Top 10 Fall NC Mountain Views near Asheville


Peak Fall Color at Graveyard Fields is usually the second week of October

Peak Fall Color at Graveyard Fields is usually the second week of October

Fall foliage color this year should be absolutely beautiful in the North Carolina mountains near Asheville. And with our 5,000-foot elevation range in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, we will have one of the longest fall shows in the country. Peak color begins in early October in the highest mountains and ends in the lowest valleys by early November. See the complete Asheville Fall Foliage Forecast. Then, plan your vacation to come of our top 10 places for fall views and when to expect the most color:

  1. See the first autumn colors in early October on Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in eastern America, with panoramic mountain views from the top. Grandfather Mountain is another top spot for views.
  2. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of top scenic drives in the United States. Stop at many overlooks, picnic and hike. Best color is the last three weeks of October, varying with elevation. So if you don’t immediately see color, keep driving!
  3. Stop at Graveyard Fields along the Blue Ridge Parkway (pic above) in mid October for the some of the most brilliant color in the mountains. Relax by the waterfall or walk through the highland valley. Nearby, hike across mountain balds at Black Balsam Knob for endless views.
  4. Capture the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina, Linville Falls, surrounded by fall color in mid October. Nearby, see stunning views of Linville Gorge with easy hikes to the top of Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountain.
  5. Visit two areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in mid October. Watch elk graze in the Cataloochee Valley as the male elk make their legendary mating bugling calls, walk woodland trails and explore historic buildings. From Newfound Gap, hike on the Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion for spectacular views. And an early morning view from Clingmans Dome is hard to top.
  6. Raft down the Nantahala River or take a zip line canopy tour through the colorful woodlands of the Nantahala National Forest in mid October.
  7. Drive the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway from Brevard in mid October with great stops such as Looking Glass Falls and hikes in the Pisgah National Forest.
  8. Take a short hike in DuPont State Forest to see three waterfalls, or hike to Cedar Rock for mountain views in late October.
  9. Explore the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate in late October by foot, bike, car, river raft, horse or Segway. See fall gardens, mountain views and colorful forests.
  10. Ride the elevator or hike to the famous Chimney Rock with 75-mile views across Lake Lure. The peak fall color show here usually extends into early November.

There are many Fall events and festivals near Asheville to enjoy as well!

Great Smoky Mountains Visited by 4.3 Million in First Half of 2015


Mountain Farm Museum

Mountain Farm Museum

Vacation travelers are loving the Great Smoky Mountains Park more than ever! In May, the park has a record 1 million visitors, the most ever for that month. Between January and June, there has been more than 4.3 million visitors.

All major park entrances have seen increases, especially at the Oconaluftee entrance near Cherokee, North Carolina where visitation has increased 26% this year. More visitors are camping too with 100,000+ people (up 14% over 2014) have camped in one of the park’s nine campgrounds and 55,000 (up 12%) have camped in the park’s backcountry so far this year.

Continued record setting visitation comes on the heels of the park’s busiest year in 14 years. In 2014, 10,099,275 visitors enjoyed the national park, an 8% increase over 2013. The numbers were spurred by strong July and August visitation as well as the highest October visitation in 27 years. So make your plans now for this leaf season! See our Great Smoky Mountains Guide to plan your vacation near Asheville with our top things to do on the North Carolina side of the park.

RomanticAsheville.com Debuts New Website


RomanticAsheville.comOur travel guide RomanticAsheville.com celebrates its 12th anniversary this month with a fully re-designed Website, just in time for the busy July 4th weekend. What started as a hobby by us in 2003 has grown into one of the most popular travel websites in North Carolina with 4.5 million visits during the last 12 months (more than double the year before).

The new Website features a fully responsive design for optimal viewing on the wide range of devices used for internet access, including desktops, tablets and phones. Other new features include photo galleries, a trip planner and a “my favorites” tool to build a custom itinerary.

While the original focus was mostly Asheville, the guide gradually expanded to include most of the mountains of North Carolina.  For example, their Blue Ridge Parkway guide covers 193 miles from Cherokee to Grandfather Mountain. Plus, there are features on more than 25 small towns from Saluda to Beech Mountain to Bryson City, with plenty of things to do in between.

