Asheville, Weaverville and Black Mountain (Western North Carolina)

Asheville is a city for enjoying the outdoors, Appalachian culture and eating!  Its new-age vibe melds well with its mountain past.  A Spring visit provides flowering dogwoods and vibrant green leaves along with smaller crowds than other seasons.

Asheville is home to at least 20 breweries.  (Check here for a list.)  It looks like there is always a party at the New Belgium Brewery.  Patios and greenspace for picnics provide a great place to chill.  Each day there are food trucks cooking up delectables like bao buns, kimchi or gourmet grilled cheese.  

The arts and crafts continue to thrive in Asheville.  The best place for meandering through streets of galleries is the River Arts District. Hundreds of artists are located in its collection of restored buildings along the French Broad River.

While gallery hopping, we found one of the best pizzas we’ve ever eaten at Fresh Wood Fired Pizza.  The Chevre with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red pepper, local goat cheese, mozzarella and fresh basil on a red sauce was expertly cooked in their wood fired oven.  This pizza on their colorful patio made for a delightful lunch!

The Southern Highland Folk Art Center provides traditional craftsmen a beautiful space to showcase their works.  Everything is for sale although it’s also a great place for browsing.  Handmade treasures include colorful quilts, intricate pottery and whimsical furniture.

It’s not a trip to Asheville without some outdoor adventure.  Near Black Mountain (“The Little Town That Rocks”), Catawba Falls Trail rewards with its magnificent cascading waterfalls.  The hike is fairly easy with a wide trail that usually follows alongside the water.  As this is a very popular hike, it’s important to go before 10 a.m. to avoid the crowds.  The last 100 feet are more challenging with some rock scrambling.  To see the entire cascade, the best vantage point is from large rocks in the middle of the water below the falls.

The vendor stalls at WNC Farmers Market showcase fresh produce, canned goods and local crafts.  As part of the farmer’s market, The Moose Cafe offers farm-to-table southern classics for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

On our travels, we often seek out areas designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. He envisioned The North Carolina Arboretum as part of his plan for the Biltmore Estate. While walking through, you can appreciate the insights that went into the design.  Unfortunately, we missed the unique Bonsai tree exhibit by a few weeks.  They were still inside “hibernating” for the winter.  

Read Fine Gardening’s Field Trip to the North Carolina Arboretum for specifics on what to do when visiting the gardens and hiking/biking trails.

Enjoying a beautiful sunset in a spectacular setting is always a perfect way to end a day.  Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, we savored the view from the aptly named Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn.  Walking around the inn was a treat as well.  It’s large stone fireplaces and open great rooms remind you of the amazing National Park lodges of the west.

From this short visit, a few of our favorite local eats: 

Asheville

Bonfire Barbeque – Recommended by an Asheville based friend.  (He tried the Ghost Pepper sauce.  We stayed with the traditional mustard sauce!)  Everything is delicious and the service incredibly hospitable.

The French Broad Chocolate Lounge – Handcrafted ice cream and cold, thick sipping chocolate made our day… but there’s also bonbons, cookies, brownies, cakes, mousse and brulee!

The Hop Ice Cream Cafe – Even on chilly nights, there can still be quite a line waiting for ice cream.  The cafe offers almost as many vegan selections as traditional ice creams.  Can’t help but love their slogan “Happiness through ice cream.”

Weaverville – (Cute small town with a walkable Main Street.) 

Well Bred Bakery – This bakery looks to have won lots of accolades.  We started our Asheville adventure here with a decadent combo – the Petite Eclair and the Lemon Poppyseed Cake.

Twisted Laurel – While there is a downtown location, the Main Street location in Weaverville provides a relaxing, lowkey ambiance. Their varied menu makes it hard to choose.  No regrets with the Greek Platter!

Black Mountain

Black Mountain Doughnut Factory – Made with all natural ingredients, these doughnuts are incredibly light.  Our favorite flavors…Smoked Maple and Orange Twist.

**Extras**

Things we’ve discovered that make us smarter or happier…or both!

Maybe we are interested in the Olmsted landscapes because our area in Lexington is so influenced by him.  A historical marker  gives a good synopsis:

In 1904, descendants of Henry Clay hired famed landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and John Charles Olmsted, to design the Ashland Park neighborhood on the 600-acre estate. Constructed over a 15-year period, development was completed around 1930. The brothers designed U.S. Capitol & White House grounds, and the Chicago World’s Fair 1893.

This landscape design firm from Brookline, Mass. helped design the park system in Louisville and the grounds of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. In Lexington, they consulted on the master plan for the University of Kentucky, Ashland Park & Transylvania Park neighborhoods and Woodland Park.

Read more at Architectural Digest’s 9 Great Frederick Law Olmstead Designs That Aren’t Central Park.

The French Broad River is an ancient river (the 3rd oldest in America and 5th in the world), which winds through Asheville as it runs north to Tennessee.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rivers_by_age

Sometimes you just have to laugh….when the women’s bathroom is out of order and everyone now uses the men’s room….

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