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Cool Mountain Adventures

Cool Mountain Adventures
August 2013
Head for the hills in Western North Carolina to finish off your summer with some fun new outings - plus a few old favorites - for every interest

Glide Down a Natural Water Slide

If you don’t mind the crowds, Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard is great for families. Even the littlest ones can slide down the 60-foot slab of slick granite into a six-foot-deep pool at the bottom. Lifeguards are on duty through Labor Day, and on-site bathrooms are a plus. From the intersection of N.C. 280 and U.S. 276 near Brevard, take U.S. 276 for 7.5 miles and turn left into the parking area. $1 for parking.

Farther west on the Chattooga River, Cashiers Sliding Rock is a smooth 10-foot incline with a plunge pool at the bottom. Potholes in the rock make perfect soaking tubs, provided you can withstand the chilly dip. From the intersection of N.C. 107 and U.S. 64, follow N.C. 107 south for 1.9 miles and turn right on Whiteside Cove Road. Travel 2.8 miles to park at the bridge, and follow the short path down to the river.

Dubbed the “Land of Waterfalls,” Transylvania County maintains a higher concentration of cascades than anywhere in the country. Head to Turtleback Falls along the Horsepasture River for a slippery slide that ends with a 20-foot drop into a pool below. Use caution, as the river can be turbulent at times. From Brevard, travel west along U.S. 64 and turn left onto N.C. 281 South to reach the entrance to Gorges State Park and follow signs for Grassy Ridge Trail. Follow the Rainbow Falls Trail to reach the falls.

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Head to the Source

Around here, it’s common to find locally raised meats on restaurant menus or grocery shelves lined with produce, honey, and cheeses from nearby farms. That’s one way to sample local flavors; or go straight to the source during one of two self-guided driving farm tours. Explore the multitude of offerings throughout Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, and Watauga counties on August 3 and 4 during the High Country Farm Tour. Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s (ASAP Farm Tour) event on September 21 and 22 encompasses several dozen farms in five counties around Asheville. From interacting with barnyard animals to watching a cheese-making demo to observing bees at an apiary, both offer educational experiences for all ages.

Tip: Plan your route ahead of time and bring a cooler to transport all your yummy purchases. High Country Farm Tour; $10 per farm per car, for all farms: $30, $25 advance; & ASAP Farm Tour, $25 per car,


Celebrate Sculpture

With a petite population of 18,000, the small town of Lenoir has something big to brag about: It holds the largest collection of public outdoor sculpture of any community its size in the country. Seventy-nine works are scattered throughout town, and on September 7, the 28th annual Sculpture Celebration and competition puts on display an additional 200-plus pieces created by artists from across the Southeast. Broyhill Walking Park, 945 Lakewood Cir.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; free; (828) 754-2486;

Get To Know The Natives

There’s Olive the otter, Buzz the turkey vulture, Shalimar the gray wolf—the list of names sounds like storybook characters. Indeed, the nearly 150 residents of the WNC Nature Center, most of them orphaned or endangered, will leave your kids with tales to tell. From the rare hellbender salamander to raccoons and cougars, all the creatures are native to Southern Appalachia. Kids can check out an Ed-venture Pack to partake in educational activities. 75 Gashes Creek Rd., Asheville; $8, $7 senior, $4 ages three-15, free for two & younger; (828) 259-8080;

Eat Your Heart Out

Asheville’s booming food scene offers an ever-expanding list of must-eat spots. Here’s what’s new:

Biscuit Head: Biscuits and gravy, chicken and biscuits, Benedict biscuits. The city’s newest breakfast joint serves up the Appalachian standard in a slew of sweet and savory renditions, as well as a condiment bar of jams and butters. 733 Haywood Rd., (828) 333-5145,

Seven Sows Bourbon & Larder: The jocular food expression “makes your tongue slap your brains out” is on point when it comes to the contemporary versions of Southern classics served at this new hot spot. Try the smoked pork belly with pimiento cheese grits, Pepsi-Cola glaze, pickled red onions, and salted peanuts washed down with one of their fine bourbons for an elevated taste of the South. 77 Biltmore Ave., (828) 255-2592,

Wicked Weed Brewing: With nearly 20 house-brewed American and Belgian-style beers on tap at any one time, an extensive tasting here could derail even the most steadfast drinkers. Fear not, there’s a menu full of great food and plenty of mingling areas to enjoy the chill vibe. 91 Biltmore Ave., (828) 575-9599,

Explore Off-Beat Museums

Odd and quirky can be fun. Here are some rare displays worth a peek:

Fifth Avenue Mask Museum, Hendersonville:
Come face to face with a collection of more than 500 masks, dolls, and artifacts from Africa, Asia, and the Americas collected by retired art teacher Ellen Hobbs. Tours are free by appointment. 317 Fifth Ave., (828) 693-7108

