BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS GETAWAYS
Good as it gets, breathtaking Appalachian scenery
When summer heat starts to feel oppressive, cool mountain temperatures, drop-dead scenery and a laidback vibe await you in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. Here’s a quick rundown on inspiring destinations to which you can escape by car or flight to Atlanta, Greenville (South Carolina) or Asheville (North Carolina):
BLUE RIDGE, GEORGIA
Former island chef Danny Mellman staked his culinary claim in the tiny but chic village northwest of Atlanta. Downtown is anchored by the gorgeous Harvest on Main restaurant that he and partner Michele Moran helm, leading the town’s farm-totable movement.
Go apple picking at Mercier Orchards in autumn, and even if you don’t fish, visit Bill Oyster’s acclaimed fly rod shop. Oyster has also opened the small but welcoming Cast & Blast Inn on Main Street.
Luxury cabins―many with fireplaces and hot tubs―surround Blue Ridge; it’s a lovely village in which to while away the hours not spent rafting, horseback riding or hiking
the Appalachian Trail.
Downtown offers no less than seven wine tasting rooms. A scenic 39-mile loop takes visitors to five nearby wineries, for tastings, tours and more than one win- ery café. The Georgia Wine Country Festival is in June.
Dahlonega Spa Resort offers a healthy lodging option with mountaintop yoga. Go glamping in a yurt at Cedar House Inn & Yurts (where eco-minded innkeepers also make cozy rooms available).
Downtown is chock-a-block with boutiques and galleries. But a Dahlonega getaway can include fly fishing, golf, hiking or cycling. Seek out The Smith House for family-style dining and a Southern menu.
HIGHLANDS/CASHIERS, NORTH CAROLINA
The inviting Highlands/Cashiers area of western North Carolina is a gem along scenic U.S. Route 64. Cashiers rambles in several directions from its heart, where Buck’s Coffee Café brims with surprising retail temptation. The iconic High Hampton Inn, with its mountain golf, makes for a delightful base (including families).
Highlands’ Main Street presents abundant retail options. Mountain Fresh Grocery & Wine Market has gourmet takeout on front-porch picnic tables. The Old Edwards Inn & Spa fills a city block with inspiring architecture, while the bucolic Inn at Half Mile Farm is home to luxe historical cabins and spacious hotel rooms, all with space to roam.
Hike the Horsepasture River Trail to waterfalls at Gorges State Park or go paddling on Lake Sequoyah.
BREVARD, NORTH CAROLINA
This music college town―oddly known for its white squirrels―is a throwback, with a soda fountain and O.P. Taylor’s toy store. And don’t miss D.D. Bullwinkel’s mercantile or Red Wolf Gallery.
Enjoy a flatbread pizza at Marco Trattoria after hiking in the adjacent Pisgah National Forest, or head to DuPont State Recreational Forest for an easy hike to three spectacular waterfalls. Caesars Head State Park has a jaw-dropping vista. Nearby Hendersonville and the village of Flat Rock are fun to explore.
ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
This getaway can be whatever you want it to be, from a stay at the Grove Park Inn glam lodge to a private mountain cabin with stellar Blue Ridge views. (Leaf peeping is sublime in October). Craft beer operations pepper the city, and Sierra Nevada’s spectacular brewery―adjacent to the airport―is perhaps the best hangout ever: Its massive dog-friendly patio has firepits, music and terrific food.
Book ahead for a dinner table at downtown’s unexpected Nightbell, and pop in to Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne
Bar to unwind. A stay at the Biltmore Inn sets up easy exploration of the Biltmore Estate, which hosts concerts and wine tastings, but also offers guests the opportunity to paddle, picnic, ride horses or cruise around on bikes. Nearby Biltmore Village holds the sexy Grand Bohemian Hotel lobby bar, as well as dozens of tempting shops, bars and restaurants.
LAKE JOCASSEE/LAKE KEOWEE, SOUTH CAROLINA
National Geographic magazine deemed the Jocassee Gorges as one of the “50 last great places on Earth.” When you take in the mountain panorama from the crystal-clear waters of either of these lakes, you’ll agree they are simply stunning, as is the entire area. Sassafras Mountain, the state’s highest, is nearby. Lake Jocassee has its own waterfalls along a mostly undeveloped shoreline, while Lake Keowee is largely encompassed by luxury neighborhoods (with a few rentals). Reserve ahead for one of the affordable but surprisingly nice two- and three-bed villas at Devils Fork State Park, right on Jocassee. All kinds of watersports can be enjoyed on both lakes of the Upstate, and boat rentals are available.
Scenic downtown Asheville, North Carolina. There are options for paddlers (inset) of all skills.
Yummy farm-to-table meals at Harvest on Main are Blue Ridge favorites.
George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate (left) in Asheville depicts America's Gilded Age. Lake Jocassee waterfalls in South Carolina (middle left) and Green Knob Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina represent nature's wonderment in the region.