Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Visiting Mystery Hill in North Carolina with Kids

There are many unique stops to make while driving along the world-famous Blue Ridge Parkway, and Mystery Hill in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, is one of them. For my kids, ages 11 and 9, it was certainly the most fun and interesting stop, despite all the beautiful vistas and hikes along the 469 miles of the BRP! A unique attraction that offers historical exhibits, science-based activities, and some good old-fashioned mystery, Mystery Hill is a mind-bending, educational, and family-friendly place to spend a few hours.

The attraction's biggest draw is its gravity vortex room, where you can barely stand upright, a dropped ball will roll up a hill, and poured water will flow upwards. It's hard to explain just how trippy this room is until you're there, your body at a 45 degree angle from the ground, just to stay standing up. My son kept losing his balance and crashing into the wall. My daughter tried swinging on a swing that won't move forward normally. It's really disconcerting  and totally cool.

After you've had your fill of the gravitational anomaly, you exit into an area of fun optical illusions, puzzles, and riddles. I don't want to give away too much, but my daughter's favorite thing was the shadow maker, which holds onto your shadow for a few seconds after you cast it. My son loved the person-size bubble maker. I loved that they were enjoying themselves and learning a thing or two while they were at it.

Also on the premises is an immense collection of arrowheads. You can't imagine what more than 250,000 arrowheads looks like until you're standing in this small museum dedicated to the Native Americans in the region and Appalachian history. The collection is staggering.

The last thing we did while at Mystery Hill was participate in tomahawk throwing. There was a guide there, showing us what to do, which was a relief because I was feeling extremely nervous about letting my kids pick up tomahawks, much less throw them! He was a very patient and encouraging teacher, and no one ended in the hospital, so I considered the lesson a success.

There were many other things to do at Mystery Hill that we didn't have time for, such as mining for gems, doing an old-timey photo shoot, and checking out the historical artifacts in a restored turn-of-the-century home. But we'll be back if we're ever in the area again. It's really a lot of fun for everyone, and something completely different from all the hiking we were doing!

I will also add that we visited Mystery Hill during the second phase of North Carolina's reopening, post-pandemic, and the attendants were exceptionally conscientious of cleanliness. Everyone was required to wear masks and social distance, and hand sanitizer was given out at several of the exhibits. We felt very comfortable spending a couple of hours there, despite the difficult circumstances.