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Trains, Native Americans, and Other Southern Appalachian Adventures

Program Number: 10403RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/19/2014 - 10/24/2014; 9/25/2016 - 9/30/2016; 10/9/2016 - 10/14/2016; 10/16/2016 - 10/21/2016; 10/23/2016 - 10/28/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Price starting at: $849.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture; Train Treks; Native American Studies; Homes & Gardens Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 13; 5 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Gluten Free; Gluten Free    

Amid the breathtaking foliage of the Appalachian Mountains, step back in time as you take an authentic ride on a storied railroad, experience a centuries-old Native American village and explore a gilded mansion that defies imagination as your extraordinary adventure takes you to the top peaks of the Blue Ridge Parkway — perhaps the most scenic road in America.


• Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad through rivers, valleys and the scenic Smoky Mountains themselves.
• Visit a living Cherokee Indian Village from more than two centuries ago, an existing reservation and an authentic craft market.
• Marvel at the incomparable beauty of the 255-room French Renaissance Biltmore House and Estate, the largest private residence in the United States.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to one mile, some uneven paths. Elevations up to 6,000 feet.

Date Specific Information


This week will be based at the Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain.
Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Asheville, 3 nights; coach to Cherokee, 2 nights; coach to Asheville, departure.

Coordinated by Mars Hill University.


A jewel of the Jazz Age in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this longtime getaway for wealthy Americans today is a walkable town full of history and charm. The art-deco cityscape of downtown appeals to architecture buffs, while the 250-room Biltmore Estate is one of America’s finest remaining specimens of Gilded Age opulence.

Asheville: Modern Hotel with free evening shuttle to area sites and restaurants. Cherokee: Modern hotel close to area attractions.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Jane Huffman

A native of Western North Carolina, Jane Huffman is the program coordinator for Conferences and Events at Mars Hill University. At this campus set amid the beautiful Smoky Mountains, she helps to welcome summer camp, corporate and non-profit groups for workshops and educational opportunities. In a logical extension of her role as a local host, Jane serves as a group leader for Road Scholar programs and enjoys educating participants on the riches of her home state.
Davy Arch

Davy Arch tells Cherokee stories, presents lectures on Cherokee history and culture, and demonstrates carving, flint knapping and mask making. Using artwork from different mediums, he describes both Cherokee history and contemporary Cherokee life. He is a founding member of the Cherokee Potters Guild. Davy's carved masks have been on display at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He is the author of "Living Stories of the Cherokee," and serves as the education director at Qualla Arts and Crafts and the Oconaluftee Indian Village.
Meals and Lodgings
   Blue Ridge Assembly - Blue Ridge Center
  Blue Ridge Assembly 3 nights
   Cherokee Quality Inn
  Cherokee, North Carolina 1 night
   Blue Ridge Assembly - Blue Ridge Center
  Blue Ridge Assembly 1 night
 Blue Ridge Assembly - Blue Ridge Center
Type: Conference Center
  Description: Lodge has all the modern facilities, plus a nice lobby with a large fireplace, glass enclosed dining area to frame the beautiful views, hotel type rooms with private baths, and an elevator. All activities are in same building as rooms. A television room is on the first floor, and for all the "early risers" there is plenty of coffee available in the lobby. Wi-Fi is available for guests as well. Two laptop computers are set up in the meeting room for individuals to surf the internet and check e-mail during free times.
  Contact info: 84 Blue Ridge Circle
Black Mountain, NC 28711 USA
phone: 828-669-8422
  Room amenities: Telephones, private baths, clock radio.
  Facility amenities: Tennis courts, trails, craft center, outdoor pool.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Check out time: 10:00 AM

 Cherokee Quality Inn
Type: Hotel
  Description: The Quality Inn is located in the Great Smoky Mountains on the Cherokee Indian Reservation beside the Oconaluftee River. All guest rooms include coffee makers, free wireless high-speed Internet, local calls and a free weekday newspaper. The hotel also offers guest laundry and free Cherokee shuttle service.
  Contact info: Hwy 441 Bypass
Cherokee, NC 28719 USA
phone: 828-497-4702
  Smoking allowed: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel Check-in begins at 3:00 p.m., Road Scholar Program registration and material pick-up begins in Conference Center lobby at 4:30 p.m. You will be staying at Blue Ridge Assembly - Blue Ridge Center that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends after breakfast at 10:30 a.m. You will be staying at Blue Ridge Assembly - Blue Ridge Center the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free parking available
To Start of Program
  Location:  Blue Ridge Assembly
  Nearest city or town:  Black Mountain/Asheville, NC
  Nearest highway: I-40
  Nearest airport:  Asheville Regional Airport (828-684-2226) Paging Airport Lobby (828-687-7243)The Asheville Regional Airport offers a total of 20-25 flights a day served by four airlines, U.S. Airways, Delta, Continental and Northwest Airlines. The airport is located at 708 Airport Road off I-26 Exit 40 (Old Exit 9)
  From End of Program
  Location: Blue Ridge Assembly
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details



From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
GrandyCo Transportation of Asheville
phone: 828-273-3214
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


.5 hour 




22 miles


Please mention that you are with the Mars Hill University Road Scholar Program for a special rate.


