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Monday, December 29, 2014

Frommer's: Asheville Top 15 Places to Go in 2015

It's no surprise to us, but Asheville got a major endorsement from a biggie in travel advice. It made the Frommer's Top 15 Best Places to Go in the world list for 2015 (along with places like Belize, Tanzania, Austria, Belgium and Argentina!).
Here's what Frommer's says: "Everyone's talking about Asheville. Is it the gentle Great Smoky mountains and their National Park nearby, beckoning hikers and nature photographers? Is it the crunchy bohemian culture, the burgeoning community of artists? It might be the walkable historic downtown full of style-within...-reach boutiques, evolved Southern cooking, and Malaprop's, one of America's great independent bookstores. Whatever the reasons, Asheville's national profile has risen to qualify it as the Austin of the East—accessible, youth-friendly, affordable, and the place to go for a sweet lifestyle.
In late 2015, the $175 million, employee-owned New Belgium brewery turns the formerly forbidding French Broad River district into cyclable parkland for beer lovers, and as the company actively stimulates the growth of farmers' markets and the local River Arts District, it's helping push Asheville over the line from a pleasant mountain burg to a Great American Town where it's a pleasure to hang out for a while. Soon, the Brewery will join nearby Biltmore Estate (nearly 1 million visitors a year) in attracting vacationers with tours. And the facility isn't alone; Asheville now supports more breweries per capita than anywhere else in America. It's even rising as a center of American arts. The first Hunger Games movie was filmed nearby, the Brevard Music Festival gathers more steam each summer, and Edie Brickell and Steve Martin just wrote a new bluegrass musical set in the city; Martin has a home in the area."
We are busy making updates for 2015. Take a look:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Aluminum Tree Museum Opens in Brevard

Take a tour of the Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum in downtown Brevard with founder Stephen Jackson. See two dozen vintage trees, individually themed. Read more at

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New! Winter Lights at North Carolina Arboretum

Winter Lights at NC Arboretum in Asheville
New in Asheville for this holiday season is Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum. It opened November 22 and runs through January 4, 2015. Visitors walk through a botanical Christmas wonderland with thousands of lights in the gardens.

The Arboretum worked with Jerry Stripling, former designer and manager of holiday decorations for Walt Disney World®, to create a very magical experience. This new light show definitely enhances the natural beauty of the gardens and landscape. Also enjoy local art for sale in the gift shops, music by a DJ in the Courtyard, and fire pits to create your own s'mores. The Savory Thyme CafĂ© offers food and beverages, including a hot chocolate and coffee bar.

The light show is open every night, 6-10 PM. Advance tickets are required. Prices are
  • Individual (12 years or older) $18
  • Children (ages 5 to 11) $16
  • Children age 4 & under FREE
The North Carolina Arboretum is in south Asheville. From I-26, take Exit 33 and follow NC 191 South for two miles to the entrance on right.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Christmas at Biltmore Begins: Photos & Ticket Specials

Biltmore House Christmas
Christmas at Biltmore is here! See our photo tour of this year's decorations inside Biltmore House. This year, guests will see 60 decorated trees inside the house including the star of the show, the 35-foot Fraser Fir in the Banquet Hall. More than 1,000 poinsettias and miles of garland and lights add to the beauty of the season. This year’s design draws inspiration from the theme “A Vanderbilt Christmas Celebration.” Candlelight Evenings add extra magic as thousands of lights and candles glow, including hundreds of luminaires and a 55-foot outdoor tree with 45,000 lights.

In addition, stroll the winter gardens, see the amazing floral display in the Conservatory, sample wines at the winery, shop in a variety of stores and enjoy great dining. And there are many other things to do and holiday events to enjoy in Asheville. 

For ticket deals, purchase tickets online seven days in advance to save $10. Also, through November 30, save $50 on a Biltmore Annual Pass (regularly $149/person)! Visit as often as you like during an entire year, including the upcoming Dressing Downton exhibit. Plus, receive two free tickets for friends and family to visit in January-March.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Video: Walk behind Dry Falls in NC Mountains

Walk behind Dry Falls near Highlands, North Carolina, in the Nantahala National Forest. This roadside waterfall has a walkway that takes you safely behind the waterfall for an up-close look. It's free to visit and always open. Nearby, drive behind Bridal Veil Falls. For more information, go to

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Biltmore House Christmas Tour

Take a video tour inside Biltmore House during the Christmas holidays. In 2014, see the elaborate decorations and 60+ trees from November 7, 2014 until January 11, 2015. For more information on events, tickets, discounts and more, go to

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Asheville & Biltmore Scenic Flights

Take a scenic flight in a small plane over the Biltmore Estate and downtown Asheville on October 25-26 with the WNC Pilots Association. Their annual fundraiser is a rare opportunity for you to get a bird's-eye view of the city. More info at

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Downton Abbey Costumes Coming to Biltmore House

Hear about a new exhibition, “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times," coming inside Biltmore House on February 5-May 25, 2015 with more than 40 costumes from the popular PBS series “Downton Abbey.” The clothing will be showcased in rooms throughout the Biltmore House in groupings inspired by the fictional show and by real life at Biltmore, the grand Vanderbilt estate of the same era. Located in Asheville, North Carolina, the Biltmore Estate is home to America's largest home. This exhibit will be included in general admission. See details at

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Updates from Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Here are some updates for your fall visits to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, near Asheville, Cherokee and Waynesville.

Fall Color Update
If pleasant, sunny autumn days and cool nighttime temperatures continue, fall color in Great Smoky Mountains National Park could arrive in the higher elevation as early as the first week of October. The park observed the first hints of color at elevations above 4,000 feet yesterday. Right now, the high country is still predominantly green with only a hint of color change among early fall starters like red maple, sourwood, witch hobble, sumac, and Virginia creeper vines. More notable now are the fall wildflowers such as the cardinal flower, black-eyed Susan, closed gentian, coreopsis, great blue lobelia, skunk goldenrod, southern harebell, ironweed, and a variety of asters, as well as the bright fruits on hearts-a-bustin shrubs. See our Asheville Fall Color Guide for more details.

