Thanks to the generosity of Carolina Mornings, The Flying Bike, and Asheville Food Tours, I was able to experience a great few days in Asheville, NC. All opinions expressed are genuine and my very own. This article may contain affiliate links which pay a small commission for my work at no extra cost to you.
Our latest couple’s getaway took us to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, just fours away from our home base of Raleigh, NC. We were excited to take a trip with our dog, Zollie, to a place that was super pet friendly, offered us loads of outdoor activities, an eclectic art scene, a foodie culture, a dash of history and of course, fresh mountain air.
After a scenic drive west on Route 40, we arrived in Asheville. We walked Zollie on the streets of the eclectic downtown where he was met with water bowls on every block and lots of love from the kind locals. It didn’t hurt that he happened to have a blue mohawk, which I’m pretty sure added to the attention he received in quirky Asheville. We got a great sense of the artistic spirit in the city as we enjoyed the urban art, including the “Before I Die” chalk wall that invited everyone to fill in the blanks.
After a long stroll, we stopped for a great, inexpensive lunch of unique tacos at a local favorite, the White Duck Taco Shop, known for their colorful and ever changing menu. I’m always happiest when great food doesn’t cost a pretty penny.
We did some more window shopping after our meal, listened to the sounds of local street musicians and headed to one of our favorite spots and a must-stop for chocolate lovers, the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Not only are the scrumptious chocolates handcrafted in Asheville, these craft chocolate makers also proudly source their cacao beans with integrity. We ordered Affogatos, (double shots of espresso poured over chocolate ice cream). I can tell you how awesome they were, or I can show you.
After our coffee and chocolate fix, we headed to our first official tour of the weekend, the New Belgium Brewery tour. There are lots of choices for brewery tours in Asheville since the city has the most breweries per capita in the United States. Luckily for us, my husband’s favorite beer is New Belgium’s Citradelic, so it was an easy choice to put this brewery on the top of our list. It didn’t hurt that they are also consistently named to a Top Brewery Tours List, most recently topping the chart at #1 on the USA TODAY Readers Choice list.
We opted for the free Public Daily Brewery Tour, a 90 minute experience with an expert guide that you can book up to two months in advance. We have a few brewery tours under our belt and this informative and pretty extensive tour is hands down the best one we’ve ever taken. The brewery is situated on sprawling acres and built with repurposed materials from the original stockyard site. We were impressed by not only the delicious cold brews, but the green design and sustainable practices of this employee-owned brewing company as well.
We received lots of “backstage” access, a great understanding of the company history and culture and of course, plentiful beer samplings including one of their flagship sours, La Folie. (I wasn’t a huge fan but my husband loved it!). During the tour, we even got a bird’s eye view of the state of the art bottling area. We ended the day playing cornhole on the green and sitting on the outdoor deck overlooking the French Broad River enjoying people (and dog) watching.
We headed to our mountain cabin rental with Carolina Mornings as the sun set. We had rented a small cabin with a porch swing (my list), and a hot tub (his list). We spent most of our days outdoors and sightseeing so the small, one room, pet friendly cabin was the perfect, romantic home base for the next few days.
The next morning we set off to continue our adventures. We got on our comfy shoes (prepared for LOTS of walking) and headed to the gorgeous Biltmore Estate and Gardens, America’s largest home, built by George Vanderbilt on 8000 gorgeous acres and tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains.
If you visit Asheville and miss the Biltmore, you miss out on a piece of its history and personality. We chose an audio guided tour that gave us a look into the Vanderbilts, their guests and their servants. The tour is quite long so we took a break halfway through and grabbed a great lunch at the Stable Café , located on the grounds of the original stables on the estate.
After lunch we finished up the audio tour and chose to get more of an insider’s glimpse into the servants’ lives at the Biltmore with the Upstairs/Downstairs guided tour. As fans of Downton Abbey, we couldn’t resist. I loved hearing about the grand parties the Vanderbilts would throw and all of the “modern” technology they used in the home so that it would run seamlessly. If you are interested in a particular aspect of the home, I highly recommend one of the bonus tours they have. They include a Rooftop Tour, a Legacy of the Land Motorcoach Tour and the Upstairs/Downstairs Tour, all of which include access to areas not available to all guests.
