Set your expectations sky high for this treetop hideaway at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
What better way to fully experience the Blue Ridge Mountains and trees than to sleep among them at The Carolina Jewel Treehouse? With the area’s ample outdoor opportunities, numerous farm-to-table restaurants, and stunning natural beauty, this getaway is the quintessential experience for nature-loving families.
Where to stay?
The Carolina Jewel Treehouse (1006 Reems Creek Rd., Weaverville) is the ultimate treehouse experience. Built in 2016 by The Treehouse Guys from the DIY Network (the episode it titled, “Diamond in the Sky”), it's truly a gem. Appropriately nicknamed the “Tree Castle,” this 2-story hideaway has most of the amenities that you'd expect from a luxury hotel, including a full kitchen, dining area, two full bathrooms (with heated floors!), and gas fireplace. Inside, you’ll find whimsical touches like tree branches that appear to weave in and out of rooms and through the ceiling, plus hidden nooks and passageways that my kids loved exploring. Dramatic mountain views are on display through the countless windows; don’t miss the views from the lookout tower at the very top of the treehouse! With a queen-sized bed upstairs and a queen-sized sofa bed (with a memory foam mattress) downstairs, it comfortably sleeps four people.
The 1,000-square-foot deck provides magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and forests, and there’s even an outdoor shower with endless hot water - yes, we tested it! The outdoor spaces are just as dramatic as the interior, and sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch watching the sun set over the mountains was a glorious experience. Thanks to a huge bird feeder near the deck, you’ll get an up-close view of many different varieties of birds; a bird guide and binoculars are provided. Be sure and ask the owners to let you help fill the bird feeder. Your kids will see winches and cranks in action and get an arm workout, too!
KidTripster Tip: The treehouse is not suited for those with mobility issues. The path to the house from the parking area is a long, steep combination of gravel and stone steps.
In addition to the treehouse, there are two other homes on the property available for rent. The larger Carolina Jewel Farmhouse is a 5,000-square-foot, beautifully-restored Victorian farmhouse with five bedrooms, each with a private, full bath and working fireplace. Built in 1845, it sleeps up to 12 people and would be ideal for family reunions or retreats.
The smaller Crystal Creekside Cottage is a great option for families seeking more of a cabin experience in lieu of a standard hotel. With two bedrooms and two full bathrooms, this 800-square-foot cabin sleeps five people and has a full kitchen. True to its name, it sits right next to a mountain stream that provided my kids with hours of old-fashioned entertainment.
KidTripster Tip: You’ll have to carry your luggage up the side of a hill to the treehouse, so pack lightly if you can. If not, I recommend using several smaller, lighter bags instead of one larger, heavier suitcase.
Let our KidTripster Teen take you on a tour of the Tree Castle. Click here.
What to do?
When staying at the treehouse, be sure to leave some time to enjoy the gorgeous grounds of the Carolina Jewel. Playing games in the large, grassy lawn (cornhole is provided), climbing trees, jumping over (and into!) the mountain stream, and roasting s’mores at the fire pit every evening (bring your own supplies) were among my kids’ favorite parts of the visit.
Asheville is best known for the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately-owned house in the United States. Built between 1889 and 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt II for his family of three, this mansion has 178,926-square-feet of floor space and sits on almost 7,000 acres of gorgeous North Carolina hills. Admission to the estate includes a self-guided tour of the house and access to the expansive gardens and Antler Hill Village and Winery. Prices vary by season and range from $40 to $75/day, but children (ages 10 to 16) are half price and children (age 9 and under) are always free. Audio guides are available for an extra $11 per person and last 90 minutes; there’s even a kids’ version narrated by Cedric, the Vanderbilt’s St. Bernard. Busy days require advance reservations, and tickets sometimes sell out, so check online well before your trip. Guided tours require reservations and are available for an extra fee. If you want to see the entire estate, budget at least half a day for the experience, although we kept our pace leisurely and stayed the whole day. There are several option for snacks, lunch, and dinner on the property.
KidTripster Tip: You can add a second day at the estate for only $15 per person. Also you can save $10 per ticket, if you buy them online in advance at least seven days before your visit.
No visit to Asheville would be complete without getting out into nature and enjoying the beautiful scenery. There are several places nearby to zipline, like Navitat (242 Poverty Branch Rd., Barnardsville) and the Adventure Center of Asheville (85 Expo Dr.), which also offers whitewater rafting and bike rentals.
At the North Carolina Arboretum (100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way), you’ll find hiking and biking trails, 65 acres of cultivated gardens, geocaching, and learning experiences for all ages. Explore on your own or take a guided tour.
For those seeking adventure, head to the Smoky Mountain Adventure Center (173 Amboy Rd.), where you'll find indoor rock climbing, plus bike, kayak, tube, and stand-up paddleboard rentals on the nearby French Broad River.
