If you're looking for the real "Authentic South" then you've found it on this Small Towns - Big Characters tour, part of our Mountain Music, Culture & More! series.
Your journey begins in Charlotte, NC as you make your way through the Small Towns of the Southern Appalachia region. A tour that's built on Mountain Music and Culture, you'll get to hear the sounds of the "Authentic South" and the sites (and sights!) that make them just so.
Experience the "Small Town Charm" of over 15 southern gems such as Jonesborough, Big Stone Gap and Abingdon - each with their own unique histories and "Big Characters". Jonesborough - home to the National Storytelling Festival; Big Stone Gap - John Fox Jr; Abingdon - The Barter Theatre.
And delight yourself with the outdoor beauty of Smyth County (where their slogan is Mountains of Possibility!) and the New River Gorge - home to the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the second highest in the United States.
A tour through 4 states of unforgettable adventure awaits you!
Charlotte, NC - Lake Lure - Chimney Rock - Blue Ridge Parkway - Waynesville
Kick off your tour with the drive to Chimney Rock, and by mid-morning you’ll be standing on top of the granite pillar, with spectacular 75-mile views spread out before you. Down below is the kind of scenery you’ll find in The Last of the Mohicans, including the unforgettable final scenes filmed at the edge of 404-ft Hickory Nut Falls. A half-hour hike takes you to the base of the falls, one the highest east of the Mississippi.
This afternoon, relax on a boat tour of Lake Lure, or on the sandy beach by the Lake Lure Inn, a restored grand hotel of the 1920s. The scenery around here also made it in the movies as the romantic backdrop for Dirty Dancing. Alternatively, you can visit the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a premier exhibition space for the region’s artists, artisans and craftspeople.
Stay on the parkway for the two-hour drive to Waynesville, a mountain town of galleries, studios, and shops. On summer Fridays, Waynesville is home to Mountain Street Dance, a real live hoe-down in front of the courthouse, or Art after Dark, the galleries’ open house that brings the people out.
Waynesville - Blue Ridge Parkway - Cherokee - Great Smoky Mountain National Park - Jonesborough
Gallery-hop and window shop this morning, then return to the Blue Ridge Parkway for the hour-long drive to Cherokee and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Arrive hungry for a memorable breakfast at Peter’s Pancakes, a stone’s throw away from the engaging Museum of the Cherokee Indian, recognized as one of the best of its kind. Just up the road is Oconaluftee Indian Village, an well-done, historically accurate recreation of a 1760’s Cherokee settlement, with native guides demonstrating traditional crafts and customs.
At the park entrance visitor center, early 1900s farm buildings make up the Mountain Farm Museum, and nearby Mingus Mill still operates under water power; you can watch corn meal being made the old-fashioned way, and take home a bag to boot.
Mid-afternoon should find you at the park’s highest peak: Clingmans Dome, the ‘top of Old Smoky’. Another hour into Tennessee will find you at the turn-off to Cades Cove, an abandoned mountain village tucked into a scenic valley, and the park’s most popular drive. If you got an early start and kept a good pace today, you’ll have time to tour the cove; otherwise, continue on the two-hour drive to historic Jonesborough.