Go Up! Three Mountain Getaways Perfect for Families
All too quickly during summer, the weather in the Piedmont region gets too hot to handle. So what’s the solution when the neighborhood pool feels like bath water, and the kids complain it’s too hot to play outside?
Go up, Piedmont parents, go up!
These three mountain resorts welcome families, have plenty for kids to do and will generally provide a breath of cool air.
Go Rustic at the High Hampton Inn & Country Club
Two summers ago, my family and I had a four-night stay at the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, N.C. — and we are all dying to go back. Joseph was only 1 (almost 2) at the time, and now that he is 3 (almost 4), he would be able to enjoy all the activities that Wills (4 at the time, now 6) had such a blast with.
Located 3,600 feet above sea level in the Blue Ridge Mountains, driving time to the resort is about four hours from Winston-Salem, but it feels longer. (“That’s because you’re going up,” claims my husband Kelly). But even though it feels like a long drive, it’s definitely worth it.
The High Hampton Inn truly provides a restorative resort that makes you get to know each other as a family. The accommodations have no air conditioning, telephones or TVs in them (wireless Internet service is now available), and they are by no means posh. The rustic nature of the place is a refreshing change and much needed for a mother of two boys who are hooked on electronics. It is a very comfortable resort, and you don’t feel as if you have to constantly worry about your kids messing something up.
Our accommodations were a two-bedroom suite overlooking the lake’s dam, with rockers on the porch. The moving water soothed us to sleep every night, as did the cool mountain air. There is definitely no need for air conditioning.
Even though it is hard to get me to budge from any place that has rocking chairs overlooking water, we did spend quite a bit of time doing fun stuff. Because you visit the inn on the American Plan (three meals daily) or Modified American Plan, eating is a big part of the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner (coat and tie required by gentlemen for dinner) are all delicious country fare served buffet style, which is great for serving children quickly. You can also have picnic lunches packed for hikes or just to eat outside on the property, which is what we did one day.
During the days, we spent a lot of time around the 35-acre spring-fed lake — swimming, splashing, riding paddleboats and just hanging out on the sandy beach and playground. Wills and I went on an easy hike around the lake and examined all the rocks and trees and bugs we could find on our leisurely stroll. Wills also briefly tried his hand at lake fishing.
The High Hampton Inn offers a Kids’ Club for children ages 3-10 that meets in a special gathering place called Noah’s Ark. Wills had a great time participating in the nature walks, games, crafts, donkey cart rides and more at both the daytime Kids’ Club from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and an evening one from 6 to 9 p.m. You can also arrange babysitters for kids too young to be in the Kids’ Club.
Evenings are a wonderful time to relax in the lobby with the four-sided stone fireplace and on the porch of the inn. Before dinner, families chat and rock on the porch while the kids run around just being kids — which is as it should be. After dinner, there is entertainment and games, such as Bingo and “Horse-racing.” Wills learned to play and developed a love for Bingo during those evenings that has not subsided to this day.
Rates at the High Hampton Inn are based on the American Plan and range from $248-$304 per night for double occupancy, Kids ages 12 and up are an additional $75 per night, ages 4 to 11 are an additional $40 to $45, and 3 and under are free. The resort also offers golf, tennis and, most recently, a 5,500-square foot health club and spa facility — all of which we hope to take advantage of on our next trip!
Explore Luxury at the Biltmore Inn
Asheville is the perfect weekend getaway for Triad residents. Approximately two hours from Winston-Salem and a straight shot on I-40, it’s an easy drive to a beautiful mountain location.
If you haven’t visited Asheville in a while, you might not know that you now don’t have to leave the estate property for accommodations and entertainment. The Biltmore Estate has a four-star, elegant hotel — the Inn on Biltmore Estate — and many activities to fill your days in true resort style.
Kelly, Wills, Joseph and I arrived at the Inn on Biltmore Estate on a Friday evening in February after a quick afternoon visit to the Western North Carolina Nature Center (it was Groundhog Day, and we wanted to see the real thing). When we walked into our lavishly appointed room, Wills said “Mommy, this is NICE.” My children are quite fond of luxury hotels.
After a brief rest period and a glass of wine in the Lobby Bar next to a cozy fireplace (it was too cold for the Veranda with the gorgeous views, but we did peek), we took the shuttle down to the Bistro, located next to the Biltmore’s Winery and integral to Biltmore’s “field to table” concept. We all had delicious dinners — and a delectable Pinot Grigio for my husband and me. Both of my boys literally cleaned their plates. And on our way back to the inn, the shuttle driver pointed out deer along the side of the road.
After returning to the hotel, Wills and I sat by the fire and listened to the pianist play. When we went up to the room, my little chocoholic was thrilled to find we had turndown service.
The inn serves one of those fabulous buffet breakfasts — the kind with too many pastries to choose from and made-to-order omelets — every morning from 7 to 11 a.m. After receiving plenty of sustenance, we were off for a tour of the Biltmore House, the centerpiece of the estate. We did a self-guided tour because we didn’t know how long two little boys would last in America’s largest home with 250 rooms, priceless art and antiques. Little did we know that headphones that talk you through each room are key for a kid like Wills. He wouldn’t move from a room until he had heard every bit of the information and pointed out the most interesting pieces to his father and me. Kids can also pick up a Commodore’s Treasure Hunt guide to do a scavenger hunt through the house, which helps to keep it interesting.
After our tour, we headed to the Stable Courtyard and had a snack. The three males also allowed me to quickly peek in some of the shops. Then we were off on the shuttle to the Outdoor Center to take part in the Kids’ Land Rover Driving Experience.