Asheville, NC


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Pegasus Airport Limo
phone: 828-281-4600
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


0.5 hours (1/2) 




22 miles


Participant is advised to make arrangements in advance.


Asheville, NC


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Marvels Upscale Transportation
phone: 828-280-1698
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


0.5 hours (1/2) 




22 miles


Participant is encouraged to make arrangements in advance. Email: Please mention that you are with the Mars Hill University Road Scholar Program.

Driving Directions
  I-40 East and 1-40 West From I-40 East: YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Conference Center is located approximately 14 miles east of Asheville, NC. Follow I-40 E to exit 64 - Black Mountain/Montreat and turn right onto south Highway 9 at the end of the exit ramp. Proceed 0.5 mile to the fork in the road and veer right on to Blue Ridge Road. Drive 0.9 miles and look for the YMCA sign on your left. Turn onto Blue Ridge Assembly drive and proceed to the end of the road and our entrance. Please note, once on the property, the roads are all one-way. From I-40 West: The Blue Ridge Assembly Conference Center is located approximately 20 miles west of Old Fort. Follow same directions as above except turn left at the end of the I-40 exit ramp onto South Highway 9.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: We welcome you to Western North Carolina in the beautiful fall season. Arrive, check-in, and prepare for a wonderful week of interesting and fun adventures!
(Sunday, October 19)

Note: Today you'll check-in to your room, register and pick up your program materials, have dinner, and attend a program orientation.

 Arrive To: After a short drive on the beautiful wooded entrance road you will check-in to your room at the Blue Ridge Assembly Conference Center. Check-in begins at 3:00 PM, however if you arrive early, you will find a comfortable lobby in which to wait and relax, or you may opt to take a leisurely walk around the landscaped grounds and streams to enjoy the views. Program registration and material pick-up begins in the Conference Center lobby at 4:30 PM.
 Dinner: Program begins with a full dinner buffet inside the spacious, glassed-in dining area of the Blue Ridge Assembly. A salad and hot food bar are yours to enjoy, accompanied by drinks, coffee and desserts. Sugar free desserts are available by request.
 Evening: As we gather after dinner you'll have time to get to know your fellow travelers and your program leaders. We will review the schedule and printed materials for the week, give you information about the campus and answer any questions you might have.
Accommodations: Blue Ridge Assembly - Blue Ridge Center
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Spend the day exploring the beautiful estate of George Vanderbilt
(Monday, October 20)

Note: Self-guided tour through the Vanderbilt home; see the gardens and the conservatory; visit the estate winery and other exhibits at Antler Hill Village. A late afternoon stroll in the North Carolina Arboretum will be a perfect way to finish the activities of the day!

 Breakfast: Full buffet breakfast.
 Morning: After breakfast we'll learn about the Biltmore Estate. Mid-morning well depart for a self-paced, self-guided tour of the 250 room Biltmore mansion. There, you will see the luxurious living areas of the Vanderbilt family, lovingly restored to the grandeur of Vanderbilt's time, and filled with priceless, carefully preserved artworks and furnishings.
 Lunch: Enjoy lunch on your own at the Biltmore Estate. The Stable Cafe Restaurant has a nice selection of sandwiches and gourmet lunches.
 Afternoon: Our afternoon continues on the estate with an opportunity to walk through the beautiful estate gardens and visit the conservatory. Early-afternoon we'll depart for Antler Hill Village, home of the estate winery. The first vineyards were planted in 1971 and eight years later in 1979 the first bottle of wine was sold. You'll have an opportunity to tour the winery complex and enjoy a complimentary wine-tasting. Several exhibits and shops are in Antler Hill Village for your enjoyment as well. Late afternoon we will travel to the North Carolina Arboretum The arboretum's 464 acres is nestled in one of the most beautiful settings in America.
 Dinner: Full dinner buffet at Blue Ridge Assembly.
 Evening: This evening a noted scholar and researcher will present an enlightening program on the trains of Western North Carolina. Trains have played a major role in the development of this area. The Murphy Branch of the Western North Carolina Railroads carried thousands of mountaineers from the wilderness of their landlocked hills. All aboard on Thursday as we travel on part of the tracks of the Murphy Branch on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad!
Accommodations: Blue Ridge Assembly - Blue Ridge Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3: Gray Line Trolley Tour will highlight your day in Asheville.
(Tuesday, October 21)

Note: Learn about the history, culture and architecture of Asheville aboard the Gray Line Trolley, then enjoy the remainder of the day visiting the sites of your choice.

