Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Weekend in Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC was such a really amazing town and I am so excited I was able to visit. It is visitor-friendly and lends itself well for self-travel or family entertaining. There is something for everyone. I flew down by private plane, so my getting there was quite easy. However, I realize that option may not be available for others. Any way you can get there, it should not be too pricey.

Having two days in Asheville can truly limit what you can do. And, I say that since there are a lot of outdoor activities you can do that are really close to town. If you are into rock climbing, hiking or zip-lining, you may want to find a way to add in an extra day or so into your plans to accommodate those activities on top of going around the town.
My first stop was for breakfast. I am not a big breakfast person- a quick bite and a cup of coffee suit me just fine. But, knowing this was one of the places to go, mentioned by Bon Appetit magazine, I just had to go. Welcome to Biscuit Head. These folks are known for their massive over the top southern biscuits. And, they have a jelly bar to match. Each biscuit is unique and the chef puts his own spin on each masterpiece. I was a big fan of the mimosa fried chicken biscuit. Trust me, it is heavenly. I was a big fan of their signature mocha hot milk chocolate and their selection of house made hot sauces.
First thing I did when I got into the main part of downtown was to go to the Visitor's Center. I wanted to get a map of the walking trail. The Urban Trail is a 1.7 mile walk around the city of Asheville, via foot, where you can get a historical and artistic tour of the city. It includes facts and events that happened at those places as well as the significance of its impact on the town. Tip: If you decide to do the walking tour, park for free at the visitors center- it is open for parking until sunset. The trail really lends itself to take you all around the downtown portion of the city, and gives you a quick view of everything. The artistic sculptures blend in well with the surroundings of the city as if they were meant to be there, each one unique and with its own story to tell.
While along the trail, I stopped to grab a quick drink at one of the oldest buildings in the city, Packs Tavern. Built in 1907, it was originally the Hopson Building, a lumber, a BBQ joint and automotive shop. However, in its hayday, it was one of the biggest distribution buildings for moonshine during prohibition. Once prohibition was over, it was renovated for more 'legitimate business'. Today, it is a great spot for a quick drink and a burger. I rather enjoyed my old fashioned among some of the more eclectic decor.
If you have a spare moment along your trail walk, there is one of the most famous coffee shops in town not that far from Packs Tavern. And, you will not be able to miss Double D's Coffee. This unique coffee shop is a double-decker bus. You heard that right. With its serene courtyard to its top level seating, this is one coffee shop you are not going to want to miss. The barista that runs this little spot is nestled in the back lower half of the bus, and she is serving up some of the best local coffee and sweet treats from nearby shops. This is one of the more unique stops on the list.
Once you have done the walking tour, its time to hop back in the car towards the The Art District. Along the riverside, is one of the most art-dense neighborhoods in Asheville. This area is prime real estate to artist studios, breweries and restaurants. It also lends itself well to pedestrian traffic looking to admire a few pieces of art sculptures that line the walkways of these warehouse turned art studios. Take time to stroll through this part of town and see the artist work right in their studios. They have metal works, glass blowing classes, painters and various mediums for their masterpieces.
The final stop of the day was to Farm Burger for dinner. Literally one of my favorite stops in town was this particular favorite joint in town. Asheville is known for being a town with killer food and Farm Burger delivers favorites to the locals and visitors alike. This place was hopping for dinner, but I was able to get immediate seating at the bar - and took it. They have a great selection of beers on tap as well as amazing milkshakes and ciders. This place has the best burgers in town. Regardless if you would like to build your own, or try one of their signature burgers, you will not be disappointed. I opted for the Farm Burger and added some of the largest pieces of bacon I have ever had on a burger. However, it was the BYOB that won in my book. IF you have the opportunity, get the bone marrow added to your burger for a savory treat. But, don't forget the loaded garlic parmesan herb fries - a Farm Burger favorite. Farm Burger is family friendly and offers options for kids - as well as a play area for kids to play while the parents can stop and enjoy dinner.

It was finally to bed and the first day of the trip had come to a close. It was filled with food and excitement for the city life. Bedtime was early this night, especially considering the next day was going to be a full day of hiking with an early departure.
If you have the opportunity and the ability, take the time to go see Grandfather Mountain State Park. It is about $15 per person, but the trip will be worth it. If you have difficulty walking and traveling distances, this park is very accommodating. First, once you have paid the entrance fee, you are given a CD to listen to along your drive up to the top of the mountain. The CD explains the history and significance of each part of the trip up to the top, so stay tuned in! Once you reach the top, if you have limitations on stairs, they have an elevator that will take you to the top of the swinging bridge. And, it does swing. If you plan on hiking, park at the lower parking lot (Hiker's Parking Lot) and take the 0.4mi trail to the swinging bridge. It is well worth the hike to the bridge, as you get a better view and perspective of the climb from underneath where the bridge is erected.
Once you have seen the overview of the swinging bridge, you can continue you hike onward to Grandfather Mountain (Blue blazed - McRae Peak). It is a long 2.9 mile hike, well over 2 hours round trip, but well worth the time. My suggestion is to go as earliest as possible. Not only will the swinging bridge be less crowded, but the trails to the top of Grandfather Mountain will be less traveled as well. The first half of the trek up to the top of Grandfather has various climbing challenges, from a quick rock scramble, a couple of ladders, and even a cable tugs you have to use to literally rock climb up to the top. I do not suggest this trail for those who have issues with heights or who are not somewhat capable of rock climbing easily. However, after 7 ladders, quite a few switchbacks, and a rock climb, you reach a final ladder to the top. And the views are stellar!
Once you have reached the top of Grandfather Mountain (McRae Peak), be aware it is quite slippery to return to the ladder to get down. However, at the summit, you can see the swinging bridge in front of you and the trail to the attic window behind you. It is breathtaking and gives a beautiful 360 view of the area, including downtown Asheville in the distance, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you wish to return to the parking area, continue back on the same path you took up.
However, if you wish to continue to the Attic Window (about 1.2 mile trip), you will need to continue onward to the trail. It will take an additional 30-45 minutes to get to the Attic Window from Grandfather Mountain summit. Tip: I recommend only wearing hiking boots if you plan on doing this section. If you continue on the trail, there are very rocky trails, "the subway", including another cable tug, a rock scramble called 'the chute' and additionally, a few more ladder to climb to the top. If you enjoyed the game "Chutes and Ladders" as a child, this is the hike for you. The "chute" part of this climb is the most difficult to get your footing, especially going down. Once you are at the top of Attic Window, you are at the highest point of Grandfather Mountain in the private nature reserve. If you wish to camp here, you will need a permit. There is a camping site at the top of Attic Window. The hike down will take roughly 1-2 hours, depending on the route you take.
Once you have made it back to the car, and congratulate yourself. It is a long and strenuous hike. To celebrate, hop onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and drive to the Linn Cove Viaduct, one of the most famous views along the parkway. If you have the chance afterward, head to Mount Mitchell State Park for more incredible views and overlooks. Then, head back into town to fill that big appetite. I went to Little Bee Thai for a big bowl of pad thai to fill your hunger after a long hike. Believe me, it will be worth the wait.
I hope you will take the time to visit Asheville. The town has so much to offer. It has something for everyone. All the local shops and restaurants are what make this town so magical. So, stop in and see how nice people really are in Asheville, NC.

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