Happy Friday! This week has felt so long in a good way, but then again I’m wondering where the time went. Does that happen to you when you travel during the week? My mom, dad, and I flew down to Asheville, NC and met my sister there to celebrate her 21st birthday (belated)/for her spring break. What’s going to happen when Katherine no longer has spring breaks for us to crash?! Good thing she’s planning on going to med school…I still think they have spring breaks…? Right?
Okay! I’m sharing all the details of our trip to Asheville. I might be biased, but I definitely think we did Asheville the right way and wouldn’t change a thing! Let me know if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them!
I love little airports! Asheville’s airport is so easy to fly in and out of. It’s located about 40 minutes outside of downtown Asheville, but the drive was easy as well. We went back and forth between staying at renting a house or staying in a hotel, and ultimately decided on the AC Marriott Hotel. I think either choice would have been great for our trip, but the hotel did have a few added pros: the rooftop bar, amazing shower, and extremely helpful concierge (thank you!).
After freshening up in our hotel rooms (my parents received a complimentary upgrade to a corner suite, while my sister and I had a standard room, which was still really nice!), we met up at the rooftop bar to enjoy the beautiful mountain views and celebrate the start to an amazing trip! Even though it was chilly out, the rooftop bar had powerful heaters so we were able to stay warm and cozy while sipping our cocktails and munching on some pre-dinner snacks. Speaking of dinner…I tried to plan all of our dinners ahead of time since from the little research I did, I kept reading that you needed reservations for certain restaurants or else you’d get turned away for the whole night. Plant, a vegan restaurant located less than 5 min outside of downtown, was one of the places that you definitely need a reservation for.
I have the best family! Being vegetarian/pescatarian/dairy free they put up with me dragging them to these restaurants, howeverrrrrr I have to say some of the vegan restaurants we’ve been to have been so amazing and Plant was one of them! I have a feeling the menu at Plant changes pretty often (maybe dead giveaway was the fact that the menu was labeled as “March 2018” ha!), but hopefully their [Plant] Cheese is one of their signature dishes because it was SOOOO good. Don’t hesitate for a second when ordering it, you won’t be disappointed in their cashew “cheese” because it’s literally unbelievable. I’m not joking. I didn’t believe that vegan cheese could actually taste like real cheese. The. menu is pretty small, so my best advice if you’re with a party of four is to order (almost) everything that way you don’t miss out on anything spectacular! Ohhh and try to save room for dessert, although that’s basically an impossible task. The chocolate, peanut butter “Blackout” fudge/cake thing was incredible. Again, that dessert was wayyy better than most desserts at non-vegan restaurants.
After dinner we Ubered back to the hotel and hung out in my parent’s room, which had a nice sitting area and table with chairs so we were able to play card games and watch the Oscars. Wouldn’t have traded this chill evening for the world!
My sister and I enjoyed a complimentary breakfast on the top floor of our hotel (thank you AC Hotel Asheville!). While I’m a huge advocate for getting to experience the food/culture that the city has to offer at local eateries, I couldn’t pass up a free breakfast! We wanted to get an early start to the day so we’d have plenty of time to enjoy a substantial hike and a relaxing post-hike hot springs soak. The drive to Hot Springs, NC was about 45 minutes of windy, mountain roads. Again, thanks to my research I programed our GPS with Bluff Mountain Outfitters‘ address, since I wanted to stop there first and get the experts’ opinions on which hike we should do. As expected, they were super helpful and we were able to stock up on cool stickers, post cards, and most importantly some snacks for the hike. We ended up starting off on the AT (hiking out for 2ish miles) and then hiking back on the Pump Gap Trail (for 2ish miles). We gained over 1,200 feet in elevation, and boy did we feel it! It makes me question how I was ever able to hike for three days straight with a forty-pound backpack.
After our challenging, yet rewarding hike we walked to Hot Springs Resort (where we parked our car prior to our hike). Everything is all very close together in Hot Springs, NC. You can walk from Bluff Mountain Outfitters, to the trail head, and then back to Hot Springs within 10-20 minutes. Or you can drive, up to you! So how do I say this…Hot Springs Resort was a great experience, but resort is a strong word. It feels more like a campground, but in a good way! You don’t actually relax in a hot spring, but instead you’re in a hot tub that has the fresh, hot water from the springs flowing into it. I definitely could be considered a germaphobe/clean freak/whatever you want to call it, so I was a bit hesitant to try this out, BUT they clean the hot tubs after each use, and I can confirm that ours was very clean.