Johns River House of Mugs, Collettsville:
Get a handle on some 20,000 coffee mugs at Avery Sisk’s remote cabin, which has attracted visitors from across the globe. Inspired by the purchase of 750 mugs at a flea market nearly 12 years ago, the fence, garage, and house are covered with cups. (828) 428-0157

Radio Exhibit, Wilkesboro:
Tune in to this extensive collection of more than 200 early 20th-century radios. This compilation, housed in the Wilkes Heritage Museum, is a rotating exhibit that features about 20 working radios at a time. 100 East Main St., (336) 667-3171,

Smoky Mountain Trains, Bryson City:
Track down a collection of more than 7,000 Lionel engines, stock cars, and accessories—some dating back to 1918—and an interactive model train track half the size of a basketball court. 100 Greenlee St., (800) 872-4681 ext. 7050,

Wheels Through Time, Maggie Valley:
Buckle up for a journey to see rare and vintage American-made motorcycles. The museum houses more than 300 bikes and thousands of images and videos, plus a one-seater plane, a motorcycle-powered watercraft, and a one-of-a-kind giant Harley Davidson. 62 Vintage Ln., (828) 926-6266,

Take a Cooking Class

Ma Belle France, Asheville: Parisian-born Ghislaine Mahler will enlighten you in the delicate art of French cooking during half-day hands-on courses that culminate with a meal. Shorter themed classes focusing on sauces, pastries, and more, plus kids camps are also offered. 1457 Merrimon Ave., $80 for half day,

Log Cabin Cooking, Asheville: Don a vintage apron and learn the ways of cast-iron cooking or how to master buttery flaky crust during a pie-making lesson. Cookbook author Barbara Swell offers the classes in the retro kitchen of her 1930s log cabin. Classes start at $40,

John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown: This renowned craft school in idyllic little Brasstown offers hundreds of classes in everything from basketry to jewelry to culinary arts. Try your hand at canning and preserving during the Chutney, Relish, and Pots of Jam course offered September 1-7. 1 Folk School Rd., $594, (800) 365-5724,

Catch a Symphonic Performance

Bluegrass and old-time music may be synonymous with Southern Appalachia, but in certain circles, the compositions of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and other classical greats receive just as much play time

The Hendersonville Symphony ( season starts September 7 with a Celtic Celebration by fiddler Jamie Laval; Asheville Symphony ( kicks off September 21 with “Fantasy and Firebird, the music of Wagner, Bruch, and Stravinsky;” and the Western Piedmont Symphony ( in Hickory begins October 18, featuring Fiddlin’ & Pickin’ with The Kruger Brothers.

The Brevard Music Center wraps up its two-month-long summer music festival on August 4 with an orchestral showcase featuring renowned cellist Johannes Moser and Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart. 349 Andante Ln., Brevard; $15-$35;

There’s still time to catch performances by internationally acclaimed pianists, violinists, and more at the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival, which puts soloists and ensembles on intimate stages in Highlands and Cashiers. The six-week series wraps up August 11 with a gala concert and dinner featuring Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. (828) 526-9060,

Get Your Moog On

You may have no clue what a “Moogerfooger” is, but perhaps you’ve heard of Bob Moog, the father of electronic music who invented the synthesizer. His instruments have been played by countless greats, including Herbie Hancock. Moog (rhymes with vogue) lived in Asheville from 1978 until his passing in 2005, but his legacy carries on in the sound-bending products that bear his name. See instruments in production at the factory, then try your hand at them in the shop. Free tours weekdays by appointment.160 Broadway St., (828) 239-0123,

Pick Apples & More
Visiting an heirloom apple orchard in season is a worthy endeavor. And this orchard with incredible views and cool all-ages activities should not be missed. Located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 328, the Orchard at Altapass is a hive of activity with storytelling hayrides, guided nature walks, and live mountain music and dancing. Owners Bill and Judy Carson are on a mission to preserve local culture and heritage, which is why every offering, including the monarch butterflies that are raised and released in the orchard, serves to educate. Weekends in August and September are the best time to come, as the apples will be ripe for the picking. 1025 Orchard Rd., Spruce Pine; (888) 765-9531;

Tour a Chocolate Factory

When Dan and Jael Rattigan combined a chocolate boutique with a lounge vibe, where you can order wine, rich porters and stouts, or coffee and kick back on a sofa, they really nailed it. Hardly a day goes by when there isn’t a line out the door of The French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville. Last year, the couple took it a step farther when they began direct-sourcing their beans and opened a chocolate factory to carry out production. You can tour the facility on Saturdays at 2 p.m. and learn all about the bean-to-bar process, plus indulge in a chocolate tasting.
21 Buxton Ave., Asheville; $10 tour; (828) 505-4996;

Jam On It!

