Tag Archives: North Carolina

European Car Fun For Charity in Winston-Salem, NC

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Two weekends ago, Marc and I ventured to Winston-Salem, NC to enjoy a nice car show, a gala/casino night, and a relaxing Blue Ridge Parkway “Cruz” — all for a good cause. Proceeds went to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Neither Marc nor I have a reason to support Parkinson’s Research since we don’t personally know of anyone with Parkinson’s disease, but we chose to participate in the event since it would benefit a good cause while allowing us to have some fun. We can’t exactly be the epitome of philanthropists since we are young professionals, but these types of events provide us with an opportunity to do good and make a difference without breaking the bank and sacrificing a large amount of time.

On Saturday morning, we walked the streets of Old Winston-Salem to check out the car show. The cars were awesome and so was the town. Marc was particularly fond of the architecture and character of the buildings. I spotted a bakery, and upon entering, I was immediately overwhelmed by the smell of freshly baked bread. We were greeted by an older man who was kneading and pounding dough on a small wooden table in a tiny room to the right of the entrance. He treated us like we were everyday customers and in reality, he had never met us before. I love that kind of small town charm.

We spent a few hours at the car show, but once it wrapped up, we headed over to the Brookstown Inn to check in and to freshen up. The inn was fairly quaint and isn’t a place we have raved about to all of our friends. That being said, there wasn’t anything about it that we disliked, we just weren’t crazy about it. We enjoyed our stay, but we weren’t overly impressed with our room or the staff. At best, it is an average place to stay with above-average character.

We had a few hours to burn before the casino night at Flow BMW, so we made our way to Foothills Brewing, only a few miles away. Marc and I managed to snatch the last two spots available at the bar. We ordered a couple of appetizers (yes, we ordered pretzels) and we shared a beer sampler. We were just a few minutes from closing our tab when suddenly I was jumping out of my barstool trying to keep the beer shower from turning into a beer bath. Marc was borderline drenched and I was sprayed with enough beer to make my hair nappy and my shirt  fairly wet and sticky.

All of this happened because the tap decided to spray beer directly at us which, according to our bartender, “happens everyday.” Huh? Your tap sprays beer every day and you still allow your patrons to sit in front of it? Come again? I was pretty outraged, but surprisingly, I bit my tongue to the best of my ability. Needless to say, the manager took care of our tab and even offered to take care of my dry cleaning bill since I was visibly upset about a brand new shirt getting soaked in beer. No, I’m not sending my dry cleaning bill to her, even though I probably should. We learned a valuable lesson and that is to never sit near a tap again.

We abruptly left  Foothills Brewing and returned to Brookstown Inn to get ready for casino night. It was a pretty good time; though Marc and I were the youngest couple there. We have this ongoing joke that we always tend to be the youngest in the crowd at all the events we go to. I am not certain how this happens, but I really wish younger people enjoyed the same stuff we do! Neither one of us are gamblers, so we were amongst the first to leave that evening. In hindsight, it’s pretty hysterical that we were the first to leave since we were the youngest. I’m sure some of the older people stayed until the very end!

The next day was pretty fun. We went on the Blue Ridge Parkway “Cruz,” which really ended up being a drive on a whole bunch of backroads and a little bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our final destination was Chateau Morrisette in Virginia. I thoroughly enjoyed the wine tasting and winery tour. The winery is absolutely beautiful and has a great history, but I don’t feel like rambling about a winery.

The drive home was a long one, but at the end of the day, we supported a good cause while having fun, so making the trip was well worth our time!

~ Lyndsi

 

Our Five Favorite Fall Drives in North Carolina

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Fall is wonderful for five things: football, running, pumpkin spice lattes, killer boots, and beautiful North Carolina mountain drives. Some of our favorite drives are below … hopefully our readers love drives, if not, I’m so sorry this post is going to bore you. I hate that we don’t know much about our readers, but I can only hope you guys like our content! 

