THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER – Carolina Cool

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Hendersonville packs a vacation punch with outdoor splendor, top drawer shopping, cideries and sophisticated dining.

 If the only thing you know about Hendersonville is that it’s a drive-by town on your way from Charlotte to Asheville, you’re missing a top Carolina get-away destination in the cradle of the Blue Ridge.

This mountain jewel has outsized amenities and attractions from local cideries and specialty shopping to casual-chic dining and easy access to the spectacular Blue Ridge.

History buffs geek out over Downtown Hendersonville being listed in the National Register of Historic Places and home to several sites on the local Heritage Trail, an assemblage of 13 rich historically significant sites defining the region’s origins.

Historic Main Street

Visitors enjoy late 19th and early 20th century architecture of the handsomely restored Main Street. Henderson County Courthouse is a fine example of Greek Revival grandeur on full display as massive colonnades and a patinaed copper dome crown the building built in 1905 by Biltmore House architect, Richard Sharp Steel.  Stop inside and visit to the Henderson County Heritage Museum, a small but delightful look back in time.

Continue along Main Street to explore the charming retail district studded with casual bistros, coffee houses, one-of-a-kind boutiques and a funky collection of public art bears greeting tourists and townies alike on virtually every street corner.

Main Street favorites include Mast General Store where the throw-back candy counter satisfies the most ardent sweet tooth and the vast outdoor gear supply readies the most ardent hikers. The Carolina Mountain Artist Guild offers showcase locally handcrafted items from pottery and walking sticks, to jewelry and textiles. Mezzaluna will help fuel you up with wood-fired pizzas and tasty pasta specials. Nearby Poe House is a great end-of the day stop for a locally crafted beer or hard cider and tasty pub-grub.

Hard Cider

Henderson County is one of the top apple producing counties in the nation and home to numerous cideries. The annual Apple Country Cider Jam, a food, music and cider fest held this year on April 22.

A visit to Bold Rock Cidery in nearby Mills River introduces you to the subtleties of hard cider with complimentary tastings and a tour of their operations.  Bring your own picnic here to enjoy with your cider or get some fine ‘Q from the food truck outside.

Flat Rock Cider Works new tasting room on Main Street is a fun, game -filled environ where sampling their fruit based hard ciders and meeting new friends is in order. Don’t miss their award-winning blackberry cider, it has a nice sweet/tart snap that’s refreshing.

Springtime in Western Carolina is primetime to explore the Blue Ridge. Take a short drive to the Pisgah National Forrest Visitors Center and chat with the rangers there for advice on the perfect hike. Looking Glass Falls is only a five-minute drive from the center and one of several accessible waterfalls in the park offering close-up views. More than 500,000 acres are here to explore with mountain biking, fishing, camping and birding.

A long-favored way to experience the region is traversing one of the most scenic byways in the country, the Blue Ridge Parkway. Connect just outside of Asheville and head north to the Southern Highland Guild Craft & Folk Art Center. Here you’ll find not only mountain craftwork for sale but one of the finest collections of historic regional textiles, pottery, baskets and artwork in the country.

Tiffany Hill Inn

It’s hard to beat breakfast at Tiffany’s and that is exactly what’s in store when you stay at the stylish and ultra-comfy Tiffany Hill Inn in Mills River.

Southern hospitality and casual elegance await visiting guests where they’re instantly made to feel at home in this gorgeous ridgetop retreat.  The large guest suites are inspired by Southern locales favored by the inn-keeper. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a luxurious three-course affair where dessert is always served – the Coconut-Chess pie is divine – providing a sweet start to the day.

Stroll in the gardens, curl up with a good book, the Sunday paper or just linger on the porch with a bottle of wine, R & R in the Blue Ridge means refresh and restore.

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