North Carolina Travel Guide

Beat the heat this summer with getaways to these cool Blue Ridge gems.


Applied to everything from the farm-sourced food and the micro-brews to the homegrown fine and folk art that can be found in museums, galleries and street kiosks. Asheville’s stunning scenery is surrounded by the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, which inspired George Vanderbilt in 1895 to build what remains the largest private residence in the United States.

Drive time: 9 hours, 45 minutes

Princess Anne Hotel

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Where to stay: A charming boutique inn, the Princess Anne Hotel puts visitors just a five minutes away (by car) from downtown Asheville. Built in 1924, it offers intimacy, with all the amenities of B&B, including a bountiful breakfast.

$187-$277. 301 E. Chestnut St., (828) 258-0986.

Where to eat: Make a meal of a series of creative small plates like gulf shrimp poutine, Southern fried-oyster lettuce wraps, and the Louisiana “lobster” (crayfish) roll at Isa’s Bistro.

Appetizers $5-$18, entrées $13-$28. 1 Battery Park Ave., (828) 575-9636.

Those looking for classics should try the Corner Kitchen. The menu features traditional fare and imaginative dishes, including an award-winning Reuben and a lavender-marinated chicken salad for lunch and teriyaki-glazed duck breast and Creole-style swordfish with andouille smashed potatoes for dinner.

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3 Boston Way, (828) 274-2439.

Ingredients at Posana are sourced from local farms. The restaurant also grows some in its own urban garden. A recent menu featured ancho-rosemary-braised brisket and trout with cheddar grits.

$23-$32.1 Biltmore Ave., (828) 505-3969. 

The gardens at Biltmore Estate

What to do: Allot an entire morning or afternoon to get the full experience of the 8,000-square-foot Biltmore Estate. The French chateau-style home of George Vanderbilt ranges over four acres. The gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect behind Fairmount Park and New York’s Central Park. Admission also entitles guests to a tasting at the nearby Biltmore Winery, the most visited winery in America. 

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$60. 1 Lodge St., (828) 245-8667.

Biltmore Estate

Get a sense of the area during a 90-minute bus ride filled with historical facts and a touch of goofiness on the LaZoom Comedy Tour. Even the locals take it.

$24. 14 Battery Park Ave., (828) 225-6932. 

Asheville boasts more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in the country and, as such, is nicknamed “Beer City USA.” Asheville Brewery Tours takes visitors on tastings at three to four wineries and offers chats with the brewers.

$59 walking or van tour, $63. 13 sunset tour. (828) 233-5006.

Downtown Asheville

Bikers will rejoice at the many options available around Asheville. Take a two-hour guided pedal on the greenways and through lightly traveled neighborhoods with Electro Electric Bicycle Tours. More rugged riders can bring their own bikes and join Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures, which offers guided excursions through Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest. Bikes are available for rent from Sycamore Cycles.

Electro: $55; (828) 513-3960. Pigash: $200 half-day, $300 full day, $50 each additional person; (828) 393-0101. Sycamore: $65-$75; 112 New Hendersonville Highway, Pisgah Forest, (828) 877-5790.  

A soaking tub at Wake Foot Sanctuary

Take a much-deserved break with a soothing soak or massage at Wake Foot Sanctuary.

$20-$60. 1 Page Ave., Suite 115, (828) 575-9799.

River Arts District

In Asheville, shopping is an art form. Stroll the River Arts District, and visit more than 180 local artists in their studios and galleries. Downtown Asheville also has 23 galleries and museums all located within a half-mile radius. Many high-end shops and galleries populate the 19th-century former homes in Biltmore Village. New Morning Gallery (7 Boston Way) offers handcrafted home accessories. Its sister store, Bellagio (5 Biltmore Plaza), specializes in high-fashion, artisan-made clothing.

Thrifty fun: At sundown, enjoy free live music downtown during Shindig on the Green at Pack Square Park. Or see the latest art and independent films at the Fine Arts Theatre for $5 on Tuesdays.

36 Biltmore Ave., (828) 232-1536.

The breathtaking bridge at Grandfather Mountain


Situated in the heart of North Carolina’s picturesque High Country, Boone offers mountain recreation at its most thrilling. Visitors can fly through the air on a zip line or raft the white-water rapids. April is the beginning of trout season, and the sparkling rivers and streams are among the best fly-fishing areas. The rivers also provide ample opportunity for canoeing, kayaking and tubing.

