Asheville is one of North Carolina’s best weekend destinations – completely relaxing and with a nice mix of downtown activity and outdoor recreation. A few highlights from our little pre-baby getaway:
The Grove Park Inn (where the Obamas vacationed when they visited a few years ago) is one of those neat old historical markers that ends up being super overpriced unless, of course, you can snag a last-minute special. I discovered that their Facebook page lists deals every Friday that can’t be found on their normal website. Since this one came with a substantial credit I could use at the (also insanely overpriced) spa, it was especially appealing. The GPI is a huge stone structure with a great view of the mountains – but the hotel itself isn’t nearly as worthwhile as the cavernous spa, which feels like some sort of underground grotto of pools, waterfalls, and jacuzzis. You can’t take photos inside, but there are some posted here. And, even though being pregnant meant I couldn’t go in anything that was too warm, the 88 degree mineral pool and the hot stone foot massage that came with my pedicure were perfect. If you can go during the week, take advantage of the more reasonably priced Twilight Pass to gain access.
Another bonus: Asheville has some excellent, creative eats. We agreed that the tapas at Curate were both generously portioned and delicious – truly a fantastic dinner. Plus, dessert at French Broad Chocolate Lounge turned out to be worth the wait. How could the line to take your order not snake around the block with a concept like putting brownies, cake, cookies, truffles, pots of “liquid chocolate”, frozen hot cocoa, ice cream, and live jazz under one roof?
We would also recommend the haute Latin American food at Limones, where the friendly staff immediately dropped off an on-the-house appetizer after we had to wait at the bar past our reservation time. Oh – and the BBQ at 12 Bones. We liked the corn pudding, smoked potato salad, and blueberry chipotle ribs. If their less-crowded location in Arden is on your way, we’d recommend that over their packed downtown venue.
To work off some of that food, we decided to spend an afternoon exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a little annoying that the parkway really isn’t staffed (which means that in most places, things like restrooms can be closed down) until May, but most winters, snow & ice prevent the road from being fully open for a few months anyway. We chose to check out the view from Craggy Gardens and Mt. Mitchell.
The next day, we explored slightly more refined trails at the Biltmore Estate. On our last Asheville trip, we were turned off by the $50 entry fee – but I have to say the whole experience was very well run, and you could easily spend a full day exploring. The house tour alone took us several hours, despite opting for the least extensive self-guided option. Plus, the gardens and the winery were fairly expansive. There are several dining options which you’ll probably want to take advantage of out of convenience – and because they’re a step or two above most tourist attraction lunches. We just got pizza, but there were sandwiches, burgers, ice cream, and several nice looking (but super crowded) sit-down restaurants like the Stable Cafe and Bistro.
Can’t wait to go back one summer when some more local trails are open – and I can go to Sliding Rock, the best natural water slide ever!