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By Marian Schaffer | Broker in Illinois
  • The Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival In Its 31st Year - Brunswick County NC

    Posted Under: General Area in Brunswick County, Parks & Recreation in Brunswick County, In My Neighborhood in Brunswick County  |  October 3, 2012 7:59 AM  |  844 views  |  No comments

    It’s nearly October, and that means North Carolina’s oyster season is about to begin. So if you are planning a trip to Brunswick County this fall to look at real estate for your retirement or second home, you might want to put this coastal tradition on your list of 'things to experience'. Thirty one years and running, this favorite past time which takes place in the most southern county of the state is something you'll want to experience firsthand.

    What, you didn’t know North Carolina had an “oyster season?” Well, it does, and it runs October – March.

    The mighty mollusk has long been celebrated in the state, and while the North Carolina oyster industry suffered a decline in the 20th century due to pollution, disease and harvest pressure, it’s been coming back the last few years, with state and private agencies overseeing restoration and hatchery programs to ensure an increased oyster population. Oyster harvest has been an important source of food in coastal areas since before recorded history, and oyster harvesting in North Carolina was the most valuable kind of shellfishery in the state until the 1970s.

    The big kick-off to this much-loved season in southeastern North Carolina is the Annual North Carolina Oyster Festival, held the third weekend in October every year,
    on the island of Ocean Isle Beach in Brunswick County. The coastal waters of Brunswick County produce an abundance of this delicacy, and the festival celebrating this fact takes place October 15-16, 2011, its 31st year.

    What began as a small get-together among friends to eat steamed oysters in the old airport hangar in Ocean Isle, has turned into a festival drawing over 50,000 attendees. The two day event includes live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, festival food, a 5K, 10K and 1mile fun run, kids activities, the North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championship, and the ever popular Oyster Stew Cook-Off.

    Seafood remains the focus, and the shucking competition and Oyster Stew Cook-Off are highlights of the yearly event.
    The Oyster Stew Cook-Off begins at 12:00 pm on Sunday, October 16. Each contestant prepares 8 gallons of oyster stew, with “oyster stew” defined as any stew made with oysters as the only seafood. Samples must be ready to serve by 11:30 am, with sampling to begin promptly at noon. The winner is announced at 3:30 pm, and has the privilege of being featured in local newspapers and newscasts that cover the event. 1st place winners receive $500, 2nd place winners, $250.
    NC Oyster Festival

    The Oyster Festival
    hosts the only North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championships and is known for sending champion shuckers to the national competition. The 31st Annual North Carolina Oyster Shucking Championship will be held Saturday, October 15th from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Professional shuckers compete for the title of North Carolina Oyster Shucking Champion and a trip to the National Oyster Shucking Championship in Maryland. North Carolina has produced shuckers that have gone on to compete in the World Oyster Shucking Championships in Galway, Ireland.

    For the contest, each shucker is given 24 oysters. Shuckers are judged on both speed and appearance of shucked oysters. And lest you think a properly shucked oyster is one that is simply removed from its shell, let us tell you, festival judges adhere to strict aesthetic judging criteria: shuckers are penalized for an oyster not completely severed from its shell, an oyster presented on a broken shell, an oyster presented with grit, blood, or other foreign substance on the flesh, a cut oyster, or an oyster not properly placed on the shell.

    While the Oyster Stew Cook-off and Oyster Shucking Contest are serious business for the participants, it’s all about family and fun for festival-goers, and if seafood isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy other food, arts and crafts, and high profile entertainers.

    This year’s headline act on Saturday from 4:00-6:00 pm is Josh Kelley, a singer-songwriter whose debut country release, Georgia Clay, has garnered critical acclaim. Kelley’s music has also been used in TV shows such as MTV’s The Hills, ABC’s Brothers and Sisters and What About Brian, and the CW’s Smallville.

    Other entertainers at this year’s festival include the bands Sea Cruz, Coastline and Sawgrass on Saturday, and The Imitations, the Faith Journeys Band and the Craig Woolard Band on Sunday.
    Festival Facepainting
    The Oyster Festival is also beloved by kids, who get their own special “area” at the event, featuring camel and pony rides; a rock wall, slide, bounce house and trampoline; fishing, and face painting, among other activities.

    Other festival activities include the NC Festival Road Race, which takes place October 16 with a 5K, a 10K and 1 mile fun run. The Fun Run begins at 8:00 am, the 5K and 10K begin at 8:30 am.

    The oyster has long been an important part of culture and industry in the state, and if your plans include a fall-time visit to coastal North Carolina, the Oyster Festival in October would make a grand introduction to a true southeastern North Carolina tradition, and a delicacy treasured by locals.

    For more information about the Oyster Festival or communities in the Brunswick County and Wilmington NC area, send your inquiries to info@southeastdiscovery.com and we'll get back to you with a prompt reply.

  • The Reserve at Lake Keowee - Envisioning a Promising Tomorrow

    Posted Under: General Area in Greenville, Quality of Life in Greenville, Home Buying in Greenville  |  September 25, 2012 6:45 AM  |  575 views  |  No comments

    Henry David Thoreau said it best: Be not simply good – be good for something.

    When the developer Greenwood Communities and Resorts called a meeting in Greenville, South Carolina in 1999 to establish a vision of what The Reserve at Lake Keowee
    could be, the goal was to build a community and not just a development.

    This planning meeting involved not only the developer, investors, and city officials, but also community members, government officials, and environmental groups. The idea was to create not just an infrastructure of homes and recreational amenities but, more importantly, to craft an underlying character of cultural and educational values around which this infrastucture could be built. Using models of other community foundations that were already in place, the Community Foundation was formed. The goal of the foundation was to fashion a set of shared community ideals based on three important tenets; protecting the natural beauty of the area, providing educational opportunities for the residents, and giving back to the surrounding communities through charitable outreach programs.
    The Reserve at Lake Keowee Market Square
    Twelve years later, the seeds of that visionary meeting are coming to fruition. In December of 2010, The Reserve at Lake Keowee's Charitable Foundation awarded $40,000 to four non-profit organizations serving the citizens of surrounding Pickens County. A portion of this award was donated through the Charitable Foundation Golf Classic, which has increased its player participation by 55% since the inaugural tournament in 2009. In addition to monetary contributions, Reserve members volunteer countless community service hours every year through local shelters, environmental agencies, social service agencies, and animal shelters. New Reserve members are provided information on volunteer outreach programs in their Welcome Baskets, and are encouraged to submit names of worthy charitable organizations for consideration by the foundation. In 2010 alone, over 70 outreach events that benefited the families of Pickens County were planned and implemented by Reserve members.

    In keeping with their ideal of helping to protect the natural environment, residents show their community commitment through the Friends of Lake Keowee Society (FOLKS). The bi-annual Lake Sweep is a clean up operation organized by FOLKS enlisting the help of Reserve residents and staff to keep thirty miles of shoreline clean and environmentally sound. FOLKS has also organized an Adopt-an-Island program that helps in the clean-up of seven islands in Lake Keowee, as well as four Adopt-a-Highway clean-up weekends along a four-mile stretch of Highway 133.

