All posts by Daniel

Ski Wilkes?

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Ok, ok… I know there is not a ski mountain in Wilkesboro, but there are several in our backyard! We are close enough to make the short trip up the mountain, but far enough to avoid the severe weather issues.

I grew up making the short one hour drive up the hill on U.S. 421 to Sugar Mountain or Appalachian Ski Mountain. (Actually, my very first experience was at Hawksnest) The NCDOT always makes sure that the highways are clear and skiers can get to the slopes, so travel is rarely an issue. So, why would anyone chose to stay in Wilkesboro instead of going up the mountain? Well…

  1. Great hotel accommodations… the Wilkesboro Hampton Inn is a great place to stay and offers great weekend rates for skiers.
  2. Great restaurants… Wilkesboro is home to many of the best sit down and fast food chain and “mom and pop” restaurants, with many more under construction. (http://visitwilkesboronc.com/dine/)
  3. Better weather… by being down the mountain, Wilkesboro doesn’t experience the same extremes that you get up there. (www.wilkesweather.com)
  4. Shopping… Wilkesboro is home to some of the best chain and boutique shopping available. (http://visitwilkesboronc.com/explore/shopping/)
  5. Time savers… Cooks Sporting Goods in North Wilkesboro has all the latest and greatest Ski and Snowboard equipment rentals. You can pick up your equipment here locally and not wait in lines and miss your time on the slopes. Call Roy at 336.667.4121 and tell them that the VisitInsider sent you. (www.cookssports.com)
  6. Did I mention you will save some dough…

Here is how I do my daytrip to Sugar… I rent my equipment the night before and save an hour of waiting at the ski rental shop at the ski mountain. I get up early, eat a good breakfast at the Hampton Inn (free of course!). Hop in car with a cup of hot chocolate in my hand, ski equipment in the trunk, and head up the mountain. I arrive at Sugar at 9:00, purchase my lift ticket and hit the slopes for the day. The slopes are open for day skiing from 9 am – 4:30 pm. Have a great day of skiing. Load up my gear, head down the mountain and arrive back in Wilkes by 6:00 pm. Take a wonderful hot shower and work out the kinks and head out for a great meal at one of the many excellent restaurants in Wilkesboro. If I am up for a second day, repeat.

Here is the good news… the Hampton Inn will extend your checkout to accommodate your schedule. Also, they work with Cooks Sports and is the designated return location for your equipment on Sunday. Now that makes life easy!!

So, to sum it all up… SkiWilkes is the way to go! You will actually save time and money and enjoy your trip more. Call the Hampton Inn at 336-838-5000 and begin making your plans for a great ski weekend today!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

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I remember visiting the Christmas tree lots as a kid. It was fun. Seems like there was always a fire in a 50 gallon drum and some guys living out of a camper. But it was still fun. My sister and I usually got to choose, with a very critical eye from a perfectionist father to make sure he guided us to the one that we should choose. We would point to it and the camper guy would untie it and put it on top of our car and home we would go.

Now that is not a bad memory, but in all honesty it comes up way short when compared to the experience that is available today… to you and your kids.

A couple of years ago, I decided to check out the whole “Cut your own” program. The Hampton Inn of Wilkesboro and Holiday Inn Express of Wilkesboro had joined with a tree farm to offer a great deal on a “package stay” that included all kinds of fun stuff and a Christmas tree from the farm. Since I live in Wilkes, I didn’t need the hotel room, but I wanted to do the whole farm thing. So, early on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, my brother and I loaded up the wives and kids and headed up the mountain. The drive was fun and the views were wonderful. We carried along some hot chocolate and snacks and made the entire trip an adventure.

We arrived at the farm and knew right away that we were in for some serious Christmas fun. The barn at the bottom of the hill was decked out as a Christmas store with lots of items made from the trees and other seasonal necessities. We gave the man our tree voucher and soon he had us on a hayride to the top of the mountain on our search for the perfect Christmas tree. The ride was bumpy and fun! We sang carols and drank our hot chocolate all the way to the top. I believe we sang Jingle Bells and Frosty until I was “sung out”.

At the top of the mountain, our ride came to an end and the search began. The kids found their mountain legs quickly and began the hunt for a tree that needed a home. The laughing and squealing and running will always be part of me, for the rest of my life. We were blessed that it had snowed before we arrived and the ground was white and the trees looked absolutely beautiful. The smell of pine was thick in the air and everything was right at that moment. I stood there and let my senses take it all in. The cool, crisp November air, the scent of Christmas trees, the crunching snow under my feet, the prickly branches of the Frazier Firs and the joyful noise of children running through rows of perfectly manicured trees. That my friends cannot be found on the Christmas tree lot!

After some wonderful time of throwing snow and chasing children, we settled in on finding the tree that would adorn our home as our family remembers the coming of God’s only Son. It didn’t take long, as each tree seemed to be perfect. We identified out tree and our host for the hayride came over and handed me a saw and let me do the honors. Afterward, we loaded up for the ride down the mountain. “Hot” hot chocolate was awaiting our arrival and I enjoyed a cup while we loaded the tree on the top of our car. We listened to Amy Grant’s Christmas songs all the way down the mountain and we knew that Christmas had officially begun at our home.

We are already making plans for our trip up the mountain this year. Maybe we will hit the Daniel Boone Inn for some breakfast before we make the hayride up the mountain. I don’t know the details yet, but this I am sure of, memories will be made and another Christmas will be made special by a trip up to the farm and cutting the perfect Christmas tree. May you and yours have a blessed holiday season. If you make the trip up to the farm, you will not be disappointed. Pack a little patience and let the kids be kids. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Preferred Tree Farm- www.greenepinefarm.com

 

Fall in Carolina

Carolina in the FallWhy Visit Carolina in the Fall?

