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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)
October 9th, 2008
It’s Official Leaf-Looker Season
Western North Carolina, showplace of the Southern Appalachians, the Great Smoky Mountains and the venerable Black Mountains is a favorite destination for autumn leaf-lookers far and wide. The crisp mountain air – still warm in the day and jacket-cool at night – combines with cobalt skies and flame colored trees to provide a feast for the eyes and seasonal connections between the earth and the soul. Put that together with our many fine restaurants, local festivals and attractions, and fine accommodations, and pretty soon you’re talking about some of the best vacation getaway experiences the world has to offer.
The spectacular colors of autumn arise in hardwood tree leaves, which contain several different color pigments that appear as chlorophyll production shuts down and the tree prepares for winter by pulling the remaining chlorophyll/sugar energy out of the leaves. Brilliant reds, yellows and flame-bright oranges blanket the hills and valleys. Frost, which has already hit the high country, serves to break down the chlorophyll all at once, resulting longer lasting fall foliage. The result is a feast for the eyes and the heart that keeps visitors coming back year after year.
There are well-planned drives, whether you’re traveling by car, motorcycle or bicycle, well-worn hiking trails and fall festivals all over the region. Western North Carolina’s many beautiful resorts and golf courses beckon as well, with rest and recreational exercise in the clear mountain air. Check out some of the links below to find just what you’re looking for, and take some time off from the rat race to enjoy our natural beauty, talented artisans and musicians, fun family festivals and activities, and fine Southern hospitality. You won’t believe what our leaves can do!
MSNBC: Autumn is in the NC air
Leaf-Lookers Guide: Perfect Drives
High Country Outdoors
GolfNorthCarolina: Best Courses
High Country Reservations
High Country Attractions
Carolina BalloonFest 35
Crossroads Pumpkin Fest
July 1st, 2008
Bloomberg reported last week that according to MasterCard, demand for gasoline has fallen 2.7% from the same time last year as consumers cut back on vacation plans. The Greater Triad Area Business Journal also reports that vacation house rentals along the NC coast are down 5-8% from last year, with more available houses staying empty. There are no current reports on the number of visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway, but those figures are expected to be down significantly this season as well.
The Raleigh News & Observer reports that North Carolina’s tourism office is responding by putting more money and effort into getting in-state residents to stay closer to home this year for their vacations, and that other states are doing the same thing.
Luckily, North Carolina is so rich in natural beauty and fun family events as well as attractions, that North Carolinians can always find fun things to do on their vacations without having to drive far at all. Even better, a good many of the summer festivals, rural attractions and outdoor opportunities cost them little to nothing!
So no matter where in North Carolina you live, there are things to do, places to go and fun to be had within 100 miles of your residence. You can take the family camping on any of our beautiful lakes, at our many state parks, or even in the nation’s most popular national park. You can go boating at the coast, tour some lighthouses, do some surf-fishing and collect seashells from our beaches. You can tour organic farms and orchards, attend a small town festival, enjoy great music of all varieties, and learn new things about our state without going far from home.
So, all you proud North Carolinians… discover something wonderful about your own region this summer, and don’t worry that it’ll cost you an arm and a leg. We never have to go far from home to have a wonderful time with our friends and families, to learn and experience new people and new vistas and new things. Don’t give up your necessary vacation this year just because gas prices are high. Just don’t drive so far! In North Carolina, you don’t have to!Filed under Adventure, Family Activities, Family Events, Holidays, NC Living, North Carolina, Tourism | Comment (0)
June 18th, 2008
If your family is wondering where to go and what to do to celebrate Independence Day this year, consider some of the great events North Carolina has on offer, from the mountains to the piedmont to the coast, and everywhere in between!
For instance, Fort Bragg near Fayetteville is hosting Operation Celebrate Freedom VI on the Main Post Parade Field on base. Wynonna Judd and Dakota Rain, the Golden Knights Parachute Team and other musical guests will entertain the crowd. There will be plenty of food and drinks, and camping is allowed. The fireworks are spectacular every year at this event, almost as great as I remember on the Potomac in DC in my youth! The event is free and open to the public, the contact number is 910-396-9126.
If you’re on the coast near Southport/Oak Island in the Cape Fear area you’ll want to make plans to spend the day and evening in Southport, where there will be a car show on Bay Street in front of the Garrison House and all-day arts and crafts shows at Franklin Square Park and in the Franklin Square Gallery. Concessions, water stations and comfort stations will be along Howe Street, and on the Waterfront Stage there will be all-day stage entertainment even as the Decorated Boat Flotilla sails past the Southport Waterfront. Stay on your blanket for the wonderful fireworks at 9 pm!Blue Ridge, Carolina Coast, Family Activities, Family Events, Festivals, Holidays, North Carolina, Regional Crafts | Comment (0)
June 11th, 2008
July Events East and West
On both sides of the state the last weekend in July offers some great events that are family-friendly and musically rich. Out west, Asheville’s Bele Chere celebrates its 30th year this July, when the festival kicks off on Friday, July 25 and runs through Sunday, July 27. So far the lineup of musical entertainment includes Travis Tritt, The Wailers, The Grascals, Cowboy Mouth, Doyle Lawson, Edwin McCain and more, all seven stages will be offering constant music and fun. The Purina Ultimate Air Dogs will be there, as will the many great artists and craftsmen of Western North Carolina with their wares.
The South’s Largest Street Festival is free and offers a large children’s area, shuttles from area parking lots, plenty of food and drinks.
Down East, the Cape Fear Blues Festival is scheduled for the same weekend, hosted by the Cape Fear Blues Society. It begins with a Blues Cruise on a riverboat and ends with an all-day jam session you won’t want to miss. There’s a blues workshop on Saturday open to musicians and fans, a festival concert in the park, and live blues at The Rusty Nail late into the night. This festival is not free, but the events are reasonably priced and any true blues fan won’t want to miss it.Filed under Carolina Coast, Family Events, Festivals, North Carolina | Comment (0)
April 30th, 2008
Biannual Black Mountain Tradition
It’s not too late to get your tickets for the 2008 spring Lake Eden Arts Festival, at beautiful Lake Eden in Black Mountain. Word has it that vehicle camping permits are all sold out, but there are still tent permits available as well as weekend and day tickets for those who don’t mind staying at one of the many great hotels and motels in the Black Mountain and Asheville environs.
LEAF holds its festivals every spring and fall (this year the autumn festival will be October 17-19) to showcase the LEAF in Schools and Streets arts mentoring projects for youth, its LEAF International music collaborations from Panama, Guatemala, Rwanda, Bequia and Mexico, and dozens of great, culturally significant musical groups, individuals and artists from everywhere.
This year there will be more than 40 Healing Arts Workshops during the day, featuring Yoga and Tai Chi, Folk Art, Juried Handicrafts, a national $1,000 Poetry SLAM, a children’s village with clowns, jugglers, puppeteers, games, stories and art projects. There are joyful parades, jam sessions, circus arts and zipline fun out over the lake.
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March 27th, 2008
It began innocently enough. The French ambassador Vicompte Bertrand Fenelon de Saint Julen had arrived at the Lord Mayor’s manor just ahead of the Spanish ambassador, Count Bernadino de Mendoza. A day ahead of Good Queen Bess’ scheduled arrival. The two had been shown their lavish quarters, and having unloaded personal possessions, strode together along the South Wing’s stained glass lined hall seeking the privy. They were not friends, exactly, but they both took their positions with utmost seriousness. Thus what they overheard in the privy – a conversation abruptly cut short when their presence was noted – set them upon a quest to discover the plot and earn the favor of the Queen…
The 14th Annual North Carolina Renaissance Faire begins this year with a tale of intrigue among the nobles on the very eve of the Queen’s spring visit. The Faire runs for three weekends – March 29th and 30th, April 5th and 6th, and April 12th and 13th at the North Carolina Fair Grounds in Raleigh. The weekend of April 5-6 will host Tartan Day celebrations, so wear your clan’s tartan and join in the highland games!
Enjoying the Duke University Medieval and Renaissance Studies Department’s involvement and support, the North Carolina Faire is one of the premier Ren-Faires in the nation, as well as one of the earliest. So dig out those Elizabethan costumes, that treasured sword as well as all the crown jewels, and make plans to attend the North Carolina Renaissance Faire this year!Family Activities, Family Events, Festivals, North Carolina, Tourism | Comment (1)
December 24th, 2007
During this 2007 holiday season, it seems the children are all nestled asleep in their beds, with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads… oh, wait. You say the “children” are all teenagers now, terminally bored with Christmas and expecting a 10-gig iPod loaded with every album too objectionable to be played in public, plus keys to a car and $400 worth of “Prison Chic” pants that hang somewhere around the thighs and show off their underwear?
Be of good cheer, enjoy yourself anyway, and…
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!Filed under Family Events, Holidays, Log Homes, NC Living, Timber Frame, Vacation Homes | Comment (0)
September 17th, 2007
Leaf-Looker Season in the Blue Ridge
First come the wannabe Leaf-Lookers. They start arriving in late September, inevitably disappointed by the lack of fall foliage anywhere but atop the highest portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but happy there are so many side excursions to engage, festivals to attend, and adventures to embark upon.
Then, about mid-October the real Leaf-Lookers arrive in droves. They can start at either end of North Carolina’s section of the Parkway, timing their stops along the way to the many events going on. Starting in the north, the Yadkin Valley Grape Festival is scheduled for Saturday, October 20 in downtown Yadkinville.Autumn Leaves, Blue Ridge Parkway, Family Events, Festivals, North Carolina | Comment (1)
August 31st, 2007
The autumn Lake Eden Arts Festival at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain is scheduled for October 19, 20 and 21 at the very height of fall leaf-looker season in the mountains. Marking its 25th festival, the lineup this year is spectacular.
LEAF has become a regular WNC institution with two festivals a year, spring and fall. There are numerous artists displaying their work, plenty of fun activities for children and adults, lots of live music day and night, and many gifted performers. The LEAF sponsors offer programs internationally and in inner cities here in the U.S. that match children with instruments and residency mentors, bringing some of the best from Guatamala, Rwanda, Panama and elsewhere to show off their talents during the festivals.
The setting is beautiful Lake Eden surrounded by mountains, and families can purchase day-tickets, weekend tickets and the “weekend-plus” passes that cover 3.5 days and 3 nights of overnight camping at any of several fine lakeside camping areas.Art, Autumn Leaves, Family Events, Festivals, Music | Comments (2)