EAT: Asheville’s food scene was very good to us. Using the Design*Sponge guide to Asheville, as well as reader (and practically local) Allison’s stellar advice, we managed to eat our way through Asheville quite nicely. My favorite thing to eat on vacation is breakfast, probably because it’s the meal that really feels different to me from our normal daily routine. Big plates of food, coffee cups that get refilled, time to stretch out and fill up – it’s an awesome way to start the day.
We ate so well at breakfast, and got so busy during the days, that we usually just snacked on the apples and pears we brought from home, and then ate a really, really late lunch and even later dinner. It worked out great for us because we missed the rush times at popular restaurants and never had to wait to be seated. I thought I’d give you the quick rundown on some of the best places we ate while we were there. Asheville food certainly celebrates the south, but all the restaurants we dined in were extremely vegetarian friendly.
Farm Burger – incredible burgers (meat and non-meat) and fries. And milkshakes, if you have room. (I didn’t, but I ate every last bite of my burger.)
Biscuit Head – an extensive jam and marmalade bar, need I say more?
Cedric’s Tavern – Biltmore – one of our biggest surprises of the trip – we expected so-so tourist food at this restaurant on the grounds, but everything we ordered was top notch and unique.
Ultimate Ice Cream – maybe not the absolute best ever (ahem, Jeni’s), but pretty darn good!
Chai Pani – delicious Indian food, I could have gone back the next night and ordered the exact same thing. I wish I had.
White Duck Taco – incredible tacos. We ate a really late lunch here after we spent the day hiking. We had huge appetites, but two tacos each (and some delicious chips and salsa) was more than enough. Bankok Shrimp and Bahn Mi Tofu. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.
Strada Italiano – M was craving good Italian Monday night, and luckily this place was open for a nine o’clock dinner. All the meals come in two sizes – the smaller one is spot on. Delicious.
Sunny Point Cafe – my favorite breakfast of the week. Imagine everything good about breakfast (fried red potatoes, scrambled eggs, herb crusted bacon) tossed into a salad with an amazing dressing.
SLEEP: Hotel Indigo, downtown Asheville.
I looked at dozens of options for lodging on our trip and we seriously considered renting a cabin. (There are tons of them.) Many of the really cool ones were in fairly remote areas though, and although we were excited to explore the mountains and spend the majority of our days outside, I really wanted to be in the middle of everything at the same time. I don’t really mind a typical hotel room for a quick overnight on a larger trip, but when we are staying somewhere for several days and nights, the single room can start to feel a little “close”, plus the girls have trouble settling down and we all end up vegging out too much in front of the TV.
Once I narrowed the options to hotel suites in the downtown area, things started to look really interesting. Again, we lucked out on traveling during the last week of off-season, and we scored an penthouse suite at Hotel Indigo. Our suite was enormous, but even better than the space was the view – soaring ceilings and walls of glass that looked out over the city and the mountains beyond. Our suite faced east and south, and once the girls tired of playing with the motorized sunshades, we left them up for the remainder of our visit. Waking up in a giant bed with a view to the sunrise is not a bad deal at all. (The picture above is of the girls sleeping in the living room and not budging to the sunrise that I was up to watch!)
And here is the progression of the sunrise that first morning. We thought we might get up and get ready, but we all just kept stopping and sitting and staring at the sky’s show.
PLAY: Outside of our bigger activities (Biltmore and Graveyard Fields), we also peppered our visit with lots of smaller activities. Here were some of our favorites:
Downtown Shopping – toy stores, general stores, lots of window shopping, and a really great indie bookseller, Malaprop’s, kept us busy our first afternoon there. (Buy a coffee mug with Malaprop’s great logo on it and the coffee drink is free.) We also spent a few minutes in the Grove Arcade – not really shopping, but admiring the impressive center gallery.
R.A.D. – River Arts District – we drove around this area a bit, and it had a really nice vibe. We never really hit the area at peak hours, so we didn’t do a lot of gallery or studio hopping, but it was cool to see the area and eat at White Duck Taco. There’s a New Belgium Brewery under construction in the area, and tons of smaller breweries and cafes too.
Montford Historic District – we took a little drive through this historic area. Whenever we are in a new city we always seek out the historic residential areas because we have a soft spot for them. Tons of modern infill projects intermixed in the historic fabric. Killer views from some of the houses, and some serious foundation walls and piers on others – sloping lots for sure!
Asheville Pinball Museum – a must visit to this tiny place located just across the street from our hotel. $10 unlimited play for adults, $7 for little kids. A rotating collection of vintage and newer machines that you can play to your heart’s content. We were there for a few hours until our fingers were sore.
Climbmax Climbing – so, think about asking Siri about that name! The girls did about an hour and a half of bouldering here on Tuesday night before we had a very late dinner at Chai Pani. It worked out great because most places were swarming with St. Patrick’s Day revelers, and these places were pretty chill.
We headed west on Thursday, lunched on Market Square in Knoxville, and spent the night and part of the next day in Nashville before finally heading home. It was probably one of our best family vacations ever – a good balance of relaxation and adventure.