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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. The event unfolded on the Pinehurst No. 2 course in 1936 and the Tanglewood Park Championship Course in Clemmons in 1974. www.pga.com/pgachampionship/2017 The Wells Fargo Championship, normally played at Quail Hollow, takes place May 1-7 at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington. wilmington.wellsfargochampionship.com

Water Park Splashes Down on the Outer Banks

H2OBX Waterpark, set to open Memorial Day weekend, 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  

Apple Country Cider Jam Debuts in Hendersonville

Henderson County, one of the top U.S. apple producers, celebrates its rise as a hard cider hub with the first Apple Country Cider Jam in downtown Hendersonville. The April 22 event, which will include tastings from about a dozen cideries, coincides with NC Beer Month as well as apple blossom time. The headliner is IBMA Entertainer of the Year Balsam Range from nearby Canton. www.southernmountainfresh.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 rolls out a yearlong exhibit on "the nectar of North Carolina," and plans are in the works for a major celebration. Stay tuned! cheerwine.com

Carowinds Adds Rides and a Holiday Event

The home of the world-record-holding Fury 325 roller-coaster ramps up redevelopment of Country Fair section with four new rides. 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 takes place March 24-26 in Elkin. Featured speaker Jennifer Pharr Davis, the Asheville resident who holds the speed record for hiking the Appalachian Trail, plans to cover the MST in 2017. www.ncmst.org

Revamped Chimney Rock Trail Elevates View

Starting in spring, a realigned Skyline Trail at Chimney Rock Park will again 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 spring. 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

Beer Marketing & Tourism Conference debuts in Asheville

The first-time event promises sessions of interest to brewers and guilds, tour operators and destination marketers, and beer-loving travel writers and bloggers. It takes place March 28-30. bmtcon.com

Charlotte  Light Rail Adds 9 Miles

With the August 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  

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 begins May 12-14 with Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte. The weekend of July 7-9 features James Beard award winner Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Death & Taxes and other Raleigh restaurants). Katie Button of Cúrate and Nightbell in Asheville rounds out the series 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.

Chowan County Courthouse Marks 250th anniversary

The Edenton landmark, the oldest government building in North Carolina, marks its 250th anniversary. The biennial Historic Edenton Pilgrimage Tour of Homes will help history lovers celebrate at the April 21-22 immersion in three centuries of architecture styles. edentonpilgrimage.org

Museum of the Albemarle Turns 50

From the banks where the Pasquotank River and Albemarle Sound meet, the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City will celebrate 50 years of presenting the particular stories along North Carolina’s Inner Banks. museumofthealbemarle.com

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 joins the list of cities with Kimpton Hotels. Here's a brief rundown of lodging highlights, city by city:

  • Durham
    • Unscripted Hotel (April): Dream Hotels launches its new Unscripted Hotel brand at the restored Jack Tar Motel downtown. It will have 74 rooms plus a rooftop deck with pool. www.austinlawrencepartners.com
    • Graduate Hotel Durham (summer): Durham joins the short list of college towns with AJ Capital Partners’ new brand. The 150-room downtown hotel is a redevelopment of the eight-story Crown Park Hotel. graduatehotels.com
    • JB Duke Hotel (January): Reopening of a Duke University campus conference center as a 198-room, full-service hotel. “JB” is tobacco and energy industrialist James Buchanan Duke. www.jbdukehotel.com
  • Charlotte
    • 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 (June). 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; April).
  • Raleigh
    • StateView Hotel (summer): 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
    • AC Hotel Raleigh North Hills (February): Marriott’s fast-growing, European-style brand makes its North Carolina debut with this 135-room, select-service hotel. www.marriott.com/hotels
    • Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown (May): Extended-stay hotel will have 176 rooms and a rooftop lounge. www.visitraleigh.com
  • Asheville
    • AC Hotel Asheville Downtown (February): 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 (fall): 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
    • Mother Earth Motor Lodge (April 1): A 1960s motor lodge with 45 rooms and suites, stylishly retrofitted by Stephen Hill, co-founder of Mother Earth Brewing and owner of The O’Neil boutique hotel.