You can't pick a bad time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. In summer, parks along the road are lush and green. In fall, the entire drive is covered in fiery foliage; driving in winter can be precarious, but in spring, flowers bloom across the route.Less
Whether you're starting or ending your drive in Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive is sure to be one of the most unforgettable parts of the trip. The 105-mile (169-km) road is particularly popular in the fall when the leaves are changing colors. Designated a National Scenic Byway, the road takes a winding path along the mountaintops of the Blue Ridge Mountains east of the Shenandoah River.
Just 75 miles outside of Washington, D.C., the pristine 200,000 acres of Shenandoah National Park offer 500 miles of trails through dense forests, ancient caves, towering mountains, and misty waterfalls.
Take your Blue Ridge Parkway adventure underground at Luray Caverns. You can rock out to the one-of-a-kind “Great Stalacpipe Organ,” and make sure to toss some money into the wishing well and make a wish. All of the change tossed into the well goes to charity.
Further south in Virginia—and another short detour off the Blue Ridge Parkway—you'll find the Natural Bridge, with its 20 stories of solid rock, carved out by nature. It has dazzled people for centuries, including founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Once you reach Banner Elk, North Carolina, Grandfather Mountain State Park is definitely worth a stop. It's a hiker's paradise with challenging trails for skilled hikers, and plenty of rocky cliffs offering breathtaking scenic views. You can also get a permit and camp in the park.
Get a true taste of luxury by visiting the largest house in the U.S., Biltmore Estate, with 250 rooms set on 8,000 acres. There’s no bad time to visit; winter means the famous Christmas decor is up (and Christmas pricing is in effect), autumn brings stunning foliage, and during spring, the gardens are in full bloom. You don’t need a tour to appreciate the massive grand house, grounds, and furnishings—but don’t miss the pool, the ballrooms, and the conservatory.
Don't forget to pack a swimsuit for your trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway, because there's an awesome natural slip 'n slide along the route. The waterfall, known as Sliding Rock, is on Looking Glass Creek in Pisgah National Forest, just outside Asheville. Slide down a 60-foot slope which ends with a plunge into a big pool of icy cold water. Eleven thousand gallons of water pour over the smooth slab of granite every minute, so expect a swift ride down the rock and into the splash pool.
Make stops at Looking Glass Falls, a popular, roadside waterfall; Pisgah Inn, a National Park Service concessionaire-managed lodge with a restaurant, gift shop, and lookout (open seasonally); and the Cradle of Forestry in America, a heritage site with educational programming (also open seasonally).
Ole Smoky is the first legal moonshine in Tennessee (a state that loves moonshine so much, at least one of its state songs outright mentions it), so you know it’s the real deal. A tour of the distillery offers a chance to learn about moonshine legends and the opportunity to taste its many flavors (from the original to the classic staple apple pie flavor to other fun varieties).
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the area is incredibly awe-inspiring. Fall is a popular time to visit the Smokies, and with good reason: The changing colors are unlike anything you'll find anywhere else in the world. Avoid the crowds and still get awesome views by visiting in the summer or when everything is blooming in the spring.