Sunday, December 16, 2012

Favorite Day trip from Asheville NC along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Brevard, NC and back to Asheville NC

Favorite Day trip from Asheville NC along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Brevard, NC and back to Asheville NC - an 80 mile driving loop with lots of things to do along the way.

Start in Asheville at mile post marker (MPM) 384 and the Blue Ridge Parkway Parkway Visitor Destination Center, open year round, 9am - 5pm excepting Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day and New Years Day.  Public restrooms are available here.  Also, get your National Park,  Parkway map and other area trail maps at this location.  This is great place for an introduction to the history and beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a 24 minute award winning film and the "I-Wall," a 22 foot interactive Parkway Map - all in a beautiful Leed certified building - a wonderful resource for the visitor to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

If traveling between November and March along the Parkway, be sure and check for Parkway Closures and Road conditionsShort-term or weather related closures on the Parkway are updated at the park information line at (828) 298 0398.

View from observation deck atop Mt Pisgah
First Leg of this 80 mile loop is a 30 mile stretch along the Blue Ridge Parkway:  There are mile post markers every mile along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Some of our favorite things to do along this particular 30 mile stretch (with 11 tunnels) besides a visit to the Visitors Center, are a stroll in gardens and trails within the North Carolina Arboretum, entrance, just off MPM 393, a hike to the summit of Mount Pisgah  at MPM 408, if you are up for it.  This is a short but rigorous 3mi RT hike, gentle at the start, a little strenuous the last little bit - if you make it the views are worth it.  There are amazing long range views from atop this 6,800 plus foot mountain; if the timing is right stop at MPM 408.5 at Pisgah Inn (closed from November to April) for lunch - try the fresh trout, or just take an afternoon dessert break there.  Perched on the edge of the mountain at 5000', Pisgah Inn hosts beautiful views looking east out of the large glass windows from the dining room and several trails are accessible from here, to make as long or as short as you like.  

Looking Glass Falls - right off Hwy 276
Second Leg of this drive is along an 18 mile stretch of Hwy 276 as it winds down along Looking Glass Creek and the Davidson River through Pisgah National Forest.  Get off the Parkway at MPM 412, taking Hwy 276/Wagon Gap Road towards Brevard, NC.  First possible stop is at Pink Beds is a wonderful picnic spot with picnic tables, trailheads, open meadows and public restrooms.  And just past Pink Beds on your left is The Cradle of Forestry with short interpretive trails and a movie about the history of forestry.  Additional favorite stops along Hwy 276 include Sliding Rock (a fee area for parking) for an exciting slide and breath-taking dip - or watch others as they take the plunge!  There are public restrooms here and an observation deck from which to watch the "sliders," in the event you would rather not slide yourself!  A favorite easy and relatively short (2 miles) forest hike along this stretch of Hwy 276 is the Moore Cove Falls hike, located about a mile north of Looking Glass Falls.  The Parking lot for this trailhead is on the east side of 276 (left as you are descending) with parking by a bridge that crosses over Looking Glass Creek.  Another mile down the road on your left will be the spectacular Looking Glass Falls, a picture perfect water fall right off the road.  Park and take the stairs down to the foot of the falls for better views of it and even a try dip in the pool at the base of the falls, if you're up for it!  For a side trip off of 276, just after Looking Glass Falls will be a spur road on your right called Fish Hatchery Road.  A few miles down this road will land you at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.  I always enjoy the Fish Hatchery there and feeding the fish.  There are several hikes that begin from the parking lot. There are public restrooms and a quaint gift shop as well as many other hikes, creeks, swimming holes, mountain biking trails and picnic pullouts  - too many to mention; again, this is a wonderful section of road to explore.  Back on Hwy 276, continue towards Brevard.  

3rd Leg of this loop drive -  head into the town of Brevard or straight on back to Asheville:  Just as you drive out of the National Forest boundary, you will see Dolly's Dairy Bar on your left, a favorite ice-cream stop.  This is a fairly large and busy 4 way intersection with a WalMart, grocery story, outdoor shops and fast food joints. Turn left onto Hwy 280 to head back to Asheville, or turn right onto Hwy 64 and head into Brevard, a small and quaint Mountain Town with an enjoyable and walkable downtown with a few delightful shops and restaurants.  16 miles on Hwy 280 will take you to I-26 West where you can get quickly back on the interstate to reach Asheville in another 10 miles.

Enjoy this loop and if you're staying in Asheville, you can get more information about this loop and many other day trip options if you are lodging at Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast or one of the Vacation Rentals managed by Vacation In Asheville.  Reservation office hours are 9am - 5pm daily, 828 994-2627.  Reservationists know the area well and can help you with area information.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Eve Reindeer Food Recipe From Asheville NC

Reindeer Food Recipe:

It is helpful for Santa's Reindeer to keep their stamina throughout Christmas Eve - here's what we do in Asheville, NC to help - we set out Reindeer Food every year on Christmas Eve and this recipe seems to work well:

  • 1 Cup raw Oatmeal - instant or old fashioned (Even oatmeal flavored packets work well)
  • 1 or 2 Tablespoons Glitter
  • Mix together in a zip lock baggie and shake well

  • Put on a cookie sheet or a recycled shirt-box-top and spread out over the cookie sheet or box top
  • Set out around 8:00 pm on Christmas Eve: in your back yard, on the back deck, front door step, roof of the house or at the fireplace hearth, really, just about anywhere  (we have set the cookie sheet out on our back deck every year and this seems to work really well - every year, the Reindeer food is gone in the morning and presents are under the tree - oh yea!)
  • Write a letter to let the Reindeer that you have put food out for them - they are in a hurry and might not know you have done this if you don't alert them

It's that simple.  And if you are traveling over the holidays, this is an easy recipe to pre-make and take with you where-ever your travels might be taking you.  Have a wonderful Christmas, 2012, safe travels, and don't forget to feed the reindeer.

