Have you ever participated in an active meditation before? If so, what do you like to do?
If you don’t think so, chances are that you have, even if you didn’t realize it.
Whenever you are completely focused on what you are doing . . . in the zone, like in sports, relaxed like when you’re getting a massage, or content like when working on a hobby like art or taking a hike . . . that is very similar to a meditative state.
The biggest difference is that meditation is a purposeful act of taking control of your focus, emotions and thoughts by a deliberate choice of attention.
Artwork can be meditative
Hiking can be meditative
Writing can be meditative
Dancing can be meditative
Acts of service can be meditative
Singing can be meditative
The point of meditation is ultimately to tap into our true nature by peeling away the layers of illusions of our body and circumstances. Using positive activities are a great way to learn to focus your attention, if sitting still isn’t working for you.
If you’d like to try a drawing meditation, here’s one of my favorites that I use when I’m experiencing high anxiety and can’t focus: https://youtu.be/DNaNkF64yP8
If you’re a nature lover and would love to learn a powerful way to immerse all of your senses in an outdoor, sensory, meditative experience, I’d love for you to join my min Forest Bathing retreat on April 2nd. You can get details here: https://soulgasmlife.kartra.com/page/ForestBathing…
What signs of growth are you seeing in yourself? Let me know in the comments!
The approaching full moon in March is called the Worm moon, crow comes back moon, sap moon, sugar moon and many others, depending on the cultural area of where you are or who is speaking. They all have one thing in common. They all have to do with signs of the end of winter and hope of what Spring has in store.
New beginnings are a time for celebration. Seeds mush be watered in order to sprout. The earth works hard below the soil to allow a seedling to push it’s way though the dirt.
Growth isn’t an easy process. It can be dirty, painful, dark and lonely.
Eventually there is a breakthrough. Buds peek through, blossoms unfold, beauty abounds.
You are growing too. If it feels difficult, this is the perfect time to remember that you also will bloom. Allow yourself time to push through the soil. You will make it. Spring is ahead!
Take at least 5 minutes of meditation today to acknowledge signs of your growth and the promise of blossoms. It’s important to be grateful and appreciate every stage of your growth. Also think about 3 things you can do today to nurture and water that growth.
If you haven’t already signed up, we’re having a Full moon fire ceremony this weekend on Saturday the 19th to celebrate and cultivate this growth. I’d love to see you there. There’s no fee to attend. You can sign up to get the details here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/293930432837
This is #1 because if you don’t have this tip in place, nothing else matters! Even though the Polar Express train rides don’t begin until November, they sell out fast, much earlier! Last year I waited too late and wasn’t able to go. This year I purchased my tickets in July to make sure I didn’t miss out again! I highly suggest purchasing tickets before August.
2. Wear Pajamas
It’s highly encouraged to wear pajamas for both young and old alike. Allow yourself to be immersed in the story and dress in pajamas like the characters in the book! My daughter and I got all decked out! Matching PJ’s light up necklaces and festive head wear. The more you get into it, the more fun you’ll have!
3. Shop and dine Local (be a responsible tourist)
If you know me, you know I always I encourage responsible tourism. Don’t litter, be kind and courteous and shop and dine local and tip generously. While this is a fun little trip for you, a good many towns people rely on tourism dollars to put food on their tables and pay their bills. Please respect this charming town and it’s friendly inhabitants by supporting and respecting this amazing town!
4. See the local sites
The Polar Express doesn’t start it’s journey to the North Pole until the evening, so you’ll have the entire morning and afternoon to explore!
After breakfast, we started our day by visiting the Road to Nowhere and did a 3 waterfall hike which were both approximately 15 minutes from where we stayed in Bryson City and both literally a straight shot, down the road from downtown.
The Road to nowhere looks a bit creepy and mysterious where a highway leads to a tunnel where the road abruptly ends with nowhere else to go.
I’ve seen pictures and heard about this spot for years, and was thrilled to learn I was so close. I had to check it out!
The drive to the tunnel is gorgeous and offers a couple nice look over points.
The Story Behind “The Road to Nowhere”
Psssttt. . . . Come here. Closer! I’m gonna give you the low-down on the Road to Nowhere. Here’s the scoop. In the 1930s and 1940s, the County gave up the majority of its private land to the Government to create Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hundreds of people were forced to leave their communities that had been their homes for generations. As a matter of fact, the Front Desk Clerk at the hotel where we stayed said her Grandmothers family was among those who were forced to leave their homes. With the creation of the Park, their homes were gone, and so was Old Highway 288 the road to the communities. The old road was buried beneath Fontana Lake.
The government promised to replace the Highway with a new road. But, due to environmental issues, construction was stopped with the road ending at a tunnel, approximately six miles into the park, was eventually deemed too expensive and the roadwork was never resumed. Swain County’s citizens gave the unfinished Lakeview Drive its popular, albeit unofficial name “The Road To Nowhere – A broken promise” It is a beautiful drive tho, I have to say.
It took us a little less than 5 minutes to walk through the tunnel at a comfortable, unhurried pace. It did get really dark in the middle. Creepy. Take a flashlight or have your phone charged to use it’s light if you aren’t fond of the dark.
Apparently there are free hugs offered. I don’t recommend.
After the road to nowhere we still had time to make our way towards Deep Creek’s ThreeWaterfall Loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a relatively easy hike only a few miles straight down the road from downtown Bryson that offers views of three different waterfalls. Start the loop by hiking the Juney Whank Falls Trail to Juney Whank Falls that offers a quaint footbridge taking you directly across the falls. the trail then leads to Tom Branch falls, located on a spacious and flat trail with benches and natural seating which offers the perfect spot to sit and enjoy the scenery, maybe even a snack. My personal favorite.
The trail then takes you to Indian Creek falls, tucked away behind the trees that has a small viewing area requiring steps to be taken in order to get a good view.
You can take the full Scenic waterfall loop, which will take you to 11 different waterfalls. However, since you have a train to catch in the evening and you’ll most likely want time to eat lunch, rest and clean up before your trip to the North Pole, it’s best to do the Three waterfall hike which is about 2.4 miles in distance. It’s best to take at least 2-3 hours to enjoy the hike.
