North Cove Leisure Club in Marion is hosting the College Disc Golf National Championship from April 5 – 8, 2023. Teams from across the country will compete on one of the coolest and challenging disc golf courses surrounded by the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here's everything you need to know to make the most of your visit to Marion during the tournament. We won’t be surprised if you decide to spend the whole week here!
Sights To See
You don’t want to leave the NC Blue Ridge Mountains without exploring Linville Caverns, just 20 minutes from Marion. They are the only caverns in NC opened for tours and absolutely ethereal. They have been open to the public since 1937 and offer 30 guided tours every day. (They fill up fast and don’t take reservations, so get there early.) Wonder at the cathedral ceilings with magnificent stalactites and an underground river full of mountain trout.
While in the area, take the short, 1.6-mile roundtrip hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway to experience Linville Falls, possibly the most famous waterfall in the NC Blue Ridge Mountains. The falls plummet 90 feet into the breathtaking Linville Gorge, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians.”
Gold and Gem Mining
There are 3 nearby gold and gem mines just minutes away. The Thermal City Gold and Gem Mine lets you tour the Old West buildings, talk to a real prospector, and pan for gold and gems. At Lucky Strike Gold and Gem Mine, you can pan for gold for only $5 a day and then grab lunch at Miner’s Diner. Originally a working gold and gem mine, Gold River Camp and Cabins encourages a community feel with an open-air pavilion over the river to relax after a hard day of mining.
The Local Art Scene
Marion has a flourishing art scene, beginning with the downtown Founders’ Art Walk. This “cultural murals art display,” a favorite stop on the Appalachian Mural Trail, features iconic sites, including scenes from downtown Marion, Lake James, the Historic Carson House. See all 6 murals along a 3-block area of the quaint downtown.
Art lovers will also be inspired at the McDowell Arts Council, an art gallery that also promotes learning and practicing all mediums. Locals and visitors may even be able to participate in art classes.
Historic Carson House
History buffs will be captivated by the Historic Carson House. This 2-story mansion was built in the 1700s and brings to life the Carson family’s experiences through turbulent times. View the Revolutionary War, slavery and plantation life, the Civil War, Native Americans struggle, and the NC Gold Rush through their eyes.
Take a Hike Or Bike
Mount Mitchell State Park
Offering stunning 360-degree views, numerous hiking trails, and plenty of places to picnic and camp, we suggest you make Mount Mitchell State Park #1 on your list of outdoor adventures. As the highest peak on the east coast, it can challenge even the most die-hard hikers on its Mount Mitchell Trail from the Black Mountain Campground to the summit. You’ll gain 3,600 feet over a steep and difficult 5.6 miles. This one is for the most experienced hikers.
However, Mount Mitchell State Park also has an easy, quarter-mile, paved hike from the parking lot to the observation deck for newbies. Or choose from many options at the moderate-to-difficult level. Click here for more of these trail guides.
Mt. Ida Wilderness Area
Take a short 1-mile, round-trip hike to the summit of this 36-acre park. Bring a picnic to enjoy while you gaze over spectacular views of downtown Marion.
One of the most challenging mountain-bike trails in the NC Blue Ridge Mountains, Woods Mountain covers 24.9-miles on a single-track loop. It is a thrilling ride that crosses the famous Mountains-to-Sea Trail. One of the most challenging trails in Western North Carolina, this 24.9-mile single-track loop crosses the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It’ll have you screaming Yew! as your knobbies fly across the terrain. It’s also open to hikers and horseback riders.
Also check out the Old Fort Ride House to meet up with other riders and fuel up on some of the best coffee around or cool off with a cold brew after your breathtaking ride. Rangers are even on hand to help you plan your itinerary.
Old Fort is celebrating the Year of the Trail this year by opening the new 6-mile Old Fort Gateway Trailway in the Pisgah National Forest. It’s a smooth track with plenty of room for parking, picnic tables, and restrooms.
Cool Places To Stay
You can’t get much more convenient than the quaint Catawba River Inn with private balconies overlooking the North Cove Disc Golf Course! After your day of hard-fought competition, enjoy your view of the Catawba River and relax in front of a cozy stone fireplace.
Cottages at Spring Cove Farm are another peaceful choice for a mountain stay. Cabins offer full kitchens and vary in size. Other amenities may include outdoor hot tubs, porches and decks, large stone fireplaces, and claw-foot tubs.
Or, after gold- and gem-mining all day, spend the night right where you are. Find a mixture of cabins, tents, and RV spots, some even with “glamping” options. Sing songs around the campfire and play a game of horseshoes just like the original miners did.
Also check out the numerous VRBO available to you from log cabins and bungalows to an elegant vacation home on a 117-acre wildlife preserve.
Shop, Eat, and Play Like a Local
Bring a piece of the Blue Ridge Mountains back home. These are some of our favorite novelty shopping experiences.
- Stop by Sweet Betsy Farm in Marion. Grab a jar or two of their sustainably grown, organic honey to enjoy at home. There are no store employees here; you pay by the honor system!
- Discover specialty items and gifts at Vintage Market. They specialize in repurposed and vintage items and beautiful antiques.
- Continue to vibe in that small-town feel at Flavors on Main General Store. You can pick up your fly-fishing supplies and outdoor gear and then mosey on over to the specialty section for balsamic vinegar, olive oils, teas and spices. You can even sample their local wares in the tasting room!
- April showers…, so check out downtown Marion for rain-or-shine fun. Shop in the retails stores and then take a few spins around Marion Hot Wheelz indoor skating rink.
Grab a Bite
After you’ve worked up an appetite from a day of adventure, head to downtown Marion to get a great meal.
- Grab some refreshment from Marion Wing Factory, or Toonez Chop House - and be sure to leave room for a treat from Chances of Sprinkles Bakery, voted “Best Cake & Cupcake in McDowell County!
- If you’re a food truck connoisseur, you’ve got to try Burrito Bros! Everything is fresh and delicious, especially their handmade tortillas and specialty sauces.
- You can’t leave Marion without indulging at Countryside BBQ. Seat yourself to enjoy some homestyle BBQ and desserts. Their portions are very generous!
- One of our other favorites is the Tropical Grill, about 30 minutes away in Spruce Pine. Their Caribbean, Columbian, and Jamaican cuisines are worth the short drive. They also have a great selection of vegetarian and American fare. Make sure you try their plantains!
Best Places For Some Spirits
If you’re looking for a nightcap, Marion has you covered with local breweries, wineries, a meadery, and a distillery.
- Mica Town Brewery, Marion Taproom, and Refinery 13 are all outstanding places to try our local brews. Spillway Bridge Taproom is another of our favorites and features live music.
- As for wineries, Silver Fork near Lake James specializes in creating wines with a smooth and soothing quality that are reflective of the unique qualities of the Blue Ridge Mountain. South Creek in Nebo features an Italian Renaissance farmhouse, quilt barn, and outdoor living area. Their Bordeaux-style wines are award winning. Lake James Cellars in Glen Alpine resides in a restored 1915 textile mill and shares the property with Old Mill Antiques for added value. Their wines are produced using local fruits. The wineries are all situated along a 15-mile stretch off of I-40, so make an afternoon of it and visit all three.
- Copper Creek Distillery makes some of the finest moonshine in these parts and offers free samples! Keeper’s Cut Meadery was established in 2015 as a family-owned business. Choose from over 12 meads, including many award-winning selections.