One of the many things that makes Champion Hills such a special place to live is its access to so many special locales close by. On this trip, we’ll hit four hot spots, all with plenty to see, eat and do, and each with a surprise waiting at the end.
So let’s hop in the car, venture out of the driveway, and head out for adventure. Here’s a map of all the destinations.
First Stop: Christmas at the Biltmore
There are cities that put on such a display of Christmas reverie that they become a destination point for the whole country. Think: the Plaza Lights in Kansas City, Candy Cane Lane in Los Angeles, and pretty much the entire city of New York.
Christmas at the Biltmore is one such event.
The main attraction is Candlelight Christmas Evening featuring choirs and live music. Warm your hands just as the Vanderbilt’s did by one of the larger than life hearths, and bask in the splendor of the live Fraser fir topping out at 35 feet in the Banquet Hall.
Fair warning about the Biltmore: Once you’re there, it’s easy to get hooked. And being that it’s so close to Champion Hills, you’ll want to come back again. And again. And again. This might be a good opportunity to go for the Annual Pass.
Surprise! Come See Downton Abbey: The Exhibition.
Whether you’re there for Christmas or long after they’ve taken down the lights and rolled the trees to the curb, you can take in a very special, limited run of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition at Biltmore, from November 8, 2019 to April 7, 2020.
Immerse yourself in a thoroughly interactive experience with visuals projected onto the walls of the Biltmore—a site already dripping with a rich history of its own—complete with a warm, hologramatic welcome from Mr. Carson himself.
But don’t take our word for it. Watch cast members of the show describe the experience of going through the exhibit themselves.
“It’s just like being in the house.”
- Downton Abbey Castmember Sophie McShera, “Daisy” of Downton Abbey
For an even more immersive experience, enjoy a hotel package at one of two stately hotels: The Inn on Biltmore Estate or the Village Hotel. Best of all, admission is included in daytime ticket purchases or as part of your Candlelight Christmas Evenings admission, or an overnight stay.
Second Stop: Share a Plate in Charlotte
Charlotte, more than any other city in the south, has it all. Great shopping, history, architecture and more culture than cities twice its size. We’ll be back for all that and more, but today, as we embark on our maiden voyage to the Queen City, we’re setting our sights on one of its signature foods, a class of cuisine often overlooked, but essential to the telling of Charlotte’s past, present, and future: barbecue.
The roots of this signature dish of the South preclude America’s humble beginnings, cutting across all stripes to bring a sense of unity to this melting pot of a city. And while it seems like every cuisine is currently the object of our obsession, barbecue has truly benefited from over a century and a half of fine-tuning, while still staying true to its southern origins. Charlotte, a foodie town if there ever was one, has simply elevated it to an artform.
Known the world over for their pulled pork and ribs, along with brisket and burnt ends, Midwood Smokehouse is the perfect spot to sing for North Carolina’s official supper. After a forkful of succulent barbecue beef with all the drippings, you’ll think you’d died and gone to barbecue heaven.
3 locations in Charlotte
Wash It Down with a Tall Glass of Olde Mecklenburg’s Finest
A German-inspired brewhouse, this family-friendly brew hall is in a red-hot neighborhood with lots of places to wander into while you’re waiting for your Copper Altbier to work its magic. If the weather’s nice, sip your suds in the eight-acre biergarten out back where the wait time for a Captain Jack Pilsner is quite a bit shorter.
4150 Yancey Rd, Charlotte
Surprise! Mooresville Ice Cream Company
Mooresville Ice Cream Company—located just on the outskirts of Charlotte in, you guessed it, Mooresville—makes it worth the trip with 40 flavors, many with a Southern twang including: banana pudding, fried apple pie and blackberry crumble. Watch the ice cream being made from scratch, right there in the factory. Then saunter into the adjacent vintage ice cream parlor to sample the delights.
172 N. Broad St., Mooresville
Third Stop: Old South Carriage Tours of Charleston
Charleston exudes old world charm like no other city in the south. And at the heart of that gravitas is its historic district. With its unparalleled collection of 18th and 19th century architecture, famed pastel houses and waterfront views, it’s as if you’ve gone back in time to the Colonial era only with trendier shops and haute-ier cuisine.
The Carriage Tour
In keeping with tradition, one of the most delightful ways of taking in this storybook tableau is by way of a most historically appropriate method of transportation: The Carriage Tour.
At a little over 2 ½ miles, covering 300 years of history, you can feast your eyes on antebellum mansions, some of the oldest churches in America, and gardens that will make your flowers back home blush. And, it’s simply a great way to see the city in classic, old world style. Avoid the traffic jam and book your tour in advance.
The Walking Tour
Take a stroll through Rainbow Row. Revel in the waterfront. Stand in awe of battle fields that have oodles of stories to tell. Venture into nooks and crannies you could never get to by carriage. And lest we forget, did we mention the guides? They’re as colorful as the landscape with plenty of southern hospitality to boot. Get your walking stick and book a tour already, sugah.
Surprise! Haunted Carriage Tour!
Haunted Graveyards? Check. Haunted churches? Creepy. Haunted dungeons? See ya!
Judging from the 5-star reviews, this tour is a delightful fright!
Final Stop: Must-Play Hilton Head Golf Courses
Our last stop is four (fore?) of Hilton Head’s most sought after golf courses. About a 4-hour trip from Champion Hills, Hilton Head has both the heritage and aesthetic to raise the hairs on even the most seasoned golfer’s nape.
This par-70 public, George Fazio-designed golf course offers a not-for-the-faint of heart rendezvous with immaculate greens and fairways for days.
Golden Bear Golf Club
Nestled on a swath of paradise with rolling terrain, heady woodlands and imminently blue lagoons, Golden Bear is, for the golf aficionado, what Fenway is for baseball fans.
Robert Trent Jones Course
Come for the golf, stay for the waterfront view on Hole 10. Tee off over open fairways and serene greens accentuated by lakes and bunkers.
After a multimillion-dollar reconstruction project born from the ashes of Marsh Golf Course at Sea Pines, this modern-day marvel now features banks and angles, with elevations that shift and hills that undulate, all to keep you honest, entertained and laser-focused on your game.
Surprise! Atlantic Dunes
Hilton Head Island’s latest treasure—this one coming to you from the heart of legendary golfer Davis Love III—is 7,010 yards of golf genius. To complete the seaside experience, thousands upon thousands of native plants were seeded, giving rise to a bounty of lush, green paradise with unparalleled grass that feels like a gift of the gods.
We hope you’ve enjoyed your day trip(s). Keep in mind, this is just the tip of the iceberg of adventures from your Champion Hills basecamp. Stay tuned for more trips and adventures from the Blue Ridge Parkway and beyond. Happy trails!