MagazineApril 2022The Spring 2022 Go Outside & Play Guide

The Spring 2022 Go Outside & Play Guide

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Looking for that spark to inspire your next Blue Ridge getaway? With this guide to some of the top destinations in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, discover countless ways to go outside and play. Each itinerary comes with adventure, restaurant, and lodging recommendations so you can kick back and relax. 

Downtown Madison, Va.
Downtown Madison, Va. Photo by M.A.P Drone

A Day in Madison County, Va.

Set against the backdrop of Shenandoah National Park, Madison County offers the perfect getaway. Find quiet and relaxation or go on an outdoor adventure. From the foothills to the mountaintops and all of the cool, flowing waters in between, discover the beauty Virginia has to offer. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Madison County has it all.

Morning

Start your morning off at Shenandoah National Park, which offers waterfalls to explore, over 500 miles of hiking trails, and scenic views along Skyline Drive. After working up an appetite, stop for lunch at Mad Local, a veteran owned and operated American eatery. They serve local beef and chicken with plenty of beer options on tap. 

Afternoon

Spend the rest of your day at Rose River Farm for scenic fly fishing. Enjoy views of the mountains while catching the river’s trophy trout. You can even reserve private and group lessons to get more out of your trip. Madison County also has a wide variety of wineries and breweries for an afternoon of relaxing with a drink in your hand.

Evening

After a long day outside, head to the Bavarian Chef for dinner. Experience the authentic traditions and flavors of Germany, homemade with fresh ingredients. Book your stay at the Graves Mountain Farm and Lodges, which offers a range of rooms from motel rooms with a scenic view to rooms and suites with fireplaces and a kitchenette. Or, find comfort at the Inn at Meander, a historic bed and breakfast with romantic manor rooms and cottages.

MadisonVA.com

Sailing on Lake Moomaw. photo by W. Curry Photography

A Weekend in Alleghany Highlands, Va.

It’s easy to get to the Alleghany Highlands, yet it couldn’t be further from the stress of a hectic life. Beautiful mountain views, endless outdoor recreation, and two walkable downtowns with locally owned shops and restaurants add up to a charming and adventurous way of life for locals and visitors alike. It’s Uniquely Alleghany!

Morning

Start your day right with a fresh pastry and coffee to go from Caffe Museo or The Way Coffee Shop. Once you’re fueled up and ready to go, hit the North Mountain Trail. At 6.8 miles out and back, you’ll be treated to mountainous views of the Alleghany Highlands as far as the eyes can see. When you get back to town, stop at Cucci’s Pizzeria for pasta or a slice of pizza or the James Burke House Eatery for a sandwich and homemade dessert.

Afternoon

After lunch, stop by Alleghany Outdoors, the newest outfitter in the area. Enjoy a trip on the Jackson River by kayak, tube, or canoe. A shuttle will take you to numerous boat launches of your choice but a local favorite is at the Smith Bridge Boat launch for a three to four-hour trip. This ten-mile section of the river has several rapids through crystal clear waters. You will encounter beautiful mountain cliffs and abundant wildlife along this exciting float.  

Evening

Treat yourself to dinner at The Brewhouse at Cliff View Golf Club featuring live music, the Cat & Owl for fresh steak and seafood, or The Rail Bar & Grille for burgers and wings. Check in to one of several local inns, Airbnb’s, or campsites for the night.

VisitAlleghanyHighlands.com 

Camping, hiking, and biking for the whole family. Photo by Tanja Lochstrom

A Day in Shenandoah County, Va.

Escape the crowds and enjoy an outdoor adventure in the fresh mountain air of Shenandoah County, Va. Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, visitors can hike, bike, or horseback ride more than 178 miles of trails throughout the George Washington National Forest or float the North Fork of the Shenandoah River for amazing views of the area. 

