Glamping in the North Georgia forest can include experiencing a few evenings under the stars in an authentic native American teepee. credit: North Georgia Canopy Tours

Best of the Southeast: Explore mountain destinations like a local

You don’t want to travel like a tourist. You’re looking for hidden gems. In the AJC’s annual Best of the Southeast travel special section, we give you the lowdown on where locals eat, drink, play, relax, shop and discover.

Our list of five mountain destinations includes treehouse cabins in Gatlinburg, Tenn., luxury teepees in North Georgia and music in Asheville, N.C.

Relax: Luxury teepees in North Georgia

While North Georgia Canopy Tours (5290 Harris Road, Lula. 770-869-7272, is known as home to some top-notch zip lining adventures that send folks flying through the trees, offering birds-eye views of the dramatic North Georgia terrain, the eco-friendly company also provides some out-of-the-ordinary glamping experiences. Consider the campsites boasting seven teepees — one sleeps 10 — outfitted with heating and air conditioning, lights and electrical outlets.

The sites are named after the seven clans of Cherokee society, and teepees are vividly painted with authentic Cherokee symbols. The campsites include a large bathhouse and grills for outdoor cooking.

You can spend carefree days on the scenic property, which is located on 136 acres bisected by the North Oconee River, where the Appalachian Mountains meet the Piedmont Plateau at the Eastern Continental Divide.

Sabine Morrow, for the AJC

Relax: Treehouses in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

At Camp LeConte Luxury Outdoor Resort (1739 East Parkway, Gatlinburg, Tenn. 865-436-8831, on Raccoon Ridge, you can take glamping to another level by securing a luxury tree house. These open-air tree houses offer deluxe accommodations with tree-top views of Mount LeConte and the Great Smoky Mountains. Outfitted with a queen-size bed and sleeping lofts for two, the tree house offers a good mix of rustic adventure and modern conveniences. A private bath is the trade-off for no air conditioning (there’s a large fan), but the openings feature screens that let in the fresh mountain air.

You won’t have to worry about packing a lot of gear for your stay. Along with a cooler filled with complimentary ice and bottled waters, you’ll be met with fresh towels, linens, a small toiletry kit and electrical outlets. And, yes, there’s Wi-Fi. These are decidedly not primitive tree houses.

The camp also features a heated salt-water swimming pool that’s open from mid-April to early October. Directly across the street from Camp LeConte, you’ll find riding stables. Note that Camp LeConte closes after the Thanksgiving weekend and reopens in March.

Sabine Morrow, for the AJC

RELATED: Best antique shopping in the mountains near Atlanta

Discover: Mountain music in Asheville, N.C.

Asheville, N.C., sits in a wide basin cut through by the French Broad River and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. That makes it a natural crossroads area for commerce and culture.

Like most cities its size, Asheville sports a music scene that includes a symphony, night clubs and outdoor festivals. What sets Asheville apart is its direct connection to the traditional mountain music of Southern Appalachia. Asheville is home to the longest running folk festival in the U.S — the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (828-258-6101, — held the first weekend of August at the Diana Wortham Theatre. Since 1928, fans and performers of Appalachian music have made the trek to Asheville for this event. Unlike most other folk festivals, it features traditional dancing as a primary focus, along with the music.

The Shindig on the Green takes place each Saturday between July and September, in Pack Square Park nearby. Along with the official entertainment on the stage, plenty of informal jam sessions take place on the green. The shindig has been a mainstay in Asheville since 1966 thanks to the Folk Heritage Committee, the same organization that puts on the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival.

Blake Guthrie, for the AJC

Play: Moonlight paddle at Tallulah Falls Lake

You may have seen the 63-acre lake in the sunshine; you may have watched the powerful falls cascading over the rocks or even hiked the gorge bed itself. But it’s quite another thing to be out on Tallulah Falls Lake (338 Jane Hurt Yarn Drive, Tallulah Falls. 706-754-7981, when there’s a full moon to guide the way.

“You get a different perspective on a clear night, when the moon is reflecting off the water,” said Joell Zalatan, one of the Tallulah Gorge interpretive rangers. She and her colleagues lead the moonlight canoe paddles about once a month, as long as the weather is warm and the full moon makes an appearance, which is usually late April through October.

After a brief introduction to water safety and canoe handling, the tour takes off for a two-hour excursion to the far end of the lake, about 3 miles round-trip. The route stays far from the falls, so there’s no threat of whitewater, and the trip is suitable for various skill levels. The cost is $15 per person, or $10 if visitors have their own boats. And there’s a $5 per vehicle parking fee.

H.M. Cauley, for the AJC

Drink: Grab a cold one in Greenville, S.C. 

A revitalized downtown in South Carolina’s piedmont region with shops, restaurants, museums and galleries makes this easygoing city a cool backdrop for a few drinks.

The burgeoning beer scene began with Thomas Creek Brewing (2054 Piedmont Highway, Greenville. 864-605-1166,,@ThomasCreekBeer), which opened in 1998 and has been growing since. Public tours by appointment only, with pints and flights in the tap room or patio area, and growlers six-packs and homebrew supplies for sale Mondays-Saturdays. 

Quest Brewing (55 Airview Drive, Greenville. 864-272-6232,, which opened in 2012, is one of the newest and best. It offers weekly tours on Saturday afternoons and a taproom that’s open Tuesdays-Saturdays with seasonal, barrel-aged and sour beers and frequent live music and weekly events such as yoga and trivia. 

Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria (25 W. Washington St., Greenville. 864-232-3706,,@BarleysGville) boasts a relaxed, casual atmosphere in a historic two-story building with an emphasis on beer, including over 40 selections on tap and a reserve list of vintage bottles. The food menu features appetizers, salads, pizza and pasta. 

The newly redone bar at a popular Main Street restaurant, Crafted at Nose Dive (116 S. Main St., Greenville. 864-373-7300,, features handcrafted libations in a speakeasy-like atmosphere. Enjoy weekly punches at happy hour, a classic cocktail list, plus fine wines and craft beer on draft. 

Dark Corner Distillery (14 S. Main St., Greenville. 864-631-1144,,@DCDistillery), South Carolina’s first legal whiskey distillery, brags it makes “The World’s Best Moonshine” and has a slew of gold medals to back it up.The downtown tasting room offers guests the opportunity to sample six spirits for $4, including a shot glass.

A wine shop, bar and American cafe share space in a former trolley barn at Northampton Wines (211-A E. Broad St., Greenville. 864-271-3919, Find wine, spirits, cheese and tastings in the shop, and featured wines, bar bites, dinner Mondays-Saturdays, and Saturday lunch in the cafe. 

The Trappe Door (23 W. Washington St., Greenville. 864-451-7490, is a Belgian-inspired restaurant with an inviting atmosphere, hidden away in a basement space with low ceilings and heavy wooden beams. Find Belgian and Belgian-style ales on tap, imaginative cocktails and a food menu with traditional dishes such as Flemish beef stew. 

Bob Townsend, for the AJC

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