With finals nearing their end, I thought it would be a good time to post an update with some affordable travelling you can do during term time. The two trips I took toward the end of April cost less than $100 each for a full weekend away and meant I was able to visit Asheville, Boone and Mount Mitchell in North Carolina and fit in a trip to Atlanta, Georgia.
For the first trip I wanted to see more of North Carolina. I’ve spent most of my time in Raleigh and on the NC State campus, so was really keen to get out into the mountains. Our first stop was Asheville, which is around a 3 hour drive west of Raleigh.
Asheville is a great little town and has a very local small town vibe, but is also known for craft breweries, independent eateries and markets. It was alive both through the day and at night, and was definitely worth the day trip. Asheville has a similar sort of vibe to the Northern Quarter in Manchester so if that’s your sort of thing, there’s plenty to check out.
Asheville is also affordable on a student budget – you can get quality food for relatively cheap prices, meaning eating out won’t blow a hole in your bank account. We stayed in an Airbnb around a 15 minute drive from the city centre, so it helps to have a car. Our accommodation was pretty cheap – we stayed in a trailer in the mountains – but as you’ll be in the city most of the time it doesn’t really matter where you stay at night.
From Asheville we drove up through the mountains. This was a really nice drive – the scenery was brilliant and there were plenty of points to stop off and take in the view. We drove to the top of Mount Mitchell, which is the highest point east of the Mississippi River in the U.S. We took the drive fairly slow, leaving Asheville around midday and spending most of the day in the mountains until we left for Boone at around 6pm.
Driving down from the mountains took less than an hour – and was definitely faster than going up! The way up had some great sights, and driving past some of the mountain houses and streams meant the drive didn’t feel like a long slog. From Mount Mitchell it was around a 2 hour drive to Boone, where we stayed the night with a friend.
We didn’t see too much of Boone, which is where Appalachian State University is based, so it has a college town vibe. After spending the night there we drove out and did two pretty long hikes through the mountains and countryside before driving back to Raleigh.
The building in those pictures is Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, a place we were told gets visitors driving from as far as Florida to see it! After the hikes we headed back to Raleigh for another 3 hour drive and got some rest.
The next weekend I visited a friend in Atlanta, who I lived with in Manchester when he was on study abroad. Driving is the best way to get to Atlanta if you have a group going, but as it was just me I booked a Greyhound. It was $90 for the ticket, but as I only booked 2 weeks before it was pricier – if you get Greyhound in advance you can get some really cheap prices.
To get there at 3pm, the bus left Raleigh at 5am, so it was a long drive. Luckily American highways are less bumpy than UK roads so I found it easier to get to sleep! Passing through South Carolina also has some great views of the lakes. The first thing I noticed about Atlanta was just how big it is compared to Raleigh – you can tell the difference immediately. After a long first day of travelling I chilled out for the first day so I would be fresh for the rest of the weekend.
On Friday we walked along the Belt Line, which looks over the whole city, and then headed to Piedmont Park for the sunset. Be prepared for traffic in Atlanta – the roads were busy the entire time I was there, so cars are a definite plus to save taxi money! On the Saturday we spent most of the day in the Georgia Aquarium, which is the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere. It’s definitely a full day activity, and they have discounted pricing if you book to go at certain times.
The aquarium is also right next to the Civil Rights Museum (left) and the Coca-Cola World museum, but I’d recommend doing 2 of these in one day as maximum unless you intend to spend the full day walking around museums.
So those weekends were how I spent the end of April, as a way to relax and explore before finals! Classes at NC State ended last Friday and the exam period has been going on for a week now. On Wednesday I’m leaving campus to go travelling, so will update on how it feels to leave after a great semester in a couple of weeks. I hope you’ve found this useful and have a great rest of the semester!