greensboro, $27 to Charlotte.
  • Nearby Amtrak Stations: 211 N. Academy St., Cary, 320 W. Cabarrus St., Raleigh
  • Unlike a plane, the lights do not get turned off on night rides — so if you want to sleep, bring a sleep mask!

The Mint Museum Uptown features American and contemporary art, plus unique craft and design exhibits. At the Mint Museum Uptown, we were lucky enough to experience a guided tour by Clayton Sealey, the senior director of marketing and communications.

“There are five levels,” said Sealey. “On the fourth floor is a special exhibition space, as well as our permanent collection. The permanent collection goes from European art portraiture all the way into more contemporary art, like works from Salvador Dalí. It’s a fantastic place.”

The Mint Museum Uptown has plans for a breakthrough year in 2023, featuring major exhibitions like Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds, Feeding the Stone, Fashion Reimagined, The Vault, and dozens of community-based activities.

“Since Fashion Reimagined started, we’ve been getting a steady stream of people, and we’re about 25% up on historic highs for admissions. We broke a record last year, and we’re on pace to break another record this year. People are busting out, looking to create stuff in this city,” said Sealey.


Hail an Uber for a ride back to the Charlotte Amtrak station. We caught a 7 p.m. train that made it back to Cary in approximately four hours, including a 30-minute delay for rail work. Unlike driving a car, I spent the time pleasantly, working, eating, and shopping on Amazon.

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