If you are traveling in Western North Carolina and the Asheville, NC area over Christmas, consider a stay at Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast!  A family, kid and pet friendly bed and breakfast in Asheville North Carolina.  Inquire about our rooms with extra beds and other convenient amenities... some with decks or porches, great for setting out Reindeer food.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Asheville Area Candlelight Tour, Vance Birthplace

Glimpse an 1830s era Christmas at the Vance Birthplace "living museum" and North Carolina Historic Site, just a few miles north of Asheville, NC and about a 15 minute drive from downtown Asheville via I-26 West. There will be an annual guided Candlelight Tours at Vance Birthplace from 4 pm to 7 pm on December 8th.  Original log cabin structures from the 1830s remain on the State Historic Site property, and will be opened for guided tours by costumed interpretive staff.  Learn about Christmas traditions and customs of the mid 1800s and symbolism of the decorations.

Vance Birthplace is a North Carolina Historic site located on 911 Reems Creek Road in beautiful Reems Creek Valley.  Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 9am - 5pm, closed Sundays and Mondays and most major holidays.  Call 828 645-6706 or email for more information.  Admission to the park is free.

For lodging information in the Asheville Area call Vacation-In-Asheville, for reservations at Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast or one of the four area Vacation Rentals managed by them, 9am-7pm daily, 828 994-2627.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Asheville Community Theater and the Santaland Diaries this Christmas Season in Asheville, NC

Enjoy the SantaLand Diaries presented by the Asheville Community Theater (ACT) and directed by Betsy Puckett, this Christmas season in Asheville, NC.  

SantaLand Diaries is an essay by David Sedaris, adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello.  The story and play is allegedly about Sedaris himself and reveals his hilarious observations of Macy Department Store shoppers and employees while he is employed as a Christmas Elf in Macy's SantaLand.

The Santaland Diaries may be seen in Asheville, NC this December, 13-16, 2012, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 pm and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 pm.  The Asheville Community Theatre is located at 35 East Walnut Street in Asheville, North Carolina, right downtown.  Tickets may be purchased by visiting the ACT website,, or by calling, 828 253-1320.

If you are visiting Asheville, NC for the Holidays and need lodging, call Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast, an Asheville B&B, about 2 miles south (5 minutes) of the Asheville Community Theater.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

See Santa Claus Rock Climbing and Chimney Rock Park, Christmas 2012, near Asheville, NC

There's something special about seeing Santa Claus practicing his chimney and rock climbing techniques at Chimney Rock Park near Asheville North Carolina!  And, it's no wonder Chimney Rock Park was named one of the 10 best places to see Santa Claus by USA Today.  Santa has been practicing here for 20 years now - and what better place to practice chimney climbing than Chimney Rock Park - as he prepares for all those chimneys and toy deliveries on Christmas Eve.  

You can watch this spectacular event from 11am - 2pm on December 8th and December 15th, 2012.  

Both Santa and Mrs. Claus will be present - after the practice climbs, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, sit on Santa's lap, enjoy live holiday music, hot cocoa and cookies, kids' activities, all complimentary with your Park Admission Ticket.

And you might win free climbing lessons as well this 2012 Christmas Season.  At 1:30 on each of these days, there will be a winner for a 2 hour climbing lesson with Fox Mountain Guides, Santa's own professionals!  

If you need a place to stay nearby, try Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast, of Vacation-In-Asheville, an Asheville, NC bed and breakfast.  Office hours for making reservations are 9am - 7pm daily, seven days a week, 828 994 2627.  Bookings may also be made directly online.  

Or, for more space, larger groups and longer stays, inquire about one of the Vacation Rentals Vacation-In-Asheville manages.

Have a wonderful Christmas in Asheville 2012!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Walk Through History Along the Asheville Urban Trail in Downtown Asheville North Carolina

If you enjoy history, architecture and a bit of structure for a walk through Asheville's Historic Downtown, print the Asheville Urban Trail Map and Guide and take it with you while you enjoy and explore Asheville's vibrant downtown.  

The Urban Trail is a little less than 2 miles long and may be a self-guided or guided tour (for more information about obtaining a local Ashevillian guide, visit the Asheville Visitor's Center  on Montford and Hill St, or call 828 258 6101).  Often called Asheville's "museum without walls," the Urban trail was an idea that came to fruition through interested citizens who were invested and passionate about revitilizing downtown - which was, in the eighties in great disrepair with most businesses closed and boarded up.  

There are thirty stations along the downtown walk, each with a plaque illuminating an important and interesting history point about Asheville's downtown history and development.  Bronze sculptures and other art works may also be found at each station.  Asheville's unique people and various historic events are highlighted along the tour.  

