With gas prices hitting record highs
and airline tickets for a family of five draining the wallet, your summer vacation plans may be dwindling fast. Don’t fret! Check out these two Western North Carolina cities that will deliver tons of fun without breaking the bank or forcing you to spend ten hours in a mini-van. Who needs Disney World?
WEEKEND TRIP #1
An hour and a half east of Knoxville sits the town of Hot Springs, NC. For almost 200 years, visitors have flocked to this resort destination to partake in the mineral springs that are said to have healing and therapeutic powers. And while many people now rely on medicines and other technology to heal from ailments, Hot Springs continues to be a destination for those looking for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation in the glorious mountains of North Carolina.
With about 700 residents (according to the 2000 census), Hot Springs offers plenty of entertainment for all ages, focusing on outdoor activities, arts and crafts, and a celebration of the history of the area. Located at the junction of the Appalachian Trail (the AT actually runs right down the main street in town) and the French Broad River, Hot Springs sits in a valley that is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest, making it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.
Rest your head
Iron Horse Station
Located in downtown Hot Springs, the Iron Horse Station is a combination tavern, restaurant, inn and shop. Made up of three adjoining historic buildings along the main street of the town, the unique business captures the rich history of the town and embraces the present for a comfortable, enjoyable atmosphere. Historic charm (the rooms are modeled after Pullman train cars) and modern conveniences (Wi-Fi is available throughout) blend seamlessly at Iron Horse. Want to stay at the inn? Rooms start at $65 per night. 24 S. Andrews Ave. | (828) 622-0022 www.theironhorsestation.com
Get Some (Really Good) Grub
Mountain Magnolia Inn and Retreat
Open only Friday through Monday in season, Mountain Magnolia Inn and Retreat makes up for a short week by featuring indoor and outdoor dining, organic menu items, and a dedication to friendliness, quality food and an enjoyable atmosphere. The menu changes frequently, but expect plenty of dishes to tempt your taste buds while you enjoy picturesque mountain views. Looking for dinner and a room? Go no further than the fully-restored 1868 Victorian home that makes up Mountain Magnolia Inn.
204 Lawson St. | (800) 914-9306 www.mountainmagnoliainn.com
Did someone say shopping?
Bluff Mountain Outfitters
Take a break from the Appalachian Trail (we know you need it!) to shop around at Bluff Mountain Outfitters. Hikers, bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts will be heaven here—a wide array of clothes, gear, maps and more will outfit even the most demanding of outdoorsmen.
152 Bridge St. | (828) 622-7162 www.bluffmountain.com
Appalachian Vacations & Adventures
Make your weekend trip to Hot Springs full of fun by booking a package with Appalachian Vacations & Adventures. Choose the Mountain Family Fun Package for the complete combination of vacation excitement. The package includes three nights of lodging, your choice of two activities (mountain biking, horseback trail riding or whitewater rafting), an hour long mineral soak, and one lunch and dinner. www.ncvalley.com | (888) 404-9622
Bluff Mountain Music Festival
The 15th annual Bluff Mountain Music Festival features the best of bluegrass—and combined with mountain ambience, it shouldn’t be missed. The event is set for June 12 at the Hot Springs Spa and Resort, and will feature old-time bluegrass music, singing, clogging and a square dance.
Get a little artsy
ArtiSun Gallery and Marketplace
Revel in the creativity and imagination of the more than 40 local artists whose work is available at ArtiSun. The store not only features the works of local painters and photographers, but it also has handcrafted products, coffee, tea, wine and much more. For a great gift, check out local photog Gina Tullock’s nature photography. 16 S. Andrews Ave. | (828) 622-3573
WEEKEND TRIP #2
Continue your Western North Carolina tour in a town that has long been a Mecca for gamblers, but the rich history of the people and the area is what visitors should make note of. Located within the boundary of the Cherokee Nation, the area has embraced its roots while still making room for plenty of modernity. Diverse activities, from visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indian to gambling at Harrah’s, make Cherokee a gem for tourists. Whether you’re a history buff, an avid outdoorsman or simply want to take a chance with Lady Luck, Cherokee is a must-see destination in North Carolina.
“Cruise the Smokies”
Spring Cherokee Rod Run
Taking a cruise through the beautiful mountain landscape can only be better in one way: by riding shotgun in a classic car. Car enthusiasts unite for the “Cruise the Smokies” Spring Cherokee Hot Rod Run on June 10-12. Whether you want to admire quality built vehicles or you’re simply along for the ride, you’ll be able to enjoy this event with give-aways, a swap meet and more. 1501 Acquoni Rd. | (828) 554-6472
Made with Love
Qualla Arts and Crafts
Don’t leave Cherokee without picking up a few souvenirs—but don’t expect to find shot glasses or magnets here. At Qualla Arts and Crafts, traditional handmade gifts line the shelves. Located across the street from the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Qualla was founded in 1946 with the goal to preserve Cherokee arts and crafts. The wide array of products offered includes pottery, baskets, paintings, bead jewelry, pipes, stone and wood carving, weaponry and much more.
645 Tsali Blvd. | (828) 497-3103 www.quallaartsandcrafts.com
Take a Risk
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino
There’s never been a better time to go to Harrah’s. With a $633 million expansion reaching its fruition, the casino has more to offer than ever before. Several new restaurants, including Paula Deen’s Kitchen and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a new 3,000-plus seat event center (which will host acts like Stone Temple Pilots and Reba McEntire this year), and more than 1,000 rooms to choose from are all at your fingertips at Harrah’s. The expansion continues at the casino and hotel in 2012 when a Mandara luxury spa will open. Food? Check. Entertainment? Check. Pampering? Double check.
777 Casino Dr. | (828) 497-7777 www.harrahscherokee.com
Back in Time
Unto These Hills
There’s no better way to learn about the fascinating culture and history of the Cherokee Indian than by catching one of the productions of “Unto These Hills”—an outdoor drama filled with history, costumes and culture. The 2011 drama season begins on June 3 and runs through August 13, with shows starting at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday at Mountainside Theatre. 688 Drama Rd. | (866) 554-4557
Fill ‘er Up
Paula Deen’s Kitchen
The “Queen of Southern Cuisine” played her cards right by opening a restaurant inside Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. Set to give gamblers the much-needed comfort food they deserve after the wheels of fate get through with them, Deen’s eatery will feature all of her best dishes—all-you-can-eat omelets, homemade desserts and plenty of Southern favorites. 777 Casino Dr. | (877) 811-0777 www.harrahscherokee.com
More fun in North Carolina…
Feeling fishy? Join up with other fish enthusiasts at the 22nd annual Great Smoky Mountain Trout and Heritage Festival on May 7 in Maggie Valley. Besides learning about aquatic ecology, fishing ethics and water safety, the festival will feature live music, quilting and basket weaving demonstrations, and a trout race. (828) 926-0866, ext. 13 www.gsmtroutfestival.org
Did your son have way too much fun on your WNC excursion? Make his summer the best ever by signing him up for Camp Carolina—a high adventure summer camp for boys from 1st-12th grades. Activities range from mountain biking to caving to yoga, so there’s no end to the fun that your boy will have. 1 Lambs Creek Rd. | Brevard, NC 28712 (828) 884-2414