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5 Things I Love About Asheville, NC

It’s been just two days since our epic Memorial Day road trip down to Asheville, North Carolina. I had the highest hopes for this city, and I’m so pleased to say that Asheville exceeded my highest expectations.

We packed a lot in during the 4-day getaway, and I wanted to share some of my favorite photos and travel finds from the trip. And, especially, I wanted to celebrate the 5 things that I loved most about Asheville.

Grove Park Inn- sunset terrace

 

1.) THE VIBE
Asheville is known for having an indie and bohemian vibe, and, indeed, the town seems to celebrate everything artisan and unique. A stroll through downtown leads you past talented musicians playing on pretty much every street corner. Boutiques showcasing local wares, hipster coffee shops, well-regarded restaurants, craft breweries and more line the streets and invite you to come in.

Downtown Asheville- park

A musician in a downtown Asheville park

Downtown Asheville- street art

Asheville street art

 

In addition to all the craft breweries (more on that in a moment), Asheville’s gotten a well-deserved reputation as a food-focused city with lots of highly regarded talent. The tables at Curate are some of the hottest in town, and head chef Katie Button has been on the James Beard list of Rising Star Chefs for the past 3 years. Vegan and vegetarian diners will find ample representation on menus throughout Asheville… I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Plant, a vegan-only restaurant that even carnivores would love.

Plant montage

Highlights from our vegan meal at Plant. That chocolate pie. Was. Ridiculous.

 

Also topping my list of favorite Asheville eats was the popular White Duck Taco Shop. I went to the River Arts District location and was floored by the line of people waiting to try chef and co-owner Laura Mixson’s fresh and flavorful combos. I stuffed myself silly fully of tacos and house-made queso all washed down with a fresh lime margarita. (Tip: The Bangkok Shrimp and Tofu Banh Mi tacos were my favorites.) YUM!

White Duck Taco- River Arts District patio 2

White Duck Taco’s River Arts District patio

White Duck Taco- meal

White Duck Taco… holy moses, was it good!

 

2.) THE BREWS
“Asheville is ‘Beer City USA'” is a sentiment that was proudly repeated to me countless times during my visit. Without a doubt, the city gleans a lot of pride from its hops-driven reputation. Countless craft breweries make up the Asheville Ale Trail and bars and restaurants proudly tout the NC beers on their menus. Edison at the Omni Grove Park Inn takes it a step further and ensures that their beer list features ONLY North Carolina craft beers. 

Several of Asheville’s breweries came very highly recommended from all of you, like Green Man Brewery, Pisgah Brewing and Wedge Brewing. The one I ended up visiting was Wicked Weed. Located in the heart of downtown Asheville, Wicked Weed featured a HUGE beer list of traditional and more unique craft beers, an inviting indoor/outdoor space as well as inspired pub grub. I really loved it — it’s the kind of place you can come to for lunch and stay all day.

Wicked Weed- interior

Wicked Weed’s upstairs interior

Wicked Weed- beer

My raspberry sour beer from Wicked Weed- yum!



3.) THE BILTMORE ESTATE
Leading up to my visit, I solicited recommendations from friends on social media for things to do. The historic Biltmore Estate was one of the most frequently suggested places to visit.

I admit that at first I didn’t quite get what all of the fuss was about, and after seeing the hefty $60 per person (!) price tag, I nearly skipped it entirely. However, I’m so glad I thought twice and ponied up the cash to see George Vanderbilt’s historic hundred-year old property.

Biltmore - mansion 4

The Biltmore House: It’s impossible to take a bad photo of this gorgeous building

Biltmore - mansion 2

Can you spot me on the Biltmore House’s terrace?

 

The Biltmore Estate is on a stunning 8,000-acres set in the pristine North Carolina mountains. The whole attraction is essentially a small city, with roads, villages, thousands of employees and more. It’s made up of the 250-room mansion, an elaborate garden (often considered one of the best gardens in the U.S.), Antler Hill Village featuring restaurants and a well-regarded winery, as well as the uber-luxurious Inn on Biltmore Estate.