5. Take the earlier train to watch the sunset/ later trains if you want full darkness
The current train schedule, during this filming, ran at 5:00, 6:40 & 8:20PM. If you’re a sunset chaser, like me, you’ll want to take the 5:00, or earlier train (if there’s a time difference years from now) where you’ll get the best of both worlds. You can zip across the NC country side, take in the rivers, streams, hills and country homes as the sun sets, then enjoy the full North Pole illumination of lights in darkness on the return.
If you want the full effects of the festive lights, then the later times will be best for you.
It’s beautiful either way.
6. Bring your Holiday Spirit!
Whoo hoooo!!!! No Scrooges allowed! Well, that’s another movie anyway. The servers and cast put on a good show, but nothing beats good ol’ audience participation. The more pajamas, cheers, singing, applause and response, the more fun it is for everyone! Don’t be a Grinch, also a different story. Anyway, you get the idea. Festive-up my fellow Polar Express believers!
7. Arrive at least an hour early
When you arrive at least an hour early it allows plenty of time to park, pick up you tickets and find where you’ll be boarding. Don’t worry if things go smoothly, which they did for me, and you end up having extra time between your arrival and your train time, there are a bunch of cute shops, restaurants to grab a bite, a train museum included in your ticket price for no extra cost. There’s so much to keep you busy while you wait.
8. Read & save the instruction e-mail
Once you purchase your tickets, you will receive an email confirmation of payment as well as important details. Save this e-mail and refer to it before and during your trip! It contains important information such as parking information, ticket pick up, what to do if you need to cancel, safety information, updates, what is permitted to take on board and what is not, as well as contact information.
9. Don’t rule out Early November!
The first Polar Express Train ride sets out in the first part of November. I know, I know, I know. There’s a good part of the world that frowns upon doing anything Christmas-y before Thanksgiving.
That being said, I need to let you know that there are great advantages to riding the Polar Express in early November, before Thanksgiving, rather than after. First, the weather is a lot nicer and you’ll be able to catch the tail end of peak fall colors. It’s a beautiful time of year to visit Bryson City. The weather will be much more pleasant for outdoor explorations and walking around town. We were here on Nov. 13th and didn’t need more than a hoodie.
10. The Train Museum is included in the price of your Polar Express Ticket
This is information I wish I knew before I went on my trip to Bryson City. It is not explained clearly on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad web-site that admission to the Train Museum is included in your ticket price. I don’t have any inside pictures or footage as a result, because I didn’t realize, until after I got home that I could have been able to visit the museum at no extra cost. It’s right there, next to the train depot, so it’s a great place to visit for train enthusiasts, or to give you something to do while waiting for your train, or finding a place to spend some time if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Thanks for joining in to hear about my top 10 tips for riding the Polar Express in Bryson City, North Carolina. Have you been before? Let me know if there’s any tips that you think would be helpful for people to know. Are you making plans to ride the Polar Express Next year? Let me know in the comments.
Hello happy travelers! I’m itching to tell you about my Biltmore experience in 2021. Biltmore provided extraordinary highlights. Here are my top 10 faves!
Tell me your favorite highlights in the comments and what videos you’d like to see this coming year.
10) Garden Railway Train Exhibit
While this train exhibit, constructed out of all natural elements like bark, twigs and vines, was brought to Biltmore in the summer of 2019, I enjoyed it’s continued transformation in 2021. I saw it first exhibited in Antler Hill Village and then moved to the conservatory, and enjoyed watching the layout change with the seasons.
Fun fact! This Exhibit was part of the 2018 Smithsonian Botanical Garden Exhibit, which was rated as one of the top attractions to see in Washington DC!
9) Biltmore taught me that Collard Greens are yummy!
This one surprised me too. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of collard greens and never thought I would. It never occurred to me that Biltmore Estate would be the place to change my mind. And yet, here we are. Biltmore is famous for its farm to table food. This past year the Stable Cafe taught me that collard greens are delicious! I don’t know what they do to they do to that stringy green, stuff that makes me look forward to having it again, and again and again whenever I go back . . . I don’t know. Whatever it is, I like it!
8) Stories from the trolley drivers
Biltmore has a rich history that you’ll learn from guided tours, books and other exhibits in Antler Hill Village and at the Biltmore house. What I really enjoyed this year, was stories shared by the trolley drivers that drove me from the parking lot to the Biltmore house.
Even though the trolley is a free service, the drivers are well versed in Biltmore history and I’ve learned equally interesting facts from them as I have form the guided tours.
The trolley ride is where I learned that the Garden Railway exhibit was in the Smithsonian, facts about George and Edith Vanderbilt, the property and the struggles Edith endured after George’s death and also some fun facts like movies that were filmed at Biltmore such as Richie Rich and My Fellow Americans with James Garner, Dan Aykroyd and Jack Lemon
7) Spring Blooms
I don’t care hod many years in a row I see the Spring Blooms at Biltmore. They’re breathtaking and there is always something new to see. Depending on what time of the Spring you visit, you’ll see different plants in bloom and in different stages. You could literally visit every week during the Spring and it will look like a different place each time.
This large-scale outdoor sculpture entitled Free as a Bird made it’s appearance in April of 2021 and will stick around until January 9th,2022.
Patrick Dougherty poured his carpentry skills and love of nature into over 300 of these works over the last three decades. He’s an internationally-acclaimed artist who has captivated the hearts and imaginations of viewers worldwide. Free as a Bird is a unique-to-Biltmore sculpture and it has been fun to watch it’s metamorphosis through the seasons.
5) Restaurant visits
You already know about my love of the Stable Cafe at the Biltmore house. That’s my usual go-to when visiting Biltmore.
in 2021 I decided I needed to familiarize myself with other restaurants in Antler Hill Village.
The Creamery: This is a great little spot for a pastry, cookies, ice cream or to grab a refreshing drink. MMMMMM . . just thinking about it makes my mouth water!
Cedrics Tavern: Enjoy global pub fare at Cedric’s which is an Open Table Diner’s Choice Award’-winning restaurant. For lunch, they offer dishes such as such as fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, and burgers. Dinner highlights Chef Powell’s updates on classic English pub fare like steak, chicken breast, pork chops, burgers and salmon.
Enjoy live local music in the bar and seasonal out door dining.
