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RALEIGH, N.C. — From outdoor recreation and unique lodging to arts and culture and fine dining, the charming small towns and vibrant urban locations of North Carolina offer an endless array of travel experiences. Explore the highest peaks in the Eastern United States and 320 miles of pristine coastline at VisitNC.com or call 1-800 VISIT NC (847-4862).

Solar Eclipse Path Traverses the Smokies

The 2017 total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 lasts mere minutes, but it’s a once-in-a-generation event. Parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Western North Carolina counties are in the path of totality. For destination details, local events and trip-planning tools, see www.discoverjacksonnc.com/outdoors/total-solar-eclipse and www.greatsmokies.com/2017eclipse. And beyond the eclipse, find dark-sky stargazing events, older-than-ancient meteorites and NASA history at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute near Brevard. www.pari.edu

Charlotte Hosts PGA Championship

One of four major events in men’s professional golf, the PGA Championship returns to North Carolina for the 2017 edition, set for the Aug. 7-13 at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte. It will be the first major golf championship to take place in Charlotte. The event unfolded on the Pinehurst No. 2 course in 1936 and the Tanglewood Park Championship Course in Clemmons in 1974. Quail Hollow is the home course for the Wells Fargo Championship, which this year took place at at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington. www.pga.com/pgachampionship/2017 

Water Park Splashes Down on the Outer Banks

H2OBX Waterpark, set to open this summer, will offer state-of-the-art waterslides, pools and amenities on 80 acres across Currituck Sound from Kitty Hawk. The water park, which will reference the Wright Brothers and other elements of the area’s heritage, will be the largest commercial attraction on the Outer Banks. h2obxwaterpark.com

Gregg Museum of Art & Design Reopens in New Digs

Once housed at Talley Student Center, this N.C. State University museum reopens this summer in the Historic Chancellor’s Residence near downtown Raleigh. The museum will also have a new 15,000-square-foot building adjacent to the Georgian-style mansion. Strengths of the collection include outsider art, textiles, ceramics, photography and modern furniture. gregg.arts.ncsu.edu 

Whirligig Park Turns Wilson Into a Visionary Arts Destination

The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, featuring 31 of the late visionary artist's wind-powered sculptures, is on track for completion by late summer. Sixteen of Simpson's whimsical whirligigs have already been installed at the 2-acre park, and others dance in the breeeze at the Wilson Rose Garden, Hickory Grove Park and other Wilson locations as well as museums in Raleigh, Atlanta and Baltimore. www.wilsonwhirligigpark.org 

R.J. Reynolds mansion turns 100

2017 brings the 100th birthday of Reynolda House, the 60-room American bungalow built by tobacco baron RJ Reynolds and his wife, Katharine. It’s also the 50th anniversary for the home’s role as a museum, whose American art collection ranks among the finest in the United States. Special exhibitions will focus on two leading artists in the collection: “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” (Aug. 25-Nov. 5) and “Frederic Church: To Jerusalem and Back” (Feb. 4-April 29, 2018). www.reynoldahouse.org  

Bald Head Island Lighthouse Turns 200

North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse, and possibly its best-loved, turns 200 in 2017. Special events go on all year on Bald Head Island, an alluring destination where people get around by golf cart and bicycle instead of cars. “Old Baldy” is no longer an active beacon, but visitors can climb it year-round. www.oldbaldy.org

Cheerwine Toasts 100th birthday

Once available only in North Carolina, the cult-favorite cherry soda now enjoys wide distribution and acclaim as the National Barbecue Association’s official soft drink. But in 2017, the best place for a taste might be Cheerwine's hometown of Salisbury, where Innes Street Drugstore features loads of Cheerwine merchandise and treats. For the centennial, the Rowan Museum offers a yearlong exhibit on "the nectar of North Carolina" that features memorabilia, advertising and packaging. cheerwine.com

Carowinds Adds Rides and a Holiday Event

The home of the world-record-holding Fury 325 roller-coaster has redeveloped its Country Fair section with four new rides, including the Rock 'N' Roller. In November, the Charlotte amusement park will add an active WinterFest celebration to the holiday landscape. www.carowinds.com 

Mountains-to-Sea Trail Reaches a Milestone

Stretching from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Outer Banks, the 1,150-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail offers hundreds of entry points for celebrating its 40th anniversary. The official kickoff in Elkin featured speaker Jennifer Pharr Davis, the Asheville resident who holds the speed record for hiking the Appalachian Trail. She plans to cover the MST in August. www.ncmst.org

Revamped Chimney Rock Trail Elevates View

A realigned Skyline Trail at Chimney Rock Park will soon lead visitors all the way to the top of 404-foot-high Hickory Nut Falls. The destination on the eco-friendlier trail is a lookout above the waterfall to see where the final confrontation in "Last of the Mohicans" was filmed. Even more incredible: a view of Exclamation Point and Lake Lure that was not possible from the old trail. Aside to film fans: "Last of the Mohicans" marks the 25th anniversary of its 1992 release this year. www.chimneyrockpark.com