Marianna Black Library, Bryson City: The first and third Thursday each month, from 6-7:30 p.m., Larry Barnett hosts community jams at the library. Held on the front lawn in warmer months, a dozen or so pickers and guests gather ’round for the free show. 33 Fryemont St., (828) 488-3030,
Feed & Seed, Fletcher: Cushioned pews, couches, and rocking chairs seat 160, with folks with RC Colas and Moon Pies in hand filling the space most weekend nights for free performances. 3715 Hendersonville Rd., (828) 216 3492,
Union Mills Learning Center, Union Mills: This school-turned-community center hosts the Music at the Mills concert series on  Fridays from 5-8:30 p.m., when hundreds of listeners take a seat in the auditorium for bluegrass, newgrass, folk, and gospel performances. Donations accepted.  6495 Hudlow Rd., (828) 748-7956,
Old Hampton Store, Linville: Barbecue and bluegrass go hand-in-hand every weekend at the Old Hampton Store’s porch stage. 77 Ruffin St., (828) 733-5213,
Hometown Opry, North Wilkesboro: Every second Friday of the month at 7 a.m., there’s a crowd at Main Street Music & Loan, where WKBC’s Hometown Opry radio show broadcasts live performances. Max Country (comprised of regional musicians) plays August 9. 302 Main St., (336) 667-2274,
Phipps General Store, Lansing: A hootenanny ensues on Friday nights, starting around 7 p.m. James “Dog” Wood and his wife, Rita, run the store and informal jam session. A donation is all that’s asked for a listen. 2419 Silas Creek Rd., (336) 384-2382, Facebook: search “Phipps General Store”

Go Mountain Biking

Given the challenging terrain and impressive scenery, it’s no wonder Western North Carolina is the East Coast Mecca for mountain biking. If you think you’ve got what it takes to tackle quick switchbacks and plenty of ups, downs, jumps, and berms, take a spin on the region’s latest thrill ride—Rocky Knob Park. Located near Boone, the park offers three skill areas where you can sharpen your techniques, plus eight miles of trails covering nearly 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Rent bikes and gear up at Boone Bike and Touring or Magic Cycles in town.

Pedal pushers may also enjoy Bent Creek Experimental Forest in Asheville; the Davidson River area of Pisgah National Forest near Brevard; and the trails of Tsali Recreation Area, which skirt Fontana Lake at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. Find these and other great rides at

Hit the Blue Ridge Parkway

A casual cruise along this scenic byway is a must for any itinerary to the mountains. But if you don’t have time to tackle all 469 miles, here’s a day-long excursion that takes in plenty of overlooks, waterfalls, and several short hikes. Don’t forget to pack a picnic

From Asheville, head south for 45 minutes to the Looking Glass Rock Overlook at milepost 417. Snap shots of the ancient pluton monolith (solidified magma that’s been exposed after millennia of erosion), then cross the road to access the trail to Skinny Dip Falls. It’s an easy 10-minute hike to a series of small, cool cascades and swimming holes. Despite the name, you’ll want to bring a swimsuit, as this spot is no longer a locals’ secret. Another mile south is Graveyard Fields (418.8), which features a distinctive shrub landscape, hiking trails, and two stunning waterfalls. It’s less than a half-mile along a well-marked path to reach the Lower Falls. Soak in your surroundings, and then head 1.6 miles upstream to the less trafficked Upper Falls where you’ll find more solitude. There are plenty of quiet picnic spots along the Yellowprong River and thousands of blueberry and blackberry bushes that are ripe for the picking in August. Round out your day with a heart-pounding half-mile trek up to Devil’s Courthouse, which presides over a breathtaking 360-degree panorama. From the 5,720-foot summit at milepost 422, you can see South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Download the Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner mobile app for your smart device, or visit

Dance Dirty Near Lake Lure

You can count on there being shimmying, shagging, and swaying during the third annual Dirty Dancing Festival (August 16 & 17) at Lake Lure. The town was the location for the filming of the 1987 hit starring heartthrobs Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. The weekend kicks off Friday night with a movie screening by the lake, followed by a day chock-full of performances, dance-offs, lessons, and entertainment. A watermelon-carrying contest and lift competition in the lake keep it fun for all. Lake Lure; Friday free, Saturday $25, $20 advance; child: $12, $10 advance;

Shop the Craft Fairs

Mt. Mitchell Crafts Fair
Located just north of the highest peak in the East, Burnsville is a nostalgic little town full of galleries and quaint boutiques that are worth a gander any time of year. But during the Mt. Mitchell Crafts Fair (August 2 & 3), the streets fill with more than 200 contemporary and traditional crafters selling their wares. Free admission, (828) 682-7413,