Morning

Find a cozy glamping site like Ballybrook Farm, Cottage on the Seven Bends, and The Black Bear Tent or book your rustic stay at Fort Valley Ranch, where you can pitch a tent or stay in a cabin and then wake up to go horseback riding on a guided trail ride throughout the George Washington National Forest. If off-highway-vehicles are more your speed, there are 36 miles of wooded trails just for you. Known locally as Tasker’s Gap and Peter’s Mill, these trails represent the largest OHV trail system on public land within Virginia. 

Afternoon

Enjoy a fantastic lunch at Old Dominion Doggery & Burger Shop or The Pancake Underground. Both serve foods that are sourced locally. Afterwards, hike the Buzzard Rock North Trail, a pleasant four-mile hike that has a great payoff with spectacular vistas of the valley. Or you can take on some of the Virginia Mountain Biking Trail which spans the length of Virginia’s Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains from Strasburg to Damascus.

Evening

Wind down with a visit to Swover Creek Farm Brewery where you can enjoy their handcrafted beers and ciders. They also serve homemade pizza cooked in a woodfired oven using all local ingredients. Swover Creek is pet and family friendly with outdoor seating and activities like an 18-hole Disc Golf course.

VisitShenandoahCounty.com


Newport News Park, photos courtesy Newport News Tourism

A Day in Newport News, Va.

Explore nature and the beauty of Virginia without sacrificing the convenience of a city. Newport News is a great place for hiking, cycling, camping, and fishing, while still providing the comforts and ease of an urban setting. Whether you prefer wandering through art galleries or the great outdoors, there is plenty of fun to be had in this coastal city. 

Morning

Start the day exploring local trails, like a five-mile hike on the Noland Trail at Mariners’ Museum Park or use the Newport News Public Art Foundation’s audio tour app, which offers a tour of 37 outdoor sculptures with commentary by 20 of the artists themselves. If you still have time, visit the Virginia Living Museum, which features a 0.75-mile elevated boardwalk, 250 species of animals, botanical gardens, and science center. 

Afternoon

Escape the bustle of downtown and visit Dean & Don’s Farm Market for some fresh produce. They also sell local eggs and honey, as well as homemade bread, North Carolina BBQ, jams, and jellies. The Historic Hilton Village neighborhood is full of quaint mom-and-pop shops, local crafts, jewelry, and art, as well as chef-owned restaurants and bakeries. Take some time to relax at the Ironclad Distillery and sample their original-recipe bourbons and whiskeys. 

Evening

End your day with dinner at the Crab Shack on the James for casual dining with magnificent sunset views of the James River. For a more upscale meal, try Fin Seafood, serving seasonal catches and wine pairings. Then find a place to watch a beautiful sunset at Huntington Park Beach or Hilton Fishing Pier.

Newport-News.org

Upper James River Water Trail, Botetourt County. Photo courtesy of Star City SkyCams

A Day in Virginia’s Blue Ridge

You’ll love exploring Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and the many opportunities to experience stunning views, delicious food and drink, and rich history and culture. Whether you’re attending a sporting event in the City of Salem, exploring a trail in Botetourt County, setting up camp in Roanoke County, listening to music in Franklin County, or enjoying a great meal in Roanoke, it can all be part of a getaway to Virginia’s Blue Ridge!

Morning

Get things started with a breakfast sandwich on a freshly-baked bagel at Donnie D’s Bagels and Deli in Botetourt County. Then, head north to Historic Fincastle, a walkable town that still features buildings and architecture from when it was established in 1770.

Afternoon

Experience the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the water with a float on the Upper James River Water Trail. Located in the Town of Buchanan, Twin River Outfitters is a great option for guided trips, rentals, and shuttle service.

Evening

Don’t let the weekend end without a visit to Downtown Roanoke. You’ll love the diversity of cuisine from local restaurants, including Middle Eastern, Peruvian, Indian, Japanese, and classic Southern fare. Following dinner, make your way up Mill Mountain to the iconic Roanoke Star for a selfie and a stunning view of the Roanoke Valley.

VisitVBR.com

Salem love sign. Photo courtesy City of Salem

A Day in Salem, Va.