About 30 minutes southwest of Boone, Grandfather Mountain is certainly worth a visit. Hiking trails at this landmark range from easy walks along the wooded paths to challenging climbs up rugged peaks requiring ladders and cables. 

An important note: Wherever you’re going in Boone, double-check directions with your destination. GPS readings are often incorrect. 

Drive time: 9 hours

Where to stay: Scott and Anne Peecook make the Lovill House Inn, their circa-1875 former farmhouse, the perfect place to settle in and relax between activities. Situated on 11 landscaped acres, it’s about a mile from downtown Boone. A full homemade breakfast is also included.

$159-$199 weekdays, $169-$209 weekends. Private garden-view cottage, $189-$209. 404 Old Bristol Road, (800) 849-9466.  

Where to eat: Get a taste of Southern fare, served family style, at Dan’l Boone Inn. A plentiful buffet of options is brought to the table, including three meats, five veggies, biscuits, desserts and beverages. Come hungry.

$17.95. 130 Hardin St., (828) 264-8657. 

Trust us and start with the better-than-potato-chips fried okra at Over Yonder. Try the shrimp and grits lightened with chardonnay or the “Potlikker” gumbo.

$11.50-$22. 3608 Highway 194, Sugar Grove, (828) 963-6301.

Lost Province offers delectable pizzas from a wood-fired oven. Pub fare—a lot of it made with beer—includes mac and cheese, mussels and chocolate-porter peanut-butter cake.

$9-$17.50. 130 N. Depot St., (828) 265-3506.   

Seasonal game meats like ostrich, emu, elk and venison are interpreted Southern-style at The Gamekeeper, a favorite eatery with locals.

$28-$49. 3005 Shulls Mill Road, (828) 963-7400. 

What to do: Take in the spectacular views from atop Grandfather Mountain. Visitors can drive to higher elevations for a 360-degree perspective from the Mile High Swinging Bridge—it’s not as scary as it sounds. Whether you’re hiking one of the trails or just going for an easy stroll, be sure to visit the nature museum and the habitats where rescued bald eagles, otters, deer, cougars and black bears receive tender loving care. Picnic lunches are available from Mildred’s Grill at the nature center.

$20. 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville, (800) 468-7325. 

Hawksnest Zipline offers canopy tours designed for everyone from beginners to those craving a maximum adrenaline rush. Speed along at up to 50 miles per hour on stretches of zip line as long as 2,000 feet and at heights of over 200 feet.

$45-$90. 2058 Skyland Drive, Seven Devils, (828) 963-6561.

Mild to wild describes the water experience at Wahoo’s Adventures. Choose from canoeing (starts at $30/person), kayaking ($35), stand-up paddleboarding ($75) or tubing ($15) on the gentle New River. Or take a raft trip on the family-friendly Watauga River ($50) or the heart-pounding Nolichucky River ($125), which is filled with twists, turns, drops and falls.

3385 S. U.S. Highway 321, (828) 262-5774.

Appalachian Angler offers wade-and- float fly-fishing excursions.

$275-$375/person, $350-$425/pair. 174 Old Shulls Mill Road, (828) 963-5050.

Since its debut in 1952, Horn in the West, one of America’s oldest and most colorful outdoor dramas, tells the story of Daniel Boone and the birth of our nation’s independence.

$24-$39. 591 Horn in the West Drive, (828) 264-2120. 

Meet the alpacas, Angora goats, llamas, donkeys and other residents of Apple Hill Farm.

$12. 400 Apple Hill Road, Banner Elk, (828) 963-1662.

Find a favorite varietal or blend during a tasting—six dry wines for $8, four sweet for $6—at Grandfather Vineyard & Winery.

225 Vineyard Lane, Banner Elk, (828) 963-2400.

Thrifty fun: Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University has galleries and outdoor sculpture gardens featuring the work of regional and internationally known artists. Free. 423 W. King St., (828) 262-3017,

Built in 1883, Mast General Store is packed with everything from inexpensive candies to cast-iron cookware to Carolina-made rocking chairs.

3565 Highway 194 S, Sugar Grove, (828) 963-6511.

Period-costumed interpreters demonstrate the daily life, work and play in the mountains of the 1700s at Hickory Ridge Living History Museum.

$3 donation/person. 591 Horn in the West Drive, (828) 264-2120.

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