  1. Blue Ridge Parkway – This drive is by no means off the beaten path, unless of course you’re comparing it with the streets of Downtown Manhattan. Blue Ridge Parkway draws 15+ million visitors each year, making it the National Park Service’s most admired attraction. Even though millions of visitors take a journey on the Blue Ridge Parkway each year, when we drive it, we feel we’re among the few that are actually enjoying it. There’s no congested traffic, but we do occasionally get stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle. That’s not terrible, since we drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the views of the beautiful vistas. Marc has never driven the M3 like it is meant to be driven while on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At least not with me as his passenger. It’s an absolutely beautiful drive and I highly recommend all leaf-lookers take a journey on this road. After all, traveling should be about the journey, not the destination. Note: take time to stop at the overlooks. Each one offers a very unique stunning view.
  2. Tail of the Dragon (TOD) – I don’t even know where to begin. This road is absolutely ridiculous as a passenger in a vehicle. At least as the passenger in a M3 with Marc behind the wheel. Located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, TOD is America’s number one motorcycle and sports car road with 318 curves in just 11 miles. If you go mid-day, you’ll barely move faster than an old lady in a walker due to traffic, but if you arrive early in the morning, you can get a clean run (ladies: a “run” means a clean drive without having to tap your breaks because some leaf-looker is in front of you, just in case you don’t already know; it took me a few times to catch onto the lingo). Despite my instincts routinely telling me I am a complete moron for riding in the passenger’s seat, I thoroughly love drives on the TOD. It’s an adrenaline rush and I am an adrenaline junky. Although, it’s not about how fast you go (and I recommend not going fast), it is simply how well you handle the curves. Notes: TOD is a dangerous road. Do not cross over the double yellow lines and be extremely cautious. There are tons of bikers on road, so keep your eyes peeled for them, as well.  An air lift out of the place cost one driver $19,000, so that’s just another reason to play it safe.

  3. Cherohalah Skyway – Located near the TOD (making a glorious loop), I love Cherohalah Skyway for its 60 miles of remote, scenic mountain views. It’s an amazing road with swift, wide turns. In some aspects, I enjoy it more than the Blue Ridge Parkway since you can drive faster while still looking at the gorgeous scenery. Being the passenger on this road makes me want to kick Marc out of the driver’s seat, so I can know what it feels like to drive a sports car on this skyway! Maybe this fall, Marc? Note: this road can also be dangerous. There was a tragic fatality on it this month, September 2011. While you can drive faster on it than the first two drives I mentioned, take it easy, as the road can be tricky.  The turns can sneak up on you. There are more car fatalities on the Cherohala than TOD. 
  4. Whitewater Way – I’d be lying if I said I’ve actually driven this, but it’s one I will experience this fall. If I’m not mistaken, Marc has driven at least some of this road with his car friends. I can’t wait to experience the vivid fall color amidst a stunning backdrop of numerous waterfalls. I’ve heard it’s the most striking and lively scenery in North Carolina. Notes: bring your camera! I’ve seen incredible pictures from friends who have been on this drive.
  5. Nantahala Byway – Forty-three miles of road make up the Nantahala Scenic Byway within the Nantahala National Forest. Areas of interest include the Nantahala Gorge, Cherokee Indian Reservation, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and Fontana Lake. If whitewater rafting, kayaking, or canoeing is your niche, then the Nantahala River will sure please you. Notes: wear active clothing and make this trip memorable by doing outdoor activities! As with my other notes, please drive safely!

What are you favorite fall drives in the United States? Or in the world? Marc and I would die to drive on the Autobahn (and will someday, Marc claims, when he does a European delivery of a new BMW).

~ Lyndsi

Pretzels, Truffles, and Uh-Ohs in Downtown Asheville, NC

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A man dressed in drag. A dog that looked possessed of the devil. A “nun” on a unicycle. A dusting of gothics. A man in a belly shirt. A group of really freaky freaks. A few dozen hippies. Really, the only weird thing missing in the crowd was crazy Lady Gaga in her bizarre egg costume. Yes, I just called her a “thing.”

The only thought in my mind at the moment I saw the street crawling with the above unique individuals was “Uh-Oh, what are we getting ourselves into?” Marc and I unexpectdly stublembed upon this scene when we visited Asheville last weekend. We quickly learned that all of those crazies were out on the streets for the 10th annual Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF). This festival definitely defies cultural norms and festival organizers boast that it attracts individuals from all walks of life. No false advertising there — it is definitely a diverse crowd!

