8 of Our Favorite Local Summer Must-Dos 

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Consider this your summer bucket list. Our favorite must-dos range from water sports and glassblowing to axe throwing and thrift shopping.

summer must-dos – Jet Skiing
Todd Wilson slalom skis across Jordan Lake. Photo by John Michael Simpson


By Zenda Douglas

Todd Wilson, a lifelong water-skier, is out on Jordan Lake every chance he gets.

“I love slalom skiing,” Todd says of the method that uses a single narrow ski to ride behind a boat and carve across the wakes. “I would do that every day if I could.” But the newest trend on the water is wakesurfing. “[It’s] super addictive,” he says. “It doesn’t make you [as] tired, so you can do it all day – until you run out of gas.”

And Todd would know; during the week he works as a strategic account program manager with AMN Healthcare, but on Saturdays, he works at the Raleigh- based Inland Boat Company dealership.

Whether you’re a veteran of water sports like Todd or a novice to the hobby, Chatham County offers abundant opportunities to enjoy outdoor water recreation at Jordan Lake and Harris Lake.

Cher Wilson, Ava Jane Wilson and Todd Wilson. Photo by John Michael Simpson

Jordan Lake Recreational Area accounts for 4,558 acres of the man-made, freshwater lake’s total 14,000 acreage. Partake in an old-fashioned swim at one of three public beaches at the reservoir – Parker’s Creek, Seaforth and Ebenezer Church – or get more adventurous and take advantage of rowing, sailing, windsurfing, boating, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, water-skiing, Jet Skiing, wakeboarding, tubing and stand-up paddleboarding.

Easy entry to the water can be found at 11 boat ramps, including two 24- hour launch areas at the Ebenezer Church and Robeson Creek locations. All other launches are open during park hours and include New Hope Overlook, Seaforth and Vista Point. Boat ramps at Crosswinds, Poplar Point and Parker’s Creek are for campers only. Vista Point is the most popular area for sailing, while Ebenezer Church beckons windsurfers.

Park entrants pay a daily fee of $7 per car (seniors pay $5 per day) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Buses and vans are $20 per day. Per-car fees are also charged on weekends in April, May and September. Annual passes are available for $90.

Crosswinds Boating Center, the only marina on Jordan Lake, rents fishing and pontoon boats, kayaks and paddleboards. Additional amenities at the center include a public boat ramp, on-site convenience store, restrooms, ethanol-free gas and boat storage. Instructional sailing camps are offered by the Carolina Sailing Foundation with beginning and intermediate classes available for children ages 9 to 16. There are two rowing clubs that scull (solo row) or sweep (team row) across Jordan Lake – Chatham Amateur Oars Society’s rowing club welcomes adults with experience in sculling or sweeping, and Jordan Lake Rowing Club is for middle and high school athletes.

In New Hill, the Shearon Harris Reservoir – known locally as Harris Lake – covers 4,151 acres that straddle the Chatham and Wake county line southeast of Pittsboro. The lake, which is popular for bass fishing, is smaller than Jordan Lake and has only one access point in Chatham at 233 Crosspoint Rd.

Max Stokes, 11; Mariella Culton, 14; Wylie Hutto, 13; Rhys Dornan, 11; Stephanie Hutto; Memphis Stokes, 8; Emma Suggs, 11; Clare Reding; Osa Becker, 11; Allie Aldrich, 11; John Germain, 10; and Mariah Pedrotty, 11. Photo by John Michael Simpson


By James Dupree

It’s mystery night at Circle City Supper Club’s Young Chefs Cooking Program. What do you get when you combine “secret” ingredients including spaghetti squash, coconut milk, pitaya (dragon fruit) and Jolly Rancher candy? Dinner.

Three teams of kids, ages 8 to 13, hustle back and forth from the kitchen to their stations, cutting chicken or peppers, sauteing broccoli and asparagus or mixing cake batter. Within a couple of hours, each team of four or five students plates two dishes, cleans their stations and is ready to enjoy their delicious creations.

“When I was younger,” says Mariah Pedrotty, 11, “I liked to cook with my family. Now that I’m older, I can go to cooking classes and schools. … It’s just fun.”

Memphis zests a lemon for his team’s dishes. Photo by John Michael Simpson

Circle City founders and sisters-in-law Clare Reding and Stephanie Hutto host the weekly program inside the Bynum Methodist Community Center near Bynum Bridge. Semesters run between 14 to 16 weeks and end with a “recital” where students dress in a traditional white shirt and black pants, set the table, cook and serve dinner for their parents.