More than 2,000 photographs (by me, Mark File) showcase the beauty of the area. I visit every place I feature, and I’m always carrying my camera. I especially love the outdoors, so the hiking and waterfalls sections are the biggest – more than 100 pages.

Outdoor lovers will find guides to 60 waterfalls and 75 hikes near Asheville. Other information includes Biltmore, Great Smoky Mountains, restaurants, beer, lodging and much more.

The guide grows organically based on reader interests. The most popular feature each year is the fall color guide, highlighted with a week-by-week peak color forecast. All content is free for readers, since the Website is funded by advertising partners such as bed-and-breakfasts, hotels, cabin rentals and attractions.

What’s next? Every week I learn about something new in Western North Carolina. I’ll never run out of finding things to see and do that I can share with readers.

Go to www.RomanticAsheville.com to see the guide.

A Beer Tour of South Slope Craft Breweries in Asheville


Catawba Brewing

Catawba Brewing opened in Asheville’s South Slope on April 1st

Asheville, four-time Beer City USA, is the perfect place to celebrate NC Beer Month! We have an amazing beer scene, with a wide selection of bars, brewpubs, micro craft breweries, cideries, and restaurants. So, to celebrate Beer Month, let’s take a tour of Asheville’s South Slope Brewing District. If you visit the breweries in the following order, you can end with great pizza at Asheville Brewing… or reverse the order if you’d like to start with the pizza!

Burial Beer

Burial Beer began in 2013 with a one barrel pilot system, but has grown to a ten barrel brewhouse. Burial focuses on traditional Belgian ales, and is always tinkering with the ingredients to get the perfect blend. Their Taphouse is open Tuesday – Thursday. Located at 40 Collier Avenue.

Green Man

One of North Carolina’s oldest breweries, Green Man has been at its South Slope location since 1997. Here you can enjoy traditional English-style ales, as well as new and exciting flavors. Conveniently located next to French Broad Chocolate Factory! Open every day. Located at 23 Buxton Avenue.

Catawba Brewing Co.
Catawba opened its location in South Slope only a few weeks ago, but has been around since 1997. They have a seven-barrel specialty brewery and tasting room with thirty taps. They have beers in a wide variety of styles. Open everyday. Located at 63 Brook Street.

Twin Leaf Brewery

This brewery opened last year and has dozens of beer on tap. Home of beer yoga! Open everyday. Located at 144 Coxe Avenue.

Funkatorium

Funkatorium

Wicked Weed Funkatorium

The opening of the Funkatorium in 2014 made Wicked Weed the largest producer of aged beers in the southeastern U.S. – it houses 1,000 barrels of their beers. They produce Belgian and American style ales. Wicked Weed has been named one of the Best Bars in the South by Southern Living Magazine. Open every day. Located at 147 Coxe Avenue.

Hi-Wire Brewing

Hi-Wire features four classic year-round beers (Prime Time Pale, Hi-Pitch IPA, Bed of Nails Brown, and Hi-Wire Lager) and a variety of seasonals. Open every day. Located at 197 Hilliard Avenue.

Ben’s Tune Up

An urban beer garden, full service restaurant, sake brewery, convenience store, and Foothills Butchery are all located within Ben’s Tune Up. Another of Southern Living’s Best Bars in the South. Open everyday. Located at 195 Hilliard Avenue.

Asheville Brewing Company

Asheville Brewing first opened in 1995. In addition to traditional favorites, the new brewer series goes beyond the conventional to create brews such as the jalapeno infused Fire Escape and the Mardi Gras inspired Bier de Garde Here you can enjoy downtown’s largest covered patio, a giant Jenga game, and cornhole. Voted best pizza in Western North Carolina four years in a row. Open everyday. Located at 77 Coxe Avenue.

Cheers! For more information on South Slope, go to http://www.romanticasheville.com/south_slope.htm.

