Here is a breathtakingly scenic and immensly enjoyable vacation idea to commemorate the winding down of what was an excellent summer, albeit a hot one here in NC. Bryson City, which lies about an hour north of Asheville, and is near Cherokee, way, WAY up in the NC mountains, is home to the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad- a rustic and nostalgic steam engine that runs out of Dillsboro as well (many parents may know this location as it is the home of "A Day Out With Thomas" featuring Thomas the train and friends...my nephew thought he had died and gone to heaven here....also a great trip for the younger folk, but I digress). The train has open air cars and bench seating, so luxury it is not, but the appeal here is it's winding and twisting through areas of the mountains the roads do not generally go, and getting to see the endless beauty of the NC wildlife and flora/fauna uninhibited by highways and buildings.
The other half of the wonderful trip is going just due northwest of here to Nantahala, and going whitewater rafting down the river. The Nantahala River is a class 1-3 river, which means that it has fairly mild rapids, with one good one at the end (Nanthala falls!
) Anyone without crippling hydrophobia should be ok, any ages too (my nephew went down the river with my mother and her partner ).
Now what makes these together a great vacation is the fact that the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers a trip called the "Raft and Rail". This trip takes you on the train through the Nantahala Gorge, all the way up to the Nantahala River, where you take a bus to the take off point, and raft down the river! when you get done they have lunch and hot showers waiting for you, and you can purchase pictures of the rafting trip!
Here's the website for anyone interested....it really is a great trip, My wife and I did it 3 years ago in August and had a blast! http://www.gsmr.com/