Artisan Asheville – The City of Craft
After a brief photoshoot in October of 2013, the past few years had me yearning to return to the blue mountain perched city of Asheville, NC. Luckily, my younger sister Nicole recently moved less than 2 hours east of the quirky artisan lovers paradise. Needless to say, I quickly requested a road trip once the opportunity arose. Known as the ‘art mecca’ of the southeast, I truly believe this city is one of a kind, and after Monday’s exploration, I realized (fine arts fanatic or not) there is something for everyone.
Asheville gives new meaning to ‘craft’ as mountain music fans and foodies alike can find their favorite shop or brew. Here’s my recommendations from this trip and for when I return (considering I was only there for 8 hours).
MY ONE DAY TRIP IN A NUTSHELL…
Iconic – Grove Arcade. This historical commercial building was built in 1926 with distinguished features including marble, wire glass skylights and a beautiful gothic inspired design. The indoor promenade arcade throughout the middle is airy and spacious with a greenhouse feel from the sky lit ceiling. Several artisan stores are located inside the arcade and on the outdoor storefronts of the building. There are businesses tenants on the 2nd level and even leased living quarters on the top. It’s a pleasant place to both shop and enjoy a conversation with a stranger. If you are looking for some history in the heart of Asheville you should definitely stop by!
Outdoorsy – Walking so wear your sneakers. Although we didn’t get to do any of the famous hikes or outdoor activities, we still managed to trek over 6 miles in our day from downtown, to the art district to Biltmore Village. There is just too much to see for one day but we made the best of it. If our day had started earlier we would have made an attempt to find a few local farmsteads (there are over 17 local tailgate markets and several markets daily too). Artisan goods and fresh produce can be found all over town from artists, bakers, brewers, even cheesemakers!
Scenic – The Drive. Although we crammed 6 of us into my sister’s Chevy Equinox, I thoroughly enjoyed the drive in and out of the mountainside. It is just breathtaking and to know there are larger peaks and deeper canyons throughout the Appalachians is just unimaginable. You really have to go to see it yourself. I would love to stop at every mountain town, pick up local produce at farm stands and wave to locals along the way.
Romantic – Grand Bohemian Hotel. I never realized how much I loved the romantic gothic theme until I walked through the doors at the Grand Bohemian. In the heart of Biltmore Village this place stands out with its distinct ‘old world’ ambiance. The inside looks like you are in an old hunting lodge in the middle of the alps. Large hand carved chairs and antler chandeliers are throughout the entire first floor. I was even impressed by the bathrooms. This place would be perfect after a morning hike to revive at their spa and enjoy craft cocktails at their lounge après massage. Oh and the Double D’s coffee & deserts bus. Talk about quirky, adorable and a place to fall in love. The lattes and desserts are creme de la creme.
Artsy – River Arts District. As we sped out of downtown streets we were on a mission to find the art district that Asheville is very well known for. We were on a high after filling our tummies and waltzing around and familiarizing ourselves with some of the things we had seen on our google searches earlier on in the week. After a few wrong turns and some bickering, we finally made it to the art district. Unbeknown to us, many of the shops were closed on Monday so I don’t think we got the full affect. But I think that is the point. Everyones experience should be different. I will say it was a really cool to take ourselves out of our expectations and just genuinely taking in some of the murals and sculptures that danced around each other in the industrial streets that made up the art district. To a naked eye many can’t see the raw beauty that surrounds this area and the concept of public art. It’s a collaborative community project that is an experience in itself.
Yummy – Early Girl Eatery. Great find by my cousin Amy. This place was a farm-to-table southern comfort style cafe that had something for just about everyone. Made from scratch dishes with many of the items coming from local farmers. A great place to bring a friend or meet other locals and tourists who also enjoy real authentic vibes and good food that is of local quality. Above is the Early Girl Benny.
Seasonal – Fall Color Tour. The closest thing to it we got to seeing the season was some pumpkin spice lattes at Double D’s and the pretty window front decorations. Unfortunately, we were a few weeks too early for the Fall foliage. They are known to have one of the most longest and vibrant fall colors season so I am positive if we were to have arrived a week later we would have had our own vivid show through the tree tops and city scapes.
AS FOR NEXT TIME…
Iconic – Biltmore Estate. Explore over 8,000 acres at this 1895 French Castle built by George W. Vanderbilt (steamboat, railroad, business enterprise family). The home/castle boasts 250 bedrooms and a view that surpasses any other in the mountainside. I have dreamed of this place ever since my first sighting of it in an airline magazine sometime in the past decade. Large gardens, hiking, even its own winery is on the estate property. If lucky you visit during the holiday season and they do candlelit tours throughout the home. It’s supposably magical – which I would find perfect to get into the Christmas spirit!
Outdoorsy – High Falls, DuPont State Forests. This 150-foot waterfall is in the middle of a 10,000-acre nature sanctuary. One of the most powerful falls in the North Carolina mountains. It’s an easy hike with 1.2 miles roundtrip. There are so many more but this one caught my eye first.
Scenic – Blue Ridge Parkway. View the iconic smokey mountains along this scenic route to and from mountain towns.
Romantic – Winery or Spa. There are a ton of wineries along the trek from Charlotte to the mountains. I haven’t done much research on who has the best grapes but I’m sure it would be fun to try to make it to several! I also am obsessed with the holistic healing community based in Asheville. Tons of day spas and holistic/meditative activities to take part in. This Salt Cave & Salt Spa in Asheville looks amazing. They use salt therapy to rebalance the body, correct sleep issues and aid in immunity.
Artsy – Find more Art. It is literally hiding around every corner. There was so much to see that sensory overload probably had me overlook dozens of portraits, sculptures and just raw beauty as I walked the streets. I loved standing in front of the ‘before I die’ wall downtown and it made me realize how lucky I was to experience a lot of the things that were on others’ lists.
Yummy – Considering the fact that there are TONS of breweries there should be a few on the itinerary. I haven’t gotten that far into researching the best but all of my NC local friends have told me Wicked Weed is the place to be. There are over 15 actual breweries and dozens of pubs and restaurants with craft brew drafts on tap. This should give a reason for your hubby to want to join you on this vacation 🙂
Seasonal – Gingerbread House Competition at The Grove Park Inn. Super cheesy but I would love to go to the National Gingerbread House Competition held in Asheville, NC every year. People from pastry, art and culinary backgrounds all come to win the prize of best Gingerbread House. Bringing edible artwork to a whole new level!
Here’s a few more photos from my family fun in Asheville. Can’t wait to be back soon.
Amy Werner, My iPhone, Pinterest & Asheville’s Facebook Page
Info & History Links on a few of the Attractions: