2016 Brings Fresh Reasons to Visit North Carolina

After an amazing year of living, loving and exploring our North Carolina home, we want to share so much more you can experience when you make your visit to North Carolina. For locals, there is always another fun Mountain to scale, or Beach to wonder. Oh, the Places You'll See, our Blue Ridge Mountains, all of our Outer Banks, in between and beyond. 

2016 Brings Fresh Reasons to Visit North Carolina 

State and National Parks Celebrate Centennial

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

    With the National Park Service and the North Carolina State Park System celebrating their 100th anniversaries, travelers will find a warm invitation to explore the state’s natural beauty and diversity. Stars among the national park properties include:

    Blue Ridge Parkway

    • Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the nation’s first national seashore, home to the tallest brick lighthouse in North America and two other historic beacons. And Ocracoke is a No. 1 pick on Dr. Beach’s Best Beach list.

    Wright Brothers National Memorial, North Carolina

    Learn more points of interest at findyourpark.com.
    North Carolina’s 39 state parks and recreational areas feature a range of remarkable places, including:
    Pilot Mountain, NC

    Connect with North Carolina state parks at www.ncparks.gov.

    Hotel, Other Developments Unfold at Tryon Equestrian Resort

    Tryon Resort, billed as the world's most significant new equestrian lifestyle resort, has opened just north of Tryon, a town of 1,600 in the Blue Ridge Foothills with an eight-decade horse tradition. Tryon International Equestrian Center, the first stage of the 1,400-acre development in Mill Spring, is already holding international-level equestrian competitions. Dining and shopping amenities are open, and current lodging options include cabins, RV sites and the 17-room Lodge at Lake Lure.
    In 2016, the Hotel at Tryon Resort will extend hospitality with its 150 rooms and suites, a restaurant and bar, retail shops, heated pools, fitness center, salon and event space. The next year, a 200-room, nature-inspired luxury resort with a destination spa will open. The resort will also include an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course and luxury homes. Hospitality and golf operations will be managed by Salamander Hotels & Resorts. www.salamanderhotels.com

    Whirligig Park Turns Wilson Into a Visionary Arts Destination

    Artist Vollis Simpson’s wind-powered whirligigs can be found at must-see museums in Raleigh, Atlanta, New York and Baltimore and in private collections around the world. Downtown Wilson becomes the envy of them all with the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, the new permanent home of 31 of the whimsical sculptures, which create their own rhythm and dance in the breeze. The park ensures the legacy of the artist, who died in 2013 at age 94, and provide easy access from I-95 for travelers who want to discover the treasures. More than a dozen whirligigs have been installed with 2016 as the target date for completion. Additional Simpson whirligigs are on view around Wilson. www.wilsonwhirligigpark.org

    U.S. National Whitewater Center Adds Land, Facilities

    The U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, best known for the world's largest manmade recirculating river, will open the nation's only permanent deepwater solo climbing facility in spring 2016. The climbing facility, one of four new projects at the center, will challenge climbers to scale heights of up to 45 feet with a 16-foot pool at the base to catch them on the descent. Other developments include:
    • A new 100-foot tower for two new zip-line experiences.
    • A new 5,000-square-foot retail operation.
    • A kitchen expansion with new dining options.
    The U.S. National Whitewater Center, an official Olympic training site, promotes an active outdoor lifestyle with a range of adventures including whitewater rafting, stand-up paddle boarding, biking, running, climbing and zip lining. Craft beer, concerts and other events also draw visitors. The center's recent acquisition of 488 acres, which will be kept in its natural state for now, brings the tract to 1,188 acres. The center celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2016. usnwc.org

    Boutique Hotels, Arrival of New Brands Add Interest to Lodging Landscape

    Between the opening of the Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, the Durham Hotel and the 21c Museum Hotel Durham, 2015 would seem a tough year to top. But the excitement’s not over. Here’s a rundown of notable lodging properties with openings planned for 2016:
    • Cardinal Hotel, Winston-Salem, opening May 10. Kimpton’s first hotel in North Carolina writes a new history for 1929’s Reynolds Building, the prototype for the Empire State Building. Named for North Carolina’s state bird, The Cardinal will have 174 guest rooms, including 36 suites; an expansive fitness center; the Katharine Brasserie & Bar; and more than 6,300 square feet of meeting space. www.kimptonhotels.com
    • Mayton Inn, Cary, opening in January. A Georgian-style boutique inn will offer 33 rooms, 11 deluxe suites and a wedding cottage. Amenities include a library, bar and restaurant, outdoor terrace, high-tech gym, Tonic Remedies Spa and meeting space. Rates include a hot breakfast and high tea. maytoninn.com
    • Jack Tar Motel, Durham, opening second quarter. A midcentury hotel in the heart of downtown Durham is recast as a modern, 74-room hotel. Amenities include a restaurant and retail on the ground floor plus a rooftop deck and pool.www.austinlawrencepartners.com
    • AC Hotel Asheville, opening in summer. Marriott's rapidly expanding European brand enters North Carolina as a 132-room lifestyle hotel in downtown Asheville. Designed with millennial travelers in mind, the hotel will feature a social lobby, restaurant, and rooftop terrace bar with views of the city skyline and surrounding mountains. www.mckibbon.comAlso expected in 2016: AC Hotel Raleigh, a 133-room hotel in the North Hills area.www.kanerealtycorp.com
    • Ivey’s Boutique Hotel, Charlotte, opening in late 2016. The Ivey’s building, once home to the upscale Ivey’s department store, will see new life as a 42-room luxury hotel in the heart of the city. Plans include a spa and meeting space as well as dining and retail operations. mrkinv.com
    • StateView Hotel, Raleigh, opening in fall. From Marriott’s Autograph Collection brand, the 164-room hotel and full-service conference center is under construction overlooking Lake Raleigh at N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus. Amenities include an outdoor pool, restaurant and bar with 9,000 square feet of meeting space.www.stateviewhotel.com

