Chimney Rock Celebrates 100th on July 4th



On July 4, 2016, Chimney Rock Park will celebrate both its 100th anniversary and the centennial of the North Carolina state parks.

As North Carolina was creating its first state park at Mt. Mitchell, three brothers were also dedicating their new park in Hickory Nut Gorge. On July 4, 1916, Chimney Rock was dedicated by Dr. Lucius B. Morse and the first American flag was raised on the Rock. This year, exactly 100 years later, a special ceremony will take place as the North Carolina state flag will join Old Glory on the top of the “Rock”. The flag dedication will begin at the 8:30 AM on the top parking lot near the base of the Chimney. State Park Superintendent James Ledgerwood, along with other speakers, will open the festivities with a short history of the Park followed by a hike up the Outcroppings trail to the Chimney. Once on the “Rock,” color guard will raise the North Carolina state flag under the American flag to signify that North Carolina State Parks is prepared to continue to protect the park and its natural resources for the next 100 years and beyond.

The band Vintage Vinyl will play their rendition of the National Anthem followed by a short patriotic concert. Park Rangers will share historical photos and articles about Chimney Rock and other state parks, including a display on the 1916 flood that washed out the original Park bridge soon after its dedication on July 4th. Guests will be able to continue their walk through history by a taking a self-guided hike along the Outcroppings trail where other historical photographs of the Park will be on display. A limited number of tickets will be available at the Ranger’s exhibit table for interested guests to take a Behind the Scenes tour of the elevator at different times during the day.

Around 6 PM, as the color guard retrieves the flags, guests can take part in a toast to the next 100 years. The two flags will be then be placed in the Park’s historical archives and saved for future generations.

Gates will open at 7:30 AM and, in the spirit of celebrating 100 years, admission fees will be waived for the first 100 cars that enter the Park before 8:30 AM.

The celebration will continue later in Chimney Rock Village. From 8:30 to 9:30 PM gather along the Rocky Broad River behind the Old Rock Café for free s’mores and campfire stories with the Park Superintendent.

Chimney Rock also joins nearby Pisgah National Forest and the National Park Service in celebrating their centennials this year. Chimney Rock State Park is located 25 miles southeast of Asheville on Highway 64/74A in Chimney Rock, N.C. It is recognized as one of the Southeast’s most iconic sites and popular travel destinations. The Park’s 535-million-year-old monolith called Chimney Rock can be accessed via a 499-step Outcroppings Trail and offers guests 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. The Park features one of the highest waterfalls of its kind east of the Mississippi River, Hickory Nut Falls, at 404 feet.  Hickory Nut Gorge, one of the state’s most significant centers of biodiversity, is home to 36 rare plant species and 14 rare animal species.

See our Chimney Rock Park Guide for more info for visiting any time of the year.


Tryon International Equestrian Center


Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) near Asheville, North Carolina, holds many weeks of international competition during the 2016 season from spring through fall. The tremendously popular “Saturday Night Lights” series offers spectators an evening of heart pounding action and entertainment, as grand prix show jumping highlights a week of equestrian competition in the George Morris Arena. Come enjoy family activities and live performances at this impressive new campus in Polk County near Columbus.

It has already become a haven for American equestrian competitors and enthusiasts, and a year-round destination for many that love horses. In addition to hunter/jumper horse shows, TIEC also hosts dressage horse shows and, in 2016, will host the United States Pony Club Championships East and the American Eventing Championships.

Admission to all horse shows and events is free and no reserved tickets are required for the 6,000-seat stadium. The special Saturday Night Lights Grand Prix show jumping events are also free – carousel rides, music and live entertainment included. Parking is free also.

The hunter/jumper shows generally run Wednesday through Sunday, approximately 8 AM-5 PM. For the most action, visit late morning and afternoon to go from arena to arena to see the horses.

Horse shows at Tryon International Equestrian Center are casual outdoor events. Wear sensible walking shoes so that you are comfortable while exploring the entirety of the show grounds. Dining options include a 50s inspired Roger’s Diner open seven days a week. Also find Legends Grille, Ginger Sushi & Noodles, Siesta Cantina and more.

