Angela grew up in a small North Carolina town and spent 25 years working and living in five major cities from Dallas to DC to Boston. She and her family decided to slow things down and chose Asheville for its mountain beauty, outdoor activities and eclectic culture. When she is not running her own award-winning business, (www.knockoutpanties.com), Angela loves “the search” for interesting finds, a competitive tennis match and a good glass of Bordeaux.
As Angela explains, “Visiting Western North Carolina has a little something for everyone—adventure, arts, cuisine and beautiful mountain scenery. The Appalachian Mountains are the oldest in the world and are known for their high but rounded peaks and the smoky blue skyline.”
Asheville is eclectic and scenic and deserves a couple of days of its own.
Biscuit Head (photo below)
Explore downtown and West Asheville starting with a filling breakfast. Biscuit Head features homemade biscuits, a homemade butter and jelly bar and a variety of toppings including eggs, kale and gourmet cheeses.
733 Haywood Road
Plan breakfast at the Corner Kitchen, where everything—from the Belgian waffles to the chorizo omelet—is divine. Be sure to make a reservation!
3 Boston Way
Perfect spot for lunch with homemade everything— Southern-style sushi, healthy kale and calamari salad and other local farm-to-table options.
48 Biltmore Avenue
My favorite restaurant is The Admiral, located in West Asheville. Reservations (three weeks out) are a must at this small place. Don’t be fooled by the “gas station” exterior. Inside you will be treated to a daily menu of homemade concoctions from fish to game to pasta that will wow even the toughest critics.
400 Haywood Road
Posana (photo below)
For dinner, the best people-watching corner happens to be in front of Posana. Listen to steel drums, watch dancers and even observe some tattooing while you enjoy the mixologist’s daily martini specials and healthy but rich fare.
1 Biltmore Avenue
After dinner options:
The Orange Peel
The place for live music.
101 Biltmore Avenue
For everything sweet (expect a long line at the door).
10 S. Pack Square
Biltmore House (photo below)
South Asheville is the home of the famous Biltmore House, built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s. It remains the largest private residence in the country and the top-visited site in North Carolina. Make a reservation for your home tour, and plan at least four hours to enjoy the house, gardens, winery and shops. Cedric’s Tavern is fun for lunch inside the estate and has fish and chips that are worth the calories.
1 Lodge Street
River Arts District
Stroll through this area along the French Broad River and visit artists’ studios. Circle back into downtown and enjoy street performers, local craftsman and dancing on the streets.
If you enjoy beer, Asheville has become a brewing capital where you can visit Sierra Nevada, Wedge, Funkatorium, Burial and Hi-Wire. Or just get on the tour bus where imbibing is encouraged!
100 Sierra Nevada Way
Mills River, NC
Wedge Brewing Co.
37 Paynes Way
Wicked Weed Brewing Funkatorium
147 Coxe Avenue
Burial Beer Co.
40 Collier Avenue
197 Hilliard Avenue
Get a custom belt made with a vintage buckle at Paul Taylor.
12 Wall Street
I love to shop this collection of local artisans’ studios with jewelry, woodwork and fabrics.
1 Page Avenue
Battery Park Book Exchange (photo right)
Wine lovers adore this place, whose motto is “books by the thousands, wines by the glass.”
1 Page Avenue, Suite 101
Fun shopping with many branded stores.
10 Brook Street
Biltmore Lamp and Antiques
Wonderful place for unique jewelry.
30 All Souls Crescent
Best collection of antiques in Western NC.
755 Biltmore Avenue
The largest antique mall in Western NC and the source of many great finds.
75 Swannanoa River Road
H. Taylor Consignments
The sleuth shopper should head to Long Shoals Road where a visit to H. Taylor Consignments could lead to a Prada, Gucci or Dior bag, designer shoes in all sizes and an assortment of clothes from fur coats to Armani and Chanel.
100 Julian Lane
Grand Bohemian Hotel (photo below)
Just outside the gates of the Biltmore House, Biltmore Village offers my favorite hotel, the Grand Bohemian, and one of the area’s top restaurants and bars, The Red Stag Grill.