Craft Fair  of the Southern Highlands
To become a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild is no small feat. The roughly 900 artisans, hailing from nine states across Southern Appalachia, underwent a rigorous juried process to join the ranks. They are all elite masters of their crafts, and the best opportunity to meet 200 of the artists and shop their booths is during the biannual Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands in Asheville (October 17-20). US Cellular Center, 87 Haywood St.; $8, free for child under 12; (828) 298-7928;

Village Art & Craft Fair
New Morning Gallery and Bellagio in Biltmore Village feature top-notch pieces by national crafters and couture designers. Every year, the businesses host the annual open-air Village Art & Craft Fair (August 3 & 4), which brings an additional 120 artists from 18 states to present works, from glass to jewelry to fiber and more. All Souls Cathedral, Biltmore Village, Asheville; (828) 274-2681;

Get in the Spirit

Mixing a great cocktail is truly a craft—one Asheville bartenders are mastering with delicious results. In recent years, a number of craft cocktail bars have cropped up. They’re the sort of places where the barkeeps don bow ties and vests; hand-carve the perfect cube of ice; and use high-quality liquors and house-made syrups, bitters, and elixirs to mix original recipes and classics done right. Try the Darjeeling Station at MG Road, made with Rémy Martin, Kraken rum, spiced Darjeeling tea, and house orange bitters. It’s one of the many refreshing concoctions this bar creates utilizing a hoard of Indian spices. And for those who prefer their liquor neat, Asheville has a tequila bar (Limones), a rum bar (Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro), and a bourbon bar (Seven Sows Bourbon & Larder) serving elite libations and sample flights.

Craft Cocktail Hit List:
Cucina24, 24 Wall St., (828) 254-6170,
The Imperial Life, 48 College St. (above Table restaurant), (828) 254-8980,
The Junction, 348 Depot St., (828) 225-3497,
Limones, 13 Eagle St., (828) 252-2327,
MG Road, 19 Wall St., (828) 254-4363,
Seven Sows Bourbon & Larder, 77 Biltmore Ave., (828) 255-2592,
Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro, 125 S. Lexington Ave., (828) 505-8560,
Zambra, 85 Walnut St., (828) 232-1060,

Take an Art Class

Creative expression is par for the course in this gallery- and art studio-filled region. And Asheville has plenty of opportunities to get in on the artsy fun:

Asheville Art Retreats (AAR): Whether for a family or a girls’ getaway, AAR offers customized art intensives in collage, chalk, and encaustic, as well as dance. (828) 545-4827,

Asheville Bookworks: Adorable journals and artistic books are fun gifts to give and receive. Learn how to make your own at this West Asheville staple. The studio offers regular workshops on paper-making, printing, binding, and more. 428 ½ Haywood Rd., $347, (828) 255-8444,

John C. Campbell Folk School: The setting is immensely beautiful and the class offerings endless. John C. Campbell Folk School in the far western corner of the state holds more than 300 courses each year in countless genres of art and craft, from blacksmithing and painting to calligraphy and dance. 1 Folk School Rd., Brasstown; (800) 365-5724;

Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts: If you’re serious about ceramics and want to get a solid introduction or expand your knowledge, Odyssey Center offers week-long classes and shorter workshops to help you hone your technique. 238 Clingman Ave., (828) 285-0210,

Ride the Rails

For a throwback to WNC’s early whistle-stop days, take a ride on Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Trains depart daily from the Bryson City Depot. Take the Nantahala Gorge Excursion past Fontana Lake with a layover at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The 32-mile Tuckasegee River ride stops in Dillsboro, which is full of galleries and shops. Your youngest riders will particularly enjoy the themed adventures with activities to keep little hands busy. 226 Everett St., (800) 872-4681,

Explore Grandfather Mountain

Deciphering the old man’s profile on the ride up to Grandfather Mountain isn’t the only thing to hold the family’s attention. Hiking trails; native wildlife habitats that are home to cougars, black bears, river otters, and more; and a nature museum with more than two-dozen natural history exhibits take the cake. But perhaps the jewel of any trip to Grandfather Mountain is a walk across Mile High Swinging Bridge, a 228-foot expanse suspended 5,280 feet above sea level. Special programming is offered regularly, including a guided bridge hike on August 10, when a ranger will regale you with fun facts and historical tales about the famed landmark. 2050 Blowing Rock Hwy., Linville; $18, $15 senior, $8 child, free for ages three & younger; (800) 468-7325;

Learn What’s Sup

Stand-up paddleboarding isn’t just for beach dwellers; folks know what’s SUP in these parts. If you’re just starting out, Mind Body Paddle in Asheville offers two-hour lessons on the gently flowing French Broad River. Once you’ve got your balance, or even if you don’t, they also teach SUP yoga for all skill levels: $47 lesson, $27 SUP yoga, (828) 333-4482, If less Zen and more thrills are what you seek, head into some white water with the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Beginners master stability and maneuvering on Lake Fontana before attempting SUP surfing in the moving current: $79 half day, $99 full day; (888) 905-7238;

