Packed Suitcase | 5 Things I Love About Asheville, NC
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5 Things I Love About Asheville, NC

5 Things I Love About Asheville, NC

It’s been just two days since our epic Memorial Day road trip down to Asheville, North Carolina. I had the highest hopes for this city, and I’m so pleased to say that Asheville exceeded my highest expectations.

We packed a lot in during the 4-day getaway, and I wanted to share some of my favorite photos and travel finds from the trip. And, especially, I wanted to celebrate the 5 things that I loved most about Asheville.

Grove Park Inn- sunset terrace


Asheville is known for having an indie and bohemian vibe, and, indeed, the town seems to celebrate everything artisan and unique. A stroll through downtown leads you past talented musicians playing on pretty much every street corner. Boutiques showcasing local wares, hipster coffee shops, well-regarded restaurants, craft breweries and more line the streets and invite you to come in.

Downtown Asheville- park

A musician in a downtown Asheville park

Downtown Asheville- street art

Asheville street art


In addition to all the craft breweries (more on that in a moment), Asheville’s gotten a well-deserved reputation as a food-focused city with lots of highly regarded talent. The tables at Curate are some of the hottest in town, and head chef Katie Button has been on the James Beard list of Rising Star Chefs for the past 3 years. Vegan and vegetarian diners will find ample representation on menus throughout Asheville… I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Plant, a vegan-only restaurant that even carnivores would love.

Plant montage

Highlights from our vegan meal at Plant. That chocolate pie. Was. Ridiculous.


Also topping my list of favorite Asheville eats was the popular White Duck Taco Shop. I went to the River Arts District location and was floored by the line of people waiting to try chef and co-owner Laura Mixson’s fresh and flavorful combos. I stuffed myself silly fully of tacos and house-made queso all washed down with a fresh lime margarita. (Tip: The Bangkok Shrimp and Tofu Banh Mi tacos were my favorites.) YUM!

White Duck Taco- River Arts District patio 2

White Duck Taco’s River Arts District patio

White Duck Taco- meal

White Duck Taco… holy moses, was it good!


“Asheville is ‘Beer City USA'” is a sentiment that was proudly repeated to me countless times during my visit. Without a doubt, the city gleans a lot of pride from its hops-driven reputation. Countless craft breweries make up the Asheville Ale Trail and bars and restaurants proudly tout the NC beers on their menus. Edison at the Omni Grove Park Inn takes it a step further and ensures that their beer list features ONLY North Carolina craft beers. 

Several of Asheville’s breweries came very highly recommended from all of you, like Green Man Brewery, Pisgah Brewing and Wedge Brewing. The one I ended up visiting was Wicked Weed. Located in the heart of downtown Asheville, Wicked Weed featured a HUGE beer list of traditional and more unique craft beers, an inviting indoor/outdoor space as well as inspired pub grub. I really loved it — it’s the kind of place you can come to for lunch and stay all day.

Wicked Weed- interior

Wicked Weed’s upstairs interior

Wicked Weed- beer

My raspberry sour beer from Wicked Weed- yum!

Leading up to my visit, I solicited recommendations from friends on social media for things to do. The historic Biltmore Estate was one of the most frequently suggested places to visit.

I admit that at first I didn’t quite get what all of the fuss was about, and after seeing the hefty $60 per person (!) price tag, I nearly skipped it entirely. However, I’m so glad I thought twice and ponied up the cash to see George Vanderbilt’s historic hundred-year old property.

Biltmore - mansion 4

The Biltmore House: It’s impossible to take a bad photo of this gorgeous building

Biltmore - mansion 2

Can you spot me on the Biltmore House’s terrace?


The Biltmore Estate is on a stunning 8,000-acres set in the pristine North Carolina mountains. The whole attraction is essentially a small city, with roads, villages, thousands of employees and more. It’s made up of the 250-room mansion, an elaborate garden (often considered one of the best gardens in the U.S.), Antler Hill Village featuring restaurants and a well-regarded winery, as well as the uber-luxurious Inn on Biltmore Estate.

