Yes, we took the Airstream to Asheville again! Are you tired of hearing about Asheville? Because I have more to say about it. I plan to do a quick overview of this eight day trip, and then a separate (more useful) post highlighting some of our favorite spots to eat, drink, hike, and sweat. If you are not tired of hearing about Asheville, you can read about our short, freezing first trip here; our sickly, even shorter second trip here; our more adventurous third trip here, and planning for this recent long trip here.
OK, let’s get to it. We did the usual activities on this trip: ate tons of good food, drank gallons of beer, hiked for miles, looked at scads of art, and explored a few new (to us) parts of town. We had a wonderful time, with one HUGE, INCONVENIENT bit of drama, which you can read about in the Hiking section below.
We spent the first half of our stay at Wilson’s Riverfront RV Park, where we’ve parked the Airstream twice before. We love it there, due to the riverfront campsites, easy access to the French Broad River Greenway, and proximity to downtown/South Slope, the River Arts District, and West Asheville. We do hear some road noise in our trailer from the highway at the top of the hill, our only complaint about Wilson’s.
We moved to Bear Creek RV Park & Campground when our time at Wilson’s ran out, where we camped during our first Asheville visit. It’s bigger, fancier, and quieter than Wilson’s, only a bit farther down the interstate from town, and has nice views from the hillside. The only negative for some people may be the lack of fire rings at the campsites.
Each time we visit Asheville it seems there are 500 new breweries, and it’s our duty to check them out for you, our dear readers. We did our best: in 8 days we hit 18 distinct breweries (counting different locations separately); 11 were new (to us) (counting Catawba, which is in a new location since last we drank there).
Of the 18 breweries, our favorites were Hi-Wire (both locations, but the Big Top location is in Biltmore Village which is kind of a pain to get to) for superior beer and fun atmosphere; New Belgium for beer, patio seating with a river view, and access from the French Broad River Greenway (yes, it’s a big national beer, but they did a stellar job with the taproom); Wedge (both locations, which are oddly close to each other) for outdoor seating with music, zillions of art studios nearby, and, for the Wedge Studios location, access from the Greenway; and Burial, for great beer, a big patio, and a groovy taproom. And even though Wicked Weed is crazy popular and therefore always crowded, we still have to go there when in town, because the beer is so good.
I love a fancy cocktail, and Sovereign Remedies knows how to make a fancy cocktail. We enjoyed a couple interesting, creative drinks at the old-timey bar in a former pharmacy. The food menu looked good, too–will have to remember that for future trip planning.
I also love a cocktail with a view, and SkyBar offers that, if you don’t mind being crammed into a tiny balcony space sipping (when you can finally get one of the few roving waiters to assist you) an over-priced, subpar drink. We timed it perfectly to admire the sunset and then vamoose. FYI, SkyBar has a one cocktail minimum.
We took our computers to Ultra Coffee Bar in the River Arts District, a good spot to get some work done and drink delicious coffee before wandering through some of the nearby studios. The baked goods looked heavenly but we saved our baked good calories to spend later, as you will see.
Edna’s at the River is an interesting spot not far from Wilson’s campground. I just ran in to grab a coffee for the drive to a hike, but the courtyard would be a great place to relax and enjoy a coffee (and a baked good–they also had yummy-looking treats on display) with your dog, or kid if that’s how you roll.
I told you we saved room for baked goods. We indulged in cake, pie, donuts, biscuits, pot du creme… and some fantastic non-dessert food, too. Here are the highlights:
Dinner at Limones, a favorite from our last trip–we couldn’t get a reservation, but were able to walk in and sit at the bar with minimal wait by going close to opening time. I recommend the ceviche and any of their margaritas, but I suspect you will love anything you order there.
Lunch at Cúrate, long on our wish list–again, we couldn’t get a dinner reservation (and I thought I was good at planning way in advance), but were able to go for lunch. You’ll especially love the food if you are a fan of pig, I am told, but all the cheese-, veg-, and fish-based tapas I tried were divine.
