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Road trip! Down Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive Photo Credit: Getty

Sick of the city in the summer? We've got two words for you: Road trip!

Starting on Route 81 in Harrisburg, Pa., and ending in Asheville, N.C., the 524 miles of Skyline Drive are among the most scenic in the U.S., cutting through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. Best of all, Skyline Drive was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2008 - so if you're in search of a road trip that encompasses natural beauty, local color and even a couple of history lessons, look no further.

Shenandoah Caverns

Why: Put on your spelunking hat, set aside your claustrophobia and take in the impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations. shenandoahcaverns.com

Good to know: These gigantic subterranean caves have been featured in National Geographic and are the only ones in Virginia that have elevator service.

Eat: Southern Kitchen, just off the highway in New Market, Va., has been serving up Southern specialties since 1950 and has the décor to match. 540-740-3514

Stay: The Mimslyn Inn, on the site of a former Civil War encampment, has been operating as a hotel since 1931. Thanks to recent renovations, its amenities are totally modern. Rates from $125. 540-743-5105

Humpback Mountain

Why: See a collection of old Appalachian farmhouses and explore a number of hiking paths, some of which are part of the Appalachian Trail. Look out for eagles, deer and even black bears.

Good to know: Post-hike, take a quick detour to nearby Charlottesville, a cool college town that is home to the University of Virginia.

Eat: Charlottesville's historic Michie Tavern, a 200-year-old pub, is home to a Southern country buffet that wins raves for its fried chicken. It's close to Monticello, too, if you're in the mood for history. michietavern.com

Stay: The 4,000-acre Wintergreen Resort features sports facilities and a spa. Just 4.5 miles from Humpback Mountain, it's the best place to get an après-hike massage. Rooms start at $185, high season. wintergreenresort.com

Natural Bridge

Why: In the early 19th century, this rock formation drew famous names like Thomas Jefferson (who liked it so much he bought the bridge and the land around it) and Herman Melville.

Good to know: Legend has it that the bridge was first surveyed by a young George Washington. His initials remain visible to this day.

Eat: The Pink Cadillac Diner is in the town of Natural Bridge, Va., just off I-81. The old-school restaurant is the perfect place to fuel up with a burger and shake. 540-291-2378

Stay: In Pembroke, Va., about two hours south of the Natural Bridge, you'll find Mountain Lake Conservancy & Hotel, where "Dirty Dancing" was filmed. Rooms from $149 a night. mountainlakehotel.com

Linville Falls

Why: Follow the marked trails to reach four different overlooks, perfect spots to take in the spectacular 45-foot, high-volume falls.

Good to know: Supposedly, Native Americans used the falls as an execution site. No one has ever survived going over Linville Falls, and swimming is strictly prohibited.

Eat: Now that you've crossed the state line into North Carolina, a little 'cue is in order. Belly up to Spear's BBQ & Grill and make sure to get a side of the hush puppies. 828-765-2658

Stay: Linville Falls Lodge is a charming stone-and-pine inn a half-mile from the parkway, and the perfect place to spend the night after a day on the trails. Rooms start at $88.
linvillefallslodge.com.

Biltmore Estate

Why: Railroad heir G.W. Vanderbilt II modeled his Asheville, N.C., home on the grand chateaux of Europe. Its 250 acres feature a winery, manicured gardens and plenty of Gilded Age glory. biltmore.com

Good to know: The city of Asheville is definitely worth a visit. Its Art Deco-style downtown and boutiques, restaurants, and shops offer a well-earned dose of liveliness after a few bucolic days.

Eat: In a city filled with great dining options, Tupelo Honey Café earns high marks for its "New South" style, which makes the most of local Blue Ridge bounty. tupelohoneycafe.com

Stay: Part of the Biltmore Estate has been turned into a hotel. For $199, you can stay at the Inn on BIltmore Estate. Fun fact: The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park.

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