Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Must see if you are in Asheville
A friend of mine asked me not long ago "when is the last time you have been on vacation? Like a real vacation that you didn't check your work phone every 5 mins?" - I knew when I couldn't answer that question right away there was a problem! No matter how hard it was I needed to unplug this week from the stresses of work - Being a one person department for a global merchandising program during the holidays is a SUPER drain on my sanity so this was just the trick!
While I was in college I met two of my closest friends and to this day they are still two of my best buds! After graduation we all wound up all over the country (GA - Yea I'm the only one that stayed) North Carolina and New York City. Pretty much all over (which is cool when you want to visit new places but not cool when you just wanna hang with your pals!) So we made a pact to go on a girls trip every year to see each other - And we were not going to let 2020 ruin that plan.
2018: Cruise to the Caribbean
2019: CMA Fest
2020: Well we were going to go to Disney but we decided that Asheville was a safer bet all things considered!
We got the cutest Air BNB just outside the city which was perfect for us! Had a kitchen - just enough beds (AND heated bathroom floors!), enough room and a TV to workout and it even had a hot tub! Asheville was the perfect getaway for us to unplug and unwind for a few days.
Below I have some of our favorite stops along the way that I would definitely recommend visiting when you are in the Asheville, NC area!
1). Biltmore Estates
If you have never been to the Biltmore Estates - This is a must see at some point. This is the biggest house in the US built by the Vanderbilt Family in 1889. The house is built on some of the most gorgeous property with AMAZING views of the mountains and the rolling hills of North Carolina. Complete with 65 fireplaces (yes that is right 65) this house is stunning. It will make you think you are in the French countryside in an instant.
We were lucky enough to come just when they have all the Christmas decorations up complete with Christmas trees, wreaths and garland on all the fireplaces. It was definitely chilly up there this time of year (but again you're talking to a Savannah Girl so I have my seat warmers on when it is 70 degrees out) but the views and the lights are so worth it!
The estates are complete with shops and this time of year they have all the options for Christmas gifts that you could possibly hope to find! And for those concerned about social distancing this was a great stop - they handled social distancing beautifully and we did not feel in danger at all!
2). Biltmore Grounds - Including the Farm, Gardens, Conservatory and the Forest
The Vanderbilt family was really into conservation and forestry so they really kept the land beautiful and conserved the natural beauty. The drive up to the house (it's a long one! I swear they have the longest driveway ever!) but it is gorgeous - up the mountain and through the forest. The whole time it felt like we were on the way to the Beast's castle from Beauty and the Beast (You know at the end when it all becomes beautiful again!)
Our second day we went exploring through the different gardens, the forests on all the paths, to the waterfall and the bass pond etc. It feels like it goes on forever and you can really disconnect from everything and become one with nature back to your roots. It has been forever since I have been on a hike especially in a place like this so this was an amazing escape! Afterwards we went up to the farm where I of course had to see the horses and a baby calf named Hank!
3) Biltmore Village and Winery
Asheville is totally in Wine country. They have a little village area with the cutest shops, restaurants (AMAZING food!) and it was decorated beautifully like a little Christmas Village. Tucked away in this village is a little winery with complimentary tastings and a shop with ALL the wine you could want. I am usually more of a white wine fan but really liked their reds! I did have to buy a bottle of the resiling though - that is my go to. What wines do you typically go for? Have you ever done a tasting to try new flavors?
4) The Salt Caves
Who would have thought that tucked within the city limits in Asheville there would be this little corner of paradise? Filled with pink Himalayan sea salt from all over, there was this little sea salt cave that after 45 minutes makes you feel like you have been on a beach for 4-5 days. Something in the salt calms you and the water that is in the corners acts like the water that is in the sea. All of these help boost your immune system, calm you and clear your mind just by being around it! Let me tell you - those 45 minutes definitely worked.
