RALEIGH, N.C. (May 5, 2013) — From outdoor recreation and unique lodging to arts and culture and fine dining, the charming small towns and vibrant urban locations of North Carolina offer something for everyone. Explore the highest peaks in the eastern United States and 300 miles of pristine coastline at VisitNC.com or call 1-800 VISIT NC (847-4862).
Film and TV Action Points to Destinations Across the State
Film lovers can connect the screen to the scenery that frames recent high-profile projects shot in North Carolina. "Iron Man 3" (Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow), "We're the Millers" (Jennifer Anniston, Jason Sudeikis) and other titles chose Wilmington as their home base, and “Safe Haven,” based on the novel by New Bern resident Nicholas Sparks, makes use of nearby Southport's visual assets. “Banshee,” a 2013 cable series from producer Alan Ball, joins the Showtime hit “Homeland” on Charlotte's film credits, and “You Are Here” (Owen Wilson, Wilkesboro native Zach Galifianakis) travels to sites in the Winston-Salem area. Adding to the state's star power is the authentic experience of 2012's “The Hunger Games” tours as well as “Bull Durham,” which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2013. A North Carolina film locations media kit is available at media.VisitNC.com.
The Grove Park Inn Approaches Centennial Milestone
Edwin Wiley Grove made his fortune off of Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic. He created his legacy with The Grove Park Inn, a luxury lodge built of stone quarried from the mountain where it stands. Since its opening on July 12, 1913, the historic hotel just north of downtown Asheville has played host to 10 presidents plus titans of industry, famous inventors, and celebrity writers, athletes and entertainers. The hotel's grandeur remains as solid as the lobby's massive stone fireplaces, its welcoming appeal as timeless as the glorious mountain views. The Grove Park, which boasts a world-class subterranean spa, a Donald Ross-designed golf course, a sports complex, celebrated cuisine and more, is already posting special event packages for 2013. Find them at www.groveparkinn.com.
Bodie Island Lighthouse Opens for Climbs for the First Time
Lighthouse lovers can notch a new climb on the Outer Banks: the Bodie Island Lighthouse. At 156 feet, it's one of only a dozen remaining “tall brick tower type” lighthouses in the United States. The 1872 structure underwent an extensive renovation that included strengthening the support of the spiral staircase, replacing cracked stair treads and corroded metal features, and installing a fire detection and suppression system. Perhaps the most spectacular part of the project was restoration of the original first-order Fresnel lens, a giant beehive structure with 344 gleaming prisms that shoot light beams as far as 20 miles out to sea. Visitors who climb the 214 steps to the gallery will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the sea and the Roanoke Sound.
Kayaking's Freestyle World Championships Head to the Nantahala
The Nantahala River Gorge is ready for camera crews, spectators and the world's best freestyle kayakers, who will compete here in the 2013 International Canoe Federation's Canoe Freestyle World Championships. The scenic river makes an ideal spot for freestyle competition, which showcases paddlers' acrobatic tricks and maneuvers on world-class whitewater, where a new Wave Shaper can manipulate the flow. Find details about the competition, set for Sept. 2-8, at www.freestylekayaking2013, which links to travel-planning info for the Bryson City area.
World of Bluegrass Picks Raleigh As Its Capital for 2013-15
Bluegrass performers and industry leaders will converge on downtown Raleigh in September for the International Bluegrass Music Association's weeklong World of Bluegrass. Events include a conference, IBMA's annual awards ceremony and Bluegrass Fan Fest, a three-day weekend showcasing the genre's top talent. In choosing Raleigh as host city for the next three years, the association takes advantage of the 5-year-old Raleigh Convention Center and nearby venues and hotels — and also connects to the state's rich bluegrass heritage. World of Bluegrass takes place Sept. 23-29, roughly two weeks after Hopscotch, a Raleigh festival that features 175 bands across a spectrum of genres.
