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As Memorial Day approaches and the slumbering RVs of over 15 million families will wake up, planning for the upcoming big weekend and beyond will begin. Where to go, where to stay, what to do and what to bring will be the topic of conversation for weeks as maps are opened and the Internet is scoured for ideas and inspiration. One of our favorite places, and very popular with the tourists, is the Nantahala National Forest in Bryson City, NC. Beautiful and filled with non-stop adventure, the Nantahala National Forest is the perfect destination for families looking to unplug and reconnect. Read on for Insider Secrets to Family Fun in the Nantahala National Forest.
If it’s summer, it’s road trip season. Many families are in the process of scouring sites. They have saved many pins in search of the ideal family vacation spot. Personally, I’m a huge fan of incorporating a family vacation that eliminates electronics and wifi and encourages families talking and laughing and hanging out together. Road trips are a great opportunity to do just this, as is camping in our beautiful national forests. If you’re looking for family fun in the Nantahala National Forest around Bryson City, NC, look no further. Check out these tips for a fun and exciting family vacations.
Where To Stay for Family Fun in Nantahala National Forest
We travel on a budget, which means we are always looking for great places, unknown gems. We crave diamonds in the rough that are off the beaten path to lay our weary heads. Our favorite finds are places that are quiet and beautiful, yet relatively inexpensive. We found such a place at Nelson’s Hideaway in the Nantahala National Forest.
Nelson’s Hideaway is a gorgeous forested hidden gem with endless hot water, rolling hills, and huge trees perfect for hanging a hammock. Our kids loved that there was a year round creek and we loved the full hookups. It is peaceful and quiet and a retreat from the hustle and bustle of your typical RV campground.
What it is not, is a four star resort. There is no pool or spa or exercise room. You will not find a restaurant or artificial entertainment of any kind. Really, though, I don’t think that is what visitors are looking for in the Nantahala National Forest, are they? Nelson’s is like the Nantahala National Forest;it is rustic, it is bare bones, it is the ideal campground for a back-to-nature family adventure.
As an added bonus, it is almost entirely Internet free. In fact, parents, if you don’t tell your children that you can get a fairly decent wifi signal at the “lodge,”hey will never know. It is at the lodge where you can sit idly, rocking in a rocking chair, watching the clouds roll by. For what it’s worth, Nelson’s does have cable.
Now, we are fulltimers and really don’t watch TV, so it was a surprise perk for us. Others may choose to forgo the cable as they try to recapture the simple things in life and reconnect with their families around the fire and in the forest.
Where to Eat
In the towns surrounding the Nantahala National Forest, you will find amazingly terrific food, like the most delicious pizza.
One day, as we were kayaking down the all too familiar Nantahala River with our youngest kids, we paddled past a little shack. One of our friends, who frequents the Nantahala River, made an off-handed comment. He said that they served the “best pizza on the planet.” I glanced up and saw a group of people looking off the railing, waving and hooting for our little groms. We waved back and I made a mental note to check the place out “one day.”
Well, as chance would have it, we were absolutely starving as we took off the river. A few of our other friends indicated they wanted to go to Pizza By The River. Pizza By The River happens to be that little shack I mentally filed away earlier in the day. As we pulled up I was immediately thrilled with the atmosphere.
Play a game of darts, build a fire, browse the extensive license plate collection or simply chill and watch the river. A friendly owner took our order – a very large order, about 10 pizzas in all and drinks – with pleasure and our order was up in no time flat. The pizza? Well, yes, it was the best pizza on the planet. No wonder it’s a locals’ fave!
What to Do
The question is more, what isn’t there to do? Family fun in the Nantahala National Forest is abundant. I can tell you our main focus is the Nantahala River. We love kayaking here. But, there is also whitewater rafting, slalom gates and spots at Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) where kids and pets alike can wade and splash and play around in the water.
In the same general area you can also find non-river activities. There is ziplining, a ropes course, and there is camping. Of course, the Appalachian Trail runs through here, so there is amazing hiking. We took about a 9 mile round jaunt on the AT one day and the views were ridiculously beautiful.
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Swimming, Biking, Fishing and More!
Fontana Lake is also nearby, so a lovely day swimming, SUP’ing, sunning and/or flat water kayaking could be on the docket for a family vacation.
If you are a biker looking for an adrenaline filled ride, check out the Tsali Recreation Area for a heart pumping mountain bike ride. In addition, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers many scenic trips, including a Nantahala Gorge Excursion.
And you know, for any budding geologists or gemologists, gem mining in Franklin, NC would be a great hands on experience for everyone!!
There is fishing and tubing and you can even take a Jeep Tour. Whatever it is your family is hoping to do on your vacation, family fun in the Nantahala National Forest is totally achievable. It’s the place to go because it has everything…except the beach.