    Film Action Directs Attention to NC Locations

    Film lovers can connect the scenes to the scenery of new titles being released in 2016. Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer star in "The Choice," the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, set in Beaufort with filming in the Wilmington area (release date: Feb. 5). "The Disappointments Room," a supernatural thriller starring Kate Beckinsale and Lucas Till, was filmed in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Ramseur (release date: March 25). And for “Masterminds,” the heist comedy with Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis, cameras rolled in the Asheville area with an excursion for Wilson to Sliding Rock, a 60-foot natural waterslide in Pisgah National Forest (release date: Sept. 30).
    Recent DVD releases of projects filmed in North Carolina include Season 3 of "Under the Dome," the family thriller "Max," the Sparks romance “The Longest Ride,” the PBS culinary documentary series "A Chef's Life," the Christian dramas "Shake Off the World" and “War Room,” and the teen drama "Paper Towns." Find more titles and locations at www.filmnc.com and media.VisitNC.com.

    Moogfest Takes Up Residence in Durham

    Moogfest, the internationally acclaimed festival of music, art and technology, will make its Durham debut May 19-22 with a lineup that includes Gary Numan, GZA, ODESZA and Laurie Anderson. In announcing the festival's relocation from Asheville, where Moog Music is based, festival organizers cited Durham's "momentum as a capital of technology, culture and entertainment." Moogfest, a tribute to Dr. Robert Moog, inventor of the analog synthesizer, is known for presenting performances by early pioneers in electronic music alongside pop and avant garde experimentalists of today. The festival has evolved to include a mind-expanding conference for creative and technology professionals. www.moogfest.com

    Greensboro Inaugurates USA Masters Games

    The Greensboro Coliseum Complex will host the inaugural USA Masters Games, a national championships-level competitive experience for athletes 21 and older. The Games, set for July 21-31, will comprise two dozen sports, from badminton and bowling to figure skating, triathlon and weightlifting. The competition, to be held in even-numbered (or Olympic) years, will feature a Games Village to serve as a central hub/gathering point for athletes and fans, plus opening and closing ceremonies. www.usamastersgames.com

    USA Cycling Championship Events Head to Winston-Salem

    USA Cycling has chosen Winston-Salem as host city for the 2016 and 2017 Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road & Time Trial National Championships. The inuagural run will be May 22-30 and will combine those championships, USA Cycling's Masters Road National Championships and the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic. USA Cycling officials say the nine-day event "will make Winston-Salem the epicenter of American cycling next spring." Events will take place in multiple venues throughout the area, including downtown Winston-Salem and the rolling hills of the Yadkin Valley. In related news, USA Cycling's Collegiate Road National Championships take place May 13-15 in Marshall and Weaverville. www.usacycling.org

    Performance Hall to Open in Downtown Henderson

    The McGregor Hall Performing Arts and Learning Center, a 1,000-seat venue in historic downtown Henderson, will host its official opening Feb. 19 with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The $9 million venue, which boasts a 3,200-square-foot stage and state-of-the-art production capabilities, is the crowning piece in the Embassy Cultural Center Foundation’s vision for revitalizing a central downtown area as a place of learning and enrichment. The hall, on the site of the old Embassy Theatre, joins the 40,000-square-foot Perry Library and a 5,000-square-foot gallery. The venue, easily accessed by Interstate 85, will present local and touring productions in music, theater and other disciplines. www.mcgregorhall.org

    Old Salem Opens New Sites for Settlement’s 250th Anniversary

    In 2016, Old Salem Museum & Gardens celebrates the 250th anniversary of the founding of Salem, a Moravian settlement built on a foundation of faith, culture and education. The architecture and landscape of the 20-block neighborhood reflect authentic history, thanks to efforts to preserve original structures and gardens. The anniversary celebration will include the opening of two newly restored buildings with lively interpretations of history: the Boys School, where hands-on activities and interactive technology will help relay the story, and the Doctor’s House, which will illuminate how Dr. Samuel Benjamin Vierling practiced medicine and dispensed remedies. These buildings will join other places popular for shopping (Winkler Bakery, A. Butner Hat Shop, Moravian Book & Gift Shop), dining (The Tavern in Old Salem, The Flour Box Tea Room & Cafe) and exploring (St. Philips Heritage Center, Miksch Garden and House, Single Brothers’ House, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts). www.oldsalem.org

    Other Landmark Anniversaries:

    • 240: Battle of Moores Creek. The Patriots scored the first victory of the American Revolution against a militia made up largely of Scottish Highlanders. The victory, fought about 20 miles north of Wilmington, ended British authority in the colony and stalled a full-scale British invasion of the South. www.nps.gov/mocr

    • 235: Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The most hotly contested battle of the Revolutionary War's Southern campaign taught Cornwallis what it meant to win the battle … and lose the war. Commemoration includes music and reenactments at the battlefield in Greensboro. www.nps.gov/guco

    • 125: Green Park Inn. Guests hosted at this grand dame of the High Country include Annie Oakley, J.D. Rockefeller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Margaret Mitchell, who penned part of "Gone With the Wind" while a guest of the Blowing Rock hotel. Historic Hotels of America named Green Park Inn Best Small Historic Hotel/Inn for 2015. greenparkinn.com

    • 110: Canton Labor Day Festival. “Papertown,” Canton’s nickname and the title of the 2013 release by hometown heroes Balsam Range, celebrates with a spectrum of activities. www.cantonlaborday.com
    • 100: Pisgah National Forest. Pisgah is home to the nation’s first forestry school, which is preserved at the Cradle of Forestry in America historic site. It serves as a hub for mountain biking, hiking, waterfall viewing and plunging down Sliding Rock, a 60-foot natural water slide. www.fs.usda.gov
    • 100: Keystone Camp. Located in Brevard, Keystone is the Southeast’s oldest summer camp for girls. keystonecamp.com
    • 80: Brevard Music Center. Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops, is executive director for this summer-long festival that unfolds on a picturesque 140-acre campus with 80 orchestra, opera and chamber concerts. www.brevardmusic.org
    • 75: North Carolina Gourd Festival. Sponsored by the oldest chapter of the American Gourd Society, the festival at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh affords a chance to see gourds grown locally and around the world, meet crafters and growers, and try your hand at gourdcraft. www.ncgourdsociety.org
    • 35: BBQ Festival on the Neuse & Wil King Hog Happenin'. One of the premiere barbecue festivals in a state renowned for its pit-cooked pig is held in Kinston. www.kinstonbbq.com 
    • 30: Weeping Radish Farm Brewery. North Carolina’s pioneer of the modern craft beer era lobbied to change laws to allow brewpubs to operate in the state. Find it in the coastal town of Grandy. www.weepingradish.com
    • 30: Fearrington House Inn. The Pittsboro inn’s first 14 rooms joined the acclaimed Fearrington House Restaurant to make the property a luxurious destination. Two years later it joined the Relais & Chateaux family. www.fearrington.com
    • 30: General William C. Lee Airborne Museum. "The father of the U.S. Airborne" helped plan the D-Day drops into Normandy and trained the mission's paratroopers, who yelled "Bill Lee!" as they made the historic jump. The museum is in Dunn, his hometown.generalleeairbornemuseum.org
    • 30: North Carolina Pickle Festival. Thousands attend this event in Mount Olive, an undisputed pickle capital. ncpicklefest.org
    • 25: RCR Racing Museum. This 47,000-square-foot facility in Welcome once served as home base for Richard Childress Racing and the No. 3 Goodwrench team.www.rcrracing.com
    • 25: Creedmoor Music Festival. Community tradition featuring local and regional acts.www.cityofcreedmoor.org
    • 10: Chef & the Farmer. Vivian Howard (PBS’ “A Chef’s Life”) and husband Benjamin Knight made Kinston a culinary tourism star. chefandthefarmer.com
    • 10: NC Hot Sauce Contest. Homegrown festival with a kick takes place in Oxford, where Bailey Farms is the largest pepper producer/distributor on the East Coast. Oxford, by the way, celebrates its 200th birthday in 2016. www.nchotsaucecontest.com
    • 5: Plottfest. Festival in Maggie Valley celebrates North Carolina’s state dog, the Plott hound, a large scent dog bred in the 1800s for hunting bear. www.plottfest.org
    Beyond these news-making developments, travelers can explore the assets that make North Carolina the nation’s sixth most-visited state ― mile after mile of captivating beauty; innovations in kitchens, wineries, brewhouses and distilleries; a spirit of adventure; and engaging history and lively culture. Find everything you need for planning a trip at VisitNC.com.

    Warmly, Carolina Mama

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