Friday, December 19, 2014

Have Dinner with Downton Abbey in Asheville

Dine like a member of the Crawley family at the Downton Abbey Dinner Theatre Experience at Lex 18
Photo credit: © Carnival Films

And speaking of Downton Abbey (see our post about the "Dressing Downton" exhibit coming to Biltmore)....Lex 18 in Asheville, North Carolina is hosting a Downton Abbey intimate interactive banquet dinner to celebrate Season 5 of the award-winning PBS series. The experience kicks off with the live broadcast of the first episode on Sunday, January 4 and runs every Sunday through March 1, 2015 and is limited to 16 exclusive guests.

Lex 18's historic 1920s dining room will be set in a resplendent post-Edwardian era style complete with all the finery from this popular historic era. Centered under its gold ceiling, a 16-foot long banquet table will be lavishly dressed with china and crystal. Footmen in tails and a head butler will serve guests a five-course wine and champagne dinner, along with an interactive cast personifying Downton Abbey's Crawley family members and their lively servants.

Each dinner will begin with a Vintage Cocktail Hour of unlimited cocktails and socializing with members of the Asheville Crawley family and guests. The cocktail hour will also feature a brief historical perspective of Asheville and English music, arts, culture and fashion by a guest historian. Then the five-course dinner will be served along with three paired wines and a champagne pairing with dessert. The dinner service will include table-side butler service, beautiful china, silver platters, crystal, and the leisurely feast classic of a grand manor. The live broadcast of Downton Abbey's fifth season will then air, along with an intermission for post-dinner digestifs and coffee and tea.

Space is limited to 16 guests each Sunday for this extraordinary food and libations experience and interactive fun set in the grand style of one of the most watched and loved Masterpiece programs in the world. Reserve your seats now for the Downton Abbey Dinner Theatre Experience.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ArtFields Turns Lake City Into an Art Mecca

ArtFields, one of the South's most engaging art festivals and competitions (Photo courtesy of j forest photo)

For nine days this Spring, the historic district of the small, Southern agriculture town of Lake City, South Carolina will be transformed into an art Mecca with the arrival of artists from 12 Southeastern states and art lovers from all over for ArtFields.

Now in its third year, the South's biggest art competition will take over the town April 24-May 2, showcasing original works in 50-plus venues including historic buildings, shops, cafes, offices, and outdoor spaces. Named by CNN as a "don't miss" festival in 2014, ArtFields includes a competition of over 400 pieces of art with over $100,000 in cash prizes (viewing the art competition is free), a 5K run through downtown, an artist market, a SC Barbeque Association cook-off, symphony concert, children's art workshops, portrait contests, food, and craft brews. For the full calendar and ticketing information, check out the Artfields website.

Lake City is located approximately 90 minutes from Charleston and Columbia and within an hour's drive of Myrtle Beach and has become a burgeoning creative community. The town has recently welcomed the new Inn at the Crossroads, a boutique hotel located in the heart of the ArtFields' activity. Festival goers enjoy free parking and shuttle services all over town.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Downton Abbey Comes to Biltmore

See the costumes from Downton Abbey at Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina.
Photo credit: © Carnival Films

If you are looking forward to the premiere of the fifth season of Downton Abbey on January 4, then you are really going to be excited about the Downton Abbey that's on its' way to Asheville, North Carolina. Premiering February 5th and running through May 25th, 2015, "Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times" will be on exhibit at Biltmore and it's something all Downton Fans (and fashionistas) won't want to miss.

The exhibition will feature more than 40 costumes from the popular PBS series and will be displayed throughout Biltmore House in groupings inspired by the fictional show and by the real life that went on at Biltmore, the grand Vanderbilt estate. Although Downton Abbey is fictional, Biltmore bears significant resemblance to the homes and castles featured in the show, as well as the period. Life and the day-to-day running of Biltmore was very similar to Downton Abbey so guests will be tranported to that era. To add to the visuals of the costumes, new stories will be shared about George Vanderbilt, his wife Edith, and their daughter Cornelia, who lived in the 250-room Biltmore House.

Themes in the exhibition include the evolution of fashion, nuances of etiquette and the changing roles of women. The life of service staff will also be explored, including the role of British citizens who worked at Biltmore. Costumes on display will range from country tweeds, to servants' uniforms, to lavish gowns and elegant evening attire. Some of the costumes are original pieces from the time period, while others incorporate antique decorative elements that inspired the overall costume design.

Admission to the exhibition is included with the price of a regular estate ticket purchase and runs from February 5 to May 25.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hilton Head Island Wine + Food Festival Turns 30

The Hilton Head Wine + Food Festival comes to Sea Pines Resort March 9-14

It's never too early to start talking about food & wine festivals and the season kicks off in the Carolinas in just three months. We've already given you a heads up about the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Charleston Food + Festival coming March 4-8. And now there is even more reason to keep the celebration going further at the 30th Anniversary of the Hilton Head Island Wine + Food Festival at Sea Pines Resort March 9-14.