Find your next metro mountain adventure in Salem in Virginia’s Blue Ridge—America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital. Become a #Trailsetter and explore over 1,000 miles of trails, with incredible options for hiking, biking, paddling, and more. When you’re not conquering a trail, explore the charming small towns and vibrant downtown areas full of local flavors, history, and culture.

Morning

Begin your day with a hike along the Appalachian Trail. Virginia’s Blue Ridge is home to the Virginia Triple Crown, featuring three stunning summit views—Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs. Any of the trio would make for an epic hike to kick off your weekend.

Afternoon

Head to Salem to chow down at a great local restaurant. A popular favorite with locals is Mac and Bob’s Restaurant, known for its massively delicious calzones. After lunch, stroll around Downtown Salem and check out the local shops, LOVEworks art, Salem Farmers Market, and beautiful Roanoke College campus.

Evening

Ready for Happy Hour? Salem is home of two great craft breweries—Parkway Brewing Company and Olde Salem Brewing Company. If they have a home game during your visit, spend a night at the ballpark and cheer on the Salem Red Sox. Book your accommodations at The Lofts at Downtown Salem or one of the wonderful hotels near Interstate 81 for a relaxing stay.

VisitSalemVA.com

Water front cabins and kayak rentals are just some of the many amenities you’ll find at Wilderness Presidential Resort. Photo courtesy Visit Spotsy

A Day in Spotsylvania County, Va.

Get outside in Spotsylvania County, a one-of-a-kind destination with award-winning wineries and breweries, a variety of dining options, and scenic walks along miles of trails. Conveniently located between D.C. and Richmond, it’s the perfect day trip to immerse yourself in fantastic views and enlightening history. From peaceful Lake Anna to scenic drives over rolling hills, treat yourself to a Spotsylvania getaway.

Morning

Wake up to a day of fun at the Wilderness Presidential Resort. Choose from cabins and lodges or tent and RV sites for your stay. Grab a freshly-brewed coffee from The Battlefield Country Store before a morning of water activities. The resort includes two lakes for boating and fishing, plus an escape room, gem mine, mini golf, knockerball, archery, aerial ropes course, and climbing wall. 

Afternoon

The alluring combination of Italian market, New York deli, and bakery at Basilico will have your mouth watering before you even step in the door for lunch. Then it’s on to an afternoon of history and shopping. Learn about the area at the Spotsylvania County Museum before heading out to the Spotsylvania Towne Centre. The 140 stores and restaurants on site will certainly keep you busy. 

Evening

There’s always something new to try from Harry’s Ale House. Between hundreds of craft beers, on tap and bottled, and a new burger each week, you really can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. Finish up your day with a drink at 1781 Brewery and Wilderness Run Vineyards. With the brewery and winery in the same location, you can sit back while enjoying some live music and food trucks in one spot. 

VisitSpotsy.com

Hungry Mother lake and beach. Photo courtesy Virginia State Parks

A Day in Hungry Mother State Park, Va.

Hungry Mother, one of the original six Virginia State Parks, has long been a crowd favorite. Known for it’s beautiful woodlands and the placid 108-acre lake in the heart of the mountains, it’s the perfect spot to kick back and enjoy some time outside. 

Morning

Wake up and get going on the trails of the park. Whether you prefer to explore on foot or bike, there are excellent views all around. For a longer but less strenuous hike, follow the Lake Trail 5.7 miles along the water’s edge with a few switchbacks and minor elevation changes. The four-mile Clyburn Ridge Loop Trail offers gradual elevation changes to take you to several scenic vistas with amazing views of the area.

Afternoon

Spend your afternoon by or on the lake. Post up on the beach and relax or rent a boat to explore the water. Options include canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and paddleboards. The universally accessible fishing pier is a great place to catch a variety of sport fish, including largemouth, smallmouth, hybrid striped, and spotted bass, plus crappie, channel and flathead catfish, carp, bluegill, muskellunge, and walleye.

Evening

Head into nearby Downtown Marion for entertainment at The Lincoln Theater and unique shops. Wooden Pickle Food & Spirit and Sur 81 are great options for dinner while Sisters Café is perfect for a midday pick-me-up. Then it’s time to head back to the park for your overnight accommodations. Depending on your comfort level, pitch a tent, hook up your RV, or book one of the onsite cabins, yurts, or lodge. 

