GREAT AUTUMN GETAWAYS:THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINSWHERE FIRE MEETS THE SKYby Hampton Rhodes

GREAT AUTUMN GETAWAYS:
THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS
WHERE FIRE MEETS THE SKY

1-blue_ridge_mountains-autumn“God’s Country.”

That’s what the locals call this area of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains. Located in western North Carolina, this section of the Blue Ridge Mountains attracts almost a million visitors each Fall to gaze upon the beautiful riot of color that nature provides with its annual display of Fall foliage.

2-appalachian_map-svgDue to the bands of ancient rocks that form the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this range that starts in Georgia, and seems to end in Pennsylvania, actually extends through New Jersey and New York’s Berkshire Mountains and on into the Green Mountains in Vermont.

One of my favorite things to do in the Fall is visit the Ashville, NC area of the Blue Ridge and combine three events in one weekend trip. I combine a glorious Blue Ridge Parkway road trip with a visit to the exquisite Biltmore house and Museum. And finally, a trip to the annual Art On Main Festival in Henderson, NC.

3-blue-ridge-in-ashvilleWith plenty of interesting restaurants, inns, galleries and some of the most overwhelming views available anywhere, the 469-mile Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway is memorable to say the least. The highest peak in the Blue Ridge (and in the entire Appalachian chain) is Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina at 6,684 feet. Mt. Mitchell (in Mt. Mitchell State Park) via the Blue Ridge Parkway is just 32.6 miles or about one hour from Ashville. There are 39 peaks in North Carolina and Tennessee higher than 6,000 feet but by comparison, only New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington rises above the northern portion of the Appalachian chain.

4-the-biltmore-estatePut on your walking shoes, for the Biltmore House’s size and architecture is absolutely amazing. The house is a staggering 175,000 square feet (four acres) with 33 bedrooms, 65 fireplaces and 43 bathrooms. Almost 10 million pounds of limestone were used to build it. The entire estate originally covered 125,000 acres (now it’s a modest 8,000). Even after six years of construction by 1,000+ workers, the 250-room castle was not complete when George Vanderbilt opened it in 1895.

Work went on for years. Its scale continues to be astounding: the house contains more than 11 million bricks; the massive stone spiral staircase rises four floors and has 102 steps. Through its center hangs an iron chandelier suspended from a single point, containing 72 electric light bulbs.

5-art-on-main-hendersonvilleThirty miles south of Ashville is a lovely little town called Hendersonville. One of the oldest and most popular outdoor arts festivals in the Carolinas, Art on Main is presented the first full weekend of October each year, along Hendersonville’s charming and historic Main Street.

Now in its 57th year, Art on Main is a juried and judged fine art and fine craft show that brings high quality local and regional artist vendors to Hendersonville. It attracts thousands of art loving visitors with arts, crafts and live demonstrations of an array of creative processes. This year, the Art on Main exhibit is running the weekend of October 1st and 2nd.

6-ashville-in-autumnTo me, the best time to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Biltmore House and the Hendersonville area is the month of October. From the first of the month all the way through the end of the month, each of the weeks offers its own treasures for all of your senses.

Check out the links below to aide you in planning your own Weekend Getaway trip to “God’s Country.” You’ll be glad you did!

Information
The 25 Best Places to see Fall Foliage in the Blue Ridge
Fall Foliage Forecast and Guide
The Biltmore Estate in Ashville
Where to stay along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Art on Main – Hendersonville, NC
Official Travel and Tourism Website for North Carolina


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