Have you ever wished that you could have your own vacation guide for EVERY vacation you take? It would certainly save you a lot of time and money which is never a bad thing. I just had the most amazing North Carolina vacation ever and was so excited and inspired to share with you some of the best hotspots that we toured.
My husband and I like to take “mini” vacations, if you will but once per year we go all out. We take about a 2-3 week hiatus where we travel and just get away for some relaxation and bonding. The great thing about the travel spots I am going to highlight here are that they are fantastic for a romantic couples retreat in the Mountains or for a family vacation! No matter what your preference is for your upcoming trip… you are sure to find everything you are looking for in North Carolina! I was incredibly impressed. So much so, that I felt the need to write this blog for you.
I want you to take a tour with me. I am going to paint a picture for you of our trip from day one highlighting the places that we toured and travelled along the way. I will give you a view into my personal experience with links posted throughout this blog. Feel free to stop at “rest stops” along the way to grab a drink and make some notes. You won’t want to miss these tips!
I will never forget that feeling that comes over me when we enter North Carolina. It is a trip that we make every year but this year it was extra special. The Mountains just loom over you with such a majestic presence. For me, it leaves no doubt that there is a wonderfully artistic and creative God. He did not leave out one thing when creating this beautiful world of ours but its almost like he saved a little something special for NC. (Don’t mind me if I abbreviate the rest of the way)
Alex and I were particularly excited to get to our destination as we were going to be staying in a quaint little cabin that is owned by friends of ours. They described it to us but once we arrived to this little wood “haven” it became clear how humble they were being. It was precious and tucked away in the middle of the mountains. Big beautiful trees surrounding it on all sides. It was breathtaking. We slept to the sounds of the animal “nightlife” and the breeze blowing between the trees. The smell of the fresh mountain air just made it all the more pleasantly overwhelming. We enjoyed campfires as we were bundled up in blankets and munched on Watermelon in lieu of s’mores. It was an experience that no hotel we ever stayed in offered. It was almost like we blended with nature. This is certainly the place I would start when planning your vacation. If you are not lucky enough to have friends willing to share their cabin in the woods than try looking around for “cabin rentals” the concept is the same as a hotel but these are often more private and close to nature. It will certainly add a unique and welcomed twist to your travels.
I took the leisure of looking up a few places that offer rentals near the small towns we stayed in. This particular site is for rentals in or around the Linville Falls area. It is a beautiful area that is fascinating. The Linville Falls is definitely a spot I would make time to visit during your trip.
http://linvilleriverlogcabins.com/ – They have some great rentals. Call to see what times of year are best to visit. You can usually get better rates this way.
The link above details the Linville Falls area and more about the Falls themselves. Enjoy!
After we got settled into our cozy and quaint cabin it was time to take the NC area by storm! We mapped out our plans and started with a scenic tour through the Blue Ridge Parkway. I think this is a MUST for the trip. I found the BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAIN VISITOR CENTER to be the best! Everyone who worked there was extremely helpful in guiding us. In fact, two of the gentlemen whipped out maps and detailed places for us to stop and visit along the way. In a sense, they pretty much laid out the trip for us. Fantastic customer service too! When we were done speaking with them Alex and I were guided to a beautiful theatre where they showed a 15 minute movie about the Blue Ridge Parkway. At first, I was ready to get on my way but can honestly say : I am SO glad I stayed for the movie! It made the experience of driving the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway) much more interesting and memorable.
nps.gov/blri/index.htm – Blue Ridge Parkway, 828-298-0398 (park info. line)
The next stop along the way was accessed as we drove the BRP. It was recommended that we stop in Mt. Mitchell State Park. This park boasted breathtaking views of the Mountains and even had trails you could hike on. It was a wonderful stop along the BRP. http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/momi/main.php There is also a lovely restaurant on site that you can sit outside in rocking chairs and just enjoy the looming Mountains. Alex and I sat inside the dining area and looked out of huge monstrous window walls to the Mountains overhead. I really enjoyed this. The food and coffee were great and priced affordably! Perfect if you are traveling with a family.
After we tackled Mt. Mitchell State Park it was time for a break. We drove throughout the mountains getting lost in beautiful little towns. I do enjoy this as well, sometimes you find the best gems when you least expect it.