While they do all ow walk in’s, I suggest making reservations. this is a popular spot and the wait can be long if you don’t call ahead.
Smokehouse food truck: This is a great grab-and-go option served from a vintage truck. They serve Carolina barbeque and other Southern favorites that will not disappoint. Choose from pulled pork, chicken or brisket add on some hush puppies, coleslaw or aged white cheddar mac’n cheese with your choice of Eastern NC vinegar sauce, South Carolina mustard sauce or a smoky tomato sauce. The brisket was moist and perfect. I could have eaten it without sauce, it was so delicious on it’s own. The mac’n cheese was outstanding! I highly recommend!
Bistro: Located in the Village Hotel this restaurant offers estate-raised and regionally sourced ingredients. Even the honey butter that was served with the artisanal bread was made with honey sourced from the bees that are tended right there on the estate.
Choose from pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads and other seasonal dishes.
They have an impressive wine list too.
I had the french onoin soup. Look at that cheesy perfection! Don’t even get me started on the juicy grilled steak sandwich. I’m definitely going to order that again!
As a bonus, I got $4 off my order for being an annual pass holder.
4) The Vanderbilt’s at Home and Abroad Exhibit
The Vanderbilt’s at Home and Abroad exhibition located in Antler Hill Village offers guests an opportunity to view treasures from the Biltmore collection that gives you a peek into their lifestyle and journeys.
Some of my favorite displays included clothing owned and worn by Edith Vanderbilt, like her mermaid party dress made from cotton, silk and metal fabrics.
This is a great place to visit for those who want to know more about the Vanderbilt history, or if you’d like to have something else to do on a rainy day or while waiting for your reservations at one of the Antler Hill Village restaurants.
The extra good news is that ther is no additional cost to see this exhibit. Access to this exhibit is included with Biltmore daytime admission.
3) The Lagoon!
Although I’ve rode past the lagoon many times, I’ve never stopped to see what it was all about until 2021. It’s a peaceful spot to row a boat, ride bikes, go horseback riding, take a carriage ride, see wildlife, have a picnic, go fishing, and watch the sunset. It’s one of the most stunning views of the Biltmore House that you can get from a distance as well!
This is another spot that makes the annual pass worth while so you can see how it changes with the seasons. I got to see it in the summer late fall in 2021, I plan on coming back to see this spot in Spring and early Fall in 2022!
2) Roof Top Tour
I want to see this tour in every season! I went on this tour last year, and I loved it! But it was later in the winter season so the view of the grounds were pretty barren. This year I went back a little earlier and captured more fall foliage. I want to come back and take this tour in the spring to see the colorful blooms, in the summer to see the grounds with full trees and I’d like to come back even earlier in the fall for more colorful leaf display. Yet another reason I love my season pass.
Not to mention this tour allows you to see sights, part of the house and hear stories that you wont get to see or hear with a regular house tour.
1) Carriage ride
This comes in as #1 because I waited so long for it. Carriage rides are highly dependent on weather and availability.
I finally got my shot!
Weather you’ve been to Biltmore 1,000 times or if it’s your first, a carriage ride is a great idea! You’ll experience views of the Estate that you can’t see anywhere else! The guides are fun and a wealth of information. The guides have more great stories about the Vanderbilt family, the grounds and the stories behind how the Estate came to be and why this particular area of the estate is called Deerpark. I’m not going to tell you though, You’ll have to take a carriage ride to find out
What am I looking forward to in 2022?
Staying at the Biltmore hotel, Inn or maybe one of the cottage
Going back to as many restaurants as possible
The Lagoon in Spring and early fall
Roof top tour in other seasons
Immersive art exhibits
What type of Biltmore videos would you like to see in this year? Hotel tours reviews? Restaurant reviews? an insider look at different tours and activities? Info on the history? Let me know in the comments.
Also, I just set up a Buy me a Coffee page. If you appreciate and have enjoyed any of my videos or articles and would like to give me a tour guide tip, it would be very much appreciated you can be one of my first supporters! There are a lot of expenses involved in order to travel to locations and I’d love to update equipment to bring you the best videos possible. Your support will help me accomplish those goals. If you can’t contribute financially, you can always watch the ads and leave comments, subscribe and give a great big thumbs up on my YouTube channel, which are always a great way to help out.
Thank you so much for joining in I appreciate you! Happy Travels!
What’s it like riding the longest mountain coaster in America? Watch this Pigeon Forge Alpine Coaster video to see!
Rocky Top Alpine Coaster in Pigeon Forge Tennessee, is the longest alpine coaster not only in Tennessee, but also in the US, lasting about 9 minutes! It’s also the first in the world with four, count them, FOUR uplifts!
Take in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains as you twist and turn through 360 degree turns and whip through multiple tunnels with some funny jokes and entertaining props along the way.
Each car can go up to 30 MPH, but don’t worry. If that’s too fast for you, that’s not a problem. You get to control to speed.
lI got to have a unique Alpine Coaster ride by experiencing the fun at night! I watched the sun go down and the coaster lights turned up! A totally unforgettable experience. I have a link for you, here, with a lowest price guarantee where you can conveniently reserve your tickets in advance so you can skip the line, and allows you free cancellation with 24 hours advanced notice if needed.
You’ll find them at 2940 Veterans Boulevard in Pigeon Forge, TN. If found it tons of fun and reasonably priced! For alpine coaster lovers, I rate this a 9 out of 10 for things to do in Pigeon Forge!
Today I’m sharing a budget friendly travel hack to show you have to get cash back on your travel purchases and even earn money as well. I’m not just talking earning money through gift cards or discounts. We’re talking real cash to go in either your bank account or PayPal, which ever you choose. You also can choose gift cards as well, the point is, you can choose how you receive your earnings. If you like gift cards, you can get gift cards, but you can choose money in your account if you’d rather use it to pay bills, use as fun money or even pay for your next vacation!
TopCashback is a super easy web-site that gives you cash back on your online purchases. There are over 4,000 retailers on TopCashback like Amazon.com, Walmart, Walgreens, even grocery stores and so much more, so you literally can earn cash back from online purchases that you would make anyway! Even better for travelers, you can earn cash back for your travel purchase all the way from hotel and house rentals, flights, car rentals & shuttle service, activities & excursions, even your luggage and accessories and more!!!! It’s a no brainer. I’m new to this web-site but I wish I had known about it earlier. It’s amazing and I’ve missed out on getting back so much money from not being part of this site sooner!
