If the beautiful scenery and Southern hospitality aren’t enough, Franklin, NC boasts rich history and unique museums. The Franklin Gem & Mineral Museum is situated in the “old jail”. Among the thousands of specimens of native and foreign stones is the 2 ¼ pound ruby pulled from a local ruby mine in the Cowee Valley. The Ruby City Gem Museum has a unique black light display and also is home to the “World’s Largest Sapphire”, a 385-pound gem as well as a 162-carat ruby found in a local mine. Looking to explore your roots in Franklin? Then head to the Macon County Historical Museum, where you can investigate your ancestors and add to your family tree. If you’re of Scottish ancestry, you must visit the Scottish Tartans Museum that not only displays the Scottish Tartans, but is a wealth of lore about the Scots history, culture, dress and migration.
Horseback riding never gets old, especially when you’re trekking through wildflowers, breathing in fresh air and gazing at the mountains in the distance. It’s a great way for the whole family to enjoy the beautiful region of the Smoky Mountains, no matter the level of each rider. Places like Cataloochee Ranch in Maggie Valley offer horseback riding experiences that are unforgettable. This ranch in particular has stunning trails to explore, and guided professionals to assist you when you need them. Arrowmont Stables in Sylva is another great spot with first-class horses and impressionable trails. They also offer private and group lessons for anyone who needs a refresher. And Smokemont Riding Stables in Cherokee has 4 different options, including hourly rides across the Oconaluftee River, a waterfall ride, a 4-hour ride crossing the river and the waterfalls, and a wagon ride where you can just sit back and let someone else do the driving! Then there is Chunky Gal Stables outside of Hayesville; a great ride and an old Cherokee story about the Chunky Gal Mountain range. Open 7 days a week, year round, scenic rides, offering horse training, instructions and boarding.
Imagine dining in an old gas station where the chef spent 9 years as a bombardier officer in a B-52. Hard to believe? Maybe, but Open Table named The Copper Door (http://thecopperdoor.com/) as one of America’s top 100 restaurants in 2014. Here’s Copper Door’s back story. After graduating culinary school in New Orleans, Chef Dennis Barber became a certified chef while paying his dues and gaining experience. He was even handpicked to cook for President and Mrs. Reagan during the GOP Convention in New Orleans. After twenty years in the kitchen, Chef Dennis left the business for the corporate world. It was a short-lived break and he soon longed to return to his passion for culinary arts. Thanks to friends who believed in his dreams, he was able to perform the construction and remodeling that turned an old gas station in Hayesville, North Carolina into a true culinary destination. The American Dream lives on in Hayesville, N.C.
The tiny village of Brasstown and town of Hayesville near the Georgia border are a hotbed of traditional mountain music in the Smokies. John C. Campbell Folk School Friday night concerts are popular with both locals and visitors. Want to learn more about this very American kind of music? Learn to play an instrument, dance, or explore the history of traditional Appalachian music at the Folk School. Or just join the fun at their weekly contradances and square dances.
You will also find Summer Concerts Series on the Square in Hayesville on Friday nights through September 9. These are but two of the sites in the Smokies along the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina. A guidebook, The Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina, is available at BlueRidgeMusicNC.com, where you’ll also find listings of events and schedules.
On Saturday evenings the David Goldhagen Glass Studio has the Hot Summer Nights concerts and glass blowing. Doors open at 6:30pm, event begins at 7:00pm at $10 per person. Reservations suggested by calling 828-389-8847.
The Cherohala Skyway is a 43-mile National Scenic Byway and National Forest Scenic Byway that connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee, to Robbinsville, North Carolina in the southeastern United States. Deep in the wilds of western North Carolina, and about 11 miles west of Robbinsville, can be found Snowbird Mountain Lodge. A place where time stands still, and a place to rejuvenate your soul. It’s all part of the mountain retreat experience to free your mind and body of stress, and embrace nature’s elegance. At Deals Gap along US-129, stands a no-frills motel which opens from March to late November. Amenities include a pub, grill restaurant, and a picnic area with barbecue grills. There’s also a sundry store and gas pumps on-site. Motorcycle events are held here during open season. With 11 miles and 318 curves to navigate, this route is a sports car driver and motorcycle enthusiasts delight and listed as one of the top 5 rides in the world. Driving the Tail of the Dragon is more than adventure. It’s a must see a once in a lifetime experience.