Park rangers remind all of us to exercise caution as we view and photograph elk so that both the animals and ourselves are protected. Elk are currently entering the fall breeding season, known as the rut. During this time period, from September 1 through October 31, fields in Cataloochee and Oconaluftee are closed. Even if the elk are not present, people are not allowed to walk into the fields. You can watch from the road. During the rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract cows. Dominant bulls use the fields to gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. Bull elk actively defend their territory by charging and sparring with competitors using their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. Encroaching too close may lead a bull to perceive you or your vehicle as a threat causing them to charge. See our guide for Cataloochee Valley and the Elk.

Chimney Tops Hiking Trail
Great Smoky Mountains Park officials have extended the Chimney Tops Trail closure through December 11 to fully complete the 3-year trail rehabilitation. The trail will continue to be closed each Monday through Thursday as workers complete the full-scale rehabilitation. The trail is open Friday through Sunday each week offering hikers a unique opportunity to see improvements taking shape along the trail. The combination of heavy use, abundant rainfall, and steep terrain turned the Chimney Tops Trail into a badly eroded obstacle course of slick, broken rock, exposed tree roots, and mud. Since April 2012, the Park’s Trails Forever Crew has been rebuilding the trail using durable stone and rot-resistant black locust timbers that will stabilize the trail for decades to come, reducing annual maintenance and greatly improving the visitor experience. See our guide for Chimney Tops Hiking Trail.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Autumn at Land of Oz, Beech Mountain, NC

Watch some of the fun coming up on October 4 & 5 at Autumn at Oz as you walk down the yellow brick road with Dorothy to see the Wizard of Oz. It's only one weekend a year, atop Beech Mountain at the former Land of Oz amusement park. Tickets often sell-out, so reserve in advance. Get all the details at

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Train Excursion

Ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad train through the Nantahala Gorge in North Carolina. The 4.5-hour train excursion takes you by Fontana Lake and along Nantahala River. It's a fantastic way to see the fall color. See photos and a complete guide at

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sunburst Falls, NC

Sunburst Falls in the Pisgah National Forest in the North Carolina mountains is less than a mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Located beneath an historic stone bridge, visitors typically ride over it and miss the great view from below. A series of cascades on the West Fork Pigeon River create a beautiful waterfall setting above and below the bridge. See more details and a guide at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sierra Nevada Brewery near Asheville, NC

Take a video tour of the new Sierra Nevada Brewery in Mills River near Asheville. Take a hard hat tour through mid September. The brewery will begin daily self-guided tours by October. See photos and more details at

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Devils Courthouse, NC

Devil's Courthouse mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the North Carolina mountains is a must-stop for a hike to the summit for panoramic views stretching into four states. The hike is short but strenuous. See the views from the observation area on the summit in this new video and see more photos and details on visiting at

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sliding Rock, North Carolina

Watch the fun at Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard and Asheville, North Carolina. All ages enjoy sliding this natural waterslide. See a complete guide to Sliding Rock:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Video! Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway

We had a great visit yesterday at the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Journey with us as we hike underneath and above the Viaduct and enjoy various views of this engineering wonder. See details on visiting and the hike at

Thursday, July 10, 2014

High Falls at Lake Glenville, NC

Our first visit to High Falls at Lake Glenville was a blast! Take a new hiking trail to the base of the 150-foot waterfall. The waterfall is just a small stream most days. Six times a year, Duke Energy releases water from the dam upstream for kayakers to enjoy the six miles of river below the falls. Located near Cashiers and Highlands in the North Carolina mountains, it's a beautiful setting every day of the year. But the thunderous waterfall that is created on these days is definitely a wonder to see. For more details and photos, go to our new guide at

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Top 10 Quick Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes Near Asheville

Looking for a quick hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway? There are many choices near Asheville, ranging from easy strolls to strenuous climbs. Here are our ten favorite hiking trails that are easy to find and less than four miles in length. So they are perfect to experience the Parkway outside your car. Also, the Blue Ridge Parkway rangers lead weekly guided hikes every Friday morning (see the current list)!

1. Rough Ridge: This unique hike offers plenty of viewpoints and a wooden boardwalk over fragile vegetation. The one-mile climb to the summit features many rock outcrops along the way to enjoy the views of Grandfather Mountain, Linn Cove Viaduct and mountain ranges. Milepost 303

2. Beacon Heights: This one-mile roundtrip hike has a big pay-off with spectacular views from a smooth rock face. Since it’s a short climb, it’s great spot to take along your picnic! Milepost 305

3. Linville Falls: See five viewpoints of the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina via two trails that begin at the Visitors Center. Only one of the trails is strenuous and you can hike to all viewpoints with a four-mile hike. Milepost 316

4. Crabtree Falls: A three-mile loop trail takes you to a beautiful 70-foot waterfall with many wildflowers along the way. Milepost 340

5. Mt. Mitchell: Since you can drive almost to the summit of the highest point east of the Mississippi, a short paved trail takes you to the observation deck at the summit. The best hike at Mount Mitchell is the Deep Gap Trail to Mt. Craig (the second highest peak in Eastern USA). The two-mile roundtrip hike through a lush forest includes a good bit of climbing, but it is not overly strenuous.  Milepost 355

6. Craggy Gardens: There are two great, easy hikes here. The 1.5-roundtrip trail to the top of Craggy Pinnacle provides exceptional 360-degree mountain views. The Craggy Gardens Trail runs from the south end of the Visitor Center parking area to the north end of the picnic area and crosses a rhododendron bald with peak color in mid June. Milepost 364

