After all of our 2020 travel plans were cancelled, we ended up taking 2 road trips to the mountains in North Carolina (see posts: NC Mountains – Banner Elk area and NC Mountains – Asheville area). Our Banner Elk trip was in the summer and our Asheville trip was the week of Thanksgiving. Cameron loved the change of season and cooler weather for Thanksgiving so much, that he immediately booked a cabin for Thanksgiving 2021 when we got home! Normally, I’m the planner so I was shocked, but excited, that he took that initiative.
After a year of waiting, we were on our way! This was our first trip with the dogs so we had a LOT packed and crammed into my SUV. We left the house around 6:30 AM to head north. Throughout our drive, we stopped at various Love’s Travel Stop’s for gas and restroom breaks. The reasons we always try to find a Love’s: 1) known for their clean restrooms, 2) fenced area for dogs to play, and 3) always busy so you’ll never feel nervous at night time.
Through various pit stops and wrong turns along the way, it took us about 11 hours to reach our destination. Oddly, there were two cars in the driveway of our rental…. Remember when I said that Cameron booked this cabin? Well, he booked our reservation to begin the NEXT night and not the night we pulled in….
We are so thankful that my sister’s cabin rental was just a few minutes down the road. So we crashed with her family on night 1. I will be the one booking for 2022! And this is something that we’ll laugh about every Thanksgiving.
We woke up bright and early to head out for two beautiful hikes – Fall Branch Falls and Tumbling Waters Trail. Fall Branch Falls was about 35 minutes from our cabin rental on Gobbler Knob Drive in Ellijay. This is an easy (.9 mile out & back) trail to a cute little waterfall that has an observation deck. The trail was both kid and dog friendly (as long as your pet is leashed). There were no trash cans so please plan to carry your own trash! After this hike, Cameron and my sister’s husband headed to White Path Golf Club and the rest of us headed to Tumbling Waters trail.
From Fall Branch Falls to Tumbling Waters was a 45 minute drive. This trail was also fairly easy (1 mile out & back), kid friendly, and leashed-dog-friendly. You can stop at the bridge, or you can continue on to the various observation decks. One will be straight ahead on the trail and the other, you’ll cross the bridge first.
Tumbling Waters back to the cabin was a 35 minute drive. We all showered, rested, and then made our way to Ellijay River Vineyards. When you pull into the vineyard, stop to order wine, cheese, and a s’mores kit. Then drive down the hill to the firepit area. There were two large stone firepits, tables, swings, and a hammock nestled along the river. All of the kids had a great time playing and making s’mores!
First stop, Ellijay Coffeehouse for breakfast! Then a short drive to Vets Memorial Park – a paved path around a sports complex that ends at a playground. The pictures online of this path look gorgeous! But they failed to include the baseball fields and industrial plant. But it worked out because the kids were able to run and play until Build an Ark Animal Rescue opened.
At 10:45, we left the park and drove to Build an Ark Animal Rescue. I highly highly recommend that you visit! It’s a very eclectic little farm that takes in any type of animal in need. The sweetest dog in the world will greet you at your car. She has spina bifida, which is obvious, but her personality doesn’t show it.
When you arrive, go to the table set up by the barn and pay $7 for a bucket of fruits and vegetables to feed the animals. We saw, played with, fed, and pet bunnies, kittens, pigs, horses, cows, donkeys, goats, ducks, chickens, and more. Harper’s absolute favorite was a little pink pig that LOVED cherry tomatoes!
After lunch and a nap, we ventured off to Bear Claw Vineyards. This place was great – indoor, patio, and outdoor seating, games for the kids, firepits, snacks, and great wine. BUT it was absolutely freezing when we visited. The inside and patio tables for beyond full so we tried sitting fireside but only lasted through one glass of wine before we went home. We picked up dinner, got the fire going at the house, and enjoyed the sunset.
On day 4, I had a family photo session with Deana Lee Photography at Mercier Orchards. It was cold but it was sunny and beautiful out. After photos, we walked around the amazing property and went shopping inside the store. I could have stayed in there all day! I highly recommend the fried pies.
Later in the day, we stopped by Smokin E’s BBQ to pick up an early dinner before heading to Buckley Vineyards. The food was so good! They close at 4:00 so be sure to go early! Buckley was a cute and cozy spot with patio seating, outdoor seating, and firepits to sit around.
After a drink at Buckley, we drove just a couple minutes up the road to Ott Farms & Vineyards. It was really cold again so we stayed close to the building and let the kids run around the big open space!
My sister and her family had to leave early this morning so they didn’t venture out with us to Amicalola Falls. The drive from our cabin to the State Park was about 45 minutes. We brought the dogs for this one so that they could get outside and burn some energy. With that in mind, we chose to hike the 2 mile loop (you can also drive to the top of the viewing area). Once at the top, there is a large staircase – 604 to get down to the next viewing area. If you went the opposite way that we did, it will be 604 up! The viewing decks are small so be prepared to be patient if you would like a photo.
After our drive back, showers, and a nap, we visited Engelheim Vineyards. Again, absolutely beautiful. I might be a little biased since I’ve never met a vineyard that I didn’t like! We loved walking around the property and snacking on the charcuterie board.
Happy Thanksgiving! My mom booked her flight for this day so it was down to just Cameron, Harper, myself, and the dogs. Over the summer, Cam’s dad purchased a little cabin in Topton, NC. Since we were only an hour and a half away, we decided to drive up and check it out! The area around Lake Nantahala was gorgeous and we’re so happy we were able to see it.
Later, we had our Honey Baked Ham & Co. turkey for Thanksgiving dinner with some mac & cheese and green bean casserole.
On our last day in the Ellijay / Blue Ridge area, we took a train ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. This ride was tailored for kids and included hot chocolate, candy, and a visit from Santa! Harper loved it. After the train ride, we stopped by Rum Cake Lady for lunch and made our way back to the cabin.
Later that evening, we went back to Blue Ridge for shopping and Christmas lights.