Tryon Resort is one of the world’s premier equestrian lifestyle destinations, and with shops, restaurants, entertainment, lodging and more. This new facility opened in June 2014 with sanctioned horse shows and amenities including 10 riding arenas, 850 permanent stalls, a covered riding facility and fitness center. Future expansion includes a resort hotel, condos and apartments, additional mixed-used retail, sports complex, sporting clay course, and 18-hole golf course, plus a full calendar of equestrian competitions and activities.

TIEC is open every day. It’s located about 48 miles from Asheville. It’s located in the rolling foothill between Lake Lure, Rutherfordton and Tryon, at exit 170 on US Highway 74, at 4066 Pea Ridge Rd., Mill Spring, NC 28756.

For more, see our Tryon International Equestrian Center Guide.

Hike 100 Miles in the Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains Hiking Trail

Celebrate the National Park Service Centennial near Asheville and “Hike 100” in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Park Superintendent Cassius Cash has committed to hike 100 miles in the Smokies during 2016 and is challenging the public to do the same.

To complete the Hike 100 challenge, you must hike any 100 miles of maintained trail within the park boundaries between January 1 and December 6. The miles can include everything from the front country nature trails to the extensive backcountry network of trails. See our favorite Smoky Mountains Hikes for the North Carolina side.

The 100-mile goal is part of the “Smokies Centennial Challenge-Hike 100” program. This program aims to inspire all potential hikers to experience and gain a new appreciation and stewardship for their national park. Participants who reach the 100-mile goal will earn a commemorative “Smokies Centennial Challenge – Hike 100” pin and be invited to a park celebration hosted by Superintendent Cash.

As part of the Hike 100 program, the park is hosting hikes for several regional youth organizations throughout the year. These opportunities will provide a chance for groups, who otherwise face barriers to travel due lack of transportation or funding restraints, a chance to explore the Smokies. These groups will have the added benefit of hiking alongside Superintendent Cash, as well as experienced hikers from the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club and Carolina Mountain Club.

The Superintendent is also providing a unique opportunity for the general public to hike alongside him on his way to reaching the 100-mile goal through a series of four hikes open to the public. Two front country hikes in August and December will be completely open to the public, while two backcountry hikes in June and October will be limited to 20 people each.

Read more about special events near Asheville to celebration the National Park Service Centennial during 2016.

Christmas in Asheville

Forest City NC Lights

Find much to do in Asheville and the mountains of western North Carolina during Christmas Weekend. Savor holiday buffets in many great restaurants, tour the Biltmore House or see the Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum. There are plenty of options on Christmas Day – with even more during the weekend.

If you plan to dine or tour on Christmas Day, make your reservations in advance. Find many things to do with the family, including getting outdoors for a hike or to find a waterfall. Take a zany tour with LaZoom, go shopping downtown or Asheville Outlets, and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. Explore one of our favorite NC Mountain Christmas Towns decked out for the holidays and filled with local stores, breweries and galleries (like Forest City in the photo at top). Or relax with a massage in a spa or with a local beer at a craft brewery.

See our full list of restaurants open Christmas Day and many things to do.

Merry Christmas to all! Enjoy your time in Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains with your family and friends.


Christmas at Biltmore House 2015

Biltmore House Christmas

The biggest event of the year in Asheville has begun! Christmas at Biltmore runs through January 10, 2016. Biltmore’s design team has woven this year’s theme – “A Gilded Age Christmas” – throughout every element created for the season across the estate, incorporating grand and elegant details that are rooted in authentic Vanderbilt Christmas stories.

The towering 35-foot Christmas tree in the Banquet Hall is a nod to a tradition started by George Vanderbilt on Christmas Eve in 1895 when he opened his 250-room home to friends and family for the first time. As tradition dictates, the tree is decorated with 500 ornaments and wrapped packages tucked into its branches.

During the magical Candlelight Christmas Evenings, thousands of ornaments and over-the-top wreaths and garlands sparkle with the reflections of candlelight and cozy fires in the home’s fireplaces. Despite the home’s enormous size, sounds of choirs and musicians create an intimate atmosphere. Outside, a 55-foot Norway spruce tree, lit by 45,000 tiny white lights and surrounded by hundreds of hand-lit luminaries, welcomes guests for evening tours.

See photos of this year’s Christmas decorations inside Biltmore House.

Christmas at Biltmore 2015 Events

  • Nov. 6 through Jan. 10, daily: Christmas at Biltmore daytime experience
  • Nov. 6 through Jan. 2: Candlelight Christmas Evenings
  • Nov. 6 through Jan. 10, daily: A Gardener’s Place Holiday Seminars. “Decorate with Christmas Wreaths” is offered at noon and “Create Holiday Tablescapes” is offered at 1 p.m.
  • Nov. 6 through Jan. 10, daily: The Conservatory’s annual poinsettia and tropical plant display.
  • Nov. 6 through Jan. 10, daily: Complimentary wine tasting at the Winery. The “Red Wine and Chocolate” seminar is offered, as well as the “Biltmore Bubbles” tour. Additional price and reservations required.
  • Nov. 6 through Jan. 10, evenings: Live music in Cedric’s Tavern in Antler Hill Village.
  • Nov. 7 through Dec. 20, Saturdays and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m., and on Friday, Nov. 27: Visits with Santa in Antler Hill Village.
  • Nov. 7 through Jan. 10, Saturdays and Sundays, 3 p.m., and on Friday, Nov. 27: Roving Holiday Carolers in Antler Hill Village.
  • Dec. 17, 18 and 19: Inn on Biltmore Estate’s Annual Gingerbread House Tea. Guests assemble gingerbread homes with the help of a pastry chef while enjoying afternoon tea. Additional price and reservations required.
  • Ongoing: Festive holiday meals prepared by award-winning chefs will be served in all of the estate’s restaurants.

Guests looking to extend their holiday stay at Biltmore will have several options. For a retreat with personalized service, the Inn on Biltmore Estate offers four-star accommodations with sweeping views in a private hilltop setting. Special holiday packages starting with Thanksgiving will be available during Christmas at Biltmore.

Biltmore’s newest lodging offering, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, opens December 1, 2015. Designed for the guest looking for a casual overnight stay, the hotel is located in Antler Hill Village. It is steps away from shopping, dining, the Winery, live music and outdoor activities. Special holiday packages will be available during Christmas at Biltmore.

See the complete Christmas at Biltmore Guide that includes ticket special offers, along with Asheville vacation packages.

Saturday Night Lights at Tryon International Equestrian Center

Saturday Night Lights at Tryon International Equestrian Center

After a fantastic first year of grand prix competition, Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) is concluding its fall season and “Saturday Night Lights” event series with two last show jumping competitions on Saturday, October 17 and 24, 2015. It’s an easy 48-mile drive from Asheville, and there’s free admission, entertainment and parking!

Event gates open at 5 PM and the grand prix begins at 7 PM. Kid’s activities include face painting, street performers and carousel rides. There are a variety of food options, ranging from carts with carnival favorites to restaurants that are open year round. Roger’s Diner, Legends Grille and Blue Ginger Sushi will remain open following the final grand prix giving locals and visitors ongoing ways to enjoy the equestrian center in the off season.

Each “Saturday Night Lights” evening culminates with a sponsored grand prix competition held under the stadium lights in the George Morris International Arena, with riders competing for $125,000+ of prize money.

Tryon Resort is one of the world’s premier equestrian destinations, and with onsite shopping, dining, entertainment and plans for more. This new facility opened in June 2014 with sanctioned horse shows and initial supporting amenities including 10 riding arenas, 850 permanent stalls, a covered riding facility and fitness center. Future expansion includes a sports complex, two hotels, sporting clay course, and an 18-hole golf course plus a full calendar of equestrian competitions and activities.

The Tryon International Equestrian Center is located at 4066 Pea Ridge Road, Mill Spring, NC (off Exit 170 on US Highway 74. From Asheville, take I-26 E / US 74 E, to exit 67, then US 74 E to Columbus/Rutherfordton. Drive 8 miles to exit 170.

Read more on Travel Guide. Debuts New Website

RomanticAsheville.comOur travel guide 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 to see the guide.