6 gorgeous mountain towns for foodies, hikers, skiers & thrill-seekers

Pack that weekender bag! The beach is nice and all, but the best way to have fun when you only have a few days? Look up.

Academical Village at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Melinda Fawver | Shutterstock

Does the regular grind have you dreaming of running for the hills? Whether you are traveling solo or with friends or family, these mountain towns are sure to strike a chord. Each offers plenty of fresh air, beautiful views, and perhaps even the key to your very own slice of serenity. We’ve mixed it up with some newer go-to spots in towns you may know all about and a few locales that are primed to earn a spot on your destination list.

Aspen, Colorado

6 gorgeous mountain towns for foodies, hikers, skiers & thrill-seekers

Downtown Aspen. Photo by Jeremy Swanson

Best for: food … glorious foodie-approved food

Including Aspen on a mountain getaway list isn’t exactly breaking new ground, but the food scene in Aspen continues to evolve, beckoning foodies from near and far. The Cooking School of Aspen opened downtown in March, inspiring home cooks with a variety of hands-on or demonstration classes as well as special events and visits with celebrity chefs. For dining out, look for Bosq, the newest creation by Chef Barclay Dodge, featuring a fresh take on world cuisine with an Asian flair. Planners should mark their calendars for December, when tickets go on sale for the star-studded 2017 Food and Wine Classic.

Need a little extra incentive? American Airlines and United have both increased access to Aspen with non-stop flights from Chicago and San Francisco, respectively (through the end of October).

Stowe, Vermont

6 gorgeous mountain towns for foodies, hikers, skiers & thrill-seekers

Aerial view of Stowe Mountain Resort in Autumn. Courtesy Stowe Mountain Resort

Best for: foliage and hiking

From scenic hiking and cycling in the summer to idyllic leaf peeping in the fall and enviable skiing come winter, Stowe is a destination for all seasons. Even dogs love Stowe, which has a “quiet path” carved into the edge of the West Branch River that offers plenty of places to fetch and swim. Winter at Stowe features a bustling village and plenty of Alpine skiing (the “Spruce” side is groomed and gentle while the “Mansfield” side features four steeper, more challenging runs) as well as cross-country options.

Those in the know suggest you book ahead for dinner at Plate, for a blend of Vermont and California flavors done with care in a quaint setting. If you prefer your dinner with a side of spectacular mountain scenery, take the Stowe Mountain Resort Gondola to The Cliff House Restaurant for regional American cuisine and stunning panoramic-view seating.

Charlottesville, Virginia

6 gorgeous mountain towns for foodies, hikers, skiers & thrill-seekers

Academical Village at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Melinda Fawver | Shutterstock

Best for: history and wine

Charlottesville, colloquially known as Hooville, epitomizes Virginia’s “birthplace of a nation” moniker, with its impressive claim as the home of three U.S. presidents. Visitors can steep themselves in early presidential history with visits to Thomas Jefferson’s famed homestead Monticello, James Monroe’s Highland, which is only a few minutes away, and two-term president James Madison’s Montpelier, which is slightly farther afield.

Thomas Jefferson stakes perhaps the largest claim in putting Charlottesville on the map, as he was also founder of the University of Virginia located here. The university lends a vibrant, youthful energy to this hillside town, and there is plenty to keep visitors busy after enjoying historic pursuits. Check out the Fralin Museum of Art (on the UVA campus, which is a sight to see in and of itself), enjoy the Historic Downtown Mall, a pedestrian-friendly shopping and entertainment district, or indulge in a few stops along the Monticello wine trail. When hunger strikes, locals rave about the specialty foods and grab-and go lunch options at Feast!, the authentic Naples style pizza at Lampo and the lively vibe and tapas at MAS.

MORE TO READ: 12 national monuments that highlight a unique part of U.S. history

Asheville, North Carolina

6 gorgeous mountain towns for foodies, hikers, skiers & thrill-seekers

River Arts District in Asheville, North Carolina. W. G. Murray | Alamy

Best for: arts and culture (and barbecue)

To immerse yourself in mountain beauty, a mellow atmosphere and art galore, look no farther than Asheville. This relaxed destination is chock-full of funky stores, shops and galleries. There are more than 25 galleries in downtown alone, and the city offers an art walk on the first Friday of every month. The nearby River Arts District (RAD), features more than 180 artists in two square miles. While in the RAD, don’t miss the quirky Smoky Park Supper Club, the largest shipping-container housed restaurant in the United States.

Asheville’s creative culture lends itself to a thriving music, food and drink scene. The town often features Music Festivals and is home to the celebrated Asheville Symphony. With more than two-dozen breweries, Asheville elevates beer to an art form. Families often point to Asheville Brewing Company, while Wedge Brewing Company is a top pick in the RAD. Another art form in North Carolina? Barbeque—and fans remain loyal to 12 Bones for authentic ‘cue.

For a discriminating cultural venue, seek out the stunning 250-room French chateau inspired Biltmore House. Guests will enjoy strolling through the gardens, a tour of the mansion’s gilded splendor or a taste of estate products at either the dairy or the winery.

MORE TO READ: 13 glorious and historic American estates worth a visit

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

6 gorgeous mountain towns for foodies, hikers, skiers & thrill-seekers

Sky Zip at Dollywood. Photo Courtesy of Dollywood

Best for: action-packed family fun

You certainly won’t lack for activities to keep your crew busy from dawn to dusk in Gatlinburg. Outdoor enthusiasts will be wowed by the amazing splendor of the 800-square mile Great Smoky Mountain National Park and will be eager to try out all the nearby thrills, including ziplines, rafting and horseback riding. For some man-made excitement, check out the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, Ripley’s Aquarium or the Dollywood amusement park in nearby Pigeon Forge.

People in Gatlinburg are serious about breakfast, so fuel up for your escapades at The Log Cabin Pancake House before getting on with your day. From there, the sky is literally the limit. For 360-degree views over the top of the Smokies, hop a ride on the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. For those who prefer their thrills closer to the ground, the European-styled Village Shops, a collection of 27 stores and eateries, is a tempting haven.

Taos, New Mexico

6 gorgeous mountain towns for foodies, hikers, skiers & thrill-seekers

The native pueblos in Taos, New Mexico. Angel McNall Photography | Shutterstock

Best for: an exotic vibe

For a far-flung mountain feel without using your passport, consider Taos. Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos has been luring artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams for years. Visitors come for the rustic, haunting scenery and the nearby Taos Pueblo adobe structures, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, that have been continually inhabited for over 1,000 years.

The scenery in Taos inspires many artistic pursuits, and visitors can seek out a variety of specialty offerings like pottery, welding and weaving classes. To view work by established artists evoking the light and landscape of the region, stop into renowned Harwood Museum of Art. “Starving artists” will welcome a taste of La Comida de las Sierras, the food of the mountains, at local spot El Meze, known for its fresh regional, American fare.

Thrill seekers looking to enjoy the landscape will revel in the action to be had in the Taos Ski Valley, at the Ernie Blake Ski School and the rafting and kayaking in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (serious eye-candy here for photographers and hikers too).

Insider Tip: If you are willing to get up super early, a memorable sunrise can be yours as you gaze over the sky-high Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

Amy Cojac Andrews
Amy Andrews
Amy Cojac Andrews is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and New York City. She writes about luxury and family travel for Ciao Bambino and other publications.

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