'Blue Ridge Music Trails' Traces a Tuneful Heritage
North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains ring with a unique music legacy that fascinates folklorists, enthralls listeners and triggers an urge to tap your feet. "Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina" (UNC Press) maps the bowing, picking, plucking, frailing, stomping, shuffling and singing that run generations deep across 26 counties and lead to singular experiences at major festivals, friendly jams and unexpected venues framed by some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. A 20-track CD that comes with the book inspires the journey and connects with the uncommonly gifted musicians you might encounter along the way. Learn more about the book at www.uncpress.unc.edu and peer through the portals at ncartstrails.org and www.blueridgeheritage.com.
New Park Elevates Boone As a Mountain Bike Destination
Mountain bikers have a new place to test their skills: the recently completed Rocky Knob Mountain Biking Park in North Carolina's High Country. The 185-acre park, where pedalers have been checking out the ride as each trail was finished, impressed Velo magazine enough to list Boone as one of nine U.S. destinations in its most recent Ultimate Ride Guide. The five trails, which are rated from moderately difficult to very difficult, cover eight miles and include a PBJ run plus three separate skills areas. Most challenging of all is the Ol Hoss Trail, which climbs 750 feet to an elevation of 4,000 feet. The trails also accommodate hikers, and shelters, an adventure playground and picnic areas give visitors a place to relax. Find an interactive map, bike rental information and more at rockyknob.wordpress.com or exploreboonearea.com.
Dairies, Creameries Roll Out the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail
Western North Carolina's cheese artisans step into the region's culinary spotlight with a new cheese trail that highlights the source of ingredients for top restaurants and farms where visitors can experience more than what meets the taste buds. The trail directs travelers to places such as Mountain Farm in Burnsville, home to Saanen and Nubian goats plus fields of lavender, and Yellow Branch Cheese in Robbinsville, where Jersey cows are milked and pottery is made by hand. Visitors can also use the trail to learn where award-winning cheeses from Looking Glass Creamery, Oakmoon Farm & Creamery and other operations are served and soul. Until the official map is published this spring, a digital guide is available at wnccheesetrail.vpweb.com.
Rare Species, Experiences to Reign at Greensboro's 'SciQuarium'
Have you ever seen a fishing cat? Are you drawn to the African jackass penguin? Do you dare to touch a stingray? The Greensboro Science Center's "SciQuarium," a hybrid museum-aquarium complex, opens in summer 2013 with exhibits and interactive learning about unusual water-dependent species such as Asia's flat-nosed fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) and the braying African penguin (Spheniscus demersus). That these animals are endangered speaks to the center's aim of participating in Association of Zoo & Aquariums' Species Suvival Plan programs and building an Endangered Species Village. In addition to the SciQuarium, the Nature Science Center features a museum, the Animal Discovery Zoo and an OmniSphere theater, with a second one set to open later in 2013.
NC Zoo Expands Polar Bear Exhibit, Adds Breeding Facility
In late 2013, the North Carolina Zoo will open an expanded polar bear exhibit that promises to be one of the best in the United States. The enlarged area, with room for up to six bears, will add a maternity den and a simulated mountain meadow to the existing 10-foot-deep pool and rocky landscape. Visitors will be able to watch the planet's largest land carnivores while learning why they're an endangered species. Zoo specialists, meanwhile, will use the new breeding facility to address Ursus maritimus' dwindling population. The zoo, located in the central North Carolina town of Asheboro, is the world's largest walk-through natural-habitat zoo and was the first of its kind in the United States.
Whirligig Park Will Turn Wilson Into a Visionary Arts Destination
Nonagenarian artist Vollis Simpson's wind-powered whirligigs can be found at must-see museums in Raleigh, Atlanta and Baltimore and in private collections around the world. In 2013, the city of Wilson becomes the envy of them all when the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park opens as the permanent home of 30 of the whimsical sculptures, which create their own rhythm and dance in the breeze. For decades people have exited Interstate 95 to drop by Simpson's farm in nearby Lucama. The downtown park and a specially trained maintenance staff will ensure the artist's legacy while making it easier for travelers to discover the treasures. The annual Whirligig Festival, set for Nov. 2-3, will signal the park's official opening.
