04 MAR 2019: Quebec folks will soon be able to converge on North Carolina happenings with the new Air Canada daily non-stop Montreal-Raleigh service starting on June 3. Those in the GTA have already enjoyed direct air service to the south-eastern US State.

Weekend Getaways + Sun Vacays

Last week over cups of tea and scones a group of North Carolina regional tourism partners hosted a “High Tea” afternoon at the Windsor Arms Hotel. “We're trying to show you can take a weekend trip,” says Hayes Norris, PR rep with Visit North Carolina. Flying direct is a 2-hour plane ride from Toronto or Montreal.

Norris who was joined by partners from Johnston County Visitor Bureau, Explore Brevard, Visit Cabarrus, Visit Raleigh and North Carolina's Brunswick Islands points to the mountains in the west, the Piedmont plateau region in the heart and coastal activities of North Carolina as good options for exploration.

Outdoor Playground

“We have 300 miles of single track mountain bike trails and 250 waterfalls,” she says of NC's western county known as Transylvania. Nathan Jordan, creative director at Explore Brevard, the area's tourism office, explains the county which is situated on 100,000 acres of public land has often been compared to states further west like California or Colorado for its dense nature.

Jordan adds, “We are the green space, the outdoor adventure mecca of the East Coast. There is no concentration of that stuff in a very tight space anywhere like it on the Eastern seaboard at all.”

In North Carolina, adventure travel is popular. Whether it's hiking the trails around Brevard, discovering the state's 300-mile coastline, or kayaking one of the Brunswick Islands, a cluster of barrier islands off North Carolina's southern coast, it's easy to jump into nature.

Here are more sunny ways to roll into North Carolina:

Raleigh: “City of Oaks” Once you touch down in the capital city of Raleigh prepare for arts and culture.

Canadians will enjoy the 'free' attractions around the city.

Often dubbed, the “Smithsonian of the South” based on the abundance of historic attractions and high-quality free museums, one of the museum stars is the North Carolina Museum of Art.

The museum's newest acquisition, “Light of Life” by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, is one of only three art institutions in the US to have Kusama in their permanent collection. The other two cities are Los Angeles and Pittsburgh while some cities including Toronto have hosted temporary shows like the “Infinity Mirror” series.

Museum Park is reportedly the largest museum art park in the country, scattered on 160+ acres of woodlands, with a trail connecting nature to commissioned artworks.

For dining options range from Laotian to Indian southern fusion, but BBQ is arguably the favourite. The Bull and Bear, a Raleigh diner staple for over three decades, is the classic diner pit stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The family-friendly Beasley's Chicken and Honey, the Sunday brunch crowd like to mingle over finger lickin' chicken and waffles and champagne.

Think Death and Taxes is a saying? In Raleigh it's the real deal. A swanky unique resto is based in a former bank and funeral home, where the wine cellar is a revamped bank vault. Open for dinner only.

The pedestrian-friendly city is walkable “but you can use the free R Line,” says Jessica Holt, public relations and international tourism manager at Visit Raleigh. The free public transit system passes by cool spots like the Raleigh Beer Garden with its 366 individual taps of beer, which is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most number of taps in the world.
                                                                                                                                                                        Brunswick Islands: North Carolina's Golf Coast 

The state's southern most islands are home to 30 golf courses, private beaches, and a movie set to such films as, “A Walk to Remember,” and, “Safe Haven.”

Both films based on books by author Nicholas Sparks were filmed there, says Mitzi York, executive director of NC's Brunswick Islands, “Because he liked the area so much.” Sparks' new novel, “Every Breath,” is set, of course, in Sunset Beach, a small seaside town there.

With six beaches along five barrier islands, vacation homes appeal to the long stay travellers, where transportation is provided by golf cart or bicycle.

In winter folks are treated to sunrise and sunset ocean views. “The beaches here share one distinctive characteristic: an east-west orientation. That means when the sun is low in the southern sky, you can watch it rise and set over the ocean without ever moving your beach chair,” York says.

Cabarrus: “Where Racing Lives”

Take your pick on race venues. Nicknamed “Speed City USA,” Concord is celebrating the Charlotte Motor Speedway's 60th season this year.  It is also home to zMAX Dragway, the Dirt Track and top NASCAR race shops.  “All the teams are in the area,” says Julie Hinson, communications manager at Visit Cabarrus. Fans can head to the viewing areas and watch the NASCAR teams grease their engines and tighten their hot wheels.

NASCAR’S ROVAL in Concord is described as part oval and part road course, with drivers yelling whoop-de-doo along its 17-turn course. The new race concept was introduced to great fanfare last fall.

Come spring break when the family gets ready for the annual rubber tire exodus to sandy beaches with hundreds of other sun seekers, maybe the thoughts of green hills, golf islands, free museums, and a handful of race car venues might make you smile.

There are more sunny ways in North Carolina.

For more travel info see Visit North Carolina www.visitnc.com

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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