Little compares to the beauty and allure of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Growing up in this region, I often took it for granted in my younger years, but now I fully understand how lucky I am. Hendersonville, N.C. is a gorgeous, vibrant town located about an hour from where we live. Last weekend, the boys and I spent three days experiencing all that Henderson County has to offer. If you’ve never been or if you’re looking for a place to vacay in the mountains, this is the place.
The Cascades Mountain Resort
We stayed at Cascades Mountain Resort. The location was perfect. It felt quiet and secluded, yet we were only 5 to 15 minutes from all the hot spots including downtown, most of the apple orchards and hiking trails. Debi, the general manager, and her staff were amazing. Customer service is extremely high on their priority list.
We arrived Friday around 5:00 p.m. and made no plans other than to eat dinner and play at the resort’s pool and water slide. I know my children well and the hotel is usually one of their favorite parts of a getaway, so I always schedule in down time at the hotel.
We ate dinner at Old Orchard Tavern, the restaurant at the resort. Brooks ate Scottish salmon with a pesto rub over stone-ground grits and fresh vegetables. I had local trout from Sunburst Trout farm with grits and sautéed vegetables. The veggies even had brocolinni which is one of my favorites. Case decided on the kids hamburger. The beef was fresh and the fries were hand-cut. I had to steal a few. The food was utterly scrumptious.
After dinner the boys changed quick as lightening so they could swim. They don’t often choose to play together if other kids are around, but when we go away with just the three of us, they do a great job of playing with one another. As their mom, this is refreshing to watch. We were thrilled with the accommodations and our first day in Hendersonville was a success.
Granddad’s Apples N’ Such
Saturday we were up bright and early. It was a beautiful, warm fall morning. Our goal was to arrive at Grandad’s Apples N’ Such at 8:00 a.m. I’ve spent Saturdays at orchards before and I know they get overwhelmingly crowded by lunch. I wanted the boys and I to enjoy our time. I thought it would be hard to wake them after playing so hard at the pool the evening before, but they popped right up. We grabbed breakfast at the resort and were at the orchard in less than 10 minutes. We were ready for a fun day!
Spending time at an orchard is a perfect way to experience fall. We spent the first part of our time picking apples (Jonagold, Golden Delicious, and Winesap). The boys then shot apples out of a cannon and played at the playground area. After trying some samples, we made our way to the corn maze. We got a little lost at times and didn’t complete the entire scavenger hunt, but we deserve an A for effort. We were in the maze for over an hour and tried so hard to find that last clue, but we just couldn’t do it. Oh well. It was still super fun. In fact, our morning at Grandad’s was truly a quintessential orchard experience.
Hands On! Children’s Museum
After the orchard, we made our way to downtown Hendersonville. Our first stop was the Hands On! Children’s Museum. At first glance, we thought it may be a museum for younger kids. My parents took the boys there years ago when they were two and five. We quickly realized how wrong we were about it being a place for toddlers and preschoolers. Both boys had a ball and didn’t want to leave. I even had fun with the many cool and unique activities, including bubble making, painting, LEGO tracks and ramps, rice tables, tracing one another, music play, giant Chess, giant Light Bright, and more. Admission is very inexpensive and this museum will entertain family members of all ages.
Lunch at Moe’s Original BBQ & the Mineral and Lapidary Museum
Our next stop was lunch at Moe’s Original BBQ. I had never eaten at a Moe’s BBQ and didn’t realize the food was so delicious. The BBQ was perfectly cooked and they offer a huge variety of traditional and unique side dishes.
After lunch we visited the Mineral & Lapidary Museum of Henderson County. This is a free, small museum on the bottom floor of one of Hendersonville’s historic buildings. It offered a lot of cool geological information, fossilized insects and sea creatures, stone figurines, gems, rocks and more. There was also a lot of great information on dinosaurs and other pre-historic species. Brooks has loved gems and stones since he was very small so he especially loved that part and with Case being a dino lover, he loved seeing all of the information about his favorite reptiles.
Along with lunch and the mineral museum, we enjoyed downtown Hendersonville. They boast gorgeously painted bears and other animals all through downtown. Many of the animals are painted to match the nearest store or establishment. My younger son especially loved skipping through town looking for the next painted animal.
Team ECCO Aquarium & Shark Lab
The Team ECCO Acquariam & Shark Lab was phenomenal. I cannot believe this place exists in downtown Hendersonville. My very favorite part was how well the staff knew all the fish. It was like they were one big happy family. We learned that fish possess sound and touch recognition so when certain staff members would talk, the fish would rush to the front of the tank and hang out with the staff member’s hand which was on the outside of the glass. It was such a sweet thing to watch. What sets this aquarium apart is the knowledgeable staff and intimacy between the staff and the fish. The owner of the aquarium is a former teacher and clearly weaves an educational component throughout the experience. Admission is very inexpensive and they also offer group and field trip rates. It’s a must see if your family visits downtown Hendersonville.
Dinner at Sol y Luna and Appalachian Pinball Museum
After the aquarium we spent some low-key time at the resort swimming and resting. After that, we headed back downtown for dinner and an evening at the pinball museum. We dined outside at Sol y Luna which is a high-end Mexican restaurant and bar in the heart of Hendersonville. Our table was outside so we were able to fully experience the vibe on a Saturday night. The streets were busting with people and it was fun to watch.
After dinner, we visited the Appalachian Pinball Museum and for a girl raised in the 80s, pinball museums are very nostalgic and fun for me. Not only did they have tons of pinball machines, they also have old arcade games such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. All of us had an absolute blast. The only negative was that we didn’t get to stay long enough. We arrived around 8:00 p.m. and they close at 9:00. Next time, I’ll be sure to schedule in at least two hours of pinball fun.
Hiking the Talking Trees Trail at Holmes Educational State Forest
After a very packed and fun day in Hendersonville, we fell asleep easily. Sunday morning, we packed the car and headed to the Holmes Educational State Forest. This particular section of the forest is called an ‘Outdoor Classroom’ and has been educating folks since 1977. I love hiking and was excited to see what it was all about. Our itinerary said ‘Talking Tree Exhibit.’ We had no idea what that meant, but we were excited to find out.
When we first arrived we found a wild fire exhibit that boasted an old fire rescue helicopter that was also used as a wartime helicopter. There was also an old watch tower and informational boards about wildfires. After that we went deeper and higher into the woods and found the Talking Tree Trail. This was awesome, my friends. As you meander through the trail, the trees have stands in front of them. The kiddos then press the button and learn all about the tree. We learned about black birches, white oaks, yellow poplars and others. Further, the trail was old and beautiful yet very well-maintained. Like I told the boys, it was one of my most favorite hikes I’ve ever been on. I can’t wait to visit again and hike some of the other trails.
Our weekend in Hendersonville, N.C. was even more than I could’ve imagined. Within a short window of time, we experienced downtown fun, outdoor beauty, orchard frolicking, wonderful accommodations and delicious dining. And not only that, but the people we encountered were incredible, so very kind and willing to answer all of our questions. Personally, it was a very special weekend because it allowed me to relax and play with my sweet boys. Whether you’re visiting from near or far, be sure to put Hendersonville on your agenda the next time you’re in these beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Believe us, you’ll be glad you did!
This post was created in partnership with the Hendersonville, N.C. Tourism Development Authority.