Asheville. North Carolina’s capital of coolness is famed for walking trails: There are five public greenways, a trail at the Western North Carolina Nature Center and a multi-use trail network at Richmond Hill Park. And there’s the Asheville Urban Trail, a city-created, 30-stop self-guided ramble through downtown streets that points out locations of historic, cultural and architectural significance. The whole route is 1.7 miles. Pick up an Urban Trail map at www.ashevillenc.gov (type “trails” in the search window). Area info: www.romanticasheville.com.
Camden, S.C. The oldest inland town in the Palmetto State was the site of a dreadful Redcoat victory in 1780; Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site (www.historic-camden.net) is a 107-acre outdoor museum complex that shows what life there was like in Colonial/Revolutionary times. Area info: www.kershawcountychamber.org.
Galax, Va. This hotbed of old-time Appalachian music is just off I-77 and a tad north of the Virginia line. Stroll Main Street where you’re likely to hear live mountain music coming from music stores and cafes and Saturday mornings at the farmers market. Also on Main: boutiques, antique stores and restaurants (the Galax Smokehouse is a must-try). Near the farmers market, access the New River Trail, a 57-mile hiking/biking experience. It’s a rails-to-trails project – a narrow railroad corridor refitted and smoothed for public enjoyment – and the incline is as slight as the scenery is picturesque. Figure out how much time you want to spend on it; turn around and return when your watch says you’re halfway done. Tip: Rent a two-wheeler for the day at Main Street Bike Shop (visit their page on Facebook). Area info: www.visitgalax.com.
Greenville, S.C. Easily one of the best weekend destinations not on the coast. Greenville’s gem of a downtown focuses on a multi-block stretch of Main Street that sports widened boulevards where locals and visitors stroll on weekends and evenings. Step south a tad to the redeveloped Reedy River, which is graced by a pedestrian bridge. Five stories below, water splashes over and around the rocks of Falls Park. Head to the park to visit its gardens; follow the trail east for 20 minutes to reach the zoo and sprawling, river-hugging Cleveland Park. Area info: www.greenvillecvb.com.
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Mount Pleasant, S.C. Developed as a Victorian summer suburb by Charlestonians trying to escape the heat and congestion. Direct your sneakers toward Pitt Street, the gentrified 12-block heart of Mount Pleasant’s Old Village. When you need a break from Victorian architecture, follow most any dead-end street south for a spectacular view of Charleston Harbor. For a fun refreshment, swing over to the Pitt Street Pharmacy, an old-time drugstore with a soda fountain. Area info: www.charlestoncvb.com.
New Bern. The second-oldest town in North Carolina was started by a Swiss noble in 1710. The symbol of Bern, Switzerland, is a bear; while no Swiss heritage remains, playful bear sculptures are scattered around the compact town. The fiberglass bruins were originally as white as Arctic snow – then painted, whether tastefully or outrageously, by artists and others who “adopted” them. The displays have become an attraction on their own. Grab your camera; find and shoot them. There are also history-themed walking tours, as you’d expect at a colonial capital (don’t miss touring the splendidly re-created Tryon Palace complex). Area info: www.visitnewbern.com (for details on self-guided walking tours, click “Things to Do, then “Tours of New Bern”).
Winston-Salem. The modern city springs from the old Moravian settlement of Salem, the core of which – about 90 acres on public streets – has been preserved as Old Salem (www.oldsalem.org), one of the top attractions in the Triad. Entry to the historic gardens – and to the dozen buildings where there are activities – requires admission ($23; $11 for ages 6-16), but you’re welcome to stroll the streets. Area info: www.visitwinstonsalem.com.