Ranches, Retreats + Resorts
In the South, we love the outdoors. Give us jeans, a horse and a skillet and we are pretty much as close to heaven as one can get.
Ranches are the best option nowadays for city slickers to taste a bit of the rustic life, often in comfort, and sometimes with a touch of luxury. Retreats can be an escape when one just wants to be enveloped by the sounds of Mother Nature. Resorts are a place to getaway, but with amenities baby! We are talking, spas, dining options, and more!
Hankerin’ for a little horseback action? Got campfires and cookouts, hayrides and lassos on your mind? Well, even if you are a city slicker dude (or dudette) playing cowpoke in the Southeast has never been easier. Dude ranches, sometimes called by the more genteel term guest ranch, are dotted hither and thither upon the Southern landscape.
Cataloochee Guest Ranch
Maggie Valley, North Carolina
Amongst the green-carpeted slopes and ancient hardwoods, there is a place where everyone is welcomed like family. For more than 75 years, the Cataloochee Guest Ranch has called these mountains home, and now extends their family home to visitors. Folks return again and again to establish their own family vacation traditions. This idyllic ranch magically protected by the western North Carolina Mountains, offers several lodging choices from cozy, comfortable rooms in the main Ranch House, to individual cabins that sleep from two to eight people. They offer horseback riding in a spectacular setting for novice to expert riders. Not a rider? Take ambitious hikes or leisurely walks, fish for trout in the pond, go for a wagon ride, or let the kids loose in their seasonally-heated outdoor pool. Explore nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park or check out the craft breweries in the valley. Evenings are for storytelling, piano playing, bonfires and marshmallow roasts, square dancing and clogging, and genuine mountain-style picking and singing.
Another top-notch dude ranch, only about an hour away from the Atlanta, is Jasper, Georgia’s Seventy-Four Ranch. Centered around the historic Butler-Cape House, built in the 1800s, guests have 1,200 acres to ride, and experience cookouts, campfires, fishing and cattle encounters. For a little extra, you can get hands-on instruction in rope handling, horse tack, horse culture and more. Lodging can range from very comfortable rooms at the inn, all with restrooms, to a luxurious tent. Or, if you wanna get the real buckaroo feel, pardner, there’s the Cowboy Cabin, a replica of a mid-1800s cabin made of beams from an 1832 barn. It has a stack-stone fireplace, cedar bed and there’s no power or bath, though cowpokes can mosey on up to the main house to use the facilities.
Shangrila Guest Ranch
South Boston, Virginia
Shangrila Guest Ranch provides all-inclusive horseback riding vacation packages, including hourly and day trail riding. Quality horses, peaceful country setting, and personal service all make for an unforgettable guest ranch experience! The Ranch has something for everyone, from horseback riding and wagon rides, to sitting by the stocked pond with a good book or fishing. All lodging at the guest ranch is private and has a view of horses and pastures. The guest ranch offers all-inclusive horseback riding packages, custom and group packages and packages for those wishing to bring their own trail horse. Children especially enjoy gathering eggs from the chickens, feeding the ducks and other farm animals. Everyone enjoys gathering by the campfire in the evenings to relax, roast marshmallows and stargaze.
At Meadowlake Ranch the Dude Ranch Packages are all-inclusive. Stay in your choice of Lakeside Log Cabin, in-ground Bluff Top Cabin or Authentic Indian Tipi, and included are all meals, trail riding, bank and boat fishing, hiking, horseshoes, nap-inducing hammocks and nightly campfires. You will also experience a host of other ranch activities including tomahawk throwing, knife throwing, archery, BB gun range, sling shot range and when you’re ready, head over the hill to the private shooting range where you can shoot an ol’ fashion Six Gun Revolver. This beautiful property is the perfect getaway and hosts many weddings and special event, but the most notable visit was by Paul McCartney and his wife Nancy.
Known for its serene setting on a 4,200-acre estate in the Smoky Mountain foothills, Blackberry Farm continues to offer gourmet cuisine and a unique luxury stay. This elegant 65-room mountain resort lies in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Many of the luxurious accommodations feature antiques, fireplaces, and verandas. Included among the many available activities are hiking, canoeing, croquet, tennis, mountain biking, seasonal outdoor swimming, culinary sessions, and more. About 25 minutes from Knoxville, you will discover a picture perfect Southern oasis with ribbons of white fences, a pond stocked with catfish, and houses constructed from Tennessee fieldstone. The 51 rooms are spread throughout the main house, along with three guesthouses, and 20 cottages, all done in a plush and luxurious fashion. Regulation rockers are lined up on the front lawn for the best part of the day, sundown.
