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Asheboro: North Carolina Zoological Park

A few miles north of Seagrove on U.S. 220 is the town of Asheboro, and 6 miles southeast of Asheboro off U.S. 64 and U.S. 220 is the North Carolina Zoological Park, 4401 Zoo Pkwy. (tel. 800/488-0444; www.nczoo.org). The 300-acre Africa region and the 200-acre North America region are the first of seven continental regions planned for the 1,448-acre park, featuring more than 1,000 animals in natural habitats. In this still-developing world-class zoo, gorillas and 200 rare animals such as meerkats inhabit the African Pavilion. Lions, elephants, bears, bison, elk, alligators, chimpanzees, and many other animals dwell in spacious outdoor habitats. A 37-acre African Plains exhibit is the home of a dozen species of antelope, gazelle, and oryx. The R. J. Reynolds Forest Aviary displays 150 exotic birds flying free amid lush tropical trees and plants. There are picnic areas, restaurants, gift shops, and a tram ride. The zoo is open daily 9am to 5pm from April to October and 9am to 4pm November to March. The park is closed Christmas Day. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, $6 for children 2 to 12, and free for children 1 and under.

Seagrove: The Potteries

About an hour's drive to the northwest on U.S. 220 is the little town of Seagrove, which has been turning out quality pottery for more than 200 years. This region's red and gray clays were first used by settlers from Staffordshire, England; the first items produced were jugs for transporting whiskey. The same art is practiced today just as it was then. Clays are ground and mixed by machines turned by mules, simple designs are fashioned on kick wheels, and glazing is done in wood-burning kilns. Many of the potters work in or behind their homes, with only a small sign outside to identify their trade. If you have difficulty finding them, stop and ask; everybody does, so don't be shy. There are some sales rooms in town, but the real fun is seeing the pottery actually being made.

While you're here, visit Jugtown Pottery, a group of rustic, log-hewn buildings in a grove of pines, at 330 Jugtown Rd. (tel. 910/464-3266; www.jugtownware.com). The main potters here are owner Vernon Owens and his wife, Pam, both award-winning craftspeople. You'll find traditional jugs and candlesticks in wood-fired salt glaze and frog skin, among many other items. Friends of the North Carolina Pottery Center (tel. 336/873-8430 or 873-7887) is located at 233 East Ave. and offers 30-minute demonstrations between 11:30am and 2:30pm Tuesday to Saturday. This center displays examples of most of the potters' wares in the area and also serves as an information source, with guide maps available upon request. It's open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children, and free for children 11 and under. Guided tours are $3 per person, regardless of age.

Of some 40 potters operating in the Seagrove area, one especially has caught our fancy. At the Fish House and Blue Moon Gallery, 1387 Hwy. 705 S., Seagrove (tel. 336/879-3270; www.blue-moon-gallery.com), Brian and Georgia Knight's potter's wheel turns out delicate cutout candleholders, as well as a full line of more traditional bowls, vases, teapots, and casserole dishes. The shop is open January to March Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and April to December Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm. The gallery features the work of artists from all over the country.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.