Founded as the Union Gospel Tabernacle by steamboat captain Thomas Ryman after an angel got trapped in his smokestack, the Ryman Auditorium has since become a different kind of hallowed ground, lovingly referred to as the "mother church of country music." The Grand Ole Opry and The Johnny Cash Show have both taken residence among its wooden pews, and the twanged voices of country legends such as Hank Williams and Patsy Cline have reverberated off the stenciled artwork on the face of the balcony. Today, the venue plays host to a variety of acts, from rock concerts to television specials to comedy shows.
River and Earth Adventures stands out from other wilderness outfitters by being completely operated by their own guides. Their fleet of seasoned cave, mountain, and water-navigating guides work in tandem with professional ecologists and geologists, focusing Blue Ridge Mountains excursions on environmental education as well as adventure. During all day trips, guides divulge area history and expound on forest and river ecosystems as well as geology in caves whose interiors rest at 60 degrees year-round to keep them free of snowman hermits. Each trip also immerses adventurers in athletic activity, whether on hikes to summits and secluded waterfalls, spelunking through electricity-free cave tunnels, or rafting and kayaking down the Watauga River rapids. For those in search of extended excursions, guides lead children's adventure day camps and combination trips that further an environmental focus and bottle-cap collections through river cleanup projects.
Hot Spot Tanning combines state-of-the-art sunless-bronzing technology with friendly, committed service. Marinade your melanin with a month of unlimited tanning in one of Hot Spot's standard bulb-based beds, which boast a bevy of advanced amenities, including built-in timers, optional air conditioning, and inspirational photos of the world's sexiest gingerbread men (a $41.99 value). Or, achieve the perfect sun-un-kissed glow thanks to the ray-less power of two airbrush tans, applied by a trained tantress to deliver a UV-free dose of customized color (each a $27.99 value).
This international museum is the only facility of its kind, completely dedicated to the evolution of women's basketball and the talented athletes who helped the sport grow. Bounce buffs can learn the history of women's basketball through the museum's exhibits, including multimedia presentations, numerous basketball artifacts, original photographs, scrapbooks, and old uniforms. Guests inspired by the abundant wooden-court knowledge can try their hand on the facility’s basketball courts, featuring hoops of three different heights (representing the past, present, and future of the sport) and a vertical-leap challenge, allowing you to show off your superb ceiling-dusting skills. No trip to this historical vault is complete without investigating the world's largest basketball, 30-feet tall and weighing 10 tons, which sits atop the museum's northern hall and, during winter months, is used as the base of the world’s largest snowman. Children ages 5 and under receive free admission to the museum.
Most people associate flying with the sound of whirring engines, intercoms buzzing, and even propellers sputtering into a spin. Wonders of Flight at WonderWorks, however, removes all audible distractions—its helium-filled balloon rises above the trees with nary a hum or vibration. The effect, says the website, is akin to "being on a flying balcony."
A maximum of 30 people can stand on the balloon's circular gondola as it ascends up to 400 feet in the air. After takeoff, passengers are treated to a sprawling view of the Smoky Mountains, as well as a bird's-eye perspective of the upside-down WonderWorks attraction. These 5- to 10-minute flights run throughout the day, permitting riders to snap photos of the scenery as the blue-and-green balloon levitates from its grounded tether. Wonders of Flight also hosts 30-minute wedding experiences, which afford couples ample time to say "I do," and toss a bouquet into a mob of jetpack-wearing bridesmaids.
While working on inventive lagers and ales as members of the Barley Mob Brewers home-brewing club, Chris Hunt and Duncan Guy had an epiphany: we need to share this stuff with the public. So, in 2006, they teamed up with award-winning brewer Courtney Tyvand to start Moccasin Bend Brewing Company.
Today, they brew about 10 beers at any given time. Their menu could include an Irish red prepped with American hops and a pale ale made with juniper berries one day, or their signature smoked porter the next. No matter what the beer, creativity remains integral to the production process, and the brewers often add culinary twists such as watermelon or coconut juice to surprise palates that are used to tasting only cotton balls. All the magic happens inside a 100-year-old building, where rustic granite walls and cedar timbers set the backdrop for brewery tours and beer tastings.
Alive After Five provides music lovers with an opportunity to hear master melodeers in an unconventional venue. Each installment in the popular Friday-evening series presents the musical stylings of stylists who fall outside of the mainstream’s diet of pop-rock, gangster rap, and Mongolian folk song mash-ups. Come out October 8 to digest the Latin-flavored ear food of Matias-Rocha y Nueva Trova—accompanied by the fancy footwork of Latin dance school Salsa Knox—or swing by November 12 for the jazz, blues, and soul of Bluesette. Many performances also strike a comestible chord with fare from local eateries such as Cocoa Moon and Regas Restaurant, plus two cash bars to keep throats clear in case of a mid-song audience scat wave.
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