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Cruise along one of America’s most beautiful roads, with gracious greetings at some unique lodging properties, discovering historic towns just off the roadway. A trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway, an All American Road National Scenic Byway, takes you from Shenandoah National Park in upper Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. It is an opportunity to slow down, take a breath and enjoy incomparable and endless views. As a driving adventure, the Blue Ridge Parkway tops the list of scenic beauty for many. The experience is further enhanced by the historic attractions along its borders.
Price per person includes:
Start in style and put the finishing touches to a memorable holiday with our Chauffeur Drive Service. Your smart, uniformed driver will meet you at your door and whisk you to and from the airport terminal so you are guaranteed a stress-free and relaxing journey. You’ll travel in a showroom condition Mercedes E Class for two people or a sumptuous Viano for families or groups up to six.
Your Bon Voyage travel consultant has all the details, so just mention if you’d like this option included in your holiday quote.
A stroll along the beautiful tree-lined streets has you walking the very same routes once trod by the individuals who shaped America with their courage. Early homes, such as the George Reed House, were built entirely of stone with a store on the ground floor and living quarters upstairs. The Red Lion Tavern, built around 1783 by a member of Daniel Morgan’s Riflemen, is a small restored one-storey limestone building. Since Winchester is one of the Apple Capital’s of America, you’ll discover a variety of creatively painted apples along your way.
Today, take in Abram’s Delight, a true treasure and the oldest house in Winchester. Built in 1754, Abram’s Delight was home to the Hollingsworth family, Quakers who moved to the region from Britain to avoid religious persecution. The home is now a museum furnished with irreplaceable treasures owned by the original family.
Just outside downtown, the Glen Burnie House Museum is surrounded by six acres of beautiful formal gardens. It is furnished with 18th and 19th century antiques, paintings and decorative art collected by Julian Wood Glass Jr, the last descendent of the original builder to live in the house. Glen Burnie is also home to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley dedicated to the history, art, and culture of the Shenandoah Valley.
From Winchester, it’s a short drive to the Belle Grove Plantation, built in 1797 as the seat of a massive 7,000 acre grain and livestock farm. As you approach this house, you’ll understand immediately that it was designed as an ostentatious display of the owner’s wealth and social prestige for a First Family of Virginia that included the sister of President James Madison. Built of limestone quarried on the property, it was sited to have incredible views across the valley. Today, the property includes the main house, formal gardens, the overseer’s house, a slave cemetery, and a heritage apple orchard.
Three of the city’s favourite sons, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe all practised law in downtown Charlottesville before governing the United States for 25 consecutive years, as the country’s 3rd, 4th and 5th Presidents. Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, one of the most intensely interesting homes on the North American continent. Named a World Heritage Treasure by the United Nations, Monticello is a magnificent mountaintop mansion built of graciously balanced neo-Classical architecture. Jefferson’s fascination with science, art, and many common sense applications of technology are on display inside. Outside, Jefferson created gardens as his “workhouse of nature” and interestingly, was responsible for the entire wine industry in America, having introduced the first grapes from France on his plantation.
Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of President James Monroe was situated so that Monticello could be seen from the front porch. Other views, sharpened by the crisp mountain air, open onto soft tranquil valleys. Many of the furnishings in Ash Lawn-Highland are priceless artifacts used by President Monroe and his family.
Further along the Virginia Scenic Byways is Montpellier, the 2,700 acre home of President James Madison and his wife Dolley. The property has just completed an astounding restoration to remove recent additions and reduce the house to the 22-room home actually occupied by President Madison’s family. The James Madison Landmark Forest, a National Natural Landmark occupies a portion of the land. If it’s time for an early dinner (or a late lunch, depending on if you opted for Michie Tavern) when leaving Montpelier, Barboursville Vineyards has a fabulous restaurant. You can also stop just to taste the wines.