If the weather keeps you indoors, head downtown for several family-friendly options. The Asheville Pinball Museum (1 Battle Square) has over 75 pinball and classic video games. Pay one fee and play all day, coming and going as you enjoy the downtown area. Note that it can get crowded on weekends. It only allows as many players in as it has games available. When it gets full, your name goes on a wait list; you’ll called when space opens up. Cost: Youth $12 (10 and under); Adult $15.
Well Played (58 Wall St.), North Carolina’s first board game cafe, offers over 500 games as well as drinks and snacks. The gaming fee covers an entire day of play. It even has expert “gamemasters" on hand, if you need help. Cost: $5/person.
Climbmax Climbing Center (43 Wall St.) is an indoor rock climbing facility in downtown that's appropriate for all ages and skill levels. Options range from day passes with no staff assistance (Cost: Youth (12 and under) $12; Adult $16) to full instructional packages (Cost: $40 for 2 hours; appointments recommended; ages 13 and older).
KidTripster Tip: Street parking in downtown Asheville is scarce. We parked in the Wall Street Garage at the corner of Wall and Otis Streets, which is right in the middle of the downtown restaurant and shopping scene. Cost: First hour Free; Additional hour $1.25.
Where to eat?
If you want to stay close to the treehouse, head to the quaint downtown Weaverville. You’ll find several dining options right on Main Street. We chose Blue Mountain Pizza (55 N. Main St.) for dinner and loved the cozy atmosphere and live music. It even sells take-and-bake pizzas, if you prefer to dine at the treehouse. I recommend the garlic knots and spaghetti and meatballs, but the pizza was outstanding, as well. Be sure and save room for the homemade ice cream. The dining room is very small, so it’s best to avoid peak meal times, if possible.
The Well-Bred Bakery also is located in downtown Weaverville (26 N. Main St.) and has fabulous pastries, breakfast foods, and sandwiches. We went for breakfast, but they are open all day. This bakery has won several awards and is definitely worth a visit.
Stoney Knob Cafe (337 Merrimon Ave.) is also nearby, only a 10-minute drive from the Carolina Jewel, and has a whimsical, funky vibe. It’s best known for its Sunday brunch, offered from 9:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. We were advised by locals to arrive either before 10:00 a.m. or after 1:00 p.m. to avoid a long wait. It’s also open for lunch and dinner every day of the week. Brunch was incredible. I highly recommend the French toast and for Tex Mex fans, the Puerco Rancheros.
If you want to venture a bit farther from the treehouse, downtown Asheville is only a 20-minute drive, very pedestrian-friendly, and has numerous restaurants. We chose Tupelo Honey Cafe (12 College St.). It’s very popular, and because we arrived at a peak time, we had to wait an hour to be seated. In hindsight, I’m not sure that it was worth such a long wait, but since it came highly recommended by several locals, we stuck it out. Fortunately, the restaurant took our phone number which allowed us to walk around the downtown area while we waited. The cafe describes its food as “southern classics reimagined” and is considered to be one of the pioneers of Asheville’s farm-to-table movement. Our waitress recommended the fried chicken and the sweet potato pancakes, and both were really good. While we enjoyed the food, the atmosphere left a bit to be desired. The dining room is small, crowded, and extremely loud. I think that we would have enjoyed it more if we had planned our visit for a less busy time.
Moose Cafe (570 Brevard Rd.) is just west of downtown Asheville and offers farm-to-table southern cooking all day long. It's located on the grounds of the Western North Carolina Farmers Market, so the ingredients are as fresh as they come. It’s best known for breakfast - particularly, the made-from-scratch biscuits and homemade apple butter. We visited for breakfast; the food was good, and the portions were huge. Jars of apple butter can be purchased at the register. Be sure to get one to take home.
If you’re on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, I suggest heading over to Antler Hill Village to dine at award-winning Cedric’s Tavern (1 Lodge St.). Named after the Vanderbilt family’s beloved St. Bernard (you’ll find photos of Cedric and the Vanderbilt family on the walls, as well as Cedric’s huge collar on display), it serves traditional British pub fare as well as classic American dishes. Instead of bread, you’ll get a jar of the signature sweet dill pickles when you’re seated. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, and you can enjoy live music in the evenings. I recommend the fish and chips, bison burger, and for an appetizer, the artisan cheese plate. Note that Biltmore tickets or an annual pass are required to access the Antler Hill Village and Cedric’s Tavern, which is a shame because this place is good enough to be a destination even when you’re not touring the Biltmore mansion.
KidTripster Tip: If you can’t bring yourself to leave the treehouse, the owners can recommend a private chef who'll come to the treehouse and prepare your meals for you.
Photo courtesy: Blue Mountain Pizza
The Carolina Jewel is located in Weaverville, only 10 miles from Asheville, North Carolina. While there's a regional airport in Asheville, the closest major airports are Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina (1-1/2-hour drive) and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (2-hour drive). Atlanta is a 4-hour drive. No matter how you arrive, you’ll want to have a car for exploring the Asheville area.
When she's not traveling on land, Diana Smith is an expert cruiser. She and her family have set sail on eight Disney cruises. For more, check out Disney Cruise Mom Blog.