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North Carolina Celebrates 2019 as the 'Year of Music'

A wealth of sounds from a deep musical lineage rises across North Carolina as the state celebrates 2019 as the Year of Music. With leadership from the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and N.C. Humanities Council, Come Hear NC includes performances, song-sharing sessions, live streaming events, artist interviews and special projects along with such hallmark festivals as MerleFest, Wide Open Bluegrass and the North Carolina Folk Festival. Oxford American magazine’s  North Carolina Music Issue (you can order it online) serves as an introduction to a long list of groundbreaking artists that runs from Nina Simone and John Coltrane to Earl Scruggs, James Taylor, Link Wray and Rhiannon Giddens. Learn more at

Asheville Launches Signature Food Festival

As a destination well-loved by culinary travelers and beer lovers, Asheville unites celebrated chefs, beverage craftsmen and other artisans for Chow Chow, an immersive festival celebrating makers who bring people to the table. The inaugural event, set for Sept. 12-15, includes tastings and chef demonstrations plus hands-on experiences that connect participants to the stories behind Asheville's approach to preparing and sharing meals. Watch for details to unfold at

Crest of the Blue Ridge Wine Area Established

Wineries and vineyards in a 215-square-mile area of southwestern North Carolina have claimed a new appelation, the state's sixth. Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County, approved in July by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, encompasses four wineries and more than a dozen vineyards in a scenic stretch along the Eastern Continental Divide. Factors that distinguish the area include a 200-220-day growing season and conditions that work well for varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc. The new American Viticultural Area joins Yadkin Valley, Swan Creek, Haw River Valley, Upper Hiwassee Highlands and Appalachian High Country on the North Carolina wine landscape.

Period-Perfect Biltmore to Host 'Downton Abbey: The Exhibition'

More than 50 costumes plus set re-creations and artifacts from the addictive series "Downton Abbey" go on view in November at Biltmore, George W. Vanderbilt's 8,000-acre Asheville estate. "Downton Abbey: The Exhibition" offers an immersion in the post-Edwardian world of the Crowley family and insight into the eventful era of World War I. The exhibit will be staged in two estate properties: Amherst at Deerpark, where multimedia elements, sets and artifacts will create a sweeping view of social history, culture and the series; and the Legacy in Antler Hill Village, displaying costumes worn by Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, Dame Maggie Smith and others. "Downton Abbey" aired on PBS's "Masterpiece" from 2011 to 2016 and yielded a "Dressing Downton" costume exhibit mounted inside Biltmore House. in 2015. The new exhibit, which arrives shortly behind Cavnival Films' big-screen series follow-up, runs Nov. 8-April 7 at Biltmore, its fourth location.

Inaugural Festival Celebrates Comeback of the Elk

About 20 miles from where majestic elk roam, their fans will celebrate their triumphant return to the Great Smoky Mountains. The inaugural Smoky Mountain Elk Fest takes place Sept. 13-14 in Maggie Valley with elk habitat tours, guided hikes, wildlife art, timber sports, outdoor adventure demos and a wild game tasting on the schedule with performances, food vendors and children’s activities. The National Parks Conservation Association counts the elk reintroduction, which began with about 50 animals in 2001 and 2002. Today the herd numbers about 150. Elk Fest coincides with the approach of mating season.

New Ferry Route Serves Travelers to Ocracoke

Beach lovers heading for Ocracoke have a new way to reach the island this summer. In May, the N.C. Ferry System added a passenger-only route from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke’s Silver Lake Harbor, giving visitors a car-free way to explore the island’s central village. Travelers can reserve seats aboard the 98-seat Ocracoke Express Passenger Ferry instead of waiting in line for the vehicle-and-passenger ferry, which docks 12 miles from the village. Upon arrival in Ocracoke, visitors can get around the 4-square-mile village on foot, rent bicycles or golf carts, or board a free shuttle. Ocracoke, the southernmost stretch of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, is known for its beach, which has topped Dr. Beach’s annual list, and as Blackbeard's last hangout.