    Education is another crucial component of the The Reserve’s Community Foundation plan. A series of artist-in-residence programs bring artists and lecturers to The Reserve for week-long exhibits and community presentations. Artists from many different disciplines exhibit their work during eight-week traveling exhibitions held at the Hill House Art Gallery. In addition to numerous exercise and fitness programs, The Reserve also offers everything from a monthly Botany Walk with an on-site naturalist, to Beer Tastings, concerts and social events, a wine club and cooking classes and hosts a variety of member driven interest clubs.
    Clemson University Tigers Football Game
    The Reserve’s proximity to renowned Clemson University provides residents with fun and informative learning experiences through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

    Commitment to visionary planning is one of the hallmarks of Greenwood Communities and Resorts. Developing properties throughout the Southeast since 1978, the company prides itself on producing “value-added” communities that stress quality of lifestyle over rapidly expanding, cookie-cutter developments. The care and brainstorming that went into The Reserve at Lake Keowee is a prime example of this visionary planning and perhaps explains why, even in a struggling economy, The Reserve continues to grow. While other developments promising an array of unbuilt amenities have struggled to sell lots and stay afloat, Greenwood’s careful, prudent attention to infrastructure and commitment to a cohesive Community Foundation, continues to bring in buyers.

    Proof of The Reserve’s ongoing financial stability and strength is best exemplified by the following: (1) both the Property Owners’ Association and Club are currently operating on balanced budgets, with the Club’s goals reached without increasing dues and with no food and beverage minimums; (2) More than 25 new families have been welcomed to The Reserve in 2011, exceeding 2010 sales; and (3) 192 homes are currently completed, with an additional 21 under construction. So far, 19 residents have moved into new homes in 2011.
    The Reserve at Lake Keowee Membership Legacy Program
    In addition, The Reserve’s recently-launched Legacy Membership program continues to bring in new members. With over 650 members from 30 different states, The Reserve’s focus on family and community is exemplified by this multi-generational membership program that allows parents, children, grandparents, and grandchildren the same privileges as full members, without having to pay additional fees. This concept of bringing family members together to enjoy recreational amenities and community events while creating a lasting legacy, continues to be a strong draw for The Reserve. Not to mention, there is more critical mass enjoying the development, dining at the clubhouse, playing golf on the Jack Nicklaus Signature course - all this has contributed to an increase in revenue for the community's amenities. This was a smart business decision that also has been a friendly one to its current membership and property owners - welcoming in their extended families.

    Perhaps most important to the continued financial strength of The Reserve,
    is the success of their recent capital raise. Along with Greenwood and other existing investors, 65 members purchased new shares, surpassing the initial capital goal. This additional capital will ensure the economic future and well being of The Reserve for many years to come.

    Located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains on beautiful Lake Keowee, one of the purest lakes in North America, The Reserve is first and foremost a lakefront community. With over 30 miles of pristine shoreline, a 200 slip marina, and 1100 acres of parks, trails, preserves and green spaces, Greenwood’s commitment to stewardship and conservation is apparent. The Reserve’s $100 million in completed amenities include a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, pool complex, guest house, marina and village center, tennis and fitness facilities, and a performing arts theater. Located within easy driving distance of Asheville, Greenville, Atlanta, and Charlotte, The Reserve at Lake Keowee is also only a morning’s drive away from some of the best beaches on the Eastern seaboard.
    Balsam Mountain Preserve Golf Course in Western NC
    A recent reciprocal agreement signed with Balsam Mountain Preserve, located in Sylva, North Carolina, a higher elevation golf community, allows Reserve members the full use of Balsam Mountain amenities. These additional amenities include expanded hiking and nature activities, an equestrian facility, an Arnold Palmer golf course (to compliment The Reserve's Jack Nicklaus course), and further lodging options for visitors.

    For more information on The Reserve at Lake Keowee, the Lake Keowee area of Western South Carolina, send your inquiries to info@southeastdiscovery.com and we'll get back to you with a prompt reply.
  • An Insider's Guide To Enjoying Leaf Season In The Blue Ridge Mountains

    Posted Under: General Area, Quality of Life, Parks & Recreation  |  August 22, 2012 4:40 PM  |  585 views  |  No comments

    If you didn't read yesterday's blog titled, "Nature's 'Traveling Art Show' Is About To Begin - It's Leaf Season!" -you may want to go back and read that first and then, enjoy all the information in this article which will serve as a one stop all you ever needed to know on how to enjoy leaf season in the Appalachian region of the U.S. As promised, this article contains specific suggestions and recommendations on how to enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountain Leaf Season of 2011- state by state. So - go and enjoy Mother Nature's colorful presentation this fall!


    The 105-mile Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia, along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is hugely popular. Park visitors can also ride horse back through the park’s scenic wooded trails, and a "must-see" is Luray Caverns. If you'd prefer to pedal your way through the park, the 21st annual Fall Foliage Bike Festival Oct. 21-23 features 12 different routes over the three days, traditionally when the colors are at their finest.

    However, the Virginia Department of Forestry says, if "you don’t want to fight the traffic that clogs Skyline Drive," then try one of five "off the beaten path" drives it has mapped for 2011. Because, "after all, who better than the folks who know Virginia’s trees can best provide routes that will expose you to some of the Commonwealth’s most colorful tree-lined vistas?" The five are in the Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Roanoke and Staunton areas. Also, the Virginia Tourism Corporation launched a fall foliage website in September 2011 that is geared to autumn attractions and events.

    The eastern part of Virginia promises the same vibrant colors. For example, the state parks and rivers surrounding Williamsburg, Virginia, offer a rainbow of autumn colors. And, on Oct 1-2, you can end each day in downtown Williamsburg at Williamsburg Symphonia’s 4th annual Music Under the Stars concert in Merchants Square. And on Oct. 15-16 in nearby Yorktowne, there will be the officialYorktown Victory Celebration on the 230th anniversary of the Revolutionary War victory at Yorktown on Oct. 19, 1781. Even the Eastern Shore of Virginia affords late-season foliage vantage points. For example, the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge has more than 27,000 acres of mixed evergreen and deciduous forests as well as freshwater ponds. Of course, the season is as much about harvests as it is about foliage, so consider attending the annual Harvest Festival on the first Wednesday of October in lower Northhampton County, Virginia. The food includes fried soft crabs, crabcakes, steamship round and clam chowder. You might also be able to enjoy a round of golf at Bay Creek Resort and Club in Cape Charles.


    The state's tourism board says leaf-lookers should visit East Tennessee in the second and third weeks of October, then go to middle Tennessee for later foliage sightings. The foliage in west Tennessee usually begins to change at the end of October or first week in November. A state with 54 state parks, 400 fall festivals and almost 2,000 miles of hiking and biking trails makes it difficult to name one or two spots.

    One popular choice is Cherokee National Forest, and the U.S. Forest Service offers two suggested drives within the forest: In Northeast Tennessee, take the Ocoee Scenic Byway, the first National Forest Scenic Byway in the nation. It's in Polk County. In Southeast Tennessee, the Cherohala Skyway travels from Tellico Plains to Robbinsville, and offers spectacular views with elevations reaching more than 5,000 feet. Both routes are popular with motorcyclists. In Chattanooga, you can take the 3-hour Southern Belle's Fall Leaf CruiseOct. 15-Nov. 6th through the Tennessee River Gorge.

    Probably the most popular leaf-looking area is The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina border, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But it's huge! So, if looking for the best scenic drive, start at the “top of Ole Smoky” at Newfound Gap, and drive down the mountainside to Cades Cove, an 11-mile loop that winds past foliage surrounded by waterfalls, streams, and panoramic views. You can also shop for handmade baskets, scrimshaw, and leather goods at Gatlinburg’s Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community.

    If you're looking to mix foliage with fun, be sure to visit Nashville, Tennessee, which is awash in fall colors during the 32nd annual Oktoberfest Oct. 8 in its historic Germantown district, while the Tennessee Agricultural Museum is the site for the Oct. 15-16 Music and Molasses Festival. AndKnoxville, Tennessee, near the Great Smoky Mountains, has its Fall Festival and Chili Cookoff Oct. 8, and, on Oct. 15, there are two more - the Fall Festival at Knoxville Botanical Garden, and the 34th annual Apple Festival at Washington Presbyterian Church. While in theKnoxville area, you might want to check out Rarity Bay and Rarity Pointe, two golf and boating communities situated on the shores of Lake Tellico, a 16,000 acre lake.