For lodging options in the area, call Vacation-In-Asheville for an Asheville Cabin or Asheville Vacation Rental, or stay at Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast - ideally located about 2 miles south of Pack Square, a popular starting point for the Urban Trail.  Reservation and information offices  are open 9am - 7pm daily, call 828 994-2627, 866 858-0863, toll free, or visit our website at, email,

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Time Saving Muffin Recipe at Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast, Asheville, NC

I'm always looking for ways to save time, and this Muffin Recipe we use at Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast in Asheville, NC is a great little time saver.  By making the muffins ahead of time and freezing the unbaked muffins, we are able to pop them into the oven for a freshly baked option that includes great time savings in the early morning.... something we often need at our busy little inn here in Asheville North Carolina!

Michelle's Muffin Mix

Makes 24 Muffins

Dry ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar

Wet ingredients:
2 eggs beaten
*1 and 1/2 cups fruit or vegetable filling - your choice
1 cup nuts, seeds or raisins/craisins (optional)
1/2 cup canola oil

*Some of our favorite combinations are strawberry-peach, pumpkin-raisin-sunflower seed, grated zucchini-carrot and orange-cranberry.  But, anything will work!  Seasons of the year lend themselves to certain combinations.  Have fun trying various and unlimited options.

Prepare muffin tins with paper muffin liners.
In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center of the dry mixture.
In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients.  Stir into the dry mixture (well) until just moistened (batter should be lumpy).
Spoon the batter into the paper liners to 2/3 full.

Make ahead freezer option:  Freeze the muffins unbaked for 1 hour in the muffin pan, then place the frozen uncooked muffins (in liners) into a large zip lock bag.  When you are ready to bake the muffins, place the frozen muffins back into a muffin pan and bake frozen at 350 degrees F. for 20 min.  Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove and let cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm topped with butter and jam!

Or (!), if wanting to bake right away, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes.

And if cooking isn't your gig, make a reservation and stay with us at Oakland Cottage B&B in Asheville, NC and we might just serve some up for breakfast!  Reservation offices are open 9am-7pm daily, 828 994 2627, 866 858 0863, toll free,

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Asheville Happenings this week and through Labor Day Weekend

Always lots going on in Asheville, NC and there is no exception for this coming Labor Day Weekend, 2012.  Here is a sampling of a few events to consider attending:

CLAP! ASHEVILLE August 31 – September 3, 2012 in Asheville over four days throughout Labor Day Weekend, introducing Asheville’s Live Arts Performance Festival.  Some of the cities best arts groups will be performing over these four days.  For a list of performances visit the CLAP! ASHEIVLLE website:

FRIDAY'S AFTER FIVE at the Biltmore Estate, in the Antler Hill Village and Winery Area of the estate, live music, wine and beer, kids activities, a grape stomp at the Village Green, Freeport Jazz will be featured Friday August 31st.  Included with your daytime ticket.

September 1-4, 2012, LABOR DAY BEACH MUSIC WEEKEND at The Grove Park Inn, where “Music meets the mountains at the hottest Labor Day Celebration in Asheville, North Carolina.” Celebrate the end of summer in a traditional Carolina way, with live beach music, a coastal seafood buffet, dancing and a variety of activities - enjoy and join in on shag dance lessons, pool games, crafts, a grilling demonstration from one of the Grove Park Inn’s talented chefs, all Labor Day Weekend!  See the Schedule of Events.  Call the Grove Park Inn for Details: 800-438-5800.

Always a favorite, don't miss LAAFF, Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival, September 1&2, 2012, celebrating the traditions of Lexington Avenue; Lexington Avenue is closed down yearly for this “all day, all local, all original” street fair. The day is filled with street performers, unique artwork, music and lots and lots of fun.  

MESSIAH’s MANSION tours are free and sure to be interesting.  Tours will be held in Carrier Park on Amboy Road in Asheville and held daily from 1pm – 7pm, August 28th – September 3rd, 2012.  Special tours may be arranged during the morning hours of each day.  “Travel back over 3,000 years into the desert between Egypt and Israel where more that two million people banded together to build a tabernacle for their God. Each element in the tabernacle had deep significant meaning to the Hebrew people which will be explained in the tour … Messiah's mansion is based at Oklahoma Academy, in Harrah Oklahoma, but it is transported across the U.S., from Ventura California, on the west coast, to Cumberland, Maryland, on the east coast, and back again-nearly a dozen times a year.”  Visit the Messiah's Mansion Website or Call 828-665-2492 for more information.

Ooh La La Curiosity Market, September 1st Taking place in downtown Asheville’s little Pritchard Park from 10am-4pm, Ooh La La will feature more than a dozen local artists, including leather smiths, painters, potters, jewelry makers, and more.  Look for the colorful umbrellas and tents in this small park with big surprises!  September 1st will be the last Ooh La La Curiosity Market for this season.  

September 1st, Pack Place Education, Arts & Science Center, in the heart of downtown Asheville (Just across from the monument) enjoy WILD THINGS WEEKEND fun for the whole family, featuring live animal shows, award winning wildlife films, exhibits by outdoor businesses, environmental educators and conservation.  Presenters include Rob Gudger and his Wolves, Freeman Owle Cherokee Animal story teller, Wild for Life with Birds of Prey, Steve O’Neil with Reptiles and Amphibians, and special guests John Rucker and the “Turtle Dogs.”