Biltmore- gardens 3

The garden at the Biltmore Estate

Biltmore- gardens 4

I do love a pretty garden!

 

In terms of the house itself, I was amazed how the inside of this architectural behemoth managed to feel as inviting and warm as it is grande. I truly loved visiting, and it was an experience I would highly recommend. (Note: if you book your tickets 7+ days in advance, $15 will get knocked off the ticket price. Also, leave yourself at least a half day to explore… your ticket gets you a basic self-guided tour of the mansion, free reign of the gardens and a complementary tasting at the Biltmore Winery.)


4.) THE GROVE PARK INN
Grand. That’s the first word that comes to mind to describe Omni’s Grove Park Inn. “Magnificent” would be a close second. The historic lodge-like resort has been designed on the grandest scale, with the most magnificent attentions to detail. Most magnificent of all is the view. 

Grove Park Inn- me 2

The Omni Grove Park Inn

 

The surrounding area is gorgeously mountainous and each night guests gather on one of the hotel’s many terraces. There seems to be no bad spot to overlook the sun as it sets on the nearby mountains. Champagne seems to be the drink of choice (there does seem to be something so magnificently celebratory about mother nature’s nightly spectacle), but I opted for an Old Fashioned. After all, I was in the South… a heady bourbon drink seemed fitting.

Grove Park Inn- sunset terrace 2

The Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn

 

I was lucky enough to spend one glorious night in a corner room at the Grove Park Inn. More on that in another post soon. But, needless to say, I really, really loved my stay.


5.) THE DRIVE
In most cases, having a 7 1/2 hour drive is not necessarily something to celebrate. But, in the case of Asheville, the journey truly was half the fun.

The drive from D.C. down the picturesque Route I-81 through Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains is as entertaining as it is beautiful. There are countless places to stop, and our drive ballooned to 10+ hours as we stopped to explore historic Lexington (on my Best Places to Visit in 2014 list) and Natural Bridge.

I discovered that this is a drive that tempts you and encourages exploration, not one that’s best served curled up asleep in the passenger seat. Over and over again, I was left staring out the window in wonder, thinking “It’s like an Instagram photo… without the filter.” It’s all just that beautiful.

Lexington - downtown street 2

Downtown Lexington, VA

Lexington - downtown street

Another patriotic view of downtown Lexington, VA

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge, VA

Natural Bridge- butterflies

These gigantic butterflies were all over Natural Bridge, VA– so pretty!

Tennessee overlook

The view from Metcalf Overlook off of Highway 26 in north-eastern Tennessee

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31 Responses to 5 Things I Love About Asheville, NC

  1. alice May 29, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Please…I am an Asheville native, grew up here and lived here most of my life. It is called The Biltmore House and Gardens…not “The Biltmore”. Thank you.

    • Max May 30, 2014 at 6:23 am #

      Great article, made me feel homesick.

  2. Christina Ricchiuti May 29, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    Alice- Ha! Duly noted and corrected. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂
    Christina Ricchiuti recently posted..5 Things I Love About Asheville, NCMy Profile

    • Lucy May 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

      Nice to see our lovely city being recognized all over the place lately!! (Side note, I also grew up here and have lived here forever, and I call it “The Biltmore” all the time, so…not sure about that other comment.)

  3. mark muhlenfeld May 29, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    Enjoyed your take on your trip to Asheville. We don’t mind your visiting as long as you go home after. We have enough residents. 🙂

    • Michael September 17, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

      Asheville was a possible destination for me after grad school. I’m from Austin, Texas and want the hippie vibe, but in a smaller city now that Austin has gotten so big. Is Asheville not friendly to transplants?

  4. Mamahill May 29, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    I totally agree!!

  5. Charles McCool May 29, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    I am heading to Asheville again in July and will check out some of those places you went. Yes, a nice drive down I-81. Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway are so much better but also takes much more time.
    Charles McCool recently posted..8 Great Reasons Food Tastes Better On the RoadMy Profile

    • ChefDave May 29, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

      If you have the time, the Parkway is the route to take.

