Does cave exploring sound like a fun adventure? Linville Caverns in North Carolina is one of only a small number of deep caves where the public can explore within a few hours’ drive of Greenville. Kidding Around contributor Kristina explored it with her kids and tells us all about the unique experience.
“So you’re standing half a mile straight down from the top of the mountain and about 700 feet inside,” said our tour guide at Linville Caverns. Is it bad my first thoughts were of Lord of the Rings when Frodo and Gandalf and their comrades venture inside the mountain where dwarfs used to live? While nowhere near as cavernous as that particular movie portrayed the inside of a mountain, Linville Caverns is fascinating, interesting, and a tad creepy. So definitely take your family.
About Linville Caverns
The caverns were discovered in the early 1900s when a fisherman noted fish were coming from inside a mountain. He followed the water and found huge a huge, three-story limestone cavern. The caverns were opened to public in 1937 and have remained a favored destination in Western North Carolina ever since.
Searching for the perfect weekend away? You’ll want to book your trip to Pilot Cove in Pisgah National Forest after you read KAG’s review written by Kristina Hernandez. Find out what this unique spot near Brevard, NC offers its guests and all the nearby things to do.
Complimentary nights were given at Pilot Cove and all opinions are those of the author.
Reading the reviews of Pilot Cove as I was getting ready for my trip led me to believe I was in for a real treat. “Nicer than the Grove Park Inn,” wrote one person. Another wrote that she felt like she was staying in a treehouse. Another said he could spend the rest of his life at Pilot Cove. None of these people were wrong. It’s hard to overstate how beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing the cabins are at Pilot Cove, which sits right at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest in Brevard, about ninety minutes from Greenville. But I’ll try anyways.
The location of the cabins are unbeatable, especially if you love the outdoors. You can walk to the entrance of Pisgah Forest or to a handful of restaurants nearby. It’s maybe 30 minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway and less than 20 minutes to Dupont State Forest. Hiking trails, waterfalls, and fly fishing are minutes away.
But the thing is, once you get into your cabin at Pilot Cove, you may not want to leave.
Breathtaking is perhaps the best word I can use to describe the modern, yet rustic, fully-appointed cabins, that are integrated into the forest landscape. The deck at our cabin was big and dreamy with hooks already set for the locally made hammock that you are free to use during your stay (or purchase for $100 and take home with you – don’t think this didn’t cross my mind). The kitchen is spacious for any meals you want to cook. The table is oh-so-gorgeous and also locally crafted from beautiful wood. The furnishings are comfortably classic and you’re surrounded by huge photographs of the surrounding waterfalls and forest.
There is also a mud room and a full washer and dryer so you can get as dirty as you like and still have clean clothes for the rest of your trip. And if it rains, like it did when we were there, the music the water makes on the tin roof is beautiful.
It wasn’t long after I walked into Pilot Cove that I was already dreaming of a return trip. Being able to make your own meals saves a lot of money – there is a Bi-Lo and Wal-Mart within walking distance or a two-minute drive – and there is so much to do within an hour’s drive so you don’t need to go far in search of making lasting memories.
A Trail Runs Through Pilot Cove
The cabin was also spotless, the beds comfortable, and the property stunning. Pilot Cove has a trail system that runs throughout the land, backing up to Pisgah Forest and a bear sanctuary (we didn’t see any bears though!). The trails are open to both hiking and mountain biking and run about two miles in total. They have a ⅓ mile flow track for serious mountain bikers, which the company absolutely caters to since the owners are avid bikers. If you love that sport, this is the place to go. Each cabin also comes with a spot to wash off the bikes.
We hiked part of the trail and it’s a great workout with beautiful views as you wind around the ridge. I loved this part of the property because even though Pisgah Forest is literally right next door, the owners were thoughtful in their love of the outdoors to include a hiking trail within steps of the doors of the cabin.
More Cabins & a Glampground
Currently, Pilot Cove has 15 cabins that are either studio, one or two bedrooms. They all have the same basic layout and feel that you’re in a treehouse, which is so peaceful and relaxing.
They have plans to expand to 50 cabins plus a “glampground” with showers, picnic areas, fire rings, and even small sheds for bikes. Pilot Cove also hosts events like concerts in their amphitheater and offers yoga classes during the year.