For Lodging options, including an Asheville Bed and Breakfast, Asheville Cabin, or Asheville Vacation Rental, call Vacation In Asheville (VIA), office hours are 9am-7pm daily, 828 994-2627, or make your booking directly online.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

America's Safest Weather Cities - Asheville, NC

Yet another reason to visit (or live in!) Asheville, NC... safe weather!  Cities across the US were recently analyzed by for their safety as it relates to weather and Asheville came in on top as one of eight "America's Safest Weather Cities."  The weather dangers to all US cities listed and measured across the USA were, heat, flood, tornadoes, cold, snow/ice, lightening and tropical cyclones.  And while no city is "weather proof" Asheville was rated the #1 safe city in the Southeastern region and one of the eight safest weather cities in the USA.  
So, besides being Beer City USA, Good Morning America's winner of the Most Beautiful cities in the US, one of Frommers Must See Destinations, check out our weather, too!  The analytical approach with numbers and graphs is nicely laid out in the article, but in regular folk terms, here's what I love about Asheville's year round weather ...
Being in the mountains of Western NC, and starting at an elevation of around 2200' above sea level, summer temperatures are much milder than  the rest of the southeast, and even when temperatures seldom reach the 90s and above, the number of days a year this happens is few,especially when compared to the rest of the Southeast;  and Asheville cools off nicely in the evenings - back down to 60's 70s.  Additionally, there are four pretty even and short seasons, each about three months long, each offering the best of what our seasons are all about.  Fall and Spring are my personal favorites.  In our short winter, Asheville does have snow - we enjoy our snow - because it isn't overwhelming; and if it is extremely cold for a week, well, the next week could be in the 60s giving quick respite and melting all the snow away for easy hope to a soon to be spring.  We get plenty of rain to fill our streams, help our beautiful waterfalls and add to the richness and diversity of the flora and fauna; BUT Asheville itself lies in a "rain shadow" for a less rainy environment than our mountain city neighbors ("Less rain falls in the... Asheville basin, located in a rain shadow.").  

Go ahead, check out the weather report for Asheville, and we'll see you soon no matter!  Lodging opportunities abound to help you with your stay - consider an Asheville Bed and Breakfast location, or Asheville Vacation Rental or Asheville Cabin Rental  -  call Vacation In Asheville, 9am-7pm daily. 828 994-2627.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Asheville Events and Happenings, August 2012

Cool mornings and evenings and sunny days have shepherded in a great start to Asheville in August.  And there's plenty to do and see in Asheville this month.  Lots of festivals and special events will be going on all of August.
Ongoing Events include:
  • Biltmore Summer Concerts are every Friday evening in August (August 24th is sold out already) at The Biltmore Estate Grounds 
  • Enjoy guided Waterfall hikes at Chimney Rock Park every Friday this summer (free with your daytime ticket) 
  • Every Saturday, 46th Season of Shindig on the Green at Pack Square Park from 7-10 (free)
  • Prichard Park little oddities include Hoop Jam Tuesdays and Drum Circle Fridays (free) evenings 
  • Guided hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway are weekly (free) and meet in various locations
  • Tourist baseball games at the Tourist Ball Stadium in downtown Asheville
  • Eating Asheville Food Tours, Trolley Tours, LaZoom Comedy Tours, Ghost Tours, Orange Peel Music Hall, Diana Wortham Theatre, shopping, dining, River Arts District, Blue Ridge Parkway, Navitat Canopy Tours, Whitewater rafting, horseback riding and more!
Week of August 1-4
  • 3rd Annual Echoview Hops Festival in Weaverville first weekend in August. 
  • 40th Annual Village Art & Craft Fair in Biltmore Village August 4-5, 
  • 85th Annual Mountain Dance & Folk Festival Aug 2-4,
  • Concerts in the Park at Biltmore Park Town Square from 7-9 on Aug 4 (Billy Jonas)
  • Ooh La La Curiosity Market at Prichard Park Aug 4
Week of August 6-12
  • Anything that Floats Parade August 11th on the French Broad River (this is really fun!) 
  • Swanannoa Gathering Programs at Warren Wilson College - Aug 5-11 Mando & Banjo Week/ Fiddle Week, 
  • War Comes to the Mountains weekend of August 11th at Vance Birthplace State Park recurring for two days 
  • 35th Annual Sourwood Festival in Black Mountain weekend of Aug 11th
  • Blue Ridge Parkway Family Night Aug 9th at the Park Headquarters on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Downtown Asheville 
  • Gingerbread Demonstrations at the Grove Park Inn August 11th 
  • Homegrown tomato contest at The Market Place on Wall Street, Aug 11 
Week of August 13 - 19
  • The 6th Annual "Laugh your Asheville Off Comedy Festival is August 14 - 18 in various locations around downtown Asheville and at The Magnetic Field in the River Arts District of Downtown
  • 7th Annual Leicester Studio Tour August 18 & 19, Potato Branch Road in Leicester
  • Buzz on Bees at Chimney Rock State Park on Aug 18
  • Dog Day Afternoon Festival in Carrier and River Park, a must for pet owners! August 18
  • Downtown After 5 Concert Series Friday August 17 on North Lexington Avenue
  • 3rd Annual Dirty Dancing Festival, Saturday August 18 at Lake Lure 
  • Ooh La La Curiosity Market at Prichard Park Aug 18
  • Concerts in the Park at Biltmore Park Town Square from 7-9 on Aug 18 (The Blue Dragons) 
Aug 20 - 26
  • 31st Annual Goombay Festival August 24-26 on Eagle Street in Downtown Asheville
  • 8th Annual Hickory Nut Gorge Olympiad, Aug 24-26 at Chimney Rock State Park
  • Asheville Wine and Food Festival Aug 24 at The Grove Arcade in Downtown Asheville
  • Riverlinks River Concert Series August 24 at the River Arts District Green on Riverside Drive
Just to name a few!  And if you need a place to stay, Oakland Cottage is just a mile or two from many of the downtown festivals and the entrance to the Biltmore Estate.  For your family reunion, small group retreat or girlfriend getaway, reserve all of Oakland Cottage B&B or inquire about one of the larger Asheville Vacation Rentals we manage.  Get your August plans together!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guided Hikes in Western North Carolina Mountains this First Week in August, 2012

This first week in August, 2012, enjoy guided hikes in the Asheville, NC Area of the Western Mountains of North Carolina and learn more about the history, flora and fauna of our mountain region as well as enjoying a good little hike, amazing views, stunning waterfalls - all with an experienced and knowledgable guide.