Attend a Music Festival

Opportunities to catch stellar music around the region are endless, but the Mountain Song Festival (September 13 & 14) puts eight first-rate acts on one stage—banjo virtuosos Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Americana siren Shannon Whitworth, and old-time string trio the Carolina Chocolate Drops are among them. The Steep Canyon Rangers headline Saturday night. Given the show is in actor and banjo player Steve Martin’s adopted hometown, there’s a good chance the honorary band member will make an appearance. Brevard Music Center, 349 Andante Ln.; $80, $40 Friday, $47.50 Saturday;

Look Out!

Head-spinning views abound in Western North Carolina, and the higher you climb, the bigger the reward. Mount Mitchell and Black Balsam Knob off the Blue Ridge Parkway, as well as Max Patch near Hot Springs, are three must-see spots offering 360-degree views. But if you want to forego the crowds, you’ll find equally impressive rewards at these lesser-known lookouts:

Roan Highlands, Mitchell County: Nearly 20 miles of bald ridgelines comprise the Roan Highlands along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. From Bakersville, head north on N.C. 226 to the border, where trails are accessible from Carver’s Gap, Tennessee.
Shuckstack Fire Tower, Swain County: Take the 6.8-mile round-trip trek from the north end of Fontana Dam and climb the fire tower for spectacular views over the lake, Unicoi Mountains to the west, and Nantahala Forest to the south.
Mount Craig, Yancey County: Dodge the crowds at Mount Mitchell and hike two miles north along Deep Gap Trail to Mount Craig, the second highest peak in the state. Access the trailhead from the picnic area at Mount Mitchell.
Elk Knob, Watauga County: The namesake peak in Elk Knob State Park presents a 5,520-foot summit with views of Grandfather, Beech, and Sugar mountains to the south and the Amphibolite Mountains to the north. The park entrance is located at 5564 Meat Camp Road in Todd.
Shortoff Mountain, Burke County: The view from the summit is arguably the best vantage point over Linville Gorge. Though tricky to reach due to relatively unmaintained trails, the peak boasts vistas up and down the pass as well as views of Lake James. The trailhead is accessible from Wolf Pit Road off N.C. 126 near Marion.

Get Off the Eaten Path

Alan Muskat (aka “The Mushroom Man”) is Asheville’s resident wild foods forager. Purchase his finds, such as fresh morels or chanterelles, on Saturday mornings at Asheville City Market (161 S. Charlotte St.). Or, head out with him on group foraging expeditions, as he imparts knowledge of wild plants and medicines along the way. For a full-circle experience, a forage-to-table lunch takes place August 17 at Earthaven Ecovillage in Black Mountain. You’ll forage for fungi and other edibles and then work in teams to create a meal inspired by your bounty. Foraging expeditions $60, Forage-to-Table $70; (828) 209-8599;

Go Fish

Fly-fishing is serious business around here, and there’s no shortage of experienced anglers who can get you fitted and out on the water. Jackson County has some of the best trout waters in the Smokies and the nation’s only designated Fly-Fishing Trail, which features 15 prime spots for hooking brook, brown, and rainbow trout. Find details and guide services or download a map at

Looking for a family adventure? You and the kids are sure to hook one at Grandfather Trout Farm in Banner Elk, where the fish are plentiful and the rods, bait, and buckets are provided. It couldn’t get any easier unless the staff cleaned your catch. Wait, they do that, too. 10767 N.C. 105 S., Banner Elk; fishing is $7 per pound; (828) 963-5098;

Hike the Smokies

With more than 800 miles of trails stretching along the North Carolina-Tennessee border, picking a path in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is no easy task. Start by determining what you’d like to see—waterfalls, old-growth forests, long-range views? Then consider how ambitious, and fit, you are.

Easy: The Cades Cove area is one of the best places to spot whitetail deer, black bears, and other creatures. As a bonus, the valley also bears historic remnants of its agricultural past, offering a glimpse of farming life in early Appalachia. The 2.8-mile hike to John Oliver Cabin, built in 1820, via Rich Mountain Loop Trail is appropriate for even the littlest hikers.

Moderate: Don’t let the name fool you; the seven-mile Boogerman Loop is nothing to fret about. Named for Robert “Boogerman” Palmer, an early homesteader who safeguarded the trees from loggers in the early 1900s, the trail passes some of the tallest old-growth hardwoods in the park, not to mention remnants of bygone residences.