18th Green of Harbour Town Golf Links
Noted as the oldest-running food and wine festival on the East Coast and paralleling the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, the Hilton Head Island Wine + Food Festival celebrates the unique culinary culture on Hilton Head Island and features an international wine competition, culinary talent, local and regional cuisine, and island attractions that make Hilton Head Island a premier Southern destination. The festivities will take place at The Sea Pines Resort with the festival's signature Grand Tasting to be held on the 18th lawn of the legendary Harbour Town Golf Links, while the popular Public Tasting will take place at the resort's iconic Harbour Town Yacht Basin.

This year's festival week offers a brand new schedule of events including the Par for the Cork golf outing, Sip and Stroll marina celebration, and themed vintner dinners at the resort's newly renovated Plantation Golf Club. Spanning the week of March 9-14, 2015, the 30th anniversary celebration offers up an impressive line-up of world-class vineyards, local and regional celebrity chefs, live entertainment, and a variety of visual and performing artists. The highly-acclaimed International Wine Judging Competition precedes the 2015 festival on February 6-8.

Start your diet, dig out your fat pants, and make plans now for the 30th Anniversary of the Hilton Head Island Wine + Food Festival.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Warm Up Your Winter at a North Carolina Spa

A spa treatment at one of North Carolina's top resort spas can warm up your winter

Winter can leave you feeling blah. But if you want to offset the shorter days and chilly temperatures of the season, treat yourself to a warming spa package. Across North Carolina, spas are countering the frigid weather with treatments and packages that will warm the soul and rejuvenate the spirit.
Here are seasonal specials from 11 of North Carolina’s top resort spas:
The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge
Celebrate the season with a Perky Peppermint Pedicure, featuring a candy cane champagne soak, caramel coffee scrub and massage leaving your soles super refreshed. Or unwind with a Honey Pumpkin Soufflé Wrap & Facial, including a spicy whipped honey sea salt exfoliation, ginger sorbet shea butter wrap and a pick-me-up facial. Enhance it with a Winter Getaway, Girls Getaway or Spa Escape overnight package for a total winter-warming splurge.
Chetola Resort
Blowing Rock
Take the stress out of the holidays with a the two-night Stress-Free Spa Package, including accommodations, a 60-minute massage, a fitness or yoga class, 10 percent off spa products and breakfast each day. Or chase away the winter doldrums with a Spa Day-cation Package, featuring your choice of a 60-minute Chetola Signature Swedish Massage or Signature Facial, spa lunch, unlimited use of the pool, Jacuzzi and dry sauna; full use of the fitness center, choice of fitness and yoga classes; and complimentary beverages. And be sure to check out the newly opened Hair Boutique at the Spa, exclusively featuring the full line of Aveda hair care products.
The Fearrington House Inn
To get you party-ready for the holidays, try the anti-aging Visible Brilliance Facial. And keep your skin rejuvenated during the harsh winter months with the Frangaponi Salt Glow Exfoliation and Massage. The mineral-rich salts and hibiscus cleanse will exfoliate your skin, while an infusion of exotic Tahitian monoi massage oil and frangipani flowers seal in moisture.
Inn on Biltmore Estate
Enjoy the 8,000-acre Vanderbilt property and pamper yourself at The Spa at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. Spice up your winter with a Ginger Glow Swedish massage, complemented with an organic ginger body butter and detoxifying heated herbal poultice. Hydrate your winter skin with a Ginger Glow facial, featuring a marine-based collagen and ginger masque. Or treat your feet to an organic ginger foot soak and an invigorating ginger salt scrub as part of a Ginger Glow pedicure.
Old Edwards Inn and Spa
Enjoy the serenity of winter with the Comfort and Joy Package, including deluxe accommodations for two nights, a three-course dinner for two in Madison’s Restaurant, two classic spa treatments and an Elf tuck-in for the wee ones. Or rejuvenate with the Winter Slip Away and Save Package, featuring accommodations, spa treatments, dinner at Madison’s and plenty of time left over to indulge in a little winter shopping therapy or outdoor adventure.
The Omni Grove Park Inn
Relax and celebrate the season at The Omni Grove Park Inn as the smell of gingerbread fills the air during the Annual National Gingerbread House display. Enjoy the world-class subterranean spa, featuring cavernous rock walls, arches, tunnels and 20 water features — and sip on organic herbal Cinnamon Plum tea in one of the relaxation lounges. Let the hustle and bustle melt away with a signature body treatment, massage or facial, including the new mind-blowing Ultimate Facial coming mid-January.
Pinehurst Resort
Enjoy the season with the Wonders of Winter seasonal massage featuring Farm House Fresh’s Hello Yellow Shea Butter whip blended with cinnamon-spiced massage oil (think gingerbread). Combine it with a Honey Heel Glaze, with scents of cinnamon, clove and honey to let yourself unwind into the warmth of the season. If you prefer a traditional pedicure, the Cinnamon Cider Pedi combines a decadent Bourbon Bubbler scrub with a soothing cider-fizzing soak and a dollop of super-hydrating Hello Yellow Shea Butter.
The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte
The Ritz-Carlton Spa & Wellness Center offers winter indulgence and rejuvenation throughout the spa with arctic berry peel facials, red velvet body scrubs, and red velvet manicures and pedicures. Enjoy weekday special prices on best-selling nail services Mondays through Thursdays.
Sanderling Resort
The Sanderling is celebrating the “spaaahlidays” with a Holly Jolly wrap and facial, which will envelop your body and mind with scents of apple, pumpkin, orange and spice. Or get in touch with your inner solitude and cleanse your body with a Winter Glow Chakra or Holiday Hammam ritual featuring a Moroccan mint and salt scrub followed by a cocoon of jasmine- and rose-infused clay. Top it all off with a Mistle’Toes spa pedicure.
The Umstead Hotel and Spa
Pomegranate is all the rage this holiday season and The Umstead has several spa treatments that take advantage of this rich source of antioxidants and vitamin C. Be transported to a deep-relaxed state with a Pomegranate and White Tea Swedish Massage. Or indulge your senses and your feet in a luxurious Pomegranate & Fig Luxury Pedicure, including an exfoliation, foot and lower leg massage, and a glass of champagne.
Shoji Spa & Lodge
Shoji Spa & Lodge is the only Japanese-style bathhouse and spa on the East Coast, and its Winter Warmth Package offers up deep relaxation 2,500 feet above stress level. Enjoy a one-hour private spa pass featuring aromatherapy showers, a dry cedar sauna, and a private outdoor hot tub, followed by an 80-minute Swedish massage with your choice of a cypress and tea tree oil scalp massage or a warming ginger sake exfoliating foot treatment.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Charleston Virtual Advent Calendar Filled with Holiday Goodies