Although the home is the highlight of the estate, don’t miss out on the gardens and grounds including the beautiful Conservatory, built in 1895.
On our third day, we readied for an outdoor adventure starring one of our bucket list activities- riding electric bicycles! We like to try something new on every couple’s trip and this time, we hunted down one of the best reviewed touring companies in Asheville, The Flying Bike. We opted for a private tour of Downtown Asheville which led us through South Slope and Montford, to the spectacular Basilica of St. Lawrence and the beautiful and historic Omni Grove Park Inn that offered some amazing views. I can’t remember the last time we had this much fun. I think I squealed during most of the 2.5 hour tour.
The tour was an excellent way to learn a bit about Asheville’s history, enjoy the architecture and have a blast, all while climbing the steep Asheville streets with ease. The beauty of electric bikes is in the fact that you can choose to pedal (or not), choose to have a little bit of assistance up a hill (or a lot), making the experience whatever you want it to be. The electric bikes are super fun but the experience was made all the better by the great customer service we received pre-tour, the excellent tour guide, Torin, who guided us through the streets, kept us safe and infused such a love for Asheville into his tour that we couldn’t help but catch his enthusiasm for this beautiful, unique mountain city.
After the tour, we spent hours walking through the River Arts District that holds many of the best art galleries in Asheville. We love seeing new, unique works and they are plentiful in this art-centric city. We walked the galleries, chatted with local artists including Jonas Gerard, and picked up our own piece of Asheville art to remember our trip.
On our last day, we decided to dig deep into the foodie culture and took advantage of one of the Asheville Food Tours with local foodie and colorful celebrity, Stu Heim (aka The Food Fan). Stu took us on a humor-filled journey to some of his favorite restaurants and we stopped to chat with some of the top chefs in town. We sampled amazing dishes and perfectly paired cocktails, met great friends , and had a ton of laughs while we listened to anecdotes, local myths and legends and explored historic Asheville on foot. Every tour is unique and the restaurants were not revealed until we arrived to their locations which made for a really fun expedition. After the tour we felt like we wouldn’t be able to eat another bite for at least a week! Thank goodness we were able to walk off some of those calories while on the 3 hour long, 2 mile route.
As our Asheville adventure came to an end and we began our drive home, we talked about all of the great memories we’d made and the many more adventures that awaited us on our next trip to the mountain city we had fallen in love with. There are so many more things to see and do in Asheville, NC and we can’t wait to put together a new itinerary for our next mountain weekend away.
If you’re looking to explore and adventure in Asheville for a few days, here are
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•If you like beer (even a little), book one of the many brewery tours available in Asheville. Our favorite is the New Belgium Brewery Tour. The tour is about a lot more than beer tastings. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to try any beer at all to enjoy the grounds and this fun and informative tour.
•For adventure, try an electric bike tour with Flying Bike tours. If you can ride a regular bike, you can ride an electric one. A quick lesson at the beginning of the tour will get you acclimated to this new way of turbo riding. Enjoy the look on people’s faces as you ride up steep hills without pedaling!
•Enjoy a trip to the Biltmore for a view into this majestic, historical home and gardens. Get more of an insider’s look by taking one of the bonus tours. Get ready for a very full day (or two), lots of walking and expensive admission tickets. We left the kids at home and are glad we did since they would have started complaining about being tired after hour 2.5. The Biltmore is fun to visit all year long and is well known for its amazing Christmas decorations during the holiday season.
•Don’t miss one of the food tours available in this foodie city. We loved Asheville Food Tour’s, Food Fan Foot Tour, but they also offer a Brunch Tour, a Downtown Tour, a West Asheville Tour and an Asheville Burger Challenge Tour. We are excited to come back and try another one. Next time, we would book one at the beginning of our trip instead of at the end. That would allow us the time to go back to favorite restaurants we discovered on the tour for a full meal experience.
•Explore the art scene in the River Arts District. If you can catch a live performance of Jonas Gerard painting a new piece, then do! Pick up a favorite piece that defines your experience in Asheville from one of the local artists. I promise it will go a lot farther than a T-Shirt souvenir!
Have you been to Asheville or are you planning a trip there? Let me know below if you have an insider tip you’d like to share or if reading this article makes you want to start planning YOUR next road trip!