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Asheville 

We spend time in Asheville every summer. When the kids were younger we were able to stay for a month, but now that they have other things going on I try to squeeze in at least one week. Part of what I love about Asheville is it's the one place where I can relax the most. If you were inclined to see and do a lot, then it could definitely accommodate that speed too because between the arts and nature and everything in between, Asheville really has a lot to offer. And the food scene is pretty phenomenal for a city this size, so I will probably go on and on about food, but you can hike away all the calories, so it's a win-win.

Things to do in nature:

  • Triple Falls. This hike, located in DuPont State Recreational Forest, is really easy and the pay off for the tiny bit of effort is huge. Featured in “The Hunger Games” and “The Last of the Mohicans,” this 120-foot waterfall is majestic. 

  • Sliding RockThis waterfall is a small slide-type waterfall on Looking Glass Creek, in the Pisgah National Forest. You can slide all the way down the waterfall into the plunge pool below. 

  • Asheville Treetops Adventure Park. This is something we do every summer rain or shine. I challenge myself to do the red course (the hardest) every year to make sure I'm not losing my nerve and strength. 

  • Tubing on the French Broad River. You can rent an inner tube at Asheville Outdoor Center and let the currents take you down the river. Depending on the current that day it can be very leisurely. People make a day of it with coolers of cold drinks on their tubes. Wear sunscreen. 

  • Horseback Riding at Biltmore Estates. Seeing the estate from the grounds is a really cool way to start your tour of the house itself. 

  • Biltmore Forest. I love just walking through this neighborhood. It is not unusual to see wild turkeys and deer walking around. The houses are beautiful and everyone you pass, whether on foot or in a car, will give you friendly hello or wave. 

This list is woefully inadequate, as there are about a million more things to do in the beautiful surrounding areas. Some are perpetually on my list of things to try, like white water rafting, and some are for the more hardcore, like serious mountain biking. 

Every summer there is a new food place to check out, but there is also a deep roster of amazing restaurants that have been around for a while too. 

Places we love:

  • Cúrate. This is one of the places to put the Asheville food scene on the map. They serve an incredible menu of Spanish tapas to rival any food in Spain. My husband and son love all the cured meat and I love that they can easily accommodate a vegan. My recommendation is to have them choose for you... they will keep bringing out amazing food until you're ready to explode. And be sure to make your reservation early- it's a hard place to get a table. 

  • White Duck Taco. I crave these tacos when I'm not in Asheville. I must eat there at least three times while visiting, even if I'm only there for a week. 

  • Chai Pani. We love this easy little Indian spot downtown. The okra fries is the most delicious thing you will ever eat. 

  • OWL Bakery. This little cafe could easily be in Paris. The pastries are so good and I love having their breakfast of toast and a side salad. 

  • 131 Main. If you are craving a Houston's, look no further. They have delicious burgers and salads. This is the place my stepfather always offers up when we're trying to decide where to eat. 

  • Moe's Original. There are a lot of good BBQ joints in town, but this is our favorite. It's super down home, good food. 

  • Early Girl Eatery. If you're looking for quintessential southern comfort food, this is your place. Luckily it's not overly fried and heavy like some places (ie: The Moose Cafe.) 

  • Gan Shan Station. I love the different flavors at this restaurant. They serve up a really great mix of different Asian cuisines, from homemade Chinese dumplings to classic pad thai.

  • All Souls Pizza. Our favorite place for fresh produce and incredible brick oven pizza. 

  • The Hop. This is the spot for homemade, amazing ice cream in the summer. 

Like my outdoor list, this is neglecting so many other great options. The Admiral, Vivian, Rhubarb, Poppy's amazing caramel corn... There is something for everyone and I could easily eat out for every meal if I was so inclined. Every summer my mom informs me of what new place all her local friends are buzzing about... one summer is was a delicious thai restaurant in a gas station. Let's just say I don't really listen to their advice anymore. 

Having lived in Los Angeles for the better part of my life, I really love that there are no good clothing stores in Asheville. I apologize to all the shop owners that I've just offended, but truly there are so many more worthwhile things to do like exploring the different art studios in the Rivers Arts District. Potter, Michael Hofman, whose tableware is beautiful but not too fancy to use everyday, is one of my favorites. There are also great vintage markets worth rambling around, like Antique Tobacco Barn and Village Antiques, which are not too far from the River Arts District. 

If you're visiting with kids, the Asheville Pinball Museum is a fun rainy day activity. Hickory Nut Gap Farm is also great to explore and offers tours. No summer trip to Asheville is complete without going to an Asheville Tourists minor league baseball game. We love the seats close to the field, the cotton candy, the mascot Mr. Moon and the other fun kid activities they offer, like running the bases after the game and autographs from the players. 

To me, Asheville is the best of the south. It has the warmth that you would expect in a small southern city, but the diversity of experience and thought which I really appreciate.