[Jan 10, 2018, 8:49 PM]
Two stars of the dinosaur world will take center stage in Raleigh in 2022 with the opening of “Dueling Dinosaurs,” a permanent exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. The most complete fossils of a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops ever unearthed will be displayed as they were found: locked together as if dueling at the time of their death. The museum is building a state-of-the-art research center, called SECU Dinolab, where the public can get a close-up view and meet scientists seeking to uncover secrets that were buried for 67 million years. The museum announced the acquisition of the T. rex and Triceratops in May 2020, 14 years after they were excavated at a Montana ranch.
With travelers craving open space as never before, Visit North Carolina and the N.C. Outdoor Recreation Industry Office have joined with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics on a campaign to inspire outdoor experiences and manage natural assets for future generations. With Outdoor NC, North Carolina becomes the first coastal state to partner with Leave No Trace, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the outdoors and inspiring people to use it responsibility. As people seek the relative safety of fresh-air spaces to escape confinements imposed by COVID-19, the partnership will focus on ways to welcome travelers and engage them in protecting the natural places they crave. Connect with the principles and outdoor travel inspiration at Outdoor NC.
With a timely Juneteenth launch, the African American Experience of Northeast North Carolina invites travelers to explore the contributions of Black communities along a history-rich coastal corridor. The self-guided tour, accessed at NCBlackHeritageTour.com, highlights histories in a six-county region that includes the Outer Banks, the Dismal Swamp, and the riverfront towns of Elizabeth City, Hertford and Edenton. Among the featured sites are the Pea Island Cookhouse Mueum in Manteo, Mariners' Wharf in Elizabeth City, the Dismal Swamp Canal in South Mills, the U.S. Colored Troops monument in Hertford, the Historic Jarvisburg Colored School in Jarvisburg and sites on the Harriet Jacobs Trail in Edenton. The experience was developed by tourism leaders in Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties with assistance from Raleigh-based BRANDilly Creative Group.
The North Carolina Zoo, the world's largest natural habitat zoo, adds a third continent to its realm with an 8-acre Asia exhibit, targeted for a 2023 opening. Construction on the $46 million expansion is set to begin this fall. Tigers, red pandas, Komodo dragons and Chinese alligators are among the species expected to occupy the space, which will also include a glass-walled restaurant with views of the animals. The Asheboro zoo, which opened in 1974, currently features Africa and North America displays plus desert habitat and an aviary with exotic birds and tropical plants.
Raggiana birds-of-paradise, green pygmy geese and plum-headed parakeets will be among the residents of a new aviary opening Oct. 9 at Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck. The "Birds of Paradise" aviary, which will house more than 300 birds native to New Guinea and the South Pacific, is a collaboration with California's Pandemonium Aviaries, which shares Sylvan Heights' commitment to preserving rare and endangered species by maintaining sustainable breeding populations. The new aviary will allow Sylvan Heights guests to experience close-up encounters with the colorful birds, whose breeding will be supported in a separate propagation facility. Sylvan Heights, home to more than 2,000 birds, features the world's largest collection of waterfowl as well as parrots, flamingos and other exotic species in an 18-acre setting that includes paved trails and a wheelchair-accessible treehouse.
In a win-win for whitewater enthusiasts and endangered species, the Madison River Park has opened a new section of the Dan River north of Greensboro for recreation. To address issues of structural disrepair of the Lindsey Bridge Dam, the town of Madison installed a natural boulder-weir system designed to ensure the local water supply, restore erosion, and remove a barrier to more than 50 miles of habitat for the endangered Roanoke logperch. The project also creates new access for tubing and paddling with a trio of outfitters (MadTown Tubing, Three River Outfitters and Mayodan Outdoor Sports) available to meet visitors’ needs for equipment and shuttle service.
Kersey Valley Attractions, whose Spookywoods had been making best-of Halloween lists since 1985, will introduce a holiday lights experience with a train ride, kiddie ziplines and snowless tubing for the 2021 season. With Kersey Valley Christmas, the 80-acre adventure farm in Archdale will become a winter wonderland with a million LED lights, sets with falling 5-foot snowflakes and a Nativity. Admission will cover the Kersey Valley Express Train Ride through the Wild West Christmas towns, John Deere-pulled wagon rides, massive jumping pillows, pedal carts, bungee trampolines and amusement rides along with a Santa opp, a singing Reindeer and a treehouse village. Gifts, concessions and s'mores around the firepit round out the festivities, which will run Nov. 26-Dec. 23. Kersey Valley, which nests in a nook between Interstates 85 and 74 near High Point, also offers a range of year-round and seasonal activities including a zipline tour, laser tag, a cornfield maze and you-cut sunflowers.
