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Last week, I visited my parents in Johnson City, Tennessee. Although it’s a small city, it is conveniently located close to many other towns, with lots to do!
One of the more popular spots, is the city of Asheville in North Carolina.
Asheville is a cute city in North Carolina, with a perfect combination of small city vibe with a vibrant art culture and history, nestled among lots of nature if you’re looking for outdoorsy things to do!
It is perfect for a romantic weekend getaway, or a place to get together with family or friends!
We started the day driving from Johnson City to North Carolina. Along the way, we stopped at several scenic lookouts like this one in Erwin.
Once we got to Asheville, which was about an hour drive, we decided to stop for a coffee. We ended up stopping at The Rhu, a cute café. I wish we were looking for more than a coffee, because it looked like a great menu of items, from snacks to lunch items , as well as cheese, deli, breads. They also had a pantry with a large selection of items from lots of local sellers.
Once we got to Asheville, which was about an hour drive, we decided to stop for a coffee. We ended up stopping at Rhu, a cute café. I wish we were looking for more than a coffee, because it looked like a great menu of items, from snacks to lunch as well as cheese, deli, . They also had a pantry with a large selection of items from lots of local sellers.
Asheville Urban Trail
After our coffee break, we set out to the walk urban trail in Asheville. I honestly love the concept of an urban trail, it’s such a great way to see the city.
It reminded me of the Freedom trail in Boston, which is similar in concept, but a bit longer, clocking in at 2.5 miles.
The urban trail in Asheville is a self-guided, 1.7 mile walk around the city, with 30 landmarks. On each of the landmarks, there’s a plaque with an explanation of its historical significance. You could easily spend a couple of hours doing the trail, and taking breaks for coffee, or a beer, or lunch along the way!
To be honest, at some point, we diverged from the and just started enjoying the streets, and the cute little shops along the way. It was a Sunday and the streets were lively with lots of street performers. By the time, we thought to get back on the trail, we realized that we had seen much of the city at our own pace, but the trail is definitely a great way to explore Asheville, with historical buildings, parks, sculptures, and if you wanted to learn a bit more about the history!
Local stores & Chocolate Galore
Along the trail, there were so many cute stores. I had to stop at the chocolate stores!
Their concept is a bean to bar chocolatier it seemed, with each chocolate bar had descriptions of the origin of the chocolate, the makers of the chocolate and where the chocolates were made!
Next door to their chocolate shop was an ice cream parlor. Since I was a bit chilly, but the ice cream at the French Broad seemed to be quite popular, with a long line up.
This is a handmade chocolate company that makes artisan chocolates and truffles. Their store smelled amazing, and had so many displays of chocolate, from their designer shoes to their Easter display. Each piece of the display was edible, from the rabbits to the grass and roads in the picture!
This is the most popular activity in Asheville! The Biltmore Estate is owned by one of the most prominent families in US history, the Vanderbilt family. The estate was originally purchased by George Vanderbilt, as he was smitten by the city of Asheville, and Blue Ridge Mountains. This was where he wanted to build his summer home!
The estate the mansion, gardens, winery, an inn, Antler Village with shops and dining, and some private areas. The majority of the estate still is unbuilt! You could easily spend a whole day here exploring all the areas; we spent about 3 hours, between the Mansion and the Gardens.
Crowned the largest home in America, the Biltmore House is 175,000 square feet (so, you know, more than 175 of my condos). We chose to do the self-guided tour and walk around the mansion and it’s many, many rooms. You could tell that they enjoyed entertaining friends and family. The house had a swimming pool and a bowling alley! If that’s not #goals, I don’t know what is!
Gardens & Conservatory
The highlight for me were the many gardens, and the conservatory!
Since it was winter, the gardens were mostly barren, but there were lots of walking trails and benches along the way. I could imagine spending a nice afternoon, reading under the trees.
The conservatory is a glass-roofed building, which helped supply flowers for the main house at the time. Today, there are many plants, like exotic orchids, ferns, and palms that grow in the conservatory.
The gardens reminded me of a not so elaborate version of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles. I can’t even imagine having so so much wealth, that this is your backyard!
We then drove around to Antler Village, winery and inn. All of which looked like a lively place to be in!
A fancy McDonalds!
Once we exited the estate, we were looking for a snack! I just had to get McDonalds. Partly because 20 chicken nuggets for $5 is a must in the USA (we pay an arm and a leg for chicken nuggets in Canada!). Another reason was sheer curiosity of the fanciness of this McDonalds. It is definitely the fanciest McDonald’s I’ve ever seen! The exterior of the building looked like it blended into Biltmore Village, and the inside didn’t disappoint, with beautiful ceiling, fireplace, and a baby grand piano! It sure felt weird eating chicken nuggets and fries in such a nice building!
Drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway
As our day was coming to a close, we were getting ready to drive back to Johnson City. The Blue Ridge Parkway is supposed to be a noteworthy drive, through a portion of the Appalachian Mountains, called the Blue Ridge. It runs over 400 miles, between Virginia and North Carolina, passing through a couple of national parks, many trails, and waterfalls. Since it passes through Asheville, so we wanted to drive a short distance to see some of the vistas. Even though it was winter, the drive was beautiful! I think the summer or the fall would be ideal to be doing this drive!
Overall, I loved the vibe and energy of the city! The city is close to many parks and trails so you can get your taste of nature, and is filled with lots of history, and vibrant art culture so you don’t miss the city vibe! I wish we had planned it for a longer time, than just an day trip!
Fun facts about Asheville:
- Asheville is a popular vacation spot for many celebrities, past and present. The ExploreAsheville website even has a section with recent celebrity sightings!
- Voted Top City for Beer for several years, with 28 microbreweries
If you’ve been to Asheville or are planning to, let me know in the comments how that goes!