Biltmore- gardens 3

The garden at the Biltmore Estate

Biltmore- gardens 4

I do love a pretty garden!


In terms of the house itself, I was amazed how the inside of this architectural behemoth managed to feel as inviting and warm as it is grande. I truly loved visiting, and it was an experience I would highly recommend. (Note: if you book your tickets 7+ days in advance, $15 will get knocked off the ticket price. Also, leave yourself at least a half day to explore… your ticket gets you a basic self-guided tour of the mansion, free reign of the gardens and a complementary tasting at the Biltmore Winery.)

Grand. That’s the first word that comes to mind to describe Omni’s Grove Park Inn. “Magnificent” would be a close second. The historic lodge-like resort has been designed on the grandest scale, with the most magnificent attentions to detail. Most magnificent of all is the view. 

Grove Park Inn- me 2

The Omni Grove Park Inn


The surrounding area is gorgeously mountainous and each night guests gather on one of the hotel’s many terraces. There seems to be no bad spot to overlook the sun as it sets on the nearby mountains. Champagne seems to be the drink of choice (there does seem to be something so magnificently celebratory about mother nature’s nightly spectacle), but I opted for an Old Fashioned. After all, I was in the South… a heady bourbon drink seemed fitting.

Grove Park Inn- sunset terrace 2

The Sunset Terrace at the Grove Park Inn


I was lucky enough to spend one glorious night in a corner room at the Grove Park Inn. More on that in another post soon. But, needless to say, I really, really loved my stay.

In most cases, having a 7 1/2 hour drive is not necessarily something to celebrate. But, in the case of Asheville, the journey truly was half the fun.

The drive from D.C. down the picturesque Route I-81 through Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains is as entertaining as it is beautiful. There are countless places to stop, and our drive ballooned to 10+ hours as we stopped to explore historic Lexington (on my Best Places to Visit in 2014 list) and Natural Bridge.

I discovered that this is a drive that tempts you and encourages exploration, not one that’s best served curled up asleep in the passenger seat. Over and over again, I was left staring out the window in wonder, thinking “It’s like an Instagram photo… without the filter.” It’s all just that beautiful.

Lexington - downtown street 2

Downtown Lexington, VA

Lexington - downtown street

Another patriotic view of downtown Lexington, VA

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge, VA

Natural Bridge- butterflies

These gigantic butterflies were all over Natural Bridge, VA– so pretty!

Tennessee overlook

The view from Metcalf Overlook off of Highway 26 in north-eastern Tennessee

  • alice
    Posted at 10:11h, 29 May Reply

    Please…I am an Asheville native, grew up here and lived here most of my life. It is called The Biltmore House and Gardens…not “The Biltmore”. Thank you.

    • Max
      Posted at 06:23h, 30 May Reply

      Great article, made me feel homesick.

  • Christina Ricchiuti
    Posted at 10:24h, 29 May Reply

    Alice- Ha! Duly noted and corrected. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

    • Lucy
      Posted at 13:30h, 30 May Reply

      Nice to see our lovely city being recognized all over the place lately!! (Side note, I also grew up here and have lived here forever, and I call it “The Biltmore” all the time, so…not sure about that other comment.)

  • mark muhlenfeld
    Posted at 10:27h, 29 May Reply

    Enjoyed your take on your trip to Asheville. We don’t mind your visiting as long as you go home after. We have enough residents. 🙂

    • Michael
      Posted at 12:12h, 17 September Reply

      Asheville was a possible destination for me after grad school. I’m from Austin, Texas and want the hippie vibe, but in a smaller city now that Austin has gotten so big. Is Asheville not friendly to transplants?

  • Mamahill
    Posted at 11:07h, 29 May Reply

    I totally agree!!

  • Charles McCool
    Posted at 11:22h, 29 May Reply

    I am heading to Asheville again in July and will check out some of those places you went. Yes, a nice drive down I-81. Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway are so much better but also takes much more time.

    • ChefDave
      Posted at 20:24h, 29 May Reply

      If you have the time, the Parkway is the route to take.