Well-Preserved History Shines in Edenton's Tricentennial Celebration
Talk about aging gracefully: Colonial North Carolina's first capital celebrates its 300th anniversary as a picture-perfect place where well-preserved structures reflect a colorful, layered history on the Roanoke Sound. In the town where Penelope Barker's 1773 "tea party" first raised the feminine voice in Colonial protests and Harriet Jacobs embarked on an epic journey from slavery to freedom, the streets and waterfront of Edenton offer vivid views of the past. Spared destruction during the Civil War, the stately 1767 Chowan County Courthouse, architectural gems such as Barker House, the James Iredell House and Cupola House, and churches whose bells became Confederate cannons remain as portals for time travel. In addition to extensive programming to celebrate the tricentennial, Edenton has a new attraction: The Roanoke River Lighthouse, relocated to Edenton Bay and restored, will soon open to the public.
Professional Criterium National Championship Heads to High Point
The streets of High Point will serve as the course for the 2013 and 2014 USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championship. Like a two-wheel NASCAR event, the race will feature riders lapping a fixed route with tight corners and thousands of spectators watching. The 2013 race, set for July 27-28, will begin and end at the International Home Furnishings Center's transportation hub. Stay tuned for details at hpcyclingclassic.com.
Mandara Spa Completes Harrah’s Cherokee Transformation
In less than five years, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort has dramatically redefined itself as a destination with world-class gaming and luxury appeal. The addition of live gaming and the December opening of an 18,000-square-foot Mandara Spa are the latest elements in the transformation, which has seen the addition of a 532-room tower, a 3,000-seat Events Center, Sequoyah National Golf Club and brand-name restaurants such as Paula Deen's Kitchen, BRIO Tuscan Grille and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Live blackjack, roulette and poker, along with Asian gaming and expanded casino space, enhance the gaming picture at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians-owned property. But for many, the crowning touch is the spa, which will integrate Native American culture into the Mandara brand's Balinese-inspired treatments.
Ironclad Finds a Permanent Home at New Kinston Museum
Fortune finally smiles on the CSS Neuse. After 150 years of woe, what's left of the ignoble Confederate ironclad comes home to a new museum that will protect it from the elements and showcase one of the richest collections of Civil War naval artifacts. The ironclad's hull has been moved from its temporary shelter to the new CSS Neuse Gunboat Museum on North Queen Street, which should be ready to welcome visitors in October. The Neuse, which never quite made it to battle, was scuttled to avoid capture. Stripped of its armor, the hull lay at the bottom of the river for which it was named for nearly a century before being raised along with about 15,000 artifacts. From a museum window, visitors can see the Neuse II, the world's only full-scale ironclad replica.
African-American Heritage Music Trail Will Bring Home Legends
North Carolina was home to legendary historical figures of jazz, blues and gospel including John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller and Elizabeth Cotton. The African-American Heritage Music Trail promises to take visitors on an educational journey through the blues and jazz talent that originated in eastern North Carolina. This cultural tourism experience will start in Kinston and stop in eight counties: Lenoir, Greene, Jones, Pitt, Wayne, Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe. The trail, a project spearheaded by the N.C. Arts Council, will include interactive videos and audio kiosks of musicians.
Acclaimed Outer Banks Resort to Unveil Renovations
The Sanderling Resort and Spa, an AAA four diamond property in the Outer Banks town of Duck, has debuted a new look and amenities for the 2013 season. The resort, which spans a strip of land between the Atlantic and the Currituck Sound, was sold in 2012, and the new owners are building on its acclaim for casual elegance with a new adult-oriented pool plus a family-friendly lagoon-style pool; new guestrooms with ocean views; a new fitness center with views of the sound; and upgraded meeting spaces at the Sanderling Event House. Highlights on the food and drink front include Kimball's Kitchen as a dinner destination, a new outdoor dining deck at the Lifesaving Station Restaurant, and a transformation of the Sand Bar, which has been rebuilt with large outdoor seating space, fire pits and a setup for entertainment. Accommodations at the property include a hotel and five luxury vacation homes.