“It’s great to see how proud they are of themselves,” Stephanie says. Circle City also offers a four-week summer camp that runs in intervals from June through August for children 7 to 14 years old. The camp is located on a private 5-acre garden in Pittsboro where kids learn how to harvest and prepare all their meals in an outdoor rustic kitchen. Other activities include hiking and various arts and crafts.

“It’s one of the only extracurricular activities where you get such a diverse group of kids,” Clare says. “They come together and have a common interest. It doesn’t matter how long you have been doing Little League baseball or [if you’re] quiet and shy. If you can chop an onion, you can chop an onion,” she says.

Osa and Emma try to remember what’s next for their recipe. Photo by John Michael Simpson

Adults can get in on the action, too, with similar classes hosted at Celebrity Dairy, a bed-and-breakfast inn near Siler City. “Cooking is a skill that people are losing,” Clare says. “People don’t have the confidence to get in the kitchen and throw something together. Knowing how to feed yourself is the core of life.”

Clare and Stephanie also host singles events for the public and private events for local members of the online dating service Match. “We’re doing an improv class soon, where people will [cook] a meal from the ingredients that [others] bring. And we’ll say ‘rotate,’ and they have to go into the kitchen and pick up where the last group left off,” Clare says.

With 60 years of culinary experience between them, Clare and Stephanie have become invaluable sources of cooking knowledge for the Pittsboro community.

A pasta dish, ready to plate. Photo by John Michael Simpson

Growing up in Houma, Louisiana, about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, Clare was accustomed to good cooking. When she moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1996, she became a stage manager for the Cape Fear Regional Theatre. “They had all of these events that they put food out for, and it was like pretzels and Goldfish,” Clare says. “I was like, ‘We can’t be doing this. I can make [this] better.’” She took over the planning and prepping for parties. As the events increased in size, Clare’s love for cooking grew, too. At age 30, she attended the California Culinary Academy, an affiliate of Le Cordon Bleu, in San Francisco in 2004. Graduating a year later, Clare moved back home to Louisiana and started her own restaurant named Clare’s. “It was a downtown lunch place. I would do tasting menus on Friday nights and private parties on the weekends. It was a little bit of everything,” Clare says. After five years and the birth of her son, Clare closed the restaurant and focused on working as a private and consulting chef and leading adult cooking programs. In July 2020, Clare moved to Pittsboro with her family and started Circle City with her sister-in-law.

Stephanie, a Pittsboro native, spent her life working in kitchens. “I started out [at 14] washing dishes at a local spot called Hilltop Restaurant,” Stephanie says. She worked her way up to planning desserts and salads, then moved on to line cooking and then to front-of-the- house positions in her 20s for various restaurants. From Pittsboro to the Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon South Rim to the Old Faithful Snow Lodge in Yellowstone National Park, Stephanie worked across the country in nearly 15 different restaurants in her 30-year career. She attended UNC Asheville from 2005 to 2008, earning her bachelor’s in health and wellness promotion, and researched and developed an edible schoolyard program. But there’s no place like home, and in 2010, Stephanie moved back to Pittsboro, where she cooks alongside Clare for Celebrity Dairy when they aren’t teaching classes or hosting Circle City events.

Mariah and Memphis (center) enjoy the meal with their fellow young chefs. Photo by John Michael Simpson

One advantage of living close to family is that the cousins can grow up together. Clare’s son, Max Stokes, 11, is in his third year of the Young Chefs program while her youngest child, Memphis Stokes, 8, is in his first year. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve started [the program],” Max says. “I really like cooking Asian [cuisine].” Stephanie’s son Wylie Hutto, 13, has attended for the past year.

Clare and Stephanie hope to expand their business in the future once they find a permanent location. “We would like to have a commercial kitchen so we can get our catering license … and a space that can be used for all of our classes and any pop- up events,” Clare says. “We hope to be in a new location by the end of next year. Right now, we are really happy with all of our local partnerships.”

summer must-dos - glassblowing
Instructor Ryan Coombs demonstrates flameworking techniques. Photo by John Michael Simpson


By Megan Tillotson

Jonathan Michael Davis gets fired up on a weekly basis. The professional artist teaches glassblowing at Locally Grown Art Glass Studio in Pittsboro and shares why it’s worth doing. “It’s so unique as an experience,” Jonathan says. “It’s great to do it as a family because everyone’s at the same starting point. … It’s memorable in a way [since] you’re doing something [together] that’s like nothing else.”

