May is usually a very busy month for us. The end of school, cousin graduations, recitals, band concerts, birthdays, Mothers Day, and our anniversary. There is so much going on that we have ended up moving the celebration of our anniversary to July. After several visits, we’ve found that Highlands, North Carolina is one of our favorite places for a summer weekend getaway.
Now Highlands isn’t really a, “hidden gem.” It’s a tourist town after all. But it’s also known for being an expensive tourist town. So here are a few SquatchTrading tips for those that usually wouldn’t consider visiting HIghlands as an option.
All-natural air conditioning
There’s no doubt about it, July in the South is hot and humid. But nestled up in the Appalachian Mountains at an altitude of 4,118 feet, Highlands’ average temperature in July is a crisp 78℉. Just being there is a refreshing break in the middle of a hot summer. And with those kinds of temps, you can’t help but want to be outside all day long. At night you might even need a light sweatshirt as you dine out on a patio — more about that later.
There is plenty of window shopping at the stores that line the sides of the road that goes through town. Most of it is out of my price range, but it’s fun to just look at all the things. But the real entertainment isn’t in town. It’s all the trails, waterfalls, and mountain views that are just minutes away. We like to have a morning hike then eat lunch — more about that later. Then we visit a few waterfalls before having to come back and get ready for dinner — more about that later.
Below are a few of our favorites. I’ll post more about each location later.
- Whiteside Mountain Trail
- Dry Falls
- Cullasaja Falls
- Sunset Rock
- Bust-Your-Butt Falls
The Old Edwards Inn is just a bit out of our budget. We stay at the Highlands Inn Lodge, an affordable hotel on the edge of town. It’s not swanky, but it’s more than adequate, it’s within our budget, and best of all, it includes free breakfast! There is also an outdoor whirlpool that feels nice after a full day of walking. And a fire pit to sit by in the evening.
Pro Tip: If you ask kindly and one is available, you may or may not be able to be upgraded to a room with a gas fireplace — but you didn’t hear that from me.
For lunch we always go to the Mountain Fresh Grocery. It’s a market, grill, and grocery type place that has just about anything you could possibly want to eat. The burgers are big enough split. All the portion sizes seem to be on the “way too much side,” so be careful. You don’t want to stuff yourself silly before an afternoon of hiking.
Knowing that we’ve saved so much on entertainment, lodging, breakfast, and lunch, we like to treat ourselves to some of the nicer restaurants for dinner. Be sure to bring some nice clothes. There is no shortage of fine dining options. There are long-time players like Wolfgang’s. And some come and go from year to year — but the food is always good.
We enjoy the outdoor seating and the food at the Bistro On Main. The last time we were there, there was a wedding at the church across the street. It was fun to watch all the guests arrive and then walk to the reception. We haven’t ever sat inside but it looks really nice too.
There is also plenty of casual dining too. The Ugly Dog Public House is a dog-friendly pub that has great food and beverages. You can get the basics, but also some old regulars with a unique twist.
So there you have it, a memorable get-away weekend that has great food, free entertainment, and affordable lodging. What more could you ask for? If you’d like more reviews like this, then let us know. If you give our recommendations a try, we’d love to hear how things went!
Be sure to order an Explore North Carolina Bigfoot shirt before you go!