What's New

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).

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. tryoncoth.com

Visitors Can Soon Ride Through the Mountain to the Top of Chimney Rock

Building an elevator inside a 315-foot granite peak ranks as a monumental feat of ingenuity and engineering. And fixing one is no walk in the park. But after an S64-F helicopter airlifted the original 12,500-pound motor from Chimney Rock’s 1949 elevator and delivered its replacement in June, the park expects repairs to be complete by the end of the year. The elevator has been out of service for two years, leaving the Outcroppings Trail and its 449 steps ― more than the Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island lighthouses combined ― as the only route to the top. And in a treat for fall leaf peepers, the newly realigned Skyline Trail creates unrivaled views of 404-foot-high Hickory Nut Falls and the place where the last confrontation in "Last of the Mohicans" (1992) was filmed. www.chimneyrockpark.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.

Carowinds Debuts Holiday WinterFest

The Charlotte amusement park will add an active WinterFest celebration to the holiday landscape, transforming the park into a winter wonderland with a holiday light spectacle, live entertainment, holiday treats and fanciful experiences. It joins a lively regional lineup that includes Speedway Christmas in Concord, Christmas Town USA in McAdenville, Holidays at the Garden at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, and Christmas at the Library at Billy Graham Library. www.carowinds.com 

Four Food Halls to Debut in Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham

In September, Blue Dogwood Public Market in downtown Chapel Hill became the first of four food halls to season the prime dining scenes in the Research Triangle area. Coming soon: Morgan Street Food Hall & Market (fall) and Transfer Co. ― Olde East (summer 2018) in downtown Raleigh, and Durham Food Hall (spring 2018) in the evolving Reuse Arts District at Lakewood. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Blue Dogwood Public Market: A 4,000-square-foot space in the heart of the college town, Blue Dogwood features  permanent food vendors offering fresh food, food to go, and retail products. Vendors include Pizelle Bakery (gluten-free sweets and savories), Soul Cocina (Latin American-inspired, plant-based fare), Left Bank Butchery (whole animal butcher shop), Sancha Tea Bar and Chocolatay Confections. www.bluedogwood.com 
  • Morgan Street Food Hall & Market: With 22,000 square feet, Morgan Street Food Hall will house more than 60 food stalls, restaurants and markets. Tenants include Sassool (Mediterranean), Cousins Maine Lobster, Boba Brew (bubble teas and smoothies), City Sushi, Five Points Baking Co., Carolina Fancy Foods and Avenue des Chocolats. Morgan Street is being developed by the owner of Raleigh Beer Garden, which holds the Guinness World Record for most beers on tap. www.morganfoodhall.com 
  • Transfer Co. ― Olde East: This venture with 43,000 square feet of space has commitments from culinary notables including Videri Chocolate Factory, Boulted Bread, Jubala Coffee, Locals Seafood, Centro restaurant and Saxapahaw General Store. Transfer Co. is about a mile from Morgan Street Food Hall. www.transferoldeeast.com 
  • Durham Food Hall: Ten vendors are expected to operate in this culinary anchor of the Durham Reuse Arts District, a redevelopment effort led by the Scrap Exchange, a nonprofit that diverts material bound for the landfill for use by makers, educators and others. The food hall will include 14,000 square feet indoors with a beer garden, stage and play area outdoors. durhamfoodhall.com

Also coming in 2018: Tompkins Hall in Charlotte, where 7th Street Public Market became North Carolina’s first food hall when it opened in 2012. Tompkins Hall will feature a 20,000-square-foot food hall with 35,000 square feet for retail and restaurants and 80,000 square feet of office space. Tompkins Hall is part of the transforming Optimist Park neighborhood. tompkinshall.com 

Asheville Brewery Taps Into Blue Ridge Parkway History

Burial Beer Co. will open a second location in a 1920s New Deal building that once housed the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps, builders of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Called Forestry Camp, the 1.4-acre property in South Asheville will be transformed into a two-story taproom and lounge, restaurant, urban gardens and an outdoor event venue preserving elements of the site’s legacy. www.burialbeer.com