5) River Arts District
You can't go to the downtown area without stopping by the River Arts area. It is a cute little area filled with all kinds of art from fine art, antiques, paintings, glass blowing, jewelry, pottery - you name it you can find it here. And the best part is - all of the shops in this area are owned by local artists and small businesses. This year has been particularly hard on these small businesses so it is SO important to support them all the time but especially this year. Most of the shops were reopened when we were there but some were still closed. These shops also serve as the actual shops where the artists work so you can see them creating as you shop for the pieces they are making which was so amazing.
6) French Broad Chocolate Factory
If you have been to the downtown Asheville area, you may have been in one of the few chocolate shops that are owned by the French Broad chocolate company but you may not have known that they have a little chocolate factory that you can tour! This tour was super educational and interesting. They shared samples on chocolates from around the world based on where the beans were from and each had a unique flavor just based on the region that they were harvested from. Next we learned about the harvesting process and then from there they showed the process that the beans go through to become what we know as chocolate today! They have everything from chocolate bars, to the cutest little chocolate chips and tons of different flavors of chocolate truffles! This shop and factory is owned by a couple that met in college and then dropped out and moved to South America together to start working on their passion of building a chocolate shop! I don't know about you but they are an inspiration. They knew what they wanted and they went for it and look at them now! Living the Willy Wonka Dream!
7) High Roller Food Tour - Eating Asheville
One thing that I did not realize about Asheville was that they are SO overflowing with food and drink spots! You can do a week in the city just touring around different food spots and breweries and still not get anywhere near trying all of these places. They are also all about community and supporting the local farmers etc. by being a super farm to table friendly community.
On our last day we decided to take a tour of some of the Asheville hot spots because we didn't really know where to start when looking at all the amazing spots so why not try a bunch! We did the High Rollers tour through the Eating Asheville Tours and we had an awesome tour guide Anne who showed us all the great spots!
Below are the stops that we ate at with what we got to try (honestly ALL of these had absolutely amazing food)!
Sangria- This Sangria is their secret recipe and it is one of the most unique sangrias that I have ever tasted! it has tons of spice in it from cinnamon to nutmeg etc. Was awesome flavor cold and I imagine this would be AMAZING warm as well
Rice Balls- These were breaded, spiced etc. and went perfectly with the spice in the Sangria
Beets stuffed with Chorizo and topped with an apple slice - To die for!
This place had a great atmosphere and such a unique flavor - Will be back one day!
This restaruant was such a cute little mediterranian shop! They have a limited menu and again use the farm to table with what is fresh in the area to change it up some. We tried the Falafel - It was in my top for the food that we had on this tour it was so full of flavor. Great spot for a grab and go quick bite while you are out and about!
You may be thinking "Ummm isn't this a chain?" Yes but apparently this is the ORIGINAL shop. And this may have been my favorite stop to be honest! We had a honey beer - and Shrimp and Grits - Ya'll I grew up in PA and grits were not a thing so when I moved down here it was not one of my go to dishes - I could eat a whole bowl of these grits. This is a must try!
Super cute shop that felt like we were transported to Spain! This shop has a little bit of everything from Pallela to wine club and everything in between. We tried a delicious flat bread and a classic gazpacho. Check this shop out for some really cool and different dinners - she also ships all over!
Atmosphere in this place was outstanding.This is a dessert and cocktail bar and I will be back to check out that dessert menu at some point. We tasted an outstanding bourbon mixed drink and one of thier few savory bites the margharita flat bread pizza.
Who would have thought that there would be a gourmet potato chip company? Not me! But boy am I glad that we stopped here! We tried these homemade chips that were topped with italian tomato and basil spices with a balsamic Drizzle. Literally the best chips I have ever tasted.
7) The French Broad Chocolate Bar
Last stop we already had a sneak peak at but we got to try more chocolates! This time at their downtown location which is usually a line out the door but we got the back stage pass.
8) Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar
This is such a cute and unique little spot! It is literally hundreds of books like think a super funky library / Barnes and Nobles / Champagne bar all in one. So many books on all of the subjects you could imagine and they are all super great prices! Very cool spot to even just check out.
Have you ever been to Asheville before? What was your favorite spot to visit? I know I will definitely be back there again sometime!