A Year of Firsts with Go Fayetteville – 2018

February 1, 2019

At the end of 2017, I decided to write a blog on all my “firsts” with Go Fayetteville, and again this year, I'm taking the time to reflect. I know I’m not alone in saying this: 2018 was a hard year. Hurricane Florence came and went and left behind damage in its wake. However, I could write a whole blog on just how the communities of Cumberland County rallied and helped one another rebuild. Even though my family was one of Florence’s victims, I’ve never felt more support and pride in my community than I did in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Keeping with tradition, I want to enter a new year reflecting on the good in the prior one. Despite our trials, 2018 was still full of uplifting moments, grand adventures, and a whole lot of firsts. Several adventures took me a little out of my comfort zone, but all of them opened my eyes, yet again, to how much Cumberland County has to offer our visitors and locals. As you check out my list of firsts, consider making 2019 the year of saying "yes" to adventure here!

cinco de mayoHunting Tacos at Taqueria Angelito

cinco de mayoMy Angelito Street Tacos - Asada, Lengua e Carnitas

Hunting for Tacos

While everyone else was starting ambitious diets in January, I was starting a breakfast club, called “The Great Taco Hunt.” If you follow the blog, then you know I’m mildly obsessed with Mexican food, specifically tacos. That’s why I decided to invite friends to join me in tracking down the best tacos in Cumberland County. My search first took blogger Mindy (Sweet Tea & Pasta) and me to Taqueria Angelito, in Hope Mills. Mindy proclaimed Angelito’s street tacos to be “the best I’ve ever had” and set about trying to recreate their magic in her own kitchen. That’s when I knew there was hope for this Texan gal to find authentic Mexican cuisine in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

We held the next breakfast club outing at Taqueria Las Delicias, and I went way outside my comfort zone with a beef head taco. I’ll just say, I now know I’m not a fan of "cabeza," but I’m so big on trying something at least once that it was worth it. Our crew loved this taqueria’s other street tacos and fresh salsa bar. By the time Cinco de Mayo rolled around, my taco hunt had led me to several Mexican eateries, and I shared all those tasty details on the blog.

For those who can appreciate BBQ-Mexican fusion, try Fowler’s Southern Gourmet’s taco-of-the-day and get ready to fall in love with their rotating menu of smoked-meat tacos and rich, made-in-house sauces.

Fresh Juice Bar at Prima Elements Wellness Center

Taking a Wellness Day

At the same time I was embarking on my taco hunt, ironically, I was also exploring Cumberland County’s wellness havens. One of those havens is Prima Elements Wellness Center, located in the heart of Downtown Fayetteville. Prima’s owner, Audri, had invited me to try out a couple of their services, and one of those is The Restation™. This relaxing, meditative experience turned out to be one of my most unique ones of 2018.

Additionally, Audri introduced me to the magic of wheatgrass and educated me on its health benefits as she made me a fresh-pressed shot, harvested from her live wheatgrass pallets. I detailed my experiences at not only Prima, but at a couple of other wellness havens, on the blog. What I came to conclude was, whether it’s a hot yoga class or sensory-deprivation float or fresh juice bar you’re looking for, we have so many places to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit here.

Check out the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau's (FACVB) Wellness listings for even more ideas on where to pursue health and wellness in this area.

"May All Who Enter as Guests Leave as Friends"

Be Prepared to Eat Well at The Wine Cafe's Classes

Savoring a Wine Class

I lived in Italy for four years, so wine classes and tastings are not a new thing for me. However, I’d never taken a wine class in the States until The Wine Café hosted our Fayetteville NC Bloggers for a private event in January. Owner Angela Malavé and her staff hold complimentary wine tastings and themed wine classes for the public on a regular basis, and they’ve proven to be popular events.

For our private class, Angela educated us on the best of her curated wine selection for Valentine’s Day. She also paired each wine with some delectable small plates, made in-house, and even sinful macaroons from The Sweet Palette—a downtown bakery that’s a Fayetteville favorite. To say the bloggers and I enjoyed this experience is an understatement. Since that first class, I’ve also attended one of Angela’s Spanish wine classes and found it to be just as educational, delightful, and savory as the first one.

