What's weird and fun and delicious on the East Coast?
August 9, 2008 11:29 AM   Subscribe

ROAD TRIP!!!!! Philadelphia to Atlanta and back in about 10 days for a couple in their thirties with no kids.

You've told me what to bring the people we visit, now tell me where to go! The Philly to Atlanta leg is Rt. 81 S to Chattanooga then Rt. 75 S to Atlanta, returning via 85 N to Richmond then 95N to Philly. I went to college in Nashville and lived in Atlanta for several years after that, but he's never even been south of Washington, D.C.! I've checked through the ask archives, but I still think it's worth asking the question.

Our taste is, in a word, quirky. We also like food, and the bf especially needs to try some down-home Southern cooking. Currently on the list are Dog Days Peach and Sunflower Festival near Winchester, VA, Rock City near Chattanooga, TN, Fort Sanders Yacht Club (classic arcade games!) in Knoxville, TN, Lexington Barbeque #1 in Lexington, NC and probably the Sliding Rock just SW of Asheville, NC in the Pisgah National Forest. I'm also digging up some offbeat places to check out on my favorite travel website Roadside America, but, while I'm finding lots of goofy photo ops ("Here we are next to the World's Largest Chest of Drawers!"), we'd like to find more things to experience, as opposed to things to look at.

Whaddya say? What can't we miss? And please don't let the proposed route deter you - we're not looking to break any speed records here and we'd be happy to detour for something local and unique. In fact, that wouldn't even be a detour.
posted by killerinsideme to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Charlottesville, VA. Great college town. Campus (or 'Grounds' as they call it). You could go tubing on the James River in Scottsville and probably stay in a B&B there. Tubing with a tube full of beer. Good times. I miss college.
posted by sandmanwv at 11:44 AM on August 9, 2008

Response by poster: sandmanwv, the bf's aunt recommended Monticello just yesterday and, while I like the idea of including something vaguely cultural, I was hoping there'd be something less 'required reading' in the area too - growing up outside DC and now living in Philly I have seen plenty of people spending their vacation doing things they feel like they should do. I haven't been tubing in years. That is a genius idea.
posted by killerinsideme at 11:57 AM on August 9, 2008

Chattanooga and Atlanta both have great aquariums. Seeing the school bus-sized whale sharks swim over your head in Atlanta is pretty impressive.

Between Atlanta and Chattanooga are the Etowah Indian Mounds. They're almost like the pyramids except made out of dirt and grass. A one hour detour from I-75 would probably be enough time to get there and see them.
Holeman & Finch is a new gastro pub in Atlanta. It's Southern Cola (Water, amaro, lime juice and Coca-Cola) was recently named one of the top twenty drinks by GQ. For a Southern cooking lunch that's hard to beat, try Carver's in Atlanta.

If you are near Brevard on a Friday night, check out the music at Lake Toxaway Community Center. It's free and is basically 20-30 musicians picking and grinning in a barn. Depending on where you hit I-85 after Brevard and the sliding rock, there's the giant peach in Gaffney, SC next to I-85.
posted by Frank Grimes at 11:58 AM on August 9, 2008

If you feel like diverting off of 85N around Greenville, SC, you should take the back way to Asheville via US-25 (also called White Horse Rd. while in Greenvegas) as opposed to sticking to the Interstate(s).