    Just 30 minutes from Knoxville is Norris Lake, Tennessee, where you escape the throngs of "mainstream" leaf-peepers by relaxing - or playing - along the lake, all 39,000 acres of it!

    North Carolina
    Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
    Winding its way across and through mountains, past rolling meadows and by numerous small towns, the Blue Ridge Parkway almost seems made for leaf-peepers and outdoor enthusiasts. It actually starts deep in western Virginia, then goes through 12 Virginia counties and 17 counties in North Carolina - as well as four National Forests (George Washington, Jefferson, Pisgah, and Nantahala), and the Qualla Boundary Cherokee Indian Reservation - and features approximately 275 parking overlooks, 900 vistas, 26 tunnels and 151 bridges. Between each of the 470 mile-markers, you can feast your eyes on the eye-popping colors of ash, beech, red spruce, poplar, and maple trees.

    Penn Dameron, executive director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, recommends several spots in the High Country, North Carolina, region to linger. Home to the 6,000-foot Grandfather Mountain, as well as Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain and other ski resorts, the High Country also is home to the famed Linn Cove Viaduct, among the highest highway sections in the nation. In fact, to appreciate all that the High Country has to offer during autumn, you'd have to make it a destination unto itself. The towns of Boone, Banner Elk and Blowing Rock are separated by mountains blanketed in autumnal colors. Banner Elk, North Carolina, is where the famed Wooly Worm Festival takes place Oct. 15-16, 2011. While the "main attraction" is the race by wooly worms (a sort-of caterpillar) up a rope to be proclaimed the official winter weather progosticator, the event include rides, food and Southern-style music and dancing. Just down the road is Sugar Mountain, one of the Southeast's premier skiing destinations. Its lifts operate daily fora unique foliage-viewing experience. Also, on Oct. 8-9, it hosts the Bavarian-themed 21st annual Oktoberfest Celebration, complete with music, dancers, artisans, craftspeople, food and beer. From there, you can head for - and up - Grandfather Mountain, a UN-designated biosphere with 12 miles of hiking trails, a wildlife rehabilitation area, picnic spots, a kid-friendly Nature Museum, and a Mile-High Swinging Bridge, which is breathtaking - both for the view and for the sensation.

    If coming from Tennessee, one suggestion would be to start at the Parkway's Milepost 469.1 near Cherokee, and head over Mount Pisgah, through Asheville, and up to Mount Mitchell, at 6,600 feet the highest peak in the Eastern United States. Along the way there are myriad paved overlooks, each offering a different vista, as well as myriad hiking opportunities. You can also enjoy the views from the 5,000-foot-high Pisgah Inn restaurant’s observation deck, and spend some time in Asheville, then visit the Southern Highland Folk Art Center 6 miles north of Asheville for locally made rocking chairs, pottery, and quilts. Also, the Asheville, North Carolina region's calendar is filled with more fall events than there are falling leaves, such as Oktoberfest in downtown Asheville Oct. 8; an exhibit of Tiffany works at the Biltmore Estate (itself worth a full day, to take in the views and landscaping) through through Oct. 23, the Lake Eden Arts Festival in nearby Black Mountain, North Carolina, Oct. 20-23; the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands at the Asheville Civic Center Oct. 20-23, and the River Arts District Studio Stroll in downtown Asheville Nov. 12-13.

    The Blue Ridge Parkway also makes other areas of Western North Carolina easily accessible. The the historic towns of Waynesville and Sylva are both are near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala National Forest. And the "Land of Waterfalls" with more than 250 to discover, Cashiers, Highlands and Lake Toxaway, North Carolina, have been mountain playgrounds for the wealthy and retirees since the early 1900s because of the climate and dramatic views. The Cashiers Valley Leaf Festival, Oct. 7-9, is a three-day event with artists, music, food and children's events. Other Western North Carolina autumn scene-stealers are Hendersonville and Flat Rock (home to the famed Flat Rock Playhouse), Lake Lure and neighboring Chimney Rock State Park, and Tryon, where fall equestrian events almost steal the shows. And, near Tryon NC is a popular Parkway alternative, the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (US 276) into Brevard, North Carolina, with great stops such as Looking Glass Falls, a challenging hike to Looking Glass Rock and an opportunity to learn more about forestry at the Forest Discovery Center.

    Less than an hour east, in the foothills and Piedmont areas are Lake James, Lake Hickory and Lake Rhodhiss North Carolina - a magnet for those seeking both scenery and some solitude along the lakes' shores.

    South Carolina
    Clemson University Football Game
    Botanical experts at Clemson University's Extension Service say that fall color in "Upcountry" (the northwest part of the state) starts in mid- to late-October, and spreads to South Carolina's "Midlands" through mid-November, reaching "Lowcountry" by about the same time, and lingers until the end of November.

    If you prefer higher elevations, consider making Greenville, North Carolina, your "base camp." From there, it's no more than a 2-hour drive to the most popular fall destinations in the state. One is the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway (SC-11). The 115-mile stretch follows the southernmost peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, past peach orchards, quaint villages and parks. Views include steep drops, deep mountain coves, waterfalls cascading hundreds of feet, and broad vistas. This route crosses the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and Recreation Area, which offers access to Caesars Head State Park, Jones Gap State Park, Raven Cliff Falls and the Middle Saluda River. The area is often touted as the best place to see fall foliage in South Carolina by visitors and locals.

    And, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is Lake Keowee, South Carolina, which offers a number of recreational activities in addition to jaw-dropping foliage views. Along the state's southwest border is the 110-mile Savannah River Scenic Byway, which offers a look at life in the rural South and opportunities to taste Southern hospitality along the way.

    If you'd prefer to combine the arrival of autumn with the end of summer, a drive along the coastal Edisto Island Scenic Byway offers a 16-mile panorama ranging from salt marshes and creeks to forests, farm fields and historic churches (photographers' favorites are the McKinley Washington Jr. Bridge and Dawhoo Landing). After stopping at the many roadside stands, you can relax on the sands of Edisto Beach. From there, it's a short drive to Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach, two popular entertainment and recreation areas.

    The U.S. Forest Service's Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests encompass more than 629,000 acres throughout South Carolina, divided into four districts - and each has recommended fall viewing routes. In the northwest corner of the state is the Andrews-Pickens district, where you'll find highways 28 and 107, which lead into Georgia and North Carolina - to be uncrowded and colorful. East of Greenville, in the Enoree district, either NC-16 south of Union or NC-574 into the Woods Ferry Recreation Area feature spectacular mid-autumn colors.


    From its northwest corner to the southeast coast, Georgia draws millions of people hoping to witness fall's splendor without spending a day on the highways. The optimum time to see the leaf change in the north Georgia mountains is normally the last full week in October, according to the Georgia Forest Service. Nearer to Atlanta, try the first week in November.

    South of Savannah, the Altahama Historic Scenic Byway starts in Darien, Georgia; it's only 17 miles, but allow yourself at least an hour so you can view foliage as well history - descendants of early African slaves who built the 19th-century plantations live in the area today, contributing their culture and traditions to life in communities scattered along the byway. Nearby Fort King George is open for tours. Near Atlanta is the South Fulton Scenic Byway, a 29-mile loop past rolling hills, forested ridges, and serene pastures, and the Historic Piedmont Scenic Byway which travels through the Oconee National Forest, across the Oconee and Ogeechee Rivers, and past acres of rolling farmland.