Carowinds Debuts Double-Launch Coaster

Roller-coaster junkies gain a 14th reason to visit Carowinds in 2019: a double-launch coaster called Copperhead Strike, which anchors a new Blue Ridge Mountains-themed area inspired by Western North Carolina's landscapes and lore. With its five inversions, Copperhead Strike delivers low-to-the-ground intensity in contrast to the headline-making heights and speeds of the best-known Carowinds coasters, 2010's Intimidator (232 feet, top speed 80 mph) and 2015's Fury 325 (325 feet, top speed 95 mph). The ride's first launch goes from 0 to 42 mph in 2.5 seconds, the second from 35 to 50 mph in 2 seconds. Carowinds, which opened in 1973, ranked No. 7 on Time's 2018 list of America's best amusement parks. 

Mustang Owner’s Museum Opens in Concord

On the 55th anniversary of the original pony car’s debut, the Mustang Owner’s Museum in Concord opened with a four-day celebration that included a “Year of the Mustang” event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Rising in a destination known for motorsports, the museum has 42,500 square feet for displays, a media library conference room and theater. Filmed with Steve McQueen, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner and other leading men behind the wheel, the Mustang has inspired one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in the automotive world.

Asheville Museum to Return With Historic Face, New Space

Three long years after the scaffolding went up, the Asheville Art Museum will reopen in a transformed space that honors its landmark building and welcomes the future with new light-bathed galleries, theater space, and a rooftop sculpture terrace and café. Blending historic and contemporary elements, the $24 million project restores the 1926 Pack Memorial Library while addressing the museum's role as a centerpiece of Asheville culture. Among the eye-catching features in the design by Ennead Architects are north-facing window with intriguing inside/outside views and punctured metal panels that will allow light to spill onto the plaza. The 68,000-square-foot building is set to open this summer with “Appalachia Now! An Interdisciplinary Survey of Contemporary Art in Southern Appalachia.”

Greensboro Property Restores Its 'Green Book'-Era Glory

Jackie Robinson slept here. So did James Baldwin, James Brown, Gladys Knight, Ike and Tina Turner, and other African American travelers who needed a place to stay in the Jim Crow South. The Magnolia House, whose listing in "The Negro Motorist Green Book" was starred as a recommended Greensboro site, faded after the motel closed in the 1970s. But steady progress on restoring the 1914 structure has been made since Sam Pass bought it in 1996 and created the Magnolia House Foundation. From hosting weddings and other private events, use of the Magnolia House has grown to include Sunday jazz brunches, weeknight suppers, concerts, and "Table Talks" connected to history and heritage. Late 2019 is the target for completing a museum, and the foundation foresees hosting overnight stays as a 14-room B&B.

New ‘Outlander’ Season to Draw on NC Settings

As an alternative to dying of anticipation, “Outlander” fans can wait out the release of season five and the arrival of the ninth novel by traveling across North Carolina with Diana Gabaldon’s characters. Based on “The Fiery Cross,” the fifth season finds Claire and Jamie at Fraser’s Ridge, covers the 1771 Battle of Alamance, and includes a trip to Wilmington. For a full immersion, A Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming unfolds Oct. 3-6 at Leatherwood Mountain Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Performers, re-enactors and cuisine channel the history and spirit of the novel in a setting worthy of Gabaldon’s pen. Learn more at, which also serves as an “Outlander” atlas. Dates for the fifth season and "Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone" (Penguin Random House) are TBA.

Wright Brothers Memorial Visitor Center Reopens With New Exhibits

After two years of restoration work, the visitor center at the Wright Brothers National Memorial reopened Oct. 20 with all-new exhibits that reflect the journey as well as the achievement of first flight. Interactive displays reveal an itimate look at Wilbur and Orville Wright, their inspirations and setbacks on the road to flight, why they chose Kitty Hawk for their experiments, and key people in their lives. A 16-screen video wall displays images of the brothers, their flying machines, scenes of flight and inspirational quotes. The lifesize replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, which had been on view in Raleigh during the restoration, returned to the visitor center (the original is at the Smithsonian), which was named a National Historic Landmark in 2001. 

Visitors Can Again Ride Through the Mountain at Chimney Rock

Building an elevator inside a 315-foot granite peak ranks as a monumental feat of ingenuity and engineering. And fixing one is no walk in the park. But after nearly five years of repairs and power system upgrades, the elevator at Chimney Rock Park is back operation in time for travelers to watch Santa on the Chimney in December. The elevator offers a 32-second ride to the Sky Lounge Gift Shop & Deli. From there, 44 steps lead to the top and a sweeping view of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. For hearty view-seekers, the alternate route — 491 steps on the Outcroppings Trail — has its own rewards, with numerous scenic stops along the way. 

