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Public Will Encounter 'Dueling Dinosaurs' in Raleigh in 2023

Two stars of the dinosaur world will take center stage in Raleigh in 2023 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. 

Outdoor NC Initiative Aims to Inspire Travelers to Enjoy and Sustain

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.

Nature Discovery Center to Open at Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain extends its connection to natural wonder with the 2022 opening of the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery, the focal point of a new Conservation Campus at the UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. When it opens in June, the center will nearly double the size of Grandfather Mountain's Nature Museum and add a dozen interactive exhibits and experiences that connect to the mountain's 16 natural communities. New outdoor learning spaces will include an amphitheater with terraced seating and a pavilion while an ADA-accessible auditorium, classrooms and new food service facilities will extend the park’s capacity for hosting conferences and other events. Grandfather Mountain, a 5,946-foot peak off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, is known for its walking trails, wildlife habitats and the Mile High Swinging Bridge.

New Tropical Aviary to Expand Bird Park's Conservation Efforts

Raggiana birds-of-paradise, green pygmy geese and plum-headed parakeets are among the residents of a new aviary at Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck. The "Birds of Paradise" aviary, which houses 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, which opened in October, 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. 

Immersive Kersey Valley Christmas Experience Premieres in 2021

Kersey Valley Attractions, whose Spookywoods has been making best-of Halloween lists since 1985, introduces 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 runs 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.

New Museum Elevates Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park Experience

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 museum illuminates the life of the accidental folk artist, a farm equipment 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.

Van Gogh, Monet and da Vinci Experience to Travel to Biltmore

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.

Destinations Map History With New African American Experience of Northeast North Carolina

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, 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 Museum 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.

USGA Establishes 'Golf House Pinehurst,' Adds U.S. Open Dates

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. 

Gaming Begins at Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort

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.

Harrah's Cherokee Adds Sports Betting, New Conference Hotel

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 CenterMandara Spa and Sequoyah National Golf Club as well as the casino.

Planetarium Joins the Lineup at Mayland Earth to Sky Park

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 early 2022.  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 has been enlivened by a new Matt Willey bee mural.

Restored 'Green Book'-Era Property Will Soon Book Overnight Guests

Jackie Robinson slept here. So did James Baldwin, James Brown, Gladys Knight, Ike and Tina Turner, and other Black 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. By early 2022, guests will again be able to book the five rooms where celebrities once spent the night.

Oyster Trail Connects Coastal Cuisine, Heritage

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.

'Love Supreme' Photos on View in Coltrane's Growing-up Town

To mark the 10th anniversary of the John Coltrane Jazz & Blues Festival, the High Point Museum in High Point has installed “A Love Supreme: The Jazz of John Coltrane Through the Eyes of Chuck Stewart” for a three-month run. The exhibit, which was curated by the Grammy Museum, features 20 rarely seen photographs taken by Stewart during the recording of "A Love Supreme," Coltrane's groundbreaking jazz composition. 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. Stewart's photos will remain on view through Dec. 5 at the museum, whose collection includes the piano Coltrane used for composing. 

New Food Halls to Enliven Dining on I-95 and in Winston-Salem

The nation’s first roadside food hall is on track to open in early 2022, inviting travelers to exit Interstate 95 at the timeless railroad town of Selma for a bite and a craft beverage. Originally set to open in November 2020, Old North State Food Hall will draw on the state’s agricultural heritage with vendors featuring North Carolina produce, seafood, meats and cheeses along with beer, cider, wine and spirits in the 3,100-square-foot N.C. Craft House, a full-service bar and bottle shop. New York-based Hospitality HQ, led by celebrity chef/cookbook author Akhtar Nawab, will oversee operations. In other food hall news, the 1926 Twin City Motor Building in downtown Winston-Salem will be reborn as a lively dining complex/recreation center called Roar, which seeks to revive the joy of the Roaring Twenties. With an early 2022 opening expected, the three-story building, which once was a Ford dealership, will feature a selection of eateries at Ford’s Food Hall, upscale dining at Est! Est! Est!, duckpin bowling and golf simulators. Roar marks the second adaptive reuse project in Winston-Salem for Mayfair Street Partners, which transformed the nearby Pepper Building into Hotel Indigo Winston-Salem Downtown in 2019.

Transylvania County Earns a Spot on Green Destinations' Top 100

For the second year, Transylvania County, known for its waterfalls and mountain biking, has been named to the Green Destinations' Top 100 list of places with innovative and effective sustainability tourism stories and good management practices. Transylvania is one of two U.S. destinations on the list (along with Vail, Colo.). 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

Nantahala Outdoor Center Marks 50th Anniversary

Nantahala Outdoor Center, one of the nation’s largest outdoor recreation companies, celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022. With more than 120 river- and land-based itineraries at its main location on the Nantahala River in Bryson City and along seven other Southeastern rivers, NOC is best known for whitewater adventure on the Nantahala River, where more than 20 Olympic paddlers have trained. Beyond rafting for all levels, the main campus offers zip lines and treetop adventures, tubing, kayaking, hiking and biking. Training (including wilderness survival), multi-day events and multi-activity packages are available, as are on-site lodging, camping and dining.

Margo Metzger
Public Relations Director
Chelsey Kirby
J Public Relations


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