Open All Year + Rates
Pilot Cove is open year round, which is perfect for families looking for a quiet retreat for just a few days or a whole week. I really can’t imagine any other location that is more ideal for families who love the outdoors and want to explore the area. During the summer, you can go tubing on the Davidson River basically across the street from the cabins. The fall brings the majestic turning colors of the leaves. Winter is wonderful for exploration during the off-season since the crowds are significantly thinned out. And spring brings wildflowers and the blooming rhododendrons along trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway and throughout Pisgah Forest.
Pilot Cove cabin rates vary by season and size. The off season (January 1- March 1) rates for the studio cabins during the week is $150/night and weekends are $175/night. One bedrooms for the same period are $175/weekday, $199/weekend, and the two bedroom cabin is $239/weekday and $275/weekend. Peak season rates on the studio are $195/weekday and $239/weekend. A one bedroom runs for $245/weekday, $289/weekend, and the two bedroom peak season rates are $299/weekday and $349/weekend.
Some cabins do allow dogs but they must be pre-approved ahead of your stay. No cats are allowed due to guest allergies.
Making the Most of Your Trip to Brevard, NC
The quaint Downtown Brevard and the bordering Pisgah Forest have plenty of activities, restaurants, and festivities to stay busy and have fun as a family. Here are a few of our favorite places to eat, shop, and enjoy the outdoors.
Eating in Brevard
Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop in Brevard is a throwback to a 1950s dinner with checkered floor and red vinyl booths. They serve sandwiches, Hershey’s ice cream, milkshakes, burgers, and all kinds of hot dogs.
For the best in European style pastries and breads that are made fresh daily, try Bracken Mountain Bakery in Brevard.
I fell in love with boutique clothing and jewelry shop right off Brevard’s main drag called Poplar & Ash this year while in the area for some waterfall chasing. The owner is an artist herself and somehow finds the most unique shoes and apparel, along with custom jewelry. There’s also a little area for kids to color while parents shop around.
Discovered by my family on a rainy day, the Crystal Mountain Gem Mine in Brevard is really cool and a fun activity for kids. They also sell all kinds of beautiful jewelry from local artists and is right on the main street through town.
Transylvania County is home to over 200waterfalls so checking them out is a must-do on a trip to the area. My favorites are Looking Glass Falls, right off 276 in Pisgah Forest, which you can see from the road, and Moore Cove Falls, which is on a short hike right past Looking Glass Falls. Dupont Forest is close as well, where you can easily see three or four waterfalls in a single hike.
Hiking: Pisgah National Forest and Dupont Forest
If your family loves hiking, Brevard is the place to be. Swing through Dupont Forest for pretty easy hikes or try Daniel Ridge Loop in Pisgah Forest for a more challenging 4+ mile hike. I loved the view from Frying Pan Tower, a two-mile round trip hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway, that affords 360 views of the mountains. The options are endless but here are some hiking in Pisgah recommendations.
I’m no fly fisherman but every time I’ve been hiking in this area, I see fly fisherman, which has peaked my interest in the activity. Within an hour of Brevard, there are more than 500 miles of prime fly fishing waters. Headwater Outfitters and Davidson River Outfitters are two of the local companies that provide intro classes and fly fishing trips.
Mountain biking is a big draw to Pisgah Forest and a love of the owners of Pilot Cove, which is why they built their own flow track on the property for use by guests. Here is great info on where to go if you mountain bike near Pilot Cove.
During the summer, be sure to tube the Davidson River in Pisgah Forest. Every time we came to the forest during the warmer months, we saw people tubing and were a bit jealous.
I had no idea river snorkeling was a thing until I saw it on a brochure in the cabin at Pilot Cove. Oxbow River Snorkeling actually offers this cool water activity in rivers in Western North Carolina.
Indoor Family Activities
Don’t let rain stop your family from having fun on your trip. There are two really cool places in Pisgah Forest you should visit if the weather isn’t cooperating for outdoor activities. The Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education is a fish hatchery where you can see lots of trout getting ready to be released into local waters as well as learn about the environment, watersheds, and foliage in both indoor and outdoor exhibits. It’s free, too.
The Cradle of Forestry has an amazing indoor, interactive exhibit that is outfitted to look like a forest with a little cave and staircase to get to the top of a tree. There is even a helicopter that plays a video where it seems you are flying over a forest fire. Outdoors trails are a part of the Cradle of Forestry as well if you’d like to explore old trains and cabins and learn about the history of the area.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a must-do if you visit during the fall season when the leaves turn shades of bright reds, oranges, and yellows. Seeing it in photos and see it in person are two separate experiences and choose the latter if you can. The scenery is just stunning and from Pilot Cove, you can be at the entrance to the Parkway within 30 minutes.