Hungry Mother is just one of 41 Virginia State Parks. Discover even more day to week-long adventures across the commonwealth. 

VirginiaStateParks.gov

Downtown Martinsburg. Photo courtesy Martinsburg, WV

A Weekend in Martinsburg, W.V.

Take a trip to the great outdoors to experience the beauty and fun of Martinsburg, W.Va. Fill your weekend with the historic charm of downtown, or find adventure in the many hikes and nature walks around the area. From rivers to mountains, there is plenty of nature to explore for hikers, bikers, paddlers, wildlife enthusiasts, and geocachers. 

Day One

Morning

Start your trip off with breakfast at the Blue White Grill, an authentic 1950s- style diner. Then take a walk for the eclectic sights and shops of downtown, like the Queen Street Gallery and WV Glass to admire or purchase some art, or head into Engage to support a local comic book store. Take care of your sweet tooth and stop in at Defluri’s for handmade fine chocolates. 

Afternoon

Visit the multi-generational farm, Orr’s Farm Market, and pick up some local seasonal produce, fresh apple cider, an Apple Cider Doughnut Whoopie Pie, or a few souvenirs. Wind down your afternoon with a visit to Black Draft Farm and Distillery and enjoy their moonshine, bourbon, and vodka. Or, check out Amani Brewing to sample their small batch of craft beers.

Evening

End your day at Main Street Martinsburg with their Friday summer concerts from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Try the authentic Texas BBQ with indoor or outdoor seating, and enjoy live music at Mountaineer Meat Smokers. Settle in for the night at one of the many local hotels or Airbnbs. 

Day Two

Morning

Have a relaxing brunch on Sunday at the Historic McFarland House, reservations highly recommended. The menu features new items every week depending on the fresh ingredients available. Then head outside and hike along the Tuscarora Trail in the 23,000-acre Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area. For those looking to continue their relaxation, take an easy stroll in the Yankauer Nature Preserve. Over 100 species of plants have been identified, as well as hundreds of species of birds, in the 107-acre area. You can also visit Stauffer’s Marsh for nature walks, birding, or just sitting and relaxing outdoors. 

Afternoon

Take a quick drive out for a late lunch at the Cider Press Restaurant located at Taylor’s Farm Market in Inwood, W.Va. Take in the history of the area at the Berkeley County Museum at the Belle Boyd House, studying Civil War items related to Berkeley County, or observe the gallery at The Historic Martinsburg Roundhouse to experience the history of the railroad at the last remaining roundhouse of its kind in the world.

Evening

Find your way back to downtown Martinsburg for dinner at Brix 27, reservations recommended. Enjoy the bar with hand-selected wines, brews, and spirits while you peruse the menu. 

WVTourism.com/Martinsburg

Blackwater Falls State Park. Photo courtesy WV Tourism

A Weekend in Tucker County, W.V.

For lively small town vibes with big mountain adventures, outdoor lovers of all ages will find the perfect balance in Tucker County. Discover a wide range of sights and activities on these public lands of West Virginia, from state parks and national forests to scenic rivers. Whether you prefer traveling on foot, mountain bike, or kayak, this
is the place for you. 

Day One

Morning

Grab that much needed jolt of energy from Tip Top Coffee to get your day started off on the right foot. Sip your drink and munch on a pastry as the North Fork Blackwater River flows past. Spend the rest of your morning hiking the trails of the area, from a spectacular waterfall at Blackwater Falls State Park to scenic overlooks in Monongahela National Forest. 

Afternoon

Pack a picnic lunch and get on your way with the folks at Blackwater Outdoor Adventures for a canoe or tube float trip on the Cheat River. Along the way, keep an eye out for bald eagles, deer, and other local flora and fauna. For the adventurous paddlers, you can even book a whitewater rafting trip through the Cheat Narrows with class II and III rapids and swimming spots. 

