Thursday, October 30, 2014

List of 10 "spookiest cemeteries in the U.S." includes three from Carolinas

A list of  10 "Spookiest cemeteries in the U.S." published at may have three from Louisiana at the top -- that's to be expected -- but also includes three from the Carolinas:

 1. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans. This famous graveyard was established in 1789 and is on the northern end of the city's ever-popular French Quarter. Visit on your own or on a guided tour. Because the land is so close to sea level, people are buried in above-ground tombs.

2. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, also in New Orleans. It's small but also packed with above-ground graves.

3. American Cemetery, Natchitoches, La. This is another oldie and it shows up in scenes from "Steel Magnolias."

4. Woodpecker Hill, Colorado Springs, Co. Citizens were buried in the town's Greenwood Cemetery, Woodpecker Hill, on a bluff above it, is where convicts were laid to rest.

The next four are notable for holding the remains of many Civil  War soldiers.

5. Elmwood Cemetery and Gardens, Columbia (shown in the photo at the top of this post).

6. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond Va.

7. Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.

8. Woodland Cemetery, Bethel, Maine.

9. Bellevue Cemetery, Wilmington. It's spooky enough to be a site location for the  modern-gothic TV series "Sleepy Hollow," which is filmed in the area.

10. St. James Parish Cemetery, Wilmington. Founded in 1729, with many old headstones sheathed in moss, it looks the part.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Top scenic roadways include N.C. 12 on Outer Banks

Country magazine, a leisure travel publication that  specializes in drive vacations in America, released its 2014 list of "The Nation's Best Scenic Roads."

First on the annual top 10 is Outer Banks National Scenic Byway. Besides being pure eye candy, it's also the only highway on the list that's on a seacoast and the only one that's not overly far from civilization.

Here's the road roundup:

1. U.S. 12, Outer Banks National Scenic Byway. It begins in Nags Head and heads south along the Outer Banks to Ocracoke Island (shown above) and continues via ferry to Cedar Island. ( It also includes a ferry ride between Hatteras and Ocracoke islands).

2. Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway. It's U.S. 395 and follows the mountain range and deserts in eastern California from Topaz Lake, near the Nevada border, south to the China Lake area east of Bakersfield, Calif.

3. Monument Valley Scenic Drive. The Monument Valley area, in northeast Arizona and southeast Utah, is where westerns have been filmed for many decades.

4. Mount Hood Scenic Byway. It's the rugged northern edge of Oregon.

5. Kancamagus Scenic Byway. It's cut through the White Mountain National Forest, in New Hampshire.

6. Mich. 41, Keweenaw Peninsula. It's the rugged northern spur of Upper Michigan and extends into Lake Superior.

7. U.S. 195: "Heart of the Palouse." You'll find U.S. 195 on the eastern edge of Washington State, from Spokane south to the Snake River area.

8. Mount Evans ScenicByway. The "Road into the Sky" is the Colorado mountains.

 9. Grand Teton Loop. Another high-ground drive. This one's in Grand Teton National Park, south of Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming.

10. Badlands Loop Road. It goes through part of Badlands National Park, in South Dakota.

Looking for more ideas? Check the website for My Scenic Drives.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Major craft event this weekend in Dillsboro

Seagrove isn't the only town in North Carolina that touts and salutes artisan pottery, and Asheville's Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands isn't the only notable clay-focused fall event.

The Western North Carolina Pottery Festival celebrates its 10th year on Nov. 1 with more than 40 master potters from across the eastern United States.

The event, staged in Dillsboro, has grown in attendance  as well as recognition: It's on the November list of attractions compiled by the Southeast Tourism Society.

The festival usually spotlights one featured potter, but this year they're pointing up two: Richard Aerni of Rochester, N.Y. and Nick Joerling of Penland. Both will join other exhibiting potters at the Saturday event in demonstrating their techniques throughout the day.

Joerling has maintained his studio in Penland, since the mid-1980s. He holds a master of fine arts in ceramics from Louisiana State University and has taught in craft programs in the United States and abroad. His work can be found in numerous public and private collections.