The Blue Ghost firefly tour out of the Cradle of Forestry in May is also an experience not to be missed. The small fireflies light up along the pitch black pathway of the trail and it feels like you’re walking in a dream. I did it this year and was mesmerized!
Sierra Nevada Brewery is a great place to spend a few hours with your family as they have a little kids play area, corn hole, a huge outdoor space, live music, and great food and beer. You can get there in 25 minutes from Pilot Cove.
Sometimes I feel like living in Greenville isn’t real, that I’ll wake up from the best dream ever and realize I don’t live here any longer. Not only is Greenville a wonderful place for families, but some of our country’s most astounding landmarks are within a 90 minute drive from the Upstate – how awesome is that?! If you’re considering exploring Brevard during any time of the year, certainly look at Pilot Cove. Those memories you’ll make as a family are irreplaceable.
There’s More to Explore in Western North Carolina!
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10 Ways To Celebrate Christmas This Year In Asheville, NC
Planning a trip for apple picking at Jeter Mountain Farm? This gorgeous farm hosts weddings, has seasonal u-pick flowers, fruits, and more plus an enormous indoor play area.
The views from the parking lot of Jeter Mountain Farm are sweeping shots of the nearby mountains, open space, and a beautiful building that seems to fit right into the landscape with its earthy hues of brown and green. The farm is a welcoming spot for families that has nearly two dozen varieties of apples, cider, live music, a wagon ride, and lots of other activities to enjoy.
Did you know that the famed theme park, Dollywood, has Homeschool Days? The park offers reduced admission and educational programs plus all the fun of the rides and experience of the attractions.
If you are looking to have an adventure, Dollywood will be offering Homeschool Days for families that are utilizing the homeschool option. These days focus on mostly science and math – and really, what’s cooler than learning about the laws of physics by riding a roller coaster?
Be sure to check out the newly installed whimsical area of the park, Wildwood Grove, complete with rides, including a new roller coaster called DragonFly. There is plenty to see and do at the park in addition to the educational programs offered these days.
What Do Homeschool Days Include?
Homeschool Days at Dollywood are geared for kids in Kindergarten through 12th and include a new curriculum, Science in the Park, that utilizes the scientific principles that make many of the rides at the park actually happen like velocity and speed.
There will also be lots of visual learning through craftspeople doing glass-blowing, candle making, and forging. The Tennessee Valley Authority partnered with Dollywood to create STEM-related learning experience that kids can do throughout the park. Some activities are learning about water filtration, kinetic energy, solar and wind energy, eco-friendly transportation, and weather.
Kids can also learn about the science of birds by visiting the 30,000 square feet Eagle Mountain Sanctuary at the park, which houses the largest collection of non-releasable bald eagles in the country.
Admission & Dates
Normal admission to Dollywood is $79+ for people ages 10-61 but on Homeschool Days, parents can take advantage of $39/ticket for kids in grades K-12 and $49/ticket for each accompanying adult. Huge savings!
To obtain the tickets, you need to call (888) 428-6789 at least 72 hours ahead of your visit. These tickets are not available at the gate. Parking is $20/car so plan for that cost as well.
Homeschool days for 2022 are August 8 – September 19, 2022. The park is not open every day so be sure to look at the calendar before planning your trip. Dollywood Splash Country also has homeschool days from August 5 – September 5, 2022 and tickets are discounted to $37/person.
Where to Stay
Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is a beautiful hotel that offers free transportation to the park. The resort is offering 20% off a standard room for homeschool families Sunday – Thursday.
We’ve personally stayed at these places below and can recommend them as wonderful options for families.
Margaritaville Island Hotel A stay at this beautiful and trendy hotel will be a relaxing experience. Margarita makers are in every room and balconies overlook either the river or the Island at Pigeon Forge. You can explore the Island, take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, grab a margarita at the bar (or in your room) and just chill. Read our review of our stay at this awesome hotel.
131 The Island Dr, Pigeon Forge, TN
Greystone Lodge By the River One of the very last family-owned hotels in Gatlinburg, the Greystone dates back originally to the early 1960s and has become the go-to hotel for generations of families. The location cannot be beat as it is steps from the aquarium and across the street from Anakeesta, within walking distance to shops and restaurants. They also have a great pool and free breakfast. It’s perfect for families looking to have a restful and accommodating place to call home during their trip. We stayed there and absolutely loved it.
559 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
Foothills RV Park & Cabins If you are not into tent camping but are still looking for a cheaper option than a hotel, Foothills has bare bones cabins to rent where you bring your own linens/sleeping bags and pillows. This is a good option if you’re really trying to stay within a budget but want someplace clean and comfortable. The location is right on the cusp of Pigeon Forge, very close to Dollywood, and maybe ten minutes from Gatlinburg. Camping cabins are rented April through October and start at $52/night.
Smoky Hollow Outdoor Resort Stay in a covered wagon or tipi at this resort in Sevierville, TN for the ultimate pioneer adventure. The resort is close to Soaky Mountain and minutes from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smokies. Read our review here.
Be blown away by the 17 room game mansion in Gatlinburg! It has more than 300 indoor and outdoor games and sleeps up to 20 people. This is perfect for a multi-family or big friends vacation and about 15 minutes from the main strip in Gatlinburg.
Camp LeConte Kicking up the glamping a notch further is Camp LeConte, which offers a treehouse, safari tents, and a retro camper. You can even catch the trolley into Gatlinburg from the campground. Depending on the time of year, the two-person safari tent starts around $128/night. Read our review here.
1739 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg, TN
Other Things to Do Nearby
There are a ton of things to do in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is minutes away – and it’s free. Anakeesta, the SkyBridge, PINK Jeep Tours, and lots more are all within a 20-30 minute drive of each other and excellent opportunities for both learning and fun.
If you’re trying to figure out a great vacation for your family that is within a few hours of the Upstate, has plenty of entertainment within walking distance, and is located directly on the ocean, the Westgate Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Resort may be just the ticket. Kristina visited the resort for a couple of days with her kids at the invitation of the Westgate and has all you need to know to plan a wonderful trip to the coast!
If you’re looking for a fun family summer adventure that works either as a day trip or weekend getaway, whitewater rafting in the Smoky Mountains may be just the experience. Kristina took her kids and tells us why it is was a great introduction to rafting, even for little kids.
Have you visited Huntington Beach State Park? If you’re looking for an all-in-one camping experience that includes the beach, an abundance of wildlife, a castle, a nature center, and opportunities for learning and adventure, Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet is the place. I spent an incredible couple days there and was planning to return even before I left.
If you’re looking for a way to get away from people, enjoy nature, and have an unbelievable experience right here in South Carolina, look no further than kayaking in the state’s only national park near Columbia at Congaree National Park.
You can walk across the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the country in Gatlinburg, just a few hours away from Greenville. We sent Kristina to do it because she won the coin toss. Here’s what you need to know if you want to go. Media tickets were given so we could review this incredible experience.
I think my mouth may have hung open the first time I saw a video of the SkyBridge in Gatlinburg when it was completed in May of 2019. It was gorgeous. And so, so high up in the air. I knew I had to go, no matter how scary getting up there may be. Sometimes you need to take those risks, right?
The SkyBridge is part of Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, which was founded in 1954, way before the town became the destination it is today. The park is the longest running attraction in Gatlinburg, which borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The national park is the most visited in the entire country. Last year, more than 12 million people stepped foot in the Smokies.
But the views are still the same as they were in the late 1950s – sweeping and majestic and unforgettable. You have to take a gondola up to the SkyLift Park, five hundred vertical feet to be exact. Just don’t look backwards and you’ll be fine.
The SkyBridge was completed in May of 2019 and holds the record of being the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. It’s 680 feet in length and sways 150 feet off the ground. There are glass panels in the middle of the bridge, which honestly I didn’t even think about until I had to walk across 30 feet of it. You look straight down. It’s terrifying but also awesome.
The people who run the SkyBridge social media pages are geniuses. You may have seen the videos of the bridge all lit up in Christmas lights around December or when snow was falling in the mountains or when the leaves were bright reds and oranges in the fall. They do such an amazing job of bringing viewers onto the bridge who have never been yet still entice them to go. At least that was my opinion and one of the reasons why I really, really wanted to walk the SkyBridge.
If you’re wondering if you can feel the bridge sway, the answer is yes. If you’re wondering if it’s worth the five hundred feet vertical ride in the yellow gondola with nothing but a bar separating you from a long drop, then yes, it’s worth it. The views going up and down the mountain are incredible. You can see all of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. We got lucky and the clouds were moving between the peaks of the mountains, creating a surreal view. I could never get tired of that view.
This is such a unique attraction that is just amazing and I certainly recommend it when you visit Gatlinburg. And don’t you want bragging rights for walking the longest pedestrian bridge in North America? I did.
Walk the SkyTrail
New for 2021 is the gorgeous SkyTrail, a trail that lines the ridge around the mountain. Part of it is a boardwalk and the other part is natural dirt. The views are just spectacular and you can go across the mountain without actually walking the bridge. Just don’t run into a bear! It’s a great opportunity to build you the courage to talk the 700 foot walk across the swinging bridge.
I had no idea that the wildfires of 2016 totally destroyed Crockett Mountain, where the Sky Park is located. There are plaques around the trail that talk about the devastating fires and what happened in the rebuilding process plus how the SkyBridge was engineered. If you’re a homeschooling family, this totally counts as an awesome field trip.
The trail is brand new and is an entirely unique experience. There are no hills (I mean, you’re already at the top of the mountain) so it’s an easy walk. Most of the trail is only open during the daytime hours for now.
Climb the Tulip Tower
Also new in 2021 is the steel Tulip Tower rising 70 feet in the back of the ravine behind the SkyBridge. It has four floors and is accessed by two rope bridges.
The tower has educational plaques inside the middle of each floor that talk about the wildfires, local wildlife and native plants and trees. The tower is so named because the Tulip Tree was one of the last remaining trees when the wildfire swept through the mountain and wiped out the park. So the tower is named for the resilience of the tree and all those people who rebuilt the park and those who lost their homes (five SkyLift Park employees lost their homes because of the fire).
Again, the views are unreal. I legitimately took 100 photos of the bridge from all along the SkyTrail and the Tulip Tower. The tower is open for daytime use.
Relax, Eat, and Drink at the Sky Deck
What makes a great view even better? Food and drink! The gift shop at the park is awesome. It has all kinds of cool bridge-related items plus the warmest winter hats I think I’ve ever felt. They also have a basic menu of pizza, pretzels, and snacks plus coffee.
Head upstairs and grab a craft beer and an outside table and take a deep breath while you gaze at the scenery. It’s breath-taking. These views are incredibly unique. If you’re going to Smokies, why not see the sweeping views they offer right there at the park? Just do it.
There are rocking chairs and tables outside on the deck also. We saw plenty of people just rocking away their worries up there. I would have swiped one to do the same but they were all full.
Tickets to the SkyLift Park, which include access to the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, SkyTrail, Tulip Tower, and Sky Deck are $29.95/ages 12-64, $18.95/ages 4-11, $23.95/seniors, and kids 3 and under are free.
Your ticket is good for unlimited visits for the same day so if you wanted to get up there in the morning, take a walk across the bridge, climb the Tulip Tower and then come back for sunset, you’re welcome to do that. If you purchase your ticket after 8 pm, you get to come back for free the next day.
The SkyBridge opens at 9 am and closes at 10:30 pm during the summer and 9 pm other times of the year. We were planning to head back up there during sunset but my kids were tired from a long day of fun. But I Imagine those views would be spectacular during dusk and for the seasonal lights that adorn the bridge. They are open all year round, seven days a week except for Christmas Day and Maintenance Week (January 17-21). See full hours here.
I recommend parking at the garage next to Ripley’s Aquarium, which is about a five minute walk to the SkyLift Park. It costs $10 all day as of November 2021.
Follow the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park on Facebook and Instagram for beautiful photos and videos, which will probably entice you to go there on your next visit!
Hoping for a date night on Hilton Head Island while you’re on a family vacation? Kidding Around’s Kristina has found the answer with the Art Cafe on Hilton Head Island and a neighboring restaurant, Rockfish. Here’s her review of both the Kids Night Out event at Art Cafe and the Rockfish restaurant.
Date nights are hard to come by for many couples who have kids. I think a date night on vacation would be pretty awesome because you’re already in relaxation mode, away from your daily life at home and work, and have that time to focus on each other. But finding a reliable sitter while away from home? I haven’t mastered that yet – which was why I was thrilled to find the Art Cafe on Hilton Head Island because they offer the perfect solution for couples wanting to get in a date night while on vacation.