The best hot tub is apparently #5, it’s the most private and has the best views of the river/creek. Although we weren’t able to book #5 we got hot tub #16, which was 3rd on our list after #17, but honestly I think any of them would be enjoyable. (The reason why #16 or #17 were suggested to us is because of their location, they’re at the end of the row of hot tubs, so that made them quieter? Honestly, I don’t think you’d be disrupted by people walking by because the sound of the river kind of drowns background noise out away.) The hot tub setup is simple, each hot tub is covered with a roof, has a wooden porch surrounding it, and three walls providing privacy from the rest of the “resort.” You turn a corner when you enter the hot tub area so while there is no door, there is still plenty of privacy (no one passing by is going to be spying on you).
Ah, I feel like I am dragging on and on about the hot springs…well to wrap it up, you get an hour in the hot tub. I recommend showing up at least 15 minutes early and using the changing rooms/bathrooms (but be warned, they kind of smell bad) ahead of time so you don’t have to waste any part of your hour doing so. If you can bring your own towels, great, if not then you can rent them for $2 each.
We got back to our hotel around 4:30/5:00pm, showered, and regrouped in preparation for our *epic* brewery crawl. If this is the first time hearing the words Asheville and brewery together, well, where have you been?! Seriously though, Asheville, NC is a Mecca for breweries, good breweries. I’m lame and don’t appreciate beer the same way I appreciate wine, so while my parents and sister were in beer heaven, I was enjoying wine. I still had a great time though and I made sure to get their opinions on each place to be able to give you the most accurate review possible.
First stop: Wicked Weed We were pleasantly surprised with the outdoor seating option avaliable, which was well heated for our comfort. From the moment you walk in you can feel the amazing atmosphere of this place, but that’s not all that’s amazing about Wicked Weed. They have a somewhat extensive snacks/food menu, which was great for us! We ordered all of the snacks (popcorn, chips, hummus, boiled peanuts), and we also ordered brussel sprouts and cauliflower. If you’re looking to be a bit more adventurous with your beer choices, but unsure if you’ll like it or not, don’t forget that you can always ask to sample a beer before you order a whole glass of it. (And I was pleased with the wine selection!) They even had corn hole if you wanted to hang out and play a game or two with your friends. Without hesitation this place gets an A+!
Second stop: Green Man My sister chose this brewery because she has a sticker on her laptop from here, so it seemed like we had to go see what it was all about! Green Man was just beer, no food options at all, but they did have Underwood Wines, which come in a can (yay for me!) and were actually really good! (I had the rosé.) We rated this place an A-, the beer was great (supposedly), but there was no real atmosphere (unlike the superb atmosphere at Wicked Weed). However it’s a cool place to check out, so definitely stop by! Make sure you walk towards the restrooms so you can see where the brewery is and they have a really cool penny floor.
Third Stop: Burial This place definitely had a cool atmosphere. It’s a great, laid-back hangout (you can either drink at the bar, or around a table on the covered porch). According to my trusted family members, the bartender was super knowledgable and the beer was great, gaining this spot an A ranking. They also served drinks in mason jars, which if you know me at all, is something I love! Burial gets an A!
Forth Stop: Asheville Brewing Company Oops, we definitely didn’t save the best for last. Unlike the other cooler/hip vibes of the previous breweries, ABC seemed like a sports bar past its prime. There was an extensive food menu, but all the options were greasy (fries, nuggets, wings, etc…unlike Wicked Weed, which actually had decent options!). If you are just going on a brewery crawl for the beer then maybe you should consider this place, or at least get someone else’s opinion on it. If you’re going on a brewery crawl for the whole experience then maybe this one is a SKIP. [Also I should mention while we were enjoying our dinner a homeless guy came into the restaurant and up to our table and tried to sell us flowers/tell us his life story. It was unexpected, but luckily the manager came to our rescue and threw the guy out, not before my mom gave the homeless guy all our fries and onion rings though! Mom….). Giving this place a B for beer, which is kind of the only thing it had going for it.
Well… the Biltmore was as amazing as expected! It was a quick drive from downtown Asheville, only 15-20 minutes or so. We arrived, bought our tickers, which were EXPENSIVE! I have to say the woman at the guest services desk (where you purchase the tickets) was rude, easily annoyed at me for asking questions, and gave me completely wrong information! Uggg whatever, sometimes you just have to shrug it off and move on. On top of the entry fee ($53/adult) you have to pay for small group tours if you’re looking to do one of those. My grandma suggested the Upstairs, Downstairs tour, which was really cool! You get a behind the scenes look at rooms that are not shown to general admission, and you get to learn more in-depth about how the house ran so successfully.