It will take you straight up the mountain and back to I-26 via Travelers Rest and some amazing scenery. Enjoy the blue highway and check out Green River BBQ... in Saluda, NC. Of note, I'd call to make sure they are open... Also, Atlanta traffic has been crazy on the weekends due to re-pavement of 75/85.
posted by priested at 12:08 PM on August 9, 2008

Response by poster: Frank, do you know - I never went to the Etowah Indian Mounds the whole time I lived in the ATL? It's embarrassing. And I never even heard of Carver's, which looks to be right up our alley and is not even all that far from where I used to live in L5P and Cabbagetown. Holeman & Finch looks like a must-attend; Atlanta has definitely advanced even in the 5 short years I've been gone. And that Lake Toxaway music night is exactly the kind of thing that I was hoping to hear about from the hive mind - I love trolling the interwebs, but there is just no substitute for a personal recommendation. And I think I remember hearing that Brevard was kind of a cool little city in its own right.
posted by killerinsideme at 12:11 PM on August 9, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and the Gaffney Peach - I remember it well and I miss it more than you'd think. I've been looking forward to seeing it on this trip.
posted by killerinsideme at 12:13 PM on August 9, 2008

Response by poster: priested, thank you for bringing more BBQ! I love the idea of this trip being an extended BBQ taste test with palate-clearing meals in between. And I'm glad to be led off the interstate, too. To be honest, I would happily make this trip shorter in distance in order to take more time on smaller roads, but I want to strike as deeply into the heart of Dixie as possible for the sake of the pure Yankee accompanying me.

I visited Asheville just one time when I lived in Atlanta, and I have vivid memories of how gorgeous it was. Plus I think they have a Mellow Mushroom there, which is definitely going to be one of the non-BBQ meals at some point.

And THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for the highway work warning. And for anyone reading this, if all you have to offer is highway work alerts, you have something very valuable to offer indeed.
posted by killerinsideme at 12:23 PM on August 9, 2008

Asheville is very nice, and they had a great independent record store when I went to visit my grandparents. I definitely would recommend that you change "probably the sliding rock" to "definitely the sliding rock." A) It's a lot of fun, and B) It appeals to some deep down hidden nerdy love of geology.
posted by papayaninja at 1:18 PM on August 9, 2008

Response by poster: papayaninja, done and done! You don't remember the name of the record store, do you? And bringing nerdiness into sliding rock makes it unmissable.
posted by killerinsideme at 1:26 PM on August 9, 2008

There's a couple good record stores in Asheville - Static Age (82 N Lexington) and Harvest Records in West Asheville (415 Haywood). I believe they both lean to the indie/punk side of things, but I can't say for sure since Harvest wasn't there when I lived there.
posted by lovetragedy at 1:58 PM on August 9, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, Static Age and Harvest Records - noted. Thanks!
posted by killerinsideme at 2:28 PM on August 9, 2008

My wife spent many years in the Roanoke/Lexington area of Virginia and we have been back there on a regular basis (in fact we will be headed that way in about 3 weeks en route to Maine and New Hampshire). There are all sorts of neat things in the I-81 corridor there from quirky to snooty. We came up with these:
Rowes; home cooking in Staunton near the I-64/I-81 interchange; known for great pie
Southern Inn in Lexington for more upscale southern fare.
Nawab in Roanoke served us a good Indian meal last year; other Roanoke options include Carlos for Brazilian and Texas Tavern for hotdogs and hamburgers (Roanoke's version of the Varsity).

Spend Money:
Green Valley Book Fair: warehouses full of publisher's closeouts for pennies on the dollar; open now through Sep. 1.
Rocky and Brenda's: huge gold and silver shop similar to Replacements; a good place to find that missing piece for your obsolete silver pattern.
Ikenberry Orchards: great selection of locally made jams, jellies, and preserves as well as seasonal produce.
Roanoke Farmers Market: see above
Binaba Shop: great selection of African art; sends profits back to Africa. Right next to Nawab.

Things to see:
Lexington has a quaint downtown with a some neat galleries and shops; there is also the Robert E. Lee tomb at W&L University and the Museum at VMI for history buffs.
Natural Bridge is just off 81 on rte. 11; very kitschy stuff at the entrance but the bridge is kind of impressive; on the way you will pass Foamhenge.
The Peaks of Otter is one of the most visited spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway; a good place to stretch your legs with a day hike if you are so inclined.
In Roanoke you can visit Miniature Graceland on your way to the Star for something with a good local/unique flavor.
posted by TedW at 6:53 PM on August 9, 2008

Hi, this is Ted's wife. The things I had my husband list are really great and they are all along (or just off the highway) of I-81 South, beginning just below Harrisonburg, VA and continuing on down to below Roanoke, VA.