  • Carol Tyndall
    Posted at 13:54h, 29 May Reply

    I sincerely apologize for the unneccessary comments from my fellow Ashevillians. Thanks for your kind words about our city, and I hope you enjoyed the people you met here!

  • Lisa
    Posted at 16:04h, 29 May Reply

    So glad you loved my hometown. And I must share that my deceased husband was the person who brought cool beer culture to Asheville back in the ’80s from his native Chicago. He was bartender at Chickadee and Rye – long since sold to another owner (The Bier Garden). Also, my grandfather was one of the stone masons for the Grove Park Inn. Yes, I do love Asheville.

  • Allison Dugan
    Posted at 17:21h, 29 May Reply

    Gorgeous Pictures~ What a beautiful day! Thank you for visiting the Natural Bridge Park on your way to Asheville. The Biltmore House and Gardens and the Natural Bridge Park are partners in the Southern Highlands Attractions Association, and contribute to a terrific itinerary for a 4-day getaway!

  • Allen Espy
    Posted at 17:53h, 29 May Reply

    Love your list, photos and descriptions. I live in Asheville and certainly welcome you anytime, either as a visitor or a future resident. You could even go hiking with my meetup group: Weekday Hiking.

  • ChefDave
    Posted at 20:29h, 29 May Reply

    Asheville is so close to home, why don’t I visit more often?

  • Nichole
    Posted at 23:48h, 29 May Reply

    Check out Pizza Pura the next time you’re in Asheville. It’s owned by the same people as White Duck; it’s our favorite pizza place in town. The NC Arboretum is worth a visit, too, if you like gardens. It’s far less expensive than the Biltmore House. 🙂

  • gretaallaire
    Posted at 11:00h, 30 May Reply

    I’ve lived in Asheville my whole life, and everyone I know calls it the Biltmore. Thanks for a great article.

  • Brigette
    Posted at 18:58h, 30 May Reply

    I live near Asheville and think this is a nice article for visitors who are looking for things to do. I second the NC Arboretum (430+ acres) for garden lovers, as well as the Botanical Gardens (much smaller but quite nice). Also, for craft breweries, head just a few minutes east to Black Mountain and try Pisgah Brewing Company and Lookout Brewing. Also, the beautiful butterflies are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and they are all over the place near Asheville in the springtime. 🙂

  • Anna
    Posted at 06:20h, 31 May Reply

    I’m also a native of Asheville, and I call it Biltmore. I apologize for any of my neighbors who sounded less than cordial. On another note, I’d like to recommend Buffalo Nickel, a new restaurant in West Asheville that is wonderful!

  • mary johnson
    Posted at 09:52h, 31 May Reply

    Your descriptions make me more excited about my drives to and from Washington, D.C.. I knew that I-81 was a beautiful drive, but now I will appreciate it even more!

  • Martha
    Posted at 10:42h, 31 May Reply

    Thank you for the wonderful article on Asheville. So glad you enjoyed your visit and we hope you come back soon! We love our visitors; they help make our city a great one!

  • Christie Jones
    Posted at 12:29h, 01 June Reply

    Um, Lucy, I have lived here since 1967 and all of the people I know call it “The Biltmore House”. Great article!

    • Christie Jones
      Posted at 12:30h, 01 June Reply

      Oops, I meat Alice! Sorry Lucy…

      • Christie Jones
        Posted at 12:32h, 01 June Reply

        meant…heck I give up.

  • Laura @Travelocafe
    Posted at 13:48h, 01 June Reply

    I have never been to Asheville, but seems like a great place to visit.

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica
    Posted at 08:04h, 07 June Reply

    Asheville has been on my radar for while. You might have me convinced I need to make it happen this year!

  • Adam
    Posted at 16:05h, 17 July Reply

    I definitely need to check out Asheville, it looks stunning. It sounds like a mini Austin which is intriguing.

    • Christina Ricchiuti
      Posted at 16:55h, 18 July Reply

      I haven’t yet been to Austin, but I really want to go. I also think it’s reminiscent of Portland, too.

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