Food Halls Take Root Across the State

In the space of a year (give or take), North Carolina’s food hall count will have risen from one to seven as part of an indie food movement packed with culinary diversity. Here’s a newest-to-oldest rundown:

  • Durham Food Hall (opening soon): In the 12,000-squre-foot food hall at Liberty Warehouse Apartments, visitors can choose from 10 vendors including Locals Seafood Market & Oyster Bar, Napoli Pizza and Gelato, Lula & Sadie’s (seasonal-Southern), Old North Meats and Provisions, Liturgy Beverage and Ex-Voto Cocina Nixtamal. The location is in Durham's Central Park neighborhood, home of the Durham Farmers Market and other spots of culinary interest.
  • Optimist Food Hall, Charlotte (progressive opening began Aug. 1): Part of a retail, restaurant and office space development, the food hall features  about 15 vendors in 20,000 square feet. The lineup includes Aix Rotisserie, Under Current Coffee, Papi Queso, Bao & Broth (ramen and buns), and a tasting room for Morganton-based Fonta Flora Brewery. Just north of the City Center, Optimist Hall can be reached by LYNX Light Rail. 
  • Transfer Co. Food Hall, Raleigh (opened spring 2019): With 43,000 square feet, the downtown development will include about 20 vendors, including Che Empanadas, Chhote's (Mumbai street food), Bul Box (Asian), a second location for Asheville's Burial Beer, Sweet Peas Urban Gardens, and the collaborative Locals Oyster Bar and Benchwarmers Bagels. Still to come: Saxapahaw General Store (a grocery oasis) and other vendors.
  • Morgan Street Food Hall & Market, Raleigh (opened August 2018): The 22,000-square-foot space downtown includes 20 culinary concepts such as Cousins Maine Lobster, Cow Bar (artisan burgers), Carroll’s Kitchen (non-profit dedicated to fighting homelessness for women through culinary training) and Hook & Cleaver (boutique butcher/fresh food market) as well as two bars, including one with landscaped patio space. 
  • Blue Dogwood Public Market, Chapel Hill (opened June 2018). The 4,000-square-foot space in the heart of the college town hosts 12 permanent food vendors including Pizelle Bakery (gluten-free sweets and savories), Soul Cocina (Latin American-inspired, plant-based fare), Left Bank Butchery (whole animal butcher shop), Rumi Persian Café and Chocolatay Confections. 
  • 7th Street Public Market, Charlotte (opened 2012): Nonprofit market with a mission to promote local and regional farmers, food artisans, and entrepreneurs. Vendors at the Uptown market include Pure Pizza, Not Just Coffee, Tanks Tap, Bonsai Fusion and Rico's Acai.
Asheville Museum Enlarges the View of Robert Moog Legacy

Asheville's Robert Moog experience gains a new dimension with the opening of the Moogseum, which allows visitors to explore the science behind electronic music. The downtown museum includes bays of synthesizers, theremins and effects pedals; a Young Inventors Lab where children can create their own circuit board; exhibit space; and an archival center of rare documents and photos. Tours of the nearby Moog Factory and Store can also be arranged. Moog died in 2005 in Asheville, where he had been living since 1978.

New Ballparks Open for 2019 Baseball Season

Fayetteville and High Point, cities with a measure of baseball glory, are fielding professional teams at brand new ballparks this season. In Fayetteville, where Babe Ruth scored his first home run as a pro and picked up his nickname, Segra Stadium is the home of the Woodpeckers, a Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros. North Carolina's 11th Minor League team, the Woodpeckers played two seasons at Campbell University while waiting for the downtown stadium to be built. The team takes its name from the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered species supported by conservation efforts at Fort Bragg. In High Point, where Hall of Famer Luke Appling was born, the Rockers are playing at BB&T Point. The new team is a member of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, which has pioneered rules to speed up play. The Rockers' name pays tribute to High Point's status in the home furnishings industry.

Eleanor Talley
Public Relations Manager
Kelly Renz
J Public Relations


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