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  • Writer's pictureJuliet Weller

Bourbon, Bluegrass and Blue Ridge Mountains

While everyone is caught up in the celebration of all things U.S.A., I thought it might be the perfect time for this bit of travel inspiration - an awesome family or small group adventure. Small group? What's that? Well, actually you get to decide. If your household, and the five closest neighboring households have been tightly sequestered and you all feel ready for your break-free-safely moment, then ~ta-dah~ instant small group. Maybe it's your annual summertime family reunion; getting the far-flung relatives together for a two-week summer tour makes a perfect small group that's ripe for memory-making, laughter and extraordinary enjoyment. The wine ladies; the golfing more-than-a-foursome when you add spouses and offspring; best friends from college...all are small groups. And if it's just you, with or without an 'other', significant or not, you can still enjoy this memorable journey; the devil is in the details and the details are my job. I'll make it happen for you.

The highlights of your grand undiscovered southern journey through the Virginias, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Maryland, and Pennsylvania come with a bonus - if there are school-aged youngsters in your group, the history and geography lessons never stop; the enculturation gained here will never happen in their Zoom-based classrooms. Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.

Making your way through colorful mountain regions, historically significant towns, and Civil War battlefields, you’ll follow colonists, presidents, soldiers, and some of America’s greatest industrialists and entrepreneurs. Colonial Williamsburg, somber Gettysburg Battlefield, Asheville’s grand Biltmore Estate, and the sprawling plantations of Virginia that Washington and Jefferson called home, as well as the South’s current “it” cities of Asheville, Nashville, and Chattanooga, the land of mares, mint juleps, and mandolins. Some of the bigger experiences on this tour come in small packages, like a visit to Lincoln’s birthplace, Colonel Sanders’ original fried chicken restaurant, the “Smokeless Coal Capital” of Beckley, and Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, which inspired the fictional town of Mayberry. Roll through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the small towns and significant cities of the historic South on a rail, or luxury motor coach with dedicated driver and tour director who have deep roots in the area, as well as unsurpassed detailed knowledge of the history and lore to educate and fascinate you.

- Learn about the production of Kentucky Straight Bourbon, made from a mash of at least 51% corn grain, and enjoy a tasting. Or get a buzz out of a tasting at the 200-year old Buffalo Trace Distillery, a world leader among bourbon makers.

- Enjoy the the Kentucky Horse Park, from where legends like Man o’War and Secretariat conquered the racing world; or spend time at the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm, home to more than 200 rescued and retired race horses. - In Louisville, stop at the legendary Brown Hotel to taste its famous Hot Brown open-faced sandwich. - Enjoy a guided tour of the 250-room mansion at George Vanderbilt’s grand Biltmore Estate—the largest privately-owned home in the U.S.— followed by a farm-to-table lunch in its boutique- and bistro-lined Antler Hill Village. Make sure you save room for a night on the town in eclectic Asheville, known for its low key vibe and high number of microbreweries. - Visit the Gettysburg Battlefield, site of the decisive Civil War campaign and where Abraham Lincoln delivered his immortal Gettysburg Address. There’s plenty to toast in two more of the South’s emerging cities where the music, dining, and art scenes have the world taking notice. In the charismatic, waterfront city of Chattanooga, you’ll visit the pop culture-themed Songbird Guitar Museum and taste the city’s famous MoonPie treat before heading to Nashville for guided sightseeing, a farewell dinner, and accommodations near the melodious sounds of Honky Tonk Row.

Your multi-state southern adventure is full of memorable and fascinating sights, intoxicating sounds, heady aromas and tantalizing flavors. Take these memories home and share them. Remind family and friends of the excitement and goosebumps of exploring the mysteries of unknown places, of experiencing through the senses instead of the screen or page, of opening the eyes of the young ones to the wonders of the world they live in.

'til next week.

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