Strenuous: No trip to the Smokies would be complete without a visit to Clingmans Dome, the loftiest peak in the park at 6,643 feet. Follow Clingmans Dome Road to the parking area and hike the steep .5-mile path to the observation point. But if you want a true back-country camping experience, take the 9.6-mile out-and-back Forney Ridge Trail from the southwestern end of the parking lot to Silers Bald. The path traces the state line along a ridge and affords jaw-dropping panoramic views. 

For detailed information and additional resources, check out National Park Service:, Great Smoky Mountains National Park:, and Top Trails: Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Must-do Hikes for Everyone, by Johnny Molloy, Wilderness Press (March 27, 2012).

Attend a Shindig

It doesn’t truly feel like summer in Asheville until Shindig on the Green fills Pack Square Park with the refrains of traditional mountain music. On most Saturday evenings throughout the season, bluegrass and old-time string bands welcome newcomers to circle around for jam sessions while cloggers and square dancers show off impressive footwork. The performers share their talents at Shindig’s sister event, the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival (August 1-3) at Diana Wortham Theatre. Pack Square Park; Saturdays, 7-10 p.m.; free;

Savor the Flavors

This area is blessed with a legion of farms; innovative restaurants; countless artisan food producers from cheese makers to chocolatiers; and let’s not forget the wineries, distilleries, and nearly three-dozen breweries. Even locals find it hard to sample it all, but you can come pretty close during the fifth annual Asheville Wine & Food Festival (August 22-24). From a rum tasting to a hands-on supper experience, pairing dinners take place at various restaurants in August leading up to the festival, then three signature events aim to celebrate why it’s a great time to be eating and drinking in Asheville. ELIXIR, a craft cocktail party and mixology competition, kicks off the weekend of feasting on Thursday night, followed by SWEET, an evening of desserts, champagne, wine, and spirits, on Friday. The Grand Tasting on Saturday is a veritable smorgasbord of bites and sips, plus cooking demonstrations and chances to meet cookbook authors, purchase gourmet treats, and catch the Iron Chef-style WNC Chefs Challenge finale. $45-$75, (828) 777-8916,

Go Exploring After Dark

Take a Black Light Mine Tour, Little Switzerland: Unlike milky opals that refract a sparkling rainbow of colors, clear hyalite opals are unimpressive when viewed in daylight. But under ultraviolet light, they glow neon green. Emerald Village’s Saturday night tours take visitors to subterranean depths to view this and other fluorescent minerals, including feldspar and manganapatite, which emit red and orange hues. The 45-minute tour covers the mine’s history as well as this rather psychedelic phenomenon. Tours: August 3 & 31, September 21, & October 12. $15, $10 student; (828) 765-6463;

Look to the Stars, Asheville: Sure, you’ve seen the night sky through a telescope, but you’ve probably never gazed at the heavens wearing night-vision goggles. Star Watch Tours offers that chance, allowing participants to view “thousands of stars and objects in space that you would never be able to see with the naked eye,” says co-owner Dawn Bankson. The two- to three-hour tours take visitors to low-light areas around Asheville for truly stellar experiences. $60, (828) 989-0015,

Catch a Show at the State Theater

Dubbed the official State Theater of North Carolina in 1961, Flat Rock Playhouse presents Broadway-caliber performances, musicals, and world premieres in a graceful, barn-like facility. More than 600 students participate annually in the YouTheatre performing arts program, and the likes of Burt Reynolds and Betty White have made appearances as guest artists and directors. Catch Les Misérables through August 18 ($40). 2661 Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock; (866) 732-8008;

Check Out Great Music in Asheville

Here’s your hit list of where to find it, plus a few must-see shows

5 Walnut Wine Bar: On any given night of the week, this under-the-radar spot offers a stellar wine selection, small-bite plates, and refreshingly eclectic live music, from flamenco to ragtime jazz to dirty blues. 5 Walnut St., (828) 253-2593,

The Grey Eagle: Located in the River Arts District, this ever-popular spot is where you’re most likely to catch the next big thing before it gets big. Tyler Ramsey, Asheville local and guitarist for Band of Horses, performs September 14. 185 Clingman Ave., (828) 232-5800,

Isis Restaurant & Music Hall: The new kid in town is already carving out a niche; Isis is Asheville’s only venue where you can go for dinner, cocktails, and a concert. Tip: order a drink in the upstairs lounge and settle into a round booth on the balcony; you’ll have a great view of the stage. Check out local Afro-pop group Zansa’s CD release party on September 7. 743 Haywood Rd., (828) 575-2737,

Jack of the Wood: An intimate Celtic pub, this Asheville mainstay has seen some noteworthy performers step across its stage, including members of The Avett Brothers, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Old Crow Medicine Show. Bands perform every weekend, but come on a Wednesday or Thursday night at 7 p.m. to catch the old-time and bluegrass jam sessions. That’s when unknown greats and the occasional celebrity musician show up for the low-key pickin’ parties. 95 Patton Ave., (828) 252-5445,

