When in the Asheville area we got to check out two decidedly different offerings. One created by man and the other by nature. I would recommend adding both to your MUST visit list if you are heading to the area.
Nature Made: Sliding Rock
Mother Nature must have had a pretty proud smile on her face when she put the finishing touches on this wonder of a creation. A 60 foot natural water slide complete with a swimming hole at the end, all yours to experience for exactly $2 a head. I know I had a smile on my face as I drove the twisty, turny road to this destination in the Pisgah Forest. We had just picked up the kids from camp… the campers were more keen to connect with civilization instead of nature, but they politely agreed to go with me to this “sliding rock? what, mom? that doesn’t sound all that fun?? do we have to?” as long as they got to go to Waffle House first. I conceded.
Tummies full we went on our way. The day was gray, teetering on the edge of rain. Turns out the weather conditions were a good thing as the parking lot was nearly empty. We would have Sliding Rock pretty much to ourselves, which I am told does not happen too often on a Summer day. Hurrah! The kids still didn’t know what to expect. They expressed some concern about the temperature of the water and the air, but hustled into their swimsuits anyway. My fellow Mom friend was happy to see the lifeguards perched on the side and stayed on the up top observation platform to view the sliding, while keeping half an eye on our stuff.
The four kids scurried to the top as fast as they could. Their return trip down the rock was a whole lot faster. There is some self nudging that needed to occur for the first 1/4 of the rock, but then the water takes over and you fly down what remains of this surprisingly smooth rock to land in a deep hole of refreshing – okay freezing – water. The kids were beside themselves with glee. I had a lot of fun watching them, but I had more fun joining them on the rock slide, freezing cold water and all!
So much fun to let the water whisk you down the slope and then catch some air as you make a splash into the water. We could have stayed there all day. But after about 10 turns, more people started to arrive and we didn’t want to compromise the experience by having to stand in line. Bottom line: Grab your group and go slide down this rock – but go on a weekday, preferably one where the weather is a little iffy, and get there early! We were there from about 9:30 to 11am and never stood in line. Your experience will be better for it.
Created by man: The Biltmore Estate
Cornelius Vanderbilt clearly did not subscribe to the less is more philosophy. He was more of a “more is more” kind of guy. His 250 room estate is available for your touring pleasure for a pretty steep rate of $65/day – so I would recommend you do, in fact, make a day of it (or at least a good chunk of your day). There is the house to check out… as you wander through you can easily conjure up images of what must have been some pretty amazing house parties. The entertaining spaces were built to impress and I am certain the ladies visiting must have arrived with trunks full of dress clothes to make sure their outfits matched the opulence when they turned up for dinner each night. Scoring an invite to The Biltmore Estate must have been akin to a golden ticket.
The Library was a wonder to behold with it’s books upon books filling the ample real estate on the wall. There were guest rooms after guest rooms and Mr. Vanderbilt’s boudoir was all sorts of shades of… red. Down the hall slept his wife in a circular room bathed in maroon and gold.
At the end of the tour we got to see the impressive indoor pool (we were sad it was vacant of water) and the gym that looked more like a torture chamber, but still very forward thinking of him to include in his home.
After all of this, we needed to get outside. Happily, depending on who in our party you ask, there were many acres to explore on the property. Yes, this was the nature part of our Biltmore visit, but even the nature was clearly very much tended to by humans – skilled humans with large green thumbs. Every inch of the estate is perfection; it reminded us a bit of being in Central Park – a thoroughly thought through outdoor arena. Lo and behold, we learned Mr. Vanderbilt hired Central Park’s chief architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, to mastermind his grounds.
We were also quite surprised to learn that the grounds are dog friendly, which became abundantly clear when a golden retriever puppy came bounding up a set of stairs to greet us. Amazing that you can wander these grounds with your canine friends – so bring them along! After our hike to the Bass Pond my son ran out of steam, but the next day day he did ask if we could go back. We did not, but some day we will because there is much more to see. Grab your group and GO!