Western North Carolina boasts some of the best places to hop on a bike in the country. With the countless scenic trails in the Smoky Mountain region, you can’t say it’s much of a surprise. In fact, the Tsali Recreation Area in particular has been rated one of the top 10 places to ride in the USA. 40 miles in total, the trails span over a peninsula on Fontana Lake, offering stretches of beautiful wooded land, lakeshores and hilltops. This place is what bikes were made for. In Cherokee is the Fire Mountain Trail System some say may be the newest flowiest trail in the Southeast which is 10 1/2 miles. Another great spot to check out is the Jackrabbit Mountain Bike and Hiking Trail Project in Clay County. This too is on a peninsula, only on Lake Chatuge instead. The trails vary in skill level to satisfy all riders’ needs. Fires Creek is another great trail in Clay County. Panthertown Trail System over in Jackson County has multiple trails. If you need a place to rent a bike or to pick up some accessories on your way, visit some of the shops around like the one at Nantahala Outdoor Center, Tsali Cycles and Smoky Mountain Bicycles in Franklin. They’ll hook you up and send you off right!
Highlands, North Carolina sits at 4,118 feet of elevation in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, making it the highest town in the eastern United States, but the mountains aren’t the only thing elevating this destination. Only two hours north of Atlanta, this town is the perfect destination for a relaxing weekend getaway.
Start your trip with a stroll down Main Street and browse from many local boutiques and home décor shops including, Acorns on Church, where you can peruse the hand-selected antiques, fine linens, and sophisticated artwork. Find elegant fashions and gifts at Wit’s End Shops, a Highland’s staple since 1940 featuring timeless women’s apparel and distinctive gifts.
After shopping, dine at one of the five local restaurants boasting the “Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.” Indulge on gourmet American cuisine at Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro and enjoy a glass of wine selected by award-winning wine director, Annelize Giliomee. Visit Ristorante Paoletti for fresh and elegant Italian fare that has been gracing Highlands since 1984.
n Highlands, North Carolina, you will truly experience living at the “height of happiness.”
The elegance and adventure of yesteryears train travel can be found today, on North Carolina’s steam powered Smoky Mountain Railroad. Traveling this historic route, one might expect James Bond and a femme fatal, or Hercule Poirot, to be in the club car sipping a glass of wine while watching the countryside and vineyards roll by. Featuring the best Vintner selections of North Carolina local wines to enhance your palate, choices and tastings can be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, The Hunt Sonoma Country 2014, Vanderbilt Russian River Pinot Noir, and for dessert, Blane deNoir. All offered to compliment your gourmet meal with a side order of panoramic view. Traveling the countryside on an adventure of sight, sound and palate pleasing tastes runs from early May to the first week of January. Smoky Mountain Railroad excursions transport you on a nostalgic train ride, wine tasting journey that memories are made of. Bon Appetite and enjoy.
The Cherokee story is one that shouldn’t be lost in time. These resilient people brought the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains alive with their spirit and way of life. And “Unto These Hills” keeps their stories alive.
It’s an outstanding outdoor drama that tells the story of who these people were, who they are, and how things came to be. In this 2,100-seat Mountainside Theater in Cherokee, NC, brilliant actors transport the audience into an authentic tale of Cherokee life through acting, singing and dance.
The quality of surround-sound effects, fog and theatrical features are impressive, taking you through a cathartic experience of love, loss tradition and ritual. From the tragedies of the Trail of Tears, to present day where Cherokee people still struggle to find their place in society, this is a show that will transform the way you look at this area, these people, and this country. Don’t miss it. Buy tickets here.
If you want fun, sun, water and adventure you can have it all in Nantahala, North Carolina. It’s home to the Nantahala Gorge, one of the premier whitewater rafting rivers. The river boasts eight miles of waves and swift currents, with a three-hour trip that culminates (for you Class III rafters) in a trip down the Nantahala Falls. Known by the Cherokee as the “Land of the Noonday Sun,” this steep gorge offers Class I and Class II rafting for the majority of the trip and is a favorite training ground for Olympic kayakers. The outfitters offer guided and unguided trips in eight-person rafts or inflatable kayaks. You can bus to one of their outpost locations, hit the river for some fun and catch the bus back. The whitewater rafting season typically lasts from March to October and is a great way to create lasting memories. If you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime, look no further than Nantahala!
If you want to combine romantic, thrilling and picturesque all in one trip, southwestern North Carolina is the place to go. Nestled in the majestic Smoky Mountains, this area of North Carolina boasts of 16 waterfalls located in three different national forests. Whether you are an avid hiker who likes the rugged backroads or you just want a pleasant stroll to a place of outstanding beauty and solitude, you can find what you wish right here. For the adventurous hiker we recommend 250 ft. Cullasaja Falls and triple 60 ft. Glen Falls. For family fun head to the popular Sliding Rock. Just jump in the falls and slide down the rock face until you reach the bottom. If you prefer paved trails, check out Looking Glass Falls, Indian Creek Falls, or Tom’s Branch Falls (conveniently located a quarter-mile from the Deep Creek Campground) to see nature in its glory.