The Orange Peel: If this 1,000-capacity venue is good enough for the likes of Bob Dylan or The Beastie Boys, it’s good enough for about anyone. The Peel showcases big-name acts in a rather intimate space. Upcoming: Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers on August 9 and Mickey Hart Band on September 24. 101 Biltmore Ave., (828) 398-1837,

Pisgah Brewing Co.: In addition to serving delicious brews, this Black Mountain venue showcases all-star acts on its indoor and outdoor stages. Catch Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra on August 16 and 17. 150 Eastside Dr., Black Mountain; (828) 669-0190;

Witness the Fall Migration

Every autumn, thousands of migratory birds travel through Western North Carolina on their journey south, and Chimney Rock Park offers the prime vantage point and premiere event for catching all the feathered action. The annual Flock to the Rock (September 21 & 22) is full of programming to help folks identify birds and learn about their migratory habits. Walks led by ornithologists, hawk watches to view species such as the elusive Peregrine Falcon, and workshops on bird photography and backyard feeding help participants gain greater knowledge and appreciation. For families, more moderate birding hikes led by park naturalists offer interactive exhibits, and the kids can dissect an owl pellet to learn more about the creature’s diet. Chimney Rock State Park, U.S. 64/74A, Chimney Rock; free with $20 park admission, $5 for pass-holder; (800) 277-9611;

Saddle Up

Among the multitude of things to do in WNC, there seems to be a never-ending list of activities for the toddler to preteen set, but finding outings to entertain teen-angsters can be daunting. Earn some goodwill with your 14-going-on-21-year-old with a horseback ride at Riverside Riding Stables outside Lake Lure. The two-hour guided river ride navigates the waterway’s gentle curves and culminates with a great view of Bald Mountain. Children two to six years old can ride a pony or take a one-hour trip with adults. 1325 Freemantown Rd., Rutherfordton; $65 two-hour ride, $35 one-hour ride; (828) 288-1302;

Make a Splash
Find cool adventure on waterfalls, lakes, and rivers

Even speed demons will squeal with excitement during a Smoky Mountain Jetboats ride on Fontana Lake. The 11-passenger boat bounces over waves and makes 180-degree spins, ensuring you’ll get wet during this 45-minute thrill. $32, $26 senior/group of 10+, $19 child; (888) 900-9091;

Rappelling down a wall of rock is exciting in its own right, but Green River Adventures ups the ante with a 200-foot rappel over Bradley Falls in Saluda. Thankfully, you do get to practice on a 30-foot rock face prior to the slippery descent. $150, $100 half-day; (800) 335-1530;

You can find white-water rafting opportunities on most every river in Western North Carolina, but Nantahala Outdoor Center’s adventure down the Cheoah takes it to the max. Group participation is a must to navigate the nine miles of unyielding rapids. The next release date on this dam-controlled river is August 31. $189 half-day a.m., $169 half-day p.m.; (888) 905-7238;

The French Broad River calmly meanders through Asheville, making it an appropriate waterway for ages four and up. Zen Tubing rents inflatables, including a recliner and cooler carrier, and the four-mile lazy float allows for plenty of time to swim and picnic along the way. $20, $15 ages four-12; (855) 936-8823;

Salute F. Scott Fitzgerald
This region is riddled with tales of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tumultuous time spent here during the 1930s. The mountains served as a refuge for the author while his wife, Zelda, underwent treatment at Highlands Hospital in Asheville. Here are a few of his haunts where you can pay tribute

Tryon: Fitzgerald spent brief stints in Tryon in 1935 and ’36, where he stayed at the former Oak Hall Hotel and wrote several short stories, a play, and some poems, one of which was a nod to Misseldine’s drugstore and soda fountain where he is said to have enjoyed the ice cream. Oak Hall no longer exists, but the bank on the corner of Pacolet and Trade streets in downtown once housed the drugstore.

Hendersonville: The Skyland Hotel is where the author rented a room toward the end of 1935 and penned “The Crack Up,” which ran in the February 1936 issue of Esquire. The hotel at 538 North Main Street is now condominiums, but you can peek inside the lobby, which still maintains its period décor.

Asheville: Even if you don’t book a night at the historic Grove Park Inn, you can still step up to the bar and order a gin Rickey for a very Gatsby moment. Fitzgerald stayed in rooms 441 and 443 of the glamorous inn during the summer of 1936. Or, aim to come September 20-22 when the hotel hosts its Salute to F. Scott Fitzgerald weekend, which includes guided tours of his rooms with a literary expert.

