ASHEVILLE IN THE FALL
I am so excited to share my extended weekend Guide to Asheville, North Carolina! We had so much fun spending a (chilly) November weekend in this stunning mountain town. We crammed a lot of activities into 2.5 days there. I have so many lovely things to say about this town. This city truly has something for everyone, whether you enjoy indoor vacation getaways spent restaurant and bar hopping, outdoorsy weekends doing sporty activities and hikes, shopping in eclectic boutiques or a mix of all! If you're lucky enough to visit this gem of a southern town, I hope these tips will help you make the most of your days there!
Where to stay:
Budget Airbnb (about 75 a night)--we chose this one!! and stayed in this GORGEOUS home with killer mountain views. It was about 10 minutes from downtown (we never had to drive, just ubered everywhere), hiked some trails with a lookout building right in the neighborhood, and had our own private space/entrance/bathroom. There were plenty of cute, affordable, highly rated options all around Asheville (and West Asheville, too!)
Mid Range Hotel (a few hundred dollars)--Several previous visitors recommended Aloft Hotel in downtown Asheville. It's stylish and modern. We wanted something more authentic and rustic, but this hotel is a great option for those wanting to be right in the heart of downtown Asheville! The only experience we had here was meeting outside for our Pubcycle tour, and waiting inside the warm lobby when temperatures dropped later on in the evening. it definitely seemed like a funky, fun place to stay.
High Roller Hotel (several hundred dollars/depends when you go)--stay at The Omni Grove Park Inn--just google it. It looks out of this world rustic, cozy and dreamy. We contemplated staying here for a one night splurge and enjoying the spa, but we ultimately decided it just wasn't in our budget and we would rather spend the money on activities.
How to Entertain Yourself:
We chose this at the very last minute (we booked it the same day as the tour) and just lucked out that there were seats! I've done a pedal tour before in Nashville, and it was one of my favorite activities there, so I figured it would be fun in Asheville too. The Pubcycle tour did not disappoint. We were greeted by a tour guide (in a costume?) he was hearing a fun, funky outfit topped off with a very furry trapper hat. He kept us entertained and laughing from start to finish. The city tour option that we chose was 90 minutes and stopped at two breweries/ bars. The stops are quick so order quick shots or small easy to drink beers/mixed drinks. You get about 15 minutes at each stop (unless you're late to your return time like our entire group, and your tour guide has to come in and drag you out...in that case, you get longer). It's a fun, relaxing way to see the town, listen to some music and experience a few of their famous breweries.
Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway and get out at the various stops to hike, see waterfalls, and admire mountain views. Instead of the Blue Ridge Parkway, we opted for a neighborhood hike with mountain views because of the cold weather. We also wanted to avoid driving. Next visit, will definitely try to see some of the famous waterfalls and make the picturesque drive along the Blue Ridge.
Sooooo, I have a lot to say about this place. Treat it like Disneyworld, I read. Expect to have a long day on your feet and be tired by the end. Theres a lot of walking and the place is HUGE. They shuttle you from the parking lot to the Estate, but there still is a good bit of walking. The house is gorgeous, reminds me of Versaille outside of Paris. Pay extra for the self guided audio tour (we did not and I totally regretted it). I know it's tempting, after paying the 70 bucks (yep) just to enter the grounds, but without the audio tour, you're just looking at pretty rooms. We kept hearing tidbits from other tour groups and those were the few fun facts I learned about the Vanderbilts. The gardens were my favorite part of the house. Very pretty. However, my absolute favorite part of the entire Biltmore Estate was the Winery. Our sommelier? said "we recommend ordering 5-6 samples, they all begin to blend together after that." yeah, right. It is essentially an unlimited wine tasting, and after spending the 70 dollars to enter, we felt that unlimited was earned. We spent over an hour at the wine tasting, and had about 8-9 samples each. The wines were very good, especially enjoyed the "Christmas at Biltmore" Red wine. After wine tasting, we headed to the pub on the grounds. Enjoyed the food and service here very much. The area around the winery looks similar to Biltmore Village, very European inspired and whimsical. There's a creamery and little gift shops and such, too.
Downtown Asheville is where we did most of our shopping. We stopped at cute boutiques and whatever caught our eye as we explored the streets. My favorite boutique where I originally picked up about 7 items to buy, was called Duncan & York. I wanted everything. Pretty cards, cute gifts, Anthropologie-esque vibes...you will love it. Also, stop at Asheville Bee Charmer and sample the honey! and then buy the honey because it's delicious and you will want to. I bought a spicy Ginger Honey (I'm obsessed with ginger AND honey for DIY cold and flu remedies), so this was perfect for me.
One cold afternoon, we grew tired of being out in the cold. We wanted a space to warm up and chat. As we were passing Dobra Tea, I suggested we check it out. Again, so glad we did. It feels very exotic and peaceful in there. You sit down and are given a tea book with (hundreds) of options. The tea experts are also very helpful and can guide you in the right direction. It was a truly lovely way to spend a few hours, and the tea was a perfect blend of lemongrass and Ginger (they offer Matcha cakes and interesting snacks, too)!
The Salt Cave
The Salt cave is a MUST STOP you guys. Truly. It is SO relaxing, peaceful and unique! I've never done anything like it. You basically go into this cave-like room with Salt surrounding you on all sides. There are comfy chairs and floor setups. We were the only two in the 4pm session so we had the cave to ourselves. I fell asleep almost immediately after she offered us a guided meditation to get the relaxation started. They warn you that you may experience increased coughing after the session (it is supposed to totally heal your respiratory system- she told us an anecdote about TB in Europe and how workers in the Salt Mines were miraculously spared from widespread disease). We did not experience any increased coughing. It was such a fun experience, and if I lived in or near Asheville, I would return at least once a month! Sessions are 45 minutes, and my only complaint is that I wish they were three hours long.
Where to Eat & Drink
Sunny Point Cafe
A staple in the West Asheville scene, Sunny Point Cafe felt like a must-try spot. The local love for this place can be felt as soon as you spot this charming, brightly decorated, beloved spot. The wait for brunch was well over an hour, and the garden adjacent to the restaurant was PACKED of bundled up, West Ashevillians waiting to dine there. We knew it would be good. It was. We shared the Brunch Burger and the Huevos Rancheros and also sipped on some brunch cocktails.
In order to maximize our stomachs, time, and experiences, we ordered small plates at each of these and sampled lots of different things. We tackled both of these in one night because they are almost right next to each other. The wait for a table at Curate was just enough time to grab an appetizer (AMAZING meatballs) and yummy fancy cocktails at Rhubarb. Very convenient. At Curate, we split the lamb skewers, chicken fritters, and the octopus. They were all very interesting, but the meatballs at Rhubarb were my favorite appetizer of the night.
Battery Park Book Exchange
An old timey bookstore with Champagne, Cheese, and rows and rows of interesting books. It's very parisian. They have a wide range of champagne cocktails, the cheese plate was very enjoyable. Come here for a date night, friend dates, happy hour, and pretty much any other occasion too!
This was the shortest we waited for any restaurant the whole time. We were seated immediately and had my favorite brunch in Asheville here. Our meals were lunch based. The sandwiches are really good, tried both the Fried Chicken BLT and the Cheesy Grill. Phenom. The Spicy Margarita was perfect, too.
Obama loves this place. Enough said. Lunch here was perfect, and close to the Biltmore. The Reuben is award winning, and obviously we had to try that. We also split the black bean burger. Both were winners in my book. They had a spiked coffee drink with whipped cream, baileys and a sea salt rim. I finished it within minutes.
Limones was not on the original itinerary but after a Salt Cave session, it was too convenient (right across the street) to pass up. Ordered various appetizers like the Ceviche platter and Lobster Nachos, and (strong) cocktails. Enjoyed everything. Definitely a necessary stop.
A cool, speakeasy type cocktail bar. Cocktails are strong and tasty. We also had the Crispy Brussel Sprouts which were BOMB. We tried dessert there too, it was not a traditional cupcake like we were expecting but still tasty.
I hope you find this weekend guide to Asheville, North Carolina helpful!! It really is a unique, eclectic, funky, interesting city that should be a must on anyone's travel bucket list! I cannot wait to return, hopefully in warmer weather someday.
Anyone else visit Asheville and fall in love with it??