Hey there, Taste and See NC readers! I'm starting a new feature on the blog called "Founders Favorites" — restaurant, hotels and activity suggestions in North Carolina cities straight from the Founder of Taste and See NC, Shayla Martin. A.K.A. me! In my career as a food and travel writer, I get questions all the time from friends, family, and strangers (not kidding) about where they should eat or where they should stay when they travel to North Carolina, so I thought it'd be easier to consolidate everything I've learned here on this blog. I'm starting out this series with one of my favorite cities in NC: Asheville.
Let's be clear, my suggestions are not unbiased reviews. My life as a travel writer is not always rainbows and butterflies and I have had some bad experiences, so you'll only see what I loved here. It's not that I'm trying to paint a pretty picture all the time or that these hotels or restaurants are paying me to write these things, but let's be serious, why would you want to hear about the places I hated? Think of these articles as honest opinions from a woman who daydreams about food and would choose to spend an afternoon people watching in a hotel lobby over nearly anything else.
Visiting Asheville can be overwhelming. Their biggest market right now is tourism and it seems like new hotels and restaurants are popping up every five minutes, making it hard for a first-timer to figure out where to start. Don't worry, I got you. I've written about Asheville for a variety of media outlets probably more than any other destination I've covered. Everything you've read about it is true. It really is an eclectic, quirky paradise dropped in a gorgeous mountain setting with just about any cuisine you can imagine.
So here's how we're going to do this. I'm going to give you all my favorite, and in some cases, super secret places (I really must love you guys) and you all MUST plan a trip, hit them up, and tell me what you think. Ready? Ok, go!
Where to Stay in Asheville
Omni Grove Park Inn - That. Lobby. I mean, honestly. You know you could just sit there in a rocking chair all day staring at the mountain view, or sipping hot chocolate by one of two giant stone fireplaces. The 43,000 square-foot subterranean spa is mind-boggling as well, so try to take advantage of all the mineral pools, sauna and steam room with a day pass even if you don't book a treatment.
The Windsor - Really cute 14-room boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Asheville. The entire property has a Parisian theme, with some furnishings coming straight from the City of Light, and each room is individually decorated. This is a great home base if you want to be able to walk everywhere downtown.
Grand Bohemian Asheville - This place looks like something straight out of a remote European village. Picture tasteful Bavarian hunting lodge decor: stag antlers, dark wood paneling and thick, velvet floor-to-ceiling curtains.
What to Eat in Asheville
My gosh. Where to start? Here are some of my go-to favorites, but just know that this list will probably need an update in a few months: Gan Shan Station (dinner, East Asian), Rhubarb (dinner, American), Smokey Park Supper Club (dinner, American/Southern), Gypsy Queen Cuisine (lunch, Lebanese. do NOT skip the fried brussels sprouts), High Five Coffee, Buxton Hall Barbecue (dinner, BBQ), Belly Up (food truck), Chai Pani (dinner, Indian), Tupelo Honey Cafe (the original location. lunch, American), Zambra (dinner, Spanish), Table (dinner, American), French Broad Chocolate Lounge (just to say you went), Sovereign Remedies (bar), Sunny Point Cafe (breakfast, the monkey bread...SWEET LORD), and Asheville Bee Charmer (food gifts for friends/family).
I still have tons of other places on my eating list like Curate, White Duck Taco, All Souls Pizza, Biscuit Head, Mamacitas Taco Temple, Blue Dream Curry House and Little Bee Thai, so if you get back to Asheville before I do and visit these places, let me know what you think. AND! I didn't even mention the enormous craft beer scene, which I admittedly know nothing about because I'm not a drinker. That said, I've heard great things.
What to Do in Asheville
I understand that it looks like all I do is eat when I go to Asheville, but that's not entirely the case. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Asheville:
- Stand up paddleboard yoga with Mind Body Paddle
- Foraging in the mountains with No Taste Like Home
- Taking a dip in the whirlpools at Shoji Spa and Lodge
- Checking out the galleries in the River Arts District, or picking up something locally made at Kress Emporium
- Hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Ziplining at rappelling at Asheville Treetops Adventure Park
And there you have it! A quick hit of my recommendations for a getaway to Asheville. Another thing to note, autumn is the high season which means you can expect larger crowds, but if you head there in January or February (with the exception of Valentine's Day), you can have a lovely trip without fighting for reservations.
Can't make it to Asheville any time soon but still want a taste of what's so great about this place? Try the Taste and See NC Asheville box!