Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway between mileposts 364 and 365, Craggy Gardens is a must-see, especially in early June, when the Catawba Rhododendron is in full bloom creating a spectacular mountain-sized bouquet of color. A further 2 miles up the Parkway at milepost 367.6 is the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, ideal for a bite to eat surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
Mount Mitchell State Park
Mount Mitchell’s summit at 6,684 feet (2,037 m) offers not just breathtaking views from its easily accessible observation deck, but it is also the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. A small museum near the top explains the mountain’s cultural and natural history and how Mount Mitchell became North Carolina’s first state park.
Western North Carolina Air Museum
Despite its smaller size, the Western North Carolina Air Museum ranks high, when it comes to reliving the “Golden Age of Aviation” with a collection of different airplanes dating back to WWII and earlier. There are no ropes preventing visitors from getting up close to these planes, peaking inside or even having the opportunity to sit in a cockpit.
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
The 380-acre Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden caters to all ages from its Orchid Conservatory filled with beautiful orchids to the child friendly carousel in the Lost Hollows. The well-manicured paths take you through themed gardens with stunning fountains and several benches to sit back and enjoy the surroundings. The garden holds many special events throughout the year, from concerts in the amphitheater to bird and horticultural walks and their famous Holiday At The Garden where the garden magically lights up in the evenings during the holiday season.
Botanical Gardens at UNC
Featuring a large variety of rhododendrons and local plants, the Botanical Gardens at UNC is a little known gem in Charlotte. Although located right on campus the Garden seems to be an oasis of tranquility among the hectic university life. Also part of the Garden is the McMillen Greenhouse with its six themed collections, including prehistoric vegetation, carnivorous plants and beautiful orchids.
Freedom Park is located just 3 miles (4.8 km) south of uptown Charlotte between the Dilworth and Myers Park neighborhoods. The 98-acre park features a lake, paved walkways, many benches to take a rest and an amphitheater offering free films and musical performances during the summer months.
The park also connects to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which makes it an ideal starting point if you want to walk towards uptown Charlotte.
The TransAmerica Square is considered a pioneering example of the integration of urban design and architecture. It also features a stunning fresco by Ben Long titled Continuum. The fresco is located in the dome of a rotunda, which is part of an open-air public archway to the courtyard behind the building.
Carolinas Aviation Museum
Home of the original Airbus of US Airways Flight 1549, which made a successful emergency landing in the Hudson River, the Carolinas Aviation Museum has several iconic aircrafts on display such as the legendary DC-3, which has changed air travel forever. Visitors also have the opportunity to sit in a Boeing 727 cockpit, which once was used as a procedures trainer for pilots to learn how to operate a Boeing 727. In contrast, visitors can also climb into the cockpit of an F-4 Phantom II.
Adorning a cute plaza at the Whitehall Corporate Center just a few miles south of Uptown Charlotte, METALmorphosis is a giant head-shaped sculpture crafted by contemporary Czech artist David Černý. 25-foot tall and built from about 14 tons of stainless steel, the glittering structure is divided in seven, independently rotating layers creating the impression of change reminiscent of Franz Kafka’s famous nouvella The Metamorphosis.
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve
This 1,343-acre nature preserve just outside of Charlotte is nested along a peninsula between Mountain Island Lake and Gar Creek in Huntersville. Latta Plantation Nature Preserve has much to offer, hiking, Segway adventures, kayaking, fishing, and horseback riding. There is a Visitors Center, 2 canoe launches, a fishing pier, 2 picnic areas, several parking lots, even one designated for horse trailers. 16 miles of trails are spread throughout the park. Biking is limited to roads and paved paths.
Located within the park are also the the Historic Latta Plantation House and the Carolina Raptor Center.
DuPont State Recreational Forest
With over 100 miles of trails DuPont State Recreational Forest is a prime destinations for nature lovers, hikers and mountain bikers alike. The park has wonderful forests and some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Western North Carolina. It is no surprise that the park served as setting of the movie The Last of the Mohicans and more recently of the 2012 movie The Hunger Games.
Carl Sandburg Home
“A poet of the people”, writer, editor, three-times Pulitzer Prize winner, Carl Sandburg and his wife Lilian lived in this house from 1945 to 1969 along with their three daughters. During this time Carl Sandburg published more than a third of his works and won the second Poetry Pulitzer Prize. The 264-acre park offers many trails, where you can enjoy the wonderful landscape with its picturesque views.
Historic Hendersonville Railroad Depot
Model train enthusiasts of all ages can spend hours here and admire the wonderful work of the Apple Valley Model Railroad Club. Located in the beautifully restored Historic Hendersonville Railroad Depot, the club’s passionate members have built an H0-model railroad of enormous proportions. Covering an area of 22 feet wide and 100 feet long, the model railroad has been placed in a Western North Carolina setting.
Historic Henderson County Courthouse
With the arrival of the railroad in 1879, trade and tourism brought prosperity to Henderson County. Built in 1905 by architect Richard Sharp Smith, who had been the resident architect of the Biltmore Estate, the Henderson County Courthouse is also part of the National register of Historic Places. Today, the Henderson County Heritage Museum is located in the courthouse.
North Carolina Arboretum
Adjacent to Pisgah National Forest and just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393, the North Carolina Arboretum is located in one of the most beautiful settings in the area. Wonderful exhibitions, an extensive bonsai collection and multiple trails let visitors spend a couple of hours at the Arboretum and enjoy the picturesque scenery.
Lake James State Park
Camping, swimming, canoeing, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, picnicking and much more, Lake James State Park located on the shores of 6,812-acre Lake James is a popular destination for all of these activities year round. The Park consists of the Catawba River Area and the Paddy’s Creek Area each a few miles apart. Camping is only permitted in the Catawba River Area while swimming is only allowed in the Paddy’s Creek Area.
Apple Hill Farm - Alpaca Farm
Situated atop Valle Mountain, Apple Hill Farm - Alpaca Farm is a 45-year apple orchard, which has been turned into a working alpaca farm. Visitors can take a guided tour of the farm and learn about all the other animals living there, such as llamas, horses, angora goats, cats, dogs, and even donkeys. The onsite store also offers undyed alpaca yarn from the farm’s own herd.
Considered one of the most visited, popular and beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina, Linville Falls offers photographers and hikers picturesque views from several overlooks along its moderate to strenuous trails ranging in length from 1-mile to 1.6-mile round-trip. It is also said that a number of trail scenes for the film “The Last of the Mohicans” were filmed at the falls.
Elk Knob State Park
The 3,680-acre Elk Knob State Park is located circa 17 miles (27 km) north from Milepost 291 off the Blue Ridge Parkway. From its summit at 5,520 feet (1,682 meters) it offers stunning long-range panoramic views of the valleys below. The park is open for cross-country skiing during the winter.
The Historic Orchard at Altapass
Located at Milepost 328.3 just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Historic Orchard at Altapass is an over 100-year old apple orchard, where visitors can also pick their own apples during the harvest season from September to October. During that time, the orchard is also a favorite stop for thousands of migrating monarch butterflies. Several short, easy to moderate hiking trails lead through the orchard along rows of apple trees and two scenic lookout points.
Linn Cove Viaduct
Preserving the fragile ecosystem of Grandfather Mountain, the Linn Cove Viaduct was the last section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that was only completed in 1987 after a 20-year delay. The viaduct has won 11 design awards and is one of the most photographed sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Visitor Center on the south side of the viaduct offers a lot of interesting information about the bridge’s construction.