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The western part of the state of North Carolina is full of beautiful and quaint mountain towns, thanks to the two majestic mountain ranges found there – the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains. Whether as large as Asheville or as small as Saluda, each of these towns is overflowing with character, charm and a host of things to see and do.
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Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the eclectic city of Asheville prides itself on being just a little “weird.” In fact, you’ll find quite a few souvenirs around town that proclaim “Keep Asheville Weird.” But they mean weird in the best way possible – the city is unique and varied with its many restaurants from a range of different nationalities, its many art galleries and shops, craft breweries and wineries, and of course, the infamous drum circle that takes place downtown every Friday night. Everywhere you look, you’ll see beautiful backdrops of the mountains that look like they came off a postcard, not to mention the beauty you’ll find at Asheville’s biggest attraction – Biltmore Estate.
About 30 minutes outside of Asheville, is another beautiful small town – Hendersonville. With the second largest downtown area in Western North Carolina, there are more than 100 shops and 25 restaurants to explore. The town’s quaint Main Street has an old-school charm that will slow down your pace and make you feel like you’ve gone back in time. Along some of the other downtown streets, you’ll find grand historic homes that date all the way back to the 1800’s, many of which have been turned into bed and breakfasts. One other piece of local beauty that you’ll want to make sure to see is the angel statue that is located just outside of downtown Hendersonville. The statue, which is carved from Italian marble, was mentioned in Thomas Wolfe’s first novel, “Look Homeward, Angel.”
If you like cold temperatures, make sure to take a trip to the quaint town of Beech Mountain and the famed Beach Mountain Resort. At 5,506 feet in elevation, it is the highest town in the Eastern U.S. and is the perfect spot for skiing and snowboarding in the winter and hiking and mountain biking in the summer. Although it’s only a little over six and a half square miles in total size, the town of Beech Mountain is loaded with personality and character. From the storybook-esque buildings to the charm of the local people who welcome you with open arms, you’ll feel like a regular here in no time.
If the beautiful lake landscapes of Lake Lure look familiar to you, that’s because they were the backdrop for the popular 80’s movie, Dirty Dancing. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Lake Lure is more than just a lake – although that is the biggest draw for visitors from across the country. In addition to enjoying the magnificent man-made lake, you can also take a stroll on the boardwalk and take in the beauty of the Flowering Bridge – a 155-foot former highway bridge that has now been transformed into a gorgeous garden. There are numerous trails in the area for hiking and biking, a nine-hole public golf course and plenty of shopping and restaurants at Chimney Rock Village.
Located between the popular skiing destinations of Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain, the small town of Banner Elk is a destination all on its own. Although it’s only home to 1,000 permanent residents, it is a popular spot for tourists and has a variety of top-notch restaurants and unique shopping. Amongst the beautiful mountain backdrops, you’ll also find a selection of wineries and craft breweries, an art gallery and a lush one mile greenway that extends from Flat Top Brewing Company to the campus of Lees-McRae College. The school’s campus also features many historic buildings that were built with stone native to the area.
Saluda may be a tiny town, but what it’s lacking in size, it makes up for in charm. With only 700 residents, Saluda is the epitome of a small town and you can feel the welcoming spirit when you stroll down its picturesque Main Street. It’s conveniently located close to Pearson’s Falls and the Green River Gorge and provides a perfect place to unwind after a long day of hiking. Here, you’ll find a General Store from 1899 and a grill & deli that’s been in business since 1892, as well as some more modern establishments like The Purple Onion and Newman’s Restaurant.