    But just about every source we contacted recommended two routes in the Chattahoochee National Forest, which is in northwest Georgia. The 40-mile loop Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, near Helen, Georgia, reveals some of the most dramatic scenery in the state - including Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest mountain, as well as waterfalls, the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River, and a section of the Appalachian Trail. And, while in Helen, stop by its Oktoberfest - considered the longest Oktoberfest in the South, spanning the months of September, October and November. It features polka music and German beers, bands and food. You might also be able to catch the Georgia Mountain Fall Festival Oct. 7-15 at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee, Georgia, or Singing in the Smokies Oct. 21-22 at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin. And the Ridge and Valley Scenic Byway, near Dalton, has mountain overlooks and farms along its 51 miles, and passes Keown Falls Scenic Area, the Pocket, and John's Mountain Overlook and Wildlife Management Area.

    About an hour east of Atlanta and west of Augusta is Lake Oconee, which runs through Morgan, Greene and Putnam counties and has a surface area of 19,050 acres and 374 miles of shoreline. The Oconee National Forest covers some 37,000 acres and offers camping, hunting, horseback trails and wildlife viewing.
    Augusta, Georgia in the fall
    Also, Northern Georgia offers great opportunities for avid cyclists to view the colorful autumn season, ranging from trails in the the picturesque Montaluce Winery in Dahlonega, to strenuous challenges at Brasstown Bald.

    OK; so maybe we've convinced you to come to the mountains for leaf season and let's suppose once here, you don't want to leave?

    We're here to help you find the right area and community and we'll send for your things! For more information on communities located in the five-state Southeast, send your inquiries to info@southeastdiscovery.com or call 877.886.8388 and we'll be delighted to help you with your retirement or second home search.
  • Nature's 'Traveling Art Show' Is About To Begin - It's Leaf Season!

    Posted Under: General Area, Quality of Life, Parks & Recreation  |  August 22, 2012 4:30 PM  |  709 views  |  No comments

    From now through mid-November, the Southeast will be painted in the myriad colors of autumn; nature's "art show" will spread from Virginia to Georgia and from the mountains of Tennessee and Western Carolinas to South Carolina's Low Country. And coinciding with the fall spectacular are two other Southeast staples: festivals and football.

    If you're one of the millions of people in other parts of the country who have endured the second hottest summer on record and a record-breaking drought, you're probably ready to "head for the hills." But, if you haven't already firmed-up plans, here at Southeast Discovery – we might be able to help answer some questions you might have...

    What Is The Draw To “Leaf Season”?

    Because the experts all agree that “2011 should prove to be an excellent year for fall color,” as surmised by Kathy Mathews, associate professor of biology specializing in plant systematics at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina - she is known on campus as its "fearless fall foliage forecaster." Adds Howie Neufeld, professor of plant physiology at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina - known as "The Fall Color Guy": "There will be good fall color this autumn, especially if the weather cooperates (sunny days, cool nights)." And Ron Lance, a naturalist at Chimney Rock State Park near Lake Lure, North Carolina, adds, "So far, the region's weather pattern suggests that Western North Carolina will be a premier destination for viewing incredible displays of fall color. Many areas received a cool spring and ample moisture through July. Since then, the area has been in a fairly dry pattern which is potentially very beneficial for striking autumn color." Of course, 2011's Hurricane Irene impacted mostly coastal regions, and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped most of its moisture in eastern Tennessee and northern states, so it's not likely they'll have too adverse an impact elsewhere on foliage colors or timing.

    When Is The Best Time To See The Fall Colors?
    Biltmore Park Town Square - Asheville, NC
    The short answer is: Anytime from early October through mid-November. The more specific answer is: Depends on where you're going. The U.S. Forest Service explains that "autumn color generally starts in late September in New England and moves southward... Remember that cooler high elevations will color up before the valleys." And WCU's Mathews says, “Those planning leaf-peeping vacations should have a fairly broad window of time in which to choose for viewing excellent color change in the mountains this year.” But a random check of motels, bed-and-breakfasts and other guest accommodations in the five-state region showed that bookings are coming in at a good rate. Lee Ann Donnelly, spokesperson for the Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, North Carolina, said, “The fall is a big draw. Traditionally, we’ve seen nights sell out at the (200-room) Inn on Biltmore Estate."

    Where Should We Go?

    The short answer is: Depends on when you're going. The more specific answer comes from Chris Ulrey, plant biologist with the Blue Ridge Parkway - one of the nation's most scenic highways: “One of the great things about the (Southeast) is the huge diversity of trees we have, compared to a place like New England where they only have a few species that peak all at once... The Southeast also has a diverse landscape of ridges, coves and valleys that all have their own climate. So if the leaf color isn’t good in one place, just keep driving and you’ll find good color somewhere else.” In other words, follow nature's itinerary, starting in Virginia, then west to eastern Tennessee, east through the Carolinas, and south into Georgia. In fact, Western Carolina University's Mathews said sourwoods and some dogwoods in the Asheville, North Carolina area started to show their colors in the second week of September, to be followed by the yellows of the tulip poplars and sweet birches. And Landis Wofford, news director at Grandfather Mountain in the High Country region of North Carolina, said some red maples at the high elevation natural attraction are just starting to turn.

    Are The Mountains The Place To See The Best Color?
    Greenville, South Carolina
    While “the first place to check is the tops of mountains,” says the Blue Ridge Parkway's Ulrey, “they can give you a good indication of what we’ll see at the lower elevations later in the season.” Says WCU's Mathews: "Early November can bring surprising bursts of color ... between 2,500 and 3,000 feet, as the oaks peak out in oranges and reds while other trees' colors are lingering." And tourism officials in South Carolina say that, while "the peak period for fall color foliage in South Carolina's Upstate occurs the second to the fourth weeks in October, as a general rule," foliage peaks in the middle and coastal sections "late October through early November."

    Are There Any Options Besides Driving To Take In The Views?

    Try riding the rails - in either Tennessee or North Carolina.
    Gatlinburg, Tennessee
    Tennessee is home to three locations where you can hop on board an old-fashioned train and spend the day taking in the surrounding beauty. The Tennessee Central Railway Museum in Nashville offers a 216-mile round-trip on Oct. 8 through the Caney Fork River Valley, up and down the steep grade of Silver Point, and stopping in Monterey for its Standing Stone Festival. On Oct. 22 and Oct. 29, a similar itinerary is planned, except for a stop in Cookeville for shopping. And the Southern Appalachian Railway Museum which operates the "Secret City Excursion Train" in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is offering fall foliage train rides on Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 1-23 that winds through the hills and valleys of East Tennessee. Each round-trip of about 14 miles lasts one hour. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga will be using its Summerville Steam Special vintage trains on Saturdays from Oct. 8 to Nov. 5 to follow an historic route from Grand Junction Station in Chattanooga to Chickamauga, Georgia.

    There are two similar opportunities in North Carolina. The North Carolina Transportation Museumin Spencer (off I-85, about an hour's drive from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem) has two foliage-viewing specials. On Oct. 29, one of its vintage trains heads for Roanoke, Virginia, traveling through the northern portion of the North Carolina Piedmont and into the western part of central Virginia. Oct. 30, it heads in the opposite direction, to Toccoa, Georgia, crossing the 100-foot Seneca River trestle spanning Lake Hartwell to arrive at Toccoa for the 29th annual Harvest Festival. And in Bryson City, North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains Railway offers daily 4.5-hour excursions to and from the Nantahala Gorge Oct. 7-31, with a one-hour stop at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. And, Mondays-Thursdays, from Oct. 3 to Oct. 27, will be a 32-mile roundtrip ride along the Tuckasegee River through old railroad towns and scenic meadows, with a stop in Dillsboro.

    If You Don’t Have Time To Travel Throughout The Entire Southeast, Look For Our Specific Recommendations...