Evening

As the day wraps up, get out your gear and fish for some trout on the Blackwater River. You can easily access this stunning waterway from Davis Town Park. Then it’s only a 100-yard walk to Stumptown Ales for a well-earned drink. Bring in your own food from anywhere in town and toast to a day of fun with a local craft brew. 

Day Two

Morning

Wake up at Canaan Valley Resort State Park—featuring hotel, cabin, and camping options—and hit the main lodge for breakfast at the Seasons Café or Hickory Dining Room. From there, you’ll have direct access to the Promised Land Trail, a recently built, 5.5-mile beginner trail, and untold wonders to explore on the rocky and rooty trails of Canaan Mountain Backcountry.

Afternoon

Refuel with lunch at Picnic Taco, known for their rotating menu of specialty tacos you can eat on the go. Then it’s time to explore a world of painting, photography, sculpture, and more. Buxton & Landstreet Gallery, Creature Art Gallery, Bloom, and others feature art and handmade goods from dozens of local and regional artisans. Plus, an eclectic mix of local shops and antique stores make for fun browsing and good gifts.

Evening

After a day running around in the mountain air, head into Thomas for a delicious dining experience at Farm Up Table, known for its southern flair. Swing by the Purple Fiddle for a drink, live music, and a toe-tapping good time in this slice of wild heaven.

WVTourism.com/TuckerCounty 

View from Bridge Walk. Photo courtesy Visit Southern WV

A Weekend in Southern West Virginia

From raging rivers to mountain peaks, the possibilities for adventure are endless in Southern West Virginia. Conveniently located within a day’s drive from major East Coast cities, you don’t have to go far to get away for a bit. Between the New River Gorge National Park, 12 state parks, and miles of trails in the area, you’re going to want to make this a regular trip.

Day One

Morning

Start your day at one of the local cafes with a great cup of coffee paired with a tasty treat and a veggie or fruit smoothie. Then make your way out to America’s newest national park, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, for more than 100 miles of trails to hike and bike, plus some of the best rock climbing and whitewater rafting on the East Coast. 

Afternoon

Just a few miles down the road, experience what is perhaps the biggest part of West Virginia heritage—coal mining history. At the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, take a trip through what once was an operating coal mine in a ‘man car’ as veteran miners guide you through the past and into the future of mining in West Virginia. After the tour, enjoy the Coal Camp, highlighting restored coal camp houses, miner’s shanty, church, school, museum, and gift-shop.

Evening

After a day of exploring and adventuring, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite. Southern West Virginia is filled with locally owned and operated restaurants with menus full of flavor. Many of these staple restaurants offer live music and events. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep, so cozy up in a cabin or vacation rental. Whether you’re looking for a home away from home, a cabin in the woods, or a unique flat for your retreat, there are a variety of options to make your home base. 

Day Two

Morning

Adventure is all around in Southern West Virginia. If you’re looking for unmatched views of the Gorge be sure to check out Bridge Walk where they offer daily catwalk tours on the 24-inch catwalk, 851 feet above the New River. This 1.25-mile stroll offers breathtaking views and memories that will last a lifetime.

Afternoon

Make the short 25 minute drive east to Beckley, the heart of Southern West Virginia, for lunch at Tamarack Marketplace. This eye-catching peaked red roof building showcases Appalachian cuisine at its restaurant with indoor, to-go, and al fresco dining options. Once you’ve finished dining, shop and explore the products of the more than 2,800 artisans and artists from throughout the state in this regional showcase.

Evening

Cap your trip off with a visit to one of the area’s award-winning vineyards, unique distilleries, and craft breweries. Check out the calendar for a rotating schedule of food trucks and live music from regional hits. 

WVTourism.com/SouthernWV

Biking in the Tea Creek Trail System, photo courtesy of Pocahontas County

A Day in Pocahontas County, W.V.

Treat yourself to a West Virginia adventure as you shake off the winter blues in Pocahontas County. Spring is the perfect season to visit Nature’s Mountain Playground with more than half of the county’s land mass composed of public lands, including five state parks, two state forests, eight major rivers, and countless acres to explore in Monongahela National Forest.