R.J. Reynolds Mansion Turns 100

2017 marks 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 focus on two leading artists in the collection: “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” (through Nov. 5) and “Frederic Church: To Jerusalem and Back” (Feb. 4-April 29, 2018). www.reynoldahouse.org  

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 fall. 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 

Renovation Transforms Andy Griffith Museum

After a renovation of more than half a million dollars, the Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy offers a fresh take on the actor-musician's storied life. Memorabilia is presented as a stroll through Mayberry, the Mount Airy-inspired setting for "The Andy Griffith Show," with storefronts representing real and fictional places: the Snappy Lunch, the Earle Theatre, Floyd's Barber Shop, Emmett's Fix-It Shop and the Mayberry Courthouse & Jail. Exhibits cover the Mount Airy native's Hollywood days, "Matlock" and music as well as his signature series. The museum opened in 2009, three years before Griffith's death. www.andygriffithmuseum.com 

Gregg Museum of Art & Design Reopens in New Digs

Once housed at Talley Student Center, this N.C. State University museum reopens Aug. 26 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 

North Carolina Welcome Centers Celebrate 50th Anniversary

For half a century, Interstate highway travelers have been able to find a welcome, information, assistance and bathrooms at North Carolina Welcome Centers. The first two centers, dedicated by Gov. Daniel K. Moore on Aug. 1, 1968, are just across the border from Virginia on Interstates 85 and 95. Today, nine Welcome Centers serve travelers entering North Carolina from the north, south and west on I-85, I-95, I-77, I-26 and I-40. The centers are staffed by certified travel counselors who will book reservations (at no charge) as well as provide detailed information, maps and marketing publications. Learn more at www.nccommerce.com/tourism/programs-services/welcome-centers.  

Lodging news

Charlotte Gains Indie Hotels, New Brands 

Within a one-year period, North Carolina's largest city is on track to see a 20 percent increase in hotel rooms in the bustling Center City. Among them:

  • 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 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 Tryon Park Hotel (November): 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
  • Grand Bohemian (2019). The Kessler Collection is building a 254-room hotel with such Grand Bohemian hallmarks as a campanile, art gallery and bistro. The restaurant will also feature a rooftop bar and lounge plus a grand ballroom, spa and fitness center. www.kesslercollection.com 

Hotels to Transform Historic Asheville Buildings 

Asheville's tallest high-rise and three foundry buildings will soon find new life as boutique hotels. Developers of the Asheville Foundry Inn aim to debut the 92-room hotel in spring 2018. Part of Hilton's Curio Collection, the inn incorporates two new buildings plus three structures where steel for Asheville's original building boom was made. The property will include a a 100-seat restaurant, a luxury spa and fitness center, and a lounge with library and fireplaces. www.charlestownehotels.com A few blocks from the Foundry, the 18-story BB&T Building will be reborn as the Hotel Arros, a 128-room hotel with 54 condominiums. It will be affiliated with Starwood's Tribute Portfolio of independent, luxury-minded hotels. The top floors will offer exceptional views of both mountains and city lights. www.mckibbon.com These projects are part of a wave of Asheville hotel developments that include the AC Hotel Asheville Downtown and the soon-to-open Cambria Hotel ― Downtown Asheville

StateView Hotel Adds Luster to Raleigh Lodging Roster

N.C. State University's Centennial Campus, the university's research park and educational campus, gains a major amenity that will appeal to business travelers as well as leisure visitors. The StateView Hotel, opening in October on Lake Raleigh, is a 164-room hotel and conference center affiliated with Marriott’s independent-minded Autograph Collection. The StateView, which is less than quarter mile from the Arnold Palmer-designed Lonnie Poole Golf Course, addresses its target market's high-tech demands with the "fastest, most reliable, high-speed internet." Its signature restaurant, Flask & Beaker, draws inspiration from NCSU's heritage as a land grant university. www.stateviewhotel.com 

