In August, my best friend and I went on a southern roadtrip. Our first stop was in Asheville, North Carolina, and I was pleasantly surprised by the small but quirky town. We drove down on a Sunday, spent the afternoon exploring downtown Asheville, hit Biltmore the next day, and were back on the road again Tuesday morning.
I liked the trip so much that my parents are planning to eventually take a long weekend and check it out for themselves. They’ve been asking me for tips on where to eat and what to do, and since I’m kind of OCD, I actually keep notes like this on all my trips. So, I dug out my madwoman’s scribbles (seriously, I pack a notebook when I visit places and jot down anything I want to be sure to recommend at a later date), and started to refresh my memory.
But, since 2017 is the year that I embrace modern technology (i.e. no more leaving my chicken scratch to linger unhelpfully in a spiral that’s seen better days), I figured perhaps I should share my notes here. Sorry that you’re my travel-guide guinea pigs, but here it goes. . .
Day 1: Arriving in Asheville
- If you’re driving to Asheville, make sure you take the take the Blue Ridge Parkway – the views are to die for! If you have time upon arrival, take advantage of the afternoon to explore downtown. We stumbled upon the Thomas Wolfe House, which fellow bookworms will appreciate, and the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, which was beautiful.
- We wound up at Tupelo Honey for dinner, something that had been recommended to us. It was decent, but probably not worth the wait. I wish we had checked out Chai Pani – an Indian street food restaurant that smelled AMAZING!
- Easily our best discovery that night was Grove Arcade – specifically the Battery Park Book Exchange. Grove Arcade is an architect admirer’s dream. Built in the late 1920s, it boasts glass ceilings, wrought iron circular staircases, gargoyles, etc. Asheville is fully aware that it’s a gem – you can even download a tour guide. Attached to the Grove Arcade is the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s a magical place: you can order a cocktail or a coffee and a giant slice of cake; read a book; bring your dog; and meander a bibliophile’s paradise. If you do one thing in downtown Asheville, this should be it!
Day 2: Biltmore Estate
- Ah, Biltmore, the real reason we decided to stop in Asheville. To properly enjoy the estate and all its grounds, you really need to plan a full day.
- I’d advise you to do the house tour as early as you can, because it tends to get crowded as the day wears on. You can take your time touring the house, but once you exit you can’t reenter. Tickets aren’t cheap ($50 in advance) and there are all kinds of add-ons you can incorporate (i.e. variations of guided or “behind-the-scenes” tours, audio guides, etc.) for an extra price. Their website is really helpful (it even has suggested itineraries) and the best advice I can give you is to get a map and guidebook when you first arrive!
- Explore the gorgeous gardens, and then head over to Antler Hill Village. The village has some sit-down dining options, you can check out the on-site hotels, pet some farm animals, and peruse some exhibits. But the major motivating factor to visit this section of the estate is that there’s a winery – and you can sample as much of it as you want, because it’s included in your admission ticket.
- That evening we wandered back into downtown Asheville, and discovered Farm Burger, which was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, and also offered gluten-free options (a huge bonus for me). It was cheap, easy, and delicious, and I would highly recommend it.
- This left us plenty of time to check out Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB). We had a blast there. It turns out that Monday nights are trivia nights – or rather, Kipper’s Totally Rad Trivia Night – which was the most fun trivia event I’ve ever witnessed. We stayed for the whole thing and wound up talking to everyone from a mom in town to visit her son, to a couple who’d just moved there that day, to two retired marines who told us all about the places they’d visited. It was so much fun, and it once again reinforced my belief that if you put down your phone, look around, and chat with the person next to you, you can learn a few things.
- We wrapped up the evening at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. SO GOOD, and all the chocolate is made at the chocolate factory in downtown Asheville!
Day 3: Good Morning & Goodbye
- Before heading out, we had breakfast at Early Girl Eatery, which was similar to Tupelo Honey in its southern-style dishes.
- We swung by Trade & Lore Coffee, where I got an Iced Pistachio & Rosewater Coffee for the road. In addition to a great name, they had really unique flavors, and I wish I’d tried more.
- Finally, we ducked into the Woolworth Walk, a gallery of local arts and crafts, complete with an Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain that still functions.
All-in-all, it was a great trip, and I’d highly recommend it for a three-day weekend! Some of the other things suggested to us that we didn’t get a chance to check out include:
- 12 Bones – a BBQ place that only does lunch
- Jack of the Wood – a Celtic Pub that looked happily busy every time we passed
- The Orange Peel and The Grey Eagle – music venues that looked intriguing
- Max Patch Mountain – known for its stunning views, and a trail that intersects with The Appalachian Trail
Happy traveling, friends! Let me know if you have any favorite spots in Asheville I should share with my family. . .
*Main image via Pexels, all others my own