Two nights in Asheville, NC (visit #14)

We were in Asheville in mid-November 2023, as part of our fall quickie to the mountains trip.

Bugsy walking along the French Broad Greenway in Asheville
on the French Broad River Greenway next to the campground

We love Asheville, as you know if you’ve previously spent even two minutes perusing this website. We love the food, we love the beer, we love the cocktail bars, we love the art, we love the opportunities to get outdoors. When we go back to Asheville, we tend to visit the same favorite places, and we did that again for much of this visit: same restaurants, same coffeeshop, same breweries, same cocktail joints, same art gallery, same places to run and work out. But we did try to branch out a bit: we went to a new (meaning new to us, not new to the world) art gallery, we made a reservation (which was subsequently canceled due to a Covid outbreak) at a new restaurant, and we stuck our heads into a new cocktail bar in a new hotel but decided to move on to an old favorite instead. So I feel like we should get partial credit for branching out, even though we didn’t really go out on any limbs.

Campground

Bugsy outside the Airstream at Wilson's RV Park
Bugsy waiting for us to come out of the Airstream at our riverfront campsite

Our first choice for Asheville camping is always Wilson’s, a bare-bones campground on the edge of the French Broad River, with the extensive French Broad River Greenway running through the middle. It’s no-frills (and gets a good bit of nighttime road noise from semis on I-240), but super-convenient, and we love it.

Bugsy at a concert at Grey Eagle Outpost in Asheville
enjoying a show at Grey Eagle Outpost next to home

A new perk to staying at Wilson’s: next door, the Grey Eagle music club opened an outdoor music venue! We visited late in the outdoor music season and were thrilled to see signs for a performance our first night in town. The artist was fantastic and we (including Bugsy) had a blast singing along and drinking local beers and seltzers.

Hiking

Bugsy hiking in Hanging Rock State Park
Bugsy hiking in Hanging Rock State Park

Asheville is surrounding by top-notch hiking. We hiked only once this time in Asheville–but it wasn’t quite an Asheville hike, as it was a few hours away. Hanging Rock State Park likely isn’t a park we otherwise would have visited, being located up in north-central NC, but we were so happy we stopped by on the drive to Asheville and would return! Also, apparently entrance to the park is free? And now that I look, most NC state parks don’t charge for entry? Thank you, North Carolina!

the view from the top of Hanging Rock State Park
hiking in Hanging Rock State Park

We followed a sixish-mile loop of Hanging Rock, Wolf Rock, and Cook’s Wall per this track on AllTrails and it was lovely. We’d like to come back and hike to the observation tower we saw across the narrow valley–Moore’s Observation Tower, perhaps? It’s a 4.7-mile hike from the main campground area, I think.

On a November Thursday, there was plenty of parking for a big ol’ Airstream in both Hanging Rock parking lots. We only saw a few others on the trail, but we did see big groups of schoolchildren in the shelters near the trailheads. The park is dog-friendly, and in addition to hiking, it offers biking and equestrian trails, river access, and a swimming/paddling lake.

Not hiking

If you’re not a hiker, or you’re not looking to drive outside of town to find trails, it’s easy to be active in Asheville proper. We hit our usuals, below, and we’re adding this to our to-do list: when it’s not cold out, another great way to be active in Asheville is to go for a paddle on the French Broad!

Walking/running

Asheville has an impressive network of urban greenways, and our favorite, the French Broad River Greenway, runs through the middle of Wilson’s RV Campground. Walk from the campground west for about a mile to Hominy Creek Park and rent watercraft from French Broad Outfitters–or hang out at Riverside Bar, which we are dying to do but we haven’t been during their summer-only opening season.

view of the River Arts District from the French Broad River Greenway
the view of the RAD from across the French Broad on the greenway

Before indulging in family Thanksgiving in Burlington (the reason we were on this little Airstream adventure), we went for a run on the Greenway. A lollipop to Haywood Rd along the north side of the river, looping back through the River Arts District, was a super six-miler where almost everyone smiled and said good morning.

Gyms

Our gym at home in VA is MADabolic, and if we’re ever in a city with a MAD, we’re there (see also: Austin–although apparently I didn’t write about it, but we went during this visit; Santa Cruz). Plan ahead for a possible obnoxious parking situation in downtown Asheville.

Food

dinner at the bar at The Admiral in West Asheville
yummy start to the meal at The Admiral

Our current co-favorite restaurant in Asheville is The Admiral, so that was our first night’s reservation. We sat at the bar, and we loved it and will return, but next trip we’ll skip it in favor of our other co-favorite restaurant, Bull and Beggar.

lunch tacos at White Duck in the RAD
White Duck for lunch is always a good idea!

