My quick trip to Asheville came as a last-minute opportunity, meaning that I had very little time to research the area and what I was getting myself into. But there I was, standing on the runway of my local airport bright and early being welcomed by a literal red carpet leading to the private jet I’d being taking to Asheville. The jet was flying as an open leg down to Asheville on Friday and back home on Sunday which is the only way I’d ever be able to partake in luxury like that. Not having to deal with airport security, lines, or delays was certainly something I could get used to.
Upon my arrival in Asheville I quickly learned that this wasn’t your average American city- it has a sort of quirkiness to its shops, tourist destinations, and laid back lifestyle that I hadn’t expected. While there was plenty in Asheville that I didn’t get to experience, such as the multitude of hiking and the Biltmore Estate, I was able to enjoy many of the areas that the city had to offer and found that there were a few places and experiences that stood out. Thanks to this quick trip, if I ever have the chance to go back to Asheville I now know exactly how I’d do it, starting with renting a car to get around! (Something we did not have on this trip.)
It didn’t take long to figure out that Asheville is an art town in all forms. Music, entertainment, and art are on every corner of downtown Asheville and carry over into some restaurant and store overall theming.
After my short time in Asheville I got the feeling that this is a city that opens arms to all types, especially the individuals who carry their passions and trades with them in a nomadic way within the art community. My favorite little shop was “We’re off to see the Wizard” which was designed with Instagram in mind. This store had plenty of eclectic items that you truly won’t find anywhere else.
Since I hadn’t packed for a trek to the many waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Asheville, I was happy to have at least found a waterfall mural on the pedestrian stairs in Downtown Asheville. (Hey, you’ve gotta take what you can get.) In addition to the mural art, there were also many sculptures and statues around the city that held significance to past community members and events.
As per usual the food scene is always something I am ready to partake in. I was a little disappointed in the food that I had opted for in Asheville but loved the options and wide variety of places to eat that presented themselves.
We started our food tour at Isa’s in downtown for brunch. This place was such a cute French-style bistro that made it feel like you were taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris. The food here was good but nothing too memorable. The interior design and seating arrangements though had me thoroughly convinced that I had been transported to France.
One of the coolest cafes I came upon in Asheville was The Gourmet Chip Company- a small dine-in location with a menu devoted to homemade potato chips. You could indulge in full dishes consisting of chips and generous toppings or buy bags of the chips to-go. I did the latter and was not disappointed by the freshness and crunchiness of the chips as well as the unique seasonings such as Cajun, apple cider vinegar & salt, and southern BBQ
In the short hours between finding out I was going to Asheville and hopping on the jet, one of the tips I had picked up from friends who had been there was to spend some time at the breweries. One brewery in particular had been brought up a few times to me: Wicked Weed Funkatorium. The beer and cider selection here was fun and enticing but unfortunately I didn’t find anything that I’d order again.
We were here during what would be a normal dinner time so the vibe was very low-key and it seemed like a lot of locals were here after work to catch up with friends.
HOP-ON, HOP-OFF TROLLEY
I was hesitant at first to spend the money on the Hop-on, Hop-off trolley ticket, thinking it would only take us to locations that were all within walking distance of each other, but purchasing the two-day pass for the trolley turned out to be the best decision we made while in Asheville.
Thanks to the many wonderful trolley drivers we had during our short stay in Asheville, we learned so much about the mountain community, including the naming origins, why so many people moved here, and the growth of the community. The trolley allowed us to access must-see locations that we otherwise would not have been able to get to. We were also able to tour original neighborhoods of Asheville and learn about some famous residents such as Zelda Fitzgerald.
We happened to be in Asheville for a rather rainy weekend so the trolley was a great way to get around while under cover and sometimes just enjoy the scenery and sights passing by.
If I were ever to come back to Asheville again I’d make the trolley a priority for getting around the immediate area. Touring the old neighborhoods and winding through mountain roads was an experience in and of itself that I would highly recommend to anyone. This trolley also offered a great opportunity to scope out downtown shops and restaurants to visit later on.
If you’ve ever dreamt of walking through the streets of an old German fairytale village then you’re in luck- Biltmore Village brings the Black Forest mountain village to North Carolina with tudor-style houses and shops including a rather fancy McDonald’s fast food chain.
The brick-lined sidewalks that take you around the village make you feel like you’re a character in a storybook. There’s many shops and restaurants to stop in at in Biltmore Village, including both chain stores like Talbot’s and small shops that draw you in with their unique wares and gifts. The Christmas shop here is a must-see at any time of the year, and don’t be surprised when you walk through the door and are greeted by a “Merry Christmas!” from all of the staff.
