Desserts, Beer, Fast Cars, and Other N.C. Travel Planning News

Go ahead and grab a cup of tea or coffee for this post because I’ve got lots to share.  It seems life is getting crazier in the Hines house, and I have even less time to write on top of my weekly News and Observer and Skimbaco Lifestyle deadlines. Writing is kind of like exercise.  If I don’t get it done in the morning, then it doesn’t get done. Period.

I’ve really tried to get back into an exercise routine in 2013 because, as you know, I like to eat like this.

It was a beautiful January day to enjoy an outdoor lunch at Raleigh Times Bar.
Raleigh Times Bar on Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh was the perfect spot to watch Raleigh’s 2013 inaugural parade.  My son’s Tiger Cub troop was invited to march in the parade, and on this abnormally warm Saturday for North Carolina, I had lunch outdoors.  In January.  I couldn’t believe it.  By far, it was the best seat on the parade route, and being about to enjoy a coffee mocha stout and strawberry tres leche cake made it even more enjoyable.

Pat McCrory is North Carolina's new Governor. 

I’m also excited to announce that April is going to be N.C. Beer Month.  Truthfully, I believe every month should be “beer month,” but North Carolina will host a month-long tourism promotion that will feature offerings such as gourmet prix fixe menus, beer pairings and chef dinners, beer-themed cooking classes, educational beer programs, hotel and tour packages, festivals and special events. You can learn more at when the site launches in February.  Talk about hot off the press!

Sean Lilly Wilson, founder of Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC (right) and Page Skelton, originator of Cackalacky Sauce based in Chapel HIll, NC are collaborating on a new NC craft beer that will be on draft at Fullsteam 1/27.

North Carolina has more than 70 craft breweries in operation, and FullSteam Brewery in Durham is a local favorite.  Its winter brew, First Frost, just won the national “2013 Good Food” award. At the TerraVita tasting event last year, I really loved FullSteam’s Beasley’s Honey White, which is available only at the brewery and Beasley’s Honey + Chicken in Raleigh, but will be in bottles this summer.  Yea!  I think it will be great on my screened porch in the summer.  This week, the brewery will debut a new special brew called “Fullsteam’s Cackalacky Ginger Pale Ale.”  Cackalacky is a spicy, sweet potato-based sauce made locally in Chapel Hill.  Last year, I made a great veggie dip using the sauce.  The beer is spiced with ginger rather than the sauce, but it bear the Cackalacky name.  I’m going to get a taste of this new Cackalacky brew on Friday, and it will go on tap for the first time on Sunday, Jan. 27, with a special launch party from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 726 Rigsbee Avenue.  The public is invited to attend.

The Taste of the Outer Banks is one of the top 10 seafood and wine events in the country. 

Food and beach lovers, mark your calendars for the Outer Banks Taste of the Beach on March 14-17.  Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, there will cooking classes, brewery tours and tastings, multi-course fine wine dinners, oyster roasts, new N.C. BBQ Showdown, tapas crawls, beer-pairing dinners, and much more! The event is sponsored by the Dare County Restaurant Association.  Coastal Living Magazine has named the event as one of the Top 10 Seafood and Wine Festivals in the U.S.A.  Here is a listof the some of the food events that are now available for purchase.  You can also order the Outer Banks’ new 2013 vacation guide to help you plan your Outer Banks vacation.  I think I may start planning mine, too.  This is an area of North Carolina that I’ve never really explored.

Downtown Wilmington is a lovely place to take a carriage ride.  The beaches are less than 20-minutes away. 

If you are star struck, then Wilmington, N.C., is a place you will want to visit this year.  Known as “Wilmywood” by the locals, three motion pictures filmed in the Port City will be released this year.  Nicholas Sparks’ “SafeHaven” will open on Valentine’s Day. The 8-year-old actress Mimi Kirkland, who plays Josh Duhamel’s daughter in the film, is from Raleigh and is friends with my niece.  “Iron Man 3” and “We are the Millers,” starring Jennifer Aniston, will open later this year.  Many celebrities take part in Wilmington’s Azalea Festival.  The 66th annual Azalea Festival will take place April 12-14, and a highlight will be the Diamond Jubilee Garden Tour.  If you want to be right in the middle of the action, I would suggest checking into the Hilton Wilmington Riverside.  To start planning your Wilmington area beach vacation, visit:

Orchids are in bloom at the Biltmore Estate Conservatory.

If you have ever wanted to visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., then now is the perfect time to visit at a reduced cost.  Also, kids under 16 get in free with a paying adult through March 20.  January–March is peak bloom season for orchids in Biltmore’s Conservatory.  The Grove Park Inn is also celebrating 100 years this year. All year, the hotel is hosting special events to mark the occasion.  To plan your Asheville vacation, visit:

The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. provides great family entertainment. 

Before Christmas, my family visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C.  I highly recommend the experience, even if you don’t know one thing about NASCAR.  I’ve got the scoop on Skimbaco Lifestyle

And finally, I’ve already started thinking about spring break.  I’ve decided to pack our suitcases for the mountains of Highlands, N.C., for a few days.  This beautiful area is only 30 minutes away from where I grew up in the small university town of Cullowhee.  I’m excited to show my kids the area.  We’ll be checking into the Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, and, of course, through social media, I’ll be taking you there, too.  The waterfalls in this area are amazing. 

Waterfall near the Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, N.C.

But before we go there, Will and I are getting away from the kids for a night. Yea!!!! We’re not going far, but we’ll be experiencing a little of “Italy” in the Tar Heel state.  I think that is a perfect theme for February.  Don’t you think? We will enjoy an overnight stay at the Siena Hotel and  dinner at the Four Diamond award-winning restaurant, Il Palio, in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Il Palio Executive Chef Adam Rose is creating a special Valentine's Day menu for February. Nothing speaks the language of love like Italian. He also has a special menu for Triangle Restaurant Week.

Also, it is Triangle Restaurant Week. This is a great way to try new restaurants at a great price. Chef Ryan Payne of the Weathervane Restaurant is creating his winning "Got to Be NC" menu where he earned top prize in the statewide dining competition.  There are 80 Triangle restaurants participating in this special week. 

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