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. Admission: $5; 11 and younger, free. Attendees will each get a ticket for a day-long raffle; there will also be a silent auction that  benefits a local charity that provides meals to families.

Dillsboro is a picturesque town near the Tuckaseegee River, south of Cherokee, just under three hours west of Charlotte and off U.S. 23/74.

Be aware that a  preliminary event takes place Friday. The sixth annual WNC Clay Olympics competition is 1 to 5 p.m. Friday: It pits 20 potters against one another to see who can make the largest cylinder, widest bowl, etc.

Friday, of course, is also Halloween, and there's downtown Dillsboro trick-or-treating from 5 to 7 p.m. You'll also find hayrides and more. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

National kudos for Wilmington's waterfront

Readers of USA Today had the chance to do a "10 Best Readers' Choice" vote for the city with the best American riverfront, and when the results were released Wednesday, Wilmington won.

As USA Today correctly noted, "Because Wilmington is associated with the many barrier island destinations for which it serves as a gateway -- Wrightsville Beach chief among them -- the public often forgets it's actually a river city."

Along the Cape Fear River at Wilmington, you'll find the Henrietta III excursion boat (shown above), Battleship North Carolina and a 1.75-mile wood-plank Riverwalk, where a weekly farmers market and other outdoor events are staged throughout the year.

Which of the winners are within easy striking distance?

Wilmington is a  3 1/2-hour straight-shot drive from Charlotte via U.S. 74.
Savannah is four hours south of Charlotte, Interstate all the way.
Richmond, Va., is 4 1/2 hours northeast, Interstate all the way.
Also on the list is Chattanooga, Tenn., a 5 1/2-hour drive to the west, via any of several routes.

Here's the full list:

2. Spokane, Wash.
3. Davenport, Iowa
4. Dubuque, Iowa
5. Pittsburgh
6. Louisville, Ky.
9. Detroit

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Beaufort, N.C.: A well-deserved "Favorite Place"

Another day, another best-places list.

Travel + Leisure magazine just released the results of its 2014 "America's Favorite Places" survey. As usual with best-of lists, the methodology of this virtual beauty contest is up for grabs.

But the list does make sense: They're all wonderful places -- starting with Beaufort, N.C., a charming and good-eating town that offers visitors a mix of nature and history. (Its waterfront is shown in the AP file photo above.)

Here's the full top-25 list:

1. Beaufort, N.C.
2. Ogunquit, Maine
3. Lewisburg, W.Va.
4. Aspen, Colo.
5. Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
6. Charlottesville, Va.
7. Breckenridge, Colo.
8. Myrtle Beach
9. Paso Robles, Calif.
10. Tybee Island, Ga.
11. Bayfield, Wis.
12. Traverse City, Mich.
13. Portsmouth, N.H.
14. Pawleys Island, S.C.
15. Glenwood Springs, Colo.
16. Lake Placid, N.Y.
17. San Luis Obispo, Calif.
18. Bar Harbor, Maine
19. Gulf Shores, Ala.
20. Sonoma, Calif.
21. Hood River, Ore.
22. Estes Park, Colo.
23. Park City, Utah
24. La Jolla, Calif.
25. St. Augustine, Fla.

See any patterns?

Of these, 14 are on an ocean or one of the Great Lakes; six others are in mountain areas famed as skiing destinations.

And the five exceptions?

Lewisburg, W.Va. is an hour or more from the state's ski slopes, but is in a high-profile resort area (the famous Greenbrier resort is nearby) that has a lot of history  and culture. Lewisburg was featured this spring in a travel article in The Charlotte Observer.

Charlottesville, Va., is home to the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

San Luis Obispo is about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco; it is one of California's oldest towns. Paso Robles is just to the north, is in an area with more than 30 wineries and tasting rooms.

Hood River, Ore., is a tourist magnet on the Columbia River Gorge area.

There's an after-result link where you can select your own favorite -- up to a point: Click the "Select a state" option and you'll see what towns you can vote on.

There are 32 in North Carolina; 17 in South Carolina.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Glad to see Charleston on the Conde Nast Traveler lists... but take a closer look

The Charlotte Observer today reported that Charleston again was voted the No. 1 city in the United States  to visit in the annual  Readers' Choice Awards by Conde Nast Traveler -- for the fourth year.
Also, Charleston finished in second place in the Readers' Choice Awards for Top 25 Cities in the World.