It’s completely free to sign-up and use and they are offering a special bonus right now when you sign up as a new user. Here’s the link in the description below. It’s important to use the link provided in the description box to be able to take part in this offer, so be sure to click the link below. When you click on the link I provided for you, you’ll be eligible for a $5 CASH BACK sign-up bonus after you spend $25 by going through the TopCashBack website. This is just for new users, so if you haven’t signed up yet, take a moment to click on the link below and you can follow along as I take you to the web-site to show you how to sign up, use, maximize and navigate the TopCashBack web-site as well as how to save money for you next trip, earn cash back on your travel planning and even how you can make some extra money along the way too.
I’m amazed with this site! You can literally get cash back from every part of your next vacation or trip planning from start to finish and everything in between.
I’ll show you all that, but first, if you’re new to my site, welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. Happily 4 Evers After is all about travel destinations, travel hacks, deals and reviews and I have a YouTube Channel that goes along with this blog. So if you’re into all that, you’re in the right place so be sure to hit the follow or subscribe button. If you find this information helpful, be sure to hit the like button too and leave a comment so I know you enjoyed it. I like to create content that my viewers like, so the like button helps me know what topics I should run with and which ones people aren’t that interested in.
This post and above video is sponsored by TopCashback, so thank you for choosing to work with me. I’m excited to share what you’re all about and how TopCashback helps us travel more for less by earning cash back, through online purchases that we’re already making anyway.
First, remember to use this link so you can take advantage of the $5 TopCashback sign-up bonus that they’re currently running. If you don’t, you’ll be out of luck. No Cash back bonus for you! Follow directions! Once you’re on their site, enter your e-mail and choose a password. When it asks how you heard about them you can choose, online forum. Once you have your account, you authenticate your account with your e-mail. And your in! It’s that simple to sign up.
They have a start up guide and FAQ section if you’d like to learn more before you start purchasing and browsing.
You simply search, select, shop and you get cash back. It’s really that easy. Here, let me show you.
As I mentioned earlier, TopCashback has over 4,000 retailers, but since this is a travel channel, I’m going to focus on their travel section. As you can see over here from the drop down tab from the menu, click on “categories” you’ll see they have an entire section dedicated to travel.
Look at all they have!
I mean look at this! There’s booking sites that most of you are familiar with like Booking.com that gives you 7% cash back and Travelocity gives 7% cashback too. Hotels, even concert tickets! Look here, you can earn 5% by purchasing your concert and event tickets through Tickemaster! There’s car rentals, more hotels . . . lots of hotels, pretty much near every type I can think of practically.
And even here, they are offering cash back to sign up with Clear! Clear is pretty much like TSA precheck only they are privately owned. Clear expedites the document/identity screening process and TSA Precheck expedites the physical screening process. They are even giving cash back to give their 2 month free trial a go.
You can get cash back with Kayak.com. I use them all the time to find cheap flights. I did a video not long ago showing you how to navigate their system to find the cheapest flights possible. There’s VRBO for house rentals, 5% cashback at SeaWorld Parks!
Look at this! You can even earn cash back when you need to park your car at the airport or other long-term parking needs. 8% here at the Parking spot. Look at this! OMG 20% cashback through AirportParking.com. There’s even shuttle service, seriously, there’s so much here to go through I can’t possibly go through them all. Literally hundreds of choices to earn cash back for your travels. I’m doing my best to give you a brief but thorough overview, but you really need to sign up and look through all of the possibilities yourself and see which suppliers will be best for your travel needs.
Here’s 6% for City pass and lets not forget cruising! There’s 3.5% cashback from CruiseDirect.
There are so many hotels and chains to choose from. Some individual hotels like Holiday Inn gives 6% cash back. And look here. There’s hotel Indigo also 6% cash back! I love staying at Hotel Indigo when I’m in downtown Asheville. I’ve done a video on their property. How great is that to stay at an amazing property like Hotel Indigo and then getting 6% cash back from your stay. Bonus!
Then there’s Viator.com. I use them all the time not just for my clients, but I use them for me and my family for activities and excursions. Let’s take a peek to show you what they have to offer. First check to see what type of offers they have listed. It’s a good idea to look at the terms and conditions as well. There are some stipulations that tell you what situations may stop you from getting your cash back. Things like; if you use a staff or student discount code, or a promotional coupon code not approved by TopCashback, or when you cancel your purchase. Make sure you’re aware so you don’t miss out.
Let’s go back up and look at this offer that gives you 50% off things to do plus free cancellation and gives you 6% back on your activity purchase. as you see when you click on the offer it takes you to viators web-site. It’s important that you go to viators web-site by first going through TopCashback.com, becuase that is how they are able to link your purchase and track the cash back available to you. Just put in the city you want to go to as well as the dates. Let’s see what there is to do in costa rica. You can purcahse ziplining, horseback riding, tubing adventures, waterfall and volcano hikes, ATV through the rain forest, go on a catamaran cruise, go sailing or snorkeling . . . you can book all of your vacation adventures and earn cash back by purchasing through your TopCashback web-site! As I mentioned, I have used Viator a lot for my own travels as well as for my clients. Travel Agents and consultants use Viator all the time, so I can tell you 100% from experience that they are a great company to purchase your excursions and activities from.
Simply choose your activity, the dates and continue booking through the site as usual. As long as you’ve arrived at the Viator site via the TopCashback web-site first, you don’t have to do anything else. They take care of the rest for you. Your purchase is tracked. Once the supplier processes your purchase then it will show up in your account. When checking out make sure not to apply any unapproved coupon or discount codes book special rates or you may be disqualified from earning your cash back.
It can take up to a few days, even to a few months for some purchases to show as tracked in your account. Especially when it comes to travel. In the travel industry it is standard that no commissions are paid until travel has been completed. As a travel agent I’m used to that. When my clients travel I do not get my agent commissions until 2-3 months until after my clients have traveled. So, It did not surprise me at all to learn that is the same with travel suppliers and cash back sites. That is the way TopCash Back is able to give you cash back on your bookings. The travel supplier give TopCashBack comission for bookings that go through their web-site and TopCashback gives you 100% of that commission. 100%! That’s unheard of. Because of this they are able to consistently feature higher rates than their competitors. Usually cash back sites will take a cut of the commission, but TopCashback gives you the whole kit-n-caboodle. The hotels, cruise lines, car rentals, etc. need to make sure you travel without cancellation before the commission can be paid and your cash back can be processed.
When you shop with a store, like Walmart for example, the orders and cash back are processed quicker. For example my last purchase was a curling iron from Walmart. Although when I made the purchase it said to allow 7 days for the transaction to process into my account, it was actually processed much quicker, as in, it was processed by the end of that day, quicker.
If you have any questions regarding your account, they do have a customer service department. In my personal experience they have got back to me every time in less than 24 hours to answer my questions.
If you’re wondering how TopCashback makes any profit if they give their users 100% of the commission, I’m with you. I wondered the same thing. The way they are able to profit and pay their employees is through adverts and sponsored links which are clearly labled as “Zero Cash Back” If any members ever click on a sponsored link, then it goes to support their site. Merchants and their tracking agencies are also prepared to pay them bonuses for things like bringing high traffic volume to their site. All those things together support TopCashback to remain financially sound and able to give their users 100% of the travel commissions as cash back.
Another thing that makes TopCashback unique is that they do not have a minimum payout. Many Cash back sites have dollar amount minimums before they will allow you to get your payout. That is not the case with TopCash back. As soon as your payout has been processed and is available, you are able to claim that amount immediately.
A couple other tips to keep in mind that can be useful:
if you have adblock installed on your device, it may prevent TopCashback from being able to track your purchases. You’ll need to uninstall Adblock
Take screen shots of your purchases in case a purchase wasn’t able to be tracked
Be sure to read and understand the terms of service to make sure you’re not doing anything that will prevent you from earning your cash back
Pay for your purchase with a credit card that allows you to earn points or cash back for travel to maximize what you’re saving and/or earning.
Get an affiliate link so that you can tell friends about TopCashBack to earn even more.
Start browsing and shopping! Utilize this site. Let it work for you!
Thank you so much for joining in today! If you still need to sign-up, don’t forget to use the link in the description below so you can take advantage of the $10 sign-up bonus after you spend $25 at one of the retailers or travel suppliers through TopCashback
Let me know what you think of TopCashback. Are you going to sign up , or did you sign up to earn cash back on your online purchases? Are you already a member? I’d love to hear your experiences.
As I said, I’m new to the site, so I’m looking forward to coming back in the future to give you updates. Please keep in touch, leave a comment and I hope you become apart of the Happily 4 Evers After community by subscribing. I’m thankful for you!
Are you ready for some hot, sizzling tips on how to enjoy Biltmore Estates this summer? You are? Great! Let’s go!
Biltmore Estates is an ever-changing environment, especially from season to season. Even if you’ve been to Biltmore one or a hundred times, there’s always something new. Each season ushers in new discoveries, activities, exhibits and food! Lets look at the summer fun that you can expect this year! There are some activities that you can expect to find at Biltmore every summer, but pay attention because some are here only for the 2021 summer season!
1. Secure Your House Time Online, in Advance.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to reserve your house ticket in advance! Only a specific number of people are allowed in the house at a time and with Covid, the numbers may even been smaller. Not to mention, summer is a popular time at Biltmore Estates and space fills up quick. If you wait until your arrive at Biltmore to buy your house admission ticket, you may be out of luck. If viewing the inside of the Biltmore House is important to you, reserve your time slot online ASAP! The good news is, if you secure a time and end up missing it, it’s easier to switch your house time when you already have a ticket, than it is to get a ticket once space has filled up. If you missed your house time or need a new one for any reason, just ask the nice greeters at the house waiting line. They’ll let you know when you’ll be able to enter.
2. Horse Around!
For extra fun at Biltmore in the summer, be sure to horse around! I mean, like litterally, horses can take you around the estate in a carriage or on a guided trail ride. Carriage rides are a special Biltmore treat that is NOT offered year round. Weather permitting, summer is a fabulous time to explore the estate on 30 or 60 minutes carriage rides for up to 6 people or you can opt for a 90 minute private ride for up to 4 guests. To participate in a carriage ride, you will need to have either a daytime ticket to Biltmore Estates, an annual pass, or be a guest at one of Biltmore’s onsite, overnight properties.
3. See the Unique/Temporary Exhibits
You’ll want to take time to see the unique, temporary exhibits that can only be found at Biltmore this summer. Included with your admission price to Biltmore Estates, you can enjoy unique, temporary works of art such as Stickwork, an interactive, outdoor sculpture, entitled Free as a Bird, crafted and displayed in Antler Hill Village. Internationally acclaimed artist, Patrick Dougherty has built over 300 of these works, such as this one-of-a-kind stick sculpture that can only be seen at Biltmore Estates. But hurry! This exhibit is only sticking around until September 30th, 2021 ! (Did you see what I did there? Stickwork is sticking around 😀 (*insert laughter here)
The Biltmore Railway is another temporary exhibit that you can view this summer. It can be found in the conservatory until September 26th. The winding train displays feature replicas of structures connected with Biltmore and its founder George Vanderbilt. Each beautifully executed piece was handcrafted from such natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs and runs in and out of the conservatory meandering from room to room and even outside spaces.
4. Eat at one of the Biltmore Restaurants
Weather you eat at one of the house restaurants or at Biltmore Village, dining is a unique and delicious part of the Biltmore experience. Their menus feature fresh, estate-raised produce and meats and local, seasonal ingredients.
Some restaurants offer online reservations such as the Dining Room, some don’t. Make sure to check on Biltmore’s web-site to check to see if you need a reservation and hours of operation. Biltmore is busy in the summer, so if you don’t have a reservation there’s very likely going to be a long wait for seating as a walk in, so you’ll want to get your name on the wait list before you get too hungry. We don’t want any hangry people at Biltmore, now do we?
To done on the estate, you need to have a daytime ticket to Biltmore, an Annual pass, or stay at one of the estate’s overnight properties. Or, if someone in your party is a annual pass holder, everyone in the same car can dine at Biltmore Village without paying an entrance fee after 5PM.