7.  Mt. Pisgah: The popular three-mile roundtrip trail to the 5,721-foot summit is strenuous. But you can reward yourself with a hearty meal at the nearby Pisgah Inn restaurant afterwards! Milepost 407

8.  Graveyard Fields:  This very popular hiking spot features two waterfalls in a mild-high valley filled with wildflowers and surrounded by Blue Ridge Mountains with 6,000-foot peaks. The Graveyard Fields Loop is about four miles. It will reopen in July 2014 after renovations. Milepost 419

9.  Black Balsam Knob: For sweeping 360-degree views that lasts for miles along a trail, roam the bald mountaintops. Almost entirely devoid of trees above 6,000 feet, the summits are more reminiscent of New England than North Carolina. Milepost 420

10. Devil's Courthouse: This short but strenuous trail climbs a half mile to the mountaintop for panoramic views from the 5,720-foot peak. Its "devilish" look has created many folk tales to enjoy.  Milepost 422

For more information about these and other stops and things to do along the Blue Ridge Parkway, go to Our list covers 170 miles of the Parkway near Asheville, starting from the north near Grandfather Mountain and going south to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend Events & Festivals in Asheville

Check out some of the many festivals and events during Memorial Day Weekend 2014 in Asheville and the North Carolina mountains! Read more about these and more summer events at
Mountain Sports Festival

May 23-25: Mountain Sports Festival
Whether you’re a hardcore athlete or a newbie trying an event for the first time, this sports festival in West Asheville offers something for you. In addition to the many competitive events, the Festival Village is free to all visitors with vendors, food, live music, demos and more.

May 23-26: Blue Ridge Classic Dog Show
Presented by local kennel clubs, held at the WNC Agricultural Center, with conformation, obedience, rally and agility trails. Starts at 8 AM each day with free admission and $5 parking. 

May 23-25: Americana Burlesque & Sideshow Festival
See renowned circus and burlesque artists from around the world.  ABSfest attracts renowned circus and burlesque artists (including aerialists, fire eaters, jugglers, etc) from across the USA, as well as Scotland, Germany, and Japan.

May 24-25: White Squirrel Festival
Go nuts in downtown Brevard with a parade, plenty of live music, food, arts and much more. Don't forget the guided white squirrel tours. Parade on Saturday at 9 AM. Free admission.

May 24-25: Rose Show
The Asheville-Blue Ridge Rose Society Exhibition features award-winning roses of every color and size. Experts will be on hand to answer questions and provide information about the selection, care, and history of roses.

May 24-26: Lake Lure Arts Festival
Featuring handmade creations from more than 60 artisans from across the region, find a sophisticated collection including painting and graphics, photography, jewelry, leather, metal, soaps and candles, wood, glass, pottery, textiles or fiber art and more.

May 24-25: Garden Jubilee Festival
This Downtown Hendersonville festival is the ideal event for passionate gardeners searching for the perfect plants and unique lawn and garden accessories and arts and crafts.

May 24-25: Kenilworth Artists Open Studio Tour
The Kenilworth neighborhood is just five minutes from downtown Asheville. This studio tour features 20+ jewelers, painters, glass-workers, fabric artists, potters, woodworkers, photographers, and more!

May 24-31: Asheville Beer Week
Many events throughout the week, including beer tastings, dinners, and much more. Beer City Festival is May 31.

May 26: Carl Sandburg Folk Music Festival
The grounds of the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site come alive with folk music which was an important part of Carl Sandburg's life along with his guitar playing and singing as well as his writing. Live entertainment includes instrumentals, folk ballads and spiritual songs. Free. 10 AM-4 PM.

See more things to do on Memorial Day Weekend and all summer long at

Friday, April 25, 2014

Biltmore Estate Summer Things To Do & Ticket Specials

Summer is a wonderful time to explore the Biltmore House, along with its gardens and winery in Asheville, NC. There are 8,000 acres to explore with gardens in full bloom, trails to explore and many options for outdoor adventures in the your Blue Ridge Mountains vacation. See our full Biltmore Guide.

Summer 2014 discounts on Biltmore tickets include:
• Kids 16 and younger receive FREE admission Memorial Day Weekend (starting May 23) through Labor Day, September 1.
• Dads receive FREE admission on Father’s Day, June 15, with purchase of an adult or youth ticket.
• Seniors receive $15 off admission on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
• Save $15 off ticket price by purchasing tickets at at least 7 days in advance of visit; save $10 by booking online 1 to 6 days in advance

The castle-like, 250-room Biltmore House is enhanced this year by a NEW kid’s audio tour for ages 7 to 13. And their specialty tours go all the way up to the home’s rooftop for breathtaking birds-eye views; and down into the basement where a swimming pool and bowling alley reside.
Meander through the colorful and ever-changing manicured gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, or explore the miles of hiking and biking trails that wind through wooded areas and open fields. Take in mountain and Biltmore House views from a bike, on the back of a horse, while floating down a lazy river, on a Segway, or on a carriage ride. Try your hand at fly-fishing, sporting clays or get behind the wheel of a Land Rover.
Admission to Biltmore includes access to Antler Hill Village Farm and Barnyard, both of which harken back to the 1890s when families lived on the estate raising crops and livestock, and tending to milk and ice cream production at Biltmore Dairy. The Barnyard area is home to blacksmiths, woodworkers and other craft demonstrations. Kids can also explore Pisgah Playground, a Children’s Maze and the Land Rover Course for Kids. The Winery hosts a Kids Grape Stomp in the village from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Admission also includes the Biltmore Winery, with complimentary tastings and a production tour.  Specialty tours like the Vine to Wine Tour, Biltmore Bubbles Tour and the Red Wine and Chocolate seminar are available at an additional cost. An exhibition, “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad,” sheds light on the time the Vanderbilt family made Biltmore House their home, and their world travels.
Dance under the stars on select summer nights during Biltmore’s Concert Series, staged on the South Terrace next to Biltmore House. Past performers have included Sheryl Crow, Heart, The Beach Boys, Bruce Hornsby, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss and more!
Evening weekends will feature Live After Five in Antler Hill Village with musical performances by area musicians on the bandstand at the Village Green. A variety of culinary options will be available, and Cedric’s Tavern, the Bistro, the Creamery will all be open.