Discover Asheville’s Best Hideout

Sure, you can head into the woods to find solitude, but if your idea of a quiet moment is hunkering down with a good read and glass of wine, seek respite among the maze of tomes at the dog-friendly Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar in downtown. Its two floors with plenty of quiet nooks and crannies, 22,000 titles, and more than 80 wines and champagnes, as well as appetizers and desserts make this a standout spot to relax. 1 Page Ave. #101, Asheville; (828) 252-0020;

Schedule Tee Time

The Linville Golf Club scorecard bears the disclaimer “Caution: at this altitude the ball flies further”—a benefit of teeing off in the mountains, but certainly not the only. The region lays claim to historic moments and figures in the sport: The first game in N.C. history was played at Linville in 1892, and distinguished players and designers, including John Brooks Dendy, Billy Joe Patton, and Donald Ross, have called WNC home. Take a swing on these spectacular fairways:
Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, Asheville: (800) 438-5800,
Wade Hampton Golf Club, Cashiers: (828) 743-5465,
Sequoyah National Golf Club, Cherokee: (828) 497-3000,
Linville Golf Club, Linville: (800) 742-6717,

Revel in An Appalachian Evening

Offering a slew of craft and culinary classes as well as a gallery, Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center is a beacon of Appalachian mountain heritage. Visit on a Saturday in August to catch award-winning bluegrass, folk, and old-time musical acts during An Appalachian Evening summer concert series. Don’t miss bluegrass group Town Mountain (August 10) and Americana trio Red June (August 31). For an additional cost, take advantage of the intimate pre-show dinner with the band. 121 Schoolhouse Rd., Stecoah; concert: $15, $5 student; dinner: $35; (828) 479-3364;

Laugh Your Asheville Off

Snicker, snort, shriek, howl—all appropriate expressions during Laugh Your Asheville Off comedy festival (August 13-17), which places some of the best emerging talent and established comics in multiple venues around town. This year saw more than 500 submissions to fill the some 50 performance slots, which means you won’t be disappointed. World Series Comedy Winner Landry, Jen Kober of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Anger Management, and Irish-born comic Mick Thomas are among the acts that will leave you doubled over in laughter. $5-$18 per show, $60 pass;

Appreciate Art at The Bascom

The Bascom visual arts center in Highlands allows for a hands-on or -off approach to art. Buildings scattered throughout the lovely six-acre campus house exhibits, studio art classes, and events. You can also stroll the Sculpture and Nature Trail. Drop by through August 18 to catch “Redress: Upcycled Style by Nancy Judd,” a display of fashion sculptures by the Santa Fe artist. Want to try your hand at a class? There are many to choose among, but the advanced photography course on August 23 and 24 will prep you for capturing fall’s splendor. 323 Franklin Rd., Highlands; (828) 526-4949;

Fly Through The Canopy

Green River Adventures takes thrills to the sky with its mammoth zip line named “The Gorge,” which takes folks from a ridgetop down 1,100 vertical feet into the Green River Gorge near Saluda. From the outpost deck, sweeping view of the Green River Game Lands, Mount Pisgah, Bearwallow Mountain, and Rumbling Bald foreshadow the high-wire experience. Once you’re strapped in, prepare to slide down 11 lines that make up the steepest canopy tour in the East. Steep means fast; speeds can reach 80 miles per hour. 166 Honey Bee Dr., Saluda; $89, $79 ages 10-11 or (per person) for groups of eight or more; (828) 749-2500;

For more high-wire adventures, check out:
Adventure America Zipline Canopy Tours, Asheville & Bryson City: (866) 699-2402,; Canopy Ridge Farm, Lake Lure: (828) 625-4500,; Nantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City: (888) 905-7238,; Navitat Canopy Adventures, Barnardsville: (855) 628-4828,; Sky Valley Zip Tours, Blowing Rock: (855) 4-SKY-ZIP,

Taste New Brews
If you’ve never explored the region’s robust brewery scene, then most any beer you sample will be new; but this summer, Ashevillians are toasting to the emergence of two entirely alternative tasty brews: sake and cider.

Most people enjoy sake either chilled from a bottle or served warm, but the owners of Asheville’s up-and-coming sake breweries will tell you fresh is best. When Blue Kudzu Sake (372 Depot St., River Arts District, and Ben’s Tune Up (195 Hilliard Ave., begin serving this summer, they’re set to be the fourth and fifth sake micro-breweries in the nation.

Noble Cider ( is the area’s first commercial hard cidery and one of three opening this year. Given the surplus of regional apple producers, “it was a natural conclusion,” says Trevor Baker, the operation’s head honcho. He’s committed to using local apples and hopes growers will expand their offerings of Southern heritage varieties, which will give his brew even more localized flavor. Find Noble Cider on taps at Asheville’s Wedge Brewing Co. (125-B Roberts St., and Bobo Pho (18 North Lexington Ave.,[/collapse]

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