It’s hard to find a vacation destination that offers a mix of amazing scenic views, trendy restaurants and whimsical, southern charm, but Asheville, North Carolina, offers that much and more. I traveled there for Thanksgiving to visit my brother – my first extended visit since I was 10. I knew Asheville was the perfect city for my mountain man brother, who moved there after graduating from Brevard College in May. I was happy to discover during my trip that I loved Asheville, too.
What to Eat
I was surprised by the wide range of restaurants in Asheville. You would assume it rocks out at southern comfort food, which it does. But there are also some really nice upscale places at a range of price points. I pretty much loved everywhere we ate at but here are my top recommendations:
- 12 Bones Smokehouse: If you like ribs, this is the spot for you. The food here is so good people stand in lines that wrap around the building to get it. I’m not big on ribs so I ordered a smoked turkey sandwich that came with sweet bacon, pesto mayo and brie. My brother had a stack of ribs with a sauce called Nerve Gas. Sides of cornbread, mac ‘n cheese and white cheddar mashed potatoes made this the ideal southern meal.
- Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro: They had me at Rhum! Seriously though my brother mentions this place almost every time we talk. He is obsessed with their lamb burger, which comes with feta cheese and aioli sauce, so I had to try it. It was delicious. Also, I’m big into décor and Storm had a really unique vibe that added to the experience.
- Rezaz: Located in the historic Biltmore Village, Rezaz was the perfect spot for my last night in town. I started with a wood grilled Caesar salad. No words will do justice to the rich, smoky flavor of the salad, which was garnished with prosciutto. My main course was a flat iron steak that had pimento cheese spread on top. Upon taking my first bite, I literally closed my eyes, put my hands in the air and shook my head in happiness. The pomme frites and garlic aioli sauce on the side capped off what was seriously one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten (not to be dramatic or anything).
What to Do
Between meals, there’s a lot to do in and around the city. Asheville is a short drive away from Pisgah National Forest, covering more than 500,000 acres and containing more than 250 waterfalls. There are endless trails with varying degrees of difficulty, offering something for everyone. Earlier this year my brother and I hiked up to John’s Rock. On this trip we went up to Devil’s Courthouse and Black Balsam Mountain. Up on Devil’s Courthouse you can see mountain tops for miles. The hike up Black Balsam was super windy and fog rolled in as we started climbing. When we reached the top, we were basically walking into nothing because the fog was so thick. It was a really unique sensation which I tried to capture in this short video.
If you don’t like hiking but want to enjoy the vistas in Pisgah, take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway winds through the forest and has several overlooks and points where you can pull off to snap a picture of a waterfall or take in the mountains.
Also, if you like a good beer, stop by Thirsty Monk. They have more than 62 rotating taps, including several local beers. I ordered a flight with samples from four local breweries. My favorite was Escape Artist from Asheville Brewing Company.
On the Agenda
For even more ideas on what to do and where to stay, check out Explore Asheville.