Downtown Wilmington Welcomes a Boom in Rooms

October's opening of the 186-unit Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel becomes the newest option for business and leisure travelers to the Port City. The hotel, which is connected to the Wilmington Convention Center, enjoys a prime location on the Riverwalk, a 2-mile pedestrian path along the Cape Fear River adjacent to downtown shops and restaurants. Its arrival follows the April opening of the 92-room Hampton Inn Wilmington Downtown. Developers of the Port City Marina, USA InvestCo, plan to build an adjacent Hotel Indigo. And Starwood Hotels lists the Aloft Wilmington Hotel at the Coastline Conference and Event Center for 2019 and The Westin Wilmington North Carolina for 2021. www.harmonyhospitality.com/embassy-suites 

Horton Hotel to Complement Boone's College Town Vibe

Boone's status as a consummate college town should rise with the opening of the Horton Hotel in summer 2018. The 1920s building will be transformed into a 14-room boutique hotel with a cocktail lounge and rooftop deck with views of 4,396-foot Howard Knob, the tallest peak in Boone. The building, which sits amid shops and restaurants that appeal to travelers and students at Appalachian State University, was most recently used as an art gallery and gift shop. www.facebook.com/thehorton1924 

Inn at Half-Mile Farm in Highlands Expands

Old Edwards Hospitality Group has opened 12 new guestrooms at Half-Mile Farm, a luxury country inn and sister to Old Edwards Inn, a Relais and Chateaux property. The inn, which previously closed in the winter, will now remain open year round. The new wing is between the forest and the new Garden House, which features panoramic glass walls, a fireplace, and a terrace adjoining the grape arbor. A second dining room has been added, and the heated mineral pool has a new deck, pool house and Jacuzzi with a rock wall and small waterfall for a backdrop. www.halfmilefarm.com 

New Properties Maintain the Excitement in Durham 

After scoring a pair of top-rate boutique hotels in 2015 (The Durham and 21c Museum Hotel Durham), the Bull City has added two more attention-worthy hotels.  In June, Dream Hotels launched its new Unscripted Hotel brand at the restored Jack Tar Motel downtown. The hotel has 74 rooms plus a rooftop deck with pool. www.dreamhotelgroup.com  And a Duke University campus conference center has reopened as the 198-room, full-service JB Duke Hotel. “JB” is tobacco and energy industrialist James Buchanan Duke. www.jbdukehotel.com

Other Developments at a Glance 

  • Chapel Hill: AC Hotel Chapel Hill Downtown opened September, just in time to accommodate fans of University of North Carolina football. Features at the four-story, 123-room hotel include a community mural and a fire pit where locals and travelers can mingle. www.marriott.com At Southern Village, the town's "New Urbanism" neighborhood, the 110-room Hyatt Place Chapel Hill / Southern Village opened in May. chapelhill.place.hyatt.com
  • Concord: Uptown Suites, the new extended-stay brand from Starwood, opened its first hotel in Concord in April. Uptown Suites offers budget-conscious, studio apartment-style rooms with full kitchens. uptownsuites.com 
  • Kinston: A 1960s motel was stylishly retrofitted for its revival as the Mother Earth Motor Lodge. Owner Stephen Hill, co-founder of Mother Earth Brewing and owner of The O’Neil boutique hotel, prescribed flashback decor of its 45 rooms and suites. Amenities include a three-ring pool, shuffleboard court and nine-hole miniature golf course. www.MotherEarthMotorLodge.com

Looking ahead

New Ferry Service to Add Option for Travelers to Ocracoke in 2018

Beginning in May 2018, the N.C. Ferry System will add a passenger-only route from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke’s Silver Lake Harbor, giving visitors an opportunity to explore the island’s central village without having to worry about traffic or parking. The service will be an alternative to the vehicle-and-passenger ferry from Hatteras to the north end of Ocracoke, 12 miles from the village and its shops, restaurants and historic attractions. Ocracoke, the southernmost stretch of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, is known for its beach, which has topped Dr. Beach’s annual list, and its role as Blackbeard’s last hangout. www.ncdot.gov/ferry/passengerferry.html 

