Last October, the kids and I decided to take a southern mountain road trip to see the leaves change. It had been a while since we had been in the fall, so we were super excited.
We kicked off the road trip in Charlotte, NC at The Great Wolf Lodge. We spent a couple nights at this water park hotel that offers much more than an indoor water park. We arrived late, so once we checked in to the “Wolf Den Suite”, Violet (one of the hotel mascots) brought the kids milk and cookies (for an additional fee). Such a nice touch, especially for my daughter who was 6 at the time. We purchased the “Pup Pass” which comes with a ton of activities and goodies. They have several packages to chose from, but we chose a smaller package, since we were only there a couple days. I was amazed at how much they were able to do for a small fee. We did add a few more things a la carte, but the Pup Pass offered plenty. In addition to a full afternoon at the indoor water park, they bowled, played in the arcade, painted shirts, went to the candy store and both made a “build a bear” from the workshop! A little young for my 11 years old, but he played along well. We were there the week before Halloween and the hotel employees said we went at the perfect time. There were no crowds and no lines. There were maybe 25-30 kids at the water park that day, which saved me a lot of stress. Lots of free entertainment in the lobby as well! Everything was clean and well organized. Rates are obviously high for a hotel like this, but if you join their mailing list, they offer specials several times throughout the year.
As we traveled on, we found the cutest lunch spot (via yelp, tripadvisor and open table). It was just west of Charlotte in the quaint and adorable town of Belmont. Nellie’s Southern Kitchen was superb. A southern comfort food establishment with an adorable story behind it’s name. Friendly staff and freshly made ingredients!
As we passed through Franklin, NC, the trees were becoming noticeably vibrant. Probably our first sign of the fall foliage. The next stop was The Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia. I have been to the Dillard House more times than I can count, but we had never spent the night there. So, we added it to the road trip bucket list. The kids enjoyed spending time at the small petting zoo they have out back and the cozy cottage-style hotel room we slept in. The view from the back porch of our room was exactly what you would imagine from an old country town. You know by reading this blog, I am pretty picky about eating out. I was extremely disappointed in the quality of food from The Dillard House this trip. I know I shouldn’t expect every restaurant to offer fresh ingredients, but I was sad to see the lack of quality compared to what I have tasted in the past from this North Georgia staple. It tasted like everything was from cans or frozen. As I was speaking to a very kind, older gentleman outside after dinner, he shared with me that he and his wife had been visiting there for over 30 years and he was disappointed in the quality. The area is still beautiful and their front porch is one of my favorite photo spots. They also had a ton of pumpkin displays, so the kids had to pose a lot for pictures.
The next day, we were on our way to Blue Ridge! We stopped in Sky Valley for some pictures and moved along to Lake Burton, one of the most beautiful lakes in North Georgia surrounded by vibrant shades of orange, red, green, brown and yellow. Fall in its best form. One of the coolest things in Blue Ridge for the kids is the Scenic Railway. My kids want to ride it every time we are in town. In the fall, you are able to see lots of color along the Toccoa River. The Train Conductor tells us great stories along the route. They drop you off in McCaysville, a tiny town that sits on the Georgia and Tennessee State Line.They have a few (not many) shoppes and restaurants. We settled for a local pizza joint because of the picky mom who was in charge.
“…one of the most beautiful lakes in North Georgia surrounded by vibrant shades of orange, red, green, brown and yellow. Fall in its best form. “
Blue Ridge has no shortage of great food and shopping. Our favorite is Black Sheep Restaurant (www.blacksheepblueridge.com). Their Black Sheep house wine is excellent and they have several fresh entrees to chose from. I usually go with roasted beet salad and filet. Both are phenomenal. They offer kid choices as well and are very good about special orders. Another restaurant that is worth mentioning is Harvest on Main (www.harvestonmain.com). They also support local farmers, serve grass fed local beef and use only the freshest ingredients. Das Kaffee Haus is a cute and swanky little coffee shop downtown that’s also worth a try. We also LOVE Toccoa Riverside Restaurant (a short drive outside of town). The view and the fresh, local trout are both outstanding.
About 5 minutes from the Toccoa River Restaurant is The Lilly Pad Village, where the kids can pan for gold, fish, hike or just relax by the small lake. My kids could spend hours here. Another fun thing to do in Blue Ridge is trout fish! The Blue Ridge Fly Fishing (www.blueridgeflyfishing.com) has everything you could possibly need to fly fish. Their guides are fantastic and you are able to rent equipment as well. My son goes every time we are in town. He enjoys fishing at Horseshoe Bend State Park and has fished there with a guide and with my husband. He’s had success each time.
Mercer Orchards is a fun place to visit as well. Here you will find everything apple from juice to jam! Some of their apple baked goods, specifically, the “fried pies” are scrumptious! (www.mercier-orchards.com). A 10 minute drive from downtown.
We have stayed at The Comfort Inn of Blue Ridge (www.comfortinnofblueridge.com), which was recently remodels and super nice. A 3-4 minute drive to downtown. Our absolute favorite place to stay is Serenity in the Mountains (www.serenityinthemountians.com). It is a small hotel a couple miles from downtown. The rooms are huge and feel like your own personal cabin. They even have the cutest fireplaces out front. They are comparable to a large suite with washer, dryer, full kitchen, hot tub, large bathroom, several large big screen television, dining room and the location if perfect. They suites fill up super fast. I’ve always booked on Expedia and found great rates.
I could go on and on about Blue Ridge. Each time we visit, we discover more wonderful things about this beautiful town.