Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains is Blue Ridge Village. A scenic resort and retreat like those from yesterday with a great modern feel. It is in Banner Elk, NC. Perhaps one of the most scenic spots in North Carolina and that is from a State that has had so many songs written about is beauty.
Video by Audrey Freeman
Day One Arrival at Blue Ridge Village
It was a short drive to Blue Ridge Village. From my home in Virginia Beach, VA, you have two primary ways to travel. I took the straightest path, which meant the trip was under 6 hours. It meant getting to route 85 West and staying on that road all the way in. The trip took me through the known speed traps in Virginia, so I was very cautious. Then passed the Capital of North Carolina, and on through several other well-known communities on the way.
What Google Maps said would be 5hrs 51 minutes was about 6 hours with one stop for fuel and the call of nature.
Other than slowing down for traffic a few times and some turns in town, the drive was a piece of cake.
Pulling up to the resort got me thinking of trips I had taken 40 years ago to Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia with my family as a child. The same Blue Ridge Mountains chain, but now I was on the North Carolina end. So, some views were similar, and the setting seemed familiar.
Two environments tug at my heartstrings the most. The beach with the sea and the mountains. I do not know why. For the sea, I think it is the feeling of calm that I get from the rolling waves in view and the salt air. With the mountains, I think it is a larger call to nature. Almost as if I was being pulled back to a time when my ancestors settle and tame this land and they moved westward. What bravery it took to load a wagon and just head up over these mountains to the unknown. As Jack London coined the term, the call of the wild.
The first impressions of the resort were powerful. You pull up and you see wood and stone buildings that look a bit like linked cabins that are three stories high. Each has local stone walls on the sides and wood that frames the structures. It is an impressive natural look.
Once I checked in, I found that my 2-bedroom unit was huge. It had everything I would expect and more, with plenty of room in every room. I had let it slip that I was writing another blog on this trip and the manager’s ears perked up and she took me to see the 3-bedroom cabin as well. I usually never mention it, but I think I may start to because seeing more of the units on the trip makes sense for me to share more thoughts with you, dear reader.
The 3-bedroom cabin was amazing. There was no reason for me for a single person to stay in there, but I wanted to just because it was so nice. Look at the pictures on the website yourself. They do not do the cabins justice, but wow.
After the free tour of the cabin, we spun around the resort in a ground keeper or manager gold cart. Looking at the tennis courts, dock and lake, outdoor dining area, paddleboats, and even the outdoor putt-putt. The rest of the world says mini-golf, but I am still branded from my childhood time playing at a putt putt franchise that I can’t bring myself to say mini-golf. This one looked fun because it was installed with many holes on steep inclines, which should make it fun to try. Mini-Golf is great for kids and families. Especially to get them away from their phones and video games.
The resort and villas have many amenities to enjoy.
- Cable TV
- Coffee Maker
- DVD Player
- Ice Maker
- Iron/Ironing Board
- Whirlpool Bath
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- BBQ Grills
- Business Center/Fax
- Fitness Room
- Hot Tub
- Indoor Pool
- Internet Access
- Kid’s Activities
- On-Site Security
- Paddle Boats
- Movie Rentals
- On-Site Security
- Vacation Planning
As you look at the lists, I would say that the clubhouse has a really nice lodge feel to it. With a large stone fireplace in its center, and a stuffed black bear off to the side. Great large leather chairs and windows that looked out towards the lake. It was already May, but I would love to be up here in the snow. I bet it would look and feel amazing.
May in Banner Elk, NC, brings an average daily high of 68 and a low of 46. If you are like me and think anything from 68 to 75 is ideal, then you will love this area in May. I also think it would be amazing to come here during the heat of the summer since it would be an average high of 75 in June and only 77 in July. Talk about perfect weather.
Personally, I do not mind being cold, but I would rather not just get hot. The mountains are amazing for the lower temperatures. If the cold bothers you bring a light jacket for the nights most of the year.
By the time I had the great tour with the manager and then settled into my room, I was getting hungry. My hunger bordered on hangry. I did not stop for lunch when driving. This meant I wanted to find some local food quickly, fast, and in a hurry. I chose Stonewalls Restaurant a local place that has been around for years and has a solid online reputation.
Stonewall’s was a great spot. Check out their menu for yourself and see if it calls to you as it did me. I started my meal with a drink and French Onion Soup. In my mind, it was that or the Lobster & Shrimp Bisque. Other people around me were choosing to start with a true appetizer or one of their salads. I thought of my Aunt who grew up in North Carolina and thought she might have started the meal with some deviled eggs.
The menu has so many things that I wanted to try it was hard to choose a single entrée. So hard that I refused to do it. That is one great thing I like about staying in resorts that have refrigerators and microwaves. You can take back food and have the rest for another meal later, not needing to leave the resort. With this thought in mind, I chose to try to ½ pound Steakburger now, and take something else to go.
Reading this you will think I am mad for what I chose to take back to the unit from that menu (since it all looks so good) but I wanted to take back a chicken teriyaki. I would have gotten a steak and taken that back, but I was already having this beast of a steak burger.
The meal was great. I never give places a rating but, on this trip, I seem to be doing things I have never done before so why not? Stonewalls get a 4.7 out of 5. Strong praise from an eater like me, I assure you.
I take my teriyaki back to my villa like a pirate returning with stolen treasure. Putting it in the fridge with the intent of returning to it in a few hours for a late dinner. Making up for my missed lunch, I guess.
