This 469 mile stretch through Virginia and North Carolina along the spine of the Blue Ridge, a major part of the great Appalachians, is pure beauty for the eyes and succor for the mind, while it feeds your culture and adventure hungry soul with its split-rail fences, old farmsteads, mountain meadows, bike trails, railroads, museums, national parks, adventure parks, art and culture centers and scenic holdouts with endless and stunning vistas of the layered hues of blue that make the Blue Ridge stand out.
Often touted as ‘America’s Favorite Drive’, the Blue Ridge southern terminus is at US 441 on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The roadway continues through Shenandoah as Skyline Drive, a similar scenic road which is managed by a different National Park Service unit.
On offer are stunning views, abundant trails, picnic areas, campsites and interpretative exhibits. You have plenty of recreational opportunities for all ages and abilities, from hiking to canoeing to photography to adventure sports (zip lining anyone?).
The Art of Living Retreat Center
To top those sensory delights, you have a quiet hideout at the Art of Living Retreat Center nestled atop the Blue Ridge, to kickback and relax into calming embrace of nature and mountains, or settle down for one of the award winning spa and meditation retreats right in the midst of abundant beauty, nature, unrealistic sun rises to capture your senses, and moon kissed skies in the evening, subtle chants that fill the air with transcendent positivity.
Turtle Island Preserve
It is not just the mountains though. While you are here, there is plenty to see, learn and absorb along the Blue Ridge Parkway that will leave you enthralled. For example, you can check out the Turtle Island Preserve that enriches you with knowledge and understanding of the life practices of ancient people. You can learn how to plant, harvest and basically grow your own food, make cheese, milk goats, craft bowls, gather medicinal herbs and make tools etc. You cook your own food over wood you gathered yourself. Satisfying right? The clean green environment, brooks, trees, hand carved log buildings and forests feels ‘like walking back in time.’
This is another family-friendly theme park located between Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The high point is a rail ride where the trains are pulled by Tweetsie’ Railroad’s historic narrow-gauge steam engines, that are rear to almost commonly unavailable now. There are also amusement rides, a zoo, and plenty of exciting things to do here, especially at festival time.
Aerial Adventure Park
At Aerial Adventure Park, you can get your dose of adrenaline rush from a zip line tour, traversing a sky bridge, zipping over an incredible sight of a valley and finish off with a leap off in a simulated free fall. The park also boasts of an exhilarating experience on the Giant Swing, where you are buckled up, lifted off and get hauled right up in the air before making a dramatic return.
The Mystery Hills features three very interesting museums, with giant bubble exhibits to mind bending optical illusions. You can also drive all the way to Rocky Knowb mountain bike park, which is a 185-acre park with bike trails, a pump track, and picnic areas.
Experience the Ridge Region
You are here for the views. Covering the area between Afton Mountains, Peaks of Otter to Roanoke is a whole lot of driving and fun, where you get a view of the ridge from the top, get eyefulls of flora and fauna of the Appalachian hardwoods.
Culture and More
To get a slice of the cultural landscape along with the gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge, you can take a day long trip starting from Roanoke, Virginia to North Carolina state line. This stretch is dotted with mills, museums, farmsteads and agriculture. While on your way do make a pit stop at Cahas Knob and Devil’s Backbone for the thrilling views. Mabry Mills is where you can see the craft and woodwork inspired by the great Appalachians. If you stop at the Groundhog Mountain Picnic are, you can get to see all the different types of wood fences, and traveling down the road is the Puckett Cabin made famous by the tale of the mountain midwife who gave birth to a 1000 babies.