Here are some tips: arrive early! You want to make the most out of your ticket (which costs a small fortune) so get there right when it opens, it will probably be less crowded then as well. (We were visiting during off season and it was kind of still packed when we arrived around 11:00am, I mean, the workers were saying this was a “slow day” so I can only imagine how crowded it is on a “regular day”). Second tip: split up touring the house on your own, if you can. We got to George Vanderbilt’s bedroom and then took a break to do our small group Upstairs, Downstairs tour, after which we grabbed hot chocolate and coffee before heading back to finish the house. I mean, it’s HUGE so give yourself a break and thank yourself after.
Don’t skip the gardens and observatory. This might seem like an obvious one, but after the house, which took us forever to get through, we were considering just rushing through the gardens. The gardens are really beautiful and the views are stunning (great place for photos!). We were there on an overcast day during the winter, so I can only imagine how beautiful it is on a sunny day in spring!
Lastly, take advantage of the wine tasting, it is “free” ya know (ha! Nothing is free! Look at how much your ticket cost…). The wine tasting was surprisingly awesome. I had really low expectations because it was “free,” but we got to sample 6-7 different Biltmore wines and our very knowledgable Steve (the guy pouring the wines) was really fun and helpful! The room you get to taste the wines in is beautiful, so may sure you enjoy this part of the experience. After the wine tasting we had spent basically our whole day at the Biltmore, and were ready for our next adventure! (We opted out of dining at the Biltmore Estate…probably just overpriced, but maybe I’m wrong?)
The one thing my sister planned for us to do during her Spring Break (the rest of the itinerary was planned by yours truly), was a trivia night at Bold Rock Cidery. I have no idea how she stumbled across this gem, but it was easily one of my favorite parts of the trip! We showed up 20 minutes late to trivia night, which apparently happens every Tuesday night at this brewery and is taken very seriously by the regulars (I think every group was “a regular” except for us). And oh my gosh it was a blast! There was a food truck outside that offered a pretty simple menu: burgers, fries, you get the picture… I had a veggie burger and it was pretty good! We set ourselves up at a high-top table for four and put our thinking caps on to get these trivia questions right! At one point in the night we were in third place, but ended up in 5th place…darn. Maybe next time! They have a different thing going on each weeknight, so check it out here and hopefully you can attend one of their events!
We ended our trip on a relaxing note. We had planned to see as much of downtown Asheville as possible on Wednesday, our final afternoon in the city, but it was bitter cold and kind of snowing (believe it or not!). We were so lucky to snag a table at Over Easy Cafe for breakfast, apparently tables at this amazing breakfast place are highly coveted and near impossible to get without waiting outside for at least an hour. Lucky us! This breakfast was amazing and the people were super friendly. If you can’t get into Over Easy then try Early Girl Cafe, which was another one recommended to us. After filling up on good food, we trekked out in the cold to do the historic, self-guided tour. Well, we kind of made fun of ourselves the whole time and took a hard pass on almost every stop until we got tired of being cold.
We did get to mosey in and out of a few cool shops, which was fun (and warm)! My dad struck up a great conversation with the owner of Appalachian Naturals, a handmade soap company that makes their soap in Asheville, NC. How cool? It gets cooler…apparently Jane Fonda buys her soap and moisturizer from this place. Isn’t that crazy?!?! I’m using the same face soap as Jane Fonda. Highlight of my trip right there. Ha!
My sister had heard of this cool bookstore/champagne bar, and so obviously it didn’t take much convincing to get us there. We explored their wide selection of books, then we entertained ourselves by embarking back on that historic hike around the city (we made it around the block before looping back to take advantage of the champagne bar). Apparently this was also trivia part 2 of our trip, as we sat around a beautiful, marble coffee table, sipping champagne while reading off trivia pursuit answers and rattling off completely incorrect answers. We really know how to make our own fun!
Before heading for our flight we grabbed a quick noodle bowl to warm us up at the Noodle Bar and I stocked up on some delicious chocolate treats from French Broad Chocolate Lounge. You NEED to check out the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, and when I say check it out, I mean you need to basically order everything (the Olive Oil Chocolate Cake is to DIE for, the brownies were great, the chocolate torte was awesome, and the carrot cake was good!).
Alright, I think I covered everything and then some, but if you have questions please don’t hesitate to ask. If you couldn’t already tell I would 100% recommend this trip to anyone! I think we went for the perfect length of time, and enjoyed very second of it! Thank you Asheville, NC!
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Images by Helen Phillips
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