    If you have been thinking of visiting areas in the Southeast this fall as you search for where you want to relocate at retirement or find the perfect second home, make a fall visit during "leaf season" - and let's just say - you are in for a treat. There will be plenty of eye candy for you to view with the vibrant colors of red, orange and yellow that blanket both the foothills and the mountains this time of year. Then, if you find a property that suits you, you'll be able to enjoy autumn - and every other season - every year - right from your hammock, deck or great room window.

    Read tomorrow's blog which will cover some of our favorite places, by state and by order. That is, the order in which the colors 'pop' from north to south. For more information on the Blue Ridge mountains and foothills surrounding, along with developments in this region ideal for retirement relocation, send your inquiries to info@southeastdiscovery.com or call 877.886.8388 and we'll be happy to send you specific suggestions on communities in line with what you are looking for.
  • Retirees Find Living Near College Campuses A 'Smart' Idea - Part II

    Posted Under: General Area in North Carolina, Quality of Life in North Carolina, Schools in North Carolina  |  August 20, 2012 8:37 AM  |  912 views  |  No comments

    Born at the close of World War II, Baby Boomers have lived most of their lives in an expanding economy, resulting in a generation that is prosperous, engaged, adaptable, and optimistic. Now, as the swelling number of Baby Boomers begin to enter into retirement, this demographic shift has inspired a new term, "mass longevity.” Coined by Leon Pastolan of The University of Michigan to describe a population 65 and over that will grow from 35 million today, to over 80 million by 2030, Baby Boomers are not content to simply live longer. They want to live happy, healthy, socially engaged lives.

    As we discussed in Part One of this topic - living near a college or university in your retirement years, good health involves both a physical and a mental component. Numerous studies have shown a direct correlation between mental activities such as bridge, crossword puzzles, and musical instruction, and enhanced cognitive function. Formal education in a college setting has also been shown to improve and prolong brain function.

    A study conducted in Great Britain in 2000 looked at the health benefits of continuous learning on a group of participants aged 50 to 71. According to this study, 74% of those involved in lifelong learning reported that their health was “excellent” or “very good.” In addition to the health benefits, participants involved in continuous learning also reported an increased enjoyment of life, an increased ability to cope, and a higher level of self-confidence. And more than 25% of those surveyed reported a greater involvement in social activities, volunteer work, and community activities due to learning experiences.

    As a generation of lifelong learners, Baby Boomers are already taking advantage of the health benefits of continuous education. But what are universities and colleges doing to capitalize on this trend of mass longevity?
    Baby Boomers Graduating
    Universities have long been agents of social change. Just as Baby Boomers have affected other aspects of American culture, their re-definition of retirement will continue to drive trends in higher education. The majority of older adults today are healthy, engaged, and willing to take on new challenges. Recognizing some of the cultural implications of mass longevity, many universities are beginning to offer learning programs geared specifically to older adults, which now make up more than 20% of the college population.

    In addition, many universities are promoting an attitudinal change by designing programs that encourage social exchanges between students of all age groups. It’s not unusual on many campuses today to find athletic events, musical evenings, classes, and potluck dinners being attended by a mix of students of all ages. New mixed-use facilities are being developed with the idea of providing networking opportunities for residents, alumni, and lifelong learners.

    Bucking the trend, their parents who may have retired to isolated, cookie-cutter communities, Baby Boomers will choose to retire to communities where they can remain physically, socially, and intellectually involved. Proximity to a college town will be a prerequisite for many of them. And increasingly, due to the mild climate, low cost of living, and easy access to other parts of the country, many of those college towns are located in the sunny South.

    In Part One of this post, we looked at several Southern retirement communities located close to college towns. The following properties are also worth checking out.

    The Reserve at Lake Keowee in Sunset, Western South Carolina
    The Reserve at Lake Keowee Golf and Lake Development Located at the foot of The Blue Ridge Mountains along the mountain-fed waters of beautiful Lake Keowee, The Reserve at Lake Keowee is a community commited to the natural beauty of the area. With over 30 miles of shoreline and 4,000 acres, including 1,000 acres of community greenspace and 500 acres in perpetual conservation, The Reserve proves that careful development and environmental stewardship can go hand in hand.

    Developed by Greenwood Communities and Resorts, a developer with over 30 years’ experience in building acclaimed properties throughout the Southeast, The Reserve offers over $100 million in completed amenities. These amenities include a 200-slip marina, 5.5 miles of trails, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, Clubhouse, Marina and Village Center, lakefront pool complex, guest house, tennis and fitness facilities, and a visual and performing arts theater. Both homes and home sites are available.

    The Reserve’s innovative Community Foundation, a non-profit organization set up to give back to the community and the surrounding counties, provides enrichment programs in Environmental Stewardship, Visual and Performing Arts, Education, and Outreach. Residents can volunteer through over 70 outreach events, everything from the bi-annual Lake Sweep clean up operation, to helping out in local social service organizations.

    The Hill House Art Gallery
    hosts a number of travelling art exhibits, as well as artist-in-residence programs that bring in guest artists for presentations, lectures, and classes. In addition to fitness and exercise programs, The Reserve also hosts monthly community events, everything from beer and wine tastings and cooking classes, to a botany walk with their on-site naturalist.

    The Reserve is within a two hour driving distance of Atlanta and Charlotte, but it is the development's proximity to nationally
    -ranked Clemson University that is truly beneficial to residents. Located only 25 miles away, Clemson's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) offers adult learners classes in everything from Jan Van Eyck’s “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” to The Butterflies of Upstate South Carolina.
    Clemson University
    With just under 1,000 members, the Clemson OLLI has benefited from the influx of retirees from other areas drawn to Upstate South Carolina’s mild climate, arts scene, low cost of living, and natural beauty. Instructors in the Clemson OLLI program are not just university professors, but also retired former boardroom members from business and industry. Housed in its own newly-built, $1.6 million Charles K. Chazeem Education Center, the success of Clemson’s OLLI has recently drawn the attention of the Bernard Osher Foundation in San Francisco, which awarded Clemson a $1 million endowment. The association between The Reserve at Lake Keowee and Clemson is not only through the OLLI – many of Clemson’s coaches and faculty are members of The Reserve.

    Cherokee Valley in Travelers Rest, Western South Carolina
    Cherokee Valley Golf Club in Western SC
    Located just 18 miles from Greenville, South Carolina, recently named #2 on the list, “Best Places to Live a Simple Life” by ABC News/Good Money, and #4 on the list of “Greatest Place to Retire” by Fortune Magazine, Cherokee Valley prides itself on being a residential golfing community. With the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, the 18-hole, Dye-designed championship golf course offers challenging elevation drops and year-round play. The Cherokee Valley Golf Academy, taught by one of the greatest PGA-certified staffs in the country, offers both daily teaching sessions and private instruction for seasoned players, as well as beginners. A number of practice facilities, including a 300-plus yard driving range with six large target greens, as well as a putting green, sand traps, and chipping areas insure that your game is at its best.

    In addition to golf, Cherokee Valley’s Wellness Center, a 4,000 square foot fitness center, offers a resort pool and two lighted competition clay tennis courts.

    Located just ten minutes from Jones Gap State Park, one of the best areas in South Carolina for hiking, fishing, kayaking, boating, and mountain biking, Cherokee Valley provides plenty of outdoor adventures for everyone. In addition, Carolina Moon Stables, located fifteen minutes from Cherokee Valley, offers trail rides and private horseback riding instruction on its 50-acre facility.

    For those interested in more cerebral pursuits, Furman University, one of the premier private liberal arts universities in the country, is located just five minutes from Cherokee Valley. Furman's Osher Lifetime Learning Institute (OLLI)
    offers adult learning classes in over 82 courses, 20 bonus trips and events, and boasts an enrollment of 1192 students. Housed in the new Herring Center for Lifetime Learning, the Furman OLLI has been the recipient of over $2.2 million in grants from the Bernard Osher Center in San Francisco.

