Tag Archives | travel

20 Best North Carolina High Country Fall Family Activities + Rent Our Mountain House!

As soon as September arrives, I always start dreaming of a fall family trip to North Carolina.

I love living in Florida, but since the mister and I both grew up out west, we start to crave fall weather and the changing colors! Getting away to see the leaves changing colors, hiking in the early cool mornings, sipping hot cocoa, and visiting the local farmer’s market and pumpkin patch makes us very happy. We’ve been doing it every fall for 20 years! 

We made a goal to buy a house in North Carolina by our 20th wedding anniversary! Well, Clementine Cabin is almost finished and we’re sharing it with you as one of the best vacation rentals in Banner Elk, North Carolina! Yes, you can rent our vacation home! Hooray! 

So, if you’re looking for a little fall getaway, check out our mountain house and rent it yourself! 

Either way, here are my top 10 favorite activities that I’ve been dreaming about for a fall family trip. We’re sneaking away to North Carolina in the next several weeks:

  1. Staying at our favorite getaway (Clementine Cabin!)
  2. Wrapped up in a blanket sipping cocoa on the porch (listening to the creek!)
  3. Bouldering at Hebron Rock Colony
  4. New River pumpkin patch and corn maze
  5. Boone Farmer’s Market
  6. Sitting by the river at Banner Elk Winery
  7. Stopping to shop and antique in quaint little shops (they are everywhere!)
  8. Smores on the fire pit
  9. Caramel apples at Kilwin’s in Blowing Rock
  10. Grabbing a pretzel at Lost Province Brewing Co. 
  11. Shopping for stocking stuffers in Blowing Rock
  12. Mast General Store in Valle Crucis
  13. Apple Picking at The Historic Orchard at Altapass
  14. Dinner on the patio at Over Yonder
  15. Hiking, Hiking, Hiking
  16. The fall colors! Need I say more! 
  17. A picnic on the grass by the New River 
  18. Grabbing a Dutch Creek icecream
  19. Music in the Park at Valle Crucis
  20.  Spending time with the boys 

Do you have a fall family tradition that you look forward to? I would love to hear – leave a comment below!

Holiday Traveling? Can a Long Distance Trip be Eco-Friendly?

Eco-Friendly-FlightsNOTE: This post was written for me – thank you for supporting the companies that help keep Sweet Greens in business.

Like most families, the annual vacation is something we all look forward to – my family is super excited for our fall family trip later this month! With the holidays right around the corner, we will be traveling again to spend time with friends and family – like many of you! While most of our travels are done by car, your long distance trip may require you to fly to your vacation destination. Naturally, you may be concerned about flying and whether you will be undoing a year’s worth of good eco-friendly living with this one trip, while flying isn’t always the most eco-friendly option – it is something a necessity, so we have outlined 3 tips to help make your next flight to your vacation destination more eco-friendly.

1. Flying the Eco-Friendly Skies
Lowering emissions on a jumbo jet is no easy task, but the major airlines are trying to find new ways to lower emissions and make the skies a lot friendlier. First of all, airlines are exploring the use of biodiesel fuels as an alternative way of fueling flights. While there have been several successful flights with 100% biodiesel on board, bio diesel has a major drawback in that it freezes, thickening up like gravy. All is not lost, though; blending biodiesel with jet fuel generates a more environmentally-friendly fuel that won’t freeze up at 40,000 feet. While the fueling debate and experimentation continues, airlines are taking other steps to assist environmentally-savvy travelers, helping them to travel with peace of mind. Many airlines are using environmentally-conscious materials, both inside the plane and in the structure itself, to increase efficiency and decrease excess carbon output. Airlines are also adjusting flight patterns, improving the quality of landing procedures, and making it easier for planes to fly higher and faster. Hopefully as more time passes, flying the eco-friendly skies will become easier to do.

2. Off-Set Your Carbon Vacation Footprint
Even with all the advances that airlines are making, you have to acknowledge that, no matter where you go,  you will be in an aircraft producing greenhouse gases. Nearly ten percent of the greenhouse gases on earth are produced by aircraft. For the environmentally-conscious, this is a real problem; the solution for many is carbon off-setting. Carbon off-setting allows you to make up for the polluting emissions that your flight will be causing by having trees planted to restore balance in the environment. Many airlines, including American Airlines, are partnering with carbon off-setting companies to offer passengers a way to restore balance to the environment and still enjoy the vacation. Once you have your flight information, you can enter it into one of a number of websites that calculates flight mileage and total carbon emissions. Then, simply pay the desired amount to off-set the effects of your vacation footprint.

3. Look for Alternatives
Planning a family vacation that required you to fly to your destination means considering the effects that your trip would have on the environment. I recommend looking at alternatives to flying but, when a flight can’t be avoided, to do the research and try to make your trip as green as possible. After selecting your flight plan carefully, look for an airline that demonstrates a concern for the environment and a desire to improve their carbon footprint by increasing fuel efficiency and offering eco-friendly features such as carbon off-setting.

It is possible to travel the world and keep on saving the world in the process. All it takes is some savvy research and careful planning.

Thanksgiving Planning: Island Edition

castaway beach

Most years we host Thanksgiving dinner at our home – however, this year we don’t have family coming into town to visit so we decided to travel for Thanksgiving. We booked a week at a fun, red cottage on Sanibel Island. We are meeting the mister’s uncle and aunt there for a little fun in the sun!

On our way there, we plan to pick up Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods and of course, we will pack our favorite wine too! Our week will be spent outside beach combing (Sanibel is known as the best place to shell in the country!), biking the island (you don’t need a car!), checking out the local shops and eateries, and taking long walks with Noodles and Olive. We are super excited! While I love hosting Thanksgiving dinner, I think it will be nice to sleep in late on the big day (no housecleaning or cooking!) and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner outside next to the ocean.

