What to do in mountain country?
December 15, 2005 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Appalachia (Hillbilly) Filter: My parents are building a home in Butler, TN. Any mefites have any knowledge of the region? I am going there for the first time over the holidays. Any suggestions relating to things to do/see?
posted by Lola_G to Travel & Transportation around Butler, TN (10 answers total)
The Smokies are an incredible region full of opportunities for hiking, camping, rafting, etc...

People tend to be offended by New Yorkers that call them hillbillies though, so please watch that.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:57 AM on December 15, 2005

Oh, I know not to go throwing it around. It is a particularly fond term of endearment in my family (my mother is originally from Kentucky).

Geography lesson for me -- aren't the appalachias different from the smokies?

(I grew up in flat Minnesota).
posted by Lola_G at 9:02 AM on December 15, 2005

The Smoky mountains are part of the larger, overall Appalachian chain that runs from Newfoundland to Alabama. The Alleghenies, the Berkshires, the Catskills, etc. they are also part of the Appalachian chain. They also call the mountains in the TN/NC/VA/MD region the Blue Ridge.

Butler is pretty rural, so don't expect any wild nightlife. It's also pretty impoverished in some quarters up there, so don't be shocked to find shacks and toothless grins. It should be pretty cold and snowy this time of year so drive carefully on the windy roads and don't go out hiking or camping without adequate supplies just in case the weather turns sour (I had some friends who lost many a toe and luckily not more from an unprepared day hike that turned into a week long ordeal in a snap blizzard).
posted by Pollomacho at 9:19 AM on December 15, 2005

That should be windy roads, as in curvy, though the winds can whip around a ridge line sometimes.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:21 AM on December 15, 2005

Butler's not too far from where I grew up. There aren't many jobs or much of anything exciting in the region, but it seems to be attracting alot of retirees due to the low cost of living and peaceful, slow lifestyle. Watauga Lake is beautiful. The state parks and national forests are nice to visit. If you're into winter sports, you could hop over to North Carolina and hit the resorts at Beech Mountain, Banner Elk, and Sugar Mountain. Boone, NC is also nearby and makes a good trip if you're into quaint shops and restaurants. On the Tennessee side, Elizabethton also has a cute downtown and a few decent restaurants, but be warned that they roll up the sidewalks by 5pm.
posted by ecrivain at 10:06 AM on December 15, 2005

My parents new home will be overlooking lake Watauga. I can't wait to see it (although we are staying in my dad's rented place.)

I think we will be relaxing a lot but I just wanted to see if there were any secret haunts to check out.
posted by Lola_G at 11:05 AM on December 15, 2005

I second checking out Boone, NC; it's a crunchy granola university town with an Appalachian spirit. The Mast General Store alone is usually worth the trip.

If you're stir crazy and desperate to "go into town," you can drive 2 hours south to Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg, an eyesore tourist hellhole with its own sort of kitschy charm. (Most people these days never get as far as Gatlinburg, which is actually sort of charming. Pigeon Forge, on the other hand, is just a mess.) They cover the place in lights this time of year to attract people in the off season, which is like putting pearls on a pig. Still, you can go back to New York and tell all your friends you went to Dollywood, which might be worth more than another afternoon stuck in the cabin by the lake.
posted by junkbox at 12:29 PM on December 15, 2005

If you like the outdoors, you'll be happy. And keep calling the region hillbillies, they'll love you forever.
posted by justgary at 12:33 PM on December 15, 2005

Oh man, I had a blast at Dollywood with a friend of mine a few years back.

What I remember most about that nexk of the woods (besides Dollywood) was just driving around and looking at stuff. It's a beautiful and interesting part of the country if you ask me.
posted by punkrockrat at 3:52 PM on December 15, 2005

Well, I was born and raised inside of Elizabethton, not more than 20 minutes away from Watauga lake. I think that although most of the towns near the Lake are rather small, there is a lot to do.
The Appalachian Trail runs not too far from there and there are lots of pretty waterfalls and overlooks off the trail. The fishing is wonderful, nothing like feeling a trout snap onto the end of a fishing lure...
If you happen to be a fan of NASCAR, I am not, Bristol Motor Speedway has at least 2 large races that generate an awful lot of attention.
Elizabethton has one of the oldest covered bridges still in use. There are also several good restaurants inside there. Look for Sammon's Hot Dogs, Pal's, Hunan's Chinese, Dino's and the Southern Restaurant. Also in downtown Elizabethton there is a great many antique stores as well as a great coffee shop called the Coffee Company. Check them out. Also a small 2 screen theatre that has been there since the 20's called the "Bonnie Kate" is a great find. If you happen to be there in the summer, check out the "State Line Drive in".
Johnson City is just a 30 minute drive from the lake and it is overloaded with restaurants and stores. This is probably the closest, and largest town, to try and find something to do.
Also Boone/Banner Elk NC is just a short trip to some great skiing, hiking, and fishing. If you head to Boone try and find the Daniel Boone Inn. The food is served "family style", ie a whole lot of food in plates, bowls, and pots set onto your table.
Just don't let the idea of "hillbillies" slow you down and think that there is nothing going on, and no one of any intelligence to talk to. Just look around and breathe in the clean crisp mountain air, and enjoy the new experiences.
Just post back if you are interested in learing a little more about the place and I can "walk" you through it.

posted by minimumwage! at 12:46 PM on December 19, 2005

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