Hi! I’m Kelly. I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life, with a yearlong stint in West Virginia for Americorps, and two years in North Carolina for graduate school. The Appalachian Region is, in my opinion, among the most beautiful and friendly our country has to offer. Come check it out!
The Appalachians are a beautiful mountain range in Eastern United States perfect for road tripping! Enjoy this mini travel guide to the Appalachians. This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which locals and expats share their favorite things with us.
This annual summer festival is a must for music lovers or anyone who is bummed they missed Woodstock. Spend a few days near the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, pitch a tent, and make some new friends by the campfire. You can also float down the Little River or add a mountain-biking excursion while you’re at it.
No reservations are required to drop in on this gorgeous hotel steeped in history. Established in the late 1700s, the hotel was occupied at different times by both sides during the Civil War, and as an internment facility for diplomats during World War 2. In the 1950s a bomb shelter was constructed under the hotel, to be used to house Congress in case of a nuclear attack. The bunker was exposed and decommissioned in 1992, and can be viewed on tours that are open to the public.
Have you ever wanted to take a hay ride to pick your own pumpkin? Here’s your chance. Every weekend in October the Pumpkin Festival provides just that opportunity, along with kettle corn, ice cream, a corn maze, and if you’re lucky, “punkin chuckin” (watching a pumpkin being launched into a field by a giant lever is way more fun than you would think).
The North Carolina State Fair, held every fall in Raleigh, is an impressive display of rides, food, and livestock. Make sure to try a deep fried Oreo, or if that’s not your speed, grilled corn on a stick (delicious!). The West Virginia State Fair, held in August, is a much smaller version of the same. Grab some homemade donuts and stroll by one of the livestock barns to watch children with exceptional wrangling skills show their prize sheep (and learn a thing or two about animal husbandry in the process).
It’s no secret that North Carolinians love their barbecue. The Lexington Style (tomato or ketchup-based) v. Eastern Style (vinegar-based) feud is older than the Duke-UNC rivalry. Any visit to the state is a good chance to fill-up on barbecue and decide which style works for you.
Wineries have been popping up all over Virginia in recent years. You can get your fill of wine, but also try high-quality beer and cider thanks to the Brew Ridge Trail, a group of small craft breweries. Many of the wineries are located on beautiful properties that make for great picnics, and live music is generally offered in the summer months.
Durham, NC has a wide variety of offerings that are served via food truck. Pizza, popsicles, and Korean are just a few of your choices. Look for them at community events or outside of bars and breweries on weekend evenings.
Basketball is almost a religion in North Carolina. If you’re not a basketball fan but you’re hoping to meet people on your trip, it’s probably a good idea to brush up on some of the state’s teams before you go.
Everyone I met during my year in West Virginia was very conscious of the state’s “redneck” reputation. Some despise it, a few are proud of it, but fewer still actually fit that description and no more so than any other state.
The Appalachian Region is blessed with the perfect land for outdoor activities. In every state you can find hiking trails, rivers, bike paths, and so much more. Even if you don’t feel up for a hike on the Appalachian Trail just yet, there are plenty of free options for being active. And if you find yourself near Fayetteville, WV, make sure to check out the spectacular New River Gorge Bridge, which you can cross on foot on Bridge Day in October.
Sarah Duke Gardens at Duke University: These stunning gardens are free to the public, and feature displays of native southeastern plants as well as plants of eastern Asia.
Thanks so much for sharing, Kelly! Do you Appalachian readers have any other travel tips to share?