But a closer look at the other cities in both lists may be informative.

Top 5 Cities in the United States

1. Charleston
2. Santa Fe, N.M.
3. New Orleans
4. San Francisco
5. Chicago

Top Cities in the World

1. Florence, Italy
2. Charleston
3. Budapest, Hungary
4. Cape Town, South Africa
5. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
6. Prague, Czech Republic
7. Rome
8. Siem Reap, Cambodia
9. Barcelona, Spain
10. Santa Fe, N.M.
11. Krakow, Poland
12. Luang Prabang, Laos
13. Bangkok, Thailand
14. Beirut, Lebanon
15. Vienna, Austria
16. Siena, Italy
17. New Orleans
18. Quebec City, Canada
19. Sydney, Australia
20. San Francisco
21. Chiang Mai, Thailand
22. Salzburg, Austria
23. Chicago
24. Bruges, Belgium
25. Kyoto, Japan

Why is "Top Cities in the United States" limited to only five destinations? While a good bit of the contents of the magazine (these and other best-of lists are in the November issue, on the shelves Oct. 26) is usually geared toward luxury and exotic travel, the five-city limit seems restrictive for a magazine based in America and written for American readers. 

With the exception of Santa Fe, N.M., the other winners in the United States list also appear on the  world list.

And with the exception of Santa Fe, the domestic destinations chosen are not surprising. In fact, they could qualify for been-there-done-that honors for most travelers.

But look at some of the international selections, like exotic Luang Prabang, Laos, or  Beirut, Lebanon -- a fascinating place that was a jet-set destination before decades of civil war. Who would have imagined those places (or even rustic Siena, Italy) on the top 25 list?

Think it through: Could fabled Florence, Italy -- shown at the top of this post -- really be the only city in the world more worth visiting than Charleston?

Be aware that anyone could take any of the Conde Nast Traveler's online polls.

It' ain't just readers, folks. 

Maybe  Conde Nast Traveler poll-takers aren't overly curious about trying different or unusual destinations in the United States  -- or are poll-takers on a mission. Or just don't get out much. And perhaps poll-takers' international choices are more of a wish list than anything.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Weekend for fine color -- and fine crafts -- in Asheville area

This may be a better weekend than you thought for heading up to the Asheville area.

The color report at says leaf coloration is moving down the mountains, and notes that foliage is getting prime at Biltmore Estate and in such nearby areas as  Cullasaja Gorge, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Cradle of Forestry.

Moreover, this weekend the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands is going on at the U.S. Cellular Center, 87 Haywood St., in downtown Asheville.

The event is staged twice a year -- four days in July, four in mid-October. It is regarded as one of the best craft shows in the country.

You'll see the fine work of members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, a nonprofit formed during the Great Depression; the craft fairs started in 1948 as a way for members to show and sell their creations.

Work at the juried show includes jewelry, wood, leather, fiber, clay, metal and more.

The  Southern Highlands Craft Guild photo at the top of this page shows jewelry by metal smith Linda Azar, a guild member working in Asheville.

Any time of the year, you can see the work of guild members at the Allanstand Craft Shop at the Folk Art Center on the BRP, on Asheville's outskirts; at the Southern Highland Craft Gallery at Asheville's Biltmore Village; the Parkway Craft Center at Moses Cone Manor, on the Parkway near Blowing Rock.

The guild includes more than 900 members in the mountain regions of nine states in the Southeast. You can additionally see work by guild artisans at Cumberland Crafts, at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, near Middleboro, Ky.; and Arrowcraft, in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

What makes the Craft Fair of  the Southern Highlands go-worthy is this: You have the chance to see more than 200 artisans in a juried show that also features craft demonstrations and live regional music.

It's also in a large, indoor venue.

If  you have an affection for Appalachian folk art -- or are doing your holiday shopping early - this is a don't-miss event.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday (Oct. 16-18); 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 19).

Admission is $8; free for 11 and younger.