I felt a bit uncomfortable as a yuppy in a crowd of so many crazies. They were all trying super hard to look different in order to draw attention to themselves and there I was grabbing the attention of the crowd by dressing in my yuppy conservative manner that typically makes me blend into crowds.

Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly feel up to wandering the streets amongst a bunch of really different people. I’m sure I missed out on some fun art and great culture, but the festival was the epitome of weird and I just couldn’t get into it. Marc and I quickly made Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB) our haven. We ordered a beer sampler as I waited for my friend Danielle, who lives in Asheville, to arrive. I was so glad she was joining us since I felt like I needed a local by my side in order to feel a bit more comfortable.

As we waited on her to arrive, we enjoyed some fabulous old world pretzels. If you read our post about Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in Charlotte, NC then you already know that we expect top-notch pretzels. These were uber-pretzels with a perfect, toasty taste. Plump, crispy, and delicious. If we could delight in those pretzels at OMB, I’m pretty sure we’d be weekly visitors.

As if I hadn’t indulged enough, Danielle insisted we go out for a little dessert at French Broad Chocolate Lounge (aka: heaven). We waited in line for 15 minutes and loved inhaling the chocolaty aroma that filled the lounge. I ordered the Flourless Chocolate Truffle Torte and if indulging in that is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Regrettably, I didn’t snap a picture because I went into devour mode the second it landed in front of me. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Chai ice cream Danielle let me sample from her plate. Marc quoted No Strings Attached and proclaimed, “You eat like a baby dinosaur. You don’t even chew.” Not that that’s something to brag about, but it certainly made me laugh because it was true in that moment. I was eating like a baby dinosaur, but at least I limited myself to a slice of cake and didn’t eat a hand full of truffles with it.

I indulged a little too much over the weekend, but the following quote makes me feel better.

“I am not a glutton — I am an explorer of food.” — Erma Bombeck

Where’s your favorite place to get dessert in the Carolinas? I’m always on the lookout for new places to visit. I especially love places that are individually owned and operated!

~ Lyndsi

Chimney Rock, NC: Good For Breaking a Sweat and Making a Sexy M3 Filthy

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Hiking up the stairs to Chimney Rock was a lot like my experience during Race to the Top (49 stories; 1,194 steps; but who’s counting?) at the Duke Energy Tower experience back in March in Charlotte. Albeit, this time I had prettier views, better air circulation, and cleaner air. There were also a zillion less stairs to climb but, even so, it was a similar experience.

Marc was absolutely thrilled about the opportunity to park his pristine car in a gravel/dirt parking lot (please sense the sarcasm). We had a similar experience to this when we visited Westglow Resort in Blowing Rock, NC and drove down a super steep gravel drive to get to our cabin. That wasn’t a pretty moment and neither was this. We got out of his car and it had a coating of dirt on it. Not the best way to start the weekend, but I reminded him that it’s just a car. I’m sure Marc’s not the only one in the world that keeps his car spotless, so hopefully someone out there can empathize with him. If that person is you, leave the nice car at home if you plan to visit Chimney Rock.

Anyway, Marc and I decided to skip the trails since we were in sandals. We rode up to the top via a shuttle bus and I felt pretty guilty about not hiking the trails since I try to lead an active lifestyle. We had to ride the pretty white shuttle bus since Marc was too good to get on the big yellow school bus. We witnessed a complete moron passing us on the left hand side of the road. He almost collided head-on with a shuttle bus full of people coming down the hill. This guy was completely ignorant and showed no concern for other people’s precious lives. Thankfully, everyone was okay and the idiot driver received oodles of nasty looks.

At the top, there is an option to take an elevator or stairs to the actual rock, except the elevator was closed this weekend due to construction. I was glad it was closed since I’m not exactly in favor of having the elevator available for people to use. However, I realize some individuals who may have a handicap or medical conditions may need it to get to the top. I’m glad it’s there to serve those individuals, but I wish healthy individuals would choose to take stair in lieu of elevators.