The Land Rover Experience Driving School is part of the outdoor programs offered at the Biltmore Estate. Adults can receive instruction from a Land Rover certified driving instructor and pilot Land Rover SUVs through the 8,000-acre property as they learn to expertly navigate off-road. Kids also receive instruction from a Land Rover certified driving instructor, albeit in a mini version of the SUV. I was very impressed with how the instructor took time to teach Wills how to drive “off-road” on the little course, and even let Joseph practice driving through and around the orange cones. Both boys were very proud when they received framed certificates after completing the course.
Rates at the Inn on Biltmore Estate range from $289 to $479 per night. A family could spend several days taking in all the inn and the estate have to offer. There is hiking, biking, horseback riding, carriage rides, rafting and winery tours. The Farm Village offers live mountain music, dancing and farm life demonstrations on weekends during warm weather. And there are plenty of restaurants on the estate with choices ranging from cafes to fine dining.
Just leave enough time to visit the eclectic city of Asheville before you head for home.
The Homestead: Elegance Steeped in Tradition
When you first arrive at The Homestead, established in 1766, the resort is breathtakingly beautiful, as are its surroundings in Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains. The Homestead is a true luxury retreat — perfect for everyone from Presidents to . . . families.
Like Cashiers, driving to Hot Springs, Va., from the Triad takes approximately four hours, but it feels longer going up. The family and I spent a cold St. Patrick’s Day weekend at The Homestead — which was perfect because there is so much to do inside that you don’t really have to go out.
We arrived in the evening, and the children insisted on hitting the Bowling Center almost immediately after we checked into a spacious and lavish two-bedroom suite on the ground floor. So we set off to explore the very large hotel, noting the many sitting areas and libraries in which you could relax and play a game of checkers or chess.
The Bowling Center, located near the spa and indoor pool, has arcade games, drinks and is a blast for kids and adults. We all perked up from the drive, especially me when I beat the pants off my husband. After finishing our game and exploring the hotel a little more, we retired to our lovely room for a restful night’s sleep.
The next morning we were anxious to get started with all our activities, so we had coffee and pastries from the coffee shop down the hall and then moved on to the fabulous indoor spring-fed swimming pool. Three-year-old Joseph has just recently learned to swim and was quite content to swim back and forth between Kelly and me all morning. But we couldn’t stay because it was time to dry off and venture out in the cold to take a shuttle to the rustic Jefferson Pools for a family soak.
Located just five miles from The Homestead, the Jefferson Pools are naturally warm mineral springs with rustic buildings that remain very much as they were in the 1700s and 1800s. There are separate men’s and women’s pools, but during specific times of day families can soak together. Wills and Joseph thought floating around on noodles in the warm water and watching the steam rise from the pools was extremely cool. We all just dreaded getting out into the cold March air, but it was definitely invigorating.
After a quick lunch back in our room, we headed to the Spa. The boys went first, both having a “Fancy Feet” treatment in which they soaked their feet in chocolate milk baths. Afterward, they thought it was hilarious to keep asking me to smell their feet.
I went next and had a European facial, one of the best and most relaxing facials I have ever had. I would have liked to have spent time relaxing in a steam or sauna, but I wanted to make it to Afternoon Tea. Plus, it was Kelly’s turn. He had apprehensively agreed to the 1766 Gentleman’s Facial (he has never had one) and thoroughly enjoyed it, even falling asleep on the table.
Thoroughly relaxed, Kelly and I prepared for dinner in the 1766 Grille, and the boys got ready for their Kids Night Out program. KidsClub, headquartered in its own Clubhouse on Cottage Row, is offered during the day, and Kids Night Out is offered on Saturday nights from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Wills and Joseph ate dinner, played games, did a craft and watched a movie.
Kelly and I dined in the 1766 Grille (jacket only required here, jacket and tie are required in the Dining Room). The restaurant has a clubby atmosphere with gorgeous views of the grounds, French and American cuisine prepared tableside, and the accompanying piano melodies. We had Chateaubriand and uninterrupted conversation — what more could a couple want?
Afterward, we visited the Players Pub for a drink and a game of pool while we watched the Tarheels play in the NCAA tournament. We ended up playing three games of pool — I had to finally let him beat me because he was still upset about my schooling him in bowling the night before — and then went to retrieve the kids, one of whom was asleep on the floor.
The next morning we enjoyed the elaborate buffet breakfast and some checkers and chess in the library. We also visited the equestrian center for a leisurely carriage ride through the woods before we headed down the mountain toward home.
During the summer, rates at The Homestead range from $228-$1,648 per night (based on two adults), $538-$1,818 with breakfast and dinner included. Even with our jam-packed schedule over the weekend, we barely touched on all the resort has to offer including hiking, mountain biking, golf, falconry, hayrides, horseback riding, fly fishing, tennis, nightly movies in the theater and more. That’s not to mention the winter sports including skiing, ice skating, sledding and on and on.
And, of course, there is a lot of relaxing that could and should be done — which is what a mountain getaway is all about, anyway.
• High Hampton Inn and Country Club
• Inn on Biltmore Estate
• The Homestead
Hot Springs, Va.
And some less expensive options in the same locations:
• Laurelwood Mountain Inn
A family owned and operated inn on four wooded acres situated on the Cashiers Walking Trail. The inn has 24 rooms, suites and cabins. Rates range from $79-$164 per night.
• Homewood Suites by Hilton
A new hotel located close to downtown Asheville with indoor pool, spacious suites and free breakfast. Rates approximately $209 per night.
• The Inn at Gristmill Square
Warm Springs, Va.
Located in the heart of picturesque Warm Springs, Gristmill Square is a restored historic building with fresh-baked muffins every morning and an elegant restaurant housed inside the mill. Rates range from $95-$160.