Charlotte restaurateurs Greg and Subrina Collier, who found the national spotlight with the 2020 opening of Leah & Louise, will debut the BayHaven Food & Wine Festival this fall as part of a mission to highlight Black culinarians. The list of participants includes James Beard-recognized chefs (Atlanta's Todd Richards, Asheville's Ashleigh Shanti, Wilmington's Keith Rhodes and Alabama’s Duane Nutter) along with Charlotte-area notables Lindsay Williams of Davidson Wine Co., Greg Williams and Jamie Barnes of What the Fries and Michael Bowling of Hot Box Next Level Kitchen. The festival, which takes place Oct. 22-24, will include a lively food truck carnival; demonstrations and tasting experiences; and special chef dinners. The festival is named for the couple’s newly formed restaurant group, called BayHaven in a nod to their Memphis roots. In addition to Leah & Louise, No. 2 on Esquire’s list of the country’s best new restaurants, the Colliers own the Uptown Yolk, which for 2020 earned Greg Collier his second James Beard semifinalist spot.
The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in downtown Wilson, a signature Eastern North Carolina attraction, adds a new dimension to the experience with the newly opened Whirligig Museum, located just across the street. The musuem illuminates the life of the accidental folk artist, a farm equpment repairman who turned scraps and cast-off items into 50-foot-tall sculptures that moved in the breeze. In Simpson's hands, road signs, bicycles, plows and washing machine parts danced against the sky in sculptures collected by the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, the High Museum in Atlanta, the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh and others. The new Whirligig Museum tells the story of the Wilson park, where 30 of Simpson's creations were restored and installed in a 2-acre park. The park, which officially opened four years after Simpson's death in 2013, is the centerpiece of the North Carolina Whirligig Festival, which returns Nov. 6-7.
“Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore” will illuminate the lives of Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Leonardo da Vinci in a yearlong series of multisensory experiences at the George W. Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate in Asheville. Each component of the series connects to Vanderbilt’s collection of treasures in the 250-room Biltmore House. Grande Experiences in Melbourne, Australia, developed the technology behind the immersive displays of enormously scaled images of the artists’ masterworks, which gain power from a synchronized classical score. “Van Gogh Alive” opens Nov. 6 to coincide with the spectacular “Christmas at Biltmore” event and runs through March 5. It will be followed by “Monet & Friends — Life, Light & Color” (March 9-July 6 during “Biltmore Blooms”) and “Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius” (July 10-Nov. 20). The series will be included with regular daytime admission, but reservations will be required.
A new equipment-testing facility, innovation hub, museum and visitors center will become part of the landscape at the U.S. Golf Association's "Golf House Pinehurst." In announcing the plans and a 2023 target completion date, the USGA added U.S. Open dates for the famed No. 2 course at Pinehurst Resort. Recognized as legendary architect Donald Ross' masterpiece, the No. 2 course adds 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047 to its U.S. Open card and becomes the USGA's first U.S. Open anchor site. As previously announced, the 2024 U.S. Open will mark the fourth time the tournament has been played on No. 2. The plans are part of the USGA's strategy to expand its impact and extend its mission to champion and advance the game.
The Catawba Indian Nation fast-tracked operations in Kings Mountain with a "pre-launch" facility for the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort. The temporary facility, which opened July 1, features 500 slot machines with limited food and beverage service and other amenities. The first permanent phase of the $273 million project, which is under construction on 17 acres of ancestral land off Interstate 85 southwest of Charlotte, is expected to open in 2022 with construction of a hotel and event center to follow. Casino operator Delaware North and developer Wallace Cheves' Skyboat Gaming are working with the Catawba Nation on the resort, whose name refers to 18th-century Catawba Chief King Hagler and the City of Kings Mountain.
The two Harrah's Cherokee properties in the Great Smoky Mountains have become the first legal sports betting venues in North Carolina with the opening of The Book. At Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, fans can place their bets and watch the action on a 90-foot-wide screen or opt for a customizable experience in one of three Fan Caves or an exclusive raised seating area. In Murphy, The Book at Harrah's Cherokee Valley River features a 32-foot screen and bar-top gaming. In other action, new meeting and convention space are on track to open this fall at the Cherokee resort, which is known for its 3,000-seat Event Center, Mandara Spa and Sequoyah National Golf Club as well as the casino.
