A group of tight-knit cousins, myself included, recently vacationed to Asheville, North Carolina for four days and had such a great time that we vowed on replicating those adventures every other year. There were seven of us, all right around 30 years old and we knew little about Asheville when we decided to go there. But as we started researching the city our excitement grew more and more.
Asheville is located in western North Carolina, easily drivable from the metro areas of Atlanta, Cincinnati, Louisville, Charlotte, and Nashville. It's known for its inspiring food, fun drinkeries and breweries, creative spirit and lovely natural scenery that surrounds it.
I took the lead on finding us a place to stay, which is important to consider based on the activities you want to do. Do not assume that any place will do - you'll end up stuck in the car your whole trip. Planning this part of the vacation ended up taking the most time because of how I needed to balance location, amenities, and price. But it was well worth the effort! Personal vacation planning at its finest.
WHEN WE VISITED
July 2017 – it was hot but not bothersome. It made the mornings and nights incredibly comfortable.
WHERE WE SLEPT
Should we stay in a secluded cabin close to nature or stay near the city center? Most of our activities were likely to keep us in the city anyway, but the thought of relaxing on a deck overlooking the mountains was a pretty attractive idea.
After researching on my own and hearing from the group, we decided proximity to the city was ultimately more important than a cabin retreat. My travel planning was turning up some very nice vacation homes but finding "the one" always takes time.
I knew it when I saw it (see photo below). This vacation home was about 8-minutes east of the city in a part of town called Mountain Brook. It had 4 bedrooms, lots of outdoor sitting areas, and a hot tub. It was nestled back up into a hillside off a main road which made it both secluded and easily accessible, a PERFECT balance for those of us who still wanted some nature.
The research was right and I’m glad we stayed as close to town as we did – it made Ubers very cheap and allowed our indecisive crew to get out the door without a firm plan for the night.
WHERE WE ATE
Cúrate – fancy, trendy tapas food. A touch on the pricey side but the food was truly outstanding.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge – A dessert lounge specializing in all things chocolate. Drinkable liquid chocolate! Say no more. It was magical.
Mayfel’s – incredible southern-style comfort food. We went for breakfast, sat in their outdoor courtyard, and took full advantage of the bloody mary bar.
Salsa’s – an unassuming Mexican restaurant that’s small on the inside but big in flavor. Our waitress was so friendly, joking with us about our upcoming night on the town and keeping our glasses full. The food was great and reasonably priced.
Sovereign Remedies – a “vintage bar with new American fare”. I don’t care how it’s branded, if you can carve out 1.5-2 hours to enjoy this place you will not be disappointed. It felt to me like a classy drinkery (bourbon selection was impressive) which also took pride in its upscale bar food.
Double D’s Coffee & Desserts – I opted to sit this place out but the ladies tried it and liked the experience better than the food/coffee. It’s a cute little café built into an old double decker bus.
Asheville Pizza & Brewing – we needed to chill at the house after a long day and decided to order pizza from this place, which was the first place in my Google search for “Asheville Pizza”. I don’t know if it was the fact that we enjoyed the pizza around a campfire or if it was the 6-pack of craft beer the delivery girl brought with her, but this meal totally hit the spot!
WHERE WE DRANK
Wicked Weed Brewing – awesome variety of beer in a large, hip space with plenty of outdoor seating. Don’t miss this place if you come to Asheville, and try the cucumber basil beer!
Off the Wagon – dueling piano bar we visited on the night we arrived. It was empty (it was a weeknight), but the performers kept things fun and we had a really good time.
Well Played – this board game bar was an awesome change of pace one night, providing us with a fun activity to play while we drank craft beer with the windows open. And they had fun, unique snacks too! 600+ board games gives you plenty of choices for your visit.
Sovereign Remedies – see above. Fantastic.
Rooftop bar – that’s not the name of the bar, because I can’t really remember the name of the bar. But it was about 10-12 stories up and had great views. Don’t remember much about the drinks…but I distinctly recall talking to someone bearing a striking resemblance to Pokémon trainer Ash Ketchum. No joke…backpack and all.
WHAT WE EXPLORED
Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway was scenic by itself. Most of the good hiking is at least 45-minutes outside the city so be prepared. If that's the main thing bringing you to Asheville then it makes sense to stay southwest of the city.
Sam Knob hike – awesome hike that gives you a little of everything. You’ll see wildflowers across a mountain ridge meadow, combat some challenging switchbacks on your way up, pass blueberry bushes, and then be rewarded with a killer view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in all directions.
Second Falls – It was a short, easy hike from the parking area and the pool at the base of Second Falls is a perfect swimming hole.
The combo hike of Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls – This was a popular hike and we fought for a parking spot (literally almost fought someone) so just be prepared if you’re going on a weekend. But it was a great hike. The three water falls are sequentially further away from the parking lot (and also the crowds) so the higher you go the fewer people you’ll see.
Biltmore Estate – we couldn’t go to Asheville and NOT visit the Biltmore. And I’m glad we did! It’s a remarkable place when you consider the year it was completed – 1895. They spared no expense and didn’t leave a single square foot without intricate detail. My favorite room was probably the enormous banquet hall with its 70-foot ceilings, or the ancient looking indoor pool. The Gardens were a welcomed respite from the crowded, stifling inside of the estate. They are impeccably manicured and peacefully designed. Walking the grounds really does make you feel like you’re touring a French chateau. Wine drinkers: Definitely set aside a couple of hours to visit the winery and attached “village” they call Antler Hill.
Tube float on the French Broad River! Highly recommend this! And you can BYOB with Zen Tubing Company. (This was one of our groups favorite memories from the trip! And had us all on amazon looking for a "Giant Unicorn Float.")
Shopping in town – my favorite place we shopped at, a craft hot sauce store, looks to have closed recently but there were still TONS of shops and galleries to visit. My recommendation would just be to park your car and walk around for an entire day. Don’t have a destination – just wander. And enjoy all the treasures you find along the way.
WHAT WE MISSED OUT ON
One World Brewing – didn’t know much about it but heard good things. We were about to head there after dinner at Salsa’s but ended up going to the board game bar, which was a solid decision regardless.
New Belgium Brewing – a more well-known brewer, and I’d heard that their location on the French Broad River was pretty neat.
The Arts – a few of the girls stopped into a glass-blowing store which was impressive looking, but other than that our group didn’t go out of the way to experience the artsy side of Asheville we’d heard all about. But even as we strolled aimlessly through town we felt the creative energy of the city, from jaw-dropping murals to contemporary sculptures and fountains.
John Rock hike – This was one hike I really wanted to do but it ended up being a little out of the way. It’s called a “classic” hike with forested trails, varying terrain, waterfalls and exhilarating views. Again, a little bit of everything!
(UPDATE) Navitat Ziplining Adventures - I heard about this one from one of our readers after posting that this was "one of the most fun experiences of my life."
And there you have it, Asheville gets five stars from this savvy vacationer! We will definitely be back…
SOME MORE PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP
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