 Breakfast: Full breakfast buffet.
 Morning: This morning learn about Asheville's early settlers, famous citizens and authors aboard the historic Gray Line Trolley. As we travel around the city you will learn of the diverse Montford Historic District, the stately Grove Park Historic District with the legendary Grove Park Inn, the art deco downtown, the ever artsy River Arts District and the Biltmore Village. You'll also learn of the architecture, the history and the arts that make Asheville a very unique and special place.
 Lunch: Enjoy a delightful lunch at Pack's Tavern in historic downtown Asheville.
 Afternoon: This afternoon enjoy the hop-on and hop-off services of the Gray Line Trolley. Visit the sites that you want to explore... the River Arts District, Pack Square, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, the Basilica of St. Lawrence, the Grove Arcade... you decide! Simply hop-on and hop-off at the designated stops along the tour route. Trolleys run throughout the day and pick up in 30 minute intervals.
 Dinner: Full dinner buffet provided
 Evening: This evening we will enjoy a presentation on the Cherokee Indians and the land of the Great Smoky Mountains. The Cherokee roamed these lands for hundreds of years before the arrival of early European settlers. Overcoming many obstacles, the Cherokee have developed a government and a society that match the most civilized cultures of the day. They are a proud nation as they well should be. They treasure their heritage and continually strive to keep their Cherokee traditions alive. Tonight we welcome a tribal member who will share his story of the Cherokee!
Accommodations: Blue Ridge Assembly - Blue Ridge Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Museum of the Cherokee Indians, Oconaluftee Indian Village and Smoky Mountain National Park
(Wednesday, October 22)

Note: Exploration into the history and culture of the Cherokee.

 Breakfast: Full Buffet Breakfast.
 Morning: This morning we depart for a two-day visit to the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee are the second largest Indian tribe in the United States. They reside on land that is federally-recognized as a truly sovereign nation, not a reservation. En route to Cherokee, NC we will enjoy an educational video of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once in Cherokee we'll spend the remainder of our morning visiting the recently renovated Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The museum combines computer imagery, special effects and audio with an extensive artifact collection to tell the story of the Cherokee and their ancestors from twelve thousand years ago to the present.
 Lunch: A buffet lunch of local flavor will satisfy your appetite before we begin our afternoon adventures!
 Afternoon: This afternoon we'll visit the living Oconaluftee Indian Village, an authentic replica of an 18th century Cherokee community. Cherokee guides will explain the history, culture and life-style of their ancestors. Watch Cherokee craftsmen demonstrate their skill in making arrowheads, baskets, blowguns, beaded belts, ceremonial masks, dugout canoes, pottery and wood carvings. You'll also enjoy the 7-sided Council House and replicas of typical Cherokee homes as they were 250 years ago. You will have the opportunity to walk through the woods and see a variety of trees and plants indigenous to the western NC area. We will finish our afternoon with a drive into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a visit to an old mountain homestead.
 Dinner: A delicious dinner will be provided following our day's visit to the reservation!
 Evening: Enjoy a free evening after your busy day in the Great Smoky Mountains and the land of the Cherokee. Shop in the village, take a relaxing stroll, try your luck at Harrah's Casino or simply kick back and relax... you decide!
Accommodations: Cherokee Quality Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.
(Thursday, October 23)

Note: Travel in style through the Great Smoky Mountains and see the beautiful fall foliage from your "Crown-Class" vintage train car . Afterwards, lunch and a scenic ride along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, "America's Favorite Drive."