Celebrating Mount Mitchell State Park’s 100th


Mt Mitchell

View of Mt. Mitchell from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

One hundred years ago this month, a bill passed the state legislature to make Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet, the first state park in North Carolina. In 1835, Grandfather Mountain was thought to be the highest point in the region. However, Dr. Elisha Mitchell, professor at the University of North Carolina, performed measurements that convinced him that the Black Mountains were taller. Mitchell studied barometric pressure readings and used mathematical formulas to determine that the highest point in the range was 6,476 feet, which was taller than Grandfather Mountain. Dr. Mitchell returned to perform more measurements and calculations in 1838 and 1844 and determined the highest peak was 6,672 feet – only a 12 foot difference from modern measurements! The mountain was named after Dr. Mitchell in 1858, one year after he fell off a cliff above a 40-foot waterfall there and drowned in the river below. His body is buried at Mt. Mitchell, right beside the observation deck on the summit.

Mt Mitchell Hike

Deep Gap Trail

Mount Mitchell is located in the Black Mountain range, approximately 35 miles northeast of downtown Asheville. There are lots of fun activities at Mount Mitchell State Park, from hiking, camping and picnicking to birding and just enjoying the plantlife and views. Our favorite hiking trails are the Deep Gap Trail, Balsam Trail, and the Mount Mitchell Trail. Deep Gap and Balsam are relatively easy, and the Mount Mitchell trail is longer and more strenuous. The park is open year round, as long as there is no ice or snow on the roads. The museum, restaurant, and concession stand will reopen on May 1.

Our Tips for Visiting Mount Mitchell:

  • Bring a jacket or an extra layer of clothes. Temperatures are usually 10-30 degrees cooler than in Asheville. Weather conditions can change rapidly. Take rain gear along if you are hiking.
  • Eight out of ten days, the summit is covered in clouds and fog. Watch the weather, and try to visit when skies are very clear in Asheville.
  • Allow plenty of driving time to reach Mt. Mitchell (at least one hour from Asheville). The entrance is from the Blue Ridge Parkway and the traffic can be slow, especially on the weekends.
  • The park is open every day, year-round, however sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway close during much of the winter between Asheville and Mt. Mitchell. During most of the winter, the only route is taking the Parkway south from NC Highway 80. The restaurant, exhibit hall and gift shop are open May through October. Admission is free.
  • Call the Park office at 828-675-4611 to check winter road conditions.

Happy 100th birthday! Read more about Mount Mitchell State Park

Biltmore Will Soon Be Blooming


Biltmore Tulips

Thousands of tulips in the Walled Garden

“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.”
~ Ruth Stout

You couldn’t pick a better place to greet spring than in the magnificent gardens at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The first day of spring, March 20, will kick off the annual Biltmore Blooms festivities, which will run through May 25, 2015.

Biltmore Blooms will kick off with the blooming of the cheery daffodils at the entrance gate. Thousands of vibrant tulips, this year in hues of purple, pink, white, and orange, will follow quickly behind the daffodils. Azaleas, rhododendron, roses, and other colorful annuals and perennials will erupt across the Estate throughout the remainder of the season. Orchids will be the center of attention between March 20 and April 12, when visitors will be invited to enter the glass-domed Winter Garden to take in the hundreds of brilliant orchids on display.

In addition to the array of beautiful flowers, Biltmore will be hosting the “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times” exhibition.  Forty-five costumes worn by the actors on Downton Abbey will be featured throughout the House. “Dressing Downton” will run through May 25.

Specials offered for spring include:

  • March 20 – May 21: youth tickets are half the price of adult tickets
  • Purchase your tickets at least a week in advance and receive $10 off
  • Mother’s Day, May 10: Bring your mom to Biltmore – she gets in FREE

Other special spring experiences:

