Since moving to Florida, I haven’t seen snow in 2 years. To many, this may be a blessing. However, growing up the first snowfall of the year signified Christmas was coming – a feeling I will never forget. I decided I didn’t want to go another winter to go by without seeing snow, so I decided to book a vacation to Asheville, North Carolina with a friend. We packed the warmest clothes we could find (a struggle, seeing as a leather jacket is considered a “winter jacket” in Florida!) and drove 8 hours to Asheville. Our week long stay was nothing short of incredible and had the incredible opportunity to explore, eat (copious amounts, I might add) and meet some great people. I enjoyed our stay so much I wanted to create an ‘Asheville Travel Guide’ complete with my recommendations! Enjoy!
ASHEVILLE TRAVEL GUIDE – THE FOOD
Asheville has a refreshing assortment of local, homegrown restaurants. This departure from chain restaurants makes Asheville a hotspot for delicious eats. While we aren’t the biggest drinkers, we do enjoy food. A lot. In fact I’m pretty sure we ate our way through Asheville. Here are some of our favorite restaurants we visited:
Green Sage Cafe
Y’all know I love a good cafe. Green Sage Cafe offers a colorful selection of delicious food made from natural, organic and local ingredients. Green Sage Cafe’s mission is “to make nourishing food for our community using sustainable practices”. Green Sage Cafe respects food sensitive diets by providing gluten sensitive, vegan vegetarian and humanely raised meat options. This restaurant has an extensive selection of tea and coffee – with several recipes on and off the menu. I was told Derek’s “Black Diamond” was a favorite among locals. Comprised of almond milk, mocha powder, vanilla and a sprinkle of peppermint – it is a must try! I enjoyed the Colossal Falafel Burger (with green herb mayo) with the most delicious sweet potato fries I’ve had in a long time. I left wishing there was a Green Sage Cafe in Orlando as it would be frequented often! This is a must try when visiting Asheville!
12 Bones Smokehouse
If you’re looking for the best barbecue in town – 12 Bones Smokehouse is it! their infamous blueberry chipotle baby back ribs are beyond exquisite! Although I am not much of a barbecue fan, the staff instructed me to order the smoked turkey sandwich. Folks, this ain’t your typical turkey sandwich. Filled with sugar bacon, brie cheese (no one says no to brie) and a sweet pesto mayo sauce – I will be ordering this dish upon my next visit. Living in Florida, we appreciated the southern inspired style sides including pickled okra, collard greens, corn pudding, and mac & cheese! This smokehouse has a fun, laid-back vibe as witty fun signs and graffiti cover the interior of the smokehouse. 12 Bones Smokehouse is a must visit!
67 Biltmore Eatery & Catering
Located in the heart of downtown Asheville, 67 Biltmore is a family owned eatery and catering specializing in a variety of comfort foods including sandwiches, soups, baked goods, casseroles and more. This restaurant celebrates local farmers by purchasing seasonal produce and meats. We enjoyed breakfast (I opted for the traditional french toast with a side of fruit – amazing!) and appreciated the tranquil atmosphere. 67 Biltmore is sprinkled with sweet personal touches – including a variety of original artwork. While we didn’t get a chance to sample their lunch options our eyes gazed over a colorful display of blue cheese scallion slaw, chicken cacciatore, Thai curry chicken, shepherd’s pie and portabella mushroom & basil pesto lasagna and more! If you’re looking for fresh comfort food – this is the place to be!
Let’s not forget about dessert! When I mentioned to friends I was headed to Asheville, Vortex Doughnuts was brought up more times than I can count. Famous for their unique doughnut recipes, Vortex Doughnuts takes flavor to the next level. The name Vortex Doughnuts stems from the desire to reflect Asheville’s “new-age reputation of being home to several vortices to alternate dimensions and realities”. Vortex doughnuts are hand-made every morning with fresh, sourced local high-quality ingredients. Vortex offers a new selection of doughnuts every day with flavor combinations I have never heard of including Salted Caramel Bacon, Banana Matcha, Cherry Rosewater, Chocolate Pumpkin, Pineapple Matcha, Blood Orange Lemon, and Chocolate & Spiced Chai. Drooling yet?
ASHEVILLE TRAVEL GUIDE – THE ACTIVITIES
If you do one outdoor activity in Asheville, please take my word for it and go on a waterfall tour. Asheville is home to over 200 waterfalls and they are unbelievably stunning. The #1 activity on our to-do list was to see the beautiful waterfalls Asheville had to offer. We completely lucked out with the best possible tour – the Blue Ridge Waterfall Hiking Tour. Created by Tumblestone Tours, the Blue Ridge Waterfall Hiking Tour will take you on 5-6 hour tour to see 3 unbelievable waterfalls, 2 protected forests and a scenic ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I know what y’all are thinking (because this was my first thought) 5-6 hour hike?! Will I make it out alive?! Luckily (for me) the actual hiking up to the waterfalls is intertwined between the shuttle to and from each waterfall. In total, we walked a total of 5 miles which is totally do-able even if you’re not in the best of shape. The tour is offered year-round (weather permitting). If you do go on this hike – make sure to ask for Keith! He was our extremely knowledgeable (we called him Mr. Google), incredibly kind tour guide. I was so impressed by his genuine love for nature and his enthusiasm when showing off its beauty to us. He took us to 3 waterfalls: Looking Glass Falls, High Falls, and Triple Falls. My favorite without a doubt was Triple Falls – comprised of an intersection of three separate waterfalls. This waterfall was one of the filming locations for the film The Hunger Games! I was in total awe of the beauty of the falls, and when I thought the moment couldn’t be more magical – Keith pulled out a thermos filled with homemade hot chocolate for all of us to share! For $57 a person (including taxes and fees) – you MUST experience this hike.
