Named for the daughter of the area’s first postmaster in 1904, tiny Maggie Valley (elevation 3,018 feet with a year-round population of 1,100) is nestled in the high country of the Great Smoky Mountains, 90 minutes northwest of Highlands. Its proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides excellent hiking, beautiful waterfalls and the chance to admire the majestic elk herd that has been reintroduced successfully to the national park’s lovely Cataloochee Valley.
But it’s music that really sets Maggie Valley apart. Bluegrass Hall of Fame banjo player Raymond Fairchild and his wife, Shirley, present an array of mountain music April through October at their 250-seat Maggie Valley Opry. A Grand Ole Opry regular for 40 years, Raymond performs here whenever he’s in town. The nearby Stompin’ Ground has a giant 60-by-80-foot dance floor where square dancers and cloggers spin and sway to live old-timey music. A thousand cloggers compete each October at its famed mountain clogging competition. Both venues are on the National Endowment for the Arts’ official Blue Ridge Music Trail.
Over the mountain in nearby Waynesville, the annual Folkmoot USA International Festival in late July draws tourists from all over western North Carolina for 10 days of international folk music and dance. Midway between the two communities is Lake Junaluska for paddleboarding and canoeing; it’s home to the annual Smoky Mountain Folk Festival.
Laura and Gaylon Peters have owned a home at Maggie Valley’s Smoky Mountain Retreat for 10 years; the luxury log-cabin community was developed by Sarasota developer Sherell Johnson, and they count many Sarasotans as their summer neighbors. Laura singles out the Cataloochee Ski Area, a ski resort and ski and snowboard school. “They make their own snow,” she says, “so you can ski or go tubing in the morning and play golf in the afternoon.”
Places to Stay
The Maggie Valley Club has two- and three-bedroom condos with beautiful mountain and golf course views.
Where to Eat
Frog’s Leap Public House, 44 Church St., Waynesville; farm-to-fork fare with a Southern accent. frogsleappublichouse.com
The Sweet Onion, 39 Miller St., Waynesville; traditional Southern favorites like fried chicken and fresh mountain trout.
The Bourbon Barrel Beef & Ale, 454 Hazelwood Ave., Waynesville; classic American comfort food, with an emphasis on beef and local microbrews. bourbonbarrelbeefandale.com