A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

The Horse Shoe Farm — Hendersonville At the tail end of a bend in the French Broad River near Hendersonville, the 85-acre Horse Shoe Farm offers all-inclusive or build-your-own family

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

The Horse Shoe Farm — Hendersonville At the tail end of a bend in the French Broad River near Hendersonville, the 85-acre Horse Shoe Farm offers all-inclusive or build-your-own family

9 Places for a Reunion Retreat in North Carolina

The Horse Shoe FarmHendersonville

At the tail end of a bend in the French Broad River near Hendersonville, the 85-acre Horse Shoe Farm offers all-inclusive or build-your-own family reunion packages. The former includes group yoga classes, field day games like dodgeball and potato-sack races, and a bonfire with s’mores (the graham crackers and marshmallows are made in-house). Alternatively, guests can enjoy wellness-focused services in the spa or elevated farm-to-table experiences like a pig roast. With either option, families can explore the farm, walking on trails that lead to the river, animal pastures, and a pond for fishing, swimming, or paddling. At night, guests sleep in luxurious accommodations ranging from lofts to a five-bedroom manor, each with an eclectic mix of modern and antique furnishings. “It’s like a camp setting,” says owner Jordan Turchin, “but you’re sleeping in beautiful linens.”

155 Horse Shoe Farm Drive
(828) 393-3034

The Harbor Club at River Dunes includes a fine-dining restaurant and third-floor suites overlooking Grace Harbor. The Harborside Cottages are just a short walk away. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

River DunesOriental

Guests at River Dunes in Oriental can sail into Grace Harbor and dock their boats at the marina, then check into the Harborside Cottages — surrounding a courtyard bedecked with crape myrtles — or the Harborview Suites overlooking the marina. After settling in, it’s time to enjoy a slower pace. “One of the things people say pretty commonly is, ‘We get there, we park the car, and everything just slows down,’” says Kari Forrest, a member of the River Dunes management team. “You can walk over to dinner or down to the water, or you can ride bikes over to the lake house and fish.” Families staying at River Dunes can relax by the pool or in the spa, enjoy guest privileges at the Harbor Club — which features a seasonal menu of softshell crab, shrimp, and locally grown Tidewater Grain Co. rice — or hit the water, exploring the Neuse River by boat.

43 Old Lighthouse Road
(800) 975-9565

White Sulphur Springs Hotel features Arts and Crafts-style cabins. photograph by DAKOTA GOSS PHOTOGRAPHY

White Sulphur SpringsMount Airy

In the 1880s, people rode the railroad to the end of the line in Mount Airy to stay at White Sulphur Springs Hotel on the Ararat River and drink from the allegedly restorative mineral waters of a natural spring on the property. Although the hotel has since burned down, visitors still come from miles away to bottle up the water and take it home. Today, the property features Arts and Crafts-style cabins with cathedral ceilings and lots of natural wood and stone. Families can commune around a firepit, play horseshoes or croquet, fish or paddle on the Ararat, or simply relax in rocking chairs on the cabins’ porches. Nearby, the Surry County Wine Trail highlights 20 wineries, four breweries, and a distillery, and the Andy Griffith Museum celebrates Mount Airy’s most famous native.

230 White Sulphur Springs Road
(336) 786-6769

With water sports, a boat tour, a water park, and a beach, Lake Lure offers plenty of ways to keep cool and have fun during a summer reunion. photograph by Emily Chaplin

Lake Lure

The water park at the 720-acre Lake Lure in Hickory Nut Gorge offers kids a chance to zip down water slides and splash through sprinklers while adults relax on shore or float on the water in inner tubes. Families can also rent pontoon boats, canoes, and kayaks, or take an hour-long guided boat tour to learn about the history of the lake, the 100-year-old hydroelectric Lake Lure Dam, Chimney Rock State Park, and movies that were filmed here — including Dirty Dancing and The Last of the Mohicans — all within view of Chimney Rock. After a day of fun on the lake, families can dine at one of several restaurants in Lake Lure — including Lured, a farm-to-table grill and seasonal market — and rest up at a local hotel overlooking the Rocky Broad River, like the rustic Carter Lodge in Chimney Rock.

Learn more at lakeluretours.com.