Sometimes you just want to be a kid again. Growing up in Ottawa, Canada snow tubing and tobogganing was a large part of my childhood. Located in stunning Maggie Valley, Tube World is basically an adult playground. Tubing sessions are 1 hour and 45 minutes, allowing you to race down the hill as many times as you can handle! Our competitive nature kicked in as we raced each other down the hill! Although it was a chilly day – we had a blast! For $25 per person, I would totally recommend Tube World as an exciting activity for the whole family!
Chimney Rock Park
One activity my friend was adamant about was hiking up Chimney Rock. Of course, I had never heard of such rock, nor did I know what I would be getting myself into. Just 25 miles south of Asheville, Chimney Rock, located in Chimney Rock Village, is a 1,000-acre area open to the public to explore. The 535-million-year-old monolith is one of the most iconic sites in North Carolina. We were excited to overlook the 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure at the top of Chimney Rock. However, due to inclement weather and to my ultimate horror – the elevator which takes visitors to the top of Chimney Rock was closed for the day. That only meant one thing – we were walking to the top. The Outcroppings trail (known as the “Ultimate Stairmaster”) is the only way to the top of Chimney Rock and we were determined to get up there one way or another. Y’all let me tell you – it is 26 stories of stairs translation: 499 stairs! While my butt and legs were burning on the way up (and subsequent days after), I not only conquered “Ultimate Stairmaster”, I also was able to soak in the incredible views of Hickory Nut Gorge, the Carolina Piedmont, and Lake Lure. If you’re up for a strenuous butt workout and incredible view – make sure to climb Chimney Rock! Or, call ahead and ensure the elevator is fully functional.
Still Point Wellness Spa
Outdoor excursions (specifically the “Ultimate Stairmaster”) call for some serious TLC. Spas are my ultimate “happy place” so when I stumbled upon Still Point Wellness I knew it was a mandatory stop during our trip. Still Point Wellness is more than your average spa – it is a center for physical, mental and spiritual rejuvenation. Still Point Wellness offers a multitude of services including saltwater flotation, world-class Esalen® Massage, somatic psychology, and private yoga therapy and meditation. We were both treated to an Esalen® Massage and saltwater flotation. You read that correct…salt water flotation! Saltwater flotation is exactly what it sounds like. You enter a floatation chamber (yes, chamber is a scary word!) filled with water and a half ton of Epsom salts, allowing your body to effortlessly float. The chamber is pitch black, forcing you to be alone with only your thoughts. Sound like a nightmare? Saltwater flotation is meant to be a soul cleanse, connecting your mind and body. Floatation is also known to slow breathing, decrease blood pressure and muscle tension, increase endorphin levels, reduce lactic acid, lower anxiety and provide pain relief! While this treatment isn’t for everyone, I would encourage everyone to try it at least once! Co-owner and somatic therapist Corey Costanzo performed the Esalen® massage – an amazing experience with special attention to reducing muscle tension! If you’re in Asheville Still Point Wellness is a mandatory stop to treat yo’ self!
The Paint Bug
The Paint Bug celebrated Valentine’s Day with an afternoon of wine and beer-infused painting classes a few doors down from our hotel, the Aloft. Valentine’s Day was their first ever couple’s painting class held by artist Abbi and her fiancé Elijah! During this class, couples (and singles!) were taught how to paint a single painting using two canvases. We were provided with all the artist essentials: a canvas, paint, brushes, an apron, and 90’s music! While we wouldn’t call ourselves artists, Abbi did a great job at teaching us how to use a variety of different sized paintbrushes and create a piece of art! I was super impressed by The Paint Bug’s love for their community by supporting local artists, using local suppliers and of course – drinking local beer! The Paint Bug doesn’t have a set location, instead, they are a mobile company willing to travel to different venues and host private parties. If you’re looking for an afternoon of art, good music and great company I highly recommend The Paint Bug!
Last but not least, the Biltmore Estate is a must see! Biltmore Estate, built between 1889 and 1895 is the largest privately owned house in the United States at a whopping 178,926 square feet. Filled with 16th-century tapestries, a library with over 10,000 volumes, a Banquet Hall with a 70-foot ceiling, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool and a bowling alley it is an incredible sight! Admission includes a self-guided tour (with an option to purchase a 90-minute audio guide) which takes about 45 minutes to an hour. We thoroughly enjoyed the property as well as exploring surrounding shops and restaurants.
ASHEVILLE TRAVEL GUIDE – THE ACCOMMODATIONS
We couldn’t have chosen better accommodations! Located in the heart of downtown Asheville, this hotel is perched in the prime location. Knowing we wanted to spend the majority of our time in downtown Asheville (aside from our hiking expeditions) we were pleased to discover there was an Aloft in downtown Asheville. Almost all of our destinations were within walking distance, allowing us to take in the sights of downtown Asheville. Our room was filled with comfortable and modern decor and we were lucky enough to not only overlook the rooftop pool – but also the stunning North Carolina mountains. We will be returning to the Aloft for our next visit to Asheville!
*Thank you to the Aloft for our amazing hotel stay. I was treated with a visit to Still Point Wellness, Tube World, The Paint Bug and Tumblestone Tours. Thank you to 67 Biltmore, 12 Bones Steakhouse and Green Sage Café for providing me with excellent meals and service. As usual, all opinions are mine alone.