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1. Poole’s Downtown Diner James Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen has her own downtown Raleigh empire, which includes coffee shop Joule and upscale chicken joint Beasley’s. But her best-known restaurant is Poole’s Downtown Diner, which serves fresh takes on classic American comfort food using ingredients from North Carolina farms and producers. 2. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences There are plenty of…Read More

It’s the time of the year when visions of sugar soft sands top travelers’ wish lists. Florida, with its 825 miles of beaches, lures sunbathers, surfers, action lovers and solitude seekers to its shores. To find the best Florida strands, USA TODAY hosted an east coast-west coast smackdown. “Dr. Beach,” aka Stephen Leatherman, professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University…Read More

Four Florida Kimpton hotels are offering Fly South for the Winter packages through April 30. Each hotel is offering a different incentive for travelers who book the package: • Epic Miami (www.epichotel.com/) is offering two complimentary cocktails, sunscreen and lip balm as well as 20% off any Exhale spa therapy. Rates start at $359 per night. • Surfcomber Miami, South Beach (www.surfcomber.com/) is offering two complimentary signature…Read More

The SeaVenture Beach Hotel, on the sand in Pismo Beach, is offering rooms for two, with fireplaces and private balcony hot tubs, plus a bottle of wine or Champagne, for $139 a night Sundays through Thursdays through Feb. 11. Those 50 and older get the same room for $129 a night; they’ll also get half off a second entree at the hotel’s restaurant when one entree is purchased. (The half-off deal works for the second dessert, too.) Add…Read More