Highlands Defines Mountain Charm

Butterflies laconically dip in and out of gloriously blooming yellow lantana. Twin fountains softly flow water into their basins. Blooms spill over huge stone urns; the sky is bluer than blue.

I’m savoring the first cup of coffee of the day, and my travel companion, Puppy Stout, has a fresh bowl of water. We’re alone in the courtyard of our darling boutique hotel, The Park on Main, in Highlands, North Carolina.

At 8 a.m., the air is brisk enough for long sleeves and/or a light jacket. The high today will be 70. It’s in the 90’s at home

Founded in 1875 by a couple of developers who envisioned the area becoming the future of shipping routes and a dense population, the dot on the map stayed that way. Just a dot.

What evolved was a summer resort for “flatlanders”, folks who lived in hot temps and sought relief from the heat. Aptly named Highlands, the charming village perches at 4,118 feet above sea level. Well more than a century later, these Southern Appalachian Mountains still call. The lucky ones answer.

In the western part of North Carolina, the area is just a couple of hours from Atlanta, near enough to South Carolina, Tennessee, and while a bit further, Florida.

Summer is decidedly delicious here. The cool temps and no or low humidity draw annual visitors as well as first timers, many of whom become regulars.

The village runs down Main Street which is interrupted by only three traffic lights. On either side are shops and boutiques, restaurants and a couple of picturesque churches. Shops carry clothing for women and men, pooch items, outdoor equipment, hiking attire and equipment, jewelry, a home store and more. Along the sidewalks, benches surrounded by blooms and alabaster rocking chairs beneath window boxes filled with flowers await inhabitants.

It’s an idyllic place for both humans and pets. The village is not just pet friendly, but pet welcoming. Water bowls filled with fresh water are in front of many shops. You and your dog are genuinely welcomed. Most boutiques have a shop dog on duty to serve as a greeter. Restaurants’ patios are pet friendly as well. Fido lacks for nothing. Nor do you.

Outdoor enthusiasts are among the regular visitors. Hiking trails are numerous, many dotted by waterfalls. Marked from easy to moderate to difficult, there’s a trail that matches every ability. One, Dry Falls, is an easy walk. The trail runs behind the falls, so most often, visitors are not even sprinkled.

Fishing is big here, both by fly and rod and reel. With more than 3,000 miles of fishable waters, anglers are happy with rivers, streams and lakes. Far from crowded, these fishing holes tout the quiet, peaceful and timeless nature of the mountains.

A wonderful nature center and its accompanying botanical garden are just steps off Main, and well worth a visit...

“The season” as summer is dubbed here, has more than outdoor activities. A Performing Arts Center offers an entire summer schedule of live performances, everything from concerts to plays. Highlands is so casual, yet so civilized.

Lodgings are numerous, ranging from four star to basic to vacation home rentals. My beloved Puppy Stout and I have been to Highlands several times over his 15 years and stayed in lovely accommodations each time. Our new favorite is The Park on Main. With only 24 rooms, each of which is a suite with a bedroom and living room and patio or terrace, this place takes pet friendly to an entirely new level. And the location is perfect. It’s walking distance to everything the village offers.

About 60% of guests bring their dog. Others choose it for its suite appeal. The comfy, believe it or not, sofa in the living room makes a bed, perfect for a family traveling with kids.

In addition to welcoming your beloved pet with an Orvis bed, a doggie towel, a bowl, bottles of water, and even a Scottie shaped treat the employees offer true kindness. The owner has a Scottie. Art in the lobby and suites is all pet related. Handsome whether you are a dog person or not.

The very best part of this delightful hotel is that it always has a foster dog from the local shelter who lives at the hotel until a guest falls in love and takes it home. Pup and I have been in many wonderful pet friendly properties across the Southeast, but have never before seen this foster to adopt program.

It’s awsome in any season. Fall will be magnificent. Pack your bags.

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