How to have a summer getaway — without getting too far away

Special to The Mountaineer
By Carol Viau | Jul 24, 2013
Photo by: Paul Viau GET AWAY AND HAVE SOME FUN — Guests enjoy an evening cokout at Cataloochee Guest Ranch, in Maggie Valley.  The meals are open to the public by reservation. Below is a sunrise in relaxing Blowing Rock.

Visitors flock to the mountains to escape the summer heat. Why not? There are plenty of activites in the mountains, from hiking, picnics walking around Lake Junaluska — to deck-sitting at home with a cool glass of iced tea.

But many year-round Western North Carolina residents want to take a trip to “recharge” in the summer. For those who don’t want to make the long drive to the ever-popular coast, here are a few suggestions. All of these have been visited personally, and have the “Viau stamp of approval.”

Starting with near-by, there are two beautiful get-away spots, among the many in Haywood County.

• Cataloochee Guest Ranch, Maggie Valley

The rustic, but comfortable ranch, offers overnight accommodations and plenty of activities, including wagon rides, mountain hiking paths, horseback riding, bird watching, home-cooked meals and evening entertainment. Guests may be entertained after dinner by the Ross Brothers, Rob and his Wolves, group square dancing and Wednesday night sing-alongs around the campfire, with Jeanne Naber. Evening cookouts are expertly prepared by T.J., while diners enjoy the mountain views. The public is invited for meals by making a reservation at 926-1401. Visit www.cataloocheeranch.com.

• The Swag Mountain Top Inn, Waynesville

Bordering on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Swag offers beautifully appointed accommodations and breath-taking views from its 5,000-foot elevation. There is a way to enjoy The Swag’s location that just takes a half-day trip — the Wednesday gourmet picnics. The chef and staff put on a spread at Gooseberry Knob that is more than a “picnic” — it’s a great meal, complete with spectacular views of the mountains and Jonathan Valley below.

The Wednesday picnic dates book up, so plan ahead by calling 926-0430 or visit www.theswag.com.

For those feeling like a drive, a day trip might just be the thing to get-away.

• Lake Lure/ Chimney Rock

This is best done on a sunny day, so wait for the weather to break. Lake Lure is a picturesque man-made lake, about one-and-a-half hours’ drive from Waynesville. Have lunch at one of the restaurants around the lake, and then take the boat ride on the lake for a guided tour of the lagoon where “Dirty Dancing” was filmed and a view the magnificent lakeside homes. Boat ride tickets are sold for hourly tours at the marina. Visit www.lakelure.com.

On the way out of town, stop in Chimney Rock to visit the shops in the small mountain town. We haven't made the climb up to the actual Chimey Rock in the state park, but the views look spectacular.

• Falls Park on the Reedy, Greenville, South Carolina

“Wow,” we exclaimed, the first time we saw the 32-acre park on the Reedy River in downtown Greenville, South Carolina. The park, built in the middle of the downtown area, features the Liberty Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge that allows unobstructed views of the falls. Downtown Greenville is about an hour and 45-minute drive from Waynesville via the I-26 to U.S. 25 South route into Greenville.

Not only is there plenty of recreation in the park, but also, there are fun shops, galleries and restaurants, some with a view of the park, along Main Street.  Visit www.fallspark.com.

Fancy an overnight (or two) stay not too far away?  Then, try some of these suggestions.

• Blowing Rock

Much has been written about the town and recreational area around Blowing Rock. It’s delightful, with its quaint downtown area, shops and easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Try paddling a canoe on Lake Julian Price, visiting the Southern Highlands Craft Guild gift shop in the historic mansion at Moses Cone Memorial Park (MP 294 on the Blue Ridge Parkway). Or visit Art in the Park, held one Saturday a month through season in downtown (you might even find Waynesville artist T.Pennington exhibiting her art of the Blue Ridge there). Restaurants are numerous, but we like the casual atmosphere, live music and mountain views at Canyons on U.S. 321. Blowing Rock also has an outlet mall for rainy days. Visit www.blowingrock.com.

• Hickory

Furniture shoppers enjoy the Hickory Furniture Mart, with its four levels of furniture, diverse selections and discounts. The mart is open to the public. While in Hickory, visit the Old German Schnitzel Haus Restaurant on U.S. 70 for a fun German meal. Those who like craft beer may like the The Olde Hickory Tap Room, on Union Square in downtown, featuring locally brewed beer.

There is a delightful B&B in the heart of Hickory — The Inn at Hickory, in a 1908 Georgian colonial home. Owners chef Chaz and his wife Dana are “living their dream,” operating the B&B. Visit www.theinnathickory.com.

• Tennessee area of the Great Smoky Mountains

A little-known find is Christopher Place, between Newport and Cosby, Tennessee. While only an hour’s drive from Waynesville, this country inn is a real get-away. Billed as an “intimate resort,” the B&B is a romantic destination, where couples can kick back and enjoy some R&R. The inn features comfortable rooms and suites, fine dining, a pool, tennis, hiking and a view of “nothing but the Smoky Mountains.” The inn’s cat, Sophie, is an expert hiker (really) and can lead guests on a hike up English Mountain. Visit www.christopherplace.com.

For those who like a more casual dining experience, try Grill 73 on Highway 73 in Newport. Owned by two former trapeze artists from the Russian circus, the log restaurant features Russian and American cuisine. Hostess Val entertains with many stories.

We also liked the casual Front Porch Restaurant on Cosby Highway — in this writer’s opinion, serving the best fried green tomatoes around.

Whether your travel is near or far, enjoy a summer getaway. And remember, “There’s no place like home.”

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