White Duck Tacos is always a yummy lunch stop for us. I especially love the Bangkok Shrimp and Tofu Banh Mi tacos (and their margs)… but after ffiinnaallyy trying Taco Billy (long on our Asheville to-do list) in Black Mountain we’re not so sure we’ll be quite as regular at White Duck going forward…

Limones was our original favorite restaurant in Asheville, and we hadn’t been for a while since we started our romance with The Admiral (which predates our romance with Bull and Beggar). When our reservation at Vivian was canceled, we lucked into bar seats at Limones for a delicious dinner. I recommend trying any and all of the ceviches, and any (but not all) of the margs on the menu.

Bugsy and my Chai Pani salad in South Mountains State Park
Chai Pani salad on the trail in South Mountains State Park

Our favorite meal the day we leave Asheville is usually the salad we picked up the night before at Chai Pani. I want everything on their menu, but after a gluttonous couple days eating our way through Asheville, we are happy to eat a salad–and Chai Pani’s salads are the BEST.

Beer

Bugsy and her dad drinking beer at New Origin brewery
family brewery outing to New Origin

Our current favorite Asheville brewery (and there are a zillion to choose from, as Asheville is America’s Beer Capital, according to some lists) is New Origin Brewing. The taproom is dog-friendly inside and out, and we were lucky to catch a lovely late-November day on the patio. J loved his IPAs and might have more interesting things to say about the beer (nope–just they were great), and my sour with maple, cinnamon, and blueberry was SO good.

Sloth and Magnum PI dressed for christmas at Burial Beer
Sloth and Magnum got festive for the holidays at Burial

Our previous favorite brewery in Asheville was Burial, which we began frequenting less often when J started drinking less-potent IPAs and I started favoring sours–neither a category of beer which Burial supported. But this time they had a gose! We had a fun time on the back patio, and for future reference the food menu looked pretty good for lighter salad/bowl options.

beers outside at Asheville Club
slightly odd outdoor situation at Asheville Club, but the open windows let us hear the outstanding music inside

While strolling around downtown, we sipped tasty NC beers and listened to an awesome Motown singer at Asheville Club: a local Dssolvr IPA for J (yum) and a Resident Culture sour from Charlotte for me (super yum).

Not beer

This was our attempt at trying a new cocktail bar: before dinner at Limones, we popped by Workshop Lounge at the Foundry Hotel, and decided we’d rather have our pre-dinner drink at Sovereign Remedies. Workshop didn’t feel as cozy and intimate as Sovereign. The Foundry Hotel looked really nice, though, if you don’t travel with your own house!

cocktail at the bar at Sovereign Remedies
cocktail at the bar at Sovereign Remedies

So yes, we returned to our usual cocktail haunt, Sovereign Remedies. The drinks are top-notch, the atmosphere can’t be beat, and the food smelled fabulous (we’ve eaten there before, but not for a few years, and the food really is fabulous).

drink at the bar at Golden Pineapple in West Asheville
cocktail at the bar at The Golden Pineapple

After dinner at The Admiral, we had a nightcap across the street at The Golden Pineapple. The cocktails are creative and delicious, and note to future self: the food menu looks good! Lots of vegetarian snacks and interesting sandwiches.

Bugsy on the Summit Coffee patio
Bugsy waiting on the patio at Summit Coffee for the humans to get their coffee fix

Our favorite coffee shop in Asheville is Summit Coffee in the interesting Foundy complex in the River Arts District. Foundy, a cluster of old industrial buildings decorated with murals and other outdoor art, is home to funky shops, offbeat art galleries, restaurants, a brewery, a winery, and a skatepark. If you’re spending time exploring River Arts (which you should), be sure to include a wander through Foundy.

Art

Bugsy and her dad walking through Marquee art market in the RAD
browsing the art booths in Marquee

During our wander through Foundy, we (including Bugsy) dropped into Marquee, an expansive and fascinating market housing art, crafts, and vintage items from many different local artists. It was our first visit, and we’ll be adding it into our regular Asheville rotation.

We always try to visit Blue Spiral 1 in downtown when in town; they always have beautiful/interesting/off-beat/impressive art to ogle.

To do

  • Vivian – dinner from a James Beard-nominated chef, still on the list after our dinner reservation was canceled for a Covid outbreak
  • All Day Darling for breakfast
  • Dilbar, the sister to Chai Pani, for a drool-worthy array of Indian street food
  • Do a French Broad kayak trip, like this one past the Biltmore and River Arts District (and potentially past our Airstream!)
  • I just read about Cultura, a fine dining restaurant from the Wicked Weed folks, in a Southern Living article. How had we not come across this earlier???

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