When I was asked to participate in the #DoMoreCountry program, sponsored by Country Inns & Suites, I was like, hell yeah! I need a little vacay out of a humid Manhattan summer. Although this was a sponsored trip, my opinions are always my own.
I’ve only been to Asheville, NC once before and that was for a lunch stopover at Tupelo Honey Café en route to NYC from Tennessee.
Our 15-hour drive up was made even longer because we decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway instead of the shortest route possible. Never for one moment did we regret it. The nature that we absorbed (along with the fresh air) just driving through the parkway did wonders for our health – both physically and psychologically.
Asheville is one of the closest towns to The Blue Ridge Parkway – one of the most scenic roads in the country that passes through the ridge of The Appalachian Mountains. I was looking forward to trading in the sounds of fire trucks, police cars and NYC traffic for the sounds of the rustling leaves and the wind blowing in my hair. If Asheville’s got anything, it’s definitely that – lots of leaves and wind.
Words of travel wisdom : Always double, triple and quadruple check the address of your hotel.
When we arrived at the wrong Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, we discovered that there were three different Country Inn & Suites by Carlson properties in Asheville.
1) Asheville West - 1914 Old Haywood Road, Asheville, NC 28806
2) Biltmore Square - 845 Brevard Road, Asheville, NC 28806
3) Downtown Tunnel Road - 199 Tunnel Road, Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC 28805
When we accidentally showed up at the Biltmore Square property instead of the Asheville West one, the staff was still very kind to give us cookies, coffee and a small sheet of paper with step-by-step directions on how to get to the correct hotel that held our reservation.
Our 2-night stay at the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, West Asheville (Biltmore Estate) 1914 Old Haywood Road, Asheville, NC 28806 came with a local experience package with two-day tickets to the Biltmore Estate as well as 2 $10 Gift Cards.
My designer friend Jia Li, of Jia Collection, who designs multi-functional fashion for women on the go, accompanied me on this weekend trip. On this trip, I wear her reversible CAREEN dress (blue on one side and white on the other!) and also her EDITH reversible pullover (blue with white stripes on one side, white with blue stripes on the other). I'll have a blog post about packing light with reversible clothing for a weekend trip coming soon!
Jia had never been to the American South before so we were both very much looking forward to visiting Asheville and going to the Biltmore Estate, a 250-room mansion that rivaled the great manors of Europe. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt III in 1895 as the largest self-sufficient private estate in America, it was such a wonderful place to explore for 2 days. An elegant property that housed even more exquisite grounds and gardens, there were a lot of different places to discover.
We also tried their Sunday brunch at their DeerPark Restaurant. It was a wonderful atmosphere with live music, and a delicious gourmet all-you-can-eat buffet, complete with a make-your-own-Bloody-Mary station.
After perusing the grounds, we also popped by the Biltmore Inn for a spot of Afternoon Tea - against a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was quite breathtaking really.
Outside of the Biltmore...
We explored Downtown Asheville – a place filled with college students from UNC Asheville, hippies and street musicians galore.
One local Ashevillian (who's lived in Asheville 13 years and counting), a street musician named Leo Converse (one of the descendents of the famed sneaker family) moved from NYC to Asheville for the love of his life, Sally. He described Asheville as: “Where the women are women and the men are too and the sheep are scared.”
I am guessing by “sheep”, he’s referring to non-progressive thinkers who just follow the crowd. He also added that he’s “not black (and) not gay” but lives in Asheville anyway. I believe that was his way of commenting on how progressive, liberal and cool this little mountain town in North Carolina is.
Downtown Asheville is buzzing with energy – of street music – with Leo Converse and his musical colleagues on every corner (check out the video below of the spoon player from the band The Flat Pennies) as well as a good amount of independently-owned clothing stores and restaurants. It reminded me a lot of Cambridge, MA.
I for one was excited to try the farm-to-table food scene. I heard a lot about it and got lots of recommendations from friends.
We did brunch at Tupelo Honey Café – which was packed, even on a Monday.
Then we did dinner at an all-day breakfast place called Early Girl Eatery. I had their fried green tomatoes over grits. It was phenomenal.
We also went to Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company and had some local beers, such as Rocket Girl Lager. I took some of their cool coasters (shown below) home with me as a souvenir.
There were two other places in Asheville that were highly recommended for food that I wanted to try, but they were closed Grrrr….
White Duck Taco (closed on Sunday) & Biscuit Head (closed on Monday!)
I guess I will just have to come back.
I’ll be seeing you soon, Asheville!
Asheville West - 1914 Old Haywood Road, Asheville, NC 28806
Biltmore Square - 845 Brevard Road, Asheville, NC 28806
Downtown Tunnel Road - 199 Tunnel Road, Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC 28805
Blue Ridge Parkway - http://blueridgeparkway.org
The Blue Ridge Parkway has numerous entrances in Asheville. Enter the Parkway at US 25 in South Asheville, US 70 in East Asheville, US 74 near Fairview and NC 191 in South Asheville.