See our Biltmore Estate Guide for many photos, videos and tips for visiting. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Top 10 Things to Do in Asheville for Gay & Lesbian Visitors

Gay Pride, Asheville
LGBTQ visitors to Asheville, North Carolina, find so many things to do, especially in the artsy and lively downtown with  50+ local restaurants, 30 art galleries, antique shops, and a big variety of local shops. Home to the famous Biltmore Estate, Asheville is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains with limitless outdoors adventures. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of most beautiful scenic drives in the country. You will find a diverse population, with a large gay and lesbian community that enjoys meeting visitors (since most of them were once visitors before they fell in love with the area and moved).

To help you plan a trip, here are ten favorite things to co for gay and lesbian visitors to Asheville:

1. Farm-to-Table: A food lovers mecca, great dining options abound with dozens of locally-owned restaurants that work closely with local farms. 

2. Bed & Breakfast or Cozy Cabin: Choose from many gay-owned or gay/lesbian friendly bed and breakfast inns and cabin vacation rentals that offer plenty of privacy and romance. Many B&Bs are near downtown, or find secluded log cabins in the throughout the western North Carolina mountains.

3. Drinks: From beer to wine to coffee, there are many options. Asheville is a Beer City for sure with many brew pubs downtown. Smokey Tavern is a friendly, cozy gay bar in the middle of downtown at 18 Broadway. Many wine and cocktail bars downtown, and a variety of wineries to tour in the foothills. Don't miss the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar! You will find 10 coffee shops in downtown Asheville with local flavor and great atmosphere. Don’t miss the French Broad Chocolate Lounge with French press coffee and liquid chocolate!

4. Shop: Downtown Asheville is a shopper's paradise with a wide variety of 200 locally-owned shops. To experience a true slice of Asheville, stop by Malaprops, voted "Best Independent Bookstore in the Southeast." The beautiful Grove Arcade has a great variety of shops in one location. For antiques, Biltmore Village area has a big variety of antique stores and malls, including the huge Antique Tobacco Barn. Or come for a Brunk Antique Auction, one of the premier houses in the south.

5. Biltmore Estate: Tour the largest home in America, with an amazing collection of art and antiques, grand gardens, wine tasting at the winery, and the outdoor equestrian center. Take a hike, ride your bike or dine in a variety of restaurants.

6. Live Music and Theatre: To listen and dance to some great jazz and blues, go to Tressa's at 28 Broadway, which has a mixed straight and gay crowd. For a variety of music headliners, check out The Orange Peel at 101 Biltmore Avenue. There are several community (including Asheville Community Theatre) and repertory theatre groups in town, with several choices for professional theatre (Flat Rock Playhouse). Or see a first-run independent film or often a gay-themed film at the Fine Arts Theatre at 36 Biltmore Ave.

7. Blue Ridge Pride: In early October, come to western North Carolina's largest gay pride festival in downtown Asheville.  Read more about Pride and other events.

8. Gallery Hopping: John Cram owns the two biggest galleries in Asheville, Blue Spiral I downtown at 38 Biltmore Ave and New Morning Gallery in Biltmore Village. Walk to 30 galleries in downtown or explore the River Arts District, home to many studios and galleries. There are many art festivals and events all year long.

9. Hikes & Waterfalls: Choose from hundreds of great trails, many taking you to a beautiful waterfall. Find something for all skill levels, from a short stroll to a strenuous full-day hike. Our guide has detailed features, photos and videos of the 40 best hikes and 50 best waterfalls.

10. Dance Bars: The premier nightclub for dancing is Scandals Nightclub, downtown at 11 Grove Street near Patton Avenue in a brick building that looks like a large house. It has a lively dance bar and various bars to escape the madness of the dance floor. There are two other gay clubs nearby, Club Hairspray at 38 N French Broad Ave and O.Henry's at 237 Haywood Street.

For more information, go to our Asheville Gay & Lesbian Travel Guide.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

First Woman Chef wins Competition Dining in Asheville

Chef Michelle Bailey
In Asheville last night, Chef Michelle Bailey pumped a triumphant fist in the air as Got To Be NC Competition Dining host Jimmy Crippen announced that she was the first woman chef to lead a team to victory since the series started in 2012. The finale was held at Biltmore Estate. Bailey is the chef at Season’s at the Highland Lake Inn in Flat Rock. Like many competitors, she won the close battle with Asheville’s Sam Etheridge of Ambrozia Bar + Bistro with the dessert course.

Eight chefs from Asheville, Boone and Flat Rock competed in the seven-dinner series that began March 10 and concluded last night at the Lioncrest at Biltmore in Asheville. Diners watched tensely as the final scores and numbers posted for each dish. Bailey triumphed in the close battle by almost three points. The chef and teammates Stephen Hertz and Todd Mallin took home a $2000 check, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge in Charlotte, and the coveted red chef’s jacket only a Competition Dining winner can wear.

Mac Sullivan, chief executive officer of Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, and Jimmy Crippen, host and founder of Got To Be NC Competition Dining, presented the $2000 check to Chef Bailey and her team.

The final Fire on the Rock battle challenged the chefs to use two featured ingredients, Lusty Munk® Mustard and Beulah’s Bavarian Pretzels, both based in Asheville. The chefs are not told what the featured ingredient of the night will be until noon on the day they compete.

Both chefs rose to the occasion. Bailey’s highest scoring dish of the evening was dessert: Chipotle Mustard Chocolate Cake, Buttermilk Altar Boy Ice Cream, Beulah's Bavarian Pretzel Tuile, Fizzy Blackberry and Lemon Relish, Lusty Monk Raspberry Coulis and Salted Pretzel Caramel Sauce.

