Asheville, North Carolina, USA – By Louise Hudson

 

Nestled on undulating hills in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the natural beauty of the Asheville area has always attracted the rich, the famous and the artistic. Nowadays, it retains that appeal and has become a trend-setting, liberal, eco-sensitive corner of Western North Carolina famed for historic architecture, an organic local culinary scene, breweries, wineries and lively outdoor entertainments. With a gentle climate, there are many months per year suitable for rafting, hiking, biking, golfing, and other outdoor pursuits.

(http://onetwoski.blogspot.com/p/publications.html)

 

 

1. Downtown Asheville

Walkable Downtown – Anchored by the central Art Museum, downtown Asheville is trendy and artsy with many galleries and museums. Eminently walkable, there’s a mix of new and heritage buildings, staged as boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops (the Chocolate Lounge highly recommended) and market-type stores showcasing local artists, designers and artisans. The River Arts District houses artists’ studios in redesigned factories. Famous for craft beer, the town is liberally littered with brew pubs and taprooms. Footsore visitors can tour the town on the Lazoom Comedy Bus (http://www.lazoomtours.com/) or take the Amazing Pubcycle (http://amazingpubcycle.com/), an innovative bar on wheels propelled partly by pedal power, partly by motor. Remember to BYOB!

 

 

2. Biltmore

Heritage House: With 42 rooms available to the public, the Biltmore House and Gardens (http://www.biltmore.com/) gives the most insightful perspective of early 20th century, affluent lifestyle. Think of it as an American Downton Abbey with snapshots of the lifestyle of both those in the opulent upstairs rooms and suites and the servants downstairs. Built with loving attention by George Vanderbilt as a 250-room French Renaissance Chateau between 1889-1895, it is the USA’s largest home, spreading over four acres of floor space. He filled it with the best building and décor materials, furniture and artwork (including priceless Renoirs) collected from around the world. Rooms have been preserved with every detail right down to the clothing and shoes worn by the inhabitants and visitors. Explore the gardens designed by America’s foremost landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead and stroll the 2.5 miles of pathways. As well as visiting the heritage house, you can stay on the estate at the Inn, Cottage or Hotel. There’s also the USA’s most visited winery there, complete with tastings, tours and shops. Best time to visit: in the run up to Christmas for the magical decorations.

 

 

3. French Broad Vignerons Bon Appetite Wine and Food Trail

Award Winning Wines: With North Carolina wines not widely available even in the ritzier restaurants in Asheville yet, their increasingly superior quality is actually even a secret from many of the locals. With craft beer culture prevailing, it is early days for North Carolina’s wonderful whites and reds to be widely distributed. But they are for sale at the chain of fabulous wineries around the state and also in a few shops. And French Broad Vignerons (www.frenchbroadvignerons.org), an association for NC wine makers, is working with Vino Shipper (https://vinoshipper.com/) on a new distribution system, which could add the NC wines to local restaurants’ lists in the near future. To taste – and purchase – start at Burntshirt (http://www.burntshirtvineyards.com/)where the red wines are exceptionally polished and the whites nice and crisp – and you even get to keep your engraved glass! Winner of the 2015 and 2016 NC Winery of the Year Award, tours here are both fascinating and informative. And sipping Holiday Red or Unoaked, steel-aged Chardonnay on the Burntshirt patio, overlooking regular rows of vines disappearing into the misty mountain distance, is a signature experience reminiscent of Stellenbosch or Sonoma. There’s also a cute cottage available for romantic weekends. French Broad Vignerons runs a Wine Trail Tour, taking in several different experiences to get an overall feel of the scope of NC’s burgeoning wine-making industry and they regularly host bachelorette parties with limos and wine tasting.

