Growing up, it was easy to fantasize about living in a Castle because, well, there was one just down the street. The Biltmore House is the largest privately owned home in the United States. Ask any kid in the Asheville area and their dream home is this house belonging to the late George Vanderbilt and family. Equally stunning to the dwelling is the estate. Stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, immaculate gardens, wooded paths, sparkling creaks, and rolling hills are abundant on this large patch of land. Shopping, dining, and entertainment are in abundance as well. Our family resigned ourselves a long time ago to purchase annual passes because choosing just one season to visit is impossible. While I’ve visited scores of times throughout my lifetime, I always find a new little corner of this glorious estate to appreciate with new eyes.
If you want to sit in a rocking chair with the best view of Asheville, sit on the porch of The Grove Park Inn. Gorgeous panoramas appear regally before your very eyes from this wonderful place. This giant old stone hotel with a red roof stands tall at the top of a hill like a giant gingerbread house. Speaking of gingerbread houses, this palatial old Inn hosts the nation’s gingerbread competition every Christmas. You may have seen it on Good Morning America. If you’re there during that season, you simply must see these beautiful creations. There are so many other great features like the gigantic stone fireplace in the lobby, the history and famous guests who have visited, the restaurants, the shops, and who could neglect to mention the fabulous spa on the lower level. Whether you go here to stay for your vacation or just to spend the day, you’ll just have to see for yourself how magnificent this place is!
The Flat Iron
Just below The Haywood Park Hotel, on the corner of Wall Street, sits a giant iron. This quirky sculpture is a fun place to strike a pose and create a memory from your trip to Asheville. If you haven’t noticed yet, you soon will see many a bumper sticker that says, “Keep Asheville Weird.” Weird is a great description of many of the facets of this land. It’s a little too weird at times, but still it’s the place I call home.
Growing up, many a field trip was taken to Thomas Wolfe’s home. Unfortunately, it caught fire and burned to the ground. What a shame. A Memorial now stands in its place. It’s well worth your time to visit this place, which hosts a historical collection of one of the most notable authors of 20th century America. Literature will come alive for you as you explore the environment which inspired Wolfe’s autobiographical, “Look Homeward, Angel.”
Need a night of fun and games? Head on over to The Fun Depot. Go carting, laser tag, putt putting, bumper boats, and more are all activities you can dive into at this aptly named place!
There are scores of hiking trails, miles of road to travel, waterfalls, streams, plants, wildlife, and rivers scattered through this national treasure. A couple of my favorite spots are Craggy Gardens and Graveyard Fields. Mountain laurel, rhododendron, and many other floral favorites pepper the mountains each spring. Lush green canopies cover the palatial hills every summer. Vibrant colors paint the hillsides Fall in and Fall out. And the snow capped mountains bring admiration and awe from the foothills below. There’s no better way to explore the mountains than by taking a trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A fantastic horticultural location, the sweeping gardens in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains are a spot of near perfection that locals and visitors alike enjoy. A nice family walk, a romantic stroll, the ideal location for a photo shoot…all are perfectly delightful activities for this wonderful place.
In the mood to see some wild life up close and personal? The Western North Carolina Nature Center is just the spot. With special exhibits, permanent displays, and knowledgeable nature specialists, you’re bound to be fascinated.
If you want to find a little mecca of the craft world, search no further than The Folk Art Center. From jewelry to loomed items to pottery to painting to photography…the variety of folk art is so wonderful. Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 382, this is the perfect stop to get a feel for what real mountain life is like. And don’t be surprised if there’s a craft demonstration or two going on. What better than to see how the artist does their craft?
Ever wonder what life as a pioneer was like? Step back in time with The Vance Birth Place, once home to Zebulan Vance and his family. The 3 time elected Antebellum Governor of North Carolina’s home and land make history come alive with opportunities to tour the family home and watch period-dressed folks demonstrate what life was like during the 1800’s.
Looking for a time of refreshment to the soul, encouragement in your faith, and spiritual retreat? Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove hosts world-renowned pastors, teachers, and speakers who come to encourage guests of The Cove. The lodging facilities are gorgeous, clean, and charming all in one. The property allows opportunities for gorgeous hikes and strolls. Check out their lists of seminars and conferences and come on over for a time of renewal at this gorgeous fortress in the mountains.
Montreat is my second home. My grandparents lived their all my life. Going through the stone gates makes my heart feel so welcome each time I go back for a visit. A Presbyterian community with a conference center to accompany it, this little gem in the mountains is certainly worth taking a short drive through. With hiking trails, a community pool, a barn that hosts square dances frequently, a general store, and the beautiful Lake Susan, this little town is a refuge to all who pass through.
Ridgecrest is near and dear to my heart. My parents often took us- namely my dad- during the summers to visit the bookstore. My heart is full of memories of sneaking down to the manager’s office through the spiral staircase inside and also of being allowed to get one treat out of the vending machine. I even worked in the store when I was in college during the summers. It’s so much more than the bookstore, though. A host to many concerts, camps, retreats, conferences, and more, this place is a tall drink of water to all who pass through. With the T.W. Wilson Prayer Garden (a beautiful memorial garden in tribute to my very own Granddaddy), a quiet chapel in the woods, hiking trails, and breath taking panoramic views, this retreat center brings refreshment to each weary soul that passes through.
Lake Tomahawk is one of the prettiest spots in Western North Carolina. The reflection of “The Seven Sisters” mountain cluster in the lake is second to none. I have so many happy memories of feeding the ducks, playing on the playground, strolling or jogging around the lake, and even having some of my Bridal portraits taken in this picturesque spot. You’ll be absolutely enchanted when you visit this beautiful place.
I tend to agree with whoever said that golfing is a nice walk spoiled by a little white ball. But I know there are plenty of golfers out there who would say quite the contrary! The Asheville area is known for its golf courses. One of the most famous ones is The Black Mountain Golf Course. I believe it’s because the course is quite difficult. Don’t ask me- I’m not an expert- but I’ve heard scores of visitors marvel over it! Among the other courses worth checking out are Tiger Woods’ The Cliffs at High Carolina , Jack Nicklaus’ Walnut Cove , The Grove Park Inn , and The Biltmore Forest Country Club.