For Etheridge, the top-scoring dish was Lobster Sausage, Arugula, Citrus Honey Mustard, Beulah's Bavarian Pretzel Beer-Battered Smoked Shrimp, Chipotle Mustard Tartar Sauce, Slaw, Blue Crab Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust and Champagne Mustard Cream.

Asheville is a food lover's paradise, with many farm-to-fork restaurants, dozens of local craft beers and farms to visit. For more, go to our vacation guide at

Monday, March 17, 2014

Morganton Hosts World Premiere of Sci-Fi Movie About Famous Lights

Coming soon to a theater near Asheville: Burke County's mysterious Brown Mountain Lights.

The lights, a natural phenomenon seen for centuries near their namesake mountain, play an integral role in Alien Abduction, a highly-anticipated sci-fi thriller hitting the big screens April 4.

The independent movie was filmed in Burke, Avery and Watauga counties in 2011, and will hold its world premiere Tuesday, April 1, at the Marquee Cinemas in downtown Morganton.

Director Matty Beckerman and producer Cathy Beckerman, both of Los Angeles, will be on hand for the premiere, and will host a Q-and-A session following the 7:00 p.m. screening.

Beckerman grew up on the East Coast and learned about the Brown Mountain Lights as a kid visiting his grandparents' house in Blowing Rock. During those visits he also experienced the remoteness of North Carolina's mountains, and combined those two ideas into a fictitious story that involves the lights and the disappearance of people.

"We would often get lost on some of the back roads. I remember sitting in the car and daydreaming about what would happen if we really got lost," Beckerman said. "What would happen if our entire family got lost? That was the inspiration. That's where I started."

The movie uses the found-footage format to tell the story from the viewpoint of a family on a camping trip to Brown Mountain. Beckerman describes it as a "psychological thriller" that does not rely on blood and gore to stir emotion.

"Sometimes the things you hear affect you more than the things you see," he said.

Burke County tourism director Ed Phillips was instrumental in bringing the world premiere to Morganton, and feels it will generate renewed interest in the mysterious lights.

"Even though the film is spooky and scary, it will definitely bring attention to the lights. We already have a business in Morganton offering guided tours to try to see the lights," Phillips said. "IFC Films is distributing this worldwide. It's a big deal. I recently read a review that said it's probably the best found-footage film since the genre was created by The Blair Witch Project."

The movie also interviews the two people most associated with studying the lights - scientist Dan Caton of Boone and paranormal researcher Joshua Warren of Asheville.

"Making this movie in Burke County and being able to debut the film there is a special moment for me," Beckerman said. "I believe people are going to really react to it. People will see this worldwide and it will draw attention to the Brown Mountain Lights. This will be great for tourism. The movie is fiction, but lights are there; they're real. Anyone can go to see them."

For info on the world premiere, call (888) 462-2921 or book tickets online.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Opening for 2014 Season

Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome
Weary of winter? Here's the spring opening schedule for facilities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Campgrounds and secondary roads will begin opening Friday, March 7. Much of the park, including Newfound Gap Road and most hiking trails are open year-round. Here's the schedule for opening facilities for the 2014 season:

Secondary Roads open: Forge Creek Road opens on March 7; Clingmans Dome Road opens on April 1; Round Bottom/Straight Fork Road opens April 4; Parson Branch, Rich Mountain Road, Roaring Fork Nature Trail, and Little Greenbrier open on April 11; Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain roads open on May 23.

Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed for bicycle use only on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. from May 7 through September 24.

Visitor Centers: The three visitor centers are open daily and the operating hours through March:  Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Cades Cove Visitor Center, near Townsend, TN, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m., and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC, hours will be 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Hours are extended for each location as the season progresses. Clingmans Dome Visitor Contact Station will open April 1.

The Backcountry Office located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, is open every day from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. provides visitors an opportunity to make reservations to many federally-managed recreation areas, including National Park Service areas, all across the U.S.  The park’s developed campgrounds of Cataloochee, Elkmont, Cades Cove, Smokemont, and some sites at Cosby are on the reservation system for at least a portion of their seasons.  The system allows campers to reserve specific campsites and to make reservations 6 months in advance.   Group campsites and picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 12 months in advance.  To make reservations at the five campgrounds, and all group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters, visitors can go to or, alternatively, book reservations by calling 877-444-6777.

Campgrounds will open starting March 14. Reservations are recommended at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont for the period from May 15-October 31 (for other dates, the three campgrounds are first come, first serve). Advance reservations are required at Cataloochee Campground throughout the entire. Cosby Campground, which has mostly first-come, first-served campsites, has a limited number of reservable sites during its season.  Camping fees range from $14 to $23 per site per night.

Campers have an opportunity to camp in “generator free” campsites at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds. The generator-free loop sections of these campgrounds are reservable through

Group Camping will be available at seven campgrounds and reservations must be made through  Group camping is available at Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont.  The cost for group camping ranges from $26 to $65 per site per night.

Horse Camps at Cataloochee, Round Bottom, and Tow String open April 4.  Anthony Creek opens on April 1 and Big Creek on April 11. Reservations available through The horse site fees are $20 at all horse camps except for Big Creek where it is $25.

Picnic Areas at Cades Cove, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, and Metcalf Bottoms picnic areas are open year round. Chimneys picnic area will open on March 15 and Collins Creek picnic area will open on April 4. Big Creek and Cosby picnic areas will open shortly after on April 11. Heintooga picnic area will open on May 23. 

The park’s largest picnic pavilion at Twin Creeks opens on April 1 and reservations are required through Twin Creeks’ fees range from $35-$75 depending on the number of people. In addition, picnickers can reserve five other picnic pavilions at Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Metcalf Bottoms, and Greenbrier picnic areas.  The cost is $20, except at Greenbrier where it is $10. 