 Breakfast: Continental Breakfast included.
 Morning: Today we'll depart Cherokee and travel to the small quaint town of Bryson City, approximately 10 miles southwest. There you will have time to explore the town and visit the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum before we board the train. The museum has over 7,000 "Lionel" engines, cars and accessories with impressive realistic displays. Several toy trains travel all day meandering through the crafted villages and mountain settings. As a guest on board the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, you will enjoy the scenic beauty of the area as the train journeys across fertile valleys and across river gorges in a spectacular region called the Great Smoky Mountains. This section of western NC offers a wide array of ever changing vegetation and fantastic landscapes, especially beautiful during the fall color season. With the romance and mystique of an era gone by, you will ride a real train in one of their crown vintage cars. You will receive a souvenir tumbler to fill with fountain sodas, coffee or hot chocolate in the Conductor's Cafe Car during your ride, a souvenir for you to take home to remind you of your journey.
 Lunch: Today we'll enjoy a nice lunch at the Jarrett House in the quaint town of Dillsboro, NC. The Jarrett House, established in 1884 is a beautiful bed and breakfast inn with Victorian style furnishings and family style dining. The old passenger trains from Asheville used to stop in Dillsboro for 20 minutes at noon for dinner. Food reservations were telegraphed ahead from the Balsam Mountain stop so it would be ready for the passengers upon their arrival. Unlike the train passengers of olden times, we'll have plenty of time to savor and enjoy our meal!
 Afternoon: After a leisurely lunch and a brief time to explore Dillsboro, we'll return to Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway! The Parkway runs 469 miles along the Blue Ridge, a part of the Appalachian Mountain chain, connecting the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Seeing the fall colors from some of the highest peaks of Western NC is an amazing experience that you don't want to miss! We'll stop for pictures, so be sure to bring your camera!!
 Dinner: Full dinner buffet provided.
 Evening: This evening we'll have a cultural presentation featuring some of our local talented musicians or performers from the region. These performances are always a big hit with our groups!
Accommodations: Blue Ridge Assembly - Blue Ridge Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: The Biltmore Estate is a popular tourist destination at Christmas. We will end our week with a presentation on "Christmas at Biltmore." Check out and program wrap-up will follow.
(Friday, October 24)
 Depart From: Program usually ends at approximately 10:30 AM.
 Breakfast: Full breakfast buffet provided.
 Morning: Asheville and the mountains of Western North Carolina have become a major holiday tourist destination in the winter. This morning we will wrap-up our week with a presentation on "Christmas at Biltmore," followed with an opportunity to ask questions and say good bye to new friends.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Blue Ridge Assembly Local Attractions
Many sightseeing opportunities, art galleries, museums, arts and crafts, natural attractions, National Parks, shopping areas, and more in the area. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Asheville Mountain Majesty

Author: Lou Harshaw

Description: "Sometimes called the Paris of the South, Asheville is known for its grand mountain views, rich and diverse culture, deep-rooted artistic heritage, historical architecture, and the legendary Biltmore Estate. Author Lou Harshaw - historian, teacher, lecturer, and lifelong resident of Asheville - gives a firsthand look at the history and development of this magnificent city by drawing upon a host of historical sources and an extensive oral tradition. The result is a journey through time that documents the emergence and evolution of one of America's most attractive and intriguing cities."

A History of Railroading in Western North Carolina

Author: Cary Franklin Poole

Description: "In this work, the most comprehensive of its kind, Cary Poole examines, in captivating narrative and wonderful photography, the development of railroading in the region. Painstaking research has produced histories for twenty-seven of Western North Carolina's most interesting and influential lines. The work examines the area's complete railroading industry - Class 1 railroads, short lines, industrial and mining roads, and logging lines.

Asheville's Historic Architecture

Author: Richard Hansley

Description: "There's more to Asheville's architecture than meets the eye. Asheville, known for its architectural diversity and intriguing Art Deco style, has been fortunate in attracting brilliant architects who, with imaginative foresight and design expertise, have created lasting testaments in brick and stone. Local architectural enthusiast Richard Hansley recounts the history behind dozens of Asheville's most prominent buildings and historical neighborhoods in ASHEVILLE'S HISTORIC ARCHITECTURE. Discover how Douglas Ellington, Richard Sharp Smith, James Vester Miller and Tony Lord influenced this busy metropolis, as landmarks like the Jackson Building, the Grove Park Inn and the Art Deco City Building were constructed along the city's thriving streets. These buildings have stood the test of time and remain as breathtaking in concept and appearance today as when first completed."

Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon

Author: Howard E. Covington Jr.

Description: From Publishers Weekly: Set amid thousands of lushly landscaped acres in the North Carolina mountains, the Biltmore estate is a 250-room Gilded Age mansion stuffed to the rafters with objets d'art. Writing a very authorized business history rather than an architectural appreciation, journalist Covington celebrates the estate's transformation from quasifeudal folly to lucrative tourist mecca. Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, who played lord of the manor to hundreds of tenant farmers and servants, the estate passed in the 1960s to his grandson William Cecil, whose tight-fisted budgets, canny marketing initiatives and rapt attention to customer service turned it into a profitable museum of robber-baron privilege, selling more tickets than Colonial Williamsburg. The author's sycophantic account of this not unduly exciting saga is mainly a tribute to Cecil, who wrote the afterword. Covington defends the Biltmore owner's model of private, for-profit historical preservation against charges of commercialism leveled by nonprofit preservationists, repeats his complaints about inheritance taxes, extols his entrepreneurial daring, salutes his Biltmore restoration projects ("surpassed what many had seen anywhere") and raves about "customer satisfaction reports... comparable to those enjoyed by a five-star resort." This anodyne hospitality-industry success story will find a place in the Biltmore gift shop, but probably nowhere else. (Mar.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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