Another classic mountaintop vacation spot, located midway between Blowing Rock and Asheville, Little Switzerland was founded in 1910 around the Switzerland Inn (828/765-2153 or 800/654-4026, $79 and up), a peaceful and relaxing old chalet-style resort that also operates a popular restaurant right off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 334.

The inn stands on a crest, but the rest of Little Switzerland sits in the deep canyon to the east, spread out along Hwy-226 and a number of smaller side roads. The main stop is Emerald Village (828/765-6463, daily Apr.-Nov., $8 adults), on McKinney Mine Road 2.5 miles from the parkway, where you can tour an old gemstone mine (above and below ground) and museums displaying everything from gemstones to mechanical music makers.