In Western North Carolina mountains, Highlands is a small mountain town that has been a sought-after vacation destination and second home location since the late 1800s. According to legend the town of Highlands was founded when two developers Samuel Truman Kelsey and Clinton Carter Hutchinson drew a line on a map from Chicago to Savannah and another line from New Orleans to New York City in 1875. They predicted that these lines would be major trade routes in the future, and where these lines crossed would become a population center. Their prediction wasn’t far from true given Atlanta's proximity to Highlands. However, the terrain would prove difficult for it to be part of a major trade route. What did develop was a health and summer resort community. This historical town is the highest elevation [incorporated] town east of the Rockies and enjoys wonderfully cool summers - the perfect place to call home. Surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest one can fill the days with hikes through lush forests, picnics beside magnificent cascading waterfalls, or fly fishing in some of the most pristine headwaters in North America. In 1928 the first private golf course was opened and became the practice grounds for the great golf legend Bobby Jones making Highlands a mecca for links lovers. Now there are several golf communities designed by golf legends like Arnold Palmer and renowned golf architects like Tom Fazio. If you are a golf lover Highlands is the place for you. Play on emerald green courses under sapphire skies with breathtaking mountain views as the backdrop. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Highlands boasts everything from quintessential mountain cabins to spacious luxury homes, some of which are estates, and many of which are custom-built. Condos and townhomes can also be found in several of the gated communities as well as in town.
Highlands is home to a variety of people, from artists and musicians to entrepreneurs and sometimes even the rich and famous. One cannot visit Highlands without setting aside time to explore Main Street. Four blocks of unique stores and restaurants offering culinary delights. And we can’t forget to mention the luxury hotels and spas, and art galleries that can be found with a simple stroll down Main Street as well. If Mother Nature’s back yard is more your style, take a short drive out of town in almost any direction to explore nearby national forest tourist stops and campgrounds. Some must-see destinations are Dry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, the breathtaking 411’ Whitewater Falls, and both the Whiteside Mountain overlook and the hiking trail to the top of Whiteside.
If art is your passion then plan on spending a few hours at the Bascom Art Center on the edge of town. They have a variety of art on display and offer classes for all skill levels in a number of mediums year-round.
For the golfer of your party, there are several clubs available to choose from. Some are private and will require a membership and/or be a property owner, while others are public. All are worth checking out next time you visit.
As you explore this lively mountain town, you will find plenty of options for anything from designer clothes to toys, to your quintessential rustic mountain findings. The “main” block of Main Street is home to stores like J. McLaughlin, Rosenthal’s Boutique, Bear Mountain Outfitters, Annawear and Lulu Bleu (just to name a few) for high-end clothing and apparel for the whole family. There is also Reeve’s Hardware for all your camping and home DIY project needs. If you are looking to kit out your new mountain home, be sure to stop in to Acorns at Old Edwards Inn, Dutchmans Designs, and Bardo for high-quality and unique furnishings. Highlands is also very pet friendly, with most stores offering water dishes and treats outside and a few boutiques offering everything from specialty treats to toys and outfits. Then, when all your walking and shopping builds up a healthy appetite, your only challenge will be deciding which of the long lists of fantastic restaurants to choose.
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