This photo was taken at the River Arts District, where we enjoyed exploring a number of artist studios and checking out the local street art.
Asheville, where have you been my whole life?
During Presidents' Day Weekend, my boyfriend Davis and I decided to spend the long weekend in Asheville, North Carolina, an artsy city nestled in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Since we have moved to South Carolina, we've done our best to explore other areas in the state, from Charleston to some of the state's beaches to Greenville. However, I haven't spent much time in North Carolina, so I suggested we take our extra day off to travel north.
If you ever get a chance to visit this North Carolina city, I suggest you spend at least three days here to explore everything the city has to offer, from its top-rated restaurants, artist studios and some of the nearby hiking trails. We already have plans to go back and visit again in April!
My favorite part about Asheville by far is its thriving arts scene. Our first stop was the River Arts District, which consists of a series of former warehouses and mills along the French Broad River that have been converted into art studios. Here, you can find various forms of art, from paintings to pottery to even jewelry. We spent the better part of our day here exploring the various studios, where many of the artists were in-house and could be seen frequently greeting visitors and talking about their work. As an art history minor, I definitely could have spent even more time here. My favorite artist in this area was Barbara Fisher,.
We also discovered the Marquee behind the series of studios, which was a long hall full of art and other handmade goods created by local artists. Nearby, you'll also find a skater park and several other stores and eateries. The buildings in this area are also decked out in graffiti, which is perfect for exploring and — yes, taking pics for the 'gram.
The Marquee in the River Arts District
After exploring the River Arts District, we headed to our AirBnb (in West Asheville). I loved this area even more than downtown Asheville. On every block, there were several restaurants, stores and bars I wanted to check out. Although I haven't been to Portland myself, I definitely picked up on some Portlandia vibes; the area was full of hipsters, art installations and vegan shops and bakeries. We even discovered a place called Fleetwood's, a "Rock-n' Roll Chapel" and vintage store. Yes, you read that correctly. I also loved how walkable West Asheville was, particularly from our Airbnb (more on that later).
One of my favorite spots inside our small but cozy Airbnb in West Asheville
That night, we headed into downtown Asheville to go to Strada Italiano; luckily, we made reservations a week before a trip, so we were able to snag a seat on the restaurant's covered rooftop patio. The quality of the food was incredible, but I must admit, I should have ordered what my boyfriend got. He ordered Chicken Piccata and I got the short rib bolognese (which was yummy, but very heavy)! I also couldn't resist ordering an Aperol Spritz, which if you know me, comes as no surprise.
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (see what I did there?)
After dinner, we headed back to West Asheville, where we decided to walk to the nearby Retrocade, where you can order beer or wine and indulge in come classic arcade games. I killed Davis in the old-school car driving games, but he dominated in Mario Kart. Let's just say I was a little rusty and I'm better when I'm behind an actual wheel. Overall, the bar had a great atmosphere, and it's perfect spot for a date night or casual night out with friends.
The next day, we checked out West End Bakery for breakfast. We thought about going to the nearby Sunny Point Café, but we read online that there were often long lines and wait times. Fortunately, the bakery worked out well for us. I grabbed a morning bun and a delicious peanut butter berry smoothie and Davis grabbed some coffee, an incredible blueberry scone and a breakfast sandwich. We did not leave hungry! The bakery was also covered in plants, many of which you could purchase. Davis had to restrain me not to purchase another plant (which, let's be honest, I probably would have killed a few weeks later).
My morning bun from West End Bakery
After seeing downtown Asheville briefly the night before, we wanted to go back and check it out during the day time on Sunday. I think we ended up walking on nearly every street in downtown Asheville! Due to Asheville being a mountain town, many of the winding, cobblestone roads reminded me some of the small, European towns I have visited. There were many cool storefronts to explore, and many of which sold crystals and incense. My favorite spot was Element Tree Essentials, which gave me lots of inspiration for my own Etsy shop, Creative Cactus Gifts. Some of the goodies I bought from them included a Moroccan sea salt lotion candle (which you can use as lotion once it's burned!) and a crystal. The inside of the shop reminded me of an apothecary; they had everything from sage bundles to bath salts to CBD products. We also enjoyed visiting the historic Grove arcade and the S&W Market for some light bites.
Inside Element Tree Essentials, my favorite store in Asheville
Davis and I loved the architecture of the historic Grove arcade
We capped off our day in downtown Asheville at Wicked Weed Brewing, which my Aunt recommended we check out. It was an incredibly popular spot. Although we weren't quite hungry for food, the appetizers looked amazing. There, Davis tried out a sour Cherry Pie sour. The brewery was sprawling, and had a number of different areas to sit. We headed downstairs, which was adjacent to a sunny, outdoor patio. On our way there, we ran into Double D's Coffee and Desserts, which is a British double-decker bus that sells coffee, which had my name written all over it. It was on my bucket list of things to see in Asheville, so I'm really glad we were able to see it on our way to Wicked Weed.
Wicked Weed Brewing had an extensive menu of beer and savory bites to choose from
I mean, coffee, sweets & a British double-decker bus all in one? This city was made for me.
That night, I must admit, our plans fell through. We tried going to Thai Pearl in West Asheville, but they closed their doors by the time we made it to dinner (at 8 p.m.). Instead, we ended up going to Pizza Mind, a cool pizza parlor I had passed earlier and wanted to try. We ended up ordering really tasty pizza (pepperoni, sausage crumbles and jalapeño) and a salad, since I was feeling the road trip diet by this point in the trip. Definitely not a bad plan B by any means.
This delicious pizza was a great way to end the night
That brings us now to Monday, our last day in Asheville. I was starting to feel major "Sunday/Monday Scaries" and was bummed to leave the city. We made the most out of our final hours there. We headed over to Simple Café, which had a ton of vegan options. I got an açaí bowl and blueberry muffin. Davis got a peanut butter coffee smoothie and an everything bagel with vegan butter. This spot reminded me of Main Squeeze in our college town of Columbia, MO, where you could always find a great salad or smoothie. Does anyone else get super nostalgic for their college towns?
Inside Simple Café, which has plenty of vegan options
I also promised my dad we would visit the Grove Park Inn before we left town, and I'm really glad we ended up going. We decided against checking out the Biltmore Estate, due to the pricy $75 per person entrance fees. The Grove Park Inn, however, was a great choice. The Omni hotel had the most scenic views of the mountains and had grand fire places in its lobby. I enjoyed sitting on its rocking chairs and taking in the Blue Ridge Mountain views while jazz music played on a speaker outside.
What I would do to stay at The Grove Park Inn...
I asked Davis probably a few too many times if we could extend our trip there and hang out at the luxury hotel lol. In our dreams! I definitely suggest taking a look at this hotel if you make your way to Asheville. If you want to stay at the resort, starting prices hover around $280+ per night.
The view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the back deck of The Grove Park Inn
After that, we headed home! It was sad to say goodbye, but we're excited to go back to Asheville again here soon. I always love exploring a new city and our trip to Asheville was everything I could have asked for and more.
Asheville, we will be back very soon!
Thanks for reading and I'll catch y'all on our next adventure!