We actually enjoyed working up a sweat and realized we could probably benefit from a hike like that every weekend. However, we won’t be hiking those stairs every weekend since it’s one of those trips where you say “been there, done that, glad we did it, but there’s no reason to do it again.” Chimney Rock is a beautiful and peaceful place and being on top of the rock is something to experience, but it’s just not something we would ever want to do again, especially not for the steep $12 per person fee. Forking over that kind of money more than once to see a view of mountains and Lake Lure seems somewhat preposterous to me. Perhaps I’m being a snob right now since I’ve seen much prettier views than that at Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina, and in various places in Colorado and California. I guess all I’m saying is that there are a million places in the United States where you can experience breathtaking mountain views for free.

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Marc at Chimney Rock. It was nice not having access to TVs, iPads, iPhones, and MacBooks for a couple of hours. When we’re at home, my iPad is out, the TV is on, we’re looking at our iPhones, or Marc’s on his Mac. It’s just our reality. We’re trying to get better about spending more quality time together at home, but the temptation to play with our gadgets will always be there.

 Tip: Bring a water bottle. Even if you’re super fit, it’s wise to stay well hydrated!

~ Lyndsi

20 Things to Do in the Queen City (Charlotte, NC)

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U.S. National Whitewater Center – An active person’s oasis. USNWC is located just 10 minutes outside of uptown Charlotte and offers a plethora of outdoor activities. I enjoy stand-up paddle boarding, whitewater rafting, running trails, and kayaking. Other activities include ropes courses, zip lines, canopy tours, mountain biking trails, and rock climbing. USNWC also has fun events throughout the year. We are going to the Whitewater River Jam Uncorked event this month, which features live bands and a $20 wine tasting.

USNWC River’s Edge Bar & Grill has great food and an excellent selection of draft beers, so be sure to check it out.

What you need to know: Parking costs $5; an All-Day Sports Pass costs $49; no outside food or beverage allowed; pet-friendly; nice bathrooms and showers.

Blumenthal Performing Arts Center – Perfect for those who have an interest in performing arts. I have been awed by every show I have watched. I love that I can get a taste of Broadway right here in Charlotte.

What you need to know: Charlotteans tend to dress up when going to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Dress with class. I recommend parking at the Hearst Tower. It is nearby and you can get $5 preferred parking if you purchase your parking with your tickets or if you purchase the parking at the theatre before you return to the garage.

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art – Don’t miss visiting this museum. It features works by the most influential and important artists of the 20th Century. We visited during a BMW 5-Series unveiling party, so we benefitted from the extra fun of having wine and hors’devours.

What you need to know: Admission is $8 for adults; it’s closed on Tuesdays; hours are typically 10 AM-5 PM; receive discounted parking at the Levine Center for the Arts garage located at 550 South Tryon Street.

Southend – Famous in Charlotte for its eclectic vibe and renovated factories. The Design Center in South End features a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, and galleries. My favorite restaurants include: Pike’s Soda Shop, The Liberty, and Sullivan’s Steakhouse.

What you need to know: Parking is plentiful; you can walk most places; LYNX trains zoom through South End to uptown; on 1st Friday of each month, Southend has a Gallery Crawl.

The EpiCentre – This is uptown Charlotte’s center for nightlife. Conveniently located near the Charlotte Bobcats Arena, this area has plenty of restaurants, clubs, and even has an upscale bowling alley. (Fun fact: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is the owner of Whiskey River).

What you need to know: Parking is $10 in the epicenter parking garage; travel with women if you want to get into the night clubs; dress to impress.

SouthPark Mall –The Carolinas’ best source for luxury fashion and casual staples. Shops include: Burberry, J. Crew, Kate Spade, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Tiffany & Co., and Urban Outfitters.

What you need to know: SouthPark is easy to get to from I-77; there are additional shops and restaurants in The Village at SouthPark located next to Crate and Barrel (we recommend dining at The Cowfish if you like burgers and/or sushi).

Lake Norman – Known best in the summer time for its “Party Cove,” Lake Norman is a great spot to mingle and have some fun. Rent jet skis to get in on the Party Cove fun. Lake Norman State Park is also worth a visit if you can’t get out on the water. It features a sand beach, campgrounds, and hiking and biking trails.

What you need to know: It takes 30-45 minutes to get to, depending on where you stay in Charlotte.