Perhaps the downfall of Biltmore Village is its location- close to the entry of Biltmore Estate but also in the middle of a very busy tourist area with chain hotels and restaurants. The village was nice to walk around in, even just to take in the architecture, but it’s not a place to come to to escape the everyday occurrence of traffic, angry drivers, and strips of commercial businesses. Luckily you can hop back on the trolley at the village stop and head on to the next destination!
OMNI GROVE PARK INN
I guess you could say I saved the best for last because these next two locations were my absolute favorite places I discovered while in Asheville. The Omni Grove Park Inn was, thankfully, a stop along the trolley tour which we ended up spending a few hours at.
The resort is only a short ten-minute drive from downtown Asheville but will have you feeling like you’ve driven hours to get to the luxurious mountain retreat. The stone façade of the resort give you a warm and welcoming feeling and the lobby continues that ambience with its warm, natural tones, comfortable lounging spaces, and fire places. In my mind I was comparing this resort to that of Nemacolin Woodlands in Farmington Pennsylvania due to its high-end features, shops, restaurants and, of course, view of the surrounding mountains.
If I were to ever return to Asheville this would be the place I would stay as it has everything you could ever want in a getaway right on property, including one of the most beautiful indoor swimming pools your mind could ever dream up.
I loved exploring the boutiques, café, and seating areas of the resort. There were a few unexpected finds that we stumbled upon at the Grove Park, one of which being the delicious pastries, coffee, and desserts at the small snack shop right off of the main lobby. My raspberry danish didn’t last long, and the appeal of the blueberry cube dessert made me order this as an “after-pastry” snack. With how good these two items were, I wished we had planned to dine at one of the sit-down restaurants in the resort.
Another out-of-the-ordinary yet welcome surprise at the Grove Park Inn was the little village that sat in the shadow of the main resort tower. Grovewood Village, as I came to find out it was named, held an art gallery, café, Homespun Museum, and an antique car museum. Not having known anything about the Grove Park Inn, (other than the fact that it had a beautiful pool), I was pleasantly surprised by the quirky-yet-charming village with its historic backstory.
Even though I spent only a few hours at the Grove Park Inn, I feel as though I could go on and on, bragging about how beautiful and unique the resort is. Exploring the grounds and the shops made me want to book a trip back to Asheville with the sole intent of staying at this resort and enjoying everything they have to offer that I didn’t get to experience as a non-resort guest.
BATTERY PARK BOOK EXCHANGE & CHAMPAGNE BAR
Last, but absolutely in no way least, is the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. This hidden gem is located in the Grove Arcade in the downtown district and to say that we literally “stumbled upon” this place would be putting it lightly. As we were walking through the arcade we happened to peek in a window of a bookstore that just so happened to have a cocktail on the table. “Books and cocktails? Those don’t go together.” But in Asheville they most certainly do!
The next thing I knew, I was suddenly seated at a table being held up by books in the middle of a bookstore with a flight of mimosas in front of me. This eclectic concept of a place is basically my version of a “kid in a candy store.” I quickly found out that there is nothing better than enjoying a blood orange mimosa and charcuterie board while surrounded by book shelves filled with books of yesterday and today.
This was the perfect place to escape the rain and enjoy the Asheville vibe- I say this because I felt like the out-of-the-box idea of bringing books and booze together to create an experience was the epitome of everything that Asheville, North Carolina is. From storybook villages, potato chip restaurants, and mountain resorts with museums to now where I currently sat- book in one hand, cocktail in the other- Asheville was a place where quirks and eccentric ideas not only stood out, but triumphed over other, ordinary endeavors.
Asheville was completely different and unique from any other place I have ever visited, and while there were a few points in my weekend trip that didn’t quite make for the perfect getaway, I’m finding myself missing the city hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This gem of a place is the perfect mesh of art, city-life, outdoors, food, and relaxation and offers the perfect weekend itinerary for any type of traveler.
If I were ever to go back, there are a few things I’d do differently: 1.) Get a car. There is a limited Uber/Lyft service in Asheville and we found out that not many of those drivers like to go to the Biltmore Estate, this being the reason we didn’t experience the main draw of the area while we were there. 2.) Stay at the Grove Park Inn or in the downtown area. We were at a hotel about a five minute drive outside of downtown and felt like we could have been staying anywhere in America with how many chain restaurants were around us. 3.) Hit the trails in the mountains. I’m an avid waterfall chaser, so I’d love to go back and hike the trails around Asheville. 4.) Biltmore Estates. Even though it’s expensive to tour I’d like to see the mansion and grounds.
All in all, I’m glad I got the chance to visit Asheville and believe that I will go back someday. If you’re looking for a girls trip or romantic weekend getaway on the east coast, I think Asheville should make your list of potential spots.