Spring Travel to the Mountains
Sometimes, you want to find a different direction. Sometimes, you need a mountain view from your room!
By Katie Osteen
Ah, the Appalachians. Oldest in the world, these mountains look and feel mysterious – and yet, somehow accessible. For generations, families in the Midlands as well as the North and South Carolina coast hopped on trains and headed for those cool, blue-tinged hills. Boarding houses and ole-timey campgrounds attracted folks who wanted hills, dark shadows, a different feel. Guess what? It’s the same in 2014 as it was in 1914 – with a few more creature comforts,
Where do you want to go as the weather warms and the green foliage returns? Bumpy land lovers, the time is now to plan your springtime mountain getaway.
Asheville is surrounded by one million acres of forest – a springtime heaven on earth for outdoor aficionados. Gentle breezes , clear skies and gorgeous flowers are all hallmarks of springtime downtown and the nearby wilderness. Hikes, a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a spring festival, strolling through a farmer’s market – it’s all good. Be sure to catch the vibe that resonates here – an adventurous spirit with a strong commitment to the land and local food movement.
Springtime is a great time to visit several of their 250 restaurants and sit outside. It’s as if every restaurant tries to outdo the next. What a delicious competition.
Take note: 18 breweries have great specialties and fun-filled tastings.
For another tasty ramble, consider the WNC Cheese Trail. It connects farms making delicious goat and cow’s milk cheeses.
Biltmore Estate: the gardens come alive in the spring and as everything greens up, the long drive to reach Biltmore House is cool and lovely. Shopping at the village is a must-do, as well.
Shopping is king. You will find quirky stores and boutiques and one-of-a-kind artist’s offerings in dozens of galleries and stores. Take your credit card and get a head start on holiday gifts.
Big Canoe, North Georgia
Big Canoe's park-like setting includes 8,000+ acres of pristine woodlands, meadows, lakes and streams, of which over 2,000 are accessible greenspace. With the added punch of resort-style amenities like golf, tennis, swimming, state-of-the-art fitness center, over 22 miles trails and more than 50 clubs and organizations, there is simply never a lack of things to do. Amenities are available to overnight guests. Some require fees.
[The Village Festival], just outside the gates, is held each Saturday from 9-12, starting April through October. More than 60 vendors participate each week.
There are many interesting towns nearby to visit such as Dahlonega with its wineries and Blue Ridge with all its great shops.
A 27-hole Championship golf course, with mountain peaks as backdrop, winds through valleys, rushing streams, clear lakes and cliffs where you can watch your drive soar off mountain tops. A beautiful Clubhouse at Lake Sconti has a restaurant and golf shop.
The Tennis Center includes eight outdoor courts (4 lighted) and 2 indoors.
A 16,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art fitness facility has top of the line equipment, court for racquetball/squash and a five-lane indoor pool.
Over 22 miles of hiking and biking trails connect to lush scenery, trout streams and various meadows.
Three lakes for swimming, fishing and boating. Fishing is one of the most popular amenities with 1,000 lbs. of Rainbow trout stocked in Lake Petit each month except in summer.
Three pools. Lake Disharoon is popular with its sandy beach, free form pool, picnic area, paddleboats, canoes and the famous rockslide.
Blowing Rock NC
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs right beside their beautiful village – how photogenic. Tweetsie Railroad – creating wonderful childhood memories since 1957. Outdoor activities in abundance, including Ricky Knob Mountain Bike Park, with 185 acres of great mountain biking.
Shopping in March and April in Blowing Rock is great. Shop owners have deep discounts on winter merchandise, plus feature their new spring inventories.
Westglow Spa – Spend the day at the #4 spa in the world according to [Travel + Leisure] 2013 World’s Best List – amazing!
Vx3 Trail Rides – small group guided horseback riding in and around the area; an entertaining guide who knows history and more.
Blowing Rock Ale House – their own brews accompanied by fabulous chef creations, casual but extraordinary. Lodging available if you are “overserved.”
Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival – April 10-13. Food, wine, craft beers and fun.
