Little Switzerland Featured As A Place You’ll Never Want to Leave

By | News & Events | No Comments featured Little Switzerland, NC as a place you’ll never want to leave. “North Carolina is far from the Swiss Alps, but if you travel up the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll find a charming little village tucked away perched high in the mountains. With its sweeping vistas and views, this beautiful place feels like our very own version of Switzerland.”

The article features several Little Switzerland businesses including the Switzerland Inn and Skyline Inn.  The beautiful views, unique properties and delicious food options were highlighted in the article. There is no better time to visit Little Switzerland than during the Fall season when the foliage and the views are breathtaking. To read the full article click here.



National Tourism Week Celebration May 8-12

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 Travel and tourism professionals from across the nation celebrate National Travel & Tourism Week to promote the impactful contributions their travel markets and organizations make to the U.S. economy.  National Travel and Tourism Week (May 7-13) unites communities each year to celebrate what travel means to American jobs, economic growth and personal well-being.

“Just look at the numbers. Travel supports one in nine American jobs, including nearly 200 jobs right here in Mitchell County,” said Patti Jensen, Executive Director, Mitchell County Chamber. “This week, we are celebrating what travel means to our community, and we call on everyone—from elected officials to local residents—to join us in saluting this important industry.”

The best way that Mitchell County residents can help our local small businesses during the tourism season is to be great ambassadors to our guests.  “Recent research during the development of our county marketing plan revealed that what travelers notice most about our county is not only its beauty, but its people.  So many of those surveyed responded that the friendliness of the people in Mitchell County was what made their trip to our area so enjoyable,” said Jensen.   “We encourage all Mitchell County residents to support our local tourism businesses, help travelers with directions and tell them about your favorite spot in Mitchell County whether it’s a beautiful mountain overlook , a favorite hiking trail, or your recommendation for your favorite local restaurant.”

Across Mitchell County travel employs a diverse workforce from hotel employees, to restaurant, attraction and retail workers, and supports related sectors such as construction, manufacturing and finance. “Tourism impacts not only the businesses we think about like gem mining but also small businesses like gas stations, retail stores, and even plumbers and construction workers who do work for hotels, cabins and second homes.,” said Jensen.

Some of the numbers:

  • Nearly 200 directly related jobs are supported by travel and tourism in Mitchell County.
  • Travel and tourism generates $980,000 in local tax revenue each year (2015)
  • Mitchell County has over $22 million dollars in tourism expenditures spent here each year by visitors to the area.(2015)
  • Tourism revenues save every Mitchell County resident nearly $127 on their taxes each year.

The Mitchell County Chamber will be celebrating National Tourism Week with their annual Tourism Luncheon on Wednesday, May 10th with guest speaker Mark Shore, Marketing Director for the NC Division of Tourism in addition to daily social media posts highlighting tourism in Mitchell County.

As we begin our tourism season, let’s extend our gracious hospitality to all of our visitors and make them feel welcome when they come to enjoy our beautiful area.

Spruce Pine & The Masters: Over 40 years of history

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by Sam Greenwood

There are 44 bunkers at Augusta National, each majestic and hazardous in its own right. The glistening sands look impossibly white, radiating in such a way that only nature could produce something so pristine.

Which is exactly what happened.

It’s called “Spruce Pine sand,” named for the mining district in Western North Carolina in which it’s found. It’s actually quartz, and it’s so pure that it prevents golf balls from burrowing into devious lies and has played a major role in computer technology.

The sand has filled these bunkers for the past 40 Masters, ever since Augusta National co-Founder Clifford Roberts was moved by its texture and how it contrasted beautifully with the emerald fairways and shimmering ponds of Augusta National.

Photo by: Sam Greenwood/Augusta National
Rory McIlroy hits from the fairway bunker on No. 2 during the final round of the 2011 Masters Tournament

“I’d rake it with my hand if I needed to,” said Jim “Bones” Mackay, the caddie for Phil Mickelson. “It fits the place so well. It brings out the green in the grass. It plays very, very well. You don’t hear about guys complaining about lies or balls getting away from them out of the bunkers.”

Of those 44 bunkers, 32 stand guard around greens and 12 are located in fairways. Nos. 3 and 7 have the most bunkers (five each) and No. 14 is the only hole without one. Whether they realize it from the tee or not, players face 10 holes in which they don’t have to worry about any fairway bunkers.

They are basically distributed evenly across the course. The first nine has 15 bunkers surrounding greens and nine in fairways; the second nine includes 17 at the greens and three in fairways.

“They give you certain holes you can aim for a bunker and still give yourself a good chance to get up and down for par or birdie,” said Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion.

“It’s very soft on top and has a firm base,” Johnson said of the sand. “You can’t necessarily spin it a ton, but it’s pure. What’s great about it is you have substantial high lips, but you won’t see a ball plug. Ever. It’ll hit the bank and go back to the middle of the bunker or go through it.”

