Explore North Carolina: Visit Asheville

img_0364Asheville, North Carolina is one of my favorite cities for a weekend getaway.  It has beautiful scenery, a lively downtown, lots of local beer, and a thriving art culture.  Plus, it’s dog friendly!  If I were planning to go this weekend, here’s what I’d think about doing.

When you arrive on Friday night, drop your bags in your hotel (or VRBO.com rental) and head to Lexington Avenue Brewery or The Southern Kitchen & Bar for dinner and a beer.  Asheville has earned a reputation as one of the best craft beer cities in the south, and you can sample local beer, enjoy a glass of wine, or try a new cocktail at either of these places or one of the many others in close proximity.

On Saturday morning, get up early, grab a quick coffee, and drive into the Blue Ridge Mountains for a hike to start your day.  Explore Asheville has a great hiking guide.  No matter which hike you choose, you’ll work up a strong appetite for the most important meal of your day:  brunch.  I suggest brunch at Biscuit Head or Sunny Point Café in West Asheville or Tupelo Honey Café or Early Girl Eatery downtown.  You can’t go wrong with any of them.  Southerners take brunch seriously, and these are popular spots.  Plan accordingly, and expect to wait for a table for a bit when you arrive.  I promise that it’s worth the wait.  Biscuit Head and Sunny Point both have dog-friendly patios, which is perfect if you’re like me and enjoy traveling with your pups.

After brunch, take a walk around downtown Asheville and enjoy visiting all sorts of art galleries and local boutiques.  There are so, so many unique shops, and it’s easy to find something that everyone in your group will enjoy.  When you need a rest, visit Pritchard Park, where there is always something going on.  I’ve seen street musicians, art markets, hippies with hula hoops, and lots of happy dogs and families there.  Sit a bit, and take in the activity around you.

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Mid-afternoon, stop by the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar.  It’s easily my favorite place in Asheville.  Set in a treasured old building, the Exchange is part used book store and part literary bar.  You can browse the shelves to your heart’s content, enjoy a cocktail named after your favorite author, and have a lovely conversation in one of the many curated lounge spaces.  The best part:  it’s dog friendly!  Well-behaved dogs are welcome, as long as they sit on the floor or on laps, not directly on the furniture.  (Tip:  If anyone in your group doesn’t drink, they have non-alcoholic beer and mocktails.  I visited last year while I was expecting a baby, and I was happy to see those options.)

After your book and cocktail adventure, head back to your hotel for a bit and get a little dressed up for dinner.  I suggest making an early-ish dinner reservation at Nightbell and stopping by Sovereign Remedies for a post-dinner craft cocktail and dessert.  Nightbell is in high demand, so make a reservation well before your trip.  My girlfriends and I had a multi-course meal there during a bachelorette weekend, and I can still remember how much I enjoyed the food and wine.  I’m not someone who is easily excited by food, so for me to recall a meal means that it’s really special!  As for Sovereign Remedies, I was thoroughly impressed when I ordered a bourbon and ginger and the bartender pulled out real ginger to make it.

On Sunday morning, enjoy a leisurely morning coffee at West End Bakery in West Asheville or Double D’s Coffee & Desserts downtown (in a double-decker bus).  Have brunch on the Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn if the weather is nice.  No matter where you sit, you’ll have a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Their cocktails are tasty and beautifully garnished, so take your time perusing the menu and order your fancy.

After lunch, drive to the Biltmore Estate, and prepare to spend a day getting lost in the Victorian era.  Biltmore house is the largest private residence in the United States.  Railroad and shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt finished building it for his family in 1895, and his descendants still own it today.  A bit of trivia:  CNN’s Anderson Cooper is a member of the Vanderbilt family.  Also, the 1990s Macaulay Culkin movie “Richie Rich” was filmed there.  Biltmore house was Richie’s house.

Biltmore house tours are not inexpensive, but they’re worth taking at least once.  (Tips:  Buy your tickets online before you arrive for price discounts, and make sure to take a classic selfie on the front lawn.  That’s my husband and me circa 2007.  Check out those sunglasses!)  My favorite part of the house is the Halloween Room in the basement.  I can imagine a party of people dressed in Victorian finery making a fantastic mess painting random art on the walls, which sounds like a lot of fun to me.  After your tour, stop by the Stable next to the house to do a little shopping and eat ice cream.  Stroll the manicured gardens on the other side of the house, take in the designs of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and see the panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Don’t forget to drive over to the Biltmore Winery for a tasting before you leave.  My friends and I booked a Wine & Cheese Hour and loved it!

Biltmore is beautiful in every season.  The Estate puts on the Ritz for the holidays, which makes winter a great time to visit.  If you visit in the summer and enjoy live music, check the Biltmore Summer Concert Series calendar.  On certain Saturday nights, Biltmore hosts a concert on the lawn next to the house.  My husband and I saw Phillip Phillips and the Goo Goo Dolls there last summer.  Listening to the band against the backdrop of the house on one side and the Blue Ridge Mountains on the other is a memory that I will treasure.  (Tip:  If you go to a concert, plan for it to take a while to get back to your vehicle after the show.  Parking is a few miles away on a different part of the Estate, and you’ll ride a shuttle bus to Biltmore house.  The shuttles are a well-run operation, but they do take a little while.)

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There are many more things to love about Asheville, and this list should easily send you on your way to a lifelong love affair with the city.  I hope that it encourages you to plan a trip very soon!

Copyright © 2018 – Amelia Adams


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