This Independence Day is going to look a little different—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re trading in those hot, crowded parade routes for cool, secluded trails and lukewarm beers from your friends’ cooler for ones poured from a sterilized tap. Here are three itineraries for how to spend your holiday socially distanced and sufficiently sunbaked.
Celebrate those all-American lyrics and head west to appreciate our purple mountains majesty. We’d suggest getting out there early to beat the crowds, but expect ‘em anyways. Sure, the Blue Ridge Parkway’s bound to be crowded and traffic slow—but this is an experience best enjoyed at a slower pace. Pull over at the overlooks for once and drink in the views, the hills blanketed in summer green so dense it looks blue and the granite sheen of Shining Rock.
One of my favorite views on the Parkway is Black Balsam Knob for it’s low effort and high reward: 360-degree views of Pisgah National Forest. If you’re up for a lengthier hike, take the loop from the Sam’s Knob parking lot all the way back around to Black Balsam; it’ll take a few hours, but the terrain varies from scrubby sand to grassy balds, so it’s always interesting.
The weather’s looking pretty toasty for Saturday, so after your long (or short) hike you’ll be ready for a dip in the icy Pigeon River. Heading back down the Parkway, pull over at the Skinny Dip Falls parking lot. It’s a quick, wooded hike to the falls, and you’ll be able to hear the cheers of the crowd hollering for jumpers the whole way. Jump from the top of the falls, or dip your toes into the pool below.
There’s no drive quite so prototypically Western North Carolinian as the winding curves of 276 as it snakes down the mountains and into the valley of Canton. It’s the kind of drive that always elicits “ohhhs” from visitors because it provides surprises around each sharp curve: a trickling waterfall around one, a panoramic view around another.
Time it right, and you’ll arrive in Canton just in time for lunch—and frosty libations. Set on the Pigeon River, BearWaters Brewing has lots of space to spread out; grab a seat on the deck overlooking the river, at a shady picnic table, or inside—whatever you decide, you’ll be socially distant. The Grey Eagle Taqueria’s new location at the brewery is already slinging tacos and light apps like ceviche (though may I suggest the burger, which is half beef and half chorizo?).
If you’re up for it, check out some of the new businesses that have opened around Canton, like Hazelwood Soap Company and Papertown Coffee. Or head home on 40 and take a well-deserved nap (they just feel better on holidays, don’t they)?
With COVID rates on the rise, you might want to play it safe and stay home. There’s a celebration for that!
There are a few quintessential essentials you’ll need to celebrate America’s birthday in style. First and foremost: yard games. You’ll feel good indulging in some 4th of July treats after an hour batting around a badminton birdie, wielding a croquet mallet, or playing ball (base, basket, or otherwise). Or, If you’re feeling really nostalgic, set up a kiddie pool or slip n’ slide. The only rule to enjoying the sun today is to wear sunscreen.
You’ll work up an appetite out there, so you’ll want to prepare for this segment of your house party ahead of time. Luckily, loads of restaurants around town are making it easy to provide a no-fuss spread for yourself and your fam. Grab steaks from the New York Butcher Shoppe (and read up on how to cook ‘em here), charcuterie from Forestry Camp, or a combo of Foothills Local Meats hotdogs and your choice of beer from Hi-Wire Brewing Company. For you veggie folks, the ASAP Farmer’s Market will take place Saturday morning from 9 a.m.–12 p.m. in the A-B Tech parking if you want to pick up some fresh produce. As for libations, your options are just about endless. Grab a case from one of our dozens of local breweries, a cocktail kit from the Chemist, or a bottle of wine from plēb urban winery.
It’s not all fun and games. When you’re all wore out, tune in to Asheville’s virtual Independence Day celebration, a livestream concert featuring eight local acts beginning at 4 p.m. You can catch it on IamAVL’s Youtube channel or on the Asheville Downtown Association’s Facebook page. The acts include Fireside Collective, Empire Strikes Brass, and Joe Lasher performing from venues around town.
Picnic at Home
After the folks behind Bryson City Outdoors shared recommendations for exploring their city in this month’s issue, I’m biting at the bit to get up there to explore. Given that today is both a holiday and a Saturday, it feels meant to be.
Start your day off at a La Dolce Vita Bakery with something savory (bacon arugula pimento cheese quiche) or sweet (a Rainy Day Tuck latte with chocolate, orange, and house roasted Sumatran). Then stop by and see our friends at Bryson City Outdoors, where you’ll find both the gear and the knowledge to get you out on local trails.
Noland Creek Trail is the perfect day hike to take in these new mountain views. Start at it’s crossing on the Road to Nowhere, and meander a mile to the north shore of Fontana Lake. If you’re more of a lake person (aren’t we all?), Fontana is a great place to put in and putter, pontoon, or SUP (did we mention the forecast is a hot one?). When you’re thoroughly sunbaked, stop in at Innovation Brewing for a cold one (I have my eye on Peach-a-Peno).
If the 4th of July just isn’t the 4th of July without fireworks, you’re in luck. The town of Sylva is still hosting their annual fireworks show—social distancing required. They’re encouraging folks to take seats where they can around town, and they’ll be firing a “warning” firework at 9:15 p.m. so you can be sure to be in sight of the show when it starts at 9:30 p.m.