Those were Roberts’ thoughts, too, after he first saw the stunning white sand in the early 1970s, when it was being used at courses in  Western North Carolina. He liked its look and texture so much that he ordered truckloads of the sand delivered and installed in time for the 1975 Tournament.

“I’d rake it with my hand if I needed to.” – Caddie Bones Mackay

“On those greens, you have to be so precise,” said Mike Weir, who won the Masters in 2003. “The ball comes out a little slower. You have to be more aggressive with it. It’s very consistent sand. You have to get in there and get used to it, because it is a little different feel and requires a different touch.”

At first, the sand was viewed as a cheap waste product of feldspar, a valuable mineral extracted and used in making aluminum and ceramic products.

Scientists soon learned, though, that the sand was quartz, and an extremely pure version of it at that. Its makeup created a firm surface, and its pureness was such that Spruce Pine quartz is used in manufacturing semiconductors; computer chips throughout the world contain it.

The sand often is identified with Augusta National, but the Club doesn’t hold the mineral rights and there’s no patent given for quartz.

“I’ve certainly heard people say, ‘Oh, this is Augusta-like sand,’ but I don’t think I’ve seen it somewhere else,” Mackay said.

Scott K. Brown/Augusta National
Lee Westwood on No. 10 during the second round of the 2011 Masters Tournament.

The huge fairway bunker at No. 10 is arguably Augusta National’s most recognizable and photographed. It’s almost 400 yards off the tee, at the bottom of the hole’s steep slope, and it used to protect a green that was moved back to its current position in 1937. If a player lands in there, he mishit or even shanked his second shot.

“There’s no way you should be in it,” said Johnson. “You really don’t want to hit that trap.”

Among the par-4 holes with bunkers players fear the most: the fairway bunker at No. 5; the back bunker at Nos. 7; and the fairway bunker at No. 18.

On the par 3s, the bunker behind the green at No. 12 leaves a player with a treacherous downhill shot while staring at Rae’s Creek in front of him; and both greenside bunkers at the long fourth hole.

“You basically don’t want to shortside yourself around any of the greens,” Weir said.

On the par 5s, the back bunker at No. 13, especially to a front hole location, is the one fraught with the most danger.

“The green is sloping away from you towards the creek, and like No. 12, you’re looking at the water,” Weir said.

Augusta National hasn’t significantly altered the layout of its strategically placed bunkers over the 79-year history of the Tournament.  However, in contrast, No. 9 initially had one big greenside bunker, then five of various sizes, then in the late 1940s it was restructured with three. Now, two are located greenside.

The 14th has been bunker-less since 1952; prior to that, the hole had just one, which was largely out of play near the tee. The 15th did not have a bunker until 1957, when, at the suggestion of Ben Hogan, one was put to the right of the green.

And in them all for the past 40 years, there has been sand so pure that players never complain about buried lies.

Smithmore Castle’s Game of Thrones Wedding Shoot Goes Viral

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Spruce Pine has a castle (yes you heard that right) with breathtaking views and stunning architecture and now most of the world has seen it due to a Game of Thrones themed wedding shoot that has gone viral! Several wedding vendors got together including photographers, wedding planners, bakers, stylists, designers, a wolf sanctuary and more to create a stunning depiction of the Game of Thrones wedding.

Photographer Katherine Elena told how this amazing event came to be reality. Everything from the venue—Smithmore Castle in Spruce Pine, North Carolina—to the outfits and invitations could have come straight out of GOT and the media is officially obsessed.

This shoot was something that I’ve had in my head for a while and wasn’t quite sure how to make it come alive. I wanted to really highlight the women of the show for their strength and beauty, so I talked to Samie Roberts at Something Perfect Weddings about taking some inspiration from Daenarys Targaryen (a.k.a. the Mother of Dragons) as well as Sansa Stark. Both are very strong, powerful women in their own right while also having an ethereal air about them. The House of Stark on the show has a dire wolf on the family crest and a large part of the show is the dire wolves that help to protect each of the Stark children, so I really wanted that to be the “wow” element of the shoot.
“I started researching wolf dog rescues (there are no full-blooded wolves in this region anymore) and found the website of Full Moon Farm in Black Mountain. I reached out to them to see if they might be interested in participating in the shoot and they were happy to do so! I think one of my favorite parts of the day was when we were about 30 minutes into shooting and someone walked into the room and said, “I think the wolf is here.” River was an incredible animal (and way larger than I expected!) and couldn’t have been better for the shoot.”

Don’t you want to visit Smithmore Castle now?  You can!  Check out their website here

Check out these links to media outlets who joined us in thinking this is amazing!