5. Hit the Trails
Wander through historic gardens and woodland trails. Meander through the meadows along the French Broad River. Enjoy Biltmore at your own pace with nearly 22 miles of hiking trails on the estate or take a guided hike. Maps are available at the Bike Barn and Outdoor Adventure Center.
Access to more than 20 miles of biking trails are free for all guests*! Choose from well-marked, single-track woodland dirt trails for a challenging ride, or flat, paved trail along the French Broad River for a more leisurely ride. Bring your own bike or rent one.
Rental bikes, trail-a-bikes, and trailers are available on a first-come, first-served basis from the Bike Barn, located on the second floor of Antler Hill Barn. No advance reservations are offered or required. It’s recommended that all guests check in for a trail map and current trail conditions.
Bike Barn hours vary seasonally; please see Estate Hours for current hours.
There’s so much more to do at Biltmore than you can imagine! From animal encounters, such as falconry and time a the animal farm, off-road Land Rover Rentals, kayaking, clay shooting, boating and more, there are all kinds of adventures to be had beyond the house and Gardens! Check out the web-site for info, pricing and hours.
7. Prepare for Rain
It can get rainy in Asheville. It’s a good idea to bring a water resistant jacket or maybe even an umbrella just in case. It can’t hurt to bring water proof protection for your electronics as well. A rainy day can be salvaged if you’re prepared. It’s better to be safe than soaked!
8. Stay at One of the Biltmore Properties
There’s simply a different feel to staying onsite at the Estate. You can stay at the Inn on Biltmore, Village hotel, or one of their cottages. To stay at Biltmore is to immerse yourself in the Biltmore Culture by staying at a property where you’re surrounded by acres and acres of Biltmores farms, trails waters and shades of times past. It takes you out of the hustle and bustle of the city and gives the feel of an out-of-the-way country estate where you can leave the cares of the real world behind for a while.
Check out the special offer packages that you can book along with your room for discounts and custom experiences.
9. Catch a Sunset
If you’ve watched some of my other Biltmore video’s you’ve probably seen me mention the sunset on the terrace at the Biltmore house. Unfortunately, in the summer months the Estate house and grounds have closed long before the sunsets. But don’t worry. There are other great places on the estate to catch a beautiful sunset.
The Lagoon is a lovely spot to sit, or take a walk while you watch the sunset. There’s also a cool view of the house from the Lagoon as well.
The terraces at Biltmore Village and their overnight properties.
10. Take a Specialty Tour
If it’s your first trip to Biltmore Estate, the audio tour is sufficient. It will give you a lot of history and fun facts about the Esate and each specific room as you pass through. However, if you’ve already done the audio tour, or if you are a history buff and want to see and hear beyond what is included in the audio tour, then an additional specialty tour is right for you. I’ve personally taken the Roof Top tour and Loved it! It’s also a cool tour to take in different seasons to get a bird’s eye view of what the gardens and grounds look like in each season. I took my tour around Christmas time and I’m itching to get back to see what it looks like when the gardens are more vibrant. Summer would be the perfect time to see the grounds in their full glory!
Other tours that you can choose from are the Backstairs tour, the Behind the Scenes Winery and tasting tour and they even have tours for kids.
Usually Biltmore offers live concerts on the lawn, unfortunately due to the current pandemic, the concerts are cancelled this summer. Fingers crossed that they’ll be back in 2022!
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you enjoy travel and learning about destination information, travel hacks, tips deals and reviews, be sure to follow this blog and my YouTube Channel and drop a comment to say “hello!”
Where you choose to stay can greatly impact your over-all experience. It’s wise to check out the differences and select which is best for you, your budget and your desired Asheville experience.
If you follow my YouTube Channel, Happily 4 Evers After, you already know how much I adore the quirky, hippie vibe of downtown Asheville. As a result, I tend to share that aspect of Asheville quite a bit. A disproportionate amount, actually. Yet, I realize downtown isn’t everyone’s cuppa tea, and that’s OK. Asheville is a fascinating lady and deserves to be loved for her colorful and multi faceted personalities.
I’ve realized that I need to be fair to this amazing city that I love, so I’ve sought to expand my horizons and stay in area’s that I’ve never explored before.
It’s a rough job, but hey! Someone’s got to do it! I am up for the task!
Most recently had the pleasure of spending a full 24 hours in an area of Asheville that I didn’t know existed. Let me introduce to you (*insert drum roll here) BILTMORE PARK! (*insert cheering crowd with wild applause)
In other words, they created a community with old-time values in mind. Good food, walk-able shopping, entertainment and environmentally friendly concepts of sustainability that goes back to Biltmore Estates founder . . . a safe place where people can live with seasonal (yet pandemic restricted) farmers markets, concerts and other gatherings with plenty to do and eat so you can ditch your car and don’t have to get back in again unless you want to. Heck, you don’t even need a car at Biltmore Park. You can grab a taxi or take the Hotel Shuttle from Hilton Biltmore Park and you’re good!
If you want to take time to see other parts of Asheville . . . no worries.
*It’s only about 8 miles, or approx. 14 minutes from Biltmore Estates.
*Roughly 15 minutes or 12 miles to Downtown Asheville,
*and only about 4 miles or 8 minutes from the Asheville airport.
As a matter of fact, I could see people rafting down the French Broad River from my room!
The Low-Down on Hilton Biltmore Park
If you want to ditch motor transportation and immerse yourself in Biltmore Park, you need to stay at the Hilton Biltmore Park, the only hotel in this particular area. Yes, there are other hotels in Biltmore farms and the surrounding vicinity, but if you want the pedestrian-friendly, car-ditching experience, Hilton Biltmore Park is THE ONLY place to be!
Not only are you within walking distance of EVERYTHING that Biltmore Park has to offer, Hilton Biltmore park also;
A. Is Pet-friendly
B. Has Free Wifi
C. Has Free Parking
D. Free Airport Shuttle
E. Has Indoor Pool & Fitness Area
F. Onsite Spa
G. Has Digital Keys (This is huge if you forget your key or don’t want to carry a key around. Oh, and let’s not forget the good ol’ “my key was demagnetized by my phone.” yeah, good times. I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time through-out my life that my key suffered death by phone. Not at Hilton Biltmore park, tho. The digital key allows you to open your room door, hassle free, with zero extra trips to the front desk. (*insert angelic choir here)
H. With 165 guest rooms and 3850 sq. ft. of meeting space, this is a great location if your planning a retreat, event or conference!