    Just 35 miles down the road from Cherokee Valley is Clemson's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).
    The institute offers a variety of classes and social events for adult learners, and boasts a membership of nearly 1,000.

    Wofford College, another premier private liberal arts college located in nearby Spartanburg, South Carolina, offers a number of adult learning experiences through their Continuing Education Program.
    A variety of local and international learning travel excursions are planned in 2011/2012, including The Wonders of the Galapagos Islands and European Coastal Civilizations.

    Headwaters at Banner Elk in the High Country, Western North Carolina

    Located on 915 acres in the High Country of North Carolina and bordered by the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests, Headwaters
    is truly a mountain getaway gated community. Offering two spring-fed lakes, miles of maintained hiking trails, and a clubhouse that features a greatroom with 280 degree views of three states, a fully-equipped fitness room, gourmet kitchen, gameroom, 14-seat stadium movie theatre, and 2,000 square feet of outdoor decking, Headwaters provides a quiet, secluded retreat from the noise of modern life. A series of parks, pavilions, and trails connect outdoor spaces featuring footbridges, fishing piers, waterfalls, picnic areas, camp sites, and two-story treehouses.
    Headwaters at Banner Elk in High Country WNC
    In addition to the beauty of its natural setting, Headwaters and the Banner Elk area offer a number of outdoor activities. A variety of hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, provide opportunities for novice and experienced hikers alike to commune with nature. The Elk and Wautauga Rivers offer some of the best fly fishing in the Eastern United States, and Wautauga Lake, with 104 miles of shoreline, features both power boating and sailing. The area boasts numerous golf courses, both private and public, as well as several horseback riding stables. Local outfitters lead whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing trips, in addition to caving and rocking climbing expeditions. The Blue Ridge Parkway features 3 local ski resorts that offer skiing and snowboarding, as well as cross-country skiing, in the winter season.

    Cultural activities include the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of the Clans. Celebrating the Scottish heritage of the area in a week-long celebration of music, food, and games, Grandfather Mountain is also a World Biosphere spot featuring unique wildlife, rock formations, and a mile-high swinging bridge. The quaint mountain town of Banner Elk is host to the annual Wooly Worm Festival, a festival of food, crafts, and fun that brings in 20,000 visitors a year.

    Lees-McRae College
    in Banner Elk offers a number of continuing education classes and trips for adult learners, as well as regular academic classes that can be audited with no credit.

    Nearby Boone, NC is the home to Appalachian State University, with one of the most highly-regarded Senior Education Programs in the country.
    The Appalachian Lifelong Learning Program (ALL) provides academic, cultural, social, and recreational opportunities to adults throughout the region. Course offerings include everything from Israeli Folk Dancing to Writers’ Discovery and Adventure Tour. In addition, a number of day long seminars and art instruction classes are available through the Craft Enrichment Program and Community Art School Program.

    Hound Ears in Boone, Western North Carolina

    A fixture in Boone, NC for over forty years, the Hound Ears Club
    was named for a rock formation overlooking the golf course that stood up like “a hound’s ears.” The 18-hole course, designed by George Cobb, is located on a 900-acre luxury resort that includes a heated pool with waterfall, six tennis courts, a clubhouse, and a fully-equipped fitness center. The fitness center wellness program offers everything from yoga to water aerobics to a golf fitness class designed to improve your golf swing through exercises that stress strength, balance, core, and flexibility.
    Hound Ears in Boone NC

    Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and located just 18 miles from Blowing Rock, the Boone area offers a variety of outdoor activities. From world class bouldering and rock climbing on the Gold Coast cliffs overlooking Linville Gorge, to mountain biking along the Rocky Knob Mountain Biking Park, to some of the best hiking in the Blue Ridge, the High Country has it all. Fly fisherman have a variety of pristine streams and rivers to chose from. Many lakes, including Bass Lake, Price Lake, Wildcat Lake, and Wautaga Lake offer areas for fishing, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing.

    The Boone Area Wine Trail
    features some of the finest High Country wine and scenery around, and Linville Caverns features a subterranean world of vast caverns and hallways carved by water over the centuries. Grandfather Mountain, the tallest mountain in the Blue Ridge, features hiking trails and a world-class nature museum and interpretive program.

    A number of events including the Downtown Boone Art Crawl, High Country Beer Fest, and High Country Music Fest provide ample cultural offerings. Boone is also home to Appalachian State University which as we have stated, offers one of the best Adult Learning Programs in the Country.
    Just a few miles down the road in Banner Elk is Lees-McRae College, which which also offers continuing education classes as well as regular classes that can be audited by adult learners.

    Sundrops at Caney Fork in Cullowhee, North Carolina

    Located in scenic Jackson County in the quaint university town of Cullowhee, Sundrops at Caney Fork
    bills itself as an intimate mountain community. Nestled in a valley along Caney Fork Creek, one of the best trout streams in Western North Carolina, Sundrops offers a club house and pool, fly fishing, canoeing and swimming along Caney Fork Creek, trails and pocket parks that meander through forests and mountain hillsides, a garden and orchards planted and harvested by residents, and mountain meadows where children of all ages can fly kites or throw Frisbees.
    Sundrops at Caney Fork Lakeside Amenities on Bear Creek Lake in Western NC

    Offsite amenities include a private lakefront facility on Bear Creek Lake, a boat dock, and luxury yurts for overnight camping. Jackson County is renowned for its proximity to several national forests and wildlife areas including Panthertown Valley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and The Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, golfing, rafting, birding, and trail riding, the area is also a prime fishing destination. Bear Creek Lake, with its 13.5 miles of shoreline, and the Tuckasegee River, with more fish per mile than any other river in North Carolina, are well-known for trout fishing.

    Located just twenty minutes north of Cashiers and around an hour west of Asheville, the Caney Fork area has long been home to a thriving arts community of artisan boutiques and antique dealers. Cashiers features several well-known scenic mountains including Rock Mountain, Yellow Mountain, and Chimney Top. The tallest waterfall in the Eastern United States is located at Whiteside.

    , located just 30 miles from Cullowhee, offers an abundant array of antique shops, art galleries, home furnishing stores, and distinguished restaurants. Cultural attractions include The American Museum of Cut and Engraved Glass, The Highlands Playhouse Summer Stock Theater, and
    The Highland Cashiers Chamber Music Concerts.

    A number of adult learning classes are available through Western North Carolina's Continuing and Professional Education program. A
    lso located in Cullowhee, the University offers a number of classes, conferences, and workshops, everything from Glass Blowing and Crafting to Mountain Dulcimer Week.

    For information on retirement and second home developments nearby university settings in the southeast, send your inquiries to info@southeastdiscovery.com and we'll get back to you with a prompt reply.

  • Having Differences On Where To Retire? Look at the High Country of WNC

    Posted Under: General Area in Blowing Rock, Quality of Life in Blowing Rock, In My Neighborhood in Blowing Rock  |  August 20, 2012 8:30 AM  |  753 views  |  2 comments

    He likes to golf, she likes to hike; he likes to read, she enjoys skiing; he enjoys fly-fishing, she loves the theater; he loves the water, she loves the mountains...Might this sound familiar?

    Deciding where to live
    the second half of your life, called ‘retirement’, can be a transition that takes some time to getting used to. Ten, 20 years ago, perhaps you dreamed of an exotic plan such as living your later years in Belize. But the dream morphed as interests changed. Adult children and their whereabouts; quality of and access to health care becoming a concern; being far from long term friendships; and perhaps your finances today aren’t as sturdy as you had hoped.

