Tag Archives: mountains

Lesser Known Destinations In Western Canada That Are Worth Your Time

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When you think of Western Canada, images of the Canadian Rockies and the mountains of British Columbia typically spring to mind. Additionally, one might imagine strolling the streets of Whistler or Banff, admiring the peaks with winter snow hanging on even in the first days of summer, as you hunt for the perfect souvenir that will define your trip in one sophisticated trinket.

If the touristy nature of these places is a turn-off for you, don’t despair, as there are many other places throughout the Canadian west where you can enjoy the timeless vistas that this corner of North America is famous for, without having to wade through a sea of fanny pack toting tourists to get the perfect photographic angle.

The following places are favoured by Canadian locals for their natural assets, views, and their access to amenities that ensure that you will have a relaxing getaway that won’t be disturbed by a massive wave of humanity. To really see this area at your own pace, consider traveling around in a camper. Let’s start by profiling…

1) Harrison Hot Springs, BC

Identified by Canadian Pacific Railway officials as a site for tourism in the late 1800’s due to the presence of multiple hot springs in the area, a picturesque lake, and mountain peaks that completed the area’s stunning backdrop, a hotel and community was established here. While the popularity of this place never quite reached the proportions of Banff to the east, it slowly built up a following from those living in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Today, commercial hot spring operations are complimented by a fabulous beach on Lake Harrison, boat cruises, sportfishing, opportunities for watersports, and much more.

2) Emerald Lake, BC

Of all the national parks in the Canadian Rockies, Banff and Jasper hog much of the attention and the press, leading many to overlook the stunning views and experiences one can have in BC national parks like Yoho and Kootenay. The former park contains the jade green gem that is Emerald Lake, which has an abundance of lush plant life due to its location on the windward side of the Rockies. Trails circle this under-appreciated lake, permitting views of the towering President Range, and they play host to excellent snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter.

3) Canmore, Alberta

While Banff is the most famous town in the Canadian Rockies, it comprises less than half of the population of the Bow River Valley. The town of Canmore, a former mining town that was reborn into an outdoor recreation and lifestyle destination after coal prices crashed in the 1980’s, is a place that most tourists blaze through on their way to its more glamorous cousin further up the valley.

However, the views of the front range of the Rockies are no less impressive here, as the Three Sisters make for many spectacular photos, and many trails can be hiked from town, and Kananaskis Country is a short drive away, where even more stunning treks can be embarked upon.

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Doing Aruba In The Off Season

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This winter, while your contemporaries were treating themselves to two week tropical getaways, you were busy grinding away building up your career. While the long, dark evenings spent staring out your office window into the polar abyss made you long to join them down south, you stuck to your guns, and you were rewarded for your efforts. Read the rest of this entry

Dreaming of Our Majestic Mountain Wedding

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Marc and I fell off the face  of the earth, or so it seems. We have been traveling, but not as frequently or as lavishly. We’ve made a few trips this year to some of our favorite getaways … specifically Asheville. We’ve also crossed the country, but I won’t give details of all of our getaways in case I decide to make posts about them. However, it’s guaranteed that when we have the means to travel (money and time) … honey, we do it!

So, this post is really supposed to be about what we tweeted earlier this afternoon! We are the happiest we have ever been and we are currently planning our dream wedding in the Canadian Rockies! We fell in love with the emerald lakes, the terrain, wildlife, and the idea of a majestic mountain wedding. It’s truly going to be an unforgettable wedding!

We still have no idea where we are going to honeymoon. Do you have any recommendations? We definitely love the mountains which is why we’re getting married there, but we really want a tropical honeymoon! We’re thinking Maldives, Bora Bora, or maybe even St. Lucia.

Let us know your thoughts!

~ Lyndsi

Raffaldini Vineyards: A Colorful NC Fall Getaway

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She was breathtakingly gorgeous. He was in awe over her. Together on their wedding day, they were two of the happiest individuals I’ve watched in a very long time. Their smiles and look in their eyes said more than their vows.