It was still light out for a few minutes, so I went and grabbed a putter and a ball for some putt-putt fun. I am sure someone looked out their cabin window and was thinking, what is that grey-haired dude doing? Oh, he is playing mini-golf. What can I say I love the stuff.
This was a little course but fun, and free, so what more could you want, really?
I dropped back off the putter and ball, then took a walk around as the sun dropped below the mountains. To say mountains about the blue ridge seems odd if you have traveled west and seen the larger mountains we have in our nation. But the Blue Ridge Mountains have a beauty that is unique. That is why people come here from all over the world to see the changing of seasons, especially the fall leaves in the trees. If you always come in the fall, you are missing out on summers in the mountains is amazing.
Day Two at Blue Ridge Village
I woke up feeling energized. Maybe it was the short drive, the fresh mountain air, or the great meal (s) I had already had. When you eat good food prepared correctly, you know it is good for you. Your body just feels better. It is noticeable when your body thanks you for the high-quality fuel.
Today it was time to visit an amazing location in North Carolina that I had not been to since I was very young, and I had come with my Grandfather. Grandfather Mountain.
Grandfather Mountain is known for its amazing views and its mile-high swinging rope and wood bridge. I questioned if I could handle the bridge now as an adult. I know the only reason I was able to get out on in as a child was that I was with my Grandfather. I man revered even at a young age. Almost to a mythical level. Both of my Grandfathers held that level of mystery and power in my mind. Also, I was blessed, both men loved their grandchildren and treated me like gold.
Visiting Grandfather Mountain again after so long was a tad emotional, and I had not expected it. Maybe it was because I was my own Grandfather’s age now. Even though this visit was solo that still made me think.
But after the trip up, it was time to work my way down and get something to eat.
This time I headed to Banner Elk Village which has several restaurant choices. Glancing at the menus online, I chose the chef’s table which was right with the Italian-focused restaurant but with a different menu. I chose it because I wanted to try their Mahi Mahi, which once you have done right you want to find it done right again. Something about the blackened fish seasoning and the salsa that places serve with it calls to me. Here they also served mashed potatoes and asparagus with it, so it was a healthy meal as well.
These two restaurants have been family-owned and operated for 3 decades, and I like that. There is always something special about a well-run local place.
After my early dinner or large lunch, I thought it would be nice to check out the local brewery. It is neat to see more local breweries popping up all around North Carolina and Virginia. Especially near the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have been to several new breweries in Virginia in the last few years, so checking out Kettle Beerworks seemed like the responsible thing to do.
Many of these small brewers give you the option of trying a flight of their beers. That is always a good call to start with and find your favorite. I ended up falling in love with their bourbon barrel-aged beer. It hits like a train at 10% ABV, but it tastes great. It is called the SpeakEasy and is more than worth a try for any beer lover.
The other beers were good as well. Some with hints of banana or even pineapple. Flavor profiles I did not expect to find it in the hills of Carolina, but I am glad that I did. I stayed a little too long drinking the great beer, so it was time to talk to someone about picking my car up tomorrow if that would be OK, and so forth. They arranged a ride back to the resort. I was not recklessly drunk, but I knew after a few of those 10% beers that I would not be safe on the road in a legal sense.
How times have changed and for things like safety, I think that is certainly better. 30 years ago, no one would have thought a second about driving after 3 strong beers. Now we know better.
I returned to my villa and settled in for the night. Happy in my travels, tummy, and mind.
Wow OK, I did not plan on needing to pick up my car, but hey these things happen when you try really good 10% beers. This was the first thing on my list today. I did not want my convertible to wear out its parking lot welcome.
After a quick Uber up the road, I grabbed it, put the top down, and took off for an early start on the day. Years ago, with my last convertible, I set a rule the top should not go down unless it is 65 degrees outside. Well, it was 9:20 AM now, and it was 64 close enough.
I stopped at a local spot for breakfast. Largely because the sign mentioned a breakfast buffet. There are a few types of meals I enjoy better than a breakfast buffet. In fact, I would support a law that would only allow restaurants to call a breakfast brunch if it was a buffet.
I left the top down because it looked like great weather today. With a power top, it is not a big deal to put it up or down, but sometimes I like to leave it down to air out the car.
The buffet was great they had a little of everything I like. Now do not confuse a breakfast buffet with a buffet brunch. This does not have the omelet station, champaign, and lunch items too. These is just good old breakfast items in buffet trays under warming lights or on steam tables. Just the great food ready to go. The buffet here is Monday through Saturday from 9-11 AM. This meant I made it with about 45 minutes to spare.
It was a good breakfast and fast. I had sweet tea with mine, which was like the world’s best hangover solution or cure. I was not in bad shape, but NC sweat tea is amazing. Very sweet, almost like a dessert for someone not from the area. They use enough sugar to entertain a horse. But I love it.
I decided to do a tour of the old land of Oz theme park. This was something from the 1970s. It was clearly the brainchild of a landowner with a great imagination. Not much to see but if you are a tourist stop fan like I am, it is worth taking the tour. But in truth, you have to be a bit of a nut to enjoy the tour. By that I mean the type of person that would drive 15 minutes to see the world’s largest frying pan on the side of the road, or drive to see foam henge in Virginia where a man-made copy of stone henge out of giant foam blocks. If that is your thing, you will enjoy this if not keep it moving.
The Today show made a nice interview with the park management and a tour in 2019 that you can see here.
The tour was fun and brought back some childhood memories. First, the reruns of the movie in black and white, then later when they colorized the film in the 80s. The tour guide was great and to me favored Dorothy some.
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