I. Hilton Clean Stay Program! Naturally you may be wondering about Hilton’s policies and procedures when it comes to keeping guests and employees safe during a pandemic. Their Clean Stay Program places a seal with a QR code over your door so you can see all that has been done to clean and sanitize your room up to standards.
You can do whaaaaa in 24 hrs?
Grab your shoes and hat, I’m gonna take you for a ride. Are you ready for the possibilities of what there is to do in 24 hours in Biltmore Park? You are? Sweet! Let’s go!
Up and At em! Rise and shine! We only have 24 hours in Biltmore Park, not a moment to spare!
First order of business. Breakfast. Assuming you’ve taken my advice and you’re staying at Hilton Biltmore Park, you should take advantage of that fact. If you need a little extra time to get ready for the day, no worries. Order in room service and start your day in the privacy of your room. But for those of you that are bright eyed and bushy-tailed . . . enjoy a hot, made-from-scratch, locally sourced breakfast from Fork Lore, a locally and independently owned onsite restaurant.
I had a made-to-order omelet with potatoes, fruit and whole wheat toast. YUMMMM! I will be sure to order that again when I return!
Shop Til You Drop!
Your belly is full, got your comfy walking shoes on, now it’s time to hit the shops!
The book lover in you will be head over reading glasses that Barnes and Nobles is only a few steps away. Once you’re done with books, books and more books, you’ll find clothing boutiques, REI, OP Taylor’s Toy store, (where I caught a mad game of ping pong taking place!) Talloni Shoe Salon, where, ironically enough, you’re welcome even if your dogs are barking. :/
Speaking of dogs, a trip to Asheville wouldn’t be complete without Fido having a store dedicated specifically to him. Stop in Woof Gang Bakery to pick up a goodie for your fur baby.
The Lunch Bunch
Whew! All that shopping has made me hungry! Luckily there is plenty to choose from. Hilton’s Fork Lore is open for lunch, but if you’d like to venture outside the hotel for an afternoon bite, you can choose from familiar spots such as Brixx Pizza or Which Which. Or if you’d like to keep it healthy, let me suggest Tasty Greens. Super healthy and yes! I can attest. Healthy and tasty! They offer both indoor and outdoor seating, or take it back to your room. No matter what their adequate portions will leave you feeling healthy and satisfied.
I ordered a Mediterranean bowl with Greek Chicken for my meal and a Greek salad to take back to the room for late night snack. They were both filling, delicious and fresh. I’ll be sure to order both of these entrees again!
Late Afternoon Delights
You’re belly is full again, so what to do? What to do?
Or, maybe you need to spend some time in Hilton’s work-out center so you can unashamedly indulge in Cold Stone Creamery or Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory without worrying about the extra calories. Then again, “Calories shall not exist whilst on holiday.” 1st Vacations 24:7
You’re on vacation after-all, so why not get your drink and creativity on at Painting with a Twist, or enjoy a brew and meet new friends at the Thirsty Monk.
Dinner and a Movie
I know, I know, I know, It’s already been a full day and you’ve done so much, but you only have 24 hours. You don’t want to waste it, do you? No. Of course not.
It’s been a full day of shopping and activities, now it’s time to treat yourself to dinner and a movie.
You can choose to eat at a more well-known restaurant like Hickory Tavern, or choose one of the locally owned haunts like Nine Mile or Luella’s Barbeque. Luella’s closed down for a bit during the height of the Covid 19 pandemic but have re-opened their doors after installing the Reme Air Purification System and welcome their guests to dine in or order online for curbside takeout and delivery.
Now it’s time for a movie at the Regal Biltmore Grande! Don’t worry if you’re exhausted because it’s literally across the street from the Hilton Biltmore Park. You won’t have far to walk in order to get back to you room and pour yourself into bed after a full day of walking, shopping & dining.
Pro’s & Con’s
There are so many Pro’s to staying at Biltmore Park I hope I don’t forget to mention them all. If I forget something, please don’t hesitate to nicely and respectfully let me know what I left out in the comments. Some of the pro’s include but are not limited to;
Close to Airport
Close to Biltmore
Close to Downtown
Plenty of shops, restaurants & entertainment options
Don’t need a car
For the con’s I would say that if you’re looking for a unique Asheville experience, this isn’t the place to find it.
Don’t get me wrong. You can find some shops and restaurants that are unique to Asheville in Biltmore Park, yet the over-all feeling is one that you could get in any mixed-use community in any city. Which, of course, is perfectly fine, if that’s the type of experience that you’ll enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s simply important to know if you long for the artsy edge of the River Arts District, or find pleasure in street performers and one-of a kind restaurants and boutique shops that can only be found in Downtown, or you want to Immerse yourself in the Vanderbilt’s extravagant life at Biltmore Estates. . . you won’t get that same immersive feeling in Biltmore Park.
That being said, as much as I love Downtown, and Biltmore Estates, I will stay in Biltmore Park again. I loved the Hilton Biltmore Park, I love the proximity of the theater, shopping and restaurants as well as how safe the area felt. Yeah, sure, I still love staying downtown and at Biltmore Estates, but this is an area worth returning. I will be back and I can’t wait to bring my family and fur babies back along for the ride!
How do you say good-by when you weren’t planning to fall in love?
When I first stepped foot in Downtown Asheville in 2019, I had no idea the impact it would have on me. Yes, I had heard about it, drove past it and even did some of the touristy things in the surrounding areas like hiking waterfalls and exploring the ever-popular Biltmore Estate. All of which I thoroughly enjoyed, yet I didn’t really KNOW the full charm of Asheville until the quirky, artsy vibe of Downtown captured my heart and swept me off my feet.
Asheville, the largest city in Western North Carolina & 12th largest in the state is another world, vastly different from the larger cities like Raleigh/Durham or small rural towns. This is where the mountains meet the valley, where rich history is preserved and the progress of modern culture is celebrated. Where the sunset kisses the Blue Ridge Mountains with a blushing glow that would make a bride jealous and where the community supports individuals as well as local business, but it’s more than that.