Last Saturday, Marc and I had the pleasure to be guests at an absolutely beautiful wedding at Raffaldini Vineyards and Winery. We knew little about this vineyard until we received our invitation to the wedding. After a quick Google search, we learned that it was located about 30 miles north of Statesville, NC in a small town called Ronda. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Charlotte. Not bad.

Saturday definitely felt like a fall affair. Raffaldini Vineyards is a bit in the foothills and the actual winery is up on the crest of a hill. We had a breathtaking panoramic view of golden and red autumn colors. The ceremony was at 6:30 PM, so we were also able to enjoy an incredible sunset that created a warm glow prior to the wedding.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It was sunny and crisp without a single cloud in the sky. I’m glad they were blessed with such beautiful weather at their wedding because they are  now on their honeymoon in Cancun and it has been raining most of their trip. I’m keeping them in my prayers as Cancun is in Hurricane Rina’s projected path. Luckily, the storm is weakening, but I still pray for their safety.

I loved that the wedding was at a vineyard and I was so happy to be a part of their beautiful day. However, I have to admit, it killed me that I couldn’t do the full-blown wine tasting. I love wine tasting. I had the Merlot at dinner and I thought it was pretty good. By the way, I’m a wine novice, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt. I drink a lot of it and admire all the flavors, but I fully acknowledge my lack of wine expertise. I’m getting better at tasting notes, but that’s not saying much.

We’ll definitely visit Raffaldini Vineyards again so I can experience all their wine! It’s a romantic getaway that’s nice and close to Charlotte, so there’s no reason for us not to visit again. Men, if you’re looking for a good date option … take your girlfriends to do some wine tasting. This place is ideal for dates!

I also recommend staying where we stayed. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites since we knew we wouldn’t be up for driving home after the wedding. This hotel sure knows how to decorate for the holidays! There were so many Halloween decorations up in the hotel that it was somewhat tacky; however, if I had kids, I would have absolutely loved the decor. Since I don’t, I can say it was a bit much for my taste. Oh, I almost forgot, there was a Christmas tree outside of our door! That kind of topped the tacky Halloween decorations. A bit much?

Anyway, Marc and I were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the hotel. I was a huge fan of the cleanliness, room decor, and I was even a pretty big fan of the bathroom.  This hotel is a place two yuppies like ourselves can go and be completely satisfied, all for around $100 a night. It was actually really nice not to spend tons of money on a hotel room and still thoroughly enjoy our stay. Too bad you never know what you might get with a hotel like that. Luckily for us, this one was fantastic.

P.S. The complimentary breakfast was delicious! Marc and I were a bit surprised annoyed by the loudness of the dining area, but I guess we’re just not used to staying where families with little kids stay!

~ Lyndsi

There’s Something About Asheville, NC

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Beach or mountains? Mountains every time, baby.

Every time Lyndsi and I visit Asheville, I tell her we should move here. There’s just something magical about this little city nestled between the highest mountains in the Great Smoky Mountains. Asheville feels big enough, but not too big. In other words, it has just enough cosmopolitan vibe to keep you from being bored or feeling limited. There’s a feeling of escape, coziness, and calmness I get when I’m there. It’s a creative energy that has to be due to the surroundings. I’ve always wanted to live in a city in the mountains.

Two things Asheville is known for are its numerous micro-breweries and its hippy/liberal/artsy scene. I guess I could wear my flannel button-up, grab a craft beer, and blend right in! Asheville also has a few nice hotels. If you’re into spas and historic buildings, the Grove Park Inn is your spot. We had dinner there last fall and frankly, weren’t impressed. Perhaps that was in part due to us being seated in the back room of the restaurant, despite having reservations. The inside of the Grove Park Inn feels like a shopping mall, with numerous restaurants and shops. Didn’t like that vibe.

More to our taste is the Grand Bohemian hotel, located in the Biltmore Village area (numerous shops abound, it’s the best part of Asheville outside of downtown). They have an excellent restaurant and bar.

Of course, Asheville’s biggest landmark is the Biltmore Estate. If you love history and/or architecture, it’s a must. Even if you don’t, it’s a must-see. The Vanderbilt’s mountain estate (the fact that Cornelius Vanderbilt chose Asheville for his estate says a lot about the area) is still the largest private residence in the U.S., though now it’s a museum. It’s a thoroughly fascinating tour, but be ready to feel like a full-fledged tourist.