Ellen DeGeneres

Martha Stewart Weddings



MSN Huffington Post

Elite Daily



Metro UK


Carolina Bride

Business Insider


Smithmore Castle Spruce Pine



Spruce Pine’s Knife & Fork Restaurant Makes Our State Top 7 List

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Our State Magazine is highlighting their Top 7 Farm to Table Restaurants in North Carolina and we weren’t surprised to see our own Knife & Fork Restaurant on the list.

The folks at Our State Magazine say  “Some might scratch their heads at the existence of a farm-to-table restaurant in a town with just over 2,000 residents, but to chef Nate Allen, Knife and Fork’s location in Spruce Pine makes perfect sense. “We’re really in an agricultural promise land here,” Allen says. The restaurant’s proximity to so many of its farmers allows for an innovative menu that changes daily. Allen appreciates the creative opportunity that comes with using seasonal ingredients, and he enjoys showcasing the plants he uses in their entirety. “I get such beautiful products. I don’t want to chop them into little cubes,” he says. Try Knife and Fork’s regularly featured spicy kettle corn. Mixed with turnips sautéed with garlic and olive oil, this side dish has a nice bite to it.”

61 Locust St., Spruce Pine • • (828) 765-1511


Asheville Trails Features Their Favorite Roan Mountain Hikes

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“Hike through abundant high-elevation beauty at Roan Mountain, a series of five mountain summits on the Appalachian Trail near the NC / TN state line. With gorgeous views, lush forest and abundant wildflowers, the remarkable beauty of Roan’s highlands, knob and bluff make for an exceptional hiking adventure.”

Appalachian Trails highlights their favorite eight hikes on Roan Mountain.  Ranging from 2.4 to a little over 10 miles, each of these hikes offer something unique.  They detail out their favorite hikes including those crisscrossing the Appalachian Trail, to those offering “exceptional 360-degree summit views at Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald.”

“Hike through the Roan Highlands to outstanding summit views from soaring mountains, through mossy, rocky forests, and to sun-drenched fields of wild berries on the Appalachian Trail. And explore the Roan Mountain’s forested beauty on Roan High Bluff and Roan High Knob, visiting the historic site of the Cloudland Hotel and the historic Roan High Bluff AT shelter, the highest-elevation shelter on the Appalachian Trail. The mountains’ beauty is wildly varied, continually changing, and well worth the visit: Roan Mountain is home to some of our all-time favorite hikes in western North Carolina.”


If Roan Mountain, NC isn’t on your bucket list…it should be.  Great hikes and experiences for families, experienced hikers and those of all ages.  Don’t miss stopping in Bakersville, NC for a quick bite to eat at a local diner or shopping for handcrafted NC art at one of the galleries and studios.

Mitchell Co Chamber Members Make Vacation Times Magazine List

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Several popular spots in and around Mitchell County made the Vacation Times Magazine’s List of “12 Cool Things to Do in the North Carolina Mountains”.  We are pretty proud of all of these area attractions!

One popular area attraction featured on the list is the Orchard at Altapass .  Vacation Magazine says “The Orchard at AltaPass is along a crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and everyone can enjoy live mountain music while visiting Wednesdays through Sundays. There are numerous hiking trails, guided walks, children’s activities, a butterfly exhibit, garden, and hayrides complete with stories. Before leaving the orchard, guests may want to stop in the country store to purchase some fudge or a souvenir or two.



Emerald Village in Little Switzerland makes the list with Vacation Times  Magazine telling visitors that they are “only three miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and people can pan for gold,  search for gems, explore museums, and shop in the quaint little gift shops.”


Hiking the Appalachian Trail also made the list of Cool Things to Do. “The Appalachian Trail is the coolest thing to do in the North Carolina Mountains or any other mountains that it crosses through. The entire trail is 2,160 miles long and only a small portion of that is in North Carolina. Any time a person completes a small section of this trail, they can still say that they have successfully hiked the Appalachian Trail to all of their friends.”


Going into a cave is pretty cool so we understand completely why Linville Caverns made the list. Just up the road from Spruce Pine, Linville Caverns offers visitors a chance to go inside a mountain.  “There may be caverns and caves all over the world, but in North Carolina there is only one cavern. At Linville Caverns, visitors get to explore the natural limestone cavern that features stalactite and stalagmite formations plus an underground stream.”


Another Chamber Member making the list of Coolest Places in the NC Mountains is Mast General Store in Valle Crucis.  “The Mast General Store was established in 1883 and it still sells supplies to those who enter the store. The store is on the National Register of Historic Places, which makes it a must-see destination while in the North Carolina mountain area.”




Mitchell County had nearly half of the cool places on the list, and of course we have many more to visit! Whether a traveler is seeking outdoor recreation, peaceful hikes, cool underground explorations, or family fun…they will find it all here and more!

To read the other NC places making the list visit the article here.


