Mountains provide a distinctive backdrop to nearby cities and towns; they influence local culture as activities, attractions and events are based around these towering geological structures.
Many cities and regions around the continent provide both unique and quintessential North American customs alongside mountain culture. Want to find a little bit of Europe in North America? Head for a Pacific Northwest mountain range. Searching for the roots of country music? The Blue Ridge Mountains influenced its beginnings. Discover a town nearly 260 years old full of early American history in the Green Mountains and be surprised by a set of small mountains located in the Great Lakes State.
“Bavaria is in your backyard”
After serving in Europe during WWII, a soldier believed the town of Leavenworth — located in the heart of the Cascade Mountains — looked identical to the Alps of Bavaria and convinced local leaders and business owners to transform Leavenworth to resemble the villages of Bavaria.
“The surrounding mountains became the backdrop to the authentic German architecture we see today,” said Jessica Stoller, media director for the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce.
Storefronts look as though they have been plucked from rural Germany and placed in this American mountain range. Restaurants like Andreas Keller serve traditional Bavarian-style cooking, including sauerkraut, German potato salad, schnitzel and more.
“Leavenworth adopted traditional Bavarian festivals like Maifest and Oktoberfest and Bavarian restaurants and bier gardens so visitors can enjoy a little slice of Bavaria,” Stoller said.
In addition to its European flare, Leavenworth’s surrounding mountain beauty and bountiful seasons make it a top agritourism destination. Dive into the region that is the nation’s No. 1 grower of organic pears with a visit to Cascade Farmlands or Miller Orchards.
Leavenworth is an up-and-coming wine growing region, and Leavenworth Shuttle & Taxi will whisk groups past the scenic mountain ranges and through a choice of seven wineries.
Looking for more outdoorsy options? Leavenworth is an adventurer’s haven; Wildwater River Guides offers group rates for whitewater rafting. Book a group snowshoeing trip with Blue Sky Outfitters.
“We are four seasons with the best outdoor recreation in the state,” Stoller said. “We really are special and so many people love Leavenworth and come back year after year.”
With the crisp mountain air and the backdrop of the Bavarian-style village, Leavenworth will have groups feeling like they are Julie Andrews in the opening scene of The Sound of Music.
Stoller suggests group tour operators and planners check the Chamber of Commerce’s website to view what phase the state and region are in for reopening.
“If they are planning ahead to 2021, we are hopeful that regular activities in town will resume, including our award-winning summer theater program including our signature play The Sound of Music.”
Early American history awaits
Historic Woodstock sits within the Green Mountains — a mountain range belonging to the Appalachians.
Settled in 1768, Woodstock features some of the quintessential New England aspects; covered bridges, Colonial homes, 18th-century farms, Victorian-era storefronts and a quaintness that makes it a perfect place for groups to enjoy leisurely ventures.
In addition, Woodstock is the birthplace and boyhood home of the 30th president to the United States — Calvin Coolidge. With discounted rates available for groups, the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site preserves multiple buildings and landscapes that look as they did when Coolidge was sworn into office in 1923.
Book a group excursion at Billings Farm & Museum — established in 1871 and offering visits with farm animals and exhibits inside four original barns. Experience the birthplace of Vermont at the Old Constitution House where in 1777 the first draft of the Constitution of the State of Vermont was adopted.
No stay in Woodstock would be complete without a hike up Mount Peg or Mount Tom. Trails range in skill level, with many beginning in town. Trek through dense forest, past babbling creeks and up to panoramic views of the valley.
Woodstock is a winter sports playground. Woodstock Inn & Resort Nordic Center offers nearly 30 miles of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking trails. Suicide Six Ski Area — opened to the public in 1936 — offers a more exhilarating outing for groups. The ski area features large indoor and outdoor spaces perfect for groups to rest and congregate after a descent down Hill No. 6.
Pedestrian-friendly, the central village is home to a number of eclectic markets, family-owned stores and locally-owned restaurants. Stop at Farmhouse Pottery to find handcrafted modern pottery and to meet the artists. The Yankee Bookshop has been a Woodstock staple since 1935.
The Chamber of Commerce’s website additionally provides a number of resources regarding COVID-19 updates and mandates that will make planning a trip to Woodstock simple and safe.
From Colonial history to modern-day goods, this mountain town boasts the pristine beauty of the Northern Appalachians and the charm of a picturesque New England village.
Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia
Discover the “Big Bang” of modern country music
Straddle the state line between Tennessee and Virginia on State Street in Bristol. The city — located in both states — lies beside the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills, which have served as a creative inspiration for many.
In the summer of 1927, Victor Talking Machine Company record producer Ralph Peer conducted the famous “Bristol Sessions” — called “the most important event in the history of country music” by Johnny Cash. These sessions included first recordings from country music legends like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.
“The 1927 Bristol Sessions not only initiated the careers of these superstar performers but initiated the broad commercialization of country music,” said Christopher Perrin, marketing director at Discover Bristol.
Because of this, Bristol was designated the “Birthplace of Country Music” by the United States Congress and boasts its history at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum located in downtown Bristol.
“In addition to core exhibits, the museum also houses a large space for special exhibits, a performance theater, the radio station, a learning center and a museum store,” Perrin said. “The core exhibits are highly interactive and feature a number of video experiences as well as various artifacts relating to the 1927 Bristol Sessions and other aspects of Bristol’s musical legacy.”
In addition, Bristol hosts one of the largest festivals in the Southeast, the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.
It’s not only country music that calls Bristol home, but also the Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway. Located among the mountains in Northeast Tennessee, The Bristol Motor Speedway is known as The Last Great Colosseum.
With group ticket packages for 10 or more, groups can customize their experience and get track tours of the second most-visited attraction in Tennessee.
Of course, the surrounding natural landscape provides Bristol with an abundance of outdoor recreational activities. Parts of South Holston Lake’s shoreline border Cherokee National Forest and is a popular destination for boating, skiing, fishing stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing. The mountains feature a number of biking and hiking trails as well.
“The mountains have many times provided a backdrop for creative inspiration and expression,” Perrin said. “They serve as an outlet for artists to clear their heads and let the tranquility and beauty fuel creative thoughts and actions.”
With the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains on the horizon and a one-of-a-kind history, it’s no wonder two states take claim to unique Bristol.
Ontonagon County, Michigan
Lakes, mines and mountains, oh my!
When thinking of mountain ranges in North America, the last region that might come to mind is the Great Lakes region, as the most notable natural landmarks are the lakes themselves.
Yet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the shores of Lake Superior lie the small but beautiful Porcupine Mountains — or as many locals and Michiganders call them, the Porkies.
Located in Ontonagon County, the Porkies are located in a 60,000-acre state park and surround the picturesque Lake of the Clouds, one of the most photographed sites in the state.
Visit the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Visitor Center to view an exhibit hall featuring displays on natural communities of the mountains, native wildlife species and the history of the mountains from prehistoric copper miners to lumber camps in the early 20th century.
Hop on one of the many hiking trails to see roaring waterfalls, wildlife or the Presque Isle River Corridor.
In addition, the region boasts a rich copper mining history. Adventure Mining Company offers group tours of one of the best-preserved copper mines in Michigan.
Take the Prospector’s Tour to see solid pieces of native copper left behind by early miners. If wanting a more daring experience, the Miner’s Tour allows groups to rappel 80 feet down a mine shaft to the mine’s lower level and hike through some of its oldest sections.
A Keweenaw Heritage Site, Old Victoria Restoration highlights what life was like for early miners in the Upper Peninsula through four restored cabins. Currently, entering the cabins is restricted until further notice, although groups are still welcome to explore the outdoor areas of the site where there is room for social distancing.
Other historical attractions and experiences include the Ontonagon Historical Museum, Ontonagon Lighthouse and walking tours of the historic downtown district. Contact the Ontonagon County Historical Society about group options.
With immense lakes, pristine waterfalls and flowing rivers, groups will get a bit of lake life while also enjoying the history and beauty of the mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.