Boutique Hotels to Transform Landmark Durham Buildings
A Mid-Century Modern office building and an Art Deco skyscraper are being re-envisioned as one-of-a-kind hotels in downtown Durham. The Holland Hotel, a 54-room boutique hotel with a restaurant and rooftop bar, will occupy the former Mutual Community Savings Bank building, a 1968 structure with soaring columns flanking a futuristic masonry tower. Work on the project is expected to begin this spring with the hotel opening a year later. A few blocks away, 21c Museum Hotels plans a luxury makeover for the Hill Building, a 17-story gem designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon of Empire State Building fame. The 125-room property should open in 2015. www.21cmuseumhotels.com
Old Edwards Inn and Spa Adds Guest Rooms, New Mineral Pool
The Old Edwards Inn and Spa, a European-style resort in the mountain town of Highlands, will unveil 22 new guest rooms and a heated outdoor mineral pool this summer. The expansion, which brings the room total to 90, reflects the Old Edwards' growing popularity as a vacation getaway and wedding destination. Guests will be able to book rooms in the new “Falls Cottages” individually or occupy an entire cottage with adjoining rooms and common areas. The central courtyard will feature the new mineral pool and whirlpool, a freestanding stone fireplace and a rustic events building. The new cottages, each of which will be named for one of North Carolina's celebrated waterfalls, are part of a $70 million transformation that has taken place since 2004 at this Forbes Four Star resort. Also new for spring: the Hutchison House, an historic four-bedroom farmhouse that the Old Edwards acquired in December and will make available for special events and group retreats.
Bustling Uptown Charlotte To Gain 527 Hotel Rooms
Three new projects in Uptown Charlotte will bring 527 hotel rooms to Center City within the next few years. Plans are in the works for a 125-room hotel near the AAA Charlotte Knights BB&T Ballpark. Greensboro-based BPR Properties bought land near the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Convention Center for a 230-room Embassy Suites. And the 22-story Skye Condominium high-rise development, nearing completion at South Caldwell and Third streets, will include a 172-room Hyatt Place Hotel.
Aloft Hotel Opens in Downtown Asheville
Visitors who want to be near the action in downtown Asheville have a new option. Aloft Downtown Asheville opened in August on Biltmore Avenue near the landmark Pack Place cultural complex, nightclubs, restaurants, galleries and shops. The 115-room hotel combines a W xyz bar and other Aloft signatures with distinctive Asheville touches such as mountain views from the pool deck, local art in every room and a restaurant with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The property, part of a mixed-use development with retail space and a municipal parking deck, is the third boutique hotel to open in Asheville since 2009, following the Hotel Indigo downtown and the Grand Bohemian Hotel near the entrance to the Biltmore estate.
Pinehurst Makes History With 2014 Men's and Women's U.S. Opens
Pinehurst can toast a double shot of history when the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open unfold on the celebrated No. 2 course in 2014. This will be the first time both national championships are held on the same course in back-to-back weeks. It will also make golf architect Donald Ross' masterpiece the only course to host the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur. The 2014 championships, scheduled for June 12-15 and June 19-22, will be played on a course that promises fresh challenges, thanks to a consummate restoration by Coore & Crenshaw that was completed in 2011.