Jonathan’s studio near Dry Creek has six stations, each outfitted with a torch bolted to the counter and a large ventilation pipe to remove any dust, fumes or gases. Classes are available in half-day and full-day sessions during weekends, with all materials, tools and safety equipment provided. Only a maximum of six students at a time are allowed for each class, with one or two instructors on hand to teach flameworking and techniques using a torch. Each student gets to create and keep two or three solid marbles or a glassblown ornament.

summer must-dos - glassblowing
Derek Dove, another instructor, blows glass to form an ornament. Photo by John Michael Simpson

Adults and teens without prior experience can sign up for beginner classes before advancing to intermediate and advanced workshops. Patty McCaffrey, a construction estimator, has worked with glass for 20 years as a hobby. She plans to take a class when her novice 16-year-old daughter, Clarabelle McCaffrey, signs up. “The instructors are very patient and helpful, especially with first-time students,” Patty says. “It can be intimidating at first, but they are very helpful through the process.”

Jonathan, who moved to Pittsboro to attend Central Carolina Community College, started his glassblowing career in 2001 as an apprentice at a now-defunct glass art studio in Durham, where he began teaching classes. “It helps to know why you’re doing it,” Jonathan advises prospective students. “If you’re there to just come in, test it out and have fun, that’s great.”

summer must-dos - Chatham Axes
Culley Holderfield, who lives in Durham, throws an axe for the first time since he was a Boy Scout. Photo by John Michael Simpson


By Alicia Clanton

You don’t have to be a Viking to throw an ax at Chatham Axes in Pittsboro, where friends, families and solo adrenaline junkies use an outdoor range.

Owner Kalim Hasan had never thrown an ax before the inspiration to open Chatham Axes struck in 2019. Kalim was having a beer with friends at The Plant and thought ax-throwing would be a fun way to experience the Chatham Beverage District.

Initially located in the field by Copeland Springs Farm, Chatham Axes now has a dedicated space plus a throwing cage mounted onto a trailer that can be hauled to different venues, like The Mod in downtown Pittsboro. The open-air venue has four throwing lanes marked according to World Axe Throwing League regulations. Each lane has two targets, and an “axpert” is on hand to provide instructions and safety tips.

For Kalim, safety is critical to the success of his business. “We’ve never had any accidents – knock on wood,” he says.

Chatham Axes, which hosts tournaments as one of 334 affiliates of the World Axe Throwing League, is popular for birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties and team-building activities. Kalim says the biggest day of the year is Valentine’s Day when he hosts “Love & Axes” with ax therapy sessions for the lovelorn or jilted.

Melinda Harrison, a local real estate agent who is new to the sport, hopes to create a network of friends. “Nothing prepares you for the zombie apocalypse like throwing axes,” Melinda laughs. “I might as well have a useful hobby.”

The range is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Reservations can be made for up to eight players for one or two hours, and walk-ins are first come, first served. For groups larger than eight, additional lanes can be reserved. This is a family-friendly activity with no age requirement, and a waiver is required for participation in all cases.

summer must-dos – birdwatching
Photo by Alan Pollard


By Alicia Clanton

Go bird-watching at the favorite summer- time home of two kinds of eagles – the bald eagle and the golden eagle. The New Hope Audubon Society suggests visiting Martha’s Chapel Wildlife Observation Site or Ebenezer Church Recreation Area, especially in April through June. Keep an eye out for ospreys, blue herons, egrets, sandpipers and other birds, like the killdeer – pictured below on the beach at Ebenezer Church. Make a day of it by enjoying the picnic areas or bringing your boat to observe from the water. Another popular birding spot to visit is Bynum Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over- looking the Haw River. It offers excellent tree-level views of raptors, warblers and swallows.

summer must-dos - spraygrounds
Make fast friends at Pittsboro’s new Knight Farm Community Park splash pad.


By Zenda Douglas

When summer truly heats up, kids can find cool relief at one of two county spraygrounds. Pittsboro has the newest splash pad at the Knight Farm Community Park inside the Vineyards neighborhood at Chatham Park. Water spouts here are touch-activated bollards. Up to 25 kids can play comfortably on the splash pad, which is ideally suited for kids 12 years old and younger. The free public park also offers a whimsical playhouse, a natural playground, zip line, dog park, walking trail, a large multiuse field and a covered pavilion with picnic tables. Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. “Every time I’ve gone by, it’s been very well attended,” says Katy Keller, senior parks planner for Pittsboro’s Parks & Recreation department.

Kids living in the western side of the county may choose the sprayground at Bray Park Aquatic Facility in Siler City, which opened in 2018 and is accessible daily from noon to 6 p.m. through Labor Day weekend. The highly popular splash pad complements the pool, two picnic shelters and a bathhouse. All children 12 years old or younger must be accompanied by an adult.

summer must-dos - thrift shopping
Refresh your wardrobe with retro-chic stylings at Screaming for Vintage. Be sure to scan the clothes racks for cute shorts and bright tops. Don’t forget about fun shoes and accessories.


