48 Hours in Asheville
Thanks to my husband who volunteered to take a day off of work and watch all 3 kids and cart them to and from soccer tournaments this past weekend, I was able to take some much needed time to myself this weekend, free from responsibilities. Just before we moved to North Carolina, one of my best friends from Maryland mentioned that she’d love to visit Asheville one weekend and I excitedly volunteered to join her. Chris and I had agreed that after I was finished nursing Wilder, it would be time for me to take a little break and do all the things I love without a baby in tow. My friend and I chose a weekend in May, booked our stay, and started our planning! She flew into Greensboro Friday morning and I picked her up to make the drive to the mountains together. Her return flight was early Sunday morning, so we were going to have less than 2 days to do all the things! As soon as we arrived we hit the ground running and didn’t stop. Along the way, we ate at some fabulous restaurants recommended by friends, hiked some beautiful trails, discovered places we didn’t plan on seeing as we drove, and, of course, made some quintessential Asheville stops. Today I thought I would give you a little guide and share 48 hours in Asheville, North Carolina: What to do, Where to Eat, and More! All photos in this post were captured with my iPhone because I didn’t intend to write this post, but felt like it held some valuable information for your summer travel plans. (Note: the “and more” refers to the where to stay, because I think in the end it is a where not to stay, but more on that later…I really do not like being negative.)
Dupont State Forest Waterfalls
My girlfriend arrived Friday morning as I mentioned and we had a 2.5 hour drive to Asheville from there. As soon as we arrived, lunch would be our first priority. My parents had recommended Biscuit Head as an Asheville must, so we decided to make it our first stop. We both chose the quinoa scramble from their menu which was a healthy dish of quinoa, eggs, kale, mushroom, radishes, tomato, and basil. Of course, that was balanced out with a huge and delicious freshly baked biscuit! Our entire time in Asheville we had 3 biscuits each, and this was my personal favorite… crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. They also offered a huge array of unique jellies and jams to complement them. The raspberry basil and peach rosemary were both fabulous. I took a photo of my food, just so I could send it to my parents and thank them for the recommendation. I honestly had no plans to write about my visit to Asheville, but I had a great time and wanted to share with you. It’s exciting to have new places in my new home state to visit!
Our next stop was THE quintessential Asheville stop that everyone has to make, the Biltmore estate. In my search for tickets, I discovered discounted rates through Tripster and purchased mine there. We decided to start our tour at the Biltmore house. FYI, our tripster tickets did not include an audio aid you can also purchase so that you can learn while you tour the home, but we wanted to be able to talk to one another as we walked so that was not a problem for us.
What’s there to say that you already haven’t heard about this estate? It’s grandiose, magnificent, and houses several beautiful fireplaces, one of the largest I have ever seen in my life!
Dining Room Fireplace at the Biltmore- this is only one part of it!
The rooms are all coordinating beautiful down to the last details. Can you imagine dining at this table?
One of my favorite spaces was definitely part of the Mister’s quarters with its brown leather upholstery and black and white dog gallery wall.
There were many photos throughout the house; I loved this little black and white wall arrangement paired with terrariums.
While there are so many boastfully wealthy and impressive spaces, I was most enamored with the servant’s spaces. Their bedrooms were simple cottage style, and their dining space was filled with bentwood chairs! Compared to the dining room above, this one is much more my speed.
There were pantries galore, all filled with shelving and storage for days.
I knew I would adore the kitchen, and I admired the ingenuity of the island and its industrial pot rack which was attached to it with something like metal piping. Apparently, the industrial pipe trend began unofficially in 1894.
The maximalist in me fell in love with the not one, but TWO rooms full of vessels for floral arrangements around the home. I told my friend, if I were to have lived in the Biltmore as a servant, I would have loved to have been their florist.
The home also featured several humongous balconies overlooking the mountains. The views were breathtaking! I could have lived on the balcony alone. Actually, I am fairly certain my house would fit on the balcony.
The lowest level had what was called the Halloween basement and the walls were all painted in vibrant colors, some with Halloween motifs. It felt like it would be home to a chic bar or restaurant.