 

 

4. Sierra Nevada Brewery Mills River

Brewery Tours and Tastings: When the ubiquitous Sierra Nevada beer outgrew its Chico, California manufacturing facility a few years ago, where else to expand but to Asheville, NC the epicenter of craft beer brewing? The Mills River Sierra Nevada Brewery and Taproom is an impressive, 26-acred Appalachian estate, which you can visit for tours, tastings, dining, hiking and walking trails. There’s also an amphitheatre for live entertainment. For those who don’t have time for a tour, there’s a free self-guided corridor, which provides a sneak-peek at the brewery’s inner workings. And, for an in-depth appreciation of the history and manufacturing of Sierra Nevada beer, make a reservation for the popular, interactive (and free) 90-min tasting tour (http://www.sierranevada.com/brewery/north-carolina/brewery-tour) – probably the first time you’ve ever touched and smelled whole-cone hops! Later, fuel up in the Taproom on produce from the brewery’s own garden, and don’t miss the lamp-heated patio and beer garden at the back.

 

 

5. Green Sage Cafe South Asheville

Food, People, Planet: In a town full of nutritional eateries, the quintessential healthy harbinger is Green Sage Café (http://www.greensagecafe.com/). From three different outlets – west, south and downtown – a magical mélange of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-sensitive and organic locally-sourced foods are purveyed in a casual, eco-environment. Hot water is supplied by solar thermal panels, meat is humanely-raised, lighting is LED, and power comes from renewable wind and solar energy. Go for breakfast, brunch or lunch – and if you eat gluten-free, try the unusually good GF biscuits and breads! And don’t miss the healthy sweet potato hash with customizable omelettes. Afterwards, there are bins for recycling and composting everything with in-depth instructions on each bin so you know that you are putting the right item in the correct place. With fair trade, natural nourishment and sustainability at the forefront, their mission is ‘Food, People, Planet’.

 

 

6. Bone and Broth

Gastro Pubs: One of the newest places in town, Bone and Broth Neighbourhood Kitchen and Bar (http://boneandbrothavl.com/) is a gastro pub with a down-to-earth but decadent menu and great wine selection. Very meat oriented, fresh cuts come from the local Chop Shop and bakery goods from the City Bakery. Expect Southern classics like mac and cheese combined with premium dry-aged steaks, house-ground burgers, bone-in pork shank specials and even British bangers and mash. Low key ambiance, modern pub décor, great quality – somewhere that locals would go out after work for midweek munch and visitors should include in their itinerary.

 

 

7. Chestnut Restaurant Asheville

Say Yes to Downtown Dining: Where to eat when downtown is full of restaurants of every description – some longstanding, some here today gone tomorrow? Chestnut, which opened this year, (http://www.chestnutasheville.com/) stands out from the culinary crowd with its positivity. In a restored 1920s building, it has a very contemporary attitude to customer service: the answer is ‘Yes!’ to any requests and this is outlined on the menu to encourage consumer comfort in asking for customized meals. Amid an upbeat but unpretentious atmosphere, owners, Chef Joe Scully and Kevin Westmoreland combine this sophisticated service with high quality food and wine picks – all at affordable prices (and they pour 6oz glasses, rather than the more typical 5oz). This modern American eatery sources its ingredients from local farms where long-term relationships have been forged through a decade working with their first restaurant and catering business, Corner Kitchen (http://thecornerkitchen.com/). Directly opposite Aloft’s modern minimalistic hotel, Chestnut attracts the Millennial crowd but is also appealing to locals who have enjoyed Corner Kitchen catering for the past decade – including President Obama – as well as downtown dwellers.

 

 

8. Vinnie’s Neighbourhood Italian Asheville

Friendly Foodies with Flair: In a more residential area of Asheville, Vinnie’s (http://www.vinniesitalian.com/) has a 20-year-plus reputation for great Italian comfort food served by comforting people. Don’t expect skin-deep robotic US service. Here you’ll make friends with the staff, manager and owner on the first visit. It’s family-focused with everything from proposals, marriage, birth and even the occasional wake celebrated in its comfortable confines. Serving everything intrinsically Italian from pizza and pasta to seafood and meats, this is a New York-style trattoria with all the clatter, chatter and banter you find in Italy. Don’t miss the signature family recipes such as twice-baked lasagna or lobster linguine with spinach in a smoked tomato cream sauce – washed down with local craft, draft beers or interesting wines. A new renovation happening in January will make Vinnie’s even more appealing. Don’t forget to ask the owner, Eric Scheffer about his champagne vineyard in Argentina!

