The moment I found out about the 2017 solar eclipse, I calculated my travel plans so I’d be in exactly the right place at the right time. It worked out perfectly, as I was already coordinating a summer Southern road trip with Wyndham Rewards that would take me right into the path of totality.
What a happy coincidence!
Rachel and I rented a cute red Jeep Renegade for the 300-mile adventure, our first big trip since she quit her copywriting job to become the 2nd-in-command at Angie Away HQ. I’m in the market for an SUV so every time I get a chance to try a different one, I do! Plus, you might remember that we’ve road-tripped together before, and by the end of the trip, we’re always more than thankful for the extra space a bigger vehicle provides.
Upon arrival, we loaded up with snacks and supplies – more than usual, actually, because the experts were predicting traffic insanity after the eclipse and we didn’t want to get caught on the road for hours without sustenance. (No one likes a hangry Jet Sister.)
Anyhow, on to our Southern Road Trip itinerary!
Day 1 – Nashville
The Grand Ole Opry and Wedge Oak Farm
We spent the first night at the Club Wyndham Nashville, conveniently located a few blocks from the Grand Ole Opry, the first epic experience of the trip.
We made it just in time to find our seats for the historic eclipse concert featuring Wynonna Judd, Darius Rucker, Charles Esten, Little Big Town and more. It was the first time there’s been a Sunday night show at the Opry, and it was packed with excited visitors in town for the eclipse. Read more about our VIP visit to the Grand Ole Opry here. Suffice it to say, we are country music fans now!
The next day, we hopped on I-40 to Lebanon, Tenn., to catch the solar eclipse at Wedge Oak Farm’s Epicurean Eclipse picnic. I am so, so glad we made the effort to make this trip happen because those three minutes of totality made for one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. (Wanna know why? Read more about our solar eclipse experience!)
Day 2 – Pigeon Forge
The Great Smoky Mountains
Post-eclipse traffic wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but still, it took about three times as long as it normally would to get from Lebanon to Pigeon Forge. I don’t think any amount of traffic could’ve dampened our spirits after experiencing totality. We checked into our hotel and promptly passed out!
The next day, we made our way into Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a day of exploring. We had high hopes for many waterfalls, a few easy hikes and a whole lot of candy consumption, and we were not disappointed.
We did the 2.5-mile hike up to Laurel Falls and it was filled with travelers. So many people came for the eclipse and had the same idea we did, to see and experience as much of this area as possible before heading home.
As we left Laurel Falls in search of more hikes, there were dozens of people on the side of the road just below the trail. If I’ve learned anything in my time in national parks, it’s that people pulled over with cameras means one thing: animals! I practically pushed Rae out of the moving Jeep so she could get video while I went off in search of a parking spot.
It paid off – three adorable bear cubs with their mama. Considering how packed the park was with people, I was surprised there were bears so close to the trail and road. What a treat for us!
Day 3 – Asheville
The Biltmore Estate
We reached the last night of our road trip, checking into the Baymont Inn & Suites Asheville, just around the corner from the Biltmore Estate. Promenading around the grand castles and homes of the world like we own them is kind of our thing, so the Biltmore was right up our alley.
In the morning, we took the audio guide tour of the estate, wandered the gardens and had one last road trip lunch at the estate’s newest restaurant, the Village Social. Everything about our visit to the Biltmore Estate was perfect – except for one thing. It was way too short, and we had to drive all the way back to Atlanta to drop off the Jeep and fly home. It was a 4-hour drive, but we listened to Hamilton twice so it flew by.
We saw so much in such a short time, but I know we missed a lot of great sites along the way. I guess that’s the downside to a fast-paced Southern road trip or a cruise with many ports – you only hit a few highlights, but it sure is a blast.
Now that we’ve had a taste of Nashville to Asheville, I know we’ll be back for more in the very near future.