Track all The Wine Café’s upcoming by-reservation-only classes, complimentary tastings, and more—to include their popular GALantine event—on their Facebook page, @thewinecafe.

Joel & Alexis Taking the Hometown Hops Challenge Seriously!

Completing the Hometown Hops Challenge

Have you ever toured five breweries in one day? An ambitious challenge, to say the least, but that’s what the Fayetteville NC Bloggers and I set out to do on a Saturday afternoon, during NC Beer Month. This month-long celebration of craft beer in April is when the FACVB launched the Hometown Hops Passport, giving visitors a chance to earn stamps and prizes for buying a beer from all five Cumberland County breweries.

Armed with our own passports, the bloggers and I “hopped” around the county, sampling all the brew-masters’ finest creations. From IPAs to stouts to lagers, we tried a little bit of everything, and we also enjoyed sampling some of their food options. Three of our breweries offer full dining experiences, and two of them host food trucks. Needless to say, our crew drank and ate really, really well that day. This experience was, by far, one of the most fun adventures I had in 2018.

Be on the look-out for the Hometown Hops program to return this April and for our breweries to play host to festivals and more #NCBeerMonth fun.

Vegan Festival Was Focused on Everything Fresh

Dirtbag Ales' Oktoberfest Stein Was Legit

Festing It Up

Speaking of festivals, I need a separate blog to recount all the fests I visited for the first time this last year. One of the things that excites me so much about Cumberland County’s growth is the abundance of new festivals that keep popping up. I’ll highlight just a few here.

My family and I enjoyed a pretty spring day on the grounds of Dirtbag Ales’ new brewery in April, when DBA and Sustainable Sandhills kicked off the brand-new DBA Farmers Market with the first Strawberry Festival. You won’t want to miss their second annual Strawberry Festival, also serving as the launch of market season, on April 28th.

In June, while staying at the Fayetteville RV Resort in Wade, my son and I spent some time at Wade Founders Day. Though this small-town celebration is an annual tradition, it was new to us, and we enjoyed seeing how one of Cumberland County’s prettiest corners celebrates its heritage. Mark your calendar for this year's Wade Founders Day, on June 1st.

Another weekend in June, I hit two brand-new festivals: Fayetteville Pride Fest and Vegan Festival. Hundreds of Pride Fest attendees packed out Cross Creek Linear Park, while the Vegan Festival took over the lovely Anderson Street. Both events proved to me that Fayetteville’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths—and worthy of celebrating. Don't miss the 2nd Annual Vegan Festival on May 25th and the 2nd Annual Pride Fest later this year (date TBA).

In the fall, I hit yet another Dirtbag Ales’ festival, Oktoberfest, and was delighted to serve as a judge for the lederhosen and dirndl costume contests. The brews and Glühwein, fresh pretzels, German food truck, and live music made this festival such a blast. You're sure to find this popular event returning to DBA later this year.

Also in the fall, I saw magicians, wizards, and witches embarking on a Horcrux hunt and other adventures during the two-day Magical World of Wizardry. This event drew a few thousand people to Downtown Fayetteville and was such a hit that we’re eagerly anticipating the second one already.

Keep track of all of Cumberland County’s new (and recurring) festivals on the FACVB’s Calendar of Events.

My First Bullseye with Axes & X's Throwing Range

Throwing Axes

I’d heard of gun ranges before, but I’d never heard of an ax range until this spring, when the veteran-owned Axes & X’s Throwing Range started popping up at breweries and events here. I’m a small-town Texas gal at heart, so naturally, the thought of hurling an ax at a target sounded like a blast to me. I had my first opportunity to give this sport a shot at the DBA Farmers Market Strawberry Festival I mentioned above.

Axes & X’s’ owners, Jimmy and Tiffany, gave great instructions and tips on how to throw the ax carefully, but with precision. It took me a few tries, but eventually, I landed a perfect bullseye. And what a rush that was! Of course, I had to capture the moment and brag a bit. Since then, any time I see Axes & X’s set up at an event, I jump in line to practice my “technique.”

