15 Things You Must See if This Is Your First Visit to the 828

February, 2020

The Mountains are calling. I must go.

You can live in the mountains of Western North Carolina your entire life and still never see everything the 828 has to offer, so if you are just visiting, having a plan to knock off the “must-dos” is essential.

The 828 encompasses the western tip of the great Tarheel State and has a little bit to offer everyone.

  1. Take a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
    The Blue Ridge Parkway isn’t confined to the borders of the 828, but arguably the most picturesque portion can be found nestled in North Carolina. As the Parkway approaches Asheville, it offers breathtaking views of some of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River and access to the area’s best hiking trails. The Parkway is easy to explore with no admission fee and frequent, paved overlooks.
  2. Check out the Arts in Asheville.
    Asheville, North Carolina is internationally known as an artistic hub. The famed River Arts District plays host to artists from around the world calling on 828 to serve as their muse. From museums to street art, Asheville is rich in culture and vibrant, eclectic adventure.
  3. Step back into time at the country’s largest home, The Biltmore House.
    While the world continues to spin at a maddening pace, find solitude in the serene history offered at the Biltmore House. Unmarred by the passing of time, the Biltmore House and surrounding properties have been preserved through time to act as a safe haven away from the rush of everyday life. Explore the history of some of the 828’s most well known families while touring the home or experience the beauty in NC’s native blooms throughout any one of the gardens located along the grounds.
  4. Experience 828 from the clouds.
    Explore Western North Carolina’s beautiful Pisgah National by diving deep into sheer-walled gorges, and explore waterfall-filled valleys on these top trails. Hike the Appalachian Trail at Max Patch, one of North Carolina’s most popular AT hikes, on a grassy, bald mountain that’s covered in wildflowers. Catch a gorgeous sunrise, sunset or afternoon picnic on this moderate two-mile loop with stunning 360-degree views and seemingly endless sunshine.
  5. Take a walk on the wilder side of 828 at the Nature Center.
    The Western North Carolina Nature Center is a 42-acre zoological park in Western North Carolina operated by the City of Asheville’s Parks and Recreation department. Until 1973, it was known as the Asheville City Zoo and was then renamed the Children’s Zoo and Nature Center. The center features all native species of the 828 who have been rescued and are not able to survive on their own. A unique opportunity to explore the different habitats and wildlife flourishing in Western North Carolina.
  6. Get a taste of the 828.
    A debate as old as time, North Carolina is divided into two very distinct groups — In North Carolina, eastern-style N.C. barbecue is known for its vinegar base and peppery bite, which makes it lighter — and spicier — than its western counterpart. Western-style, which is far more superior, features a rich, sweet sauce typically made with butter, sugar and ketchup, the only real way to have BBQ. There is no shortage of BBQ joints in the 828 from Twelve Bones in Asheville, to Haywood Smokehouse in Waynesville or Fat Buddies in Franklin, the one thing they all have in common – their BBQ sauce is made how God intended, without vinegar.
  7. Drink up.
    The 828 is known across the country as being a mecca for craft beer innovations. With craft breweries lining main streets in just about every town in the 828 – visiting any one of the dozens will give you a taste not just for the 828, but of the specific town the brewery calls home. Craft breweries help shape the identity of any town or region – from calling on local landmarks for beer names or from using locally grown hops and other ingredients, local beer is an excellent – and refreshing—way to get a sense of where you are.
  8. Relax in a natural hot spring.
    The only place in all of North Carolina to soak in a natural mineral spring, Hot Springs, North Carolina is a true gem of the 828. Located in the small quaint town just outside of Asheville, for literally hundreds of years, people have visited Hot Springs to sit in the mineral waters that sit right at the confluence of the French Broad River and Spring Creek. Managed by The Hot Springs Resort Spa there are 12 outdoor mineral baths in modern Jacuzzi-type pools, each offering some privacy.
  9. Spend the day at the beach…in the mountains.
    The Lake Lure Beach and Water Park is a unique beachfront property… without the risk of sharks. The beach by the lake is perhaps one of the Lake Lure Community’s most well-known landmarks, as visitors and residents visit the beach regularly. The beach and water park consists of approximately 3-acres and is located in the Town Center.
  10. Visit the Gem Capital of the World
    Once rich in mineral mines, Franklin, North Carolina is a tiny town in the middle of everything. Just a day’s drive from Charlotte, Atlanta, or Knoxville, this small town has opportunities for big adventures. From gem mining natural mountain mines that boast rubies, garnets, and emeralds, to hiking portions of the Appalachian Trail, Franklin offers a slice of paradise in the heart of the 828.
  11. Get up close and personal with Giants.
    Elk were once abundant throughout the United States, but by the mid-1800s, over-hunting and habitat loss wiped out eastern elk herds. In 2001, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the National Park Service and other partners joined together to restore wild elk to the Smoky Mountains in the Cataloochee Valley near Maggie Valley. The initial 52 elk that were released have grown to a herd of almost 200.
    Most elk are located in the Cataloochee Valley area in the southeastern section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While the best times to view elk are usually early morning and late evening, elk may also be active on cloudy summer days and before or after storms. As the elk have begun to migrate out of the park you can frequently see elk in and around Maggie Valley.
  12. Go to Hollywood.
    Maybe not your first thought when considering a visit to the 828 – but if you want to live like the stars, take time to visit any of the dozens of places Hollywood blockbusters have been filmed in the 828. The list of movies being filmed in the 828 seems to grow each year, with the most famous scenes easily accessible to the public. From classics like Dirty Dancing, Nell and the Fugitive to new releases like Hunger Games, Masterminds and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, just about every genre for the last few decades have scene shot to the backdrop of the 828.
  13. See how it all started.
    Located on the Tennessee Border, the Cherokee Indian Reservation has preserved the first settlements of the United States. At Oconaluftee Indian Village, the 18th-century Cherokee lifestyle is preserved via live demonstrations. In summer at the outdoor Mountainside Theatre, the drama “Unto These Hills” tells the tribal story.
  14. Get lucky.
    Because the Cherokee Indian Reservation is federal land, it stands as one of the few places in the United States outside of Las Vegas where you can visit a real casino. From live sports betting, to live table dealers, to your favorite slot machines, the Harris Cherokee Casino is an oasis located in the 828. A full entertainment venue with concerts, shows, and games, the casino is like a world all its own.
  15. Play in the Snow
    With some of the highest mountains in the eastern United States, our WNC mountains can provide some great fun in the winter outside. Rip up the snow at one of our five ski areas – Beech Mtn, Banner Elk, Cataloochee, Sapphire Valley, or Wolf Ridge.

Start planning your next visit.

It’s obvious that the things to do and the places you must see in the 828 are far too expansive for just one trip, so before you leave, go ahead and begin planning your next visit.

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