By Brandi M. Seals
Tucked away in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains is the city of Asheville North Carolina. It is home to the University of North Carolina and several must-see attractions.
First and foremost on the list of things to see and do is America’s largest home, the Biltmore. The Biltmore Estate was created by George Vanderbilt over a century ago as a retreat for his family and friends. Today anyone can explore Biltmore House. It is a 250-room chateau-inspired mansion filled with art and antiques.
Visitors to the estate pay one fee and can take a self-guided tour of the home, stroll through magnificent gardens designed by America’s first landscape architect. They can taste wines at the 21-year-old winery or otherwise enjoy the forests, farmlands, and rivers located on the 8000 acre estate. For more information call 800-543-2961 or visit them online at Biltmore.com
After touring the Biltmore Estate why not take a scenic train ride? The Great Smokey Mountains Railroad (GSMR.com) provides year-round train rides through in the Great Smoky Mountains. Guests will cross valleys, go through tunnels and transverse river gorges. There are many wonderful excursions to choose from. Trains leave from Bryson and Dillsboro, which are approximately an hour west of Asheville. Call 1-800-872-4681 for more details.
Perhaps swing by Chimney Rock Park. The Park, located 25 miles southeast of Asheville, offers breathtaking 75-mile views, hiking trails for all ages, and a 404-foot waterfall. No visitor can resist going to the top of Chimney Rock. It is from here that that the amazing 75-mile views may be seen. Visitors can get to the top of Chimney Rock in about 20 minutes by taking the Outcroppings Trail. Or, they can take a 26-story elevator to the top in about 30 seconds
Chimney Rock Park also features Hickory Nut Falls. A.75-mile trail meant for a leisurely stroll leads up to falls. The trail is surrounded by a hardwood forests that includes rare wildflowers, birds and much more. Hickory Nut Falls showcases water tumbling down an amazing 404 foot drop.
Admission to the park runs $14 for adults and $6 for those 6 to 15. Children under 6 are admitted free. Call 828-625-9611 to set up your visit today.
Have a desire to swing high up in the sky? Stop by Grandfather Mountain. Grandfather Mountain features the Mile High Swinging Bridge. It was built in 1952 to give visitor’s access to the breath-taking view the mountain’s Linville Peak. The bridge is high though it is not actually a mile above the ground. The 228-foot suspension bridge spans an 80-foot chasm and sits above a mile in elevation.
The bridge is easy to access. It only requires climbing 50 steps to reach the Swinging Bridge. Grandfather Mountain is a recognized nature preserve with 12 miles hiking trails. It is open year-round and located at US 221 and the Blue Ridge Parkway at Linville. Admission is $14 for adults and $6 for the 4-12 year-old crowd. Those under 4 are admitted free. Call 800-468-7325 for more details.
Near Grandfather Mountain, sits the Linville Caverns. Carved deep beneath Humpback Mountain, these caverns were created by nature. For centuries, slowly moving water has been the creating a maze of underground rooms and passages. Amazingly, the caverns were first discovered in the 1800’s by men who were mystified by the sight of fish swimming out of the mountain. Admission to see this spectacular sight range from $4 for youngens to $6 for adults. Call 800-419-0540 for more information.
Those with a more morbid disposition may find it worth while to visit the Riverside Cemetery. The Asheville cemetery dates to 1885 and is the last resting place for more 13,000 people. Among those buried at Riverside Cemetery are authors Thomas Wolfe and O Henry.
Get a rush going down a natural 60-foot waterslide. More than 11,000 gallons of water rushes down the rocks every minute and empties into a six-foot-deep pool of cool mountain water. Sliding Rock is open all year but the bathrooms and changing rooms are only open from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Lifeguards are also only on-duty during this short period. For admittance to Sliding Rock visitors must pay a nominal fee.
To get to Sliding Rock head north on US 276. Approximately 8 miles north of the US 276 and US 64 junction in Pisgah Forest you will see signs directing you to the Sliding Rock recreation area parking lot on the left