The beautiful, historic Hemlock Inn, set just off main street in downtown Blowing Rock, is within walking distance to many of the high country's activities and attractions for all seasons. All the amenities, close to all the attractions in the area. A true mountain retreat, it’s in the middle of everything.
There’s so much to see and do around Boone in all seasons. Although ski season has wound down, March Madness offers end of the season low rates for skiing at Ski Beech, Ski Sugar and Appalachian Ski Mountain. Hawksnest offers snow tubing and also features the longest zipline in the region, open year-round (weather permitting.)
Once Spring officially arrives. Tweetsie Railroad opens on April 11, giving the entire family a fun way to experience the wild, wild west.
A springtime visit would have to include a trip to Grandfather Mountain, with its magnificent views and occasionally surprising weather. Bring a warm jacket and camera, just in case you spot black bears, deer, river otters, cougars, or perhaps, predatory birds.
At Grandfather, you can take behind-the-scenes tours of animal habitats, as well as naturalist guided tours of trails and forest area. At 11am each day, help members of the naturalist staff take weather and climate observations in front of the Fudge Shop (and enjoy a piece of chocolate heaven). For hikers, consider the tough, three-mile hike up the mountain, or the 13-mile Tanawha Trail. Try entering from the parking area at popular Rough Ridge Overlook on the Parkway, (milepost 302).
Linville Caverns is a great attraction in any weather! It’s all underground.
An easier walk is the trail around Bass Lake, which also offers access to the Moses Cone Estate. (The trail also connects to the entire 26-mikles of former carriage trails at the estate (for adventurers with more endurance).
During your stay, two restaurants to consider are the Gamekeeper, with a menu that offers unexpected delights, such as ostrich, bison, rabbit and mountain trout. Family-style, country cooking can be found at the famous Dan’l Boone Inn. Need accommodations? Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis is famous for luxurious hospitality an gourmet dinners. In Boone, consider the Lovill House Inn, a consistent AAA Four Diamond Award winner.
Beech Mountain Resort NC
Beech Mountain Resort’s trails will cover a wide range of skill levels, challenging riders from novice to pro. The trails, scenic lift rides, the Beech Tree Bar and Grille, and the new Skybar “5506” will be open this summer every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from June through September. Scenic lift rides to the Sky bar, “5506” are also available to patrons.
The Skybar is the highest in the East. It’s a glass roundhouse named for Beech Mountain’s superlative elevation and offers food and beverage service in comfort. A new observation deck is ideal for relaxing with friends.
Beech Mountain Resort’s newly constructed disc golf course offers a challenging and unique design. Play nine holes with one lift ride, or play a full eighteen, requiring three lift rides.
The newest craft brewery in Western North Carolina has opened in the Alpine Village. Beech Mountain Brewing Co. has the capacity to brew up to 100 gallons per day and will be open year round to serve skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers and other resort visitors.
The brewery features three distinct ales created on-site, with consulting from award-winning brewer Will Young of Blind Squirrel in nearby Plumtree. Heading the list of beers is the 5506 Pale Ale, followed by the Cream and Scotch Ales available by the pint or the growler. Flight tastings are also available, along with brewery tours, which include a pint and a keepsake glass.
Beech Mountain Brewing Co. is open Thursday through Sunday. Visit BeechMountainResort.com for more information and details.
Black Mountain NC
Take a walk through historic downtown and find unique gift shops, galleries, craft stores, and frequently, local craftsmen demonstrating iron works, dulcimer making, and throwing pottery.Forty restaurants range from upscale cuisine, to country cooking and BBQ. Visitors in the spring will enjoy dining al fresco, light sweater recommended.
Enjoy a round of golf at Black Mountain's famous 747 yard par 6 course (one of the longest in the world). Outdoor enthusiasts can indulge in hiking and biking along the area's numerous scenic trails.
Don't miss the Swannanoa Valley Museum and Black Mountain Center for the Arts.
Stroll around Lake Tomahawk. Drink in the ever-changing mountain views. Luxuriate in the peace and fresh air.