We visit Asheville several times a year (it’s a 1.5-hour drive from Charlotte) and I’m already salivating at visiting during fall.

~ Marc

Heaven on Earth: The Majestic Snowbird Lodge

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Rustic elegance is how I’d describe the Snowbird Lodge near Robbinsville, NC. Located off the scenic Cherohala Skyway in Western NC, you drive for miles and miles into the wilderness and then around of the many bends, you see the Snowbird sign. What a welcome sight for sore eyes.

Upon entering, you climb a steep driveway to reach the main lodge. This is an elegant, yet rustic mountain lodge nestled on the side of a mountain range, offering stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are no TVs, no cell phone reception, just a welcoming, cozy lodge, along with separate cabins for those wanting more spacious rooms and a higher level of luxury (we can’t resist it). The separate cabins were built later in the 20th century and provide vaulted ceilings with beautiful woodwork, along with larger bathrooms, and mini-refridgerator, and the best part … your own hot tub on your private deck overlooking the mountains.

When you enter, you instantly feel your blood pressure lower and the stresses of life fading away. What makes this place so special is it provides a true escape from the stresses of city life. And there’s something appealing about realizing you’re in the middle of nowhere, then all of a sudden you come across this lodge that has world-class dining. Instead of going to your room and watching TV, they provide relaxing CDs and satellite radio in each room. Another couple mentioned to us that one of the lodge rooms is haunted. Kind of makes me want to stay there to see for myself, but Lyndsi would advise otherwise!

What stands out at the main lodge is a giant wood-burning fireplace, thousands of books in its library, comfy leather sofas, along with the restaurant. This is an all-inclusive place, so three meals a day are provided (the brown bag lunch you select the day before). There is a quaint bar and an impressive selection of wine and cocktails. Mind you, this is in the middle of a dry county in the middle of nowhere, so it makes you appreciate the meal and drinks even more. A lot of the cuisine utilizes local ingredients, such as fresh-caught trout and local sausage.

We recognized a blonde lady at the front desk who looked familiar. Sure enough, it’s Tina Wesson, winner of Survivor! Pretty cool. She rides a motorcycle into Snowbird everyday and must be in heaven with all of the activities to do in the area. She’s also very friendly and will help you plan your day’s activities. Because being at Snowbird is about not only escaping daily life and having quality time, but also taking advantage of the miles of hiking trails on Snowbird’s premises, going kayaking in nearby lakes (kayaks provided), hiking, or going mountain biking. Now you see why the brown bag lunch is the perfect touch.

One of my favorite places in the world is Snowbird’s expansive patio overlooking the mountains. There are loads of rocking chairs awaiting you. Being there and watching the sunset with Lyndsi after a satisfying three-course dinner at the restaurant is pretty much as good as it gets. And if the stunning views on the porch aren’t good enough, Snowbird has two lookout points a short hike away that provide drop-dead views.

Snowbird Lodge is one of our favorite places in the world. I doubt another place in the Eastern U.S. can rival its beauty, historic charm, delicious cuisine, friendly staff, and I’ll admit, proximity to some amazing driving roads.

Snowbird has gained two visiting yuppies for life.

~ Marc

 

Let’s Go to Switzerland

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Little Switzerland, NC, that is. Right off the Blue Ridge Parkway (which deserves its own post) is this quaint, European-feeling town. How many places in the Carolinas can you go and feel like you’re in Europe? There is a cozy lodge and inn, in service since 1910, at this mountain resort nestled on the top of a mountain. All of the architecture is modeled after Switzerland.

And did I mention the entertaining twisty roads leading to it?

There is an open-air restaurant and bar overlooking the very scenic mountains here. We enjoyed lunch and eavesdropping on a family reunion being held there. Would we stay the night? Probably not. The rooms look very dated and tired, but the views, drive, and location for lunch makes it worthwhile. There is a pool, hot tub, tennis courts, and some shopping in the area. It is a nice day escape, or stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

~ Marc