Ready for a road trip? The Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, through North Carolina, to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, makes for a beautiful drive no matter the season. From scenic overlooks to historic mansions, here are 10 great spots, from north to south, along the Parkway that are worth the drive.
Where to stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
The Natural Bridge: Milepost 61.6
Natural Bridge is a twenty-story, naturally-occurring, solid-rock bridge in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Descend 137 steps to the Cedar Creek Nature Trail that leads to the bridge. Don't worry about climbing back up; a shuttle bus runs continuously. General admission costs $20.99 for adults and $11.99 for children ages 5-12 and includes the bridge and trail, butterfly exhibit, Monacan Village, wax museum, Drama of Creation and the Jefferson Playground. The cavern tour costs extra.
Mabry Mill: Milepost 176.1
Bring your appetite with you to Mabry Mill and enjoy their famous buckwheat pancakes for less than $8. Breakfast is served all day in season -- Mabry Mill is open daily from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. May-October. Stop in the gift shop to purchase some buckwheat flour to take home. Then, take a self-guided tour of the mill and blacksmith shop.
Blue Ridge Music Center: Milepost 213
Park your car and grab a seat in the outdoor amphitheater for a bluegrass concert at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Or take in some Mid-Day Mountain Music from noon - 4 p.m. in the center's breezeway and explore the Roots of American Music museum, both of which are free. The Blue Ridge Music Center is open daily from May to October.
Must-sees along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
The Blowing Rock: Milepost 291.9
Named for the strong northwest wind that blows up from the rock, The Blowing Rock is a cliff that hangs 3,000 feet above Johns River Gorge in North Carolina. The force of the wind is so strong that it returns light objects that are cast out over the gorge. Admission costs $6 for adults and $1 for children ages 4-11. Hours vary by season. Be sure to stop at the gift and snack shops to complete your visit.
Linville Falls: Milepost 316.3
Linville Falls is a three-tiered waterfall that cascades into the Linville Gorge, also known as the "Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians." Open year-round from dawn until dusk, the falls are easily accessible from the Parkway. There are three hiking trails varying in distance, from one mile to 1.6 miles, and in difficulty: easy, moderate and difficult. Parking is free.
Southern Highland Folk Art Center: Milepost 382
Located five minutes from Asheville, N.C., the Southern Highland Folk Art Center showcases traditional and contemporary crafts from the Southern Appalachian region. Inside, you'll find three galleries, a library and a craft shop as well as a bookstore and information about the Blue Ridgeway Parkway. Admission and parking are free. Open daily.
Chimney Rock State Park: Milepost 384.7
Get a taste of Hollywood in North Carolina at Chimney Rock State Park, one of the filming locations for The Last of the Mohicans. From the top of the mountain, take in an amazing view of Lake Lure, a filming location for Dirty Dancing (you know the scene, when Patrick Swayze teaches Jennifer Grey the lift in the water). Hours vary by season. Rates are currently reduced to $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 5-15 because the Hickory Nut Falls trail is closed for repairs.
Biltmore: Milepost 388.8
The historic Biltmore estate is a must-stop for any trip to Asheville, N.C. Plan to spend the whole day here; stay overnight in Asheville if you can. Tour the house and the gardens. Explore the farm, winery, village green and outdoor adventure center at Antler Hill Village. Dine in one of the 12 restaurants, from the casual to the elegant, at the estate. Biltmore is open year-round. Admission prices vary.
Pisgah Inn: Milepost 408.6
Book an overnight stay at the Pisgah Inn located at the peak of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Mount Pisgah in North Carolina. Soak in the vistas of the Pisgah National Forest and the peace and quiet of this mountain retreat from your private porch or balcony. Hike the trails, discover handmade Appalachian crafts in the gift shop and enjoy fine dining in a casual setting. The inn is open April through October.
Oconaluftee Indian Village: Milepost 469.1
Step back in time and experience Cherokee history at the Oconaluftee Indian Village located in Cherokee, N.C., at the gateway to Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Learn about Cherokee culture, ceremony, dress, crafts and lifestyle through this living history experience. The village is open seasonally, May to mid-October, Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tickets cost $18.40 for adults and $10.40 children ages 6-12 plus fees if ordered online.