The Southern Appalachian Mountains are romantic by themselves. Here, the Cumberlands, the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains mingle. Encompassing Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, the area offers natural beauty and friendly people. Some of the secluded spots will renew even the most strained relationships…and can launch new ones with little effort! Turn off your cell phone, leave the kids at the in-laws and take off to one of these spots. The only bad part of your trip will be the end of it!
1. Asheville, North Carolina. This has to be one of America’s best small towns. It’s nestled in the Smokies, just across the state line. Take I-40 West from Knoxville or Chattanooga. If you live in the Tri-Cities, you can take the back roads, going from Bristol. I highly recommend The Grove Park Inn. Reservations are required. You can spend the entire weekend here, enjoying amazing food and a five-star spa. If you want to venture out, you’ll find a vibrant nightlife in Asheville. Clubs offer a variety of live music for a small cover. Of course, Biltmore House and Gardens is a good place to hang out for a few hours-if you can bring yourself to leave the Grove Park Inn. Biltmore is America’s largest private home and it’s breathtaking. The house itself is inspirational. The grounds are well-maintained regardless of the season. Plus, the views are worth the admission price. A free option is to take a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which skirts Asheville.
2. Abington, Virginia. Another great small town, Abington is located just across the Tennessee/Virginia state line. My favorite place to stay here is the Martha Washington Inn. Just like the Grove Park Inn, a stay here is a vacation in and of itself…forget the rest of the town. You’ll find wonderful, king-sized beds and great service, here. Tickets to any performance at the Barter Theatre are a must for a weekend in Abington. It’s one of the South’s most acclaimed professional theatre company and traces its heritage back to the great depression, when some unemployed actors came down from New York and started performing for produce. Abington is a very small town and shopping is limited to small boutiques. You won’t find a big mall here. Food, though, is a different story. Abington offers virtually any kind of food you want.
3. The Big South Fork National Recreation Area. This is located close to Jamestown, Tennessee. It’s north of Knoxville, near the Kentucky line. Of the three listed in this article, this site is the most unspoiled. While it offers so much, it’s still a local secret. The Big South Fork is a huge national recreation center that offers nature without the crowds of its better-known neighbors like the Smokies. You’ll find miles of hiking areas, picnic grounds and well-versed rangers. Outside the park, you can visit Rugby, a preserved town from the 1800s. Thomas Hughes as a utopian, class-free community established this village. At it’s peak, less than 500 people lived there, but they managed to build close to 100 unique and wonderful buildings. Many are still preserved, so it’s like stumbling across a Victorian village in the middle of the Tennessee mountains. The village offers many festivals throughout the year, and houses great restaurants, a theatre and a terrific bookstore. To maximize the romance, stay at one of the bed and breakfast inns located in and near Rugby. The Newby House and the Gray Gables Inn both offer period rooms and privacy. Do call ahead for reservations here. Unlike the Grove Park Inn or the Martha Washington, these are small places that do close for some of the slower times of the year.