Wrong Way River Lodge & CabinsAsheville

Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins’ name alludes to the strange behavior of the French Broad River: one of the few in the world to flow from south to north — the “wrong” way. With 16 A-frame cabins across the street from the river and within walking distance of West Asheville and the River Arts District, guests have the opportunity to enjoy both natural and urban experiences. Travis Schultz and Ashley Capps, a James Beard Award semifinalist, provide catering through their Asheville-based company Newstock Pantry, and guests can book a wide range of activities — like floating and paddling on the river, a brewery tour, and fly-fishing — through Wrong Way’s partner network. After a day of adventures, families can gather at indoor and outdoor event spaces that include a wooded area with firepits and views of the river and mountains.

9 Midnight Drive
(828) 771-6771

The Pullen Park carousel — with its horses, ostriches, cats, rabbits, pigs, lion, tiger, and goat — is one of the earliest Dentzel carousels still in operation. photograph by Eric Waters

Pullen ParkRaleigh

Families gathering at the first public park in the state can take a spin on its carousel, which dates to 1900 and features 52 hand-carved animals. Visitors can also rent a pedal boat for a ride on the pond, hop on the miniature train, or frolic on the playground. Groups gather for lunch in the shelters, cooking up burgers or hot dogs on the provided grills, then face off on the tennis courts or softball or baseball fields. On weekends, families might catch a play produced by Theatre in the Park. The park borders North Carolina State University — be sure to get some Howling Cow ice cream — and is just minutes from the shops, restaurants, and museums of downtown Raleigh. For a multiday reunion, Heights House bed and breakfast offers accommodations in a renovated mansion in the nearby Boylan Heights neighborhood.

520 Ashe Avenue
(919) 996-6468

Juneberry RidgeNorwood

Set on 750 acres in Stanly County, Juneberry Ridge was founded in 2009 as a shooting venue called Lucky Clays Farm by national clay-shooting champion Judy Carpenter. The property was renamed Juneberry Ridge in 2021 and is now a working farm and retreat destination that features a stand for clay shooting (complete with an instructor for novices). Visitors can also learn other new skills — archery, gardening, and painting — or explore the property. Hiking trails lead past old stills and a historic homestead, and tours take guests through the greenhouse and grounds while guides explain how the farm uses regenerative agriculture to transform the land. “A visit to Juneberry Ridge can leave most of our customers with that feeling of closeness to the land and the food systems that feed us,” says Chief Marketing Officer Mike Woronuk. In the evenings, families can play billiards in the Saskatoon Lounge before spending the night in cabins featuring furniture and trim made from timber grown and cut on the farm.

40120 Old Cottonville Road
(704) 474-7398

Located on the Tennessee state line, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the park, accessible via road and ramp. photograph by J SMILANIC/DAWNFIRE PHOTOGRAPHY

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Seven group tent campgrounds across Great Smoky Mountains National Park provide places for families to gather around a campfire, roast marshmallows, and tell ghost stories. From there, they can set off to fish for trout; hike more than 800 miles of trails; stare in awe at the majesty of waterfalls; explore historic homesteads, churches, and gristmills; look for wildlife like black bears, wild turkeys, and elk; and climb to the top of the observation tower on Clingman’s Dome — elevation 6,643 feet — to take in more than 100 miles of views on a clear day. Above all, families can spend time together in the most popular national park in the country.

To learn more, visit nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/groupcamps.htm.

photograph by Charles Harris

River and TwineRocky Mount

At the River and Twine tiny-house hotel, just a short walk from Rocky Mount Mills — a former cotton mill on the Tar River that is now filled with restaurants and breweries — 21 tiny homes are arranged in pods, each with a gas firepit, a gas grill, and a clay standalone firepit called a chiminea. “You have your separate tiny homes for individual families,” says Julie Baggett, assistant property manager of Rocky Mount Mills and River and Twine, “but together with other relatives — grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles — you’re able to sit around the campfire and enjoy each other.” Guests can play outdoor games like cornhole, team up at a wiffle ball field, play disc golf on the nearby Tar River Greenway, or simply relax in hammocks, appreciating each other’s company.

24 East Elm Street
(252) 904-4731

This story was published on Jul 25, 2023

Rebecca Woltz

Rebecca is the staff writer at Our State.