Visit during the 38th LEAF Festival, May 11-14, in downtown Black Mountain. Music, crafts, fun and food bring folks back to the twice yearly festival to enjoy a super fun, entertaining weekend. www.theleaf.org
Discover more about their great arts festivals, including Blue to Black Art Weekend, Black Mountain Arts & Crafts show and Art in Bloom. It’s an appealing town with lots to do, especially when spring weather hits and everyone enjoys the views, artistic talent, and great people.
Brevard and Transylvania County NC
Spring is a superb time to get to know Transylvania County before summer summons campers and adventurers alike. The usually mild temperatures make for great exploring. There’s almost always something going on around town. Check the calendar at visitwaterfalls.org for updates. Come experience the wonder of Appalachian Spring.
With more than 250 waterfalls to choose from, visitors can easily find a cascade to call their own. The intrepid can take the trip down Sliding Rock, where 11,000 gallons of water a minute flows over a smooth rock into a chilling pool. Check out their website for the skinny on their best waterfalls and swimming holes.
Over 300 miles of outstanding singletrack in Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest have earned Transylvania County a reputation as a mountain biking mecca. In fact, [Bike Magazine] calls Transylvania County “America’s Best Kept Secret.” This is a great time of year to hit some singletrack and see the sights.
Fly fishing is tops, here. For anyone angling for a good time (and a rainbow trout), there are over 500 miles of fishable streams within a one hour drive of downtown Brevard. And the nearby Davidson River is ranked as one of the top fly fishing rivers in the U.S.
The many wonderful galleries and restaurants in charming Downtown Brevard may lure even the more hardened outdoorsperson out of the woods and into a boutique. Of particular note are Drew Deane Gallery and Red Wolf Gallery, both in downtown Brevard. Mud Dabbers, in Cedar Mountain, is a great spot to find high quality, locally made pottery. You can even take a class and wheel-throw your own masterpiece.
Cheers! Brevard Brewing Company, in downtown Brevard, specializes in lagers. Sample their flagship German-inspired lager at 63 E. Main. Just outside of downtown, beer fans can stop in at the Oskar Blues Brewery and the Tasty Weasel Taproom to sample the wares and hear live music almost every night of the week.
For live music, consider checking out the line-up at 185 King Street, a cool little venue that regularly hosts great local bands as well as surprise performances from music legends. The same goes for The Phoenix, a hip, comfy venue offering an eclectic mix of bands and solo acts.
Enjoy the beauty and drama of the area’s many waterfalls, the Cashiers’ Area authenticity and village charm, world class recreation, plus seasonal festivals, art exhibits, outdoor concerts, dining and shopping. Western North Carolina’s Jackson County tourism opportunities range from “up-mountain” visits to the Cashiers area, to “down-mountain” stops in Sylva/Dillsboro, or Native American celebrations in Cherokee. Play On.
May 3: Take the 22nd annual Tour de Cashiers Mountain cycling Experience. Century, Metric & ¼ Century bike rides across scenic, high-elevation byways with more than 10,000 feet in altitude gains (www.TourdeCashiers.com)
May 24-25: Mountain Arts & Crafts Show presented by the Rotary Club of Cashiers Valley – a popular annual event featuring Appalachian region artisan demonstrations and displays ranging from quilting to woodwork, painting to jewelry, set among the flowering colors of the Village Green park at the Crossroads. Held twice each year, bookending the summer months.
Hendersonville and Henderson County NC
Whether you’re looking for great entertainment, great adventure, or just a great view, Hendersonville and Henderson County, NC, just several short hours away, has something for everyone as warmer weather arrives.
Take in a comedy, drama or fantastic musical at Flat Rock Playhouse, the official state theater of North Carolina. For show information or tickets, visit their website at www.flatrockplayhouse.org.
If it’s the outdoors you crave, make a visit to The Carl Sandburg Home. Enjoy a guided tour, walk through the grounds, hike or greet the descendents of Mrs. Sandburg's dairy goat herd.
Take in the downtown and enjoy some tunes at Rhythm & Brews, a music series scheduled for the third Thursday of May, June, July and August. A free event, the concert series brings an exciting line-up of bands to the district. The venue for the concert series is the Azalea Lot in Historic Downtown Hendersonville, which sits adjacent to King Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues in downtown.