    "Many couples don't discuss where they will live in retirement until it is almost upon them," according to Dorian Mintzer and Roberta K. Taylor, coauthors of the just-released The Couple's Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Transitioning the Second Half of Life (Lincoln Street Press; 306 pp; $17.95).

    "Some assume that their partners share their visions... while others suspect their partners have different destinations in mind and put off these conversations to avoid arguments." In fact, Fidelity Investments found that 60% of couples participating in a 2009 study couldn't agree on when to retire. "If couples can begin to talk about the issues, they really do get to know what is important to each of them," says Mintzer. "They can develop a shared vision," but one that can consist of two parts - what he likes, what she likes.

    After all, as director David Ekerdt of the Gerontology Center at the University of Illinois says, "Everyone thinks about moving in retirement... Moving represents freedom - It represents the ability to take off."
    Headwaters at Banner Elk
    That brings us to the High Country region of North Carolina - and it should bring you. No matter how diverse the interests might be between spouses, if there are two of you to please, you just might find what each of you are looking for in this seven-county region of Western North Carolina that borders Eastern Tennessee and Virginia. And two communities worth noting in the High Country of Western North Carolina are Headwaters at Banner Elk and Hound Ears in Boone.

    Some things to ponder… Do either (or both) of you:

    - Like side-of-the-road shops?
    - Have a passion for golf, hiking, skiing or bicycling?
    - Have an appreciation for quality, one-of-a-kind restaurants?
    - Enjoy the arts, be they visual, performing or educational?
    - Hope to learn a new hobby or activity?
    - Think that nothing can beat a "cut your own" Christmas tree?
    - Feel drawn to nature - and the more of it, the better?
    - Cherish privacy as much as good friends?

    If either (or both) of you gave a nod, hmmm... or "uh-huh" to any of the above, then you're half-way to High Country. But first, you'll need some "bragging rights" to tell the folks back home:

    - The "Three Bs" - Banner Elk, Blowing Rock and Boone - are High Country's better-known communities. But there are many off-the-beaten-path towns worth a look-see. Towns with names that are romantic, quaint and head-scratching, like Roaring Gap, Todd, Plumtree, Seven Devils, Beaver Dam, Elk, Laurel Creek, Meat Camp and Shawneehaw.

    - High Country is...well, high. Boone, North Carolina - at 3,333 feet - is the highest major town east of the Mississippi River. And, just a few miles south, is the 5,506-foot Beech Mountain, North Carolina, the highest incorporated town east of the Rockies. Farther south is Newland, the highest county seat in North Carolina at 3,589 feet. So, you can say - without exaggeration - that you'll be living the high life in the High Country.
    Snow skiing in High Country, North Carolina

    - The "Big 3 Ski" resorts - Beech, Sugar and Appalachian - together comprise the largest ski region in the Southeast, and their slopes rival the "big boys" of northern New England (more about them in a minute).

    - In National Geographic Adventure Magazine's ranking of the top 50 adventure towns in the United States back in 2007, Boone was 7th! And U.S. News & World Report ranked Boone in the Top 10 in two categories - "Affordable Towns for Retirement," and "Places to Retire on Social Security Alone." If you need a personal recommendation, how about one from 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong? In his autobiography, It's Not About The Bike, he affectionately called Boone "a hippie town," but he was actually referring to the High Country in general when he wrote, "I had spent many afternoons cycling and suffering on its biggest peak, Beech Mountain," where he won a stage in the 1995 Tour DuPont. He returned to the region in 1998, when he launched his comeback, and later wrote, "If I ever have any serious problems again, I know that I will go back to Boone and find an answer... I got my life back on those rides."

    To get your life back, after a lifetime of meetings, deadlines, quotas or market volatility, try these on for size:

    - It’s High Country's "shopping center;" you name the store or label, you'll find it at one of a number of major malls; and its eclectic main street (King Street) has everything from sage advice to outdoor gear.
    Continuing Education for Baby Boomers
    - It’s home to Appalachian State University (ASU) - and that means more than "just" its 17,000 students enrolled in more than 140 undergraduate and graduate majors. It means year-round arts programs for the public, including its famed Appalachian Music Festival each summer. And it is home to Appalachian Lifelong Learning, a year-round lifelong learning program that offers lectures, courses, field trips, special events for adults age 50 and over. If, when you move to the High Country region, you're more interested in creative expression, ASU has workshops on such hands-on hobbies as jewelry-making, copper, pottery, photography, woodworking, mosaics, glass, weaving, metalworking, quilting, basket making, architecture, drawing and painting...

    - It has a wide range of dining options, including the famous Dan'l Boone Inn. Since 1959, folks - mostly tourists - have enjoyed its family-style meals. In fact, it placed third in a recent Southern Living's reader's choice awards for country-cooking restaurants. Another very popular spot is Mike's Inland Seafood near the malls. More adventurous taste buds seek out Coyote Kitchen and its mix of Mexican and American fare, and discriminating diners head for Shulls Mill Road and either The Table at Crestwood and its sweeping views, or the Gamekeeper Restaurant, which offers the freshest game and fish dinners around - though some might argue that the two are in Blowing Rock.
    Hound Ears Golf Development in Boone NC

    - It’s where you'll find Hound Ears Club just 15 minutes south of downtown. Its 355 homes and 80 condos are spread over 750 wooded acres along a regularly-stocked river and offering commanding mountain views. The gated community also boasts a George Cobb-designed golf course and many other on-site activities and amenities.

    - It also has a public golf facility, Boone Golf Club, designed by Ellis Maples, which is open April-November, with a pro shop, restaurant and putting green available.

    - It’s considered the skiing "epicenter," with Beech Mountain just to its north, and Sugar Mountain a few miles south. By the way, they're not just for skiers anymore. For example, Beech Mountain also has 51 miles of bicycling routes. And, in mid-2011, the Beech Mountain Adventure Trail Park opened the 8-mile Emerald Outback trails, a combination of single track, double track and gravel road trails, helping the town to be named host for the 2011 and 2012 USA Cycling Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships. And Sugar Mountain's miles of hiking and biking trails are accessible from many points, free of charge May through October from dawn until dusk.

    - Banner Elk’s Sugar Mountain Golf Club, an 18-hole municipal course designed by Frank Duane, longtime project manager for Robert Trent Jones, Sr., with 9-par threes, 8 par fours and a single par five, at an elevation of 4,000 feet.

    - It has some "horse-sense" - Banner Elk Stables, which offers trail rides for people of all riding levels to views of four states on clear days.

    -- It’s home to restaurants old and new. Jackalope's View, near Beech, has four season views and meals fit for a gourmand. Closer to town is Zuzda, where "you can eat at the same place every day for three months and never order the same dish twice," which is why the tapas restaurant is so popular among locals.

    - On the main drag (Tynecastle Highway) is the information office for The Headwaters at Banner Elk, a luxury gated community that has six community parks, two lakes, miles of professionally built trails and a mountaintop clubhouse. It features mountain cottages, turn-key homes and custom homes, as well as villas and townhouses.

    - Just off Tynecastle is the entrance to Lees-McRae College, home to about 700 students enrolled in 23 majors and two dozen minors. Its Performing Arts Center offers concerts and drama throughout the school year, while continuing education classes, numerous trips and expeditions for indiviudals are offered through the college.

    - Banner Elk is also home to a giant monolith building, atop Sugar Mountain, called "Sugartop," which was built in 1981. It caused such a public outcry that "ridge laws" were passed restricting the size and location of buildings on mountain ridgelines and to prevent scarring the landscape. One can see this building from miles away as it awkwardly sits at the top of the mountain.

