My first Pass Summit was in January 2002 in Denver. I spent the weekend before the Summit in Denver to save a bunch on airfare. I did the Ski Train which gave me a terrific Train ride in the Rocky Mountains with a day of skiing; it was a great day. I have heard from others who took some time either before or after the PASS Summit in Seattle to climb a mountain, ski, hike, or explore the area. This year, the PASS Summit comes to the East coast in Charlotte, NC. I live in High Point, NC which is just about 90 minutes from downtown Charlotte (depending on traffic of course). This means no long cross country journey for me this year. I know that some attendees may come early to the host city in order to save on air fare or to just visit another part of the world. I'd like to share some points of interest in the region which you may find interesting.
West of Charlotte - Asheville is about 2 hours away and is host to the Biltmore Estate. There is some amazing Architecture and Engineering that went into this place. Since it will be October, the odds are favorable that the fall colors will be near their peak. On your way to Asheville, check out Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. If you continue going west of Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the border with Tennessee. There are some great hiking trails here. There is also a CD based tour guide that you can follow in your car that guides you through the various environments that you would encounter if you drove the length of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine. It is about another 2 hours past Asheville to get to Gatlinburg, TN. If you are into gambling, there is a Harrah's Cherokee Casino on the NC side.
Northwest of Charlotte - About 2 hours NW of Charlotte past Hickory is Grandfather Mountain. One of the attractions here is the "Mile-High" swinging bridge; the bridge itself is at one mile above sealevel. Also in this area is Linville Caverns and Linville Falls. There is a story about how deserted soldiers (both Confederate and Uniion) hid in the caverns to avoid service. Continuing North of this area will bring you to Blowing Rock and Boone. Blowing Rock is a small village with local arts/crafts and fine dining. Boone (as in Daniel Boone) is home to Appalachian State University and is a fun college town.
North of Charlotte - About Two Hours North of Charlotte on Interstate 77 near the Virginia border is Mount Airy. If you are a fan of the Andy Griffith show, Mayberry was based on Mount Airy. Just a little south of Mount Airy is Pilot Mountain (Mount Pilot in the show) which is another state park with lots of trails and a unique geological feature. If you keep going North into Virgina, Natural Bridge is about 90 minutes further and is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. On your way to Mount Airy or on your way back, stop in at a Winery or two. Although I do not drink wine, these are fun places to visit. My favorite is Raffaldini. Did you know that NC had the most wineries in the US prior to Prohibition? Also in this direction is Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point area where I live. The High Point area is known for its Furniture Galleries and Stores. If you are looking for a deal on furniture, High Point is the place to go. This would include nearby towns of Lexington and Thomasville as well.
East of Charlotte - About two hours East of Charlotte is Pinehurst. Pinehurst #2 is the famed course of the area where the USGA Open Championship is held occassionally. There are many other courses in the area as well. Also in this direction and North on Interstate 73 is a collection of potteries near the village of Seagrove. There is a huge selection of pottery and ceramics.
Southeast of Charlotte - Almost four hours to the Southeast is the Resort Destination of Myrtle Beach, SC. This is my favorite destination because there is so much to do here. There are over 100 golf courses in the area plus great shopping, dining, and Night Life. It is family friendly and the ocean water will still be very warm in October. The only other attraction in this direction is South of the Border which is a Tourist Trap dating back to at least the 60s. It is NOT worth a special trip IMHO.
South and Southwest of Charlotte - Columbia is the capital of SC. I have not spent a lot of time there. I will let someone else speak to that. Southwest of Charlotte is the Greenville//Spartanburg area. Greenville has a "Rails to Trails" project called the Swamp Rabbit Trail which looks like a great place for a Bike Ride. Again, I have not spent a great deal of time in this area. Cotinuing on Interstate 85 south, you can get to Atlanta in about 4 hours.
Alternate Airports - If you are looking at air fares to Charlotte (CLT), consider tome other airports close by that may provide cheaper fares. GSO (Greensboro) is about 90 minutes away. GSP (Greenville/Spartanburg) is less than two hours away. And RDU (Raleigh-Durham) is a little over two hours away. If money is a factor consider these airports.
As you can see, if you need to (or want to) spend a weekend in Charlotte, there are some great excursions nearby without being trapped in a city. I hope to see you at the Summit and let me know if you decide to visit one of these treasures.