The Long Weekend
The opportunity to give free rein to your curiosity and sense of adventure is one of the most exciting parts of travel. In the third installation of our Next Stop column, the Indagare Team investigates three cities in the American South that should be on your weekend-getaway radar.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] The Blue Ridge Mountains as seen from Asheville (photo courtesy of ExploreAshville.com)[/caption]
Getaway Requirements: Breathtaking natural vistas, stunningly various architecture
Filled with wonders both natural and manmade, Asheville is an ideal weekend destination for those who enjoy hiking, biking, stargazing and picnicking with a side of city strolling and a splash of frontier history. From its beginnings as primitive outpost—when frontiersmen like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett came to town—through its 1920s reign as a playground for international celebrities seeking sweet mountain air, to its current status as a cultural as well as countercultural center, Asheville has appealed to those who love both the outdoors and exploring old architecture.
In addition to being located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs along the highest ridges of the Appalachian Mountains and has majestic views, Asheville offers local craft breweries and wineries and more Art Deco architecture than any other city outside of Miami. The city’s downtown is a veritable encyclopedia of U.S. architecture, including Neoclassical, Romanesque Revival, Beaux Arts and Gothic buildings that now house restaurants, museums, shops and art galleries. Two miles outside of town is Biltmore, the former country estate of George W. Vanderbilt. The country’s largest private home recalls the grand castles and palaces of France and England and it sits on 125,000 acres of forestland, much of it designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the man behind New York City’s Central Park) in his largest private project and displaying some of his best work.
Indagare Tip: There are two hotels on the Biltmore estate, the new Village Hotel and the more traditional Inn. biltmore.com
What to Visit in Asheville
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] Beale Street in Memphis (photo courtesy of Dan Ball)[/caption]
Destination Requirements: Blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll music; American Civil Rights history; slow-cooked barbecue
Located on a bluff along the Mississippi River in southwest Tennessee, quirky, historic, Memphis is known for its music, food and important role in the U.S. Civil Rights movement.
Memphis’s streets are indissolubly linked to its rich musical past and present: Beale Street, still lined by blues, jazz and rock clubs, is where W.C. Handy ran a music business that published the first commercially successful blues song, Handy’s “Memphis Blues.” Union Avenue is home to the legendary Sun Studios, where Johnny Cash, B. B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and other music greats recorded. McLemore Avenue was the address of Stax Records, a major player in the development of the Southern and Memphis soul styles on whose site now stands the Stax Museum of American Soul. And, last but definitely not least, Elvis Presley Boulevard is where tourists flock to visit the King’s famous mansion, Graceland.
As important as music to Memphis’s heritage is the Civil Rights movement. The city, of course, was the site of the sanitation strike that buried it under 10,000 tons of trash and brought Martin Luther King Jr. down to support the strikers. He was assassinated at Memphis’s Lorraine Motel (now a museum).
Then there’s the mighty Mississippi, which forms Memphis’s western border. The second longest U.S. river (after the Missouri) is an attraction in and of itself, offering nearly five miles of parks, water activities and riverboat cruises. Beyond all this, Memphis offers world-class cuisine, including its famously delicious barbecue and soul food.
Indagare Tip: The Peabody Hotel hosts the famous Peabody Ducks, who each day at 11 am make their way down from the roof to the hotel’s grand lobby and into its marble fountain. Both guests and nonresidents of the hotel are welcome to witness the mallard parade, which has been a tradition since 1932 (the avian participants, naturally, have changed). peabodymemphis.com
What to Visit in Memphis
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="620"] Churchill Downs in Louisville (photo by Reed Palmer Photography)[/caption]
Destination Requirements: Genteel history with an emphasis on horses and bourbon
The largest city in Kentucky, Louisville is also one of the oldest west of the Appalachian Mountains, founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark and named after French King Louis XVI of France. It is located beside the Falls of the Ohio River and developed into a commercial and cultural hub because of the need for cargo portage around these rapids, a major obstruction (until the construction of the Louisville and Portland Canal) to river traffic between the upper Ohio and the Gulf of Mexico.
More than 100 parks, several designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, cover more than 13,000 acres and provide a wealth of open spaces. Louisville also boasts several National Historic Landmarks, including Locust Grove. This 18th-century Georgian mansion, set on a fifty-five-acre farm site, was once the home of Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark and serves as a fascinating example of early Kentucky architecture, with one of the world’s finest collections of Kentucky furniture.
Bourbon has been a major feature of Louisville’s economy and culture since it was first marketed there in 1790, and tourists shouldn’t miss Bourbons Bistro, a restaurant housed in a building dating back to the 1870s that offers more than 130 varieties of the American whiskey. And of course, no visit to Louisville would be complete without a trip to Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby, as deeply ingrained in the city’s traditions as bourbon. Those whose trip doesn’t coincide with the Run for the Roses can console themselves with a walking tour of the racetrack.
Indagare Tip: 21c Museum Hotel, located in the heart of Museum Row in downtown Louisville, is a ninety-room property dedicated to luxury, hospitality and contemporary art. 21cmuseumhotels.com
What to Visit in Louisville
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