So you're a mountain person, huh? North Carolina's are some of the best. Here are some sure hits in the high country:
▪ Biltmore Estate in Asheville opened its first-ever art exhibit in the historic gardens of the palatial Vanderbilt estate in May. And it’s a good one. Chihuly at Biltmore, featuring large-scale blown glass sculptures by American artist Dale Chihuly, can be viewed with special ticketing by day or by night.
▪ For a true mountaintop experience, strap on some boots and hike to the top of Table Rock Mountain, overlooking the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area in the Pisgah National Forest. From the parking area at the trailhead northwest of Morganton, it’s a sometimes strenuous 1-mile trek to the summit, and worth the effort. Here are easy directions to the parking area and information on the trail.
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▪ Some people believe vacation should be as easy as floating down a river. Riverside Canoe, New River Outfitters and Zaloo’s Canoes on the New River northeast of Boone think so, and offer kayaking, canoeing and tubing trips down this ancient (and misnamed) waterway. The New River, a National Wild and Scenic River, was saved from being dammed for a hydro-electric power plant in the 1960s and for long stretches, its banks remain largely undeveloped. Tubing trips of two to four hours available, and can include floating through New River State Park.
▪ Not the outdoors type? Not everything in the North Carolina mountains requires a paddle or a pair of padded wool socks. The only legal gambling casino in the state — Harrah’s, built in conjunction with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee — is in the town named for the Native American tribe. The 150,000-square-foot casino has more than 1,000 slot machines and 70 table games.
Looking for more things to do in the North Carolina mountains?
If you're in the far western part of the state, here are a number of suggestions, from the world's largest Ten Commandments to a museum that honors one of North Carolina's most famous musicians:
Asheville and the surrounding area, meanwhile, has a former NASCAR track that now hosts bicycles and some amazing vegetarian restaurants:
And if you're venturing to the Northwest corner of the state, our suggestions include churches with impressive religious frescoes, a trading post on the Blue Ridge Parkway and funky downtown Boone:
Still looking for suggestions? Here are some others from our previous Best-Kept Secrets series: