Summer Sets Sail on a Breeze of Inspiration

RALEIGH, N.C. — From the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s last stand to art glass in the Blue Ridge Mountains, summer simmers with possibility across North Carolina. Weekend celebration, extended events and seasonal experiences lead travelers to remarkable destinations for indulgent vacations and spur-of-the-moment getaways.

“Even for grownups, summer stirs a sense of freedom that makes it a perfect time to try something new,” said Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit North Carolina. “If you’ve never pitched a tent on the beach, make this the year — you’ll see a sunrise you’ll never forget. Go ‘tubbing’ down the Yadkin River for a true story that’ll be hard to believe. Add a stamp to your culinary passport by sampling Laotian fare.”

Start with the ideas below to find firsts and other inspiration for summer travel.


Memorial Day weekend, which signals the start of summer, resonates with patriotic spirit. Five branches of the military bring displays of prowess to Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord before Sunday’s running of the Coca-Cola 600. In Fuquay-Varina, the Freedom Balloon Fest (May 25-28) aims to display 10,000 flags amid mass balloon ascensions, tethered rides and other festivities. And in Wilmington, Monday’s Memorial Day Observance aboard the Battleship North Carolina includes an all-service color guard, a 21-gun salute, and the casting of a memorial wreath into the water.


Three hundred years since he ran aground in North Carolina, Blackbeard still holds people in thrall. Fresh debate swirls over his origins — Bristol? Jamaica? the Carolina coast? — as well as his legendary treasure. Along a well-marked path, swagger and pirate’s play meet indelicate artifacts and accounts of a bloody death. Key destinations include Beaufort, where items from the Queen Anne’s Revenge are on view; Bath, where Blackbeard made himself at home; and Ocracoke, where he holed up and was finally felled. Travelers can also opt to drink like a pirate at watering holes he would have loved.


More than 60 Asheville-area glass artists, studios, galleries and tour operators are building on the “Chihuly at Biltmore“ exhibition at Biltmore to showcase the region's artistry and its place in the American studio glass movement. Biltmore visitors can see Dale Chihuly's boundary-breaking work in the 8,000-acre estate's gardens, which are planted with the installations in mind. Biltmore also offers select nighttime viewings with music and dramatic lighting. Elsewhere, special events, experiences and tours engage visitors in Asheville's vibrant art glass scene and beyond with excursions to Toe River Arts in Burnsville and the Penland School near Spruce Pine. “Chihuly at Biltmore” runs through Oct. 7. Learn more about the “Summer of Glass” at


Recreational cyclists can pick up a competitive kick in the inaugural Fondo Cycling Circuit USA, which debuts Aug. 5 in Davidson. Timed sections on the 30-, 50- and 75-mile routes add challenge to a ride based in the bike-friendly college town on the banks of Lake Norman. Riders can celebrate their achievement at a food truck and beer festival with live music. The six-ride circuit joins the Asdeporte portfolio of events, which include the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series and IRONMAN races. Find registration details at


Take your moves from the dance floor to the streets of Hendersonville as it celebrates the centennial of its street dance tradition. What began as a way for residents to welcome soldiers home from World War I continues on Monday nights in July and August with live bluegrass and square dancing on Main Street. People in Waynesville also heed the caller at the town’s Mountain Street Dance series.

For more ideas to fill your summer, find inspiration and trip-planning information on



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