If you are horseback riding, the opening dates for the three horseback concessions located on the Tennessee side of the Park are:  Smoky Mountain Riding Stable on March 7; Sugarlands Riding Stable on March 7; and Cades Cove on March 8.  In addition to horseback rides, Cades Cove Riding Stable will offer their customary carriage rides and hay rides which are wheelchair accessible.  The Smokemont Riding Stable in North Carolina will open March 22 providing guided horseback rides along with horse-drawn wagon rides along the route of the historic Oconaluftee Turnpike. 

Mt. LeConte Lodge, accessible only by trail, will open on March 24.  Reservations are required and can be made by calling 865/429-5704, fax 865/774-0045 or email:  One night at the lodge costs $132 per adult and $85 for children 10 and under (tax not included).  The price includes two meals--dinner and breakfast.   Day hikers and backpackers can purchase a prepared bag lunch and snacks/beverages at the lodge. 

The Cades Cove Campground Store has been open since March 2.  The store provides groceries, camping supplies, firewood, ice, vending, limited food service, souvenirs, and bike rentals.  The Cades Cove Store has multi-speed comfort bikes, single speed cruisers, and electric assist bikes for rent.  The Elkmont Campground concession opened on March 14.  The concession provides firewood, ice, limited camper convenience items, and vending of soft drinks, newspapers, and snacks.

For more information on the Great Smokies, go to

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ecosystem Improvement Project Begins in Pisgah National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service will soon begin the first phase of an ecosystem improvement project in the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, that includes 64 acres of timber harvesting. The effort, called the Brushy Ridge project, will provide a number of environmental benefits such as controlling non-native species, improving fish habitat and promoting wildlife habitat.

To help ensure public safety during timber harvesting activities the Forest Service will close trails and roads in the Trace Ridge Area of Henderson County in the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, beginning in early February 2014 and continuing through May 2014. The following trails and roads will be closed during this time:
  • Hendersonville Reservoir Road (FS 142)
  • Fletcher Creek Road (FS 5097), to intersection with Spencer Gap Trail (Trail 600)
  • Wash Creek (Trail 606)
  • Trace Ridge (Trail 354)
  • North Mills River (Trail 353)
  • Yellow Gap Trail (Trail 611)
Trace Ridge Trailhead will not be accessible and the use of the trails and roads is prohibited. Please use caution while traveling in the area, particularly Wash Creek Road as logging truck will be on the area roads.
The Forest Service designed the Brushy Ridge project to fulfill management objectives in the current Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest management plan. This project allows the agency to implement a variety of management activities to improve ecological diversity, as well as promote forest health and sustainability.
The Forest Service's management practices will:
  • Regenerate favorable tree species such as oaks and hickories and maintain a variety of hardwood tree species;
  • Improve the growth and health of remaining trees through thinning treatments;
  • Improve habitat for aquatic species, including trout, by replacing culverts and bridges that are restricting flow and causing erosion issues;
  • Improve habitat for wildlife, including game species such as turkeys and non-game species;
  • Control non-native invasive species;
  • Plant hybrid American Chestnut trees as a first step toward restoring them to Southern Appalachian forests and plant blight resistant butternut seedlings; and
  • Designate an additional 231 acres of old growth forest areas.
The Forest Service will implement the second phase of this project, which involves an additional 63 acres, this spring or summer. Seniard Mountain Road (FS 5001) and Bear Branch Trail (Trail 328) will be closed during this phase. For more information on Pisgah National Forest:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Best Asheville Cabin Rentals in the NC Mountains

