The Blue Ridge Parkway swings south from Asheville through Transylvania County on the approach to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, though you’ll save an hour or more by following the I-40 freeway to the junction with US-19, which links up with the south end of the parkway. This stretch of US-19, winding through the Maggie Valley over the foothills of the Great Smokies, is a pretty drive, and absolutely packed with roadside Americana—miniature golf courses, trout farms, souvenir shops, lookout towers alongside pancake houses, barbecue shacks—you name it, it’s here.
Before its slow demise and final closure in 2016, the Ghost Town in the Sky was much more than an old Appalachian ghost town: an amusement park with roller coasters, bumper cars, and all the usual suspects, it was built high on the side of the Great Smoky Mountains in the 1960s. For half a century it managed to stay alive as an odd combo of religious-themed Wild West amusement park, with zip-line adventure parks and quotes from scripture. Fingers crossed, it will find a way to reopen.