The Southern Highlands
If you’ve never ventured west of the I-95 corridor and think you know the South, think again. There’s an entire world of interstate mountains and valleys in the western Carolinas, East Tennessee, and North Georgia that offer unique vacation adventures and a variety of welcoming residential communities.
SOUTHERN HIGHLAND DESTINATIONS TO EXPLORE
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY BlueRidgeParkway.org
Starting near the Virginia town of Afton and continuing southward to Cherokee, NC, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile adventure that every American family should enjoy at least once. Along the way are 15 Visitor Centers that highlight each area’s cultural attractions, waterfalls, and hiking trials, plus scores of overlooks where you can enjoy a picnic lunch and the awesome spring scenery. Boone is a great town for an overnight stop, but there are literally hundreds of hotels, inns, lodges, and campgrounds in convenient proximity to the Parkway’s 38 access points.
Asheville is North Carolina’s eclectic city in the mountains that features a delightful downtown area with more than 30 art galleries and lodging choices that include boutique hotels and cozy bed-and-breakfast inns. Unique local restaurants offer farm-to-table menus with libations from craft breweries and regional vineyards. Just outside of town, you can hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail, kayak the French Broad River, or fish in the mountain streams. And, every Asheville visit should include a tour of the nearby Biltmore Estate with its 250-room centerpiece castle and surrounding gardens with 130,000+ springtime blooms that include 250 varieties of roses.
CUMBERLAND TRAIL CumberlandTrail.org
The Cumberland Trail is a scenic hiking destination that currently extends for 210 miles along the eastern edge of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau. There are 27 completed sections with more than 50 trailhead access points. While some segments can be quite challenging, thoroughly enjoyable but less difficult trails include the 3.6-mile Black Mountain Section and the 7.5-mile Daddy’s Creek Section.
CHEROKEE FOOTHILLS BYWAY Scenic11.com
The Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway is a 130-mile driving excursion on South Carolina Highway 11 through the rolling Upstate countryside. Convenient side trips include popular hiking trails in five state parks, fishing and kayaking along the wild shores of Lake Jocassee, and antique-store shopping in charming towns like Landrum and Walhalla.
Upstate South Carolina’s commercial hub of Greenville has completely revitalized its downtown area with cultural anchors like performance-art venues at The Peace Center and the mid-town Falls Park on the Reedy River with 20+ miles of multi-use pathways. Trendy new shops, galleries, restaurants, and rooftop lounges have sprung up along the route and you can hop on the free trolley for a trip to the Greenville Zoo or just about anywhere else in town.
ALPINE HELEN HelenGA.org
North Georgia’s unique Bavarian-style village, Alpine Helen, celebrates the legacy of both its original Native American inhabitants and its later German immigrants. You’ll find more than 200 specialty shops and restaurants serving Continental cuisine with wines from local vineyards, plus whitewater river rafting, hiking trails to Indian mounds and mountain waterfalls, and Saturday evening music concerts.
SOUTHERN HIGHLAND EVENTS TO ENJOY
ATLANTA DOGWOOD FESTIVAL Dogwood.org
Downtown Atlanta’s Piedmont Park is home to this 83rd-annual community gathering that features 250+ exhibitors in the fine-arts markets, Main Stage live music and unique International Stage performances, a 5K road race, hands-on craft projects in the Kids Village, and fair rides on the Family Midway, plus delicious Backyard Bites & Brews.
Upstate South Carolina’s visual, performing, and culinary arts take center stage in downtown Greenville. View and purchase the featured works of painters, sculptors, photographers, and crafters; enjoy live music, theater, and dance performances; and taste local delights at the Culinary Arts Cafe and the Wine & Craft Beer Experience.
GARDEN JUBILEE FESTIVAL VisitHendersonvilleNC.org
The North Carolina mountain town of Hendersonville hosts this 26th-annual event with more than 260 vendors on Main Street, offering thousands of vegetables, herbs, and flowering plants, including hard-to-find heirloom varieties. Handmade furniture, yard art, and birdhouses are also featured, along with presentations from gardening experts and craft exhibitors.
MAY 31-JUNE 1
NINE LAKES WINE FESTIVAL NineLakesWineFestival.com
The East Tennessee town of Oak Ridge hosts this springtime sampling of more than 100 distinctive wines from 15 area vineyards, plus farm-fresh food, bluegrass music, the one-of-a-kind Barrel of Fun Charity Race, and local lodging discounts for festival attendees.
SOUTHERN HIGHLAND COMMUNITIES TO VISIT
Rock Barn Country Club & Spa (Conover, NC) in western North Carolina is home to 36 holes of top-rated golf, multiple dining venues, an equestrian center, and
a full-service day spa.
Cullowhee River Club in the North Carolina highlands offers riverfront and mountainside sites for cabin/cottage-style homes in a regional paradise for fishing, hiking, and skiing.
Fairfield Glade (Loudon, TN) is an East Tennessee community with access to 11 mountain lakes for boating, kayaking, and fishing, as well as five of the region’s top-rated golf courses.
Tellico Village near Knoxville, TN, is a 5,000-acre waterfront community that features active-adult amenities like a yacht club, wellness center, and three golf courses.
Jasper Highlands (Chatanooga area) in southeastern Tennessee features custom-designed homes and scenic multi-acres homesites, plus a resort pool with adjacent tennis/pickleball courts.
Keowee Key (Salem, SC) offers lakeside neighborhoods in Upstate South Carolina with private and community docks, a fitness center with spa, and a George Cobb-designed golf course.
Cresswind by Kolter Homes offers two Georgia active-adult communities located north and south of Atlanta, respectively: Cresswind Lake Lanier features a private marina and 17 racquet courts, while Cresswind Peachtree City is an award-winning development on 400+ woodland acres with resort-style amenities.
Hartness (Greenville, SC) is a new Upstate South Carolina community near Greenville with park-centered neighborhoods along green pathways that converge at the Village Center.