Drayton Hall Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina is decorated for the holidays

It's baaaack! The Christmas in Charleston Virtual Advent Calendar is back starting today and is offering up some creative and tasty holiday offerings. Showcasing Charleston-based and Charleston-made products, the  calendar offers unique, time-sensitive reveals about Christmastime in Charleston from area's local tastemakers, shop owners, attractions, restaurants, and tour operators every day. 

Although the specific product and deals will be a secret until the day of, a sample of the deals that will appear between December 1-24 include:

*A festive DIY decorating tip from noted event planner Tara GuĂ©rard, named one of Vogue's Top 5 Star Wedding Planners in 2014

*A sweet holiday recipe from Heritage, Chef Sean Brock's first New York Times best-selling cookbook

*A downloadable complimentary parking pass to use in select downtown city-owned parking garages

*A tradition-steeped eggnog recipe from Brooks Reitz, owner of Jack Rudy Cocktail Company

Sounds like a perfect way to shop for all our friends and family this holiday season. And a fun way to count down to Christmas!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway

More than 800 light displays are featured along the track at Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway

It's Thanksgiving week so that means that Christmas has officially begun! And Charlotte Motor Speedway isn't missing any of the action with the opening of their spectacular holiday light show, Speedway Christmas. Now in its fifth year, this holiday classic features more than three million lights, an infield Christmas Village and a unique chance to drive the historic track.

One of the brightest spots on the Carolina Christmas Corridor, which extends from Tanglewood Park in Clemmons to Biltmore House in Asheville, highlights of Speedway Christmas include:

* A completely redesigned 3.1-mile drive of lights, which meanders the infield of the 1.5-mile speedway (you actually get to drive on the track!) and continues under the concourse behind the grandstands.

Visit the petting zoo at Christmas Village
*More than 800 light displays set to music along the track.

*An infield winter wonderland including a Bethlehem Village live nativity scene, petting zoo, Santa's Workshop (including visits with Santa), Christmas trees, fair rides, and food.

*Drive-in holiday movies such as Elf, Frozen, and Christmas Story, each Friday and Saturday night on one of the world's largest HD TVs.

*Dining in the Speedway Club overlooking Speedway Christmas.

Speedway Christmas opened for the season this past weekend. The light show is open every night through December 30th, with the exception of Christmas Day. The Christmas Village is open every Thursday through Sunday evenings, as well as Monday, December 23 and Tuesday, December 24.
Admission into Speedway Christmas is $20 per car on nights when the Christmas Village is open and $15 per car on nights when it is closed. 