It’s the biggest little city that you’ll ever find with an even bigger heart! I’ve personally found nothing but kindness around every corner and each, tourist, local & visitor alike are unashamedly encouraged to embrace their weirdness! It’s a melting pot of varying age ranges, life-styles and nationalities with a carefree vibe of love, peace & music. A world refreshingly free from the confining expectation to fit into a cookie-cutter mold.
You’ll never know who you’ll run into. On this particular day I spied Spider-Man cruising in his Spidey-mobile!
If you ever get the chance to visit I hope you’ll love it as much as I do! I’ll provide a variety of tips and info on the Asheville area in this blog and on my YouTube Channel. Today I’m going to simplify and offer you 5 basic things you may want to know before you visit downtown Asheville in hopes of making your stay all the more enjoyable.
According to Yelp, a popular online reviewing site, Asheville was dubbed “The Best Food City in America!
‘To generate the winners, Yelp’s Data Science team looked at cities that had the businesses in those cities the customers were loving. In the end, Asheville, North Carolina came out on top, which Yelp dubbed a “regional-food powerhouse” with a slew of restaurants, breweries, and food businesses “powered by generations-old family farms.” Portland, Oregon; Charleston, South Carolina; Maui and Honolulu in Hawaii; and New Orleans, Louisiana also made the list. ” ~Bridget Hallinan, Foodandwine.com
When in Asheville, do yourself a favor and seek out restaurants that tickle your fancy and make your mouth water. Even better news! You can eat out guilt free! The majority of restaurants use locally sourced, fresh ingredients and are created with health and sustainability in mind. I personally feel healthier and like I’ve done the community and the planet a favor after dining out in downtown Asheville.
There are many gluten free and vegan options as well!
4. Easily Walk-able
Despite hundreds of unique shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, Downtown Asheville is surprisingly compact and walk-able. I haven’t conducted a precise study on measurements and time, but I think it’s safe to say that any able-bodied, healthy person with no mobility issues could easily walk downtown Asheville, end to end, in a half-hour or so.
Weather you’re staying at a central downtown hotel, or you need to park in order to enjoy your downtown activities, you will not need to rely on public transportation or your own transportation to make your way around the downtown area if you don’t mind walking. Quite honestly, walking will most likely be easier than trying to find a parking space.
3. Where to Stay?
Asheville is a wildly diverse city and where you stay can directly impact the enjoyment of your stay. Here’s a breakdown of 4 major areas with pro’s and con’s of which is best and worst for different travel personalities.
So far my favorite stays have been at the Renaissance, Hotel Indigo and Hyatt Place.
Pros: The upside to staying at a downtown hotel is just as I mentioned above. You can park at your hotel and never have to leave until check out. A Downtown location is perfect for those who want the focus of their trip to be on the exploration of unique downtown restaurants, shops, craft breweries and entertainment and love to walk! A wonderful place to explore for the more liberal and artsy tourists.
2. Cons: Due to the obvious high cost of Downtown real estate, most downtown hotels will be pricier than than a hotel outside of the city proper. The downtown area has a visible homeless population and is unapologetically liberal, so bear in mind where that lies on your political spectrum. Where ever that may be, it’s still worth your time to take time to dine in one of downtown’s spectacular restaurants and browse the unique shops even if it’s not your preferred area to stay.
Biltmore Estate/Biltmore Village
1. Pros: If the main focal point of your Asheville visit is Biltmore Estates, it may be worth your time to stay at a property in Biltmore Village, or directly on the Biltmore Estates. There are also some extra perks and discounts for exploring the Biltmore Estate and enjoying all it has to offer when you stay at one of their onsite properties.
It’s still well worth your time to venture into the downtown area to experience the cuisine, culture and atmosphere unique to the downtown area. Only an approx 5-8 minute drive away, you can experience the best of both worlds.
2. Cons: It’s not advised to walk from the Biltmore area to downtown. Traffic makes it unsafe. Motor transportation is advised so going into downtown will require additional driving, parking, Uber or taxi expenses. Staying onsite at Biltmore is more pricey. Biltmore Village is a better option if you’re on a budget.
Shopping/ Airport/ Outlet Areas
Pros: These area’s are obviously convenient to shopping, transportation and tourist areas and will most likely be less expensive.
Con’s You won’t get a true feel for “authentic Asheville”
Natural, Surrounding Area’s
1. Pros: This is for the traveler that is visiting Asheville for the hiking, waterfalls, nature and outdoor activities. or maybe you’re looking for more affordable lodging. You can camp, find Tree houses, airbnb’s and hotels surrounded by Asheville’s natural element or in nearby cities like Cherokee, Morganton and anything in between. These are usually in the more economic price ranges.
2. Cons: Again, even if your aim is to dive into nature, but you still want to explore Downtown Asheville for a bit, the only con of staying in a more natural area is the additional drive time and parking expenses in order to do so.
2. Pet Friendly
This for for my fellow dog lovers! Downtown Asheville may be one of the most dog friendly cities in the US that I’ve ever encountered. Know as “Dog City USA” Dogs are not only welcome in many of the shops and restaurants, but many hotels are dog friendly and have doggie programs, such as the Hotel Indigo that offers pet beds available upon request.
I read an online review that said they didn’t think Asheville was culturally diverse enough to be weird. (whatever that means) I’m not up on the cultural statistics, so I don’t know how correct or incorrect that statement is, but I can say one thing . . . from what I’ve seen, the downtown area will embrace all peace-loving people equally. If someone wants Asheville to be more culturally diverse, my perception is that Downtown Asheville is totally open for that to happen.
In downtown Asheville you’ll dine on locally sourced and farm to table food, listen to street music, watch artisans at work, maybe even participate in a drum circle or discover your favorite shop filled with unique clothing, exotic teas, blown glass and beaded jewelry, all hand-crafted by locals.
In Asheville, there’s an energy in the air. Maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s the quirky and artsy charm. Whatever it is . . . I’m hooked!
So how do you say, “good-bye” once you’ve fallen in love with Asheville? The good news is you don’t have to!
Instead, like me, take a piece of it home with you in your heart and instead say, “see you later & Stay weird!”