I was born and raised in the mountains and have always felt a connection to them. Although visiting the beaches of the Gulf coast was fun, I have been aching to see mountains again. The last time we were in the mountains was in Big Bend National Park before Christmas and to me that is a long time. The kids were a little surprised when we crested a hill and I saw mountains because I let out a joyous call. The forested hills of Georgia were very pretty, but these were mountains and I knew that soon we would be in the Great Smokey Mountains!
When we first started this adventure we drove for six to nine hours a day to reach Ohio to get our travel trailer. Then we slowed our travel days done to three to five hours of travel, which everyone was happy about. After being on the road for six months we decided to slow it down even more. There are so many great places in this country and most of them are not the big cities or destinations. Now we only travel one to three hours on travel days and everyone in our family agrees that it is better. Not only can we leave a little later and still get to the next camp at a descent time, it also allows us to get some camp time at the new place before dinner has to be done.
I am glad we only travel short distances now because otherwise we would have totally skipped Hendersonville, NC. This mountain community has what our old home town was trying to capture, a thriving downtown with over 50 small businesses within walking distance of one another. We like to visit thrift stores and small businesses in the towns we stay at because you can really get to know an area that way, plus we love a good deal. Often we just browse and don’t buy much since we live in a travel trailer. Hendersonville was different though because the shops and businesses were really good. It started with a toy store called The Dancing Bear Toy Store where we had a lovely time talking with the person working at the store. She found out we are on the road to every state in America and then Miles chatted her up about different places he liked on our adventure. Turns out she is the business owner and they have another location in Asheville! I already had math dice in my hand and then Sarah found some magnetic toys to amuse the kids in the car. We were impressed by how great a store it was and how reasonable their prices were. The sisters who run this business are doing a great job and if you are in the area it is worth stopping by.
We walked around the main street area for quite sometime checking out shops and spent longer than we had originally planned, which meant that people started getting hungry. We were not intending to eat at a restaurant and so had not researched where to go. Normally we are pretty choosy about where we eat because we want good food, but don’t want to have to sell a child to pay the bill. (We like ours too much and would never part with them for any sum, let alone a meal) Well we had a dilemma to solve, finish looking around and shopping for what we were looking for or go back to camp to eat. I like it when restaurants put the menu in the window so you can look them over quickly and we were just browsing menus on our way back to the car. Then we saw this bar and grill called The Dugout Sports Bar, it had a well priced menu that sounded appetizing. Sarah poked her head in to see if they had a kids menu and our great waitress let us know that they did and on Mondays kids ate free! Well of course we were sold and slipped into our seats hungry as can be. Then I found out that Monday is also steak night and that steak was only $1 per ounce! The food came out and it was all hand made yumminess that was devoured by all happily. Even the kids popcorn shrimp was divine and this place could be the best restaurant we have eaten at in our travels. Especially because our waitress was so great and the service was good.
Now I have gone on for three paragraphs and I haven’t even gotten to Miles birthday mining or the Nature Center in Asheville, which shows you how much Hendersonville impressed me! We had taken Journey to Gem Mountain in Montana for her birthday and Miles thought it was so fun that he wanted to do something similar for his birthday. We happen to be near Franklin county an area that has rich mining operations still running to this day and it was our pleasure to let him get his birthday wish. This mine was a little different than Gem Mountain because it was salted and had material from a bunch of different mines in the area, but I am glad we chose to visit Elijah Mountain Gem Mine. The kids didn’t care it was salted and the whole family had a blast spending a few hours getting dirty finding treasures. After we had sifted through all our Green Giant bucket, an employee came over and went over all the different stones we had found. Yes the kids were thrilled and came away with fossils, ruby’s, amethysts, a large geode, and bags of other semiprecious stones.
In our short time in Hendersonville we had seen and done a lot, but what visit to an area would be complete without a museum or two? We had visited the Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County on main street and everyone enjoyed this free museum. It was neat to see the luminescent minerals under both a short wave light and black-light. Our last day in town we spent going to Asheville which had a nature center on Miles’ ASTC list for us to visit. It was very well done. The animal enclosures and the overall layout of the center was excellent. It was all native animals which included a nice reptile viewing area. Miles noticed some backpacks hanging on the wall when we walked in and immediately inquired about them. It turned out they could be checked out along with an activity book similar to the Junior Ranger program we do at the national parks. It was great the kids had fun completing the activities and using the materials provided in the backpack plus they got to learn some stuff. I really liked that this place included play areas for the kids throughout the center. It was nice to let them stop and play as we walked around instead of having only one playground at the beginning or the end which is often the case. We spent hours wandering around this really cool and fun place. The kids even got a little magnifying glass for completing the activities!
Finally I will leave you with the camp we stayed at called Apple Valley Travel Park. We called the day before our arrival and lucked out to get a short term spot right by the office allowing us to get good Wi-Fi. The spot wasn’t the most campy spot we have stayed at, but their rates were great, the Wi-Fi signal was strong, the people were friendly, everything was well maintained, and as a bonus they had a pool table and library. I let the kids all play on a team three turns to my one and they beat me, it was a fun time. We met some long term tenants from Florida at the toy store and they also seemed to really like the park. The last camp was noisy so I really like the peace and quite at night, plus the trees and mountain air were just what the doctor ordered. That was a long post for a small town in the mountains that I had never heard of, right? Well it goes to show you never know where the road will lead you and often the road less traveled is better. Know of a place off the beaten path that is great to visit? Let me know by commenting below.
Here are the Links for the places we visited in the area:
Dancing Bear Toys
The Dugout Sports Bar and Grill
Elijah Mountain Gem Mine
Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County
West North Carolina Nature Center
Apple Valley Travel Park
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