Tar Heel paradise

Stay: Old Edwards Inn

Come for the food, stay for the croquet.

Considering its home holds title as one of the original thirteen colonies, “old” has a fitting place in the name of Old Edwards Inn & Spa. This top-tier Euro-chic luxury resort rests comfortably amid the mystical Blue Ridge Mountains in Highlands, North Carolina. 2013 has been a banner year for Old Edwards — it was awarded a spot on Conde Nast’s Gold List, second place on Travel + Leisure‘s list of best resorts in the continental U.S., and fourteenth on TripAdvisor‘s U.S. list. With an atmosphere described as both relaxed elegance and mountain casual, Old Edwards promises a unique experience with rustic rooms outfitted with European antiques, Italian linens, and champagne upon arrival (yes, please).

Perhaps the most alluring aspect of Old Edwards is its impressive list of dining privileges, from a rooftop bar with hand crafted cocktails to an upscale, award-winning restaurant that overlooks a lush garden, waterfall and all. The resort touts its culinary team, as well it should; internationally renowned executive chef Johannes Klapdohr (locally crowned “King of the Mountain”) has spearheaded a shift toward using as much locally grown produce as possible. Two of the resort’s thirty-three acres of pastoral farmland — appropriately called “The Farm” — are dedicated to growing vegetables and fruits used in Old Edwards’s restaurants. Many ingredients not cultivated on site are purchased from local farmers. The resort also features local North Carolina beer and uses coffee beans from a local organic coffee roaster. This gastronomist’s playground is a true testament to the diverse, fertile land of the Tar Heel State.

Old Edwards balances their culinary prowess with activities like hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting, for the adventurous. Those with a more carefree bent will enjoy a scenic golf course along the Eastern Continental Divide, a two-story workout center and a croquet lawn, naturally. Finally, those with an aversion to sun and dirt can hide away in the Kelsey Game Room, which sports a huge plasma TV, theater style seating, foosball and video games. Of course there’s also the spa, which has just about anything you and your better half need to — very simply — relax.

$280+ per night