The Blue Ridge Parkway offers free guided hikes with a Park Ranger throughout the summer months in the Asheville, NC area. The next will be this Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 from 7-8:30 pm, meeting at Milepost 393 (on the north side of the French Broad River Bridge).    This hike will be an easy one along the Mountains-to-Sea trail with a focus on the French Broad River and its impact and importance to the Asheville and Western NC area.

And if you can't make the Thursday evening hike, another guided hike with a Blue Ridge Parkway Park Ranger will be on Friday August 3rd, meeting at Rough Bald Butt overlook at 10:00 am, Milepost Marker 425 for an easy 3 mile round trip hike through the Middle Prong Wilderness area, focusing on the amazing biodiversity of the Mountain Region of Western NC.

For either of the above Parkway hikes this week, be sure and make a reservation by contacting the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center at 828 298 5330, ext 304.  Bring water, wear good hiking/walking shoes, be prepared for the weather!

Waterfall Fridays, all summer - always a treat at Chimney Rock Park -  this Friday August 3rd, with your park paid admission, join a complimentary guided hike to Hickory Nut Falls, at 404 tall waterfall, the tallest of its kind, east of the Mississippi - sure to be cranking with all this rain.  Meet in front of the Cliff Dwellers Gifts at 11:00 am.  No reservations are needed for this first come first serve hike, but there is a 25 person limit for the hike.  A Park Naturalist/guide will share information about plant and animal life as well as a bit about the park history.

Getting there: To get to the Parkway and/or Chimney Rock Park from Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast and downtown Asheville, take Biltmore Avenue South through Biltmore Village (where it becomes Hendersonville Rd.), go under I-40 and take the right hand clover-leaf ramp that will put you on I-40 heading EAST at exit number 50.  Drive 3 miles on I-40 to exit 53-A and exit towards Bat Cave, Blue Ridge Parkway.  Merge onto 74-A.  Just before the first light (comes up pretty quick) on 74-A, take a right turn onto an entrance ramp to the Blue Ridge Parkway, or stay on 74-A for another 21 miles to Chimney Rock Park.

There are plenty of gas stations, groceries, etc. along 74-A, but be sure and gas and food up if you are getting onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bele Chere 2012 Asheville NC Kid and Family Friendly

Bele Chere 2012 is here going on NOW in downtown Asheville and there is lots to do for the whole family, kids and grown-ups alike.

The US Cellular Center is the place to take your family when you need a break from the vibrancy of the outside Bele Chere and the elements of Asheville in July.  AIR CONDITIONING (!!), shade and shelter, real bathrooms, baby changing station and lots and lots to do.  Many things are even free, like face painting and crafts.  Or buy tickets to the many "blow up" slides, rides, games and climbing tower, all indoors and a great haven and break from the hustle and bustle in the streets, July heat, sun and rainstorms.

But the streets and live music are what Bele Chere is all about.... sights, sounds and smells.  Food, food, food, lemonade, beer, booths with crafts, art, knick-knacks, stages with music galore and people, people, people.  So much fun to just walk around, listen and enjoy.  See you there!

We're full at Oakland Cottage an Asheville Bed and Breakfast and Vacation-In-Asheville, Asheville Vacation Rentals this 2012 Bele Chere weekend, but call us on your next visit to Asheville, reservation offices 9am-7pm daily 7 days a week, or get your plans in order now for Bele Chere 2013!!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spectacular Waterfall Hikes in the Asheville, NC Area of Western NC and DuPont State Forest

If you are looking for spectacular waterfall hikes near Asheville NC in the western North Carolina Mountains, DuPont State Forest is a winner, with more than a half a dozen waterfalls to hike to, and all within a relatively small area.  Many of the hikes are very easy because of the gravel road system throughout parts of the 10,300 Forest acres.  Besides hiking, this area is also very popular and friendly for Mountain Bikers and Equestrians, with a network of over 90 miles of trails, from single track to wide gravel roads.  The gravel roads are closed to motorized traffic.

Most of the Arena Scenes from the Hunger Games movie were filmed at DuPont State Forest, with film crew taking advantage of the easily accessible creeks and waterfalls for scenes along with the spectacular forest scenes.

