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Your guide to exploring the Southeast
It’s vacation-planning season. And the Southeast holds a wealth of getaway ideas. From the beaches to the mountains and lots of rivers and history and good food in between, there are many ideas for traveling in this character-filled corner of the country. Here are some highlights from this wonderful regional destination.

Celebrate Spring in North Carolina’s Durham, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill
Central North Carolina offers the perfect mix of spring activities, from blooming gardens to home and kitchen shopping to culinary delights. Try this two-day itinerary to get a taste of some of the best N.C. has to offer this season, or go to VisitNC.com/itineraries for ideas. Day 1: The trailhead for this tour is the “Crown Jewel” of Duke University—Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham. Recognized as one of the premier public gardens in the United States, 55 acres of renowned landscape design attract more than 300,000 visitors each year.

Enjoy lunch at one of Durham’s celebrated restaurants such as Magnolia Grill, Nana’s, or Watts Grocery; or try one of the city’s trendy food trucks to experience eclectic specialties such as organic smoothies, ethnic delicacies, or finger-lickin’ good burgers. Check Twitter@OnlyBurger and @DaisyCakesNC for schedules.

Spend the afternoon at the Magic Wings butterfly exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Life + Science, featuring more than 1,000 live butterflies from around the world. Wrap up with an evening at Brightleaf Square in the West End of downtown Durham. Shop for rare books, antiques, and artful accessories and try one of the acclaimed restaurants in this refurbished tobacco warehouse district.

Day 2: Just 30 minutes down the road from Durham is another of North Carolina’s great academic institutions, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Enjoy a walk down scenic Franklin Street through the heart of the nation’s first state university, founded in 1793.

Satisfy a hearty appetite at Mama Dip’s Country Cooking Restaurant, where the cookbook author has been cooking down-home Southern food since she was nine years old. Lantern restaurant, Locopops, and 3CUPS are a few other favorite foodie stops in the area.

Plan a stop at A Southern Season for shopping, a cup of tea or coffee, and cooking classes. With 60,000 square feet of gifts and gourmet specialties, it’s a must-stop for any cook or food lover.

Round out the day exploring Carrboro—named one of America’s top 100 art towns by guidebook author John Villani. Get to know the business owners and their offerings of local art, chocolate, and beer. Pick up a walking-tour guide at the Visitor Center on West Franklin Street, or stop at the N.C. Crafts Gallery for pottery.

Don’t miss pampering yourself overnight at The Franklin Hotel, or indulge at the Relais & Chateaux property Fearrington House Country Inn. Another option, The Carolina Inn, is known as the “living room” of UNC-Chapel Hill and received the AAA Four-Diamond Award.

See more travel ideas, events, and specials on VisitNC.com, and plan a spring renewal in North Carolina today!

Sarasota and Her Islands, Florida
From the indulgence of a powder-white sand beach to the escape of kayaking through tropical mangroves to the power of awe-inspiring works of art, Sarasota and Her Islands truly offer an experience for every taste, age, and desire. Whether you crave sandy sunsets or rousing encores, you will find a wealth of both in Sarasota and Her Islands.

Siesta Key: Famous for its white sand beaches, clear waters, and authentic beach town feel, Siesta Key draws year-round visitors from all over. A favorite place for flip-flop weddings and barefoot sunsets, Siesta Key enjoys its reputation as the place to rest and relax.

Longboat Key: Elite estate homes and luxury retreats dominate this gorgeous barrier island, which boasts some of the finest restaurants in the area.

Lido Key/St. Armand’s: An exquisite blend of luxury boutiques, delectable dining, and stunning beaches, this area truly exemplifies Sarasota’s diversity.

Downtown Sarasota: From the upscale and luxurious to the hip and trendy, downtown Sarasota buzzes with eclectic activity.

Venice: Discover a little bit of peaceful Old Florida in Venice, where quaint shops contour tree-lined streets and sharks teeth are bountiful.

North Port: Houses what Ponce de Leon would have entitled the Fountain of Youth, but is now named Northport’s Warm Mineral Springs.

Englewood: Naturalists have many opportunities to enjoy the tidewater flats and mangrove islands in Englewood’s Lemon Bay. Photographers, fishermen, and boaters alike can enjoy the proximity of grazing manatees, playful dolphins, and colorful birds.

For more information on discovering Sarasota and Her Islands, call the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-281-6850 or visit sarasotafl.org/cooking.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Kids grow up in the blink of an eye. You don’t want to miss any opportunity to spend time together. And there’s no better place for family fun and togetherness than Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the center of fun in the Smokies. With dozens of action-packed attractions, theaters, special events, restaurants, Dollywood, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and much more, you’ll find plenty of fun for the entire family. So pack your bags and bring the family to Pigeon Forge this year, because one day the bags you pack will be to send the kids off to college. Visit mypigeonforge.com or call 800-251-9100.

Produced in cooperation with the Southeast Tourism Society, an organization dedicated to the marketing and promotion of travel and the travel industry within our twelve-member Southeastern States of AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV. Visit our Web site at: EscapetotheSoutheast.com.