When we finished the house tour and stepped outside to stroll the gardens, it became apparent why they had so many floral arrangements throughout the house. The gardens were some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen! We were a little too late to see the azalea garden in full bloom, but we were able to enjoy the vast and majestic rose garden which boasted several varieties of roses, each with their own sweet fragrance. The rose garden is flanked by an English cottage style garden, lush with all sorts of irises, lilies, and plant varieties.
Adjacent to the rose garden is one of the most beautiful conservatories I have ever seen. Work was being done on part of it, but we were able to tour much of it, and the tropical and various house plant varieties throughout had me green with envy. Of course, as we descended the stairs to the glass encased building, I said to my friend, “Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the rope!” I am sure that joke has been made for years in that very location. 😉
In addition to the very manicured boxwoods and roses, there were several more natural areas on the grounds. This beautiful wisteria pergola caught my eye and I asked Chris to make me something similar.Ha!
There were trees of all sorts from various countries, little creeks with natural stone and wood bridges, a small lake for fishing, and trails throughout. I made the mistake of wearing flip flops (a rookie mistake I won’t make again, but wanted to share with you so that you don’t make the same one!) and my feet were starting blister where the tops of them rubbed the straps. However, I kept going because there was so much to take in. The grounds here rank second in my all time favorite gardens, with St. Louis’ botanical garden topping them by a bit simply because of the variety they had.
After we wrapped up our tour of the gardens we headed back to my car (where I changed shoes), and drove to the Biltmore winery which was added to the grounds in the 1980s. The winery itself had a hallway with little doorways to peer into but not enter where you could see different staged spaces. I think the real work is done in a part they don’t show you. The stone hall finally dumps out into an open area with the wine shop and tastings to the right and a wine bar to the left. At first we walked to the tastings area but saw a long line and decided we didn’t feel like standing in it for little sips. I suggested that the wine bar most likely offered flights, so we opted to head there and pay a small fee to have flights of wine instead. We were honestly thrilled with our choice! We each got to try 3 different wines, we ordered a small snack, and we enjoyed all of the bartenders and servers as well. They were smiling, kind, joked with us, and made our experience all the better.
While at the tasting, we discovered with both loved the Mariporta which was a sweet red wine. Normally, I am not a sweet wine drinker, but this one wasn’t as sweet as others. I loved it so much that I planned to purchase a bottle. When we had quickly perused the shop earlier, I had spied many bottles in the $20 range. However, when we went back later to purchase the Mariporta I discovered it was double that and decided to pass. Yes, I am a big cheapskate when it comes to wine, but I just couldn’t justify the expense and instead took a moment of gratitude for the bit I had with my $8 flight of wine. Next time I go back, I will have another glass. 😉
After leaving the Biltmore, we headed to our camper (more about that later) to freshen up, drop our stuff off, and get ready to head out to dinner. We had an 8:15 reservation at Chestnut in downtown Asheville, which had been recommended to us by one of Chris’ managers who lives in that area. Our dinner was absolutely amazing, and the service was the best we received all weekend. Our reservation, as I mentioned, was relatively late, due to the challenge of finding reservations the same weekend of UNC Asheville’s graduation. We decided to just head downtown a bit early and see if we could get in early, and if not, we figured we’d sit at the bar and have a glass of wine. We walked in at 7:15 and they had just had a cancellation so we were sat immediately, which was a pleasant surprise. We each started with the Chestnut seasonal salad, and I had the seared scallops for my entree. I was not planning on having dessert after already taking in so many calories, but the waitress brought us a menu without asking first if we’d like to see it, and that sealed the deal. We each selected a desert, mine being the signature sundae which featured lemon curd ice cream, home made meringue, graham cracker crumbs, and berries… lemon and berries, so basically a healthy dish, right? That’s what I told myself.
After stuffing ourselves silly, we headed back to the camper and called it a night since we had an early start the next morning. Like I said, we wanted to take in as much as possible over our limited time there, so time was of the essence!