There is no better time for a visit to western North Carolina than in the fall. The temperatures are perfect, the skies are the bluest and the leaves are changing. Most of my life has been spent in the foothills of NC and I must be honest and say that there is no place I would rather be in October.

Whether you are taking a leisurely drive on the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway, hiking the trails at Grandfather Mountain or descending into Linville Gorge, the crisp mountain air and the stunning colors of the foliage will take your breath away. For those new to the adventure, I will provide you with a few tips for success.

Tips for traveling Carolina in the Fall.

  • First, plan early! Lots of folks know about the amazing Octobers in western NC and they plan on being here. So, go on over to our link for accommodations and book your room NOW at the Wilkesboro Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express! Finding a hotel room on up the mountain will prove to be both costly and difficult. Wilkesboro is a beautiful 30 minute drive from the Parkway in several directions, US 421, NC 16 and NC 18.

 

  • Secondly, bring every type of clothing you have. : ) As Forrest Gump said, “You never know what you are going to get”. The weather this time of year is very… changeable. If you don’t like today, tomorrow will be different. I have had to wear winter coats and I have been out hiking in shorts, so come prepared for anything.

 

  • Thirdly, map out your trip. Knowing where to go and when to go will make the most of your days. Do some research ahead of time on some good websites for the area.  Be sure to visit the Parkway website and enjoy! www.blueridgeparkway.org Allow plenty of time, crowds and slow drivers will require more time than you might think.

 

  • Fourthly, Relax!! There is no better place to go to just relax and breathe in some refreshing. Take a moment right now… close your eyes, imagine you are standing at one of NC’s scenic overlooks, the leaves are a mix of yellows, orange and reds, the temperature is a crisp 55 degrees and all you hear is the sound of the wind in the trees. Yeah, I know… every day should be like that.

 

  • Lastly, enjoy the people! You are in a friendly part of the world. Don’t be afraid to talk to a stranger. Eat at the Daniel Boone Inn in Boone, NC and chat with your waiter. He/ she will make the meal feel like you are eating at Grandma’s house. Stop at one of the many roadside markets and purchase some sourwood honey, apples or some homemade jelly or jam. (you might even find a little mason jar for sale at some locations)

We look forward to your visit! Come on over; the music, the weather, the leaves and the people are waiting for you. Carolina in the fall… I spell it PERFECT! Check out our video on Youtube…

All Aboard the Tweetsie Railroad!

A trip to Tweetsie Railroad.

One of my fondest memories as a child is visiting Tweetsie Railroad with my grandparents.  I remember taking the short car ride up to Boone NC, and admiring the mountain tops and views that seemed endless.   I thought I was on top of the world, and that life just couldn’t get any better than this, but of course I was only 10.  I remember walking in holding my grandfather’s hand anticipating the day!  As a child I remember visiting the petting zoo, and panning for gold, thinking “if I could just find one piece we would be rich”.  I also remember the cowboys and Indians, and thinking that I too would grow up to be a cowgirl.  I have several pictures of me sitting atop the ceramic horses cheesing for the camera with my red Tweetsie Cowgirl hat.

It’s amazing that when you grow older, how life changes in the blink of an eye, you get married, have children, and realize you probably are not going to become that cowgirl you once dreamed of.  One thing that hasn’t changed though is Tweetsie Railroad.  I remember taking my daughter for the first time thinking… I wonder if it’s going to be as I remember, and amazingly enough it was!

She was 4 at the time, and I wasn’t sure if she would understand or even have a good time being so young.  Immediately the magic of childhood came to life.  We rode the chairlifts to the top of the mountain and chose to ride the mouse mine for her first “real” ride.  It was very low key but she was extremely excited.  We visited the petting zoo and fed the deer, goats, and ostriches.  It was amazing to watch her interact with the animals and how her eyes lit up.  After fun on top of the mountain we took as short break, and watched the dancing girls in the Tweetsie Saloon.  Our last stop of the day was the train!  As we started to ride, the memories of my childhood came back immediately, the voice over the loud speaker warned of flying cinders from the locomotive and to keep your arms inside the cart at all times.  The cowboys walked heroically through the aisles vowing to protect us from the Indians.  Once we made our stop at the fort, the Indians invaded the train; the cowboys acted courageously and defended the patrons and overtook the Indians.  The people cheered at the bravery of cowboys…. I remember thinking this place is still awesome, and I cheered just as loud as everyone else.  What an amazing day we had creating memories with our family.  Tweetsie is truly a place for families to gather and enjoy the company of one another, and remember what life is really about.  After our first trip, my daughter had such a great time we received season passes for Christmas for the following year, my grandmother and grandfather also purchased season passes for themselves.  They would attend Tweetsie several times a month with my daughter.  I just wonder if they were reminiscing back to when they would bring me and their other grandchildren.  What a great place to be a kid!  My daughter is now 9 and each summer we make our way to Tweetsie.

As a hotel General Manager, my goal is to make sure our guest have a long lasting experience while visiting Wilkesboro NC.  Every chance I get I refer people to Tweetsie.  People are always asking what is there to do with a small child that isn’t that far away.  I send them to Tweetise.  We have even built a package that includes hotel accommodations and tickets to the attraction.  It is a must do when visiting the High Country with Children!