Asheville is a hip town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It’s reputation preceeded it when we finally visited an spent two night discovering some cool things to do in Asheville.
We pulled into a campground called Wilson’s Riverfront RV Park that was squeezed between the highway and the river. It was small and a bit noisy from the highway, but with 50% off camping thru Passport America just 10 minutes from downtown Asheville, we were DEFINITELY not complaining!
Asheville, North Carolina
This city had a shroud of mystery around it for us. Everyone we met had the same reaction to the mention of Asheville: “*GASP!* You HAVE to go to Asheville! You’ll love it!” We were told it was artsy, it was modern, it was laid-back, it was a college town, it was beautiful, it had the Biltmore Estate, it had tons of good shops and restaurants, it was a hippie town, it was progressive, and it was Beer City, USA. We had skipped it the first time we went through North Carolina heading south, so now we were finally going to see what all the hype was about.
We grabbed our bikes and found a parking spot about a mile outside of downtown. We rode in a ways before finding a place to lock up our bikes. We walked the streets, just noticing the people about, the colorful, earthy, high-end shops, the plethora of restaurant options. The art on the walls, an old bus turned into a hip little corner coffee shop. Like any city it had homeless people. It also had street musicians staked out in front of the cafes with the outdoor seating areas.
We walked the Pack Square Park with the county courthouse and City Hall, which is one of the Art Deco Masterpieces of Asheville. In 1943, World War II pilot Col. Robert Morgan was flying his Memphis Belle bomber on a nationwide tour to sell war bonds. On his way out of Asheville, he banked the craft 60 degrees and slipped it between the Courthhouse and the City Hall. In the picture below, City Hall is on the right and the Courthouse is on the left.
At that point our tummies were grumbling. The good news was we had a whole bunch of delicious looking and sounding restaurants to choose from. The bad news was we had to choose just one of them!
It kind of frustrates us sometimes when people say “such-and-such town is so great because it has so many great restaurants” because we’re usually only there long enough to try just ONE of them, maybe two at most.
You have to live somewhere for a year to try all the great restaurants! #FirstWorldProblems
Anyway, we had wandered by a fantastic looking burger place earlier called Farm Burger.
It was gourmet and delicious (AND ETHICAL) without being too fancy and expensive. They had outdoor seating so we had been able to scope out how the food looked when we walked by and it looked real good. We were not disappointed! (I guess that’s the good thing about having too many too restaurant options.)
As we enjoyed our meals, we pondered the city and watched the passersby. We looked up some information on the city. We learned that Asheville has really high property costs, and affordable housing is a HUGE topic for the city. Asheville also has no real industry. It is a tourism-retiree community (and a little bit of beer making.)
The Biltmore estate….or not.
The next day we went to check out the Biltmore Estate. The Biltmore Estate is America’s largest home, built by George Vanderbilt. It is an 8000-acre beautiful and grand estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, NC that many claim outshine many of the castles in Europe.
We had been told it was very beautiful. The drive into the estate entrance gate was gorgeous. Tickets were required to get close enough to SEE the house. We went into the Visitor/Ticket Center to see our options. When we learned it was going to be $65 per person to gain entry, we watched the free short info video of the history of the estate, and then we left. Maybe we will come back one day when we are a little less frugal.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
We debated driving all the way out to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. After the failed attempt to see the Biltmore Estate, we figured we should at least see something.
How can you go to Beer City USA and NOT go to a brewery?
We had been told by some friends that we should go and that it was BEAUTIFUL. We couldn’t help but wonder how a brewery could be beautiful…. This place was beautiful!
We are so glad we went because it ended up being the highlight of our time in Asheville.
Sierra Nevada is headquartered in Chico, California. They built this site just outside of Asheville in 2014 to better serve their east coast customers, so it is practically brand new. They built this place with the visitor in mind and to be able to walk them (literally) through their brewing history and process.
And everything was so shiny!
You can sign up for a guided tour (book way in advance, they fill up fast) or do a self-guided tour through the facility, which we did. It walks you through each stage of their brewing process all the way through packaging (which is really fun to watch!)
Then be sure to stop by their bar/grill for a beer flight and the AMAZING pimento beer cheese! YUMMMMM! We had such a wonderful time for way less than the cost of one admission at Biltmore.
Blue Ridge Parkway
After our very pleasant time at Sierra Nevada, we decided to go for a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had been travelling so close to the Parkway for so long but we hadn’t driven any of it. The early evening was spectacular and it was plain to see why these mountains were called the Blue Ridge.
Yes, you should go to Asheville. It is quite an experience. Like any city, it has tons to do, lots of great restaurants, and some interesting history. Some things will cost you a lot, but if you’re vacationing on a budget there are definitely some cool places where you get a lot of bang for your buck.
This one definitely had a unique vibe though – a little more laid back, a little more indie and artsy. Not to mention the surrounding area is beautiful with lots of natural attractions as well, like Looking Glass Falls. We loved our time back in these mountains!
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