Saturday, December 20, 2014

Back in Greensboro at Christmas? 10 Things you must do!

As you may or may not know, I'm doing a MA degree in Cardiff Wales. I've come back to Greensboro for Christmas to visit my family, my pets, and grab a few southern essentials. I've had no trouble starting my list of things I must do while in Greensboro.

1. Go to the Festival of Lights & TJ's Deli.
Honestly, what's Christmas in the Piedmont without going to the Festival of Lights at Tanglewood? It's been a pilgrimage to Clemmons from Greensboro every year since high school. TJ's Deli is right on the way in Winston although it used to be a Greensboro institution (but has since closed). It's an annual event I'd miss dearly if I didn't get to go. Where else can you drive through three miles of Christmas lights in an open convertible during a snow storm and still smile at the end of it (recreational amenities not included). Don't forget our own local light show, Candy Cane Lane, otherwise known as the Sunset Hill's Christmas Balls.

2. Eat Bojangles Biscuits and Tea. Then more biscuits, and more biscuits. 
There has never, ever, been any chicken that compares to Bojangles, period. Not to mention their biscuits and sweet tea. Welcome to the South, home of the carbohydrate coma. There really isn't anything much more North Carolina-esque than Bojangles. So much so that, when Santa visits our house he expects Bo-Berry biscuits instead of milk and cookies. On a side-note, if there's time you'll also want to hit Smith Street Diner for their Volkswagon sized biscuits, followed by a Chicken Club biscuit from Biscuitville. Yes, you're going to gain back that 10 pounds you lost.

3. Eat a Carolina Burger, all-the-way. 
Of course, every one has their favorite place. Whether it be Cook-Out, or Greensboro BBQ, you've got to get a chili burger with mustard and onions (and slaw). My favorite is still Johnson's, just a half-hour away. If you think you can leave North Carolina without a Carolina burger then your time here was nothing but a silly waste of time. I've yet to have mine, but I can't wait till I do. Don't forget the equally important chili-dog from none other than Yum Yums.

4. Cheesecake, Oh God, Alex's Cheesecake.
Can we all just admit that there's no other cheesecake in the world like Alex's? Sure it's guaranteed to send you into diabetic ketoacidosis, but its worth it. Just one tiny bite and I know every calorie I've been starving myself of abroad was worth it. If you come and visit me, feel free to bring me a cheesecake. My favorite is the Reece's peanut butter. Oh.... oh..... oh my.

5.  Buy some Cheerwine.
It's not wine. Don't even bother explaining it to your friends who live outside of North Carolina. It's your little secret drink. If you could stick everything that's sweet about North Carolina in a bottle, then this is what you'd come out with. For some reason, children in NC have always seen Cheerwine as their gateway drink to alcoholism. No other drink has prepared NC's youth for a future in alcoholism like the parents who encourage children to join adults in their dinner table toast by giving their kid's a bubbly glass of Cheerwine and telling them "pretend".

6. Beer sledding.
We all remember that one winter on Christmas break where we all got snowed in, subsequently drunk with all our friends who became too scared to drive in the Storm of the Century, which turned Christmas into a week-long party. More importantly, that's when someone came up with the idea to take mom's cookie sheets, find a giant hill, and allow the chaos to ensue at midnight with a beer in hand. Sure it almost never snows on Christmas in Greensboro, but if it does, I'll see you at the top of the hill! When we're done we will go to Herbie's, the 24 hour breakfast place everyone goes to at 3 AM in the morning. Just don't use in conjunction with #8 by saying "Hey y'all, watch this!".

7. The Mall (Four Seasons)
You saved your Christmas shopping just to go to the mall. Maybe it's not as cool as you thought it was when you were a teenager, but where else can you get a bucket of cookies for $1, spend way to much money on clothes, grab some Sbarro, and catch a movie before you realize you're an adult now. The only problem is that you're still waiting outside under the awning for your parents to pick you up because you flew into PTI and didn't rent a car.

8. Say Y'all again.
Having completely eradicated the southern accent and phrases like Y'all from your vocabulary. It's best said with your mouth full of Krispy Kreme doughnuts or Country BBQ. Of course that's the moment when someone from high-school walks in the restaurant and you scream "Hi Y'all!!" Don't forget to bless your sister-in-law's heart when she walks in, or agree with someone by saying "I know right?" Don't forget your tweeting upon arriving #home in #greensboring.

9. Go Downtown: Christmas Movies at the Carolina Theater, Outdoor Ice Skating, and Chili-Mac
Throughout December the Carolina Theater shows movies like Elf, White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, and Christmas Vacation in their classic vintage theater. Afterwards head to City Center for Winterfest and outdoor ice-skating. Then there's always Cincy's for lunch, a downtown institution for Ohio style chili-mac which makes for a quite a nice warm-me-up on cold winter days. Lastly, grab a pint from a local micro brewery.

10. Remember why you left.
While you're glad to be home, hanging with family and friends, it's important to remember that there may be too much Greensboro to spend an entire lifetime here. Take inventory of everyone who stayed, and why you didn't. It's a transitory city for many, a liminal place for some till they move on to somewhere else. Sure you'll never forget the place, but just like the holidays, your time in Greensboro will eventually come to an end.  Enjoy every moment while you're here, eat badly, and take a suit-case home filled with Mount Olive pickles, Neece's sausage, Castle Sauce, and a pint of Pimento Cheese. See you on the other-side.