Looking for the perfect romantic cabin or vacation rental near Asheville in the North Carolina mountains? Our Asheville Travel Guide now has more than 500 choices, including log cabins, large mountaintop homes, condos and more. Find the complete list at Here is a sampling:
  • Cabin Fever, Saluda: Take a trip back in time in a rustic cabin at this secluded eco resort and enjoy a few days away from it all. Pull up a rocker and enjoy your screened-in porch. Snuggle by the wood burning stoves on cool nights. Near waterfalls, rafting, tubing and zip lines. Nestled between Saluda and Hendersonville. 25 minutes from Asheville and 5 minutes from I-26.
  • Round Knob Lodge, Old Fort: Looking for a place for a family reunion, wedding or other gathering, this estate on 20 acres includes a trout stream, two stocked ponds, mountain views, many quiet places, and a beautifully renovated historic lodge with several huge fireplaces and 1000+ sq. feet of outdoor living space. 40 minutes to Asheville and 15 minutes to Black Mountain.
  • Driftwood Riverside Cottages: Located a quick 10 minutes from vibrant downtown Asheville, these two cottages are side-by-side on a quiet residential tree lined street and on the banks of the Swanannoa River. has two bedrooms, Each vacation rental has two bedrooms, fireplace, deck and river views. Very quiet and secluded for your privacy. Biltmore Estate is a 15 minute drive and the Folk Art Center and Blue Ridge Parkway are minutes away.
  • Cottages at Spring House Farm, Chimney Rock: These luxury cabins near Asheville, located on 92 acres of private and secluded mountain property, have a four-person hot tub and wood burning fireplace. One cottage is a restored 1835 Appalachian two BR cottage. "Spa Treats" include Swedish massage. Couples only. Outside Traveler: "Top Ten Hideaway." 35 miles SE of Asheville.
  • Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds: Luxury cabins, one, two, and three bedrooms on a 40-acre four seasons Woodland Garden in the city of Asheville only 3.5 miles from Biltmore Estate. Each fully equipped cabin has it’s own hot tub, designer touches, and woodburning fireplaces. 6 miles to downtown Asheville.
  • Carolina Mornings, Asheville: Whatever your needs, they've got you covered with the finest vacation homes and cabin rentals in and near Asheville - whether it's a mountain chalet, an upscale log cabin, an elegant downtown loft or a Biltmore Village condo. Be showered with free activities and concierge services from Carolina Mornings. Cabins sleep up to 10 guests.
  • Scenic Wolf Cabins, Mars Hill: Large luxurious cabins perched atop Wolf Ridge have 70 mile views and sleep up to 10 people each, perfect for multi-unit group rentals and/or family reunions. Find the perfect cabin for your vacation with last minute discounts and plenty of free activities in and around Asheville.
  • The Barn at Mountain Meadows, Asheville: Located on a secluded property five miles from downtown Asheville and less than one mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway, this richly appointed, newly renovated luxury cabin features views from 3,500 feet elevation, a fully equipped kitchen with modern appliances, granite countertops, radiant heated floors.
  • Bullhead Mountain Lodge, Black Mountain: Sleep up to 16 all under one roof! This luxurious 8 bedroom, 6 bath custom home boasts a private swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, and fenced back yard. Pet-friendly and perfect for all your large get-togethers and retreat needs. Easy paved access with view of Bullhead Mountain, and nearby all Black Mountain conference centers.
  • Parkway Lane Cabins, Asheville: Luxury to the more modest pet friendly log cabins on the banks of the French Broad River (third oldest river in the world) across from Biltmore Estate. A three hole golf course is available for perfecting one’s wedge shot. Nearby is hiking and biking at NC Arboretum and Blue Ridge Parkway. Two miles from shops/dining at Biltmore Park.
  • Greybeard Vacation Rentals: Choose from a big vareity of vacation rentals in Asheville, Black Mountain, and Montreat. Many of the cabins are pet-friendly and feature high-speed internet, hot tubs, breathtaking views, and more. Whether it’s a secluded getaway on top of a mountain or a romantic cottage in charming Black Mountain, they’ve got the perfect cabin for you.
  • Black Wolf Cabins: This secluded creekside 1880s log cabin is surrounded by wildlife in the country. Originally built by a young groom for his new bride, the current owner restored it for his wife and their honeymoon. Since it was first built more than 130 years ago, it is amazingly warm, inviting and romantic.15 miles from Asheville
  • Asheville Vacation Rent: Choose from several comfortable properties convenient to West Asheville, the River Arts district and downtown. From studios to two-bedroom single family homes, these vacation rentals are located in quiet residential neighborhoods, but close to many shops, restaurants and plenty of entertainment.
  • Bittersweet Cottage & Suite: Tucked away on Elk Mountain with views of Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains, you'll find a renovated Arts and Crafts style cottage or a new Asian-inspired suite. 6 miles N of downtown.
  • Four Seasons Cottages & Cabins: These charming cottages and log cabins are walking distance to the beach at Lake Lure and feature screened porches, Jacuzzis, and fireplaces. They sleep from 2 to 10 people. 25 miles from Asheville.
  • Cottages at Mountain Magnolia Inn: Located in Hot Springs, recently voted Best Small Mountain Town from Georgia to West Virginia, choose from the Garden House with three bedrooms, two baths and a full kitchen adjacent to the Inn; Fowler's Bend with two large suites in a fully renovated 100-year-old general store overlooking a bold creek and waterfall; Spring Creek Chalets or the eight-sided Octagon House. 32 miles north of Asheville.
  • Barkwells, Dog Lovers’ Vacation Retreat: Vacation with your four-legged best friend in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Run, swim, play on 8+ fully fenced acres with a pond. Come, sit, stay in fully-equipped comfy log cabins each with fireplace, hot tub, gated porch and fenced yard. Get away from it all or stay connected with Internet access and satellite TV. Located 5 minutes from I-26 and WNC Agricultural Center, and 20 minutes from downtown Asheville, Hendersonville, Brevard

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dolly Parton Coming to Harrah's Cherokee Casino on May 25

Dolly Parton performs at the Harrah's Cherokee Event Center for the first time! An internationally renowned superstar, the iconic and irrepressible Dolly Parton has contributed countless treasures to the world of music entertainment, penning classic songs such as "Jolene," "Coat of Many Colors," and her mega-hit "I Will Always Love You." With 1977's crossover hit "Here You Come Again," she successfully erased the line between country and pop music without noticeably altering either her music or her image. "I'm not leaving country," she said at the time, "I'm just taking it with me."
Making her film debut in the 1980 hit comedy 9 to 5, Dolly earned rave reviews for her performance and an Oscar nomination for writing the title tune, along with her second and third Grammy Awards. Roles in Steel Magnolias, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone, and Straight Talk followed, along with two network television series, made for television movies, network and HBO specials, and guest-starring roles in series television. In 2006, Dolly earned her second Oscar nomination for "Travelin' Thru," which she wrote for the film Transamerica.
The concert begins at 7:30 PM. Tickets go on sale January 14, 2014 at Ticketmaster or by calling 1-800-745-3000.  Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort's spectacular 3,000 plus seat Event Center is the leading events, entertainment and concert venue in the Southeast. The massive Event Center stage is 60-foot by 40-foot and framed by large HD resolution 32-foot screens. The facility boasts a sophisticated, state-of-the-art speaker system as well as the highest quality theatrical lighting available and was selected to Billboard Magazine's Top 25 Hottest clubs in North America for two consecutive years. 

For more information about Cherokee, go to

Friday, January 17, 2014

Roads Closed in Pisgah National Forest Due to Weather

The U.S. Forest Service has closed the following roads in the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest (in the Looking Glass Rock area) near Asheville NC for public safety and resource protection:

• FSR 475B (Headwaters Road) from the intersection of FSR 475 (Davidson River Road, near the Pisgah Fish Hatchery), to Gumstand Gap (Sunwall Trailhead)

• FSR 476 (Wolf Ford Road)

• FSR 477 (Avery Creek) from the Pisgah Stables north to Route 276

• FSR 479 (Bent Creek) from just after Ledford Branch Trailhead to the Blue Ridge Parkway

• FSR 5000 (Wash Creek) from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the junction of FSR 142 (Hendersonville Reservoir Rd.)