I however, was particularly excited to wake the next day and tackle some fears! I have never been a fan of heights. I always wished that I could be like those fearless people who climbed high and admired the view. Two years ago, on a trip to NC I tried to cross the famous GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN bridge with no success. Instead, I sat there by the rocks waiting for Alex to enjoy the view. I felt like I was missing something and did not want to be hindered by fear. Life is just too short. So, this was going to be a trip of a different sort. I mapped out the places I wanted to tackle and I succeeded! Grandfather Mountain is perhaps one of the most amazing places you will visit along the way. The “mile high” bridge connects itself to the Mountain and you must brave that bridge to get to the “good stuff”. I started by having Alex video tape this. I was making “Ashley history” if you will and I wanted it on tape! HA! 😉 I successfully faced my fear of heights, crossed this bridge (which is loud but in fact, VERY secure) and was given such an awesome gift for doing so- views that even the most skilled Writer can’t put into words. Check it out at www.grandfather.com or call 1-800-468-7325
Have you ever wanted a nice lake to canoe or fish on? Something a little more peaceful and serene? Look no further than Lake James State Park. We actually fell upon this one by accident. Alex and I took off our shoes and walked barefoot in the grass (it is called grounding) and enjoyed ourselves immensely. This is a nice place to pack the cooler and have an outdoor picnic. I think this is a better place for enjoying the family picnic than Mt. Mitchell State Park. While Mt. Mitchell was incredible, the layouts and scenery are different. The experience was pleasantly different. Plan on spending the better part of the day here. My only suggestion is to get there early if you want to rent a canoe. They are first come, first serve and go quickly! Here is the link to the park : ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/laja/ and the phone # is 828-584-7728
A few other towns to consider visiting that we really enjoyed are Boone, NC and Blowing Rock, NC. Both of these boast great shops and dining as well as a leisurely stroll if you are in the mood to just take in the views. It is a “win win” for couples. The wives can shop until they drop and you husbands can walk around while we do it, HA!
Alex and I took in all of the sites before we decided to bring on the Adventure! We were staying in a town that was close to the NC/TN border. It was just within reach of some of the best Whitewater rafting around! If you have never rafted I simply cannot recommend it enough! It made for a fun day in the sun, packed full of heart racing, adrenaline thumping adventure! 🙂 Seeing as how Alex and I had never been before we decided to tackle some class 2’s and 3’s in the Witauga River. We called around to several places and were not pleased with the customer service over the phone. However, we hit a “winner” when we called WAHOO’s Adventures! The staff was thorough and friendly over the phone taking the time to explain all about rafting and even made suggestions. Alex and I opted for the smaller trip as we were not too sure of what to expect. We were treading on “unknown waters” if you know what I mean. (wink wink). After we booked our adventure we received a call from Jeff of Wahoo… he mentioned that he heard we were into fitness and suggested a more “challenging” trip if you will. Alex and I decided to stick with our previously booked trip but it spoke volumes that Jeff took the time to call us and offer this. Needless to say, the trip ROCKED but we did end up booking another Whitewater Adventure for later that week on a more challenging river, the Nolichucky. I would recommend Wahoo’s to anyone! All I can say is get ready for the wild ride and have a blast. We simply can’t wait to go back!
Website for Wahoo’s : http://www.wahoosadventures.com/wahoos/or call 1-800-444-RAFT
As if two Whitewater trips were not enough… Alex and I decided to switch things up a bit. We were only two days away from the end of our trip and it was time to pack up and head back to tropical Florida. Alex and I decided to head out of the Mountains and into the city of Charlotte, NC for a few nights. We found out about the US NATIONAL WHITEWATER CENTER and decided to spend Alex’s 35th birthday living it up like kids! Let me just tell you… this place was the highlight of our trip! It was about $54 per adult to get in but once you entered, you forgot about the ticket price! AMAZING! This is a haven for the thrill seeker or adventurer. This outdoor theme park boasts Mountain Climbing, Ziplining, Kayaking, Whitewater rafting, Mountain Biking along scenic tours, jumping and more. Alex and I spent a long and active day in this park and were having so much fun we passed 8 hours easily! If you are in the Charlotte area or just want to break away for some family fun, THIS is the place to do so. After tackling my fear of heights at Grandfather Mountain I then did it again here at the park by zip lining 3 different times… The first two times I closed my eyes tight and the last, and most daunting zip line (The MEGA ZIP) I did with my eyes open. Do your best to visit this awesome place. Want a $ saving tip? Pack a big cooler that you leave in the car. They do not let you bring food or drink into the park as they have an onsite grill (yes, adult beverages too). You have wristbands on so you can enter and leave as much as you need to. Enjoy lunch at the car, share your stories and then go back in for some more fun! 🙂 http://usnwc.org/
I hope that you are able to take some of the above places and create the trip of a lifetime much like Alex and I did! 😉 We believe that you must work hard and PLAY HARD so this is your go to guide for doing so. Did you enjoy this blog? Use any of the above suggested places on your trip? Please feel free to comment and share! I would love to hear your travel stories!
Until then, happy travels friends!