The Ideal Mountain Town Getaway

The Ideal Mountain Town Getaway

When planning your next vacation, Bryson City should be number one on your list.
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When trying to come up with your next vacation destination, consider Bryson City, North Carolina. Few know of this tiny mountain town nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains. This mountain town is the perfect relaxing getaway for any age.

Bryson City is a true gem. On the border of the Great Smoky National Forest, it has outstanding hiking, fishing, camping and many other outdoor activities. The city is about 20 minutes from The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), the nation’s largest outdoor recreation company. The Nantahala Outdoor Center offers white water rafting, zip-lining, mountain biking, guided hikes and more. The NOC also offers a wonderful outdoors store as well as several delicious restaurants. As the name suggests, the NOC is right on the Nantahala River; offering great fishing spots, kayaking and canoe areas, as well as shallow, rocky areas to play in the water. I guarantee that there is absolutely anything for every age at the NOC. Bryson City is about ten minutes from Lake Fontana and other swimming holes as well. On Lake Fontana, families can rent out pontoon boats hourly or daily, rent stand up paddle boards, swing into the lake from rope swings, jump off of rocky cliffs or simply enjoy a relaxing swim.

The city itself has many attractions as well. The most well known attraction is perhaps the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. This railroad offers year-round daily train rides with many different packages. During the Halloween season, the Railroad does a Halloween themed ride and all the passengers get to come in costume. During the Christmas season the Railroad and train becomes The Polar Express. All passengers ride in their pajamas, get to drink hot chocolate and sing along to the soundtrack – just like the movie! This is a tourist favorite.

In the city there are many amazing restaurants. A town favorite is The Cork & Bean Bistro. Originally a small, homey local wine and crepe restaurant, it expanded and grew its menu into a rustic, sustainable eatery. Another favorite restaurant is Mountain Perks Espresso Bar & Café. This hippie, welcoming, happy café offers a large selection of coffee daily along with wonderful food options. Other restaurants in town are: The Freymont Inn Restaurant & Bar, Water’s Edge Seafood & Grill, Great Smoky Mountains Winery, Nantahala Brewing Company, Inc., Everett Street Diner, Nate and Nick’s Pizza, Pasqualino's Italian Restaurant and many, many more. There really is something for every taste.

Other city attractions include The Charles Heath Gallery. Charles Heath, an East Carolina University graduate, is a well-known artist and photographer. His gallery is located right in the heart of downtown Bryson City. His works of art are outstanding. Deep Creek offers great hiking, fishing and tubing during the summer for families. The Appalachian Trail, also a popular hiking spot, runs adjacent to Bryson City. One of the things that Bryson City is most famous for is The Road to Nowhere. This road, promised to be finished by the Federal Government and paid for by the taxpayers of Bryson City in the 1930s and 1940s, was never finished and now serves as a popular tourist attraction and hiking trail access. Bryson City also offers wonderful places to shop. Shops include: Madison’s on Main Boutique, Friends of the Library Used Book Store, Calby’s Antiques and Gifts, Appalachian Mercantile, Humanité Boutique, Loose Moose Outdoors Store and many more.

The quaint downtown feel of Bryson City, North Carolina makes the city a family favorite. There are so many attractions in and near Bryson City, this article cannot do them all justice. I have been visiting Bryson City most of my life, in every season, and I highly suggest planning your next vacation in Bryson City. It truly is a mountain gem.

Cover Image Credit: Google Images

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3 Reasons Why Step Dads Are Super Dads

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I often hear a lot of people complaining about their step-parents and wondering why they think that they have any authority over them. Although I know that everyone has different situations, I will be the first to admit that I am beyond blessed to have a step dad. Yep, I said it. My life wouldn't be the same that it is not without him in it. Let me tell you why I think step dads are the greatest things since sliced bread.

1. They will do anything for you, literally.

My stepdad has done any and every thing for me. From when I was little until now. He was and still is my go-to. If I was hungry, he would get me food. If something was broken, he would fix it. If I wanted something, he would normally always find a way to get it. He didn't spoil me (just sometimes), but he would make sure that I was always taken care of.

SEE ALSO: The Thank You That Step-Parents Deserve

2. Life lessons.

Yup, the tough one. My stepdad has taught me things that I would have never figured out on my own. He has stood beside me through every mistake. He has been there to pick me up when I am down. My stepdad is like the book of knowledge: crazy hormonal teenage edition. Boy problems? He would probably make me feel better. He just always seemed to know what to say. I think that the most important lesson that I have learned from my stepdad is: to never give up. My stepdad has been through three cycles of leukemia. He is now in remission, yay!! But, I never heard him complain. I never heard him worry and I never saw him feeling sorry for himself. Through you, I found strength.

3. He loved me as his own.

The big one, the one that may seem impossible to some step parents. My stepdad is not actually my stepdad, but rather my dad. I will never have enough words to explain how grateful I am for this man, which is why I am attempting to write this right now. It takes a special kind of human to love another as if they are their own. There had never been times where I didn't think that my dad wouldn't be there for me. It was like I always knew he would be. He introduces me as his daughter, and he is my dad. I wouldn't have it any other way. You were able to show me what family is.

So, dad... thanks. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for loving my mom. Thanks for giving me a wonderful little sister. Thanks for being someone that I can count on. Thanks for being my dad.

I love you!

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My Future Is Unpredictable And That's Totally Alright

As I prepare for study abroad in Ecuador, I'm going in with no expectations.

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For six months, I had plans to study abroad in the Dominican Republic during the fall semester of junior year. Filling out what seemed like endless applications and paperwork, searching for travel ideas on Pinterest, and writing a class research paper on the DR's relationship with its neighboring island, Haiti, I was prepared to live and learn about Dominican culture hands-on.

Then on the Thursday before Finals Week last spring, I read my email. My study abroad program in the DR had gotten canceled. In the span of 30 seconds, my future had taken a new course. Less than a week later, I was submitting papers to study abroad in a new country where another adventure awaited: Ecuador.

If there's anything I've learned in the past year, it's that life is unpredictable and we can't control it. The future is unknown. But-

Who wants to know exactly what's going to happen in the next few years? I mean, I believe it's good to have a direction, but you don't have to have the entire journey pinpointed straight to the core. You meet people, you get inspired, you see things, you have experiences. And you go from there. (Though, I totally respect people who have clear ambitions and stick with them their entire lives.)

Where I was a year ago was a completely different path than where I find myself today. Last summer, I worked four different internships/jobs in the span of three months. A year ago, I would never have guessed my following summer unfolding with an immersion trip to India, a solo adventure to Taiwan & Hong Kong, and becoming a certified yoga instructor. A year ago, I hadn't met half of my best friends. A year ago, I hadn't seen poverty in a third-world country. A year ago, I wasn't even sure I wanted to major in Environmental Studies.

Just because I don't know what the future holds doesn't mean I can't set goals. I have a destination, an idea of where I'm headed and where I want to go. While abroad in Ecuador, I want to learn about sustainable development and coffee production as well as enhance my Spanish skills.

As I prepare for study abroad in Ecuador, I'm going in with no expectations. I know the format of the program. I'll be taking classes and living with a host family and then doing an internship at a farm. Otherwise, I have no idea what's going to happen. And that's what I'm looking forward to the most. The spontaneity. The unexpected. As one of my good friends would say whenever he doesn't have formal weekend plans, "I'm improvising." And you know the one rule of improv: Always say yes.

¡Hasta pronto, Ecuador!

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