I grew up outside of Asheville, NC and went to college in Boone, NC. I called the mountains home for twenty years and I still consider it home at heart. Now that I live at the beach with my family, I yearn for mountain getaways. I get homesick with the change of seasons and lack of fall in Charleston, SC. Therefore, we make an effort to travel back to the Great Smoky Mountains every October.
For this trip, we stayed at my parents’ house outside of Asheville and took the kids on a few adventures in the mountains. First, we took the Blue Ridge Parkway to our favorite waterfalls. Then we stopped by a small town for lunch and beers on the way back to my parents’ house. We spent the evening roasting marshmallows and eating s’mores by the fire. The next day, we took another scenic route and ended up in Cherokee, NC. We drove through town admiring all of the historical locations. We stopped outside of town at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center to observe the Elk. We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way home and stopped to get pumpkins at a nearby pumpkin patch. Scott and I ended the evening with a date night at a delicious ramen restaurant in West Asheville, NC. It was a quick trip, but I’m sharing more details next.
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Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway spans 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. There are several different locations to access the Parkway in the Asheville area. We accessed the Parkway from Hwy NC-151 S. and entered the Parkway near Elk Parkway Gap. While on the Parkway, there are several scenic pull-offs and parking for hiking trails. One of these is Fryingpan Mountain Tower with views of Looking Glass Rock, Mt. Pisgah, and Cold Mountain. You can stop at the Mt. Pisgah Trail while in the area. Another favorite place to explore in this area is Graveyard Fields. You can access several waterfalls from this trail. For level of difficulty and accessing these trails with children, you can find more details here. You can also stop at Pisgah Inn while on the parkway if you’re low on gas, need a restroom, snacks, a warm meal, or even lodging on your way. On our way back, we got to witness the rolling clouds come over the mountains and it was so majestic. We took a different route home via US-276 N. and stopped in Canton, NC for lunch.
Observing the Elk
Observing the Elk in Cherokee, NC was a true treat. Elk were native to the area until the 18th century when overhunting lead to their disappearance. In 2001, they were reintroduced by the National Park Service. My uncle was part of the team that helped reintroduce the elk, so it was special to see them roaming freely in the fields. There are several areas where you can view the elk, but the most common areas areas include Cataloochee, NC and Cherokee, NC. Just outside of Cherokee, you will find them at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Museum Center. There are log structures including a farmhouse, barn, smokehouse, applehouse, corn cribs and others for viewing. Our kids loved exploring the buildings and walking the trails by the river. There is ample parking and restrooms nearby by as well.
Eat Good Food
We stopped at Bearwaters Brewing in Canton, NC on our way back to my parent’s house. They offer outside dining with views of the river. The kids loved the big swings and kid sized picnic tables. It was a great place to stop and try a few beers with lunch. The Grey Eagle Taqueria provided lunch and it was delicious. I’ve tried several restaurants in Canton, NC and this is one of my favorites. We started with the House-made Chips with Guacamole, Salsa, and Queso. I had the Harvest Veggie tacos, and they were delicious! Scott had the Beef & Chorizo tacos and was pleased as well. They had a great kids menu, awesome beer, and Mercy, our dog, was welcomed to the patio as well!
That night we had dinner at home with family and enjoyed the cooler temperatures with a small bonfire. The kids loved finding their own roasting sticks and roasting marshmallows for s’mores. My parents live in a quiet community and it was a peaceful and cozy evening by the fire!
After a full day of exploring and watching the elk, Scott and I escaped for a date night. Given the circumstances with the pandemic, many of the restaurants were not taking reservations and had limited capacity. Downtown Asheville was packed with tourists and we could not find parking, so we drove over to West Asheville in search of dinner. We found Itto Ramen Bar & Tapas and they had no wait. Typically we like to research where we are dining, but we took a chance, thinking we would have to sit and wait a while. Lucky for us, there was no wait and we were seated immediately.
Oh my goodness. What an amazing find. The food was THAT good. We started with Pork Itto Buns and oh my gosh. These were SO good. I had the Itto House Special Ramen as a main course. It was made with a sesame base, ground pork, TRUFFLE OIL, and other goodies. Scott took a different approach and ordered a Poke Bowl and Beef Jalapeño Tataki. We did not have room for dessert and we are definitely adding this to our favorites list!
I know this was not very detailed but it was a last minute, whirlwind of a trip. We can’t wait to return to the mountains in early December. For our next trip, we will be staying at the Grove Park Inn and experiencing all things Christmas! I will be sharing all of the details for that trip soon. Make sure you sign up for email notifications so you’re the first to know when I post to the blog!