Distance: 117 miles
Humpback Rocks, a working farm, is reminiscent of a 19th century frontier settlement. The rough hewn buildings designed with innovative solutions to cooling, heating and other daily needs, challenge some of the misconceptions and stereotypes that have developed around the lives of early mountain settlers.
When you arrive in Lexington, take the Lexington Historic Walking Tour to begin your visit. At the end, stroll through the campus of Washington and Lee University. The university changed its name to Washington and Lee University when famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee came to teach after the Civil War. The Lee Chapel, built under his supervision, remains the way Lee left it 135 years ago.
Explore the Stonewall Jackson House, the only home ever owned by the Civil War General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The George C. Marshall Museum and Library on the VMI campus was founded by President Harry Truman in 1953 to honour Marshall, who helped rebuild Europe after the World War II and also served as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense in the Truman administration. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
About 10 miles south of Lexington, Otter Creek Visitor Center is the trail head for the 3.5 mile Otter Creek Trail that follows the creek down to the James River Visitors Center. The James River Canal Trail takes you to the restored James River and Kanawha Canal Lock built between 1845 and 1851. Bus rides to within 1,500 feet of the Sharp Top Summit are available at a station not far from the Visitors Center.
After another pleasant drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll arrive in Roanoke for the evening.
Distance: 62 miles
Between Roanoke and Southern Virginia, you can visit Smithfield Plantation, which predated the American Revolution. A series of illustrious Preston’s who served in the Virginia House of Delegates, the Virginia Assembly, as Governor of Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, and Colonel in the Revolutionary War called the plantation home.
Another drive on the Parkway takes you to the small town of Floyd, famous for its Floyd Country Store where on Saturday nights it’s not unusual to find a jam session in progress. On weekend evenings, there’s always music playing somewhere. And then, finally, you’ll be arriving at your accommodations in far southern Virginia.
Distance: 104 miles
Across from Galax, the Blue Ridge Music Center will allow you to experience the music and other cultural expressions that call the mountains home. Country music began in southwestern Virginia, a combination of the fiddles of the Scots-Irish with the banjo of the African Americans.
And then, just when you thought you might have seen the very best views, your next destination, Doughton Park, may cause you to re-evaluate. Open meadows hold an incredible variety of wildlife, flora and fauna, with rhododendrons and azaleas in between. Soon you’ll reach Boone, named after the frontiersman Daniel Boone. Check out the Appalachian Antique Mall and Timeless Treasures Antique Depot.
Staying for two nights in the Boone area will let you explore both Boone and Blowing Rock. Closest to Boone, the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, surrounds a 19th century mansion built with wealth acquired in the Gilded Age. Several decades after they were donated to the Parkway, the Moses Cone Memorial Park and Julian Price Memorial Park make up the largest combined recreation facility owned by the Parkway.
Nearby, Grandfather Mountain was created 740 million years ago when two of the earth’s plates slammed together. It appears to be the highest peak along the Blue Ridge but that’s because of how it juts into the sky. Hugh McRae Morton, who inherited the property from his grandfather, worked with the Nature Conservancy to preserve 4,000 acres of the mountain backcountry wilderness.
Coming down off Grandfather Mountain you can visit Blowing Rock for immersion into the legend of Native American lovers who threw themselves from its ledge instead of being separated. Blowing Rock gets its name from the natural currents of air that flow upward, causing snow to fall upside down. The phenomenon is caused by the flume through which the northwest wind sweeps strongly when confined by the rocky walls of the gorge.
The Linn Cove Viaduct Visitors Center explains how this particular section of the Blue Ridge Parkway was completed. It is the last stretch to be done and considered an engineering marvel. Any of the several different falls of Linville Falls are well worth the time. Water plunges 411 feet from Upper Whitewater Falls and another 400 feet from Lower Whitewater Falls.
Distance: 84 miles
Further along your drive you will notice the change in scenery and cool mountain air feeling like the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. This is why the settlers in this region came to name their new home Little Switzerland. The quaint little village has everything from the Switzerland Inn, serving guests since 1910, to a Book Exchange and Gemstone Mine.
A short drive from North Carolina’s “Swiss Alps,” Crabtree Meadows is a bouquet of constantly changing flowers, especially in spring when the brilliant pink crabtree blossoms come into bloom. The drive up Mount Mitchell in Mount Mitchell State Park takes you to within two-tenths of a mile of the top of the peak that’s more than a mile high, the highest point east of the Mississippi. On a clear day, you can see for many miles.
Before reaching Asheville, you can have a complete change of pace at the Southern Highland Folk Art Center. Chartered in 1930 to showcase traditional craft work and provide a vehicle for the women to share marketing and promotion, today the Guild represents an astounding 900 crafts people from 293 counties in nine southeastern states. You will find the absolute best of the best at the Guild, from furniture and quilts to jewellery, pottery, and other fine arts. Upon reaching Asheville, head out on the Urban Art Tour of Asheville and following the pink granite markers on the sidewalk.
Touring this most opulent French Renaissance Chateau, it will be hard to focus on the fact this was once a self-sustaining working farm. So many things have been added to the property that you can likely spend most of the day exploring here. The original lakeside vineyards have been revived and now produce grapes made into wines at the state of the art winery. An authentic French winemaker was recruited to produce the real thing.
A visit to the Farm Village illustrates how the workers lived, worked and played in the 1890s. Interpretive exhibits illustrate antique equipment and the traditional farm animals that would have lived on the property. While there, you can also enjoy the bike trails, equestrian paths, a raft or recreational kayak and browse for treasures at the many shops, ranging from Christmas antiques and reproductions of Biltmore Estate items, to a bookbinder and wine shop.
Distance: 80 miles
George Vanderbilt constructed a large hunting lodge below Mount Pisgah’s more than 5,000 foot summit, which he surrounded by thousands of acres of a private hunting retreat. Today, this property is known as the Mount Pisgah Inn. Just a bit down the road you’ll reach the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, after which the roadway begins to descend.
Just when you thought the interesting attractions on your journey were about to end, this afternoon you can ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, deep into the mountains on routes that cannot be reached by automobile. All aboard! With a whistle and full steam ahead, the railroad will take you on a nostalgic journey with views that are more impressive than the train itself. From there, it’s time to head for your accommodations for the evening, leaving exploration of Great Smoky Mountains National Park until tomorrow.
It will be hard to believe that today is your last day of meandering the Blue Ridge Parkway. Get out and about early, in order to have time to explore Native American heritage as well as take the whole scenic drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Cherokee and their predecessors were the first people who hunted, fished, and farmed the vast territories in the Smokies. Today about 11,000 of their descendants still carry on these ancient traditions.
There are three locations you can choose to visit, the Cherokee Reservation itself, Oconaluftee Village, and the Cherokee Heritage Museum. Once on the Reservation, the inner life of the people might not be obvious to the casual observer. With guides in native costume to assist you, the life of an eighteenth century Cherokee village will come to life. A tour including the Sweat lodge, the seven sided Council House and the Trail of Tears all illustrate authentic aspects of the Cherokee lifestyle. At Oconaluftee Village, artisans fashion crafts in much the same way as their ancestors did centuries earlier. The Heritage Museum tells the long, bitter history of the Cherokee people.
Leaving the Cherokee, you’ll be off on one of the most beautiful mountain drives anywhere, travelling through the Great Smoky Mountains, Cades Cove, on the Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway and more. Cades Cove, a spectacular valley surrounded on all sides with mountains and the most visited location in the Park, is best explored by the 11-mile one-way loop road that takes you past pioneer structures, waterfalls, and fantastic foliage.
Dolly Parton Fan? You may also want to consider visiting nearby Sevierville where Dolly was born and raised..
Call the travel specialists at Bon Voyage to discuss your perfect Blue Ridge Parkway driving trip.
Friendly knowledgeable advice delivered in a stress free way despite our short lead in period to our departure date. Our grateful thanks to Kate for all her help.