Lately I’ve had a bunch of friends who are planing trips to visit Asheville, NC. It seems Asheville is finally getting the attention it deserves!! I’ve visited Asheville more times than I can count on my hands and I have friends who have lived there as well so I wanted to share my “go to’s” and secrets that you must visit in Asheville. Be forewarned, this list cannot be visited in one day or in a weekend visit so choose wisely.
- Biltmore Estate- The Biltmore is Americas Castle/Mansion built by George Vanderbilt. Construction began in 1869 taking 6 years to build. Complete with 250 rooms as a French renaissance style chateau.
The rooms include 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. During each season different parts of the house are open to visit. In the winter months you can expect to see more of the front of the home where in the summer those rooms are closed due to the heat. In the spring and summer you will see areas of the home in the back that are under reconstruction or were closed due to the winter.
The fall is a beautiful time to enjoy the foliage of Asheville and the home. While on the Estate, aside from the home itself, you can enjoy beautiful gardens and outdoor activities. Head over to Antler Hill Village where the estate winery holds free wine tastings. You can also rent bikes, a Range Rover expedition, and other awesome activities to enjoy the Estate. There are also many restaurants and shops just waiting for you to explore. If you are looking for a luxurious place to stay, you can stay at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. I have stayed here many times for Thanksgiving and Christmas where the Estate and village are decorated so beautifully words cannot describe. If you’re a runner or jogger, there is a nice paved path that runs around the property. Hidden mountain bike trails also add the fun.
- Crabtree Falls- Just a short drive from down town Asheville off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The hike down to the falls is about a mile. Note, downhill, because what goes down…must come up. the hike up is just as beautiful! The falls itself is nestled between the mountains. The water is fresh, cold and peaceful. Be careful, if you walk down to there rocks to get near the falls, they are slippery! There is a nice wooded bridge that spans across a portion of the falls for easy picture taking. This is a perfect place to go if you want some outdoor activity with plans downtown later on.
- Graveyard Falls- If you want to drive a little out of the way on the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike, head over to graveyard falls. This is a 3.4 mile hike to the falls that goes through rocky and sandy flat land that turns into a heavier vegetative area. Expect to spend about 3 hours to do this hike. As you get closer to the falls, expect to climb a few rocks, you will approach the falls at the bottom where is turns into the stream you crossed earlier in the hike.
No one was there and now I know why (it was a trek to get up there). the water was cool and we spent some good time drying off after rising in the falls. If you do make your way up there, be forewarned, the trek down is just as tricky. Once we got back to the trail, we trail ran the second half of the loop. No bathrooms except at the beginning.
- Grandfather Mountain/Lake Lure- Grandfather mountain is another hiking trek that is more accessible for everyone. There is an opportunity to take an elevator, but we took the stairs 😉 . The view from every point of Grandfather mountain is phenomenal. You can see the river that heads into Lake Lure.
Lake Lure is where they shot the movie Dirty Dancing. There is a little village with restaurants and shops at the base of grandfather mountain, where just a half mile or so is the spot.
- French Broad River & Campground- We camped one night on the edge of the French Broad River. It was a fall day so the wind was a bit strong, we couldn’t get a fire started. However, it was quiet, clean, and beautiful. This river flows fast!
- Grove Park Inn- if your not staying here, at least go check it out, get a massage, play golf, or just have coffee here. It is unbelievably beautiful with a thatched style roof, and cobble stone/boulder siding nestled in the mountains, 3 minutes from down town.
- French Broad River Park and Carrier Park- Blaine is a runner, and on vacation he still needs to get his runs in and the occasional bike ride. Carrier park connects to French Broad river park. Carrier park has a mellow drove where you can bike. There are paved paths for running that makes its way through grass land and trees along the river where you will find people picnicking, playing music or hanging out. If you follow the dirt path under the bridge you will move right into the French Broad River park where you will find more paved paths and a dog park.
Where to eat and Drink:
- Early Girl Eatery- Located on Wall Street where the large iron sits, you’ll find this gem. Every trip to Asheville, starts with breakfast or brunch at Early Girl. There might be a wait if you don’t get their early, but you should wait. No really, the wait might be an hour…but wait. It beats waiting for Honey Tupelo around the corner. I get the same thing every time, maybe in addition to something new. I order the Early Girl Benny
which is an eggs Benedict that is the BEST I’ve ever had. Complete with a has brown cake on bottom, a yum red sauce, spinach, tomato, a poached egg, and topped with avocado. All their ingredients are local. The strawberry pancakes with sunflower seeds is also a second best to the benny. When asked toast or biscuit…get the biscuit, its amazing!
- Chai Pani- The is street Indian, SO amazing. Right down the street from Early girl, this place offers authentic Indian street foods if thats your thing. The prices are very reasonable and there is something for everyone here.
- The Lab- Head down to the Lab, a restaurant/brewery combo in the heart of downtown Asheville. Their menu changes with the season so if you get a chance to try to tuna steak, grab it while you can. Their pretzels are amazing and the beer is awesome. The Lab also features local art for sale.