  • “Orchid Talks” — held each weekday at 11am, estate gardening experts will be on hand to discuss Biltmore’s history with orchids, as well as provide more information about the plants displayed in the orchid room.
  • “Ask a Gardener” — visitors will have the chance to speak to the Estate’s plant experts in the Walled Garden.
  • Gardening and Floral Demonstrations — “Exquisite Orchids for Beginners” is offered each day at 1:00pm, followed by “Nurturing Treasured Houseplants” at 2:00pm.
  • Annual Easter Egg Hunt, Easter Sunday, April 5 — held on the front lawn for children ages 2-9. There will be three hunts, at 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm, with registration beginning two hours before and closing fifteen minutes before each hunt. There will be a variety of entertainment to enjoy in addition to hunting Easter eggs,, such as music, storytelling, magic shows, games, crafts, and photos with the Easter Bunny.
  • Easter Sunday Brunch will be served at Deerpark and the Dining Room at Inn on Biltmore Estate.
  • Cedric’s English Sunday Brunch will be served at Cedric’s Tavern in Antler Hill Village each Sunday from 11:30am – 5:00pm through May 24.
  • Have a taste of the Limited Release Spring Seasonal Wine offered each day at the Biltmore Winery.

For more information, go to RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide.

Burly Beers and Barleywines Festival comes to Asheville March 28th


Sierra NevadaThe North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild (NCCBG) is partnering with Sierra Nevada Brewing near Asheville to present the first ever Burly Beers and Barleywines Festival to celebrate the bold, malt-forward beers common in the cooler months. They’ve invited more than 50 breweries from across the country to gather at Sierra Nevada’s brewery in Mills River (south of Asheville) on Saturday, March 28, to pour a selection of their heartiest beers that will include at least one of the following: Barleywine, Stout or Imperial Stout, Barrel-aged beer or Spiced beer. 

The beer festival will be held 12 Noon until 4 PM with plenty of rare beer, live music and food. Featured breweries at the festival include Allagash Brewing Company-Portland, ME; Ballast Point Ales and Spirits-San Diego, CA; Boulevard Brewing Company-St. Louis, MO; Calfkiller Brewing Co.-Sparta, TN; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery-Milton, DE; The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery-Farmville, NC; Epic Brewing Company-Denver, CO; The Florida Brewing Company-Cape Canaveral, FL; Flying Dog Brewery-Frederick, MD; Fullsteam Brewery-Durham, NC; Great Divide Brewing Company-Denver, CO; Highland Brewing Company-Asheville, NC; New Belgium Brewing Company-Fort Collins, CO/Asheville, NC; North Coast Brewing Company-Fort Bragg, CA; Oskar Blues Brewing Company-Longmont, CA/Brevard, NC;  Red Brick Brewing Company-Atlanta, GA;  Ska Brewing Company-Durango, CO;  Sweetwater Brewing Company-Atlanta, GA; Thomas Creek Brewery-Greenville, NC; Wicked Weed Brewing-Asheville, NC; Wild Heaven Craft Beers-Decatur, GA; Wrecking Ball Brewpub-Atlanta, GA.

Festival tickets ($65 general admission. $30 designated driver) on sale now include a commemorative tasting glass, unlimited tasting pours, live music and food provided by the Sierra Nevada Taproom and Restaurant. All ticket proceeds benefit the NCCBG, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote the interests of the craft breweries of North Carolina and to promote North Carolina craft beer. 

“You can always cut the chill of winter with a big beer, and the options from American craft brewers are endless,” said Brian Grossman, second-generation brewer and co-manager of Sierra Nevada’s Mills River brewery. “Here in North Carolina, winters are a little longer and a little colder than we were used to in California, so we’re breaking out the Barleywines to celebrate that. We’re excited to see what our brewing friends bring for beer fans—what new twists they’ll use to give their brawny releases an extra edge.”

The North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild is a not-for-profit member organization whose mission is to advance the interests of the craft breweries of North Carolina and to promote North Carolina craft beer. North Carolina boasts the largest number of craft breweries in the American South, with more than 125 breweries and brewpubs. According to Margo Knight Metzger, executive director of NCCBG, “It’s going to be a stellar kickoff to NC Beer Month in April which celebrates our state’s burgeoning craft beer industry with special events and unique brews.”

Founded in 1980, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is one of America’s premier craft breweries, highly regarded for using only the finest quality ingredients. The pioneering spirit that launched Sierra Nevada now spans both coasts with breweries in Chico, California and Mills River, North Carolina at 100 Sierra Nevada Way.

Read more about Asheville Beer & Craft Breweries.