By Caitlyn Yaede

Finding and flipping vintage goods is more than a livelihood to Mary Lovell Piraino and Chad Piraino of Pittsboro – it’s a lifestyle. The couple co-own Screaming for Vintage at 38 Hillsboro St. and specialize in hand-picked midcentury furniture and housewares from personal collections or auctions throughout the southeastern states.

“One or both of us is out on the road, or meeting with people for private sales, almost every day,” Mary says. The three-story historic building is home to one-of-a-kind finds amid pottery and centerpieces, art deco-inspired home goods, vintage clothes and collectible vinyl records.

The pair moved to Pittsboro from Raleigh in 2011, and Mary took a job at Beggars and Choosers Antiques, where owner Pam Smith taught her the ins and outs of the business. When Pam retired years later, she passed the reigns on to Mary and Chad, who are renting the space from Pam, changed the name of the shop and filled it with items that reflect their personal styles. Folk and modern art adorns the shop’s walls, and industrial pieces complement the midcentury modern vibe inside the shop.

Beyond their brick-and-mortar site, Mary and Chad sell new arrivals on their Instagram @screamingforvintage and Etsy site. Although, Mary notes, it’s sometimes better to see pieces in person before you buy. This is especially true for the shop’s retro clothing styles, as vintage sizing is different from modern sizing.

summer must-dos - thrift shopping

Just a half-mile down the road, Tiana Thurber, owner of Reclamation Home Furnishings at 136 Fayetteville St., says the best reclaimed goods are eco-friendly, affordable and locally sourced.

“Selling vintage and antique wares is as green as it gets,” Tiana says. “We pride ourselves in keeping these once-loved items out of the landfill to be enjoyed again at affordable prices.”

From jewelry and pottery to furniture from every era, Reclamation’s offerings tend to outlast some manufactured pieces today. Tiana credits her success and longevity to loyal local shoppers who recognize this quality difference. “Buying vintage and secondhand puts money back into our local economy,” she says.

Tiana enjoys supporting the community by organizing and sponsoring local events. Reclamation participates in occasional pop-up markets, like ones held at Pittsboro’s Bazaar Night Market at The Plant.

summer must-dos - thrift shopping


Paynes Antique English Stained Glass Purportedly the nation’s largest source of antique English stained glass, this shop has aisles upon aisles lined with stacked panes of windows imported from churches, homes, schools and pubs throughout England. 17 Paynes Rd.; 919-545-3008

Hickory Mountain Antiques and Country Store The shop is open by appointment only, July through September. Owners Bob Mowrey and Peggy Mowrey acquire their antiques from various auctions and estates in North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 1921 Hadley Mill Rd.; 919-642-0022

Little Boho Valley Find Bohemian styles for your wardrobe or home curated by Julie Sezer, who is currently available via Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram (@littlebohovalley) and by private appointment. For events, including weddings, contact Julie to find out what items, like peacock chairs, are available for delivery. 49 W Salisbury St.; 919-753-7444

summer must-dos – pottery class
A weekly teen pottery class at Chatham Clay Studio in Pittsboro.


By Zenda Douglas

Debbie Englund and Lara O’Keefe offer classes and workshops as well as private lessons at Chatham Clay Studio in Pittsboro. Courses include beginning and intermediate wheel-throwing, hand-building and clay sculpture skills. An introductory ceramics class called “Morning in the Mud’’ is open to prospective potters ages 9 and up (kids must be accompanied by an adult). This class begins June 25 at a cost of $75. An eight-week class for ages 11 to 18 is offered on Tuesdays at 12:30 p.m. through June. For the rest of summer, check the website for additional classes, like an advanced workshop on face mugs and surface decoration treatments.

Potter Bronwyn Watson of Green Turtle Studios in Siler City has small group beginner classes this summer focusing on hand-building. Weekly sessions run for five weeks. Gallery and studios are open to the public.

summer must-dos – pottery class
A weekly teen pottery class at Chatham Clay Studio in Pittsboro.

Doug Dotson, a master potter based in Pittsboro, offers classes at various times during the year through Chatham Clay Studio and Central Carolina Community College.

If you’d like to absorb some inspiration before you begin your own journey with clay, the work of several potters is often on display at the Pittsboro Gallery of Arts. And, if you’re ready to get serious in pursuing the craft, the NC Arts Incubator in Siler City has ceramics studios available for rent.

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