Posted June 6, 2007 2:44 p.m. EDT
Ever-changing moods and endless opportunities
There’s a mystical quality prevalent throughout the mountains of North Carolina. From the mist that settles into the valleys just before daybreak to the legends of the Cherokee that are still passed from generation to generation. And, for those lucky souls who call the Triangle home, the enchantment of this magical region is only a three hour drive westward.
In addition to perennial favorites, such as Biltmore House, Tweetsie Railroad, Grandfather Mountain, Grove Park Inn and the stalactite and stalagmite formations of Linville Caverns, there are some lesser-known gems you can find off the beaten path that are perfect for day trips or long weekends.
A “gem” in the truest sense of the word, Emerald Village offers underground mine tours and an opportunity to discover some hidden treasure of your own! Three mines—the famous Bon Ami Mine, the Big Deal Mine and Big McKinney Mine—offer more than just great photo opportunities. They also provide a glimpse into the exciting past of North Carolina’s mining industry. A tour of Bon Ami Mine reveals a magnificent collection of memorabilia from that era, including mining lamps and dynamite plungers. And, if you find yourself bitten by the mining bug, go panning for treasure at the Gemstone Mine—where you’re guaranteed to find a gem every time!
Mast General Store
Opening its doors in 1883, the Mast General Store outfitted Appalachian dwellers with everything from plows to caskets. So, it’s no wonder the saying “If you can’t buy it here, you don’t need it” originated at this beloved establishment.When visitors walk through its doors today, they’re warmed not only by the heat of the store’s pot-bellied stove—but also by the hospitality of its staff. Jams, jellies, salves and oil lamps still stock its shelves, as well as merchandise of the 21st century variety. For those with a sweet tooth, Mast General Store is heavenly— boasting more than 450 favorite candies from past and present! Located in the historical community of Valle Crucis, the store has attracted visitors such as Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Lloyd Bridges, Charles Kuralt, Jerry Falwell, Gaylord Perry and Rusty Wallace.
Oconaluftee Indian Village
Step back in time to 1750 and experience the sights, sounds and smells of everyday life for the Cherokee. Oconaluftee Indian Village is a living museum that allows you to get up close and personal to Cherokee people who are carrying on the time-honored traditions of their ancestors. You’ll see beadworkers going about their tedious and intricate craft, basketweavers turning saplings into beautiful works of art and carvers creating masks to be used in dances around a crackling fire. You’ll also see how the famous Cherokee pottery is made from clay found along the banks of local streams and rivers. Of course, life for the Cherokee wasn’t only about their art. It was also about survival. See firsthand how deadly arrowheads were carved from flint with deer antlers and how blowguns were fashioned from river cane. Exhibits featuring authentic Cherokee dress, dwellings, manuscripts, photos and other artifacts are also available for visitors to peruse. Bring the kids and spend the day learning about the 11,000 years of traditions, languages, struggles and triumphs of the great and proud Cherokee.
Nestled in the rolling hills of the Smokies is a quaint little town that offers the very best of small town living. You can spend the entire day shopping and eating—but, odds are, the spirit of this community will entice you to extend your stay for even longer. This charming oasis is truly a shopper’s paradise. For the culinarily-gifted among us, there is The Kitchen Shop, which features anything and everything you could possibly need or want for your kitchen. Looking for something special for your four-legged friends? Stop by Paws and Claws for the finest in pet clothing, treats and toys. Pick up a piece of handcrafted pottery at Treehouse Pottery or Mountain Pottery. Oaks Gallery houses the work of more than 100 of the area’s best artists and craftspeople. The list goes on and on! And, when you need to rest your feet and fill your stomach between shopping binges, there are plenty of options for your palate. The Dillsboro Smokehouse specializes in hickory-smoked barbeque, The Well House serves up gourmet deli sandwiches and soup, The Jarrett House has been a local favorite for more than 100 years and Front Street Cafe offers both inside and outside casual dining. And don’t forget dessert! Peppermint Patti’s Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe and the Dillsboro Chocolate Factory are the perfect places to top off a good meal! Visit the mountains of North Carolina. The magic is waiting just for you!