- Countryside Take me home, country roads
- Country life Mileposts, Main Streets and mountain laurel
Whether these cloud-poking Appalachian peaks are blanketed in Technicolor wildflowers in the spring or dusted with powdered-sugar white snow in the winter, the panoramas are equally captivating.
John Denver had it right when he crooned that this haze-covered mountain range was almost heaven. If you’re not listening to his greatest hits, find some bluegrass tunes on the radio to soundtrack the drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, 469 miles of curves and corners, that snakes through the mountains, connecting tiny towns – such as Mount Airy, the hometown of actor Andy Griffith and the inspiration for his eponymous sitcom’s town of Mayberry – to national parks and forests from North Carolina to Virginia. Depending on the time of year, a drive along its winding way will take you past wildflowers or amber leaves to prime hunting, biking and picnicking spots. The hidden hiking trails, picture-perfect lookouts and historic farmhouses are worth stopping for. Sample some hearty down-home cooking such as grits, barbecued meat and pork chops. Check out the natives on tree-lined trails: bears, wild turkey and whitetail deer. Active amblers in search of a stroll, snap-happy vista-holics or history buffs will adore this peaceful range.
Do go/Don’t go
For long days filled with hikes and outdoor adventure, head for the mountains between May and late October. Early October to November is prime time for lovers of fall foliage. Seasonal shops and restaurants close at the end of October. National parks begin opening back up in mid-April.
- Planes Major international airlines, including United, Continental, Air Canada and Lufthansa, touch down in Charlotte Douglas Airport in North Carolina, 2.5 hours from Meadows of Dan (charlottedouglasintlairport.com). Piedmont Triad Airport in Greensboro, NC, and Roanoke Regional Airport in Virginia are the closest domestic hubs. Private planes can land at Blue Ridge Airport in Martinsville, about 50 miles away from Roanoke.
- Trains Amtrak’s Cardinal Line runs from New York to Chicago; hop aboard in Charleston, West Virginia. Be warned, this is a slow-moving, 14-hour journey (+1 304 342 6766; www.amtrak.com).
- Automobiles A car is a must to survey the mountainside; rent one at the airport from (Avis www.avis.com).
- Taxis This ain’t cab-flagging country; all trips will need to be pre-booked. Try Granite City Cabs in Mount Airy (+1 336 786 8800). They’re happy to drive as far as you need.