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Adventures Await in Western North Carolina
Romance, reconnect and explore. Western North Carolina offers something for every couple.


Courtesy of Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned home in the United States.


More than a decade ago, Sue and Robin Horvath fell in love in Western North Carolina. Already married for 15 years and the parents of two children, the new object of their shared affection became 80-acres of land.

Situated up a winding mountain road amidst a Mayberry-like town called Bryson City (www.brysoncitync.info), the property adjoined the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (www.nps.gov/grsm).

"At the time, I’d been deeply involved in a family auto business in Florida," Robin said. "But every chance we got, we’d escape to the mountains. We enjoyed our time there so much, we dreamed we’d live there." After the sale of the auto business, the dream became a reality as the Horvath’s created their idea of the ultimate mountain getaway experience: Land’s Creek Cabins (www.landscreek.com).

The property’s first cabin, Squirrel’s Nest, a cozy little honeymoon spot that remains a visitor’s top favorite for romance, features amenities such as a full kitchen, indoor fireplace, outdoor fire pit, a two-person whirlpool tub with a creek side view and covered porch with rocking chairs. Robin reports that multitudes of couples have not only gotten engaged at Land’s Creek, but also exchanged or renewed vows on site, as well as return year after year for anniversaries.

The Horvath’s strongly believe that getting back to nature breaths new life into a marriage. Spending simple moments looking at the stars, sitting by a creek or staring at the blaze of an outdoor campfire, gives people the opportunity to relax and reconnect.

Seventeen secluded cabins are peppered throughout the lush landscape—offering visitors options for family gatherings, as well as private settings for couples who wish to escape from it all in an elegant and rustic atmosphere. The breathtaking mountain views and quaint cabins of Land’s Creek were even chosen as a location for the shooting of Rounder Records recording artist Rhonda Vincent’s music video for the song "I Gotta Start Somewhere (www.rounder.com).

Your Next Anniversary Awaits
While the Horvath’s just commemorated 26 years of marital bliss, the Great Smoky Mountains, which straddle the North Carolina, Tennessee border, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. (See http://greatsmokies75th.org for details.) And in 2010, the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway (www.nps.gov/blri) marks its diamond anniversary.

Conveniently located within a full gasoline tank drive of most of the southeastern United States, Western North Carolina is easiest accessed via direct flight into the Asheville regional airport. Due to their recent merging, Delta and Northwest airlines offers some direct non-stop flights at quite reasonable rates. The area is also about a two-and-a-half- hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia.

The Perfect Romantic Getaway
For many couples, a romantic getaway to Western North Carolina means Asheville. The unofficial capital of western North Carolina is well known for its eclectic collection of fine art galleries and shops featuring local crafts. The city is also a culinary destination, where the dynamic dining scene has built its own community (www.FoodtopianSociety.com).

Many visits to Ashville start with the Biltmore Estate (www.biltmore.com), the largest privately owned home in the United States. The French-style chateau was built in the late 1880s by the Vanderbilt family, which still owns it. Visitors can tour the home and 8,000-acre estate, which include formal gardens and a winery. You can also "Vacation like a Vanderbilt" by staying at the Inn on Biltmore Estate or the historic Cottage on Biltmore Estate. The Romantic package includes a special chef’s breakfast delivered to your room while the spa package offers a 50-minute massage.

Another popular Asheville getaway spot is the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa (www.groveparkinn.com). The inn, modeled on the great railway hotels of the American West, was built from granite boulders in 1913. Grove Park offers golf, tennis and other sports amenities, along with a lush spa in an underground cavern setting. The resort offers a number of packages for romance, rejuvenation and such getaways as the "Grand Romance." The Grove Park is also one of Asheville’s most notable sunset watching spots. It’s often best enjoyed while sipping a freshly made pineapple martini, a specialty of the resort.

Full-Service Options
A short drive west of Ashville is the unique shopping and crafts center of Waynesville. The town is also a short drive from such other popular locales as Maggie Valley, Sylva and Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee. The Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa (www.TheWaynesvilleInn.com) has 115 rooms—each with their own individual styles and personalities. Book the couples’ romantic getaway package and you’ll stay in the private Donald Ross Suite, which features panoramic views of the Balsam Mountains. The package also includes an in-room Swedish couple’s massage, Carolina breakfast for two, champagne and roses. The resort has 27 holes of golf on the property. For more active adventures, the inn also provides easy access to hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, fly-fishing trips to nearby creeks or whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River.

The Innisfree Victorian Inn (www.innisfreeinn.com) on Lake Glenville near Cashiers offers a number of romantically appointed suites that bring the antique opulence of European décor to the mountains. At the adjacent Innisfree Garden House, each suite is themed to a British author or poet. Guest from the Inn and the Garden House meet for at the Inn’s veranda to share afternoon refreshments and sweeping views of the terraced gardens. The grounds also include an aquatic garden, fish pond, nature trail and dock on Lake Glenville—the highest lake west of the Rockies. The inn’s most unique feature is the dance studio with on-site instructor.

And speaking of dancing: if you loved the 1987 film, "Dirty Dancing," you’ll enjoy a romantic getaway to Lake Lure, where the movie was filmed. You can revisit one of the film’s settings as well as step back to the days at the grand hotels at the 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa (www.lakelure.com). The inn—where the "Dirty Dancing" cast and crew stayed—combines unique art and antiques with present-day amenities in a peaceful lakeside setting. Share a couple’s massage as part of the "Grand Couples Retreat" package at Allure, the full-service spa on the property. For extra privacy, reserve one of the "Dirty Dancing" cabins at the inn, such as "Johnny’s Cabin" or "Baby’s Bungalow."

History Abound
Another historic destination is the High Hamptons Inn and Country Club (www.highhamptoninn.com) in Cashiers. The 1,400-acre resort began as a getaway for the well-to-do, and long-time guests still enjoy afternoon tea and dressing for dinner. The inn is reminiscent of a classic resort in the Adirondacks, with its paneled walls, single shingles and expansive estate overlooking a private 35-acre lake and broad mountain vistas. High Hamptons has long been a top destination for golf and tennis. For a vigorous workout, hike to the top of Chimney Top Mountain (4,618-foot elevation) or Rock Mountain (4,730 feet), or relax with birding, touring several gardens on the property or visiting the world-class spa.

Something For The Adventurous
If your interests tend more towards horses, check out the Cataloochee Ranch (www.CataloocheeRanch.com) near Maggie Valley. The former sheep and cattle ranch is located a mile high on a private mountain-top ranch bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Novices and veteran riders alike enjoy trail rides along roaring streams that cut through deep forests and summit meadows. Non-equestrians will also find plenty to keep them occupied at the resort, including tennis, hiking and trout fishing.

While ski season lasts only a few months during the winter, the mountains of Western North Carolina offer a number of other activities couples can share year-round. Explore the forests with a summertime hike, snuggle up around an autumn bonfire or share the burst of colors from mountain laurel and rhododendrons during the spring.

Year-Round Destination
Whatever the season, there’s always a reason to visit North Carolina. To learn about current events, visit the state tourism Web site at www.visitnc.com.

Sharing a passion for adventure, Bobby Hickman and Joni Strandquest operate EaglesQuest Media Inc., a freelance writing service focusing on travel, lifestyles and business. To learn more, or to suggest ideas for future columns, visit their website at www.eaglesquestmedia.com.

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