Dinner at Nine Mile, rated the best in Asheville in a Best of WNC 2017 poll. The Caribbean-style food was really delicious, and I drank a very tasty pain killer, but the food took FOREVER to arrive. Don’t go there starving.
Dessert at Baked Pie Co: we had a PIE FLIGHT–I will say it again: they serve PIE FLIGHTS. It actually kind of turns out to be three regular-sized pieces of pie, but we were quite excited to sample several types (yes we each got a flight), and they were SO good, especially the lemon and coconut cream.
Other notable food: dessert at White Duck (we just went the one time this trip, for dessert!) was unexpectedly fabulous; donuts at Hole Doughnuts were made to order and melt-in-your-mouth good; carryout Indian from Mela, a repeat from last trip; biscuits with homemade toppings from the butter and jam bar at Biscuit Head (be there when they open to avoid the worst of the lines); and, to cap off a calorie-laden trip with the most calorific dish possible, smothered tater tots at Universal Joint.
Worst Dining Experience
We had brunch at Chestnut, and while the food was good and the people were pleasant, service overall was TERRIBLE. We were seated a half hour after our reservation time (inexplicably AFTER people from the walk-in wait list), drinks took 15 minutes to arrive, and food took an HOUR. Chestnut is very highly rated on all the usual sites, so maybe they just had a bad day, but let our experience be a warning to you.
It’s easy to find incredible hiking around Asheville. The trick is finding incredible hiking where you won’t run into every other person from Asheville looking for a scenic hike–especially near peak leaf color. We did two extremely popular big-vista hikes, and one quiet walk in the woods with very few fellow hikers.
The view from Max Patch in Pisgah National Forest is 360° of gorgeous layers of mountains rolling into the distance. We did this 7 mile hike to get to the grassy bald… only to find out there’s also a one-mile option from a parking lot down the hill, so it was a bit crowded at the top. Luckily there’s a ton of space, so there’s room for everyone’s picnic. We were still glad we did the longer route to really earn the views, and the hike along the AT was peaceful and pretty. There’s water for a hiking dog at mile 2.5.
But be warned!!! Some jackass STOLE THE HITCH OFF OUR TRUCK, parked on the fire road, while we were hiking! It had a lock cylinder, which apparently wasn’t that big an obstacle for the thieves. Fortunately we had a hero at Jim Campen Trailer Sales who got us a shiny new e2 hitch overnight and gave us an installation appointment first thing the next morning, the day we had to move the Airstream to a new campground. I don’t recommend that technique for upgrading your towing equipment!
Black Balsam Knob
Black Balsam Knob is another hugely popular hike close to Asheville with big views. Most people hike up to the views and turn around and return to their cars, but we did a longer five-mile loop to prolong our enjoyment. Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain were very crowded, but the rest of the hike was all ours.
Florence Nature Preserve
For our last hike of the trip, we chose solitude over big vistas and hiked a 5.8-mile loop in the quiet, leafy Florence Nature Preserve just outside of Asheville. There’s a pretty view from Rattlesnake Knob and a lovely stream with a couple little falls, and we really enjoyed the peaceful woods in the Preserve.
Asheville is a great town for wandering around, through interesting neighborhoods, or the zillions of art galleries. Our favorite gallery is Blue Spiral 1, but if you’re an art fan be sure to get out of downtown and explore the many galleries clustered around the River Arts District.
For a neat architecture walk, check out the Montford Historic District. Many of the stately Victorians are now inns, so I google mapped the neighborhood’s B&Bs and we used them to cobble together a route.
And as I’ve raved before, we love the French Broad River Greenway, which conveniently runs through the middle of Wilson’s campground, both for exercise and for transportation: biking the Greenway to New Belgium and then across the river to Wedge makes for a delightful little brewery tour! And if you enjoy one beer too many, just lock up your bikes, take a Lyft home, and run back to get them the next day. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
Until next time: cheers, Asheville!