11 Boston Way
The Grove Park Inn
Head north for breakfast or brunch at The Grove Park Inn and enjoy the patio view from this historic inn opened in 1913. Ten US presidents have visited and enjoyed the view, the giant fireplace and bar, the architecture and the delicious food.
290 Macon Avenue
If you are up for an outdoor adventure, drive about 45 minutes north to Hot Springs in Madison County where you can have your own Appalachian Trail experience (watch the movie, A Walk in the Woods, before you go). Follow the trail right through town and along the river into the mountains. Check out Lover’s Leap and go as far as you want.
Spring Creek Tavern
Perfect for lunch after hiking.
145 Bridge Street
Iron Horse Station
This landmark inn, restaurant, tavern and shop, located in the heart of Hot Springs, is recommended for dinner.
24 Andrews Avenue South
Mountain Magnolia Inn
A lovely Victorian house and restaurant.
204 Lawson Street
ArtiSun Gallery and Marketplace
Don’t miss the organic smoothies.
16 Andrews Avenue South
French Broad Adventures (photo below)
Only the French Broad and the Nile flow north! Take a float or raft trip right out of Hot Springs for one hour or four.
800 US Highway 25
Hot Springs Resort & Spa
Enjoy a soak at the Hot Springs Spa, whose healing waters made the town famous in the 1800s.
315 Bridge Street
Head into Brevard and experience its many small shops and bistros.
Dolly’s Dairy Bar
A favorite stop off where the ice cream is known for its homemade richness.
128 Pisgah Highway
Chimney Rock and Lake Lure
This resort area is famous for the movies Dirty Dancing and The Last of the Mohicans.
Chimney Rock State Park
431 Main Street
Chimney Rock, NC
Located about 25 miles southeast of Asheville.
Check out the Bent Creek trails for hiking and mountain biking.
Other Western North Carolina Destinations
Drive further north from Hot Springs to see the elk herds and Cherokee community. The drive is curvy but beautiful as you climb from Asheville at 2,500 feet to the Great Smoky Mountains over 4,000 feet. Bring a jacket—even in summer. The elk come down and graze in the fields around Cherokee from an hour before dusk until just after. The drive back to Asheville is about an hour—you will be exhausted but full of fresh mountain air.
Pisgah Inn (photo above)
One of the best views in Western NC is from the Pisgah Inn, “the peak of the parkway,” located 45 minutes west of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You will travel through multiple tunnels with vistas on both sides climbing from Asheville to over 5,000 feet. Enjoy a Southern pancake, grits and sausage breakfast while you float in the clouds and enjoy the view over 100 miles.
408 Blue Ridge Parkway
Water lovers of all ages can slide and relax here.
Pisgah Forest, NC
Looking Glass Falls
Just two miles away from Sliding Rock is Looking Glass Falls, a 60-foot waterfall and wading pool.
DeeDee Dalrymple and her husband live in Charlotte, NC, which puts them only two hours from their summer home in the mountains. Their children grew up hiking, swimming, swinging on ropes and jumping off cliffs. DeeDee is excited to release Effortless Entertaining, a step-by-step handbook and newsletter to inspire and equip others to welcome guests into their homes. As DeeDee explains, “Our favorite ‘restaurant’ is home because we love our own porch the best. Summer in the mountains means fresh foods, the most beautiful flowers and the perfect weather for eating outside.”
Eseeola Lodge (photo above)
In 1891, Harvard professor William James visited Linville and wrote, “At last, I have struck it rich here in North Carolina and am in the most poetic place I have ever been.” He began construction on what is now the Eseeola Lodge, which continues to evoke this poetic character and a rustic elegance. Since we have a home nearby, we don’t stay at the Eseeola, but we visit often for dinner. The lodge looks much the way noted architect Henry Bacon designed it with its now extinct American chestnut bark. I always feel as though I have stepped back in time into a more genteel era.
175 Linville Avenue
As members of Grandfather Golf & Country Club, we enjoy wonderful dining led by our Master Chef Kevin Walker and a superb wine list offered by Anne Prevatte. Don’t miss a meal here if you are renting a home within the club or staying as a guest.
