Did you know in 2015 over half of Americans, 55% to be exact, had leftover vacation days that were never used? That adds up to over 658 million wasted vacation days!! I don’t know about you, but my vacation days are golden and I don’t plan on wasting a single one. Whether I spend them on a big, family vacation somewhere exotic or enjoy a bunch a extended weekends staying and playing in different destinations, I make the very most of those hard earned days.
As we start to head into to the latter months of the year, I think now is the perfect time to take inventory of those vacation days and make plans on how to best use them. I might be a bit biased, but might I suggest using them right here in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains? We’ve got tons of awesome ways to occupy a few or more of those days, ranging from free activities to splurging on one-of-kind experiences unlike anywhere else in Western NC. We’ll even make it easy with a list of “Top 10 Ways to Use Up Your Vacation Days in the Great Smokies”.
Top 10 Ways to Use Up Your Vacation Days in the Great Smokies
1.) Conquer miles and miles of hiking trails – Whether it’s a multi-day backpacking trip or an afternoon walk in the woods, Haywood County’s hiking trails will easily help you burn up some of those vacation hours and calories as well!
2.) Catch a rainbow….trout on the Mountain Heritage Trout Waters – You can’t beat an opportunity to enjoy three-days of trout fishing for just $7.00. Stop by the Haywood County Visitor Center to pick up information and a map of the heritage trout waters, rent either a spinning or fly rod, and receive a free tackle box to keep!
3.) Explore the museum that runs at Wheels Through Time – Indulge your inner “gearhead” and enjoy a day exploring one of the world’s rarest collections of vintage motorcycles. And the coolest part? Everything in sight can be cranked up and still runs.
4.) Travel back in time to Cataloochee Valley – The site of a pioneer settlements, Cataloochee Valley is a remote area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can visit many of the structures that still stand, like homes, churches, and a school house. Add in the miles of hiking trails, pristine streams, and of course, the wild elk population and you’ve got more than just one way to occupy your time in the valley
5.) Embark on an agri-adventure – Haywood County is home to hundreds of farms and agricultural offerings which makes it one of the very best places to spend a few days discovering your inner “agri-adventurer”. Stroll through a local farmer’s market, pick your own produce, get lost in an authentic corn maze, enjoy a locally produced meal at a variety of farm to table restaurants and much more.
6.) Ride the twist and turns of the Blue Ridge Parkway – Fondly dubbed as “America’s Favorite Drive”, Haywood County is home to 46 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. These 46 miles also include some of the highest-elevations of the the 469 miles of parkway, including Richland Balsam (the highest peak on the entire BRP). So whether you’re exploring by two wheels or four, hop on at any of the four entrances in Haywood County and start enjoying those curves!
7.) Paddle the day away at Lake Junaluska – If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at stand up paddleboarding (SUP), canoeing, or kayaking, Lake Junaluska is where you need to be. With multiple rental options available and a wide open lake to learn on, you may just be a pro by the time your vacation comes to close.
8.) Shop local – Haywood County prides itself on a wide variety of local shopping options available – from art galleries and eclectic gift shops, to beautiful boutiques, outdoor outfitters, culinary stops, and plenty of fun shops to pick up Smoky Mountain souvenirs. Each town offers something different so take your time and peruse around.
9.) Take a tour of our taps – Boasting the most craft breweries west of Asheville in the state, Haywood County offers four locally owned and operated craft breweries. Enjoy tastings at Bearwaters Brewing, Boojum Brewing, Frog Level Brewing, and Tipping Point Tavern & Brewery. Each has it own distinct craft beer menu so make sure to visit them all. And the best part? Haywood County is adding its first craft distillery this fall in Maggie Valley – Elevated Mountain Distilling Co.
10.) Play me some mountain music – Or at least listen to some. Haywood County is proud of it’s southern Appalachian roots which has heavily influenced our local music scene. You’ll find plenty of local hot spots to listen to authentic bluegrass, progressive folk, southern rock, smooth jazz, and everything else in between.
Now all you need is a place to launch all those awesome adventures from – Haywood County Accommodations