U.S Figure Skating Championships Return to Greensboro for 2015
About 350 of the nation's top figure skaters will head to the Greensboro Coliseum Complex for the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. With juvenile and intermediate levels added to the competition, the organization's largest event will be even bigger than in 2011, when Greensboro first played host to athletes from the hugely popular Olympic sport. For 2015, more than $24 million in major renovations will offer spectators better sight lines, new cushioned seats, a new VIP lounge, and an expanded upper concourse area. A new state-of-the-art Daktronics center-hung video board has already been installed in the main arena. Stay abreast of developments for the weeklong event, which takes place Jan. 17-25, at www.northcarolina2015.com. Pictured: Madison Chock and Evan Bates
Inaugural NC Beer Month Celebrates Thriving Brew Culture
With more breweries than any other state south of Pennsylvania and east of Texas, North Carolina seized the moment by designating April 2013 as NC Beer Month. Working in partnership with the N.C. Brewers Guild, the state Division of Tourism coordinated efforts among the state's 85 breweries, local tourism bureaus, hotels and inns, restaurants, pubs and other venues to highlight beer craftsmanship and the creative communities where beer culture thrives. The calendar included everything from major festivals (Hickory Hops, World of Beer) to lodging packages, beer dinners, special tours and brewer collaborations. Go to www.NCBeerMonth.com to sign up for updates as plans for NC Beer Month 2014 develop.
Raleigh Center Opens a New Window on Nature
Dinosaurs taste like chicken; the Milky Way like raspberries. The new Nature Research Center in downtown Raleigh seizes attention with the wonders of nature, then holds it captive with a look at how such conclusions were reached. Taking the hands-on approach to new heights, this wing of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences opens windows onto research (scientists even emerge from their glass-enclosed labs to field questions), places visitors in the center of Global Town Halls and invites visitors to conduct experiments — some of them as part of ongoing research projects. And the Daily Planet Café is the science geek’s answer to the sports bar, serving locally crafted beer and wine and playing science shows on the LED screens. The 80,000-square-foot center, which opened on Earth Day, also stands as an eye-catching monument to green construction.
Chimney Rock Renovations Ease the Way to Spectacular ViewsTravelers who come to Chimney Rock for the 75-mile panoramic views across Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge have something new to marvel at: the engineering achievements behind the attraction's newly modernized elevator and the upgraded Outcroppings Trail, both of which lead to the top of one of North Carolina's most recognizable natural landmarks. Renovations to the elevator echo the feat of 1949, when 8½ tons of dynamite blasted the 258-foot-high shaft and a 198-foot-long tunnel through solid granite. Improvements to the Outcroppings Trail, which now features wider stairs, a gentler slope and more resting places, required ziplines, helicopters and painstaking care to protect the trees.
Charlotte Takes Its Bow As Democratic National Convention Host
The Queen City's star has risen with its staging of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which drew 35,000 visitors. In the largely positive response to its hospitality, Charlotte garnered praise for its beauty, its energy, its restaurants and above all its friendliness. The impact of the event, held Sept. 3-6 and based at Time Warner Cable Arena, extended to neighboring cities that helped house attendees and to more distant destinations that lured travelers on their way to the DNC over Labor Day weekend.
Hudson River ‘Miracle’ Plane Finally Arrives in Charlotte – To Stay
Originally intended to arrive in Charlotte on Jan. 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 made a "miracle" landing on New York's Hudson River. Nearly 2½ years later, it arrived in the Queen City to take up permanent residence at the Carolinas Aviation Museum, where the wings, tail and other parts were reattached. The Airbus A320-214 is the latest addition to a collection that includes a Piedmont Airlines DC-3, a Grumman OV-1D Mohawk, and other planes, helicopters and military aircraft.
Mountain Bike Championships Raise Beech Mountain's Status
Downhill and dual slalom racers returned to Beech Mountain Resort for the Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships in July. As host of the event in both 2011 and 2012, the resort added layers of luster to the High Country's status as a magnet for mountain bikers. Home of the East's highest ski area, the resort developed new courses and upgraded its lift system to transform itself into a four-season destination, where riders can also enjoy new trails developed by the town of Beech Mountain. Serious mountain bikers began capitalizing on the mountain's terrain in the 1990s with the Tour DuPont and as Lance Armstrong's post-cancer training ground in 1998.