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Guests have been coming to “take the waters” at this National Historic Landmark resort since 1778. It is located on 11,000 acres in the Allegheny Mountains. White Sulphur Springs is one of three properties to have earned the AAA Five Diamond award for more than 30 consecutive years. A National Historic Landmark, the resort is famous for its classic architecture, landscaped grounds, and outstanding service.
Blending wellness and a sense of place, Travaasa is a holistic retreat with a spectacular location on the edge of the 24,000-acre Balcones Canyonland Preserve. It’s the kind of place where you can go for a gorgeous hike, take a cooking class, have a massage, and enjoy a gourmet farm-to-table meal all in the same day. Leave time to chill in the infinity pool, which delivers a panorama of the hill country landscape. The Total Travaasa price includes meals, snacks, and nonalcoholic beverages; challenge course, yoga, culinary, and other group classes; and a $125 resort credit good toward spa treatments, a private class, or golf.
Luxury resorts in the Southeast United States are plentiful and unique, each with its own style of impeccable service, elegant surroundings, recreational amenities and superb dining. This list highlights several all-season luxury resorts, which appeal equally to couples looking for a romantic retreat and families in search of an ultra-deluxe getaway for all ages.
Gaylord Opryland Resort
This 40-year-old favorite has lush, tropical gardens and a quarter-mile river ride - indoors. It is as if Las Vegas transported one of its mega resorts in the heart of Middle Tennessee and enclosed it for year round perfect temperatures. This resort is huge, and offers families and visitors a chance to relax and hit the spa. Want to shop? Take the complimentary shuttle over to next door, Opry Mills Shopping Outlet. A luxe $90 million indoor/outdoor water park is set to open adjacent to the resort later this year.
Family time comes naturally at Dollywood DreamMore Resort. Surrounded by the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, yet only minutes away from excitement, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa offers everything your family is looking for - with many special touches to make your trip effortless and best of all, memorable. Rooms are always inviting and comfortable, with cute Dolly details at every turn. In the evenings, enjoy a list of activities for the whole family to enjoy like s’more making, bedtime stories by the fireplace, lawn games and live entertainment. Enjoy good down-home style cooking that would make Dolly proud after spending an exciting day at the Dollywood Theme Park or a thrillingly wet time at Dollywood’s Splash Country. You could spend a whole week at the Dollywood properties and still find that your list of fun is never ending.
Pinehurst, North Carolina World-renowned for its eight world-class golf courses and Golf Advantage School, this historic resort offers more than just an unparalleled golf vacation. Other recreational pursuits and amenities include tennis and lawn sports, a lakeside beach club and swimming pools, fishing, special family activities, and a Kids Club. The resort spa menu includes more than 40 treatments, many utilizing such soothing delights as magnolia, holly berry, pine, and peach extracts.
Whether you choose a ranch, retreat or resort, it will always be a relaxing getaway if you just learn to slow down and choose to make memories and instead of making plans. Get away by yourself or with loved ones whenever you can and reset your mind, body and soul. Now, go get yourself some “R&R” in the South!
Martinsburg, West Virginia
Rich in Civil War and industrial/railroad history, Martinsburg is the seat of Berkeley County. It is ideally situated for countless exciting adventures. Conveniently located on Interstate 81, the city has a passenger rail station and is serviced by Amtrak and MARC train lines. Reminiscent of earlier times, the tree-lined main streets of Martinsburg invite visitors to enjoy a walk through its historic streets and among its friendly people or enjoy year-round arts, music and festivals.
Gaylord Opryland Resort
Expect an extraordinary experience at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, boasting stylish rooms, modern meeting spaces and a location less than 10 miles from Nashville International Airport. While you can find shopping and dining right under their roof, you will also want to explore nearby attractions including the Grand Ole Opry, Opry Mills, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the General Jackson Showboat. During your getaway, make an appointment at Relâche Spa & Salon, or gather your group for an outing at Gaylord Springs Golf Links.