    - It’s also considered a gateway to Grandfather Mountain at the intersection of Tynecastle and NC 105, there's the Hearthstone Tavern and Grille. We think you'll enjoy the ambience as much as the food - stone fireplaces, dark wood everywhere. The menu has just about everything, from steaks and seafood to rack of lamb, Carolina shrimp 'n' grits, sandwiches, salads and drinks.

    - Where you can enjoy music in all forms. For example, the Blowing Rock Jazz Society performs once a month at the scenic Meadowbrook Inn. Since concerts start at 7 p.m., get to the Inn early enough to savor the kitchen's dining delights.
    Blowing Rock, North Carolina

    - Home to more than 100 shops, about two dozen restaurants, and nearly 20 hotels and inns. Two "musts" for fine dining are both on Sunset Drive - Best Cellar (try its
    Almond encrusted NC Black Grouper) and Crippen's, whose head chef is a frequent guest on nationally broadcast TV food shows. And, for views with your veal, try Rowland's.

    - Equestrian events aplenty. In fact, America's oldest continuous running horse show - the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show - is hosted by the Blowing Rock Equestrian Preserve, just three miles west of downtown and across from Bass Lake.

    - For professional theater, there's no finer in Carolina than the Ensemble Stage, offering full-length plays year-round.

    - Learn to ski, or hone your Olympic skills, at the French Swiss Ski School atop Appalachian Ski Mountain, considered the oldest such school in the South. The instructors have taught everyone from beginners to Navy SEALS.

    - Home to two popular tourist spots - Tweetsie Railroad, and The Blowing Rock. Tweetsie's been a-tootin' for as long as some folks can remember, and it's not just for kids. There are live "gunfights" and other forms of ruckus every day. The Blowing Rock's a bit more tranquil, but the view will take your breath away.

    -- The new Blowing Rock Art & History Museum will open to the public in October 2011 and will offer programs and classes for children and adults, special cultural events and educational exhibitions featuring regional artistic and historic subjects. See the website for hours and information. The mission of the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM) is to promote the visual arts, history and heritage of the mountains through educational programs, exhibitions and significant permanent collections.

    Those are just a few of the endless possibilities available in the High Country of North Carolina. If you would like more information about this mountain region,
    or about The Headwaters at Banner Elk or Hound Ears in Boone North Carolina, send your inquiries to info@southeastdiscovery.com and we'll get back to you with a prompt reply.
  • The Hollywood of the East - Wilmington North Carolina

    Posted Under: General Area in Wilmington, Quality of Life in Wilmington, Entertainment & Nightlife in Wilmington  |  August 20, 2012 6:31 AM  |  849 views  |  No comments

    While Wilmington, NC and the Cape Fear Coast area is known for beautiful beaches, a lovely downtown historic district, and gracious Southern hospitality, don’t be surprised if your visit here also includes a celebrity citing or two, film production trucks blocking your route to a favorite Wilmington-area destination, or hordes of teenage girls lining the streets of downtown Wilmington, waiting to catch a glimpse of their favorite show, “One Tree Hill,” being filmed. It’s all part of Wilmington’s movie star charm.

    While promoters call the town “Hollywood East,” you’re more likely to hear locals affectionately refer to it as “Wilmywood.”
    Hollywood first came calling in 1983, when Academy Award-winning filmmaker Dino DeLaurentiis discovered Wilmington while scouting locations for Stephen King's Firestarter.

    Charmed by the area, he established DEG Film Studios here in 1984. The sound stages are now owned by EUE/Screen Gems Studios, the largest full service motion picture facility east of California. "Dream Stage 10," the facility's newest sound stage, is the third-largest in the U.S., and houses the largest special-effects water tank in North America.

    EUE/Screen Gems Studios offers many amenities to film and television production companies, including 10 stages, post-production services, more than 20,000 square feet of production office space, a 40-seat screening room, editing suites, sound transfer services, lighting and grip equipment rental, set construction shops and more.

    Since 1983, over 400 productions have filmed here. Filmmakers are drawn to the region’s mild climate, island beaches, and diverse shooting locations, including varied landscapes, both modern and turn-of-the-century architecture, bridges, Victorian houses, farms/farmlands, college campuses, beaches, marshlands, small town vistas, harbors, and many other film-friendly locations.

    Nine television series — Matlock, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, The Road Home, American Gothic, Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, Surface, Little Britain USA, and Eastbound and Down — have filmed here, along with numerous music videos, television commercials, and still photography shoots.

    Wilmington’s many feature film credits include Lolita, Billy Bathgate, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Domestic Disturbance, The Hudsucker Proxy, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Betsy's Wedding, The Runaway, 28 Days, Black Knight, Muppets From Space, Rambling Rose, Year of the Dragon, Elmo In Grouchland, The Jackal, Maximum Overdrive, Silver Bullet, Blue Velvet, Firestarter, Sleeping With the Enemy and Weekend at Bernie's. Several recent movies were filmed in the Wilmington area, including The Secret Lives of Bees, Nights in Rodanthe and Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever.

    And because Wilmington has been an active production hub since the early 1980’s, an entire infrastructure has evolved in the region to support the industry, with film production playing an important role in the city's economy. A large assortment of companies in the Wilmington area provide goods and services tailored to the film and tv industry, such as caterers, equipment rentals, construction companies, transportation service companies, audio and visual companies, and
    hotels and accommodation providers.

    The local crew base in the Wilmington region includes over 700 professionals, with decades of experience in major film and TV production. Crewmembers include grips, electricians, accountants, casting directors, camera technicians, special effects technicians, location managers, set decorators, and more.

    The Wilmington Regional Film Commission, Inc. (WRFC), a small 501(c) non-profit corporation,
    was created to market southeastern North Carolina’s unique assets to the production industry. The Commission operates through funding from a variety of private and public revenue streams, including New Hanover County, the City of Wilmington, and advertising sales from the annually-produced Wilmington Regional Production Guide.

    The WRFC facilitates on-location filmmaking within the region by offering production companies a range of pre-production services, and provides information regarding local film procedures, permits, and guidelines, and serves as liaison with government agencies. The Commission also assists with site location photography, a location library, regional scouting services, and logistical information about crew, studio, equipment, stages, and support services. Fees collected for film permits go toward downtown Wilmington beautification projects.
    Wilmington, North Carolina Boardwalk
    With the thriving movie industry here, visitors can almost certainly expect to bump into someone involved in the “business” in some way during their stay – from local musicians who performed in The Radioland Murders, to dancers who danced in Stomping at the Savoy, to one of the many local “techies,” movie extras, or even bonified stars: everyone from Julia Roberts to Sandra Bullock to Nicole Kidman and Martin Lawrence have enjoyed Wilmington’s charms while working on projects here. Many have put down more permanent roots in town, including Linda Lavin, most well-known for starring as Alice on the CBS sitcom of the same name, who owns the Red Barn Studio theater here, and the late Dennis Hopper, who invested in downtown property. Other stars who have invested in Wilmington-area property include
    Tom Berenger and Pat Hingle.

    For those with a real hankering to see where it all the magic happens, public walking tours are available at EUE/Screen Gems Studios at 12 and 2 pm on Saturdays year round. Or sign up for a “Hollywood Location Walk,” a 90-minute guided tour of downtown movie locations and actual sets from Wilmington’s highest profile movies and tv shows. Or if celebrity-citing is more your thing, simply pull up a seat at one of the many watering holes in town that seem to be a favorite among the stars, such as Deluxe, Circa 1922, and Level 5, all in downtown Wilmington.

    Wilmington and coastal North Carolina continue to be an attractive destination among retirees and second home buyers. If currently in the market for a retirement or second home at the coast, send your inquiries to info@southeastdiscovery.com regarding coastal communities in this area and we'll get back to you with a prompt reply.
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