2120 NC Highway 105 South
A trip to Maw’s is a must. Susan Kirkland runs the area’s top produce and prepared foods market. Here you will find heirloom tomatoes, local corn and butter beans, peaches, homemade pies, cheese dollars, fresh baked bread, chicken potpies and fresh seafood along with local honey, jams and pickles. My favorite find—the berry bowls made by an 85-year-old local.
7918 NC Highway 105 South
Artisanal (photo below)
Chef Bill Greene, who has 5-star experience in a Scottsdale, AZ, restaurant, hails from Le Cirque in NYC. During his tenure, Le Cirque received four stars from the New York Times. Bill and his wife, Anita, found their way to the North Carolina mountains to open Artisanal. Specializing in “seasonality and creativity,” Artisanal is more than a restaurant—it is an experience. As you approach the barn in its majestic setting, prepare to fully enjoy Chef Greene’s creations, but also the warmth and elegance of the place and people.
1200 Dobbins Road
Banner Elk, NC
Knife and Fork (photo below)
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains between the Toe River and a pair of railroad tracks, this fine little gem creatively serves the very best that local farmers offer. Nate Allen has studied and worked all over the world and “has always loved the magic that occurs when people break bread and share wine and time.” A man after my own heart!
61 Locust Street
Spruce Pine, NC
Old Hampton Store
Now I know that everyone touts that they know where to find the “best” barbecue, but really I just have to tell you, the best barbecue is at the Old Hampton Store. We should know—we have been enjoying this barbecue for over 25 years along with its homemade yeast rolls and vinegar-based slaw. We often take a quart or two back to Charlotte. Don’t miss the chicken salad too! And while you wait for your order, pick up a whirligig, hiking stick or some sweet potato butter as you listen to a few of the locals strummin,’ pickin’ and singin.’
77 Ruffin Street
With two of the best nationally ranked golf courses within five miles of each other, it’s hard not to play golf, which we do! An Ellis Maples design, the Championship Course is consistently ranked as one of the top 100 courses in the country. Although the Grandfather courses and other courses in the area are private clubs, guest privileges are available to those renting a home within the club or staying as a guest.
Grandfather Golf & Country Club Mountain Springs Course and Championship Golf Course (photo above)
2120 NC Highway 105 South
Atop Grandfather Mountain is the Mile High Swinging Bridge. You can drive there, but where’s the fun in that when you can start closer to the bottom and hike up? For the first two miles you’re gently climbing through lush woods and over streams. And then it gets a little more interesting with ladders and ropes. The view at the top—up one last ladder and rope—is worth it. Then head down to the Swinging Bridge—literally swinging—where you were smart enough to leave a car. If this hike sounds a little too ambitious, the North Carolina Mountains offer something for everyone: short and scenic, swimming holes and swinging ropes. We’ve done it all…over and over again!
US 221 and Blue Ridge Parkway
A different kind of hike! Towards the end of the day, grab your backpack, a bottle of wine, a little cheese and pâté and head up to Beacon Heights or Wiseman’s View. Why have a cocktail inside when a short drive and a very short walk can lead you to majestic views? Cocktails anywhere else will never be the same. Remember to leave enough time to get down before dark (we know this from experience).
Beacon Heights Trail
Blue Ridge Parkway
Linville Gorge Wilderness Area
Call me a fly fisher wannabe! Although I have only enjoyed this sport a few times, I always think I want to do it more. The area offers excellent guides and trout streams.
Ruffin Gallery (photo below)
Located next to the Hampton Store, the Ruffin Gallery is an easy way to see some of the area’s seriously talented artisans. One of my favorites is Caron Baker Wike. My husband marvels that I always seem to “need” another piece!
87 Ruffin Street
If you agree that making a wonderful bed is an art form, this is the place for you…and me! DeWoolfson offers the finest bed linens off the shelf—Sferra, Matouk and more—along with custom. They also carry beautiful table linens and tableware, including one of my favorite lines, Holly Stuart Designs.