Light up your holiday season with Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lights, Camera, Action at the NC Museum of History

North Carolina has had a starring role in the movie industry for many years. And now the state wants to pay it back by opening its first major exhibit of the blockbuster movie industry. Running now through September 6, 2015, at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, Starring North Carolina! celebrates North Carolina's films, television shows, cast members and production crews for the past 100 years.

More than 3,000 films and television programs have been made in the Tar Heel State and the exhibit will showcase costumes and props from such blockbusters as Bull Durham, Last of the Mohicans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dawson's Creek, Sleepy Hollow, and dozens more. Featuring hundreds of film-related items, images, film clips, and a variety of interactive components, Starring North Carolina! will examine the NC film industry from the 1900s to the present. The exhibit will also highlight how NC became one of the nation's top film and television production locations and home to the largest film studio outside of California, EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Photography Offers a Unique Way to Explore Charleston

Capturing the essence of the Lowcountry with Charleston Photography Tours and Wild Dunes Resort

So here's a pretty cool travel concept. Tour Charleston, South Carolina through the lens of a camera. Wild Dunes Resort on Isles of Palms, just 30 minutes from downtown Charleston, has put together a unique tour that combines magical vacation moments with the scenic treasures of Charleston.

Led by award-winning professional photographer Tiffany Briley, Charleston Photography Tours offers three distinct packages from beginners to experts and from discovering historic downtown Charleston to capturing the breathtaking backdrop of Wild Dunes. Whether your interests are in the people and places of the city or seascapes and marshlands of the resort, participants can capture the essence of the Lowcountry and learn the art of image storytelling at the same time.

The varied packages include:

*Discover Charleston Package: Let a photographic tour guide escort you through the charm and
         grace of Charleston. From cobblestone streets to waterfront parks to secret gardens adorned                with ornate ironwork, this package will let you capture the true Charleston. This daily tour is              four hours long and is designed for a variety of skill levels.

*The Dunes Package: Perfect if you just want to stay on the Wild Dunes property and draw your
         inspiration from the stunning seascapes, marshlands, trails, and more. Here you'll also learn the
         basic functions of a camera, the art of composition, and how to capture the perfect moment.
         This tour lasts 2-3 hours and times vary.
* Budding Photographer Tour #NoFilterNeeded: Teens and pre-teens are led on a photographic
         adventure throughout the resort to capture wildlife encounters, spontaneous moments with 
         friends and family, and picturesque landscapes using a traditional camera or a smartphone.
         Teens can then share their creations in real time with friends back home through social media.            This tour is available Tuesday and Thursdays 9-11am.

*Charleston & Beyond Package: This ultimate photography tour is over two days and takes
         participants to the iconic and well-known, as well as the secret spots, in Charleston and nearby            locations. This tour is perfect for photographers of all levels and runs a full two days (20 hours)
         and is offered daily.

All of this AND all of the amenities that this oceanfront paradise offers including championship golf, nationally-ranked tennis, tons of varied recreation, spa services, and tasty dining options. Accommodations at Wild Dunes start at $135 per night from now through February, $229 from March through May, and $289 from May through Labor Day.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Progress into the Holidays with a Charleston Progressive Dinner

Nestled in the gardens behind Wentworth Mansion, Circa 1886 is a perfect venue for their Holiday Progressive Dinner
Circa 1886 Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina welcomes the holidays with their Holiday Progressive Dinner tradition November 29 through December 23. Now in it's 29th year, Circa 1886 and Charming Inns welcomes guests to kick off the season with a festive evening where diners journey by horse-drawn carriage to three different venues. The evening starts off with hors d'oeuvres at 5:30 at Historic King's Courtyard Inn. Then travel to Circa 1886 Restaurant for a three-course dinner and then wind down at Historic John Rutledge House Inn for coffee and dessert. The evening costs $100 per person, excluding beverages.

Make a night of it by taking advantage of one of the Progressive Dinner Packages at either the John Rutledge House Inn or King's Courtyard Inn. The packages include a one night stay in a a standard room, two seats at the Progressive Dinner (excluding beverages), a rickshaw ride to Kings Courtyard Inn (if you are staying at the John Rutledge House Inn), carriage rides to the other venues, and a Southern Living Party Cookbook. Rates for the Progressive Dinner Package start at $400 per night.

And if Dickens is your holiday thing, join Circa 1886 on December 10th or 11th as they travel back in time to retell a classic Christmas story at their 13th Annual Dickens Dinner. Chef Marc Collins and storyteller Tim Lowry will transport guests to Victorian England with a lively retelling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," as guests feast on a spectacular four-course dinner. The dinner is $85 per person, plus tax, gratuity and beverages. To complement the Dickens Dinner, the Wentworth Mansion will offer a special Christmas Carol Package for two guests for one night, including the Dickens Dinner (excluding room tax and beverages) from $590 per couple.

There's no Bah Humbug with Charming Inns!