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A Mountain Getaway, 1910s-style: Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, North Carolina

Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


Back in June 2012, I came back from a three-week trip to the United Kingdom with the family whom I was homeschooling at the time. I saw some incredible things, but spending 21 days straight (including sharing a bathroom with them!) with four kids ranging in age from 5 to 11 wore me out.

After returning to America, I proceeded to flop on our couch and stare blankly up to the ceiling for several days. Alarmed, my husband decided that I needed to get away from Charleston for a few days for some quiet and recuperation after my action-packed kid time. (Note: this was looong before my daughter made her arrival, so I was completely unused to the constant dull roar that accompanies small humans.)

I perked up when he mentioned that there was a sweet deal on Groupon Getaways for this little mountain hideaway in North Carolina. I couldn't think of anything better at that moment than relaxing among the cool, peaceful trees on a wide porch, so I told him to book it. 

And just two days later, we were on our way to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. You've got to love an impromptu road trip!


After we ooohed and aaaahhhed over the beautiful views on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we made our way to Balsam, where our hotel room awaited. When the GPS told us to turn since we were nearly at our destination, we looked around and wondered if the GPS even knew what it was talking about since all we saw was a railroad track and a general store that hadn't sold anything since at least the 1950s.

(Seriously, that's all that there is to Balsam. If you want quaint, this should be your first stop.)

And then we both looked back over the railroad tracks and up the hill to see this (only without Landon posing on it, of course):

Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


When we arrived, we wandered in awe around the lobby and grounds since our room wasn't quite ready. I couldn't believe that I'd never heard of this place before then--it was beautiful and gigantic. Having lived in South Carolina my entire life (including nearly a decade in the upstate), I've heard of most of the quaint inns and hotels. But somehow, Balsam Mountain Inn hadn't hit my radar, which was a complete shame. 

Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

I found out later that the Inn had undergone a complete restoration after it had slowly deteriorated for a decade in between owners. Originally opened in 1908, the inn was carefully placed near the railroad station (fun fact: Balsam's station was the highest in the eastern U.S.).
The inn and some of its summer residents, 1910
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The owners built the hallways larger than usual to provide ample space for visitors' bulky trunks.

Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

After struggling for some time, the inn finally closed its doors in the 1980s. But then, it found a second life when current owner Merrily Teasley had a chance encounter with the crumbling hotel in the early 1990s. She and a team of dedicated workers refinished the entire 42,000 square foot inn--sometimes by hand!

She also added the left wing which now houses the dining area. And let's talk about that dining area, shall we?

All you need to know is that you should go. Immediately. As a part of our Groupon, we had breakfast tickets for the two mornings we were staying there. I'm not a morning person, but after digging into the breakfast offerings here, I was glad I'd managed to rouse myself.

Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com


It's a set price breakfast with one rotating daily item (so on Mondays, they might serve french toast, while on Tuesdays, you can have pancakes), fresh fruit, toast, cereal, and other yummy stuff. We both stuffed ourselves so much that we basically skipped lunch and didn't eat again either day until mid-afternoon. Because of our funky eating schedule, we never did make it to Balsam's dinner, but I've also heard amazing things about that, too. I loved that they use locally sourced food whenever possible!

Although we had other fun things on our trip (including a tubing trip, an afternoon by the river, and some mountain shopping), we most enjoyed our time around the inn, just sitting on the wide porches and enjoying the views.

Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Being the chatty folk that we are, Landon and I made some new friends one night when we were all sitting outside reading. There was a nice couple staying there, and they were killing some time before dinner. Balsam's just that kind of place, where you can sit in the rockers, chat with other visitors, and take in the mountain air. 
Balsam Mountain Inn, Balsam, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

One final thing that I loved about the inn was that there are no televisions or phones in the rooms. They've got a free lending library, board games, and plenty of places to chat with fellow guests, so you're pretty much guaranteed some serious one-on-one time with whomever you're traveling. 

Know before you go
  • When booking, make sure to request a shower or tub room. Because of the way that the modern plumbing had to be installed in the inn, rooms don't have both.  
  • There's no air condition. Don't panic, though! We were there at the end of June, and we didn't have a need for it. Because the inn is located so high up in Blue Ridge mountains, there's this gorgeous breeze all summer. All you've got to do is lower the glass divider at the top of your door for some bona fide throwback A/C, and let the breezes from the hallways cool your room. 
  • If you've got kids, choose the first floor. The second and third floors are made of creaky old hardwood, so if you stay on either of those with a kid that likes to run and jump, the entire hotel will know. 
  • You can't book through Expedia, Travelocity, or even the hotel's website. It's a phone call or nothing!

What's the best place that you've ever stayed? Have you been on a mountain retreat lately?

I was in no way compensated for my stay at Balsam Mountain Inn or Groupon or anything else I mentioned in this article. We just loved our visit!