When I began planning a surprise Mother’s Day trip for my mom, I thought back on our all time favorite girls’ trips. From Hawaii to Costa Rica, we’ve had some great memories – but one in particular stands out, and the location might be a bit of a surprise: Walland, Tennessee!
Six years ago, we took a few days and visited Blackberry Farm, where we experienced everything from the impeccable art required to carve and prepare a lamb to the test drive of a Lexus convertible that I almost rolled down a hill in the Great Smoky Mountains…you can read more about that experience from the blog posts way back when.
This past February, the family behind Blackberry Farm opened their newest gem: Blackberry Mountain, also in Walland, TN. I spent some time debating on whether we should give Blackberry Mountain a try, or return to our tried and true experiences at Blackberry Farm – and, ultimately, decided that it’d be even more fun to surprise my mom with an experience that she didn’t even know existed.
In fact, she had no idea where we even were as we stood outside of the gates to the new property. This video will go down as one of my all time favorite moments:
After the great reveal, we drove the winding road up to the top of the mountain, where this immaculate new lodge sits with views as far as the eye can see. My favorite part of this was watching my mom take in her surroundings: the mountains are her happy place (hysterically, she had been taking photos of the mountains in the distance while we were on our drive up – I could barely keep my mouth shut but wanted to tell her so badly, “You just wait!”)
After a way-too-short 48 hours, we checked out of Blackberry Mountain with a newfound love of Walland, Tennessee. I thought our original trip to Blackberry Farm could not be topped but, wow, they managed to go above and beyond.
The great part about both properties is that there is no one clear cut winner – both are fantastic, depending on your travel needs. A large part of what our team at Epperly does is destination and resort matching, so we’ll be able to walk you through which Blackberry is right for you, but the notes below can help you wrap your head around both spots in the meantime:
LOCATION + ACCOMMODATIONS
The first notable difference between the properties is the location: and it’s all in the name. Blackberry Mountain rests on top of a mountain with grand, sweeping views of the valley below – you even have a view of Blackberry Farm! Down in the valley, Blackberry Farm sits on a working farm, a much more even surface for easy walks and a bit more diversity to explore via golf cart because of the farm life.
The rooms at Mountain are my personal favorite: individual, stone cottages sharing that same sweeping view. For our guests staying at Blackberry Farm, we typically recommend one of their Singing Brook cottages or similar, as it gets you more space and a golf cart, so I loved seeing that Mountain had essentially replicated and modernized my favorite accommodations from BBF.
ACTIVITIES + AUDIENCE
I’m not a huge activity girl while on vacation (unless it’s eating, which we’ll discuss later), so I’m going more off of the activity guides than anything. From what I can tell, the activities Blackberry Mountain are much more geared toward a youthful spirit and active adventurer: think everything from sound bath meditation to mountain climbing.
Back over at Blackberry Farm, guests have more traditional offerings that are a bit more low-key, everything from farm tours to fly fishing. Because of the even landscape and these activity offerings, I sensed a more traditional crowd while at Blackberry Farm.
From my experience, either destination can be made into as active or relaxed as you’re looking for and guests of all age ranges, families or couples alike, will truly enjoy either property.
As part of our Mother’s Day experiences at both properties, we arranged a private cooking demonstration at each property, both of which were incredible. This is an opportunity to get behind the scenes with chefs that have often studied and worked in Michelin-starred environments, so you pick up on so many great little tricks as the Chef is going through the demonstration.
The meals at both Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain are outstanding, but the distinguishing factor between the two: Farm is more geared toward local, regional cuisine, whereas Mountain takes influences from across the globe (for instance, you might see Asian-inspired dishes on Mountain’s menu, versus Farm’s Southern flare).
While the service we experienced at both properties was the best of Southern hospitality, what we experienced at Blackberry Mountain was something unforgettable. At Epperly Travel, we absolutely love finding ways to surprise our clients when we can (meaning that a client has let us in far enough for us to understand what’s important to them, and we’re working with a hotel that gets equally as excited as we are to delight our guests). One of our core values is that We Create Fun and Celebrate Constantly.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted my mom to experience one of the ways that we like to surprise our guests. I gathered several photos from over the years of myself and my mom and asked Blackberry Mountain’s fantastic concierge, Mindy, if we could display the photos in the room upon checkin.
When we walked into the room, my mom had that moment that we strive for: hand-to-heart, tears-in-eyes, surprise and delight over seeing our personal photos on the nightstand. “This is what makes you guys so special,” she said, through actual tears. “I never really understood what a difference that personal touch was until experiencing it myself.”
While our checkin moment was unforgettable, it was upon checkout that we really understood the depth of Blackberry Mountain’s hospitality. One of the Blackberry team members collected us and our luggage on our day of checkout and noticed that Mom was carrying the photos.
“You two are the ones with the photos!” He proclaimed. We were so surprised that he knew anything about it! He continued, “The entire team got so excited about that project – the head of our forestry team actually hand-made the photo frames when he heard about it!”
And that was my hand-to-heart moment. To know that a property like this is going this far above and beyond for our guests? That’s a level that every five star hotel should strive to reach.
So what’s it going to be for your next getaway, Blackberry Farm or Blackberry Mountain? The good news: you don’t have to choose. Hire on our team to help determine the best fit for you – or let us arrange a split stay! We’ll be able to get you some great extra amenities and we’ll do our best to get to know you so that you, too, can have those hand-to-heart moments.