Benton Convention Center Completes Renovations

An $18 million renovation of Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem is on track for completion by June. The structural, design and technological upgrades for the 100,000-square-foot building are aimed at creating more open, flexible meeting space with architectural nods to Winston-Salem's historic arts, tobacco and textile roots. twincityquarter.com

Pinehurst Resort Introduces Chef & Maker Series

At a resort that’s synonymous with golf, North Carolina chefs get top billing at three weekend-long events at Pinehurst. The new Chef & Maker Series began May 12-14 with Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte and continues July 7-9 with James Beard award winner Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Death & Taxes and other Raleigh restaurants), followed by Katie Button of Cúrate and Nightbell in Asheville the weekend of Sept. 15-19 www.pinehurst.com

Esmeralda Inn Turns 125

Boasting a guest list that includes Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Douglas Fairbanks and Clark Gable, the Esmerelda Inn in Chimney Rock celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2017. Twice rebuilt after devastating fires, the Esmerelda maintains its rustic elegance and timeless charm. theesmeralda.com

“Dirty Dancing” Marks 30th Anniversary

“Dirty Dancing,” the movie that made Lake Lure famous, marks its 30th anniversary with a new bells-and-whistles BluRay edition plus a limited theatrical release. But the time-of-your-life celebration takes place Aug. 18-19 at the Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure. www.dirtydancingfestival.com Meanwhile, ABC’s musical adaptation of "Dirty Dancing," also shot in Western North Carolina, debuts May 24.

Indie Hotels, Hot Brands Welcome First Guests

Dream Hotels launches its new Unscripted brand in Durham, the independent StateView Hotel opens in Raleigh, four of Marriott’s European-style AC Hotels arrive, and Charlotte adds an indy boutique hotel and other properties. Here's a brief rundown of lodging highlights, city by city:

  • Charlotte
    • The Ivey’s Hotel: The former home of Ivey’s Department Store finds new life as a 42-room boutique hotel. Features include the use of reclaimed 17th-century wood from France for flooring in the rooms and a grand staircase from the first to second floor. www.theiveyshotel.com
    • InterContinental (2019): North Carolina’s first InterContinental-brand hotel will rise in Charlotte atop a 1927 theater that closed four decades ago. The luxury hotel will offer 250 rooms in 20-story addition to the five-story theater, which will be restored. valorhospitality.com
    • Kimpton Charlotte Downtown (October): Charlotte’s hotel boom includes a luxury high-rise from Kimpton as part of a mixed-use property. The 216-room hotel will include an indoor/outdoor rooftop bar overlooking Romare Bearden Park. 300southtryon.com, www.kimptonhotels.com Also from Kimpton: an intimate boutique hotel in the stately Dilworth neighborhood; opening TBD.
    • Dual-branded AC Hotel/Residence Inn at the EpiCentre (2018). A new tower atop Uptown Charlotte’s EpiCentre dining and entertainment complex will be home to two Marriott brands: an 182-room AC Hotel and a 120-suite Residence Inn. www.clevelandconstruction.com
    • Other projects from a major hotel building boom include Embassy Suites by Hilton Charlotte Uptown (250 suites; February) and Springhill Suites Charlotte Uptown (195 rooms).
  • Durham
    • Unscripted Hotel (summer): Dream Hotels launches its new Unscripted Hotel brand at the restored Jack Tar Motel downtown. The hotel will have 74 rooms plus a rooftop deck with pool. www.dreamhotelgroup.com
    • JB Duke Hotel: A Duke University campus conference center reopened in January as a 198-room, full-service hotel. “JB” is tobacco and energy industrialist James Buchanan Duke. www.jbdukehotel.com
  • Raleigh
    • StateView Hotel (October): The 164-room hotel and conference center is the latest addition to the N.C. State University Centennial Campus. The StateView, on Lake Raleigh near the Lonnie Poole Golf Course, is affiliated with Marriott’s independent-minded Autograph Collection. www.stateviewhotel.com
    • Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown (July): Extended-stay hotel will have 176 rooms and a rooftop lounge. www.marriott.com
    • AC Hotel Raleigh North Hills: Marriott’s fast-growing, European-style brand made its North Carolina debut in March with this 135-room, select-service hotel. www.marriott.com/hotels
  • Wilmington
    • Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel (October): Offering 186 suites, the hotel will have a prime location on Wilmington's Riverwalk, a 2-mile pedestrian path along the Cape Fear River adjacent to downtown shops and restaurants. The hotel is connected to the Wilmington Convention Center. www.harmonyhospitality.com/embassy-suites 
    • Aloft Wilmington Hotel and Conference Center (2019): The 125-room hotel will connect to the Coastline Conference and Event Center and the city’s history as a major rail hub.  The hotel will have a full-service restaurant, outdoor pool, and rooftop bar. www.starwoodhotels.com 
  • Asheville
    • AC Hotel Asheville Downtown (June): This nine-story, 120-room hotel is teaming up with veteran restaurateurs Peter and Martha Pollay (Posana) as food and beverage consultants. The hotel will feature a rooftop bar. www.marriott.com
    • Cambria Downtown Asheville (TBD): The 12-story property will have terrace dining and cocktails as well as a breakfast-lunch-dinner restaurant. www.cambriadowntownasheville.com
  • Chapel Hill
    • AC Hotel Chapel Hill (September): Features at the four-story, 123-room hotel will include a community mural and a prominent fire pit for locals and travelers to mingle. www.otodevelopment.com
    • Hyatt Place Hotel / Southern Village (April): The 110-room hotel is the latest development in Chapel Hill’s “New Urbanism” neighborhood. chapelhill.place.hyatt.com
  • Kinston