  6. Carol Tyndall May 29, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    I sincerely apologize for the unneccessary comments from my fellow Ashevillians. Thanks for your kind words about our city, and I hope you enjoyed the people you met here!

  7. Lisa May 29, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    So glad you loved my hometown. And I must share that my deceased husband was the person who brought cool beer culture to Asheville back in the ’80s from his native Chicago. He was bartender at Chickadee and Rye – long since sold to another owner (The Bier Garden). Also, my grandfather was one of the stone masons for the Grove Park Inn. Yes, I do love Asheville.

  8. Allison Dugan May 29, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Gorgeous Pictures~ What a beautiful day! Thank you for visiting the Natural Bridge Park on your way to Asheville. The Biltmore House and Gardens and the Natural Bridge Park are partners in the Southern Highlands Attractions Association, and contribute to a terrific itinerary for a 4-day getaway!
    Allison Dugan recently posted..May 21, 2014 – WildlifeMy Profile

  9. Allen Espy May 29, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    Love your list, photos and descriptions. I live in Asheville and certainly welcome you anytime, either as a visitor or a future resident. You could even go hiking with my meetup group: Weekday Hiking.

  10. ChefDave May 29, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Asheville is so close to home, why don’t I visit more often?

  11. Nichole May 29, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    Check out Pizza Pura the next time you’re in Asheville. It’s owned by the same people as White Duck; it’s our favorite pizza place in town. The NC Arboretum is worth a visit, too, if you like gardens. It’s far less expensive than the Biltmore House. 🙂

  12. gretaallaire May 30, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    I’ve lived in Asheville my whole life, and everyone I know calls it the Biltmore. Thanks for a great article.

  13. Brigette May 30, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    I live near Asheville and think this is a nice article for visitors who are looking for things to do. I second the NC Arboretum (430+ acres) for garden lovers, as well as the Botanical Gardens (much smaller but quite nice). Also, for craft breweries, head just a few minutes east to Black Mountain and try Pisgah Brewing Company and Lookout Brewing. Also, the beautiful butterflies are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and they are all over the place near Asheville in the springtime. 🙂

  14. Anna May 31, 2014 at 6:20 am #

    I’m also a native of Asheville, and I call it Biltmore. I apologize for any of my neighbors who sounded less than cordial. On another note, I’d like to recommend Buffalo Nickel, a new restaurant in West Asheville that is wonderful!

  15. mary johnson May 31, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    Your descriptions make me more excited about my drives to and from Washington, D.C.. I knew that I-81 was a beautiful drive, but now I will appreciate it even more!

  16. Martha May 31, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Thank you for the wonderful article on Asheville. So glad you enjoyed your visit and we hope you come back soon! We love our visitors; they help make our city a great one!

  17. Christie Jones June 1, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    Um, Lucy, I have lived here since 1967 and all of the people I know call it “The Biltmore House”. Great article!

    • Christie Jones June 1, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

      Oops, I meat Alice! Sorry Lucy…

      • Christie Jones June 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

        meant…heck I give up.

  18. Laura @Travelocafe June 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    I have never been to Asheville, but seems like a great place to visit.
    Laura @Travelocafe recently posted..The Poet Hotel, Amsterdam. A Blend of StylesMy Profile

  19. Stephanie - The Travel Chica June 7, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Asheville has been on my radar for while. You might have me convinced I need to make it happen this year!

  20. Adam July 17, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    I definitely need to check out Asheville, it looks stunning. It sounds like a mini Austin which is intriguing.

    • Christina Ricchiuti July 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

      I haven’t yet been to Austin, but I really want to go. I also think it’s reminiscent of Portland, too.

  21. Kristen Young September 21, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

    I love this article. I’m last minute planning a quick weekend with my husband to celebrate our 13th anniversary. I live in Charlotte, so Asheville is the romantic getaway spot most highly recommended. If you have any other suggestions or any of your readers do I would love to hear them. Unfortunately, we are working on a VERY TIGHT budget. Thanks!

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