Mayland Community College's Earth to Sky Park adds another enticement for stargazers to visit the Blue Ridge Mountain campus in Burnsville: the 60-seat Glenn and Carol Arthur Planetarium, opening in 2021 (date TBD). A certified International Dark Sky Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 6-acre Mayland park is home to the Bare Dark Sky Observatory and its 34-inch telescope, a viewing terrace, walking trails and gardens. Under the planetarium’s geodesic dome, visitors will be able to gaze at a 36-foot screen to view the skies from around the world, watch laser light shows and enjoy other experiences. Even before the planetarium opens, a visit to the Earth to Sky Park will be enlivened by a Matt Willey bee mural, set for completion in May.
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, concerts, and a museum highlighting the history of the property and the families who have owned it. This fall, guests will again be able to book the five rooms where celebrities once spent the night. www.thehistoricmagnoliahouse.com
Oyster farmers, restaurants. markets and educators invite travelers to indulge and learn along the N.C. Oyster Trail, which highlights an industry whose colorful history includes a war against out-of-state poachers. Stops extend from the Outer Banks to Bald Head Island with oyster farm tours, exhibits, excursions and dining with inland markets and restaurants sharing the delicacy with their customers. The Outer Banks Seafood Festival and other events will also elevate oysters at their 2021 celebrations. The Oyster Trail is administered by the N.C. Coastal Federation and N.C. Sea Grant in partnership with the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association.
The John Coltrane Jazz & Blues Festival in High Point celebrates its 10th anniversary over Labor Day weekend with headline performances by Chris Botti and Kurt Elling plus the opening of a Grammy Museum-curated photo exhibit. “A Love Supreme: The Jazz of John Coltrane Through the Eyes of Chuck Stewart” will open Sept. 3 at the High Point Museum, whose collection includes the piano Coltrane used for composing. Festivalgoers will also have a chance to tour Coltrane’s childhood home, see an exhibit on the festival’s history and snap a photo of Thomas J. Warren’s 8-foot Coltrane statue downtown. Born in Hamlet, Coltrane lived in High Point from age 3 months to age 17. With his brooding saxophone style and such compositions as “Kind of Blue” and “A Love Supreme,” he is recognized as one of the greatest musicians of the modern era. Find full details for the weekend at visithighpoint.com/celebrate-coltrane.
After COVID-19 forced the cancellation of MerleFest in 2020, the Wilkesboro festival returns for a September 2021 edition before reclaiming its regular spot on the calendar in April 2022. The lineup for the Sept. 16-19 event is to be announced. Deemed “the gold standard for bluegrass, Americana, and string-music festivals" by Rolling Stone, MerleFest features top acts across a "tradition plus" spectrum as generously defined by the late Doc Watson, who created the festival in 1988 in memory of son and bandmate Merle Watson.
Travelers to the Cape Lookout National Seashore have a new option for experiencing barrier island nature and history with 4WD Kubota UTV rentals from Island Express Ferry Service, the National Park Service-authorized service to the seashore’s most popular areas. Beginning in March, the UTVs can be rented from the Cape Lookout Lighthouse area and driven to the point for fishing and shelling or to the Cape Lookout Village Historic Site, where a former life-saving station, an old Coast Guard station and the remains of a World War II Army defense complex share 810 acres with former fishing cottages and vacation homes. Island Express offers tours and ferries from Beaufort and Harkers Island with landings in the lighthouse area and Shackleford Banks, famous for its herd of wild Colonial Spanish mustangs.
Transylvania County, known for its waterfalls and mountain biking, has been named to Green Destinations' Top 100, a list of places with innovative and effective sustainability tourism stories and good management practices. Transylvania is one of five listed destinations in North America, three in the United States and the only one on the East Coast. The Brevard-based county tourism office launched the Transylvania Always initiative in 2017 to advance sustainability efforts across a range of natural assets, including sections of Pisgah and Nantahala national forests, DuPont State Recreational Forest, and the French Broad and other rivers that feed more than 250 waterfalls. The 2020 launch of Leave It Better combines the efforts of nearly 30 conservation and cultural organizations to further the principles established by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Learn more about opportunities to experience the area at explorebrevard.com.
In a year that saw the 7 millionth guest escorted on a whitewater rafting trip, Nantahala Outdoor Center is looking ahead to celebrate its 50th season in 2021. The nation’s largest outdoor recreation company, NOC offers more than 120 different river- and land-based itineraries at its main location on the Nantahala River in Bryson City and along seven other Southeastern rivers. Special offerings for 2021 will include a women's whitewater kayaking retreat and a "Week of Rivers" in five different national forests as well as wilderness first aid and survival. NOC, whose resort amenities include three restaurants and multi-tiered lodging, has been recognized by The New York Times as the “Nation's Premiere Paddling School,” Outside as “The Best Place to Learn” and National Geographic Adventure as “One of the Best Outfitters on Earth.”