Highlands Up on the plateau the outdoors mix with the upscale.
A Western North Carolina Resort Town
Highlands is on the west side of a mountain plateau that drops abruptly down on both sides and is surrounded by national forest land. The area has evolved as a high-end resort community, home to upscale boutiques, spas, wine tastings, fine art galleries, professional theater troupes, a summer chamber music series, numerous country clubs and golf courses, and an endless selection of fine dining.
At 4,100 feet in elevation, Highlands is actually in a temperate rainforest and receives about 90 inches of rain a year. The town straddles the Eastern Continental Divide — water falling on one side flows to the Atlantic, on the other to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. The elevation also contributes to the town’s extremely seasonal residency, as once the leaves fall so does the population.
It is said that the town of Highlands was conceived in the late 1890s by two developers, Samuel Kelsey and Clinton Hutchinson. Kelsey and Hutchinson drew two lines on a map, one from New York to New Orleans, the other from Chicago to Savannah. The intersection, they thought, would be ideal for a resort. They thought right.
In the late 1920s, construction of Highlands Country Club put the town on the map. Golfing great Bobby Jones had a summer home at the club, and he still holds the course record.
• The Bascom — An independent non-profit art center, this gallery offers a host of workshops, lectures and exhibits for adults and kids, which vary in length. Located at 554 Main Street in Highlands. 828.526.4949.
• Martin-Lipscomb Performing Arts Center — The Martin-Lipscomb Performing Arts Center brings the performing arts to the Highlands. 828.526.2742.
• Highlands Nature Center and Botanical Garden — On the campus of the Highlands Biological Station, a research and educational facility of the University of North Carolina founded in 1927. The WPA-built Nature Center features exhibits, daily programs and weekly summer camps for children, a Thursday evening lecture series exploring environmental topics, and special programs for all ages throughout the summer. The Botanical Garden offers 12 acres of native plants in a diversity of natural habitats, from upland woods to cove forest and wetland. Special features include a native azalea garden, Plants of the Cherokee, a butterfly garden, and the Station’s own self-guided Bartram Trail consisting of 30 native plants associated with 17th century naturalist William Bartram.
Garden tours are given weekly. The Nature Center is open 10 am - 5 pm Mon - Sat mid-May through October, and is available for school groups by appointment the remainder of the year. The Botanical Garden is open year round, dawn to dusk. Admission to the Nature Center and Botanical Garden is free, though some special programs and camps have a small fee. Call 828.526.2623 or see www.wcu.edu/hbs for detail.
• The Highlands Playhouse — Professional theater on the plateau. Season runs July-October. Call 828.526.2695 for shows, times and prices.
• Waterfalls — Driving 64 West will take you past Lower and Upper Cullasaja Falls, Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, some of the area’s most popular waterfalls.
• Whiteside Mountain — Perhaps the most famous site on the Plateau. The rocky face of the mountain is familiar to all who visit the region. The mountain is between Highland and Cashiers and is accessible by a two-mile loop trail that begins off Whiteside Mountain Road.
Dining & Nightlife
• Bistro at Wolfgang’s — Opening at 3 p.m. for small plates and wine in a cozy, relaxed setting. Outdoor seating available. 474 Main St. in Highlands. 828.526.3807.
• Buck’s Coffee Café — Coffee drinks and more with live music on weekends. 384 Main St. in Highlands. 828.526.0020.
• Cyprus Restaurant — Sophisticated international cuisine in a vibrant open kitchen environment. Generous hours, full wine bar. Live entertainment every Friday night. 490 Dillard Rd. 828.526.4429.
• Fressers Eatery at Helen’s Barn — A full service restaurant in Historic Helen”s Barn serving lunch and dinner. Sandwiches, salads, homemade soups as well as fresh seafood and decadent desserts. Complete wine list. 151 Helen’s Barn Ave. 828.526.4188.
• Highlands House of Coffee — Coffee and more. 310 Main St. in Highlands. 828.526.5578.
• Highlands Wine and Cheese — Entertainment on the weekends. 561 Main St. in Highlands. 828.526.5210.
• Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden — Located in the historic Old Edwards Inn and Spa, the 92 seat fine dining restaurant features Carolina High Country cuisine with an exceptional wine list. Winner. Alfresco dining in the wine garden. Menu changes weekly. 445 Main Street. 828.526.5477.
• On The Veranda — American Fusion overlooking Lake Sequoyah. Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 1987 and Wine Enthusiast Award of Distinction. Serving dinner 7 nights a week with a wine bar and entertainment nightly. 1536 Franklin Rd. in Highlands. 828.526.2338.
• Peregrine Restaurant — The menu is classic continental American and is entirely handmade. Full service bar overlooking the golf course at Highlands Cove. Reservations suggested. Highlands Cove Drive. 828.787.2465.
• Ristorante Paoletti — Italian dining since 1953. Specializing in veal, chops, pasta and seafood. 1,000 selection wine cellar. 440 Main St. 828.526.4906.
• Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro — New Orleans specialties, house aged steaks, fresh seafood, veal and venison. Featuring daily specials. Wine Spectator Award Winning Wine List. Reservations recommended. 474 Main St. 828.526.3807.
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