My favorite waterfall is High Falls so the directions and photos here will be mostly about this amazing waterfall.  The photo above shows a booming High Falls, just after heavy rains - a great way to cool off on a hot summer day. The mist and breezes from the falls are refreshing

Getting to High Falls and DuPont State Forest from Asheville, NC:  Take I-26 East and take Exit #40 at the Asheville Airport.  At the end of the ramp, turn right onto NC 280 (the Airport will be immediately on your right).  Stay on NC 280 for 16  miles.  There will be a major 4 way intersection (fast food, ice-cream, WalMart, grocery store, outdoor shops and outdoorguides may all be found here).  At this traffic light and 4-way intersection, turn left onto US 64 and travel 3.7 miles to a traffic light at a Triangle Stop (gas station and quick mart in Penrose).  Turn right here onto Crab Creek Road and go 4.3 miles to DuPont Road (old very blue, 2 story building on your right at this turn) and go 4.2 miles on DuPont Road.  You will notice that DuPont Road changes names to Staton Road.  Go past the Hooker Falls Access (on your right) to the High Falls Access Area which will be a bit further up on your left.  There are restrooms at this parking lot.  Trails are well marked, there is lots of signage everywhere in DuPont State Forest.  

This gravel parking lot is pretty fancy for State Forest parking - the entrance is complete with fancy gates and rock pillars.  There is a reason for this – DuPont State Forest land was almost a private, large and exclusive residential development.  The developer had the intention of closing all of the trails and waterfalls to the public.  Through a series of events and public outcry, the site was acquired by the State in the year 2000, after the North Carolina Council of State, led by Govenor Jim Hunt, voted to invoke its power of eminent domain.  Before being seized by the State, many well graded roads and buildings were put into the property by the developer (be sure and visit the Covered Bridge at the top of High Falls, part of the work of the private developer).  DuPont State Forest is here for us to enjoy today, and it is indeed always enjoyable to visit and especially appreciated since it was almost lost to the public forever.
High Falls: At the end of the parking lot continue down the gravel road (Buck Forest Road) and follow signs to High Falls.  It is about a 15 - 20 minute walk from the parking lot to the base of High Falls, mostly on gravel roads.  A well marked left turn will take the trail downward and past two wonderful views of High Falls. The last bit of trail is a sharp right turn into the woods and along the Little River and will end at the base of High Falls.  The views will take your breath away. 
Many easy side trips are recommended.  The High Falls hike may be made into a longer 3 mile loop hike by adding in side trips to Triple and Hooker Falls.  Trails to these two falls are well marked along the way.
From High Falls, on your return to the parking lot, turn left at a well marked intersection and add a trip to the Covered Bridge at the top of High Falls.  It is not far from this intersection.  You can't see the falls from the vantage point on the bridge, but watching and listening to the powerful drop-off of the river is enjoyable and the bridge will provide shade and usually a breeze.  From the Covered Bridge, Grassy Creek Falls is an easy add on hike as well and will likely be much less crowded than the very popular High Falls and Triple Falls areas.  After crossing the Covered Bridge, stay on the main gravel road (Buck Forest Road) for about another half mile, passing a right turn for Conservation Road.  Once across Grassy Creek, turn left onto Lake Imaging Trail (road) to the marked Grassy Creek Falls trail on the left to the top of the falls.  A trail will take you down the creek to the base of the waterfall.
Easy hiking, multiple falls to see, well graded roads closed to motorized traffic, lots of water, swimming holes, gorgeous scenery, make this a family friendly hike as well as a pet friendly hike.  Do be cautious with yourself, children and pets, as deaths occur every year in Western North Carolina due to overconfident and careless hikers at waterfalls.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Asheville, NC, Oakland Cottage B&B is a family friendly bed and breakfast, as well as a pet friendly bed and breakfast.  And if you need more private accommodations, Vacation In Asheville can help you with Asheville Cabin Rentals and Asheville Vacation Rentals.  The reservation offices are open 9am to 7pm daily and you may reach the very helpful staff at 828 994-2627 during these times.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Point Lookout Greenway Bike Trail near Asheville, NC

A section of Old Hwy 70 is now a 3.6 mile paved trail near Asheville, NC, connecting Ridgecrest (near Black Mountain) with Old Fort.  It is wonderful little section for walking on, road biking and/or mountain biking and can easily be made into a 10 mile round trip ride.

Getting there: From Asheville, NC via I-40 take the Old Fort exit #72, go 1 mile, turn left onto Old Highway 70, go 2.4 miles to the Mill Creek Road intersection and pull into the Old Fort Picnic Area on your left.  From May to October the Old Fort Picnic Area is open and the closest place to park.  It will add another 1/2 mile to your walk or ride each way.  There are picnic tables and bathrooms available at the picnic area.  If closed, Andrew's Geyser or the Depot in Old Fort is another good place to park, especially for cyclists.

Old Hwy 70 was closed many years ago when I-40 was completed and re-opened in 2008 as The Point Lookout Greenway.  Prior to the completion of I-40, US 70 was the primary east-west link across the country.  My mother recalls many drives up this section of 70.  Automobiles would stop at Point Lookout to add water to the overheated radiators after the steep uphill climb.  The old asphalt remains underneath the new blacktop.  The trail still climbs 900 feet in elevation and the views all along the way are wonderful, particularly at Point Lookout, now with benches, flagpole and information kiosk.  Many organized runs and rides now use this section.

If you are visiting Asheville, NC, lodging alternatives include Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast, Cabins and Vacation Rentals through Vacation-In-Asheville.  Reservation offices are open 9am - 7pm daily.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Catawba Falls, A Great Little Waterfall Hike Near Asheville NC

Near Asheville NC, about 20 miles east near the sleepy town of Old Fort, is a lovely waterfall hike to Catawba Falls, a 3 mile round trip trek.  The Catawba Falls hike is a pet friendly hike, especially in hot summer months, as there are several creeks along the way and a great deal of shade for the entire hike.