Saturday morning arrived and by 6:40 we were dressed in our hiking best and ready to hit the trails. Even though we had plenty of calories to burn from the previous day, we knew we better have breakfast. We stopped at a little farm to table breakfast diner called Moose Cafe. We selected it because it sounded perfect and it opened at 7 am and we wanted an early start. The restaurant was charming country style and filled with paintings by local artists. I enjoyed two over easy eggs, bacon, cinnamon apples, and yet another biscuit. At this point, I figured I should just live it up all weekend. YOLO!
Bridal Veil Falls, Dupont State Forest
After breakfast, we headed out to Dupont state forest. I had read about a 4 mile or so hike there that sounded perfect for us and boasted 3 waterfalls. Additionally, part of Hunger Games was filmed there, and I am a bit of a fangirl so that appealed to me. The trail was beautiful and slightly hilly, and we took all off shoots to add a little more to our hike. Unfortunately, we somehow didn’t follow that trail as intended, and ended up definitely cutting it too short, so we simply decided to take more trails in the area which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We were able to add a visit to a covered bridge, another really cool waterfall that cascaded over slabs of rock (Bridal Veil Falls), and another small trail where we spied 5 beautiful lady’s slippers. I am not sure if they were original to the area or added to maybe try to encourage the species. We also saw a couple of black snakes with those added trails, and I could have done without that!
Just for giggles, I took this photo at the forest during our hike just so that I could show my kids. I am sure you see what I see. This tree is showing me its backside!
After hiking for about 8 miles, we decided to head out and grab something to eat for lunch. When we got to the parking lot, it was PACKED! I would definitely recommend you get to the park early to avoid crowds and easily find parking. We had arrived around 8:45 am and had no trouble at all. We stopped in the visitor center at Dupont State Forest and I found a little brochure about one of the nearby towns, Brevard, featuring an organic market with soups, salads and sandwiches called Food Matters. It was a charming and healthy little market where we ate lemon ginger rice bowls that refueled us perfectly. It was the perfect choice because we really didn’t want an expensive or large meal, and it hit the spot!
While we ate lunch, we made plans to hit the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way back up to Asheville. (We were a bit south at this point). My friend had never been on it and wanted to check it out. It was a beautiful, sunny day, ideal for taking in the breathtaking views. We rode along the parkway for several miles before heading into Asheville. Along the way we stopped at some overlooks, and I sent this photo to Chris, telling him that I was “rocking the cradle of forestry.” He loves my lame jokes, even if he doesn’t laugh.
As we exited the parkway we spied the North Carolina Arboretum at the foot of our ramp and decided to head in and check out their gardens. After seeing the Biltmore gardens the previous day, it was hard for this place to compare, but it definitely had some unique offerings. My favorite area was their Bonsai garden with several varieties of Bonsai trees. Some groupings looked like miniature forests that enchanted me.
Another fun addition was their model railroad. Sawyer has always loved trains, and every Christmas we try to find a model train exhibit to visit. We’re also lifelong fans of Thomas the Tank Engine and can’t wait to introduce it to Wilder when he’s a bit older. The arboretum had a Thomas engine running along its track and I shot a little video and sent it to Sawyer.
After leaving the arboretum we headed to the camper to shower and hit downtown. We were both pretty worn out, but we wanted to make the most of our time in Asheville.
We arrived downtown around 5 pm and roamed around the shops around the Haywood area. Asheville is a mecca for artists and creative spirits, and several of the shops reflect that. One of my favorite places was Woolworth Walk which is in an old Woolworth’s store and features an old fashioned soda fountain as well. I wasn’t going to buy anything for myself at all, but I spied “The Struggle” print by Ceilidh and had to grab it for my kitchen. (Photo grabbed from her website.)
The shops downtown were diverse and fun and I would love to go back when I have more time and energy!
