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Get a Taste of Charlotte this weekend

Taste of Charlotte returns to uptown this weekend with the “Race to the Taste” 5K, “Tavern at the Taste,” live music, special kids’ activities and more than 30 restaurants offering tasty treats.

Whatever your taste buds are jonesing for this weekend – smoothies, sliders, pizza, soul food, ice cream or ethnic treats – your cravings will likely be satisfied at the annual Taste of Charlotte food festival Friday through Sunday.

Tryon Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Sixth Street will offer a five-block-long smorgasbord of both familiar and exotic samplings from area dining establishments.

The event is free to attend, with food and beverage samples offered in exchange for special “festival coins” purchased in bulk at $20 for 15 coins. Restaurant samples typically cost 1 to 3 coins, and beverages range from 2 to 4 coins.

Billed by organizers as North Carolina’s largest food festival, Taste of Charlotte is celebrating its 16th season. More than 80,000 visitors attended last year. Festival-goers can anticipate more than 100 different menu items in addition to specialty craft beers, ciders and wine offerings.

New this year is the “Race to the Taste,” a 5K run held Saturday that starts and finishes at the festival. A “Cupcake” run/walk also will be held, featuring delectable cupcakes distributed throughout the course.

Also new is the “got to be NC” pavilion, showcasing the best of North Carolina agriculture. Live cooking demonstrations, samples, N.C. winery information and special vendors will be highlighted by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Returning festival favorites include the MarketPlace, a specialty open-air shopping area offering handcrafted original designs from home accents and local honey to clothing and custom jewelry.

Music and dance, Taste of Charlotte mainstays, will be prominently featured on the Center Stage at Trade and Tryon streets. Attendees can catch local groups including Inspire the Fire, Carolina Dance Explosion and Big Bang Boom.

The Crossroads Kids’ Areas will feature a rock-climbing wall, bounce house, giant slides, pigskin pitch, gladiator joust and more. Kids’ activities cost 1 to 5 festival coins, or they can play all day with a $15 wristband.

But for most attendees, it’s all about the food. So be prepared, and come hungry.

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