Biltmore to Mount 'Glamour on Board: Fashion from Titanic the Movie'

The first large-scale exhibition of fashions from “Titanic,” the 1997 film that took home 11 Oscars, will launch at Biltmore in “Glamour on Board: Fashion from Titanic the Movie,” on view Feb. 9-May 13, 2018. The exhibition will feature 45 costumes on display inside the 250-room home of George and Edith Vanderbilt, who canceled plans to board the Titanic a week before the voyage. Guests will also learn more about the Vanderbilts’ extensive travels. www.biltmore.com/titanicfashion 

2018 Marks Centennial Season for Hendersonville Street Dances

The street dance tradition in Hendersonville began as a way for residents to welcome soldiers home from World War I. A hundred years later, people still take to Main Street on Monday nights in July and August for live bluegrass and square dancing. Those who have never do-si-do'd come early to learn basic steps from caller Walt Puckett. More lively action comes from area clogging teams show off their fancy doubles and rockin' chairs. http://www.visithendersonvillenc.org

Newly Restored Carl Sandburg Home Celebrates Milestone

After three years of extensive restoration and historical preservation work, the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock will be refurnished in 2018 just in time to mark its 50th anniversary as a National Park. After the famous poet, writer and activist died in 1967, his wife, Lilian, donated their home and its expansive collection of books, letters and personal effects to the National Park Service. The 264-acre park includes a working goat barn and hiking trails. www.nps.gov/carl

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.

Civil War Symposium to Feature Visit to Limited-Access Battlefield

Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site is organizing a 2018 symposium on the Carolinas Campaign, which culminated in the last full-scale action in which a Confederate army was able to mount a tactical offensive. Called "Two Weeks of Fury," the symposium will highlight the advance of Sherman's army from South Carolina to Bentonville. Eric J. Wittenberg, a Civil War cavalry historian and author of "The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads and the Civil War's Final Campaign," will lead a tour of the Monroe's Crossroads battlefield, where access is limited because it's near a Fort Bragg drop zone. Averasboro, Kinston and Bentonville battlefield visits are also included in the symposium, which takes place Sept. 28-30. www.fobb.net 

Morehead Planetarium & Science Center to Expand

Morehead Planetarium & Science Center, best known as the place where 11 of NASA's 12 moon-walkers were trained in celestial navigation, has announced a $5.2 million expansion of its home on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus. The #TakeUpSpace building project will reimagine the center as a modern-day, technology-advanced science hub with an interactive “maker space,” an updated science demonstration stage, and expanded galleries showcasing the advances researchers are making in science, health and technology. Completion is expected in late 2018 or early 2019. www.moreheadplanetarium.org

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  

Recent News

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

Nantahala Outdoor Center Adds First-of-Kind Canopy Adventure

Children as young as 2 can take to the treetops with the nation's first fully netted aerial playground, which opened at Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City in time for the Fourth of July holiday. Treetop Adventure Nets, a ship-themed attraction, allows adults as well as children to explore from 10 to 20 feet above the ground floor without a harness. Features include tunnels, open spaces, chutes and pathways as well as views of the Nantahala River and the 2013 Freestyle World Championship play wave. Nantahala Outdoor Center is the world's largest outdoor recreation company. noc.com

Water Park Splashes Down on the Outer Banks

H2OBX Waterpark is now open with state-of-the-art waterslides, pools and amenities on 80 acres across Currituck Sound from Kitty Hawk. The water park, which references the Wright Brothers and other elements of the area’s heritage, is the largest commercial attraction on the Outer Banks. It opened in June. h2obxwaterpark.com 

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

'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. But the time-of-your-life celebration takes place Aug. 18-19 at the Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure. Stacy Widelitz, who co-wrote the song "She's Like the Wind" with the late Patrick Swayze, will attend the festival, which includes a lake life competition, a lakeside screening and watermelon games.   www.dirtydancingfestival.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

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CONTACT:

Eleanor Talley
919-447-7783, 919-525-5292
eleanor.talley@VisitNC.com

Stacey McCray
704-552-6565
mccray@lgaadv.com