Recent News

Black Food and Wine Festival Debuts in Charlotte

Charlotte restaurateurs Greg and Subrina Collier, who found the national spotlight with the 2020 opening of Leah & Louise, debuted the BayHaven Food & Wine Festival in October as part of a mission to highlight Black culinarians. The list of participants included James Beard-recognized chefs (Atlanta's Todd Richards, 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 included 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.

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. 

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.

New Era of Glory Arrives for 1838 Hillsborough Tavern

Two decades after the last guests were served, the Colonial Inn in Hillsborough’s downtown historic district is again welcoming travelers and diners. Originally known as Spencer’s Tavern, the landmark enjoyed a long history as an inn and later a popular restaurant that closed in 2001. The two-story structure houses a restaurant, bar, event center and 28 guestrooms. Hillsborough, once destined to be the state's capital, has been dubbed "America's little literary town" for its concentration of writers.

The Swag Joins Relais & Châteaux Collection

The Swag, an all-inclusive guest house near Waynesville, has joined the international Relais & Châteaux association of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants. The Swag, whose name refers to a low-lying area connecting two ridges, sits on 250 acres at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The all-inclusive hideaway has 14 rooms, each of them individually furnished and decorated with original artwork, rustic antiques, woven rugs and handmade quilts. David and Annie Haslam Colquitt of Knoxville purchased The Swag in 2018, and in 2020, they joined another couple in acquiring nearby Cataloochee Ranch, whose history is tied to the national park’s creation. With operations currently limited to horseback rides, Cataloochee Ranch is expected to reopen in 2022. The Swag joins two other North Carolina properties, Fearrington House in Pittsboro and Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, on the Relais & Châteaux roster of about 500 properties on five continents.

New Park on the Dan River Extends Access for Recreation, Habitat

In a win-win for whitewater enthusiasts and endangered species, the Madison River Park 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, which opened in spring 2021, also created 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.

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.

UTV Rentals Add Adventure Plus Easy Access to Seashore History

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.

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.

'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. 

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

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.

Margo Metzger
Public Relations Director
Chelsey Kirby
J Public Relations


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