I can give you even more great ideas. I hope you will check out the links. I lived in both Lexington and Roanoke and that area of the Shenandoah Valley for many years. I also lived in Greenville, SC, but did not give him anything from that area yet.

If you want more information on that area, let us know. I lived there for awhile as well. It sounds like most folks have given you ideas for the area surrounding or outside of both Atlanta, GA, and above Greenville, SC in the Hendersonville, NC and Asheville, NC area.

I can give you some great fun options there if you are venturing to not just Greenville, but into Hendersonville and Asheville, NC and not just a tip to visit the Biltmore, which is highly overrated.

posted by TedW at 8:59 PM on August 9, 2008

Response by poster: Jane and Ted: Holy Toledo! And, unbelievably, your list exactly dovetails with the part of the trip where I was having trouble finding things.

I am not even going to try to address each of the awesome sites/sights you listed except to admit an obsession with pie and to say you've listed a couple of the things I was interested in from Roadside America that had such old reports I wasn't sure if we should even try for them or not.

I will be in touch, oh yes I will...
posted by killerinsideme at 9:37 AM on August 10, 2008

Stunning scenry on Blue Ridge Parkway
posted by peace_love_hope at 9:39 AM on August 10, 2008

Stunning scenery on Blue Ridge Parkway - especially around Asheville area -- my favorite "quaint"town of the area is Blowing Rock. Beautiful vistas - great food and fun shops. Regarding the Parkway -- be sure if road construction is going on -- it was when I was in the area in May. (A Mellow Mushroom is in Boone as well).
posted by peace_love_hope at 9:44 AM on August 10, 2008

Ok, back again with a few more potential places, most courtesy of Mrs. TedW. In Asheville you will just miss the Bele Chere festival, but it is worth a blurb anyway; generally JaneW prefers the Hendersonville/Flat Rock area. I have fond memories of visits to Sliding Rock during summer camp 30 years ago; we would generally stop at The Cradle of Forestry on the same outing. Most of the seasoned campers and counselors had the dialog to their little film memorized. Since it has been so long since I have been there I can't really vouch for it, but it is just down the mountain from Sliding Rock so if you want to take a quick look you can decide for yourself if it is your sort of thing. Just outside of Hendersonville is the Carl Sandburg home, left pretty much the way it was when he lived there. Many people do not know that his wife raised champion goats and they have the goat farm going as well. In downtown Hendersonville you can get an old-fashioned milk shake at the Days Gone By Ice Cream Parlor (which apparently is old-fashioned enough to not have a website) and have a surprisingly good Mediterranean meal at Sinbad. The Mast General Store has some interesting toys, games, candy, and knicknacks, and the area has a lot of apple orchards and farm stands. If you want to spend the night in that area the chain motels near I-26 are cheaper and tend not to require a 2 night stay compared to the fancier places; we have stayed at the Quality Inn and Suites and thought it was a good deal.

In Greenville there is not as much to do, but there are a few good places to eat. Henry's Smokehouse for BBQ, Charlie's Steakhouse, and Cazbah are all good.
posted by TedW at 8:29 AM on August 12, 2008

Response by poster: peace-love-hope - Thanks for reminding me about Blowing Rock! I remember hearing about it before, but I've never been there. Now that I know it's worth it I'll really make the effort. And we'll allow more time for the drive with the construction.

Mmmmm. Mellow Mushroom. I really cannot wait. Hope it holds up...

And TedW, of course, thank both of you profusely for the ongoing list. (And no, I didn't know about those goats either.)
posted by killerinsideme at 1:54 PM on August 12, 2008

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