 

 

9. Double Ds Coffee and Desserts

Double Decker Desserts: An eye-catching icon in Biltmore Ave for the past 8 years, the hip double-decker British bus café is owned by Jeff and Karen Lazzaro. Just outside the bus, they have created a cool courtyard with tinkling water fountains and round stone tables, complete with umbrellas. Visitors can sit inside in the renovated top deck where they also hold special events. Specializing in organic coffee and espresso drinks, Double Ds (http://doubledscoffee.com/) also serves cakes, muffins and cookies from the downstairs floor. Using this brightly painted low decker bus is the ultimate in recycling and reusing, says Jeff. The music ambiance is great, too, and his baristas are all singer songwriters who perform from time to time. With free Wi-Fi and a central people-watching position downtown, this is a happy, hippy, happening hangout.

 

 

10. Dancing at Drum Circle

Music Maestro: Known for its live outdoor music celebrations, Asheville has a dedicated music microsite (https://www.ashevillemusicguide.com/) where all the multi-genre gigs are listed for every day of the year. The site showcases the bands and venues, too. The Orange Peel (http://theorangepeel.net/) on Biltmore Avenue – formerly a rollerdome – is a popular place where you can see both legendary and up-and-coming acts perform, such as City and Color which I watched there. The Drum Circle (https://www.romanticasheville.com/drumming_circle.htm) is a free interactive event held every Friday evening during warm months in Pritchard Park, right downtown. Voyeurs can get into the act, too, either joining in with the drumming or dancing to the compelling beat. November through March, the Asheville Drum Circle moves to the New Mountain music venue on North French Broad Avenue – Fridays 6-9pm. Shindig on the Green is another authentic Asheville attraction, running July-September. Starting at sundown, musicians and dancers from all over Western NC gather for a free mountain bluegrass festival right in the centre of Asheville at Pack Square Park.

 

 

11. Grove Arcade at Night

Ritzy Retail: Built by E.W. Grove, who also created Asheville’s iconic Grove Park Inn, The Grove Arcade (http://www.grovearcade.com/) dates back to 1929. During World War II it was taken over by federal government but reverted to retail in 2002 when it was recreated as a glamorous shopping arcade, housing sophisticated furniture stores, jewelry designers, clothing, arts and crafts and several wine bars and restaurants. Outside there is the unique Portico Market, a dozen stalls housing local farmers and artisans plying their wares directly to the public. Just up the road there is an old F. W. Woolworth store. While the food bar and signage are the only vestiges of the defunct national chain, the building has been repurposed as an art and artisan gallery with multiple outlets over two floors. Opposite is Chocolate Fetish, known for its decadent truffles.

 

 

12. Omni Grove Park Inn Golf

Heritage Hotel: Built in 1913 from native uncut Sunset Mountain granite boulders, this stately golf resort has stupendous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from its terraces, spa and golf course. Plush, elegant, decorated in a historical motif with original Roycroft furnishings and fixtures, Great Hall and gigantic fireplaces, it has been hosting US presidents for decades. Quite recently President Obama went there on a couples’ golf retreat. Don’t miss the elevators cleverly concealed inside the stone of the fireplaces. Other features include the 18-hole 6,400-yard championship mountain golf course, a subterranean cave-like spa with massaging waterfalls and underwater music, an extensive sports complex, five restaurants, three bars, a café and boutiques. Designed to emulate the surrounding natural resources, it’s an unforgettable building with signature architecture including a strangely curved red clay-tiled roof and rugged stone walls, somewhat resembling a child’s picture of a mansion or even a Hobbit’s hotel! (https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/asheville-grove-park)

Written by:
Updated: