18 Apr Exploring North Carolina: Asheville
We are excited to have our friend, Anissa, back to share more about her North Carolina travels! To find out more about her time in the Old North State, check out Road Trip through North Carolina.
Hello again, Wander the Map followers! Jenna and Micah are in the midst of moving back to our home state of Minnesota. Because moving is an onerous and time-consuming task, I’m filling in a bit with some more information on my North Carolina travels.
The first part of our trip we camped in the Smoky Mountains. The next leg of our journey was in Asheville, which was recommended by many, and it was easy to see why! It’s nestled in the mountains, close to hiking locations (Chimney Rock—for any history or Oregon Trail fans out there), has a ton of small breweries, lots of amazing restaurants (especially for a vegan like me!), and a surprising amount of really cool art. The best thing to do in Asheville is walk around, check out the stores, and eat! Coincidentally, these are some of my favorite things to do. I’ll try to stick to just my “must-sees.”
We decided to forgo the hotel and try airbnb for the first time (we ended up doing this for Charlotte as well). And I’m so glad we did! I found prices comparable to hotels and actually it’s a much better deal considering we got a full kitchen (with all the really fantastic restaurants in Asheville, we didn’t use the kitchen, but it’s still nice to have the option!), a place to wash our laundry, and a lot more space to sprawl out. It also feels a lot more comfortable, and since I love looking at how people arrange their homes (see Sam Gosling’s book Snoop), it was a much more interesting experience overall. The guy’s apartment we stayed in Asheville loved gadgets, and though I was afraid to touch anything lest I break it, he had a turntable, a typewriter, and lots of other cool stuff to look at.*
Who knew such a place existed? I love potato chips, or anything starchy and salty in general, so we really just HAD to stop here. I wanted to try “The Nori,” which was taro chips with a seaweed, sesame seed, and salt coating, but they didn’t have any available when we went. They also had Cuban plantain chips and Cajun sweet potato chips, which sounded delicious. We ended up going with the Parisian, which had truffle oil, rosemary, and sea salt. The truffle oil was the deciding factor for me, though to be honest, I couldn’t really tell it was there. The chips were still tasty though! If I lived in Asheville, this could very possibly be my afternoon snack go-to.
The Laughing Seed is a vegetarian restaurant that came on the recommendation of a friend. It was really, amazingly delicious. I think the best thing I can say about it is that, even though CM is not vegetarian, he thought the lasagna was one of the best he’s ever had.
Since I am not a beer person I can’t really comment on very knowledgeably about the beer here, except that there was a ton of variety and things that sounded really cool and interesting. The flight we got at was pretty fun to try. My “favorite” was the peach habanero. I also thought the atmosphere here was pretty neat. Trendy-industrial?
There’s lots and lots of art-centered shops in Asheville (I wouldn’t quite call them galleries because I think it calls to mind a different sort of space). Several of them are set up in larger buildings and they have an art-fair type feel—there are lots of booths in each store, and people have their art set up in their own booth. You can browse in and out of the booths and see lots of really cool things. Asheville beats out every art fair I’ve been too in terms of creativity, range of options, and simply having things I would actually want to buy. A lot of it was really affordable as well. (I like going to art fairs, but so many of them are really expensive versions of the same thing. My favorite is the ubiquitous water over rocks large-scale photo.)
I think almost any of the places you’d walk by would be worth stopping in, but this was my favorite. We stopped in here close to closing, which was unfortunate because they had really amazing, creative pieces that I could have looked at forever! Part of our slow progress through the store was due to Cynthia Decker’s artwork, which was close to the front door. It’s all “digitally rendered” art, which means her work looks like it could have come out of an amazingly detailed and beautiful video game. The thing that really caught us about her work, though, is that all the pieces have at least one odd or fantastical aspect—something that may make you do a double-take, or just stare at the work for a really long time. If that’s a weird way of describing it, you may just have to see it for yourself. I even ended up being (somewhat) sneaky and buying a piece for CM for his birthday. He knew I was up to something, but he was really surprised (and pleased) to see I had smuggled a framed photo around with us all that night and throughout vacation without him knowing. (If you’re wondering, this is the one that I got him)
If you’re a hiker and interested in stepping outside of Asheville for a half-day trip, Chimney Rock is a good place to go! You can take stairs up to the flag and get a good look out at the surrounding area. (There’s an elevator for people who are less inclined to hike). It’s quite the view.
If you really like hiking, you can get even further up the mountain and look down on Chimney Rock.
I would definitely say Chimney Rock is worth a visit, but not just for Chimney Rock! Once you come down the mountain and out of the park, you can lounge by the river running through the town. We had a picnic and sat with our feet in the water, soaking up the sun. There weren’t too many people around, and it was a really nice, peaceful way to spend the afternoon.
One thing we did not do while in Asheville was visit the Biltmore. Biltmore has a lot of offer: shopping, wineries, a castle and gardens to walk through, and my friend says it’s one of her favorite places to visit. But I just couldn’t cough up the $60 per person fee to get on the grounds. Well outside of my graduate student budget! If you’ve got the funds though, I hear it is a really fantastic place to see, so I thought I would give it a mention.
I could have stayed in Asheville a whole week, probably more. But since we were in NC, we wanted to hit the coast as well. So we packed our bags and headed off to the ocean!
*One thing I would like to say about the Airbnb experience is to make sure you have clear communication with your host. Though we were told to arrive anytime, at one location, the inhabitant was still there so we had to occupy ourselves for a few hours before we could shower or unpack.
About the Guest Author:
Anissa is currently a graduate student studying personality psychology. Raised in Minnesota, and currently living in Missouri, Anissa studied abroad in England and taught English in South Korea. She has traveled to France, the Philippines, and around the U.S., and hopes to go many more places in the future! Her current top travel destinations include the Grand Canyon, Scotland, and New Zealand.