Montford Drive – A place best known for attracting fraternity boys and sorority girls, or at least those who look and act like them. It’s an area that crawls with nightlife fun without having to be in the heart of uptown. Everyone in Charlotte seems to agree that Good Food is a favored restaurant in the area.

What you need to know: Cops patrol the area in abundance; park at one bar/restaurant and you can easily walk to others.

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery – Located in south Charlotte, this brewery produces all natural, premium beer. We suggest getting a glass of OMB Copper.

What you need to know: Closed on Sundays and Mondays; tours offered on Saturdays, brewery also serves some food.

Uptown’s Little Sugar Creek Greenway – We love jogging this greenway since it takes us from the suburbs to the skyscrapers. It’s also perfect for walkers and bikers.

What you need to know: Bugs can be horrible on the greenway (run with your mouth shut and sunglasses on); enjoy the greenway with a friend since some areas are desolate.

NC Music Factory – Although it’s not our favorite spot, this area tends to be popular for the music and nightlife. It’s a little out of uptown, but once you park, you can easily walk to all the venues. We went to the Drake concert last year and had an absolute blast.

What you need to know: The preferred club here is Butter (“upscale”); arrive to the Fillmore early if you want to a good view of the concert.

Metropolitan – An urban mixed-use community; features condos, restaurants, shops, and large retailers such as Best Buy. Metro offers some of the best views of our beautiful QC. We recommend dining at Pisces Sushi Bar or Dressler’s.

What you need to know: There is plenty of parking and it’s FREE!

Phillips Place – A place for those who truly love the finer things in life. Phillips Place has outstanding restaurants, a movie theatre, Dean & Deluca wine bar, and many specialty shops. The fountains, flowers, and benches make this area one of my favorite places to visit.

What you need to know: Parking can be a pain; the shops and restaurants are expensive, so if you’re on a tight budget, this place isn’t for you.

The VanLandingham Estate, Morehead Inn, Duke Mansion – All three of these historic residences feature breathtaking elegance. They are also all bed & breakfasts.

What you need to know: I don’t even know what you need to know. Just go!

Crowder’s Mountain – Another fun place to visit for those of you who enjoy the great outdoors. This state park has wonderful hiking trails and also has rock climbing. I absolutely love the views at the peak and enjoy watching raptors soaring in the sky.

What you need to know: It’s about a 45-minute trip from Charlotte; pet-friendly; bathrooms located at trailheads; don’t take the trail with the stairs if you’re out of shape.

Wing Haven Gardens – Located in affluent Myers Park, this has been a unique area of Charlotte since 1927. The gardens and bird sanctuary span three acres and are enclosed by brick walls.

What you need to know: Admission is $6 for adults; convenient parking; only open Tuesdays (3-5 PM), Wednesdays (10 AM-12 PM), and Saturdays (10 AM-5 PM).

Shelton Vineyards – This isn’t exactly close to Charlotte, but I’m a bit of a wino, so obviously I have to include a vineyard on the list! It’s absolutely gorgeous and there are plenty of tasting options to choose from.

What you need to know: Nearly two hours from Charlotte; tastings will cost you $5-$40 per person; the tour is well worth your time.

NoDa: Charlotte’s Historic Art District – Great for the artsy types who love to peruse galleries and fun little performance venues. Visit NoDa on the 1st or 3rd Friday of the month to experience NoDa’s unique street scene, the Gallery Crawl. (Fun fact: Marc and I had our first date at Cabo Fish Taco in the NoDa neighborhood)

What you need to know: Parking is tight and may be difficult to find. Lots of live music and dive bars. The surrounding area is rough, though.

Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre – Enjoy a concert at Charlotte’s open-air music venue. This amphitheatre attracts the nation’s best musical performers. Marc and I went to the Zac Brown Band concert this summer … amazing.

What you need to know: Traffic can be a little rough, so go early to tailgate; drinks are outrageous (duh).

Historic Latta Plantation – Take a tour through this circa 1800 cotton plantation and living history farm. The guided tours are informative and well worth the money. Then head over to Latta Equestrian Center to go horseback riding around the plantation!

What you need to know: Adult admission is $7; Horseback rides are typically $25 unless you opt for a two-hour sunset ride, which will run you $65 (dinner included).

 ~ Lyndsi