The small mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina is one happening place! But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, the town was considered pretty rough up until the late 1980’s before the artists moved in and the tourism industry took off. It’s hard to believe today as we walked around the streets with wine bars and trendy art galleries. I didn’t know much about Asheville, before Kevin planned my birthday weekend. But there is so much to do — from outdoor adventures to historic sites and shopping. I had a hard time narrowing it down, but here are my top 5 recommendations for a weekend in Asheville.
5. Staying at a historic B&B and visiting other historic inns
Kevin picked out a great spot to base ourselves in Asheville, at the historic Abbington Green Bed & Breakfast. Designed in 1908 by the Biltmore Estate’s on-site architect, the B&B has just eight guest rooms and a lavish breakfast every morning. We got in REALLY late the first night but Nick, the innkeeper, graciously waited up for us to tell us more about the property. All the rooms are named after parks and landmarks in London, though we constantly were forgetting which park we were actually staying in (Hyde Park? St. James? Regents Park? I blame it on the lack of sleep!). Our room (St James Park!) was exactly my style with a fireplace and hot tub.
With so much to do in Asheville, though, we didn’t spend a lot of time here. Hopefully on our next trip! Room rates vary but St James Park is about $329 + tax a night.
Another place to check out is the Omni Grove Park Inn. We prefer to stay in smaller properties but this place is definitely worth a stroll for the view alone and its striking lobby. Several blogs (incorrectly) say Dirty Dancing was filmed here (not true!). Though, it does feel like walking around a movie set.
4. Wandering around Asheville’s historic downtown core
Downtown Asheville is compact and lined with shops, cafes and art galleries. Kevin hung out (and slept!) at a coffee shop while I wandered around downtown stopping in for truffles at The Chocolate Fetish and later gave a mini-tour to Kevin after he woke up. If you like playing pinball, you should also stop in at the Asheville Pinball Museum where you can play a few games.
3. Learning about Asheville’s spooky past on a ghost tour
We’ve taken our fair share of ghost tours and this one was really entertaining. Haunted Asheville offers a classic ghost tour that goes about 2 hours and shares some of the town’s morbid past. When the Vanderbilt’s moved to Asheville, they attracted a lot of money and business to this mountain community. The town is almost like a mini New York with streets like Broadway, Lexington and the main Battery Park. But crime hit the city and it wasn’t until the 1980’s when Asheville started cleaning up. So apparently all the upheaval makes prime stomping ground for ghosts! Though, luckily we didn’t experience any. Just a lot of rain! Don’t forget your umbrella!
2. Visiting the Biltmore Estate and imagining life as a Vanderbilt
Biltmore Estate is a full day activity. You can read all about our adventure here. Simply put, this is a must-do when you come to Asheville. Entry includes a visit to the main estate and wine tasting at the on-site winery. Stick to the white wines!
1. Blowing Glass at the River Arts District
Located on the outskirts of downtown Asheville is the River Arts District, an area with renovated warehouses with galleries, brunch spots, cafes and craft breweries. I’d recommend visiting on a Saturday (since several of the shops are closed on Sunday). We had brunch at The Junction, a popular spot with only a few tables so you’ll want to make a reservation ahead of time.
But right before brunch, we decided on the spur of the moment to visit the North Carolina Glass Center where you can sign up for a quick glass blowing lesson and make either an ornament, a drinking glass or a paperweight. The life decisions! I ended up going with the paperweight since it seemed like the most difficult to screw up! My instructor walked me through the process with the very important advice “don’t touch anything unless I say you can.” Wise words as he opened the furnace and scooped out the molten glass for me. You have to keep your glass spinning on the end of the pole, otherwise you’ll end up with more of a glob of glass rather than a smooth paperweight.
In the end, it came out looking pretty fantastic (if I say so myself!). I have a future in glass blowing I think!