9452 NC Highway 105 South
Banner Elk, NC
Blowing Rock’s Main Street
With too many stores and restaurants to mention, Main Street in Blowing Rock offers something for everyone…antiques, linens, ladies’ clothing, rugs, art, furniture and more. We like to go early and end with lunch at the Storie Street Grille (photo below). Don’t miss the fried green tomato sandwich with sweet potato fries!
Mast General Store and Candy Barrel—Valle Crucis
We’ve been going to the Mast General Store in beautiful “valley of the cross” for over 25 years. We just can’t resist! We don’t need a cast iron skillet or a bottled Coke and Moon Pie. We certainly don’t need the candy we load up by the handful from the big barrels. I think what we do need is that step back into a place that has not changed much since its humble beginnings in 1897.
3565 Highway 194 South
Sugar Grove, NC
Spruce Pine, Burnsville and Toe River
These adjacent communities are home to some of the area’s most talented and creative artisans…pottery, glass, paint, wood, textiles. These works of art will ultimately find their way to museums and top galleries all over the country. Before they do, though, you can buy them right off the shelves. For years our family has enjoyed coffee cups, pitchers and platters from Stanley Anderson, a perennial favorite of many. It can be a little tricky finding a few of these spots—you must meander a bit, but it’s all part of the adventure.
Spruce Pine Potters Market
31 Cross Street
Spruce Pine, NC
A couple other places not-to-miss:
All Saints Episcopal Church
I know…maybe you don’t think church when on vacation, but All Saints Episcopal is a place that will capture your heart. Located behind the Eseeola Lodge, this historic church was also designed by Henry Bacon. Bacon, from Wilmington, NC, emerged as one of the country’s most celebrated architects. (You might know him best as the architect for the Lincoln Memorial.) During the summer season, All Saints invites Episcopal clergy from around the country to lead services in this beautiful, historic church with windows open for the mountain breezes. All are welcome—you can’t miss the Spirit that inhabits this sacred place.
Penland School of Crafts (photo below)
Penland is a school and gallery, a place where artists teach, live in community and share their talent with each other and all who visit. I am always inspired to walk through the space where the artists work and to see the many expressions of talent.
67 Doras Trail
A native of Hartsville, SC, Claudia Heath grew up visiting her family’s summer home in Blowing Rock. She spent countless hours damning creeks, making forts and picnicking. She and her husband, Andy, purchased a home of their own 20 years ago, and the traditions have carried forth with the couple’s three daughters. Claudia owns and operates Claudia Heath Fine Art in Charlotte. The gallery, established in 1993, specializes in late 19th and 20th century American paintings, along with works by a select group of contemporary American artists.
Casual, good fare and always a lively crowd. The menu changes seasonally. Try the pizzas from their wood-burning oven.
143 Wonderland Trail
Blowing Rock, NC
Visit Rustique for “modern American cuisine inspired by Southern mountain fare.” Order the watermelon and tomato salad. In a word—divine!
349 Sunset Drive
Blowing Rock, NC
Of course, my favorite place to stay is my own house—you just can’t beat the view! (photo below)
Westglow Resort and Spa
This lovely inn and spa is housed in the former home of Elliot Daingerfield, North Carolina’s most well known painter of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An all-inclusive spa resort, Westglow combines the amenities of a luxury spa with a holistic approach to health and wellness. Their restaurant, Rowland’s, is very good.
224 Westglow Circle
Blowing Rock, NC
Gideon Ridge Inn (photo below)
Gideon Ridge provides intimate dining and lodging in the mountains. Ten luxurious guest rooms and a fine dining restaurant located two miles from downtown Blowing Rock.
202 Gideon Ridge Road
Blowing Rock, NC
Mother Nature’s Produce
Located on the Highway 321 Bypass, Mother Nature’s carries a broad selection of take-away casseroles, cakes and pies. Makes it easy to throw together a quick and casual dinner party. As an added bonus, the owner recently opened a consignment shop across the hall.
Highway 321 Bypass
Blowing Rock, NC
Our favorite hike is to pack sandwiches and head up the Nuwati Trail to Storyteller’s Rock where you can enjoy spectacular views of Calloway Peak. (Nuwati translates to “medicine” in Cherokee.) Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile 299.9. Parking is available at the Boone Fork Parking Area.