Getting there: From Asheville NC head east on I-40, taking exit #73, the second Old Fort exit.  Just before the end of the exit ramp, turn right onto Catawba River Road.  If traveling west on I-40, take exit #73, turn left at end of the ramp onto Bat Cave Road going back under the interstate, turn right on the short two way section of the east bound ramp and make a quick left onto Catawba River Road.  Drive 3 miles to the end of Catawba River Road and park in the designated parking lot there.

The parking lot is new and there are now bathrooms there.  The trailhead begins out of the northwest corner just past the trail and information "kiosk."  Most of the trail follows a nicely graded and shaded trail bed; there are three creek crossings along the 1.5 mile hike out, and a couple of places where there are scrambles through rocks, but most of the trail is easy walking.  Almost immediately there is the first creek crossing that will put the headwaters of the Catawba River on your left side for the rest of the walk.  If there has been a recent rain, you might just need to take off your shoes and wade across (or wear good hiking/wading shoes for this hike).  A second and easier creek crossing will take you across Clover Patch Branch, another small tributary that joins into the Catawba.  After this creek crossing you will pass an old concrete dam, allegedly built in 1923 as part of a small hydro-electric facility.  While interesting, it is also quite dangerous, so if you choose to explore, do not get onto the dam wall itself and move about with great care.  A fall here would be debilitating if not deadly.  Shortly after the dam wall is a third creek crossing, taking you across the Chestnut Branch tributary.  After this crossing the trail gets rougher so pick your way with care.  You will see the 100 plus foot Catawba Falls through tree branches and come out in a bit of an opening right at the base of the lovely falls.  Looking up you can see that the falls cascade down for quite a distance.  Rough trails continue up along the right side of the falls.  If you continue to explore, again, pick your way with care.  I myself have not been to the top to see if it is worth the view, but it appears that many scramblers have headed upward.  Turn around when you wish for the 1.5 mile hike back to the parking lot.

It is wonderful to see the new parking lot and US Forest Service designation for this beautiful hike, forest and falls, as this land was bought in two stages rather recently by the Foot Hills Conservancy, in 2005 and another portion again in 2007.  Later it was sold to the US Forest Service.  The parking lot will be formally dedicated on July 20th from 11am - 12pm, and the public is invited.  We are glad that this beautiful headwaters will remain open to and accessible by the public.

If you are looking for a place to stay nearby, or an Asheville Bed and Breakfast, you might enjoy the pet friendly Oakland Cottage B&B, or for more private and independent lodging options, call or email Vacation In Asheville about an Asheville Cabin or Asheville Vacation Rental.  Reservation office hours are 9am - 7pm daily, 7 days a week, 828 994-2627, email and/or visit our website at where you may book directly online. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Asheville NC - Shindig on the Green 2012, 46th Season, Pack Square Park

Shindig on the Green 2012 begins it's 46th summer season June 30th from 7-10 pm, continuing through the summer on just about every Saturday - same time, same place - July 7, 14, 21, August 11, 18, 25 and September 1 - at Pack Square Park, downtown Asheville, NC.

Looking back over Pack Square Park in Downtown Asheville
What is Shindig on the Green?  Well, it's free (!) and produced by The Folk Heritage Committee "to support the preservation and continuation of the traditional music, dance and storytelling heritage of the Southern Appalachian Mountains."

Shindig on the Green is really just a wonderful time for all - bring blankets, lawn chairs, instruments and the whole family - for a relaxing atmosphere in which to watch, listen, mingle, dance and jam with other dancers and musicians in the traditional southern Appalachian and Western NC mountain style.  As it has since it's 1967 founding 46 years ago, local volunteer entertainers and entertainment will include The Stoney Creek Boys, bluegrass and old-timey string bands, big circle mountain dancers, clog dancers, smooth dancers, ballad singers and story tellers.

Don't miss the Raffle - this year's locally made raffle items are a handmade guitar by luthier Caleb Smith and a hand-made 90X90" quilt created by Mountain Jam [quilting] Circle (Alice Helms, Ann Bordeau and Cheryl Kotecki).

Food will be available and provided by Okie Dokies Smokehouse and The Hop Ice Cream Cafe.

Parking is free at metered parking spots on the street after 6pm (bring your quarters if you are parking before 6pm) and various parking garages may be found throughout downtown.

Call Oakland Cottage B&B and Vacation In Asheville for your lodging needs, 828 994-2627,  Oakland Cottage B&B is located 2 miles from Pack Square Park.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Smith McDowell House and Museum - Asheville's Oldest Home

The Smith-McDowell House Museum is Asheville's oldest surviving home.  Now a museum, it sits on the campus of the Asheville-Buncombe Technical College (AB-Tech), centrally located about 1 mile from the Biltmore Estate entrance, River Arts District and downtown Asheville, just off Biltmore Avenue on Victoria Road.  The entrance fee is $8 for the guided tour with short & informative movie.  The Docents are an incredible wealth of information and the history of the house tells the story of Asheville in many and varied ways.  The tour will take you from the mid-19th century to the present in about 1 hour.

Not a lot of hoopla or advertising, so easy to miss this little gem.  You won't likely find crowds here - The Smith-McDowell House Museum is a quiet and uncrowded place to take in Asheville's history.  Be sure and be on the look out for special events and lectures that are held at the Smith McDowell House Museum, particularly around Civil War history.  Within walking distance - on top of the hill and also on the AB-Tech campus, is the Fernihurst Mansion and although used as offices, it is free and parts are open to the public for viewing.  Many special events are held there, such as the Christmas Lighting on the Green, annual Asheville Bread Festival and more.