Morning

Before you head out, pick up a coffee and last-minute gear from Dirtbean Cafe and Bike Shop. Then it’s on to the Greenbrier River Trail State Park, providing the perfect opportunity for a peaceful outing by foot, bike, or boat. This 78-mile rail trail traverses some of the most remote parts of West Virginia with several bridges and tunnels along the way. When you get off the trail, grab some food from Last Run Restaurant at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. 

Afternoon

Pick up some speed after lunch when you hit the epic Gauley Mountain Trail on your mountain bike, known for its technical rock gardens, steep climbs, and epic descents. Or drive along the Highland Scenic Highway and pick a spot to hike. High Rocks Trail is a gentle 1.5-mile climb to a gorgeous view of the Stamping Creek Watershed.

Evening

Head into the town of Marlinton for dinner and drinks at the Locust Hill Pub, Greenbrier Grille, or Old Mountain Tavern. Settle in for a night at one of the area’s many lodging options, from comfy accommodations at Country River Cabins, Greenbrier River Cabins, and Cass Scenic Railroad State Park to waterside camping at Watoga State Park. 

PocahontasCountyWV.com

Chimney Rock in Catoctin Mountain Park. Photo courtesy of Visit Frederick

A Day in Frederick, Md.

From mountain views to vibrant Main Street communities, Frederick County has all you could want out of a scenic Maryland getaway. Located less than an hour from major cities like Baltimore and D.C., you won’t have to drive far to escape to your outdoor retreat. Whether you’re looking to hike, bike, fish, or camp, there’s plenty to explore in the area. 

Morning

Get things going with freshly made doughnuts, apple pie-stuffed french toast, or a breakfast sandwich from Glory Dough & Diner in Downtown Frederick. Ease yourself into the day with a warmup hike to Maryland’s largest cascading waterfall in Cunningham Falls State Park. If you’re looking for a more challenging jaunt, the stunning vista at Chimney Rock in Catoctin Mountain Park is well worth the effort. 

Afternoon

After your hike, drive out to the Roddy Road Covered Bridge, picnic by the creek, and take in the scenic beauty. Then it’s time to satisfy your sweet tooth’s cravings. Wander the rows of apple trees and aisles of the farm market at Catoctin Mountain Orchard. Make sure to pick up a delicious pie to go while you’re there or swing by Gateway Candy for an array of ice cream flavors, fresh fudge, and over 500 varieties of candy. 

Evening

Head into Downtown Frederick for dinner at Gambrill Mt. Food Co., featuring an extensive food and drink menu as well as live music throughout the year. Grab a drink or two from Attaboy Barrel House before turning in for the night at one of the nationally branded hotels in the area. 

VisitFrederick.org


A popular gathering spot in downtown Burnsville is Homeplace Beer Co. Photo courtesy of Explore Burnsville

A Weekend in Burnsville

In the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Burnsville, N.C., is a charming mountain community surrounded by pristine rivers, biodiverse forests, and majestic high peaks. Burnsville offers iconic American charm, endless outdoor experiences, and starry, dark skies for visitors of all ages. Located just 35 miles northeast of Asheville, Burnsville provides an ideal combination of outdoorsy adventure and small-town vibes.

Day One

Morning

Start your day at Appalachian Java before taking a scenic drive on NC 80 along the South Toe River to Roaring Fork Falls. This easy waterfall hike is located in the Pisgah National Forest just two miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. For a more strenuous activity, book a guided hike with Snakeroot Eco Tours for an off-the-beaten path adventure to mountain creeks, old growth forests, and swimming holes. 

Afternoon

After a morning of ecotherapy, take a stroll around Town Square and along Main Street to visit local art galleries, antique stores, and friendly one-of-a-kind shops. Seasonal, family-owned farms offer locally-grown and hand-crafted products at the Yancey County Farmers Market or the Appalachian Farmers and Artisan Market. Enjoy lunch from your choice of several downtown eateries.

