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Waterfronts and breweries: Charming small towns build unique stay-cation experiences in NC

Sweeping waterfronts, unique Airbnbs, and world-class breweries -- it's all part of a campaign called Dream Big in Small Town NC, which encourages people to travel and see the history and charm of North Carolina's small towns.

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Bryan Mims
, WRAL reporter
WELDON, N.C. — Four counties in our area hope a state campaign will boost their local economies. It's called 'Dream Big in Small Town NC,' and the goal is to bring tourists to the 16 counties hit hardest by the pandemic.
Locally, the initiative will focus on the lakes and rivers of Halifax, Edgecombe, Vance and Warren Counties.

The Roanoke River, with its barrage of boulders, can sure reel in the sightseers.

"It has become a centerpiece for the development of Weldon," says town commissioner Muzette Kiger.

Weldon, home to about 1,700 people, boasts sweeping views of the historic Roanoke River. It bills itself "Rockfish Capital of the World."

These days, the town is angling to catch more tourist dollars. Kiger says they are working on a $1.5 million riverfront enhancement project that will include a boardwalk nearly half a mile long.

"We see this as a way to bring people through downtown," says Kiger. "You'll be able to walk along and see the beautiful vista and have pavilions where you'd be able to sit and enjoy."

Weldon, just off I-95, yearns to emerge as a destination, not merely a drive-thru.

Visit NC, the state's travel website, is working make that a reality through its "Dream Big in Small Town NC" initiative.

Wit Tuttell, the executive director, says, "It's really about getting people to get out and experience these rural areas that have lost population. So they can come and visit them first as a visitor, but also to potentially become a resident."

Visit NC has teamed with Airbnb to promote these small towns and create places for out-of-towners to stay awhile. An old bank building in Weldon is poised to become an Airbnb. A historic mansion will become a bed and breakfast.

The rapids of the Roanoke River aren't the only thing that flows through Weldon. The bourbon also flows here.

In 2018, Weldon Mills Distillery opened, with business pouring in from every direction – people from across the United States, drinking in the vibes of Weldon, NC.

"We've had people from Canada, California, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Michigan," says Kiger. "And the riverfront is sort of the catalyst."

The town hopes to secure funding for the riverfront project by this fall, then construction will soon begin.

You can go to the Visit NC website to learn more about the "Dream Big in Small Town NC" effort.


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