Motorized access to trailheads in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, Wash Creek Horse Camp and Trace Ridge Trailhead will remain open.

The following additional roads (or portions of roads) will be closed if changing weather conditions cause further deterioration:

• FSR 140 (Courthouse Creek)

• FSR 1206 (Yellow Gap)

Seasonal freeze and thaw has caused soft road conditions that make driving difficult. Additional traffic can increase damage to roads and cause sediment runoff into adjacent streams. These conditions also create a public safety concern because of the likelihood of having difficulties traveling on the road, including the possibility of becoming stranded. The duration of these closures will be determined by weather conditions.

For more about Pisgah National Forest, go to

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Great Winter Specials at Biltmore House: America's Downton Abbey

Biltmore House with a rare winter snow.
We love to explore Biltmore Estate in Asheville during January through March. Gone are the holiday crowds. It's certainly the most tranquil time of the year, plus you get the best deals on tickets to tour Biltmore House.
Discount Tickets
Take advantage of the lowest admission prices of the year January 13 through March 19, 2014. Biltmore Estate admission begins at $39 when tickets are purchased online seven or more days in advance. Regular tickets are $49, and kids aged nine and younger are free. For more info, go to

Free Audio Tours
Available at no additional charge January 13 through March 19, two new audio tours give an updated interpretation of Biltmore’s grand rooms, architecture, collection of art and antiques, as well as true stories about the Vanderbilt family, their guests and servants. For the first time, Biltmore has introduced a children’s audio tour in addition to the standard audio tour, created to give kids an imaginative connection to life in the Vanderbilt household. Biltmore’s curators and hosts narrate the standard audio tour, while the children’s tour is told from the point of view of Cedric, the Vanderbilt’s beloved Saint Bernard. Both tours follow the same route through Biltmore House for families to enjoy together.
Free Garden Orchid Talks
Biltmore's Conservatory in the beautiful walled garden is filled with thousands of tropical plants, including an expansive orchid display at its showiest peak in March. Orchids and Biltmore have a long history; in fact, some 800 orchids were on Vanderbilt’s list to be purchased for the Conservatory in 1894. A new educational tour is offered in the Conservatory Mondays through Fridays, January 20 through March 19 at 11 AM. Expert gardeners discuss the many types of orchids in bloom and topics such as Biltmore’s heritage orchids, the history of orchid cultivation, and details about the Conservatory. Growing tips and general care information will also be offered.
Downton Abbey of the South
As the fourth season of “Downton Abbey” airs on PBS, fans of the show have taken note of similarities between Biltmore and the period drama hit. Thematic story lines and the era of the show overlap with the time when George and Edith Vanderbilt lived in the 250-room Biltmore House and raised their daughter Cornelia. Parallels between Biltmore and Downton Abbey can be brought to life in two specialty tours at Biltmore. During the Butler’s Tour, discover how Biltmore House functioned, past and present, and learn about the work of the Vanderbilt’s domestic servants. As for the opulence upstairs, it’s easy to imagine what it would have been like to stay at Biltmore (1895 to the early 1930s) with the Vanderbilts as your hosts during the Vanderbilt Family & Friends Tour. Each tour is $17 per person in addition to estate admission.
Free Winery Tour & Wine Tasting
Stop at the Biltmore Winery for a free guided tour of the production facility and complimentary tastings. Antler Hill Village is just steps away from the Winery and features “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad,” an exhibition highlighting archival letters, personal items and exotic treasures collected around the world.
Special rates at the Inn on Biltmore Estate
Their four-star hotel, Inn on Biltmore Estate, has special winter pricing with savings up to half off. Rooms start at $149 per night. Finishing an afternoon with English tea at the Inn on Biltmore Estate, complete with traditional English finger sandwiches, scones, fruit breads, and tea pastries, will round out a day in the spirit of “Downton Abbey.”

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 10 Budget-Saving Asheville Things to Do with Your Valentine

If you are dreaming of a romantic getaway to Asheville and the North Carolina mountains without breaking the bank, here are ten ideas to save money right now:

1. Spend a day at the Biltmore Estate without the big crowds and get the lowest admission rates of the year through March. Plus save up to 50% at their hotel, Inn on Biltmore.

2. Save a bundle with winter packages and specials at hotels, cabins and B&Bs. Save the most by staying on Sunday-Thursday nights. For Valentine getaways, go the weekend before or after the 14th.  

3. Browse hundreds of interesting boutiques and stops in downtown Asheville and Biltmore Village. It doesn’t cost to look! And many are still having year-end sales.

4. Ski on Monday-Friday for the best deals. Beech Mountain has a $99/person "Ski & Stay" package for two nights lodging in a condo or hotel plus a lift ticket.

5. Soak in the 100-degree mineral waters in the natural Hot Springs for just $15/person.

6. Take a pub crawl in “Beer City USA” with an amazing selection of 50+ local brews. Hang out in one of the many coffee shops and wine bars in downtown Asheville.

7. Enjoy live music at many bars and restaurants. Often, there is no cover charge, so enjoy for a price of a drink or dinner.

8. See a huge variety of art without paying a museum admission price at 30 downtown galleries or the artist studios in the River Arts District. The Folk Art Center has free demonstrations and exhibits.

9. Find some of many waterfalls. Most are free to visit, including favorites Linville Falls and DuPont State Forest.

10. Hike and see the best vistas of the year since there are no leaves to block the views. Add cool temperatures and few hikers, and this may become your favorite time to hike. There are hundreds of free hiking trails in Pisgah and Nantahala National Forest in lower elevations that receive little snow.
You'll get the best deals of the year in January-March, since it’s the slowest time of the year for tourism. That also makes it the perfect time for a peaceful, stress-free escape. 
For more ideas for winter and valentine outings, go to