If you are looking for a convenient place to stay, Oakland Cottage B&B is just around the corner, so an easy walk to the AB-Tech campus, Smith McDowell House museum, and the Fernihurst Mansion.

Parlour at The Smith-McDowell House Museum
Dining Room at The Smith-McDowell House Museum
Depiction of a mid-19th century kitchen at the Smith-McDowell House Museum

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Asheville Beer Week, Thursday May 24 through June 3rd 2012, 11 Days of Celebrating Beer!

The first ever Asheville Beer Week, Thursday May 24 through June 3rd 2012, is comprised of 11 Days of celebrating beer in Beer City USA, Asheville, NC.

"Our mission is to celebrate that nectar known as beer—to taste many different styles of beer and variations on those styles; to pair beer with a smorgasbord of delicious foods; to learn about and explore beer in all its delectable complexity; and, most of all, to have fun drinking beer in the brewery-centric mountains of Asheville, NC."

Over 40 breweries will appear.  There will be festivals, tastings, contests, prizes, seminars and more.  The 11 day long event has been organized by Asheville's own regional beer industry professionals and will include as many bars, restaurants and breweries as possible.  And timing couldn't be better with Asheville's recent yet again win for Beer City USA (in a dead heat tie with Grand Rapids, Michigan)!

The event will kick off on Thursday May 24th at the Highland Tasting Room (12 Old Charlotte Hwy, Asheville) with a benefit for Ben Harris, a former employee of Redhook Brewing in Portsmouth NH, who was tragically killed in a keg explosion.  There is no cover and all donations will go to the Ben Harris and Alysha Miller Baby Fund.

The rest of the 10 days will be sandwiched between two festivals, the Just Brew it Homebrew Festival, and the Beer City Festival.

The 3rd Annual Just Brew it Homebrew Festival will be held at The Wedge (125-B Roberts Street, River Arts District, Asheville, NC) on May 26th from 2-5pm, sponsored by Just Economics.   The event is free to members of Just Economics (a not-for-profit organization that identifies and promotes local employers who provide a living wage) and for non-members, the $16 basic membership may be purchased for entry to the Festival.  There will be over 100 home brews from which to sample, live music, contests and prizes.

What better way to culminate Beer Week than with the Beer City Festival on June 2nd at the Roger McGuire Green in Asheville's downtown park.  Tickets are $40 each and may be purchased at local Breweries, as well as at Brusin' Ales, Barleys Taproom & Pizzaria and The Thirsty Monk.

For more information and a schedule of events, visit the Asheville Beer Week website or the official guide presented by the brewers of Asheville and Mountain Xpress

Call Vacation-In-Asheville for your lodging needs. Stay at a Bed and Breakfast or Vacation Rental within easy access to the local breweries, River Arts District and downtown Asheville, as well as activities in and around Asheville, NC, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Western NC Mountains!  Offices are open 9am - 7pm daily, 828 994-2627.

Vacation-In-Asheville is a certified area employer of Just Economics.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Blue Ridge Parkway along the 20 mile Asheville NC Corridor

The Blue Ridge Parkway is ranked as the number one recommended attraction on TripAdvisor, by travelers visiting Asheville, NC and there is a reason why.  Designated as a "motor park" the 400 plus mile long Blue Ridge Parkway is easily accessible for incredible scenic drives with your car, motorcycle or bicycle, it is a free National Park, there are seemingly unlimited, breathtaking and long range views of the Western NC Mountains, via pull-outs and hikes,  there is easy access to hiking and bicycling, amazing creeks, swimming holes and waterfalls, access to the highest points in elevation east of the Mississippi, bird watching, amazing fall foliage, beautiful spring wild flowers... the list goes on.

The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), while often closed through mid-April due to inclement weather, seems to be staying open fairly regularly this winter season, 2012, as we experience low snowfall and unusually warm spring weather here in Asheville, NC.  However, be sure and check for road closures, as with snow,  rock fall or construction, parts of this incredible scenic highway can be closed, seemingly on a whim at times. 

And while most of the Parkway can remain closed in winter months, the 20 mile Asheville, NC "commuter section" between the NC Arboretum and Bull Gap (around MPM 395, south end to MPM 375, north end) stays open almost all year round, and both the Folk Art Center and Park Head Quarters may be accessed from this corridor.  The "Mountains to Sea Trail," more commonly referred to as the "White Dot Trail" meanders along this section of the BRP, so hiking along this section of the parkway is almost always accessible.  The NC Arboretum, Bent Creek Experimental Forrest and Lake Powatan border the Blue Ridge Parkway at the southern end of the Asheville commuter section where there are many access points to abundant walking, hiking and mountain biking.  Cyclists, hikers and joggers alike often enjoy the road closure from Bull Gap to Mount Mitchell, as the roads are free and clear of motor traffic during these closures.

This year in Western NC, there has been little snow to speak of.  Temperatures are abnormally warm this March.  Flowers are bursting and Spring is certainly here.  We will keep our fingers crossed against a hard freeze that can spoil our beautiful mountain spring flowers...  But spring flowers are bursting, and the Parkway is open, except for the long term closures due to construction.

And if you are looking for lodging near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Asheville, NC, be sure and call the reservation offices of Vacation In Asheville, 828 994-2627, open 9 am to 7 pm daily, for Asheville bed and breakfast stays, cabin or vacation rentals, all with easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway.