A Perfect Mix of Small Town Friendliness and Big City Sophistication
As someone who is typically drawn to active vacation destinations focused on beach or outdoor sports, Asheville, North Carolina, was not on my radar as a potential vacation spot. However, I’d heard so many great things about it so I followed my inclination to jump at new opportunities for adventure and programmed my GPS to North Carolina. My travel research enticed me with promises of eclectic shopping and a phenomenal vista, in a region rich with history. Once I learned about a unique bookstore that doubles as a champagne bar, the deal was sealed – reservations were made, and off I went.
The Best of the Brews
My travels included a stop in Winston-Salem, where an impressively knowledgeable and “tatted-up” bartender claimed, “Asheville is the biggest beer town this side of the Mississippi.” I was intrigued. It turns out, that claim is absolutely true, with more operating breweries per- capita in Asheville than in any other U.S. city. The area’s 11 breweries offer a selection of 50 locally produced beers. Asheville brewery tours allow you to treat yourself to a taste of it all – meet the brew masters, sample their selections and learn about beer making in the delightful historic district.
Good Reads + Champagne = Win, Win
Asheville’s Battery Park Book Exchange Champagne Bar is the marriage of two of my very favorite things in life: good reads and Champagne. Positioned in the historic Grove Arcade district known for its rich history, exemplary urban-renewal architecture and locally owned shops, Battery Park has any title you could dream of finding within its ever-changing selection of new and used books. The store is renowned for “trading books by the thousands and wines by the glass.” I spent a lovely, lazy afternoon perusing and wandering through aisles packed with more than 22,000 books, sipping ice-cold Veuve, and settling into one of the incredibly comfortable leather chairs scattered about the store.
The Biltmore – A Must See
A visit to Asheville wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the famous, privately owned Biltmore Estate, a Chateauesque-style, 178,926-square-foot mansion, recognized for its exquisite architecture and stunning gardens, in addition to its massive size. I suggest some time to touring the interior of the house with an audio guide, which will spotlight the must-see treasures in each room of the home, and then wrap it up with some time outdoors. Bike, carriage and horseback riding, Segway tours and riverboat excursions are just a few of the activities to take advantage of on the estate’s 8,000-acre grounds.
There are many fantastic restaurants and cafés in Asheville to note them all, but I will mention a few of my personal favorites. For breakfast, you can’t go wrong with Sunny Point Café which makes everything from scratch using locally grown produce. Also you can dine al fresco, which I always prefer. I found myself wandering back to the Grove Arcade area, to explore lunch and dinner options, including casual to high-end venues, and everything in-between. Some of the district’s specialty restaurants include Burger Worx, Chorizo Latin Fare or Thai Tara, just to name a few, or a personal favorite, Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar.
A True Best-of-Both-Worlds Kind of Place
As my trip to Asheville was nearing its end, I found myself in yet another bookstore with a singular name: Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café. While there, I chatted with a newly transplanted resident to better understand the “Berkeley meets East Coast Mountain Town” vibe. She explained she lives in Asheville because it’s a place that has all of the friendliness of a small town but the sophistication of outdoor adventures, of which there are plenty! You can learn more about Asheville and begin planning your own journey by visiting ExploreAsheville.com.
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