Want to challenge your athletic abilities while having the time of your life? If so, Hendersonville offers two events you won’t want to miss:
The Mad Mountain Mud Run is three miles of 30 + obstacles and muddy challenges with lots of music, food, and local craft beer for your post-race party. To sign up, visit their website at www. Madmountainmudrun.com. The Run will be held Saturday, May 31st.
Foxworth Advisor’s Gear Grinder in the Green River Valley is a 6 hour endurance mountain bike race that has something for the whole family. To register, visit www.pre-reg.com before April 23rd.
Lake Lure and Rutherford County NC
Lake Lure and the Blue Ridge Foothills are accessible, comfortable and beautiful year round. In the spring, the flowers pop out and visitors begin to arrive, enjoying the scenery, people and places. You’ll experience classic southern hospitality, great food, shopping and superb recreational opportunities.
The Lake Lure Inn is a great place to visit and stay. Relive [Dirty Dancing] and enjoy the scenery.
Take a boat tour of the Lake – a pleasant hour and lots of eye candy.
Go horseback riding at Cedar Creek Stables, even if 9or especially) if you’ve never been on a horse. Professional, friendly and great memories for the family.
You must see Chimney Rock. Breathtaking views, trails and lots of fun.
Canopy ridge Farm is another super attraction for friends and families. Professional staff and wonderful views.
Enjoy the small village atmosphere and the lovely little shops. Springtime at Lake Lure is great fun.
Waynesville and Haywood County NC
Waynesville and the surroundings areas offer fresh new ways to enjoy a springtime getaway. Haywood County offers year round activities and events centered around their five homegrown initiatives: Food, Heritage, Art, Music and the Outdoors. A 46-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway can be enjoyed in the county, too. Sounds pretty appealing to us.
April is North Carolina Beer Month, and in Waynesville, that means celebrating at one of the town’s three craft mmicrobreweries: BearWaters Brewing Company, Frog level Brewing and Tipping Point Brewery. Look for special offerings during April.
Spring Hiking on Purchase Knob provides easy access, an abundance of butterflies and wildflowers, amazing panoramas and historical significance. Naturalist Ken Czarnomski brought to life a unique illustrated free guide available exclusively in Haywood County.
Visit Wheels Through Time, the world’s premier All-American motorcycle museum which houses over 300 of America’s rarest and most historic classic motorcycles. Find it in Maggie Valley.
Quilting enthusiasts will enjoy the Haywood County Quilt Trails. These colorful wooden blocks are installed on barns and buildings and a drive through the county, following their map, will reveal almost 50 of them. Each has a story worth learning.
Spring birding is very popular here and with seven suggested areas in the county that boast an abundance of bird species, bird lovers will have a wonderful time adding to their life lists in such picturesque surroundings. http://ncbirdingtrail.org offers details.
Swain Count NC
With more than 40% of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park located in Swain County, natural beauty is everywhere. And there are so many ways to enjoy the scenery.
Take a scenic rail excursion aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad which offers trips to the Nantahala River Gorge, as well as themed seasonal experiences.
Enjoy a waterfall walk in the woods of Deep Creek; located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park only minutes from downtown Bryson City.
Get a new perspective of the mountains as you zip along the treetops. Choose from two great zip-lining experiences, both located in the Nantahala River Gorge.
Spend your downtime downtown! Shop and dine your cares away in their picturesque downtown filled with boutique shops, art galleries, old-fashioned general stores, and dining sure to please any palate.
And don’t forget all the water – they’ve got fishing galore in our streams, rivers and Lake Fontana as well as whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River and creek tubing in Deep Creek.
When it’s time to dine, consider Bryson City Cork and Bean, and its fresh, farm to table menu with a downtown vibe.
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers scenic rail excursions taking riders from the historic depot in downtown Bryson City through the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina. There are various train excursions and special event trains, making it a perfect experience. You can even dine in a first class car with a private attendant. Or ride in an open air car.
There are special excursions as well as enduring favorites. Families enjoy time well spent and for the older generation, it’s a nostalgic return to days when train travel was the way to go.