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May 20th, 2009
Cheoa Lake, Todd Knaperek
As Memorial Day signals the beginning of the annual vacation season, North Carolina’s tourism communities are happy to note that the soaring gasoline prices of the summer of ’08 have settled back down to reasonable. More families should be “getting away from it all” this season, seeking the comfort of natural beauty and feeling close to the land to leave behind for a little while the stresses of normal life in uncertain times.
The mountainous western region of the state is among the most popular destinations for out-of-state visitors, and not all of them are among the millions who populate the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hike the highland portions of the Appalachian Trail, or cruise along the lush peaks along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are many rural and somewhat city-fied attractions in western NC to tempt the family vacation planner.
WLOS Channel 13 in lovely Asheville offers a total of five (5) mapped day-trips in the western counties that look to be great fun to the inveterate sight-seer. There are viewable and printable maps, photos from each trip, lists of attractions, activities and goodies to keep an eye out for along the way. The drives are loops and do not take more than a couple of hours if driven straight through, though they can easily last all day at a leisurely pace with some stops planned-in. There are also hints for making the trip more pleasant, and even some detail about where to pay special attention to the speed limits.
Most of these day-trips meander through wilderness, occasional towns, and rural byways that, depending on when you visit, offer all sorts of agricultural goodies. There are farms where your family can pick your own fresh produce, fruit and berries straight from the fields, and others that maintain convenient off-road market stands for what’s fresh. Some offer delicious mountain delicacies such as sourwood honey, apple and cherry ciders, fruit and pumpkin butters, exotic jams and compotes, and often there will be a fine display of regional crafts as well. Bird and bat houses make of gourds, various styles of hand-painted decorative and/or musical gourds, yard and garden ornaments and scarecrows, even textile offerings destined to become heirlooms.Adventure, Agriculture, Blue Ridge, Family Activities, Hiking, Lakes, Nature, NC Living, North Carolina, Tourism | Comment (0)
April 17th, 2009
The April showers have been ample and the vines are budded all across North Carolina’s verdant wine country. Wine has proven itself one of the most popular and lucrative agricultural, agritourism and value-added production success stories since the demise of Big Tobacco, and the many public offerings of wine country promise to remain one of the strongest sectors of the important North Carolina tourism industry in these troubled economic times.
First, in a big first for NC’s wine industry, the Duplin Winery in Rose Hill near Cape Fear, has become the first North Carolina winery – the first winery outside the west coast, in fact – to have earned the Adams Beverage Group Fast Track Brand award as well as the Impact Hot Brands Award from Wine Spectator publications.
Duplin’s champagne is being served at Mount Vernon, its Magnolia was named a favorite summertime wine by Martha Stewart. The winery now has a 1 million gallon capacity and receives over 100,000 visitors annually. There are daily tours and tastings, weekly music with wine and cheese in the courtyard, and even a popular dinner theater.
In other news, the Haw River Valley is now the third wine growing district in North Carolina to receive federal recognition as an “American Viticultural Area” [AVA], establishing that grapes grown in the 868 square mile area produce distinctive wines. The piedmont valley joins previously recognized AVAs in the high country Yadkin Valley and Swan Creek within Yadkin’s broader AVA. This brings multiple piedmont vineyards and six wineries into the prestigious designation and is a significant boost to the wine and viticulture industries expanding in our state.
Check out some of the coming season’s events at Visit Alamance, beginning with the Art on the Haw River Wine Trail on May 2 and 3, 2009. This is a free for the whole family event and will combine a winery tour and tastings with exhibitions and demonstrations of fine arts in the style of traditional artist studio tours. Visitors can travel the 50-mile scenic drive through the heart of the rural piedmont to find unique, hand crafted furniture, hand blown glass, distinctive pottery, metal sculptures, paintings and photographs, collectable quilts and fiber arts, the cultural crafts and fine arts kept alive and thriving by the friendly people in this friendly region.
North Carolina currently ranks 10th in the nation for wine and grape production and is home to more than 80 fine wineries. That’s triple the number that existed in 2001, so this diverse agriculturally-based value-added industry continues to lead the way as a valuable model of successful rural development in this time of general economic insecurity.Filed under Agriculture, Art, Development, Family Events, North Carolina, Regional Crafts, Tourism | Comment (0)
March 12th, 2008
Part 3: Reasons 11 – 15
Moving toward the east, there are more great reasons to consider North Carolina’s abundant offerings for family fun when planning getaways and vacations.
Agriculture, Art, Biking, Carolina History, Family Activities, Festivals, Football, Hiking, Lakes, Music, NASCAR, NC Trails, Night Life, Regional Crafts, Resorts, Restaurants, Tourism, Wineries | Comments (2)
From the very top of Clingman’s Dome near the Tennessee border to the sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the strand of the Outer Banks, North Carolina’s 925-mile long Mountains-to-Sea Trail offers an adventurous way to explore the state’s natural treasures and human wonders. This is an adventure a visitor can embrace in small chunks or in an extended all at once while experiencing the best of NC’s towns and cities, rural agritourism initiatives and natural preserves.
January 29th, 2008
NC’s Arts and Agriculture Trails
There is much more to North Carolina’s agritourism movement than just what was reported in Green Dreams, Green Schemes. There is also an alliance between the North Carolina Arts Council and the NC Cooperative Extension service called HomegrownHandmade that has mapped out “Art Roads” and “Farm Trails” in the foothills, piedmont and coastal regions that allow visitors to travel along back roads, sample fresh goat cheese and scuppernong wines, visit artists’ studios and sidewalk cafes in charming little towns. Each trail is unique, so check the links below of some HomegrownHandmade trails (their titles sort of describe the gist of what’s to see and do), and then explore at the pace you like best!Agriculture, Art, Carolina History, Education, Family Activities, NC Trails, North Carolina, Regional Crafts, Wineries | Comment (0)
January 22nd, 2008
North Carolina visitors who harbor dreams of living ‘green’ have a host of great opportunities to indulge their interests while enjoying North Carolina’s stunning rural scenery, from mountains to sea. There is much to see, do, learn and enjoy on our active organic farms, many of which offer learning programs, hands-on work programs, pick-your-own fruit and produce opportunities, recreational facilities, lodging and home-grown, home-cooked meals your family will love!
North Carolina’s history as a tobacco growing state could have spelled disaster to farmers and farming communities as that crop has become untenable in the modern marketplace. Yet instead of giving up, the necessary change has engendered a strong commitment to innovative alternatives. Family farmers have invented new ways to keep their farmland productive while at the same time leading the movement toward sustainable practices, new income-producing crops, and clever private-business-government partnerships that add to NC’s important tourism industry.Agriculture, Education, Family Activities, Green Living, Nature, NC Land, North Carolina | Comments (5)