 Looking ahead

Tryon International Equestrian Center to Host World Equestrian Games

The flagship event of the Fédération Equestre Internationale will be held Sept. 10-23, 2018, at Tryon International Equestrian Center, created by Mark Bellissimo in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in 2014. In choosing the 1,800-acre site in Mill Spring for the World Equestrian Games, the FEC noted the venue’s competition facilities, including arenas, world-class cross-country course, and extensive surrounding trails. Lodging, dining, shopping, golf and other amenities also played into the selection. The Games are held every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle. tryon.coth.com

History Travelers Chart Course for Blackbeard Tricentennial

In his final 180 days, the world’s most notorious pirate ran his mighty flagship aground, secured a pardon, took a teenage wife, set up a new base, resumed his plundering ways, and lost a death match to a Royal Navy lieutenant. All those events unfolded between early June and Nov. 22, 1718, along the North Carolina coast. The 300th anniversary of those events will make 2018 a compelling year to visit OcracokeBeaufortBathGreenville and other coastal destinations.

Charlotte Extends Light Rail Reach

With the March 2018 completion of a LYNX Blue Line extension, Charlotte’s NoDa area joins the list of destination neighborhoods that visitors can reach without a car. The 9 new miles will connect laid-back NoDa and lively South End by way of bustling Uptown with stops near breweries, restaurants, galleries, museums and other points of interest. www.lynxcharlotte.com

Raleigh Union Station to Make Train Travel More Appealing

Traveling to Raleigh by train will become more amenable with the January 2018 opening of the new Raleigh Union Station transportation hub. Larger platforms, a canopy cover and dedicated tracks for passenger trains will improve the travel experience, and dining, retail and a civil hall will connect travelers to lively downtown shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. The station is designed to meet future demand for intercity passenger rail, commuter rail, buses, taxis, bicycles and other forms of transportation. www.raleighnc.gov

Movies, TV Projects to Mark Major Anniversaries in 2018

Two favorite TV series and four notable films mark their anniversaries in 2018, giving movie lovers more reasons to check out the locations.

  • Brainstorm” (1983): Douglas Trumbull’s film is best known for being Natalie Wood’s last. While it was in production, the actress drowned on a weekend excursion with husband Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken. The science fiction film, which won a Saturn Award for Louise Fletcher, included shots of two landmarks (the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the Ocracoke Lighthouse) as well as scenes filmed at Pinehurst and Research Triangle Park.
  • Bull Durham” (1988): Producer Thomas Mount chose his hometown as the setting for the classic baseball romance, which was written and directed by Ron Shelton. Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins starred in the film, which turned the real Durham Bulls into the most famous team in Minor League baseball. Raleigh, Asheville, Burlington, Wilson and Greensboro also saw film action.
  • The Fugitive” (1993): Tommy Lee Jones won an Oscar for his portrayal of the marshal tracking down Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford).  Film travelers can see Cheoah Dam, where Kimble takes a giant leap, and wrecked train, which filmmakers left in place on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Tuckasegee River Excursion from Bryson City to Dillsboro.
  • Dawson’s Creek” (1998-2003): North Carolina native Kevin Williamson created this teen drama starring James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson and Michelle Williams. Production was based in the Wilmington area with additional shoots in Southport, Durham and Chapel Hill.
  • One Tree Hill” (2003-2012): Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty and Hilarie Burton were among the stars of the series, which also was based in Wilmington. Diehard fans won’t wait for the 15th anniversary of the series’ debut: They’ll return to see Chad Michael Murray at EyeCon’s “One Tree Hill” convention in October.
  • "Nights in Rodanthe"(2008): Richard Gere and Diane Lane take top billing, but the movie's real star might be the Inn at Rodanthe. And in a grand gesture worthy of North Carolina novelist Nicholas Sparks, the house was saved from the sea (plan well and you can rent it for your stay). Follow this ready-made trail from the Outer Banks to Wilmington, then continue to Southport, the setting and main location for "Safe Haven," celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2018.

Charlotte to Host NBA All-Star Weekend in 2019

Charlotte has been selected to host the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend, which takes place Feb. 15-17 at Spectrum Arena, home of the Charlotte Hornets. It will mark the second NBA All-Star celebration in Charlotte, which hosted the event in 1991. Playing at the Charlotte Coliseum that year, Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan (then with the Chicago Bulls) was the leading scorer with 26 points. The 2019 All-Star Game will air Feb. 17 on TNT. www.nba.com 



Eleanor Talley
919-447-7783, 9190525-5292