Follow @AxesandXs to see where they’ll be popping up next and to be one of the first ones to hear when they’ll be holding a grand opening at their Hope Mills site.

All American Tattoo Convention Is Packed with Talent

Air Born Aerial Performances Are Mesmerizing

Experiencing a Tattoo Convention

The All American Tattoo Convention (AATC) has been taking place at the Crown Expo Center here for a few years now, and I was excited to attend my first one this past April. My friend and fellow blogger Maria (Maria McDonald, Writer) joined me for this adventure. I knew world-famous artists from shows like Tattoo Rescue and Ink Master would be working this convention, but I was also excited to see Fayetteville’s most talented artists representing. Tattoo culture and the military go hand in hand, so naturally, artists working in the Fort Bragg area are highly experienced in this competitive market.

In addition to watching and photographing local artists practicing their craft, Maria and I also played spectators to all the unique entertainment. You don’t have to be in the market for a new tattoo to appreciate the variety of live tattoo contests, the Air Born Aerial Fitness performers swinging from the ceiling, the Retro Pin-Up gals strutting their stuff, and all the other niche entertainment this convention has to offer.

Mark your calendar now for the 2019 AATC, scheduled to take place at the Crown Expo Center April 12th thru 14th.

Costumed Runners Ready to Tackle the Color Run

Tackling a Color Run

I’m not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I am always up for a new adventure. The Color Run takes place in Fayetteville each year, usually in the late spring or early summer, so I decided The Color Run 5K: Hero Tour was the perfect opportunity to tackle a fun race. Fellow bloggers Angela (Mommy PR) and Jami (Mom on the Go) brought their families and joined me that morning at the Crown Complex.

I’ve never done a themed 5K before, so I was delighted to see all the pre-race festivities going on. The Color Run throws a big pre-race party, and by the time we were at the starting line, we were revving to go. One of the best parts of this race is seeing all the other runners dressed up in their crazy gear, as superheroes or other characters. I also discovered just what a messy race this is, as the Color Run team pelts you with dyed color packs all along the route. We were a big ole mess by the time we finished the race, so it was only fitting that we join the after-party with the throng of people dancing in a sea of bubbles.

Purchase tickets, starting on February 12th, for this year's The Color Run 5K: Love Tour, which is scheduled to take place at the Crown Complex on June 22nd.

R Burger's Southern Burger Is My Fave

R Burger's Perfectly Cooked Egg Burger

Taking a Burger Tour

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my job? Of all the things I get to experience, trying out new food destinations is one of my favorite “job duties.” Since June is National Hamburger Month, I decided to poll the locals on their favorite burger joints. Sure enough, our residents had a lot to say on this topic, leading me to all the best mom-and-pop eateries. On the blog, I dished on the old-school classics at the iconic Robertson’s Sandwich Shop, the “nasty good” burgers to be found at The Corner Grill in Eastover, the spicy burger menu at Will’s Grill, and more.

Ultimately, I revealed that the “People’s Choice Burger” was none other than our beloved R Burger—the food truck that celebrity chef Alton Brown helped to put on the map when he visited Fayetteville. I don’t think you can say you’ve truly lived until you try their Southern Burger, topped with grilled onions and freshly made pimento cheese. Add a side of their killer fries and Kayla’s Ranch, and you’ll know why our locals adore R Burger so much.

Follow @Rburgertruck to see where they’ll be popping up next, and if you’re a first-timer, start with my personal favorite, that Southern Burger.

My First Kayaking Experience with Spring Lake Outpost

Kayaking the Lower Little River

Let’s talk about another type of outdoor recreation. In 2017, the activity that took me outside my comfort zone the most was zip-lining at ZipQuest, as I shared on the blog. In 2018, no other experience challenged me like navigating the Lower Little River did. Spring Lake’s newest outdoor destination is Spring Lake Outpost (SLO), where you can rent a tube, kayak, or canoe. My coworkers and I had a team-building day at SLO in May, and a couple of us chose to tube the river that time. I then returned in June with our blogger group for another adventure-filled trek.