We hadn’t been too sure of our schedule that day and had opted not to make any dinner reservations and just wing it. We ended up walking into Tupelo Honey which I had heard great things about, and seemed to be a popular dive. While we wanted to eat outside, there was an hour and a half wait, so instead we immediately grabbed the two open seats at the bar. Again, we were served biscuits! At that point, I figured what’s one more? The biscuit was delicious but my least favorite of the three; however, it was my girlfriend’s favorite because she loved the overly buttery flavor. We also ordered avocado toast, and after eating all the biscuits we just ate the avocado toppings… it’s all about balance, my friends! We each ate one of their delicious entree sized salads as well. While my girlfriend wasn’t driving and had more wine than I did, I opted to search for a nearby ice cream shop, and we ended up walking to Sunshine Sammies. They offer delicious small batch ice cream and you can have it served between two cookies. I opted to just have some ice cream in a dish and had a scoop of the vegan vanilla coconut (I love coconut!) and a scoop of snickerdoodle. We sat outside while I ate my dessert and as we did, their adorable aqua truck pulled up! This shop was adorable and everything I would want in an ice cream shop if I were to ever own one!
After I was finished with my ice cream, we hit the road and headed back to our camper for one more night of sleep.
Alright, so now let me tell you about where we stayed, the good, the bad, and the ugly. While I was starting to give up on ever getting pregnant again (before I had Wilder), I created a new dream to keep me going and that dream was to purchase and fix up a little camper our family could use. I have never even been camping, but I loved the idea of seeing the states with my crew in a cute retro steel miniature home on wheels. Of course, I ended up pregnant eventually, and that dream faded into the background (for now). When I happened to come across Asheville Glamping while scrolling my instagram feed, I was stoked! They offered several tents and campers already on sites for you to rent. The Silver Bettie looked like the perfect size for us, and it had a hot tub!
We followed our GPS to a certain point and then had to rely on the directions I had been sent since it was a little confusing for my GPS. We drove past what we are sure was a drug dealing area because we constantly saw sketchy characters there as we drove by. Luckily, that wasn’t right next to it or anything, but it certainly set the scene for me. The camper was down a hill past a couple of mobile homes and another camper that looked like it was being worked on. Thankfully, they had put up some corrugated metal sheets to create a walled in area of the campsite so there was some privacy. The backside of the lot overlooked a small wooded area where we saw fireflies, and on the other side of that we could make out some small houses with a large goat and some chickens. That side of the wooded area was much more charming than our side!
Upon entering and inspecting the place, we found that the back door was broken and wouldn’t lock which meant while I slept in that room just a mile from where I am sure drug deals were happening, someone could break in at any time. Granted, someone could probably easily break into a camper anyhow, but either way, I would have appreciated a locked door while I slept.
We also noticed that there were only 2 towels. Now, the FAQ did say that if you planned to get in the hot tub you should bring extra towels, but since this was a camper that technically sleeps 4 I assumed we would have 4 towels. There was not even a small towel in the bathroom to dry hands after going to the bathroom. That meant we each had one towel to wash and dry our faces, wash and dry out hands after using the bathroom, and dry ourselves off after showering. Had I known that, I probably would have at least brought us an extra small towel for our hands. In our search for more towels, we also discovered that the kitchen cabinet under the sink was broken and off the hinge, and only stayed in place when the door was shut. We closed it and made a mental note not to open it again.
Now, I will say that I accept responsibility for not researching the location well. I was sucked into the allure of staying in a vintage camper. Next time I go, perhaps I will stay in a camper, but it won’t be this one and I’ll do more research. Other than the problems we faced, I loved staying in a camper. Additionally, the hot tub ended up being a lot of fun! We honestly didn’t think we would use it, but Saturday evening when we arrived at the site, the weather had cooled a bit and we decided to take full advantage. My friend poured herself a glass of wine (as I mentioned I had to make an early morning drive so I opted out), and we hopped in. We enjoyed great conversation and soaked in the last moments of our time before we’d have to sleep, wake, and GO!
All in all, we had an awesome time in under 48 hours in Asheville. I am already planning more trips with girlfriends, trips with the family, and Chris and I are hoping to take a getaway soon, just the two of us. (After having a baby and moving, we really could use it… heck we would take a date night at this point!) There are so many more hikes I’d love to take, breweries I’d like to visit (my girlfriend who came this time is allergic to beer, so that was out!), shops I would love to check out. I’d also love to see the Biltmore and the Arboretum. For now, thank you Asheville, for a fabulous getaway! Until next time, cheers!