- Jack Of the Wood- This is an Irish style pub that features great beer, great live jams and great food. The scotch egg is amazing and the rabbit stew is unforgettably good. As soon as you enter this place, the wood grain and stained glass transported you to a whole new world in what feels like Ireland or somewhere magical!
- The Thirsty Monk- One of Americas best beer bars, the thirsty monk is right across the street from Jack of the Wood. It has a remarkable selection of beer and a great space for enjoying it. The thirsty monk also brews. Recently they opened Open Brewing, the only commercial brewpub in the country that allows guest brewers to brew under brewmasters.
- Top of the Monk- This is a SECRET! No one knows its there, even with is obvious location. Part of the Thirsty Monk, there is a door right next to the thirsty monk location that leads up stairs. This my friends is the Top of the Monk. This bar is my absolute favorite, but you have to be a member to go in which costs a pocket braking $1. The bar is a 1920’s inspired pre-prohibition bar specializing in craft cocktails!! WHAAAA! Yes thats right! If you go in the summer, my favorite drink is the Zelda Fitz Fizz. If your into gin,this is a beautiful take on a Ramos fitz fizz! The bar tendered knows this is my drink and will pull out the special bitters, just to craft this cocktail up for me on the off season. We attend every time we visit. For New years this year they has a french 1920’s themed party. It takes a minute or… 5 to craft a cocktail, so have patience, it will be worth it! After receiving your drink you get a mailbox key which is redeemable in the mail boxes behind you. There is usually a few things to choose from; jerky, cherry tart, nuts etc. Open a mail box to enjoy a snack with your drink.
- Asheville brewing company- great beer and a pizza. There is a large outdoor space for enjoying the sweet mountain air. They are located right down the street from the thirsty monk.
- French Broad Chocolate- OMGGGGG, anything and everything chocolate. This place has chocolate everything, from bars to cake to truffles to cookies to drinks (both alcoholic and non). My first experience with French Broad was at 2 am in their old location near the emporium. Yes, they were open at 2am and there was a line out the door. I ordered a slice of cake, took truffles to go and a chocolate drink. Wow so yummy. If you don’t have the opportunity to sit down and enjoy, just go in a pick up a box of truffles. They recently opened at a new location near the Rhubarb.
- Wicked Weed- Im not a huge fan of this place, only because it attracts a ton of tourists. Their beer and food is good, but because of the amount of people who come here, they have bouncers outside which gives it almost like a club feel.
In the River Arts District:
- The Wedge- Nestle down by the rail road is a brewery that features quirky metal art and beer. There is a nice outdoor space, corn hole and food trucks. Above the brewery local artist paint, sculpt, and create. Across the street is a glass blowing art where you can watch them work.
- Urban Orchard Cider Company- This is a cider brewery. If you think you know cider beer, head to Urban Orchard. This is one of the few “true cider bars” in the nation. This bar has a very welcoming feel. They have live music and on nice days, the large windows open to let the cool air in. This is a unique bar that infuses different fruits in their ciders and is worth a try.
- White Duck Taco- Yes you will miss this if you don’t know where to go. There is not a sign. Located down the rail road tracks where the wedge is, there stands a little red building with umbrellas. There might a line extending out of this place wrapping around the building. This is White duck. You are not going to find your typical beef and lettuce taco here. These tacos are unique featuring buffalo chicken, Bangkok shrimp, lamb, and more. They also carry, local craft beer and yummy sangria. Expect to pay approx. $5 per taco, but trust me, its worth it. Google this location!
- Sunny Point Cafe- Located in west Asheville, You will have to wait here as well. We’ve gone for breakfast and while your wait in their garden, you can sip on coffee they bring out for you to enjoy. upscale comfort food that warms the tummy and fills you up. Everything is made from scratch and farm to table. They have a full functioning garden growing herbs and veggies to use in your breakfast or deserts!
- Biltmore Town Square- Outdoor plaza with boutiques, unique, and high end shopping.
- Kress Emporium- features local artists
- Antler hill Village- Located on Biltmore Estate
- The Laughing Mermaid- Soaps, oils etc.
- Himalayas Imports- Find malas, singing bowls and a ton more!
- Bodhi Tree- Same company as Himalayas Imports with a more yogi selection. Head here for incenses, singing bowls, malas, crystals, statues, tapestries, prayer flags etc.
- French Broad
- Highland Brewing Company
- Green Man Brewery
- Asheville Brewing Company
- Catawba Brewing Company
- Wicked weed
- Urban Orchard
Where to Stay
- Inn on Biltmore $$$
- Grand Bohemian $$$
- Holiday Inn (tunnel road) $$
- Hampton Inn (tunnel road) $$
- Campsites $
- Cabin Rentals $$
- Air B&B $$
- Don’t stay downtown unless you are prepared to pay about $600 per night
There might have been things I missed, or did not mention and thats because this is Asheville my way, the places I love and return to every visit. On the other hand there are many places that I have yet to visit in Asheville, hopefully in the fall I can provide more of my personal experiences. Until next time Asheville!