Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Flock to Chimney Rock for Western North Carolina's Premier Fall Migration Birding Event

Photo Courtesy of Chimney Rock State Park
This is a great weekend to visit Chimney Rock State Park located in Hickory Nut Gorge at Hwy. 64/74A in Chimney Rock, Western North Carolina. Birds and bird lovers alike Flock to the Rock this weekend for the 4th annual fall migration birding event held every September.

Birding Background at Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock is an official site on the North Carolina Birding Trail, and it's easy to see why. From its banks to its cliffs, Chimney Rock is a sanctuary for North Carolina's resident birds as well as migrating birds. Summer-breeding birds such as Scarlet Tanagers, warblers and vireos are attracted to the deciduous forests on the north and east facing slopes of Chimney Rock. Cerulean Warblers can be spotted in the tall trees right below the parking lot. Swainson's Warblers can be seen in the rhododendron thickets, particularly right along the Hickory Nut Falls trail.

Peregrine Falcons (Falco Peregrinus) have recently returned to Chimney Rock. By the early 1960s, none of these magnificent birds were found in the area. Thanks to captive-breeding programs, they have made a comeback. In 1990, three young birds fledged from the high cliffs of Chimney Rock and since then have been sighted almost every year. Bring your binoculars and set your sights on the cliff walls and up to the surrounding sky for the chance to see these masterful birds in action above the gorge. They can slice through the air at speeds of 60mph and greater. When they swoop on smaller birds in flight, they have a diving speed of 200mph!

Chimney Rock is home to more than 130 species of birds throughout the year. In addition to the tanagers, warblers and vireos we've already mentioned, there are woodpeckers, thrushes, owls, falcons, and other birds of prey. The Flock to the Rock birding weekend coincides with the annual hawk migration. Be prepared to see dozens, if not hundreds, of hawks flying over the park on their way south.

Flock to the Rock Events & Activities
Now that you know a little bit of the background on the park's feathered friends, let's get back to the Flock to the Rock event held this weekend Saturday, September 29 from 10a.m.-2p.m. and Sunday, September 30 from 9a.m. to 2p.m. The good news is that once you pay the regular park admission (adults $15, youth ages 6-15 are $7, under age 6 are free) the birding events are all free.

There is so much to see and do at Flock to the Rock, but we have limited time and space here. So, here's a quick overview of what you can expect to find:
  • Live Birds of Prey programs with a Red-tailed Hawk and Great Horned Owl.
  • Bird walks guided by local expert ornithologists.
  • Workshops ranging from bird photography to hummingbird care and feeding.
  • Hawk watches.
  • Family nature walks.
  • Kid activities such as dissecting owl pellets (to see what these birds of prey eat, not just to gross you out).
A full listing of Flock to the Rock activities and times can be found here. It is definitely worth checking out and making the trip to Chimney Rock State Park this weekend if you can!

No matter when you're able to make the trip to Western NC, be sure to leave room in your itinerary for this state park. You won't be disappointed! If you are interested in bird-watching while here, it might also be helpful to download and print the latest version of "Your Guide to Birding at Chimney Rock" edited by Simon Thompson to take with you on out on the trails.

Where to Stay in Western NC
Apple Hill Hideaway
Don't forget to make the most of your trip by staying locally in a mountain cabin near to the attractions you plan to visit. Apple Hill Hideaway (pictured at left) is not far from the state park. Chimney Rock State Park is pet-friendly, so take a look at the pet-friendly accommodations in Western NC that we have to offer.

Have you been to Chimney Rock State Park? Have you hiked the stairs or taken the elevator up to the top to see the fabulous views? Tell us about your adventures at Chimney Rock State Park in our comment section. You know we would love to hear from you. Happy birding!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Downtown Asheville Ushers In Autumn With Free Live Music, A Piano Concert & More

Photo Submitted by Stefani Pereira
As summer dwindles, we are ushering in autumn this week with some opportunities to get out and about in the city of Asheville. Experience the refreshing beauty of the crisp fall days while enjoying the best of what Asheville has to offer in restaurants, concerts, art events, museums, festivals, nightlife, outdoor adventure, and more.

Remember last week when we mentioned that Asheville brings music to your ears? Well, this week is no different.

Friday, September 21 is the last chance this season to come to the 100 block of North Lexington Avenue for the final Downtown After Five Concert Series event. From 5-9p.m., enjoy free live music and entertainment set against the backdrop of downtown Asheville.

Closing night performances feature The Black Lillies hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee and local opener The Buchanan Boys. You'll find a nice blend of country, blues, roots, and countrified rock-and-roll. Live performances begin right at 5p.m., so don't miss out on a minute of the music.

Admission to this event is free, but $2 wristbands for beer and wine along with a valid photo ID are required for alcohol purchase. 

Local brews from Highland, Pisgah, Asheville, and French Broad brewing companies are on-hand to help quench your thirst. Regional favorites are represented including Sierra Nevada, Sweet Water, and Magic Hat brewing companies. Let's not forget national brands such as Budweiser and Empire Distributing are on tap as well. Not into brews? Wine and water are also available.

Food vendors are in attendance offering a range of items including tacos, pizza, and ice cream. The concert series is committed to reducing its carbon footprint whenever possible and that is evident through the use of biodegradable food and beverage containers, staffed compost, and recycling stations. So please help them do their part by doing your part. Please properly dispose of trash in its appropriate places.

