A Girls’ Getaway to the North Carolina High Country

A Girls’ Getaway to the North Carolina High Country

Your trip to the High Country should include adventure, such as hiking Linville Gorge

A getaway to the mountains promises beauty, tranquility and an escape from the daily grind. Add in your best girlfriends and you have the recipe for an unforgettable vacation that will leave you rejuvenated, thanks to the epic scenery, activities and conversations that wait in North Carolina’s High Country.

3-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Kick off your trip with some of our state’s most coveted things: award-winning wines, artisan cheeses and resort amenities.

Day 2: Time for a spa, health and wellness day to shake off any lingering stress.

Day 3: Explore the beauty of Linville with a spelunking and hiking excursion, and spend your last evening enjoying quality conversation at your mountain view cabin.

Day 1: Indulge

Drop your bags and your responsibilities at Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock, dubbed a best stay by Southern Living. This 87-acre resort provides the perfect setting to kick back and soak in the mountain air and hospitality. But don’t get too comfortable – there are wineries to enjoy first.

To get to Banner Elk Winery, take the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway for breathtaking views of Pisgah National Forest and the surrounding Grandfather, Sugar and Beech mountains. Upon arrival, experience the winery in one of two ways: either a tour and tasting on the weekends or tasting-only during weekdays. Be sure to try the winery’s popular ice wine and blueberry wine, as well as its reds and whites produced from French-American and American grape varietals.

Next, continue on to a North Carolina Cheese Trail destination, Erick’s Cheese and Wine. Sample some new-to-you cheeses, then order a cheese board and some fresh-baked baguettes to-go for a Parisian-inspired lunch to munch on at the next stop, Grandfather Winery. Don’t worry; you’ll be snacking on these purchases soon since the winery sits only 10 miles away. Or, opt for lunch at one of Banner Elk’s two cheese trail partner restaurants, Simplicity or Over Yonder, both located at The Mast Farm Inn. Johnson & Wales culinary school graduate Chef Andrew Long leads these restaurants and puts his farm-to-table, slow-food philosophy on center stage.

Mast Farm Inn in fall

The Mast Farm Inn features seven unique guest rooms in an historic 1880s farm house

Food will take a backseat when you pull up to Grandfather Winery – its terraced setting between Grandfather Mountain and the Watauga River makes for a stunning first impression. While enjoying the patio’s scenery, consider sharing a flight of the dry white and red wines to pair with your cheese shop finds. Check the winery’s online schedule for live music dates; shows sometimes start as early as 1 p.m. And you might want to purchase a bottle or two of your favorites, like Terraced Gold or Syrah, to sip on back at the resort or bring home as a tasty souvenir.

For dinner, opt to keep things simple and dine on-site at Timberlake’s Restaurant at Chetola Resort. Carolina quail, chicken topped with housemade pimento cheese, and duck breast provide a nice variety of choices along with several salad, seafood or sandwich options.

Rather go out for the evening? Try something a little different like Gamekeeper Restaurant and Bar, which specializes in exotic dishes such as ostrich, elk and even rattlesnake. Post-dinner, hit Antlers Bar, thought to be North Carolina’s oldest continuously serving bar. It’s now part of Bistro Roca, one of Blowing Rock’s most popular restaurants. Formerly a speakeasy, the walls are covered with more than 500 pictures of dogs that are certainly “aww” worthy.

Day 2: Restore

If a day unplugged sounds appealing, you’ll like the 380-acre Art of Living Retreat Center, where you and your friends might just reach nirvana at this picturesque, health-focused destination. You can practice yoga, sign up for a pottery class and go on a hike in between your three gourmet vegetarian meals prepared with produce from the center’s garden.

Be sure to book a spa treatment, including familiar stone, Swedish or deep-tissue massages, or call ahead and ask the staff to recommend one of their more unique treatments based on your needs. If you’re not already blissed out, try a guided meditation, stroll through the labyrinth or participate in kirtan, a nightly community chanting session.

Day 3: Explore

Time for a day of adventure. But first, fuel up at Stick Boy Bread Company, just a few minutes away in Boone. Choose from its beloved baked goods, breakfast plates or specialty bagels with options such as Green Eggs & Ham, prepared with cheddar, basil pesto and spinach. The smoothies and specialty lattes are also a hit.

Although the High Country’s stunning mountains have been your surroundings for the past couple of days, today’s excursion will show your group a new viewpoint at Linville Caverns. After the 35-minute guided tour of the only show caverns in the state, lace up your hiking boots and get up-close to Linville Falls. In part for its dramatic 90-foot drop, these waterfalls are often cited as the state’s most photographed. You can view the power of the falls from five different lookouts on several trails, with only one being considered strenuous. Please exercise caution and obey all rules and warnings posted near waterfalls.

Women hiking to Linville Falls

Beginning at Linville Falls Visitor Center, two main hiking trails lead to views of the falls

Since this is a girls’ getaway, a post-waterfall stop at Linville Falls Winery seems like the perfect way to catch your breath and support a family-owned, 60-acre farm specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling. Afterward, check in to your private “A Heavenly Getaway” cabin before going to dinner at Blind Squirrel Brewery and restaurant.

Sure, the beer garden setting and tasty craft beers are reason enough to come here, but what vacation would be complete without a true gastronomic splurge? Blind Squirrel delivers with a Lots O’ Tots appetizer menu, featuring five versions of its little potato kegs loaded with enough toppings to make each choice meal-worthy. Go international with the Opa Tots, smothered with feta, Greek dressing, black olives and tomatoes, or try to sink the Totanic, with beer cheese, bacon, chili and ranch. Thank goodness for all that hiking.

Enjoy all the area has to offer by mixing and matching activities and events to your particular interest. Be sure to check days and hours of operation for each venue. Please drink responsibly. Designate a driver.

Shawndra Russell is a travel writer and novelist based in Asheville and has written for Forbes Travel Guide, BeerAdvocate and Travel+Leisure.

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