Evening

Head over to Homeplace Beer Company for a local farm-to-pint beer and relax in one of the pleasant outdoor spaces. Enjoy Appalachian-inspired cuisine and seasonal craft cocktails next door at Second Home. Stay overnight in any of the area’s comfortable accommodations, from a cozy inn to a mountain cabin, to get a night of rest before another day of adventuring. 

Day Two

Morning

Fill up with a hearty country breakfast from Pig & Grits. Then it’s on to Mount Mitchell State Park, home to the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet tall, Mount Mitchell. With an easily accessible observation deck and hiking trails near the summit, you’ll find stunning views in every direction. Also accessible from the park is Mount Craig, the second highest peak in the eastern United States at 6,645 feet.

Afternoon

After a quick stop to refuel and a sweet treat from Cool Catz Ice Cream, head out on one of the area’s many waterways with a local outfitter. From tubing, fishing, and whitewater rafting to waterfall rappelling and river snorkel trips, there are countless opportunities for the whole family to have fun.

Evening

Plan for dinner in town before heading out to the Bare Dark Sky Observatory to explore the wonders of the universe. The Sam Scope, with a 34-inch mirror, is the largest telescope in the Southeast dedicated for public use. After gazing into the night sky, you’ll be ready to start planning a return visit to Burnsville.

ExploreBurnsville.com 

Cumberland Falls Mist. Photo courtesy Kentucky County Tourism

A Day in South Eastern Kentucky

With its dramatic scenery and unbridled adventure, frontiersman Daniel Boone may have had this ruggedly beautiful region in mind when he said, “Heaven must be a Kentucky kind of place.” From climbing in the Red River Gorge and cycling in London to hiking Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and soaring through the trees on the Black Mountain Thunder Zipline, there are untold adventures to be found. 

Morning

Whether you prefer the thrill of whitewater or a peaceful float, spend your morning exploring Kentucky’s majestic waterways. Paddle and fish various sections of the Cumberland River, glide over the waters of Laurel Lake on jet skis, float through an underground mine, or raft big water with one of the outfitters in the area. There’s no better way to see the sights while cooling off.

Afternoon

Listen to the sounds of Southeastern Kentucky, starting with a visit to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in Rockcastle County to learn about Kentucky’s musical legends. You can even catch live shows at venues like Renfro Valley and the Laurel Cove Music Festival throughout the year. Make sure to explore the area for a taste of classic Appalachian fare. 

Evening

For an experience like no other, visit Cumberland Falls after the sun has set. By night, the light of the full moon combines with spray from the falls to form one of only two “predictable” moonbows in the world at the point where the Cumberland River plunges 69 feet. After your nighttime jaunt, settle into your lodging for the night at one of the nearby charming cities like Corbin, London, and Williamsburg.

KentuckyTourism.com/Explore-Kentucky/Daniel-Boone-Country 

Magnificent overlooks are within easy reach of Gatlinburg. Photo courtesy of Gatlinburg

A Day in Gatlinburg, Tn.

Gatlinburg, Tenn., is the perfect mountaintop getaway, complete with breathtaking views of the Smokies and endless fun. Surrounded by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is steps away from outdoor adventure no matter what time of year you visit. This spring, take a hike during the Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage or attend a variety of workshops with local artisans during Hands-on Gatlinburg.

Morning

Start your day with a visit to one of the town’s famous breakfast spots like Crockett’s Breakfast Camp or Log Cabin Pancake House to enjoy a stack of pancakes that will keep you full all day.  Then, spend some time in the country’s most-visited national park for a morning hike. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is an all-time favorite with an old-growth forest, rushing mountain streams, well-preserved log cabins, grist mills, and other historic structures. Those wishing to enjoy the park from the road can also drive the motor trail which invites you to slow down and enjoy the forest and the area’s historic sites.

Afternoon

On your way out of the park, make a stop at Ely’s Mill for a journey back in time to “Old Gatlinburg” where craftspeople and nature work in harmony. A rare mountain gem, Ely’s Mill is full of homemade wares that celebrate Gatlinburg’s local culture, right on the banks of Roaring Fork Creek.

