Have you heard of French Broad Chocolate? The Asheville, NC-based chocolate company gives tours of their factory complete with a chocolate tasting. And while you won’t see any Oompa Loompa’s on this tour, or float down a river of chocolate on your way to rooms in the factory, you will learn where cacao beans come from and see how French Broad Chocolate turns the beans into their delicious bars, bonbons, and sipping chocolate. We attended the Bean-to-Bar tour and we have everything you’ll want to know about this educational and delicious family activity.
Thanks to French Broad Chocolate Factory and Cafe for providing complimentary tickets so we could bring this review to our readers.
Have you ever panned for gold? Parts of Western NC are known for gems and gold mining and Lucky Strike in Marion, NC has both. We tried our hand at gold panning, and here’s how it went!
During our wonderful stay at Gold River, a glamping campground in Western North Carolina, only 90 minutes from Greenville, the kind owners recommended we go gold panning at Lucky Strike Gold and Gem Mine, just two miles down the road. I’ve done gem mining on a flume a couple of times, which is pretty fun, but it’s fast and not too hard. I thought gold panning would be the same. And did I think we would find gold? Absolutely not.
I was wrong on both accounts!
Lucky Strike Gem Mine & Campground
Lucky Strike is located on the Second Broad River, a shallow, bubbling creek that apparently is rich in gold and mineral deposits. The place is a campground that has tent sites, camper pads, and cabins. It used to be a mining operation but switched in the late 90s to open up more to the public and amateur prospectors.
The owner, Liz McCormick, is one of the nicest people I think I’ve ever met. The woman is a wealth of knowledge about gold panning and the local area. She was so patient in teaching my kids and I how to properly pan for gold and sift through the massive bucket of dirt that we got.
The Miner’s Diner
I love me a good diner and Lucky Strike has a small diner with prices that will have you believing that you stepped back to the 1950s to match. They have coffee and breakfast sandwiches, grits, burgers, fries, hashbrowns, and sweet tea. It was too early for lunch when we went so we ordered a couple of bacon and egg sandwiches on biscuits. They were delicious!
Liz told us the burgers are what customers come back for. I almost went back there for dinner just to try the burgers (at $3 each, why not, right?) but we were so wiped out that we stayed back at Gold River to relax. Next time.
Panning for Gold
I honestly was not thinking we would find any gold. I mean, didn’t that already happen like decades and decades ago? Well, there is some gold left for us!
First of all, panning for gold isn’t like gem mining. Gold flecks are a lot smaller than gems and precious stones so you can’t use those square pans with holes in them. You have to use concave discs that have ridges you use to create little sandy beds with the dirt. Then it is then sifted over with water and spun around a bit to separate any gold you may have from the sand. Liz explained this a lot better than I am.
There is definitely a method to figuring it out and it’s a slow process. I initially thought we would go through two 4-gallon buckets of dirt. We ended up getting one of them ($15) and more than two hours after we started panning for gold, we still had more than a third of the bucket left! I ended up giving the rest to a couple near us since we had to move on to another excursion. Between gold panning and eating at the diner, you could easily spend several hours here.
And we did find gold! When you do gold panning, you get a little suction thing to grab the gold and a small container to put it in so you can see your prize up close. It was so cool and my kids and I had such a blast doing it.
My kids, ages 11 and 8, really enjoyed it as well although my youngest seemed to be getting bored over an hour into it because she was having some trouble figuring out the whole panning technique. I think a lot of the interest will depend upon each individual kid.
Another cool thing about either choosing gem mining or gold panning is that you can do it rain or shine since the flumes are under a big, covered shelter.
Visiting Lucky Strike Gold & Gem Mine
Lucky Strike is open daily 8 am – 7 pm except for Christmas Day. They have other things related to panning there as well but I honestly have no idea what they mean: high banking, group digs, and dredging. I did see a lot of heavy machinery there and big tubes and hoses but I don’t know anything about this topic to even guess how they are used. My gold mining knowledge only extends to a couple of Discovery Channel shows.
Lucky Strike has restrooms and a little gift shop on site.
If you’re up in the area, I highly recommend checking out Lucky Strike for the sheer excitement of trying your luck panning for gold and of course, grabbing a burger while you’re at it.