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Simply Smart Travel
by Jeff Orenstein and Virginia Orenstein
Western North Carolina Asheville, The Biltmore and Lake Lure
Asheville and Western North Carolina have long been popular destinations for southeastern coastal dwellers. They travel there to get a taste of accessible mountains, cooler summers, seasonal foliage color and impressive natural and manmade attractions within a day’s drive. Some like it so much that they establish summer homes there for extended stays.
Once a small town famous mainly for its mild climate and the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina has emerged as a sophisticated and trendy destination with a burgeoning restaurants and craft beer scene. It is located in the mountains along on the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoys gardens, museums and a pleasant downtown art district.
The Biltmore Estate is still a major local attraction. It is the nation’s largest private residence. Developed by railroad magnate George W. Vanderbilt, it was designed by Richard Morris Hunt and has a garden designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The 250 room French Renaissance style chateau is located on an estate of more than 8,000 acres in Asheville. Touring the mansion using a selfpaced audio recording takes several hours to do its impressive sights and history justice. Guides are also available for tours.
There are ten eateries on the property, including a wine bar. It also boasts a working winery. Antler Hill Winery, located on the grounds in Antler Hill Village in a converted dairy barn, is the most visited winery in the U.S, complete with a bustling tasting room.
The estate has 94 acres of vineyards that produce grapes for the North Carolina appellation and grapes are brought in from other vineyards in North Carolina and from several topnotch west coast vineyards. While North Carolina’s climate allows growing some vinifera grapes that are used in the North Carolina wines made there, consistently producing the large variety of awardwinning wines from Antler Hill wines requires importing more than 75 percent of the grapes, mostly from California.
After a day at the Biltmore, there are restaurants at Biltmore Village, a several square block area with restaurants and upscale shops adjacent to the Biltmore as well as many good restaurants down town. If your not staying at the Biltmore hotel, the estate is conveniently close to most of the national hotel chains who have located inns close by.
Chimney Rock and Lake Lure
A 45 minute 25mile drive east of Asheville over a twisty but scenic road is Chimney Rock State Park. It is situated in a quaint mountain village along the Broad River which flows into Lake Lure. The park’s namesake and chief attraction is a 315foot monolith located on the very edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains high above beautiful Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. It has 75mile views in all directions and is situated in a park with hiking, a waterfall and lots of natural North Carolina.
Another 15 minutes along Route 64 brings you to the town of Lake Lure. The town has a Flowering Bridge, marina, shops, lodging and restaurants and offers boat tours of beautiful Lake Lure and the surrounding mountain resorts.