How about you – do you have an unconventional Thanksgiving planned? Are you traveling? Where are you off to?

This Holiday Season Consider a Green Retreat


NOTE: This post wasn’t written by me – thank you for supporting the companies that help keep Sweet Greens in business.


The holidays are right around the corner! In fact, Thanksgiving is over a month away. If you are taking a vacation for Thanksgiving or the upcoming winter holidays, you should consider a green retreat. Green retreats are great alternatives to the usual vacation; whether they are at exclusive hotels, glamping yurts or whole permanent communities, there are so many benefits to this new and gentler way of life.

What are green retreats?

Green retreats are hotels and communities that take moral responsibility for their immediate environments, living off the land and the resources it provides without destroying its capabilities or reducing its ability to regenerate. Green retreats are lovely places to live and stay with facilities that emphasize the well-being of those who use them. Green retreats are beautiful communities that work together to reduce waste, reduce pollution and to allow living in the most eco-friendly way possible.

As you can see, one definition probably doesn’t fit all, but even with the diversity of many types of green retreats, both temporary and permanent, you can already see what they’re aiming for.

What are the benefits?

Obviously, there’s a huge environmental benefit, and while it might seem like a pointless effort against the crazy amount of pollution still being pumped into the atmosphere across the world, every little helps.

On top of the very real, quantifiable benefits of environmental improvement, health and well-being, the community aspects of these places are really the cherry on top. There’s so much missing from life in the world, that a feeling of community is often the first thing to go. Living permanently in a green retreat when you have small children growing up is some kind of idyllic dream, because everyone is vested in ensuring that the recycling is sorted, the gardens are kept beautiful, energy and water are saved, and that the dream remains a real utopia. Think how it could change your children’s lives right into their futures.

Much of the value of green retreats lies in them being little oases of calm, with each one of them being a safe, secluded place where you can live or holiday without fear of the outside world ruining it. They’re naturally places that promote health and well-being, because looking after the earth goes hand-in-hand with looking after yourselves. And that’s where the facilities come into play.

Great facilities for everyone

Some of these places offer the finest in community health and wellness, from amazing gyms to outside yoga, and because they’re often in beautiful places, you can take advantage of the environment and keep fit by cycling and hiking through glorious countryside and rugged mountains.

Many green-stay places are geared up very well for the modern family, so often you’ll find fitness and well-being classes in yoga, Pilates, bocca, and other up-to-the-minute exercise classes.

If you’re not too fitness-orientated, but you still like to feel good about yourself, many communities have shared gardens, where they grow fresh and often organic vegetables; imagine being able to pick the veggies for dinner instead of just busting open a packet of indeterminate green leaves!

If you don’t even want to handle a gardening level of strenuous activity, why not check out the spa?

Of course, not every eco-hotel or green retreat will offer everything on this list, but there’s a strong chance they’ll offer many of them. Some places are aimed at families with young children, and they’ll have access to schools (if you’re looking at a permanent green community in which to live), toddler groups and hospitals, as well as child-oriented facilities from swimming pools to sports pitches and courts.

There’s often a strong emphasis on community as a way of life, not just as a convenience, so there are likely to be group activities to see and do, committees to join, and events to put on and to attend. The aim, of course, is to provide a fullness of life and a richness of community, of the type you just don’t see in the outside world.

Living in a green-oriented environment, you know that not even a single drop of water is wasted; where the sun’s rays provide one of several sustainable energies that can be used to heat and light your house; one where even your child’s kindergarten is run on eco-friendly diapers and solar panels; this is like some kind of special place. Even though you work hard to make everything you do as good for the earth as possible, knowing that for other people, this kind of thing is made easier, makes you feel good. The easier it is for people to be environmentally friendly, the more likely they are to do just that.

Mountain Apple Picking at the Historic Orchard at Altapass in North Carolina


by Jennie

Before we left for our fall family trip to North Carolina, we made a list of all of the fun things that we wanted to do. The list encompassed all of our yearly must-do activities with a few new activities added in as well. I told the mister that the one thing I would like to do is visit a mountain apple orchard. He said to keep your eye out for one while on one of our many long drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Towards the end of our vacation, we still hadn’t come across an orchard, so I figured it just wasn’t going to happen. Then, one morning I thought we were headed towards another hiking adventure when the mister pulled off the main road down a very steep turn off. When I looked up I saw the Historic orchard at Altapass in front of us! Hooray! He was so excited to surprise me with this special treat and we ended up spending most of the day there. Read on to check it out.


After browsing around in the Altapass Orchard shop, and stopping to listen to a group performing mountain music we decided to venture out into the orchard. There are several different trails that you could take throughout the orchard, and of course we picked the longest one! We ended up so far into the orchard that all of the visitors (and there were a lot that day) seized to exist, we were completely alone. We were able to observe all of the beautiful butterflies floating throughout the orchard and even came upon a buck who was happily munching in the apple trees! He darted out of there too fast to catch him on camera.

There were so many different types of apples, small tart ones, and huge juicy ones that barely fit in the misters hand. It was really cool to visit an orchard that has been around for more than 100 years!


We walked so far that our trail eventually took us into a forest, it was still part of the orchard but so far removed that we didn’t even realize it was there until we were in it. We munched on apples as we walked (we paid for them later!), chatted and just had a wonderful time. By the time we made our way back to the apple-stand, almost everyone was gone except the employees. We bought a couple of root beer floats and sat on the deck relaxing after our 4 hour hike through the orchard. It was pretty amazing – I can’t wait to do it again next year!

+ The Historic Orchard at Altapass
Milepost 328.3 between Mt. Mitchell and Linville Falls.