Evening

When it’s time to refuel, end your day with dinner at The Greenbrier Restaurant, a food and spirit outpost sitting right on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains. Then, head back downtown to end your night at one of the many famous distilleries, wineries, or watering holes.

Gatlinburg.com 

Tubing on the Chattahoochee River. Photo courtesy Alpine Helen / White County CVB

A Weekend in Helen, Ga.

A natural beauty perched on the Chattahoochee River in the north Georgia mountains, Helen is Georgia’s official outdoor adventure destination. Discover the charm of Bavaria in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains when you travel to a place with old world towers, gingerbread trim, cobblestone walkways, and traditional German foodstuffs. It’s the perfect spot for a family vacation or romantic getaway. 

Day One

Morning

Start your day downtown at Hofer’s Bakery for breakfast at an authentic German bakery before hiking to one of the most visited waterfalls in the south—Anna Ruby Falls. Located just two miles away from Downtown Helen, take a short, paved path to the thundering falls surrounded by Chattahoochee National Forest.

Afternoon

After lunch at one of the delicious restaurants along Main Street, stroll through cobblestone alleys and shop at over 150 different stores, including clothing, gifts, home decor, and more. Plan a visit to the new Babyland General Hospital to pick out your very own cabbage patch kid.

Evening

After a long day on your feet, dine at one of the best German restaurants you’ll find in America–Bodensee Restaurant. From homemade sausage to sampler platters of the best specials, you’ll find the menu is full of mouthwatering delights.

Day Two

Morning

Spend your morning riding the new Georgia Mountain Coaster as you look out over town and the river as you race down the track, reaching speeds up to 28 miles per hour. Keep up the energy at Nacoochee Adventures where you can soar above the trees on a canopy tour or take an off road sightseeing excursion on an ATV. 

Afternoon

Have lunch at Café International by the water. Afterward, visit Cool River Adventures or Helen Tubing Company to experience the area from a new angle as you float the Chattahoochee River through downtown. If it rains, there is plenty to do indoors at the Alpine Fun Factory, featuring indoor go karts, laser tag, jump house, games and more, and Charlemagne’s Kingdom, which displays the largest Alpine railroad in the world.

Evening

To cap the day off, enjoy a wine tasting at one of the seven different boutique wineries before dinner in town. Make your final stop of the night at Hansel and Gretel’s for delicious handmade fudge and candies.

HelenGA.org 

Lake Nottely Dam. Photo courtesy Visit Blairsville

A Day in Blairsville, Ga.

Leave behind the busy sounds of the city and find an escape in Blairsville, Ga. Blairsville has all of the sights and activities for the perfect getaway. Take time to unplug, enjoy the peace and quiet, and take in the views while you fill up at any of the restaurants for a delicious meal or a quick snack. 

Morning

Start your day with the award-winning stuffed French toast from Hole in the Wall in Downtown Blairsville, open since 1931 and the oldest diner in the county. Then head to Lake Nottely for family fun, from quiet hiking trails and great fishing to boat rentals and swimming spots.

Afternoon

After a morning exploring nature, head back into town to Blairsville Restaurant Grits & Greens. Eat where the locals eat with some southern home-cooked meals served cafeteria style. Spend some time shopping at the Farmer’s Daughter, a general store that has farmhouse décor, penny candy, and Blairsville-themed souvenirs to remember your trip. For visitors over the age of 21, stop by Grandaddy Mimm’s Distillery to try their moonshine and spirits, or the Odom Springs Vineyards to sample a flight or buy a bottle or two of wine. 

Evening

For an afternoon snack or early evening dessert, choose a fun, sweet treat from Melissa’s Custom Cakes like the graham crackers with pecans, toffee, and a chocolate drizzle. After a full day, head to Michaelee’s Italian Life Caffe and enjoy dinner in the dining room or on the patio. Known for their chocolate shrimp, Michaelee’s offers a range of classic and modern Italian dishes. 

VisitBlairsvilleGA.com 

Cover photo courtesy Virginia State Parks

Places to Go, Things to See: