We just arrived back home from a fun vacation in nearby Asheville, NC. This town is awesome and no matter how many times we visit we always find new things to explore. This trip was unique that we stayed with Alex’s sister and brother-in-law from Chicago. They rented a house in downtown Asheville and invited us along for the stay. Here is a quick recap of all our adventures:
1. Visiting Uncle Jimmy in nearby Franklin, NC
To start our vacation we left a day early and drove right by Asheville to Franklin, just about an hour further. My uncle owns a cabin in the beautiful Nantahala National Forest. We drove up the mountain from there to Highlands to cruise around town and check out our favorite shop, Colonel Mustard’s, a sample-lover’s heaven. We left with a jar of Sun-dried Tomato Olive Spread. Back at the cabin we grilled chicken and Uncle Jimmy whipped up a delicious curry. We took Eleanor outside to spot fireflies or lightening bugs or as she now calls them, “fire bugs.” My uncle built a fire and we sat outside enjoying the cool mountain breeze.
2. Live Music at Jack of the Wood and French Broad Chocolate Lounge
On Thursday morning we headed into Asheville and stopped at our favorite, Green Sage, for coffee and pastries. After checking out our rental house the girls took a nap while I ran out to grab to-go salads for lunch. After a relaxing afternoon we were ready to hit the town.
With Karina and John, we cruised downtown Asheville on foot and stopped to listen to all the street musicians. We headed first to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge for an after dinner treat. The line was incredibly long but right behind the original dessert restaurant is another owned by the same company and offering many of the same treats. We popped in and each got a small ice cream and I bought a few chocolate bars for later. Alex was thrilled to learn that almost half of their ice cream is made with coconut milk so even he was able to enjoy some!
After walking a bit and doing lots of window shopping we popped into Jack of the Wood pub to listen to live bluegrass music and have a drink. Eleanor danced to the music while Ruthie snoozed in the Ergo.
3. Hiking at Craggy Gardens
Friday was a very active day. John and I woke early to squeeze in a mountain bike ride at Bent Creek. I don’t have any photos, but it was amazing and awful all at the same time. Mountain biking is like no other sport I’ve done before and while I had fun, I am not sure I would choose to do it again very often.
After showers and breakfast we set out to explore on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our first stop was Craggy Gardens.
We stopped at the picnic area and took the Craggy Trail toward the visitor’s center. We stopped just short of the center at this beautiful shelter. Just up from the shelter are gorgeous views (not pictured…the ones above are from an overlook off the parkway) and a cool breeze. Craggy Gardens is known for their beautiful Rhododendrons but we were a few weeks late to enjoy the blooms. The scenery and foliage was still beautiful even if the trail was a little steep. We headed back down to the car to venture further up the parkway. Our total hike was about one mile round trip, all uphill to start and all downhill to the finish.
5. Mt. Mitchell State Park
Our next stop on the parkway was Mt. Mitchell State Park. We were all exhausted from a very active day so we opted to just drive straight to the top so we could catch the views. As we mounted the summit the clouds rolled in and a thunderstorm threatened. The cool breeze was wonderful but we didn’t get to enjoy the views from the tallest point east of the Mississippi River. After a short walk to the overlook we headed back down the mountain. I slept the entire way home and we enjoyed a quiet dinner at home and a relaxing night of wine and board games.
5. NC Arboretum
The girls slept terribly Friday night so Saturday started off very slow. I skipped another mountain bike ride with John and I didn’t regret it for a second. Alex’s mom and step-dad drove up for the day on Saturday. We packed a picnic and drove out to the NC Arboretum. We had beautiful weather. Although quite warm, there was a cool mountain breeze. A thunderstorm rolled through while we ate our lunch but never really rained. We toured the gardens after eating. My favorite exhibit were the bonsai trees. I seriously never understood Bonsai to be an incredible art. However, seeing these whimsical trees firsthand gave me a fresh perspective. They are truly so fun! The Arboretum also has an amazing exhibit on carnivorous plants that was very interesting.
6. Altamont Brewing and Nine Mile
After Alina and Ron headed home and the girls took naps we headed out to West Asheville to explore a brewery and a delicious restaurant.
At Altamont Brewery Alex and I split the porter and the Golden Ale. Both were really good! Funny factoid: serving flights of beer is illegal in North Carolina, apparently since prohibition. I would rather have a flight at a local brewery to taste all their selection instead of order individual beers so I was quite disappointed when the brewery told us they don’t serve flights. Some places in NC will although it is illegal but Altamont told us they are really starting to crack down the law. Interesting since we ordered a flight at Wicked Weed the very next day!
After our beer tasting at Altamont we walked to Nine Mile, a casual, Caribbean-inspired restaurant. Many of their dishes include jerk chicken or curry and everything our table ordered was amazing. I had the Marley’s Magic. It was so good I wanted to lick every last bit of curry off my plate. It was served with rice but I skipped most of it so I would have room to finish all the veggies and trout. We headed home and literally crashed after our busy day. The entire house was in bed by 10pm.
7. Craven Gap hiking
Sunday morning we said goodbye to Karina and John. After a quick breakfast together they headed back toward home but we stayed to play for a fun Father’s Day celebration. Our first stop was hiking. We started from Craven Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiked about two miles to Ox Creek Road before turning around. We managed four miles in total and were completely worn out. Hiking is no joke when carrying a toddler and baby. We were disappointed there weren’t any really great views on the hike but it was still fun to get out and work up a sweat.
8. Farm Burger
Not only did we work up a sweat hiking, but we definitely worked up an appetite. Alex and I dove face first into our burgers and onion rings at Farm Burger. On the onion ring scale these really hit the mark. Probably in our top five onion rings ever (I think Cowburger’s still win out). And the grass-fed, medium-well done burgers were on point. I had the No. 5 with pesto, local cheese and mushrooms. Alex had the original Farm Burger with Farm Burger sauce and aged white cheddar. Both were amazing!
9. Wicked Weed Brewery
Next on our Father’s Day must-do list was Wicked Weed Brewery. We have been to Asheville a handful of times before but never made it to any breweries. We were excited to fit two into our schedule on this trip. We were also excited to learn Wicked Weed served flights and we chose a selection of six to share. (I only had small tastes of everything so I could drive home later on Sunday). My absolute favorite was a unique choice: the Coolcumber (pictured above with the cucumber on the rim). With a mix of cucumber, basil and juniper berries it was fresh and light and absolutely hit the spot on the first day of summer.
10. Whit’s Custard
Our last stop in Asheville before heading home was Whit’s Frozen Custard. Eleanor had the chocolate and I had a huge cup of vanilla with chocolate flakes. It was just the cool and refreshing treat I needed to get us home.
And just like that our summer vacation is over and we are back to the Monday morning routine. We jumped right back in to life with laundry, gym and grocery shopping this morning. And now the girls are napping and it’s time for me to relax and unwind. What an amazing week it has been! It was also so fun to get to celebrate Father’s Day with Alex in such a neat town.