The dog days of August are here, and doesn’t a weekend in the mountains sound nice? A quick look at the weather shows a 10 degree difference between Atlanta & Asheville temperatures, and I haven’t even run the numbers on humidity. Mercy. Trust me, and hop on I-85 up towards Ashevegas. You think Athens is a little bizarre? Sure, but Asheville piles on the dirtbaggery, deducts thousands of college students, and tops it off with a great collection of outdoor recreation, micro-brews, and local art.
I may be a little biased, nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains, enjoying stunning views, great food, and the more micro-breweries per capita than any city in America. Interested? I thought so, and I put together an itinerary for you. You won’t find the usual white-water rafting and Biltmore Estate planning guides here, but a whole lot of local flavor and people. Enjoy the weird.
Let’s say you were able to take a half-day from work on Friday, and are on the road. You’ll arrive just in time to check in at your hotel…
How does a hotel chain make such a big impact on local-crazy Asheville? By offering incredible service, then by designing/decorating the space with local Asheville art and furniture. Within walking distance to downtown restaurants, bars, and entertainment.
Downtown & 5 Walnut Wine Bar
Get down here, now! Asheville is a funky place with funkier people, I’d argue you have to go all the way down to the Keys to find a bigger group of weirdos than Ashevegas. And they love it! When you see the bumper stickers that state “Keep Asheville Weird”, they mean it! Stop on in to 5 Walnut and grab a seat at the bar overlooking the street, and settle in for some great people-watching. Weekends at 5 Walnut usually involve some good live music as well.
Dinner at Bouchon
After a glass and plenty of free entertainment, walk less than 500 feet to one of Asheville’s best restaurants. Bouchon is a delicious fusion of French and southern cooking (mostly French), and boasts incredible steaks, crepes, and frites. As they say, “Bon Appetit Y’all!” Everything I’ve ever eaten there has been wonderful, but I recommend the Le Steak au Poivre. Hold on the dessert though, you need to walk off this meal a little and see the nightlife.
Asheville has an active street performing community, with music, art, mimes, magic, and other performances populate the streets and provide entertainment for all. I don’t know her name, but my favorite is the lady who sings and looks like Aretha Franklin. You can normally find her next to Salsa’s on Patton & Lexington. There’s a great resource of Asheville Busking on MountainX.
Late Night – French Broad Chocolate Lounge
After you’ve had your fill of busking, and are ready to top off the night, ramble on over to French Broad Chocolates. Be warned the line is usually quite long, but it’s worth it! Artisan chocolate truffles of different flavors and infusions, brownies, cookies, and cake. They have the normally excellent selection of beer and wine as well. My favorite? Go with the chocolate nibs brownie and a scoop of maple brown sugar bacon ice cream. Trust me.
Breakfast at Sunny Pointe Cafe
My favorite spot for breakfast in Asheville, hands down. I simply have never had a bad meal here! While you’re waiting in the little garden, grab a cup of locally-roasted coffee and relax. While my favorite meal is the Huevos Rancheros, you must be sure to order a biscuit too! Dusted with raw sugar to add a little bit of sweetness to the warm goodness.
Asheville loves their farmers! As a very food driven city and tourist destination, Asheville buys the majority of its food from local farms. The fall harvest is rapidly approaching, and these markets will be literally bursting with fresh food, complete with the men and women who harvested it! These markets have a festival type feel to them as well, with arts, music, and performers populating the scene. It’s definitely worth a stroll.
Lunch at 12 Bones
I’ll be honest, you may still be full from Sunny Pointe. But if you’re hankering for the city’s best bbq, go to either location, just make sure it’s open! 12 Bones has some funky hours, but the pork is worth it. Slow cooked, affordable prices, and to-die-for sides. Get the 6 bone plate (your choice of flavor), corn pudding for 1 side, and your choice of another (I get the collards). Heavenly.
Hike/Mountain Bike at Bent Creek
Whether you choose to hike or bike the area, Bent Creek is a beautiful collection of well-tended trails just outside of Asheville. There is plentiful parking, a couple bathrooms, and lake access nearby. If you didn’t bring a bike, you can rent for the day from Carolina Fatz or Motion Makers.
Drinks and Music at Highland Brewery
The original Asheville mico-brewery, Highland has a beautiful setting for hanging out and having a pint. There’s always live music going down on the weekends, and the bartenders are a friendly bunch. See what seasonal special is available, and kick back. Keep in mind they close at 8 pm most nights.
Dinner at Grove Park Inn
If you have followed my advice and eaten at Sunny Pointe and 12 Bones today, you may be stuffed to the brim. That’s ok. The Grove Park Terrace has one of best views of a mountain sunset you can see. Grab a table and have some dessert and coffee, then go back inside and tour around one of the South’s most famous hotels.
Late Night – Drinks at Thirsty Monk
As you’re heading back, have a nightcap at the Thirsty Monk, the best place in town to grab a draft from around the world. The upstairs bar specializes in American craft brews, but go downstairs to the leather and rich mahogany of the original pub. There you will find a diverse selection of beers from around the world, served in fancy glasses. Cheers!
Brunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe
No trip to Asheville is complete without a visit to Tupelo Honey Cafe. A bountiful meal served with complimentary biscuits (of course), hearty omlettes, and fresh coffee. The whole menu is great, and much care is put in to the drink offerings as well. Mimosa and Bloody Mary anyone? For breakfast, go with the sweet potato pancakes, goat cheese grits, and bacon. Delighful. There are 2 locations, downtown for ambiance, Highway 25 for ease.
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
It’s about time to head out of our fair city and back to your own piece of the earth. Extend your time in the mountains by taking the Blue Ridge Parkway back down south. There are plenty of breath-taking views and overlooks to distract you as you wind back towards civilization. Enjoy the mountain air, and come back when you can.
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If you are visiting Asheville and want the lowdown on how to visit without feeling like a tourist, click here and see what else I recommend! I would be happy to help you plan out a perfect mountain weekend in Western North Carolina!