My next goal was to try kayaking. Now, I grew up tubing Texas’ long rivers, but I’d never kayaked a river before. SLO’s big 4th of July event presented the perfect opportunity, so my family and I rented kayaks and hit their three-mile route. Even my 13-year-old enjoyed this experience, despite capsizing his kayak a few times. Without a doubt, SLO is now my favorite outdoor adventure site in Cumberland County, and I can’t wait for this destination to reopen for the season this spring.

Join SLO at their second annual Kayak Fest for kayaking, food trucks, brews, and live music to kick off another long season of water adventures.

Comedienne Minda Doing What She Does Best

Dashawn Working the Crowd at On-After Bar & Grub

Watching a Stand-Up Comedy Show

Did you know Fayetteville has an up-and-coming comedy scene? I happen to have a couple of friends who are helping to put this area on the map with the #910Comedy troupe. In the summer, they invited me to a show at On-After Bar & Grub, and believe it or not, that was my first experience at a live show. Local comedian Dashawn "DB" Byron was hosting this one, and the crowd (and I) ate up his deadpan style of delivery.

Not only did we get to see several local comedians perform—to include the ultra-talented Minda—but we were also treated to a couple of folks who are known in the Raleigh and Atlanta arenas. Yes, comedians are traveling here to perform! #910Comedy is regularly scheduling shows at local venues, so my suggestion is to expand your definition of “nightlife” to include our comedy scene.

Follow @910comedy to keep track of their upcoming gigs, such as The Laughing Donkey Comedy Show at The Drunk Horse Pub on February 7th.

Gallberry's 5-Acre Corn Maze Is Family Fun at Its Best

Exploring a Corn Maze

I’ve done pumpkin patches and haunted houses and all that fun autumn stuff. However, I’d never explored a corn maze till this past fall. One gorgeous day, my blogger group and our families met at Hope Mills Lake for a fried-chicken picnic, catered by the amazing Elite Catering NC. Then our group headed over to Gallberry Corn Maze. This seasonal destination is tucked away in Hope Mills, and on their multi-acre site, they offer all kinds of fall activities.

Of course, Gallberry’s five-acre maze is the biggest draw for folks. Out of everyone in our group, our teenage boys especially enjoyed the challenge of navigating their way through the maze. After that adventure, we treated ourselves to some drinks and snacks and let the kids wear themselves out on all the other attractions. Between the Corn Shack, Barrel Train, Jumping Pillow, and everything else, you could easily spend a full day exploring this Hope Mills gem.

Follow @gallberrycornmaze to track when they’ll be reopening for the season this coming September.

Dead City Symphony Performing at the Zombie Walk

Zombie Walkers Take Their Costumes Seriously

Walking with the Zombies

The most popular picture I shared on Instagram this past year was one I took at the annual Zombie Walk. This might be Fayetteville’s most iconic Halloween event, occurring every fourth Friday of October. When a friend invited my son and me to join her group and attend it, I jumped at the chance to see what all the buzz was about. We met up at Lake Gaston Brewing Company downtown for some bites and a brew beforehand. Though it was raining and cold that night, people still showed up for the walk, decked out in their zombie costumes and makeup.

The walking dead procession always starts at the Cumberland County Headquarters Library and travels through the middle of downtown, ending right beside the historic Market House. Each year, some of Fayetteville’s favorite rock bands take to the stage for the after-party, or “Zombie Prom.” Of course, the photo-ops are amazing, and I enjoyed taking many a frightful picture of the walking dead in attendance.

Follow @FayettevilleZombieWalk to view some fantastic pictures of all the past Zombie Walks and to ensure you don’t miss the next one (October 25th).

Well, there's my year in review. And what a great year it was! We're just a month into 2019, and I'm already making a new list. What's on the agenda? This weekend alone, I'll be touring the Gallery Goes Pop: Warhol exhibit at David McCune International Art Gallery, dining on a Warhol-inspired meal at Circa 1800, and taking in Annie at Cape Fear Regional Theatre. Who knows what the rest of 2019 will bring, but I'm betting on all the good stuff. Join me in saying "yes" to adventure, right here in Cumberland County!

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