Mitchell Co Member Attractions Make BCBSNC Bucket List

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC has created an extensive list of North Carolina’s fun things to do which they call The Ultimate North Carolina Bucket List.  Not surprisingly, they included a few of our special places on their list.

“Yes, there’s so much to cover when it comes to the Tarheel State. But we thought we’d put together a North Carolina bucket list of our favorite family visits, outdoor adventures, and important locations all across the state.”

The Bucket List includes some of our awesome places such as Emerald Village in Little Switzerland, Linville Caverns, The Orchard at Altapass, and Mt. Mitchell.  Of course we have tons of other places that we would vote on the list and BCBSNC invites you to contact them with your ideas.  Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook/bcbsnc to add your favorite spot and they will add it to the bucket list.

Read the entire list here: The Ultimate North Carolina Bucket List

Penland Instructors Exhibit

ASU’s Turchin Center for the Visual Arts Partners with Penland School of Crafts

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Mitchell County’s Penland School of Crafts highlights instructors in The Penland 9 Exhibit

The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University is partnering with the Penland School of Crafts to showcase the nine Penland Studio coordinators and their art.

Located in nearby Spruce Pine, Penland is an international center for craft education dedicated to helping people live creative lives. The school offers intensive workshops in books and paper, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking and letterpress, textiles and wood.

The “Penland 9” exhibition will be housed in the Turchin Center’s Main Gallery Jan. 10 through June 6, 2017. Visitors are invited to this rare opportunity to experience the collective talents and fine craftsmanship of nine artists who are more often guiding the creation of art through their students than being in the spotlight themselves.

Artists participating in the exhibition are Daniel T. Beck, studio coordinator for iron; Betsy DeWitt, studio coordinator for photography; Susan Feagin, studio coordinator for clay, Melanie Finlayson, studio manager; Jay Fox, studio coordinator for books, paper, letterpress and print; Nick Fruin, studio coordinator for glass; Ian Henderson, studio coordinator for metals; Ellie Richards, studio coordinator for wood; Amanda Thatch, studio coordinator for textiles & drawing/painting.

Mary Ann Redding, Currator of the Turchin Center said, “Working together to support the practices of other artists at Penland has given the talented coordinators a remarkable synergy; their artwork is both individually strong and at the same time shows a remarkable compatibility with one another – creating a dynamic and moving installation.”

To learn more about the Penland School of Crafts visit

To learn more about the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, visit

Special Thanks to Mountain Times for permission to share visit Mountain Times


Blacksmith Exhibition Heats Up in Spruce Pine

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On Saturday, April 1, and for the 11th year, the Toe River Arts Council opens its exhibition of blacksmith and metal work from around the country.  Held in conjunction with Fire On The Mountain Festival, the exhibition will give visitors an opportunity to view these metal arts and crafts in a gallery setting and to learn more about the nationally acclaimed smiths.  With seemingly unmovable floor pieces to hold-in-your hand pedestal work to 3-dimensional “how did they hang that” wall pieces, the gallery will be filled with forged, welded, pounded, and pinged copper, iron, steel, bronze. An always-fun free pizza and beer reception will be held at the gallery on the eve of the Festival on Friday,  April 28, from 5 to 7pm. The public is invited to share in the evening and meet these talented artists.

TRAC has been displaying blacksmith work for over a decade and recognizing one master blacksmith each year. This year’s Master Blacksmith is Lee Sauder from Lexington, VA. In his words: “Here’s what I do for a living: I dig up iron ore, and transform it into metal by the ancient and long-forgotten art of bloomery smelting. Then I try to forge something beautiful out of the iron I’ve made.” One could say that Sauder grew up with a lead foot. He began forging when he was 12, back in 1973, with an apprenticeship with Larry Mann. He moved around the world working with well known blacksmiths, finally planting those feet in Lexington, VA, where he operates Germinal Ironworks.

The pieces showcased during the Blacksmith exhibition are of the highest aesthetic caliber, inviting profound artistic contemplation from viewers. Other works bring back to life the hand-made uniqueness of the utilitarian items of past centuries: candlesticks, andirons, tongs, skewers. All the smiths have taken a concept and brought it to completion with unparalled artistry.

Another favorite, Seth Gould, resident at Penland School of Crafts and first place winner of last year’s Blacksmith Exhibition, will be demonstrating and exhibiting some of his newer pieces.

The Annual Blacksmith Exhibition will run from April 1 through the 29th, ending the evening of the Fire on the Mountain Festival. For more information about the Toe River Arts Council exhibition, please call 828.765.0520, or visit the Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:30am to 5pm. The Fire on the Mountain Festival takes place on that last Saturday,  April 29, from 10am to 4pm in downtown Spruce Pine. Please visit for information.

The Toe River Arts Council is a not for profit organization promoting the arts in Mitchell and Yancey Counties, and supported by donations, memberships, local government, grants (including the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, a state agency), and supporters who understand the benefit of art in our community.