I wrote an entire post on the Parkway last week, so it only makes sense that it would be my favorite outdoor activity. Sure, if you just drive the Parkway then you’re technically indoors. However, this is the time to get out of the car, put on your most comfortable walking shoes, and get lost (not literally, get a map at the visitor’s center) on the trails. Take in the wild flowers, the bustling animals, and the shade of thousands of trees. It’s the perfect escape for an afternoon of sunshine.
Best Day Trip: Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock is a little less than an hour away and is another excellent spot to hike for an afternoon. The shorter trails are wonderful, especially the one that leads to Hickory Nut Falls, but it’s the jaunt to the top that’s a killer. You can take an elevator to the top when it’s running, but I’d suggest earning the view with hundreds of stairs. Hundreds. Get ready to feel your thighs burn and take frequent breaks at the overlooks or platforms if you’re not in great shape – we passed several people and families on our way up.
Asheville is known for its music scene and its microbreweries. Combine them for a simultaneously relaxing and energetic weekend. The Appalachian sound mixes perfectly with a laidback afternoon of beer and finger-foods within a community that invites you to enjoy it alongside them.
Best Museum: Thomas Wolfe Memorial
The Wolfe Memorial exists as an homage to the writer’s childhood in Asheville and the experiences and lifestyle that greatly influenced his work. The “Old Kentucky Home,” as his mother named her boarding house, provided the setting for Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel as Wolfe’s Dixieland. Asheville was once a place of respite for the sick as the rich mountain air was thought to cure, or at least aid, many illnesses, most especially tuberculosis. The boardinghouse, then, was often full of tourists in many of the shared rooms – all still set up as they would have been then – and sick people in the sunrooms and the rooms away from the travelers. Young Thomas’s life then was both turbulent and colorful, full of outsiders and locals. In other words, even if his childhood was everything but sunshine and rainbows, it was rich in inspiration and the perfect setting for a budding writer.
I’m definitely partial to the Memorial because I’m a writer, but the site would be interesting even if I weren’t.
– M. Ray Hall