Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weekend Wanderlust: Asheville, NC

Just over 150 miles from Atlanta tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains is Asheville, North Carolina. What Frommer's calls one of the top seven places to live in the United States, Asheville is teaming with history and serves as a great weekend getaway.

The childhood home to one of my favorite basketball coaches of all time, Roy Williams, Asheville was also once frequented by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford perhaps the most notable of visitors is George Vanderbilt who built the largest home in America in 1890.

Lush and green, you may have seen glimpses of Asheville in the movies Dirty Dancing, Bull Durham, Patch Adams, Forrest Gump, The Fugitive, and Last of the Mohicans.

With great restaurants, a growing art scene, predominantly great weather and an easy and affable personality, Asheville is a great place for a little weekend wanderlust.

Sleep: We stayed at the Inn on Biltmore Estate and I recommend it. This Four Star / Four Diamond respite has multiple packages available and the accomodations are lovely. With over 200 rooms, a restaurant, and an Irish pub, it is an easy trip to downtown.

Eat: We had a recommendation from a crusty concierge that turned out to be a bust (and included a waiter who told us that Asheville is "not considered to be part of the South." BUT, we hit it big by stumbling across a great Spanish tapas bar called Zambra. Great wine selection, great food, and great service. And I dipped into this incredible butternut squash soup they were serving that night. Perfecto.

The bartender there gave us a great rec for dinner the next night and he was spot on. He told us to ask for a friend of his and we got top notch service and a great bottle of reserve wine to try on our visit to Rezaz Mediterranean Restaurant and Enoteca. Great food and I loved the Argentinian Malbec.

In addition, the top ten booked restaurants in Asheville right now are:

Red Stag Grill-Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville
Corner Kitchen
Bistro Roca and Antlers Bar
Cucina 24
Vincenzo's Asheville
The Gamekeeper

We also had a fabulous lunch at the Bistro at Biltmore Winery. They showcase food from their own farm, fields, and winery. Fantastic.

Do: You simply must go to see Biltmore Estate. With over 220 rooms, and an 8000 acre backyard, you likely have visited nothing like it. The original purchase was 125,000 acres so George Vanderbilt has vision and it is represented clearly as you tour his home which is still held and maintained by the family. With over 1 million visitors per year, it is such a great view into history. Not only should you take the tour but you should actually get the headset guide and listen. The details you will glean simply can not be picked up without the guide. I know you aren't in sixth grade, trust me, I am the first to shrug a "headset tour" but friends recommended it to us, and I appreciated the volumes of details shared. Original Renoirs, bowls from the Ming Dynasty, and Napoleon's chess set and gaming table he gifted to the Vanderbilts are just some of what you will see. And the indoor pool, bowling alley, and gym were built at original time of construction. George Vanderbilt was incredibly forward thinking.

You should also take the Winery Tour and Tasting. Biltmore Estates bottles their own wine and we are fans of the Limited release Syrah and the Reserve Cabernet. Plus, you have to get a bite at the Bistro at Biltmore Winery while you are there because its sensational. We also caught a cooking demonstration and bought a great cookbook of Recipes from Biltmore.

Other Asheville points of interest:

Crest Mountain

Blue Ridge Parkway

Botanical Gardens at Asheville

Grove Park Inn

North Carolina Arboretum

Smith-McDowell House

Enjoy some weekend wanderlust in Asheville.


MissBliss said...

Very cool! My parents just moved there; toally appreciate your post! Looooove your glad to discover it through your comment!!! Thanks for your fab hubby has heard me laughing out loud several times while reading you!!!

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Anonymous said...

Hi. I live in Asheville and am glad you had such a wonderful experience. I have lived here for fifteen years and believe it or not I did not want to move here. Now, I can't imagine living anywhere else. Saying Asheville is not part of the South is something we say here because historically it has been touched by world-renowned artists, travelers, ministries, etc. Anyway, the waiter was probably just repeating a saying he had heard before and perhaps was trying to impress you Some folks are ashamed to be Southern. I, however, am not.

Just curious... Please tell what restaurant you are talking about. I'm a bit of a restaurant snob and so I'm curious if I've had a similar experience.

Dying to know.