Winter Wonders in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

When it comes to winter travel, Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains offer a unique and enchanting experience. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountain Range, this region spans over 600 miles, boasting small towns, scenic overlooks, and a drive that’s hailed as one of the South’s most picturesque. To guide you through the winter wonderland, this articlefrom Southern Living turned to Travis Milton, culinary director at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol, whose deep connection with the area unveils a side of Appalachia that’s best experienced in the colder months.

Exploring the Scenic Route: Roanoke to Bristol

The interviewed Chef Milton suggests taking the scenic route from Roanoke to Abingdon and Bristol, avoiding the highways to truly appreciate the beauty of Appalachia. This journey offers a glimpse into the vibrant communities and delectable meals that define the region. As you wind through the landscape, the crisp winter air carries scents of charred cinnamon and roasted apples, a testament to the seasonal events like apple butter cook-offs and canning swaps that infuse the area with a sense of community.

Roanoke: Gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains

For those traveling from afar, Roanoke serves as the perfect starting point. The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airportconnects major cities, and accommodations like Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center or the unique Fire Station One provide cozy stays. The latter, housed in a former firefighting headquarters, preserves historical features for a truly immersive experience.

Abingdon: A Picturesque Retreat

A scenic 2-hour drive from Roanoke takes you to Abingdon, a town described as one of the most picturesque he’s seen. The Martha Washington Inn & Spa, with its rich history, offers a luxurious stay, while short-term rentals provide a more casual option. Abingdon’s charm extends to its trails along the Holston River, the Virginia Creeper Trail, and historic Main Street, where quaint shops and a stunning cemetery await exploration.

Bristol: Small City, Big Culture

The final leg of the journey brings you to Bristol, Virginia, where the Inn at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards awaits. Voted the South’s Best Hotel in 2023, this mountain oasis offers luxury yurts and an outdoor fire pit for a cozy winter night. Bristol surprises with its cultural offerings, from Cheap Thrills Records to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. It’s recommended that you visit HollerHouse for unique Appalachian art and Benjamin Walls Fine Art Galleryfor nature photography enthusiasts.

Culinary Delights in the Mountains

To truly savor the essence of Appalachia, Chef Milton suggests exploring local markets. In Abingdon, the Farmers Market hosts holiday and winter markets, showcasing the region’s diverse culinary offerings. For a taste of Chef Milton’s culinary expertise, start your morning at Hickory in the Inn at Nicewonder, where seasonal delights like buttermilk biscuits topped with fried bologna await. And if you’re in need of a caffeine fix, Bloom and The Girl and The Raven are the go-to spots.

Discovering Appalachian Trails: A Hiker’s Paradise

For those seeking an active winter adventure, the Appalachian Mountains offer an array of hiking trails. Near Roanoke, explore the Star Trail or the Roanoke River Blueway, where winter conditions make hikes more manageable. The Appalachian magic comes alive as snow blankets the trails, providing a serene backdrop for an unforgettable trek through nature’s winter wonderland. Lace-up your boots and embrace the tranquility of these pristine trails, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Embrace the Winter Magic

Winter in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains unveils a different kind of magic. From the snowy trails of Abingdon to the cultural gems of Bristol, each stop along the way adds a layer of charm to your journey. Whether you’re indulging in local cuisine, exploring historic sites, or simply breathing in the crisp mountain air, this winter escapade promises unforgettable moments.

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Colors of Autumn: Unveiling the Southern United States’ Fall Splendor

As summer’s warmth fades into the embrace of crisp autumn air, the United States transforms into a breathtaking tapestry of fall colors and natural wonders. From coast to coast, this vast and diverse nation offers a myriad of experiences for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the glory of autumn, especially thanks to this detailed travel blog post from Southern Living. So, grab your favorite sweater and embark on a memorable autumn journey through the heart of America.

The South, in particular, boasts a splendid celebration of the changing seasons. As the autumnal equinox marks the official arrival of fall in September, daylight wanes, and nights grow longer. Interestingly, it’s the decreasing daylight, rather than temperature, that triggers the vibrant transformation of foliage. While predicting the precise timing of this metamorphosis can be elusive, checking local information as you plan your trip is your best bet.

Georgia’s Dragon Eyes

For a more thrilling and adventurous ride, venture into the Southern Appalachian Mountains and embark on theDragon Eyes journey in Georgia. Popular among motorcyclists for its 715 curves along its 77-mile stretch, Dragon Eyes promises not only heart-pounding excitement but also long-range mountain vistas that will take your breath away. Along the way, you’ll encounter charming towns, mesmerizing waterfalls, and remarkable state parks. Just remember to keep your eyes on the winding road as you navigate this exhilarating route.

Alabama’s Talladega Scenic Byway:

Head southwest to Alabama and embark on the Talladega Scenic Byway. This 29-mile route takes you over the higher elevations of Mount Cheaha, offering breathtaking views of the Appalachian Mountains adorned in their autumnal splendor. At the pinnacle of your drive, the Bunker Observation Tower, a remarkable structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, provides a panoramic long-range view of the mountains that will leave you in awe.

Tennessee’s Foothills Parkway

Nestled at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains State Park, the 71-mile Foothills Parkway in Tennessee promises vistas of both the mountains and the Tennessee Valley. The construction of this scenic route began in the 1960s, with the final portion, known as the ‘missing link,’ opening to the public in 2018. As you journey along the parkway, make a stop at Look Rock, which boasts a gorgeous overlook and a short trail leading to a picnic area—ideal for savoring a leisurely lunch while surrounded by the crimson and yellow landscapes of autumn.

Virginia and North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway:

Begin your autumn odyssey with a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a winding 469-mile route that meanders through Virginia and North Carolina. This iconic journey takes you through mountain vistas, featuring over 280 scenic overlooks, all while maintaining a leisurely speed limit of around 45 miles per hour. This unhurried pace allows you ample time to marvel at the kaleidoscope of fall colors.

The timing of your visit varies with elevation, offering multiple opportunities to witness nature’s grand spectacle. Purgatory Mountain Overlook in Virginia and the historic Mabry Mill in North Carolina are just a couple of noteworthy stops along the way. With an elevation of 5721 feet above sea level, Mount Pisgah boasts early fall colors, while the area around the James River, at a lower 600 feet, tends to change later. With countless picturesque stops along the way, you’ll find it impossible to resist the allure of this scenic route. For a comprehensive list of points of interest, check out the National Park Service website.

In conclusion, the United States offers a magnificent canvas of fall colors and natural wonders from coast to coast. Whether you choose to drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway’s mountain vistas, explore the heights of the Talladega Scenic Byway, or embark on an extended journey along the Natchez Trace Parkway, you’re bound to be enchanted by the kaleidoscope of autumn’s beauty. So, don your coziest sweater and set out on a remarkable adventure across this vast and diverse nation.

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