Speaking of musical performances, another not-to-miss music event is the Asheville Area Piano Forum's 12th Annual Fall Benefit Concert occurring at the Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place in downtown Asheville. The concert is held on Sunday, September 23 from 3-5p.m.

It's a wonderful opportunity to sit back, relax, and enjoy 20 professional and guest artists as they perform and present you with an afternoon of solo, two-piano, and ensemble music for your listening pleasure. Musical genres include the classics, jazz, and African-American spirituals. 

Proceeds benefit the Forum's educational and charitable activities. Adult admission is $28. This year's concert is in memory of Paul Mark Thorpe.

Photo Submitted by Asheville Connections
Make the most of your Asheville visit by staying for a while. Let's face it, you need time to see and do all of the things that you want to while you're here. Whether you're looking for luxury, romance, proximity to downtown, or a mountain cabin getaway—it's all right here. Tell your friends!

Have you been to Asheville during the fall season? What is your favorite thing about Western North Carolina this time of year? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us. We always love hearing your input. Happy Autumn!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Visiting Asheville This Weekend Brings Music To Your Ears

In the words of the American indie rock band Modest Mouse: “Music is to the soul what words are to the mind.” We agree! That's why we'd like music lovers to take note of three big music events happening this weekend in Asheville. Here's the breakdown:

New season of the Asheville Symphony at the US Cellular Center's Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. On Saturday, September 15 at 8p.m. join the Asheville Symphony for its season opener featuring wild extremes of passion, obsession, beauty, and more. The night's performances include: Falla's Ritual Fire Dance; Glazunov's Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82; and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Ticket prices range from $20 to $58 depending on seating. Details and ticketing information can be found at the Asheville Symphony's website.

RiverLink's RiverMUSIC Concert Series at the River Arts District Green along the French Broad River. Friday evenings from 5-10p.m. enjoy free live music in a variety of genres with a nice blend of local and national artists. A combined effort among RiverLink, New Belgium Brewing Company, and Heira Productions brings music to the community along with a chance to enjoy the beauty of the French Broad River. Bring a lawn chair or blanket, a picnic basket, some family and friends, and get set to enjoy the evening. Asheville's favorite food trucks are also on-hand and there is plenty of New Belgium beer to be had. This Friday, September 14 has Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band with The Fritz scheduled for the music lineup. For questions on the event, contact the New Belgium Brewing Company's event page.

Music and Wine Weekends (Fridays through Sundays) at Biltmore's Antler Hill Village & Winery. Celebrate North Carolina wine month at the Biltmore with live music, grape stomps, and barrel tastings during this special event which runs through September 30. This event is included in the estate admission price, so it's a great chance to get a big bang for your buck. Each day of each weekend this month has its own schedule of events.

Photo Submitted by Denise Knoppel
There are so many great events going on this weekend (and beyond) in Asheville and its surrounding towns. For a full listing of things-to-do and local happenings, be sure to visit's events page. Plan to stay in Western North Carolina and enjoy as much of the incoming fall beauty, colors, and temperatures as you can.

We hope to see you in and around Asheville this weekend! We'll leave you with a quote from one of music's greatest composers and conductors, Leonard Bernstein: "Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” 

Have you been to a music festival or event here in Western North Carolina? Tell us all about it in our comment section. We love hearing from you!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Asheville Gardening Adventures, Events & More: Let's Grow!

Photo Submitted by Amanda Walls
Green thumbs unite this weekend in Asheville! Come on out to stroll the streets, wander through local gardens, and take time to smell the dahlias. (Okay, most dahlias are fragrance-free... but you get the idea.)

Enjoy the artistic landscapes of the 15 local gardens that are featured in West Asheville during the Fourth Annual West Asheville Garden Stroll. The event's theme this year is "Garden to Table" and focuses on a variety of gardening styles leading to the production of fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, as well as flowers for centerpieces and tables.

The Stroll begins at 11a.m. and continues until 4p.m. on Saturday, September 8. Start the day off at Hall Fletcher Elementary School on Ridgelawn Avenue in Asheville with a 10:30a.m. presentation by longtime residents. This short introduction highlights how gardening has played an important role in the community's history. The event is free. For more details and planning information, visit the Frequently Asked Questions section of the event website.

The Carolinas Dahlia Society Annual Dahlia Show also runs this weekend Saturday, September 8 through Sunday, September 9 from 10a.m. to 5p.m. The North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville hosts this show that draws exhibitors from five states including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia as well as commercial and amateur growers from this area of Western North Carolina.

Flower displays contain blossoms in every color except for black, blue, or green. The sizes range from three-quarters of an inch to over 12 inches in diameter. Dahlia Society members are on hand to answer questions and give advice on dahlia cultivation. Cut flowers are available for purchase while supplies last. Admission is free with a parking fee of $8 per personal vehicle.

Woodlawn Cottage Garden
Don't let your day of garden adventures end there. Stay locally in an Asheville vacation rental such as the Woodlawn Cottage and enjoy the perks of having your own garden to stroll through. What could be better than that? It also makes it very convenient for you to be close to all of the downtown restaurants, theaters, museums, parks, and events. We highly recommend it!

Do you have a favorite gardening event or venue that you like to attend while in Asheville? Tell us about it in our comment section. We love hearing from our readers and value your input!