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Published: December 25th 2019
Asheville has been a city that has grown and had a reputation as a charming place to check out. I wanted to make a weekend trip there to see what the city was all about. The drive was very foggy and rainy on the way until about an hour away when the sun finally peaked out. There was a lot of cows as the drive continued to progress away from the bigger cities like Durham, Greensboro and Winston Salem. There was farms, cute little towns and forest all around. As you approach the city, there was some mountains in the fog with trees up on the hill. I drove through Pigsah National Forest and it was magnificent to look around and see all the trees all over.
I stayed at an Airbnb in East Asheville. You had to go up a very twisty road and the street where the house where I was staying was closed. I had to call up the hosts and they told me to go through the blocked road to the home, which thankfully was right next to the closed off road. I had found out that the bridge was getting worked on. It was a cute home with 3 dogs and very nice couple that lived there. I had my own room and bathroom in the house. I drove to the River Arts Walk District. I saw this "Keep Weird" slogan on a water tower. I saw a beautiful rainbow in the distance as I walked on the block. I parked a decent distance away near a train track. There was a lot of cool looking art on the buildings and art studios. I got coffee at Penny Cup Coffee. It was a decent cup of coffee. It was an interesting place to walk around and it is 1 long block of 50 different shops and art studios.
I went to White Duck Taco for lunch. It was a cool looking building to see on the outside with a bus that said "Beer Bus". It had a nice selection of tacos and sides. I was amazed that I arrived at 11:45 and a decent sized line had already formed. It opened at 11:30 to customers. There was a nice outside area to sit near the water though it was chilly. I decided to eat in the car since there was no tables to sit inside. I got beef bulogi, jerk chicken and fish tacos. The jerk chicken had a nice amount of heat with cabbage slaw. The fish had a chipotle spicy sauce that didn't overpower the fish. The beef bulogi had kimchi on the taco. It had mild heat and was probably my favorite. You can probably order 2-3 tacos and be full, though they are messy to eat so a knife and fork would be good.
I drove to the Biltmore and passed the remaining parts of the Riverside Walk. As you pull up to the Biltmore you pass over this huge overhang to see a lot of forest and little rivers. It was beautiful to drive on the grounds. There was a lot of security to check your tickets. I would recommend to buy your tickets ahead of time. The traffic did get backed up going in. I had a little extra time so I went to Antler Hill Village and Winery. You need enough time to see it all as the property is 8,000 acres. It was a lot higher but some of the land was sold to the government. It was approximately 2.5 miles from the entrance to Antler Village. I parked in the lot and saw wild horses on the property. I walked through the Village to go to the Biltmore Winery. It was all lit up inside the cave to go to the winery. There was a long wait of 25-35 minutes for a wine tasting, which was a big disappointment. I did try mulled wine and other samples in the gift shop. I walked in the village to see all the decorations and Christmas ornaments. It was cool to see it lit up and probably would have loved it more at night time.
There was a farm stand that had goats, chickens, roosters and geese that could be fed, I enjoyed that part of the Village. I realized that I didn't need as much time to walk through the Village unless you wanted to wait on long lines. This was one of the bigger disappointments. My favorite area was the Antler Hill barn. There was blacksmith and woodwork demonstrations. You got to see older farm equipment, grain chutes and even a person playing banjo. The shuttles run every 15-20 minutes to the House. You need at least 45 minutes to get from the Village to the house as you had to transfer halfway. It was fascinating to see the property and the size just was astonishing. The house was so impressive to pull up to with the sheer size. There was beautiful figures on the home, lion statues and a garden with huge canopy right off to the side of the home. There was more statues and looking out into the vast property to see rivers and mountains made it worth it. It was a very windy day outside walking around the home before the tour. You need to get the ticket online before the day of as the tour did sell out.
I did a self guided tour of the house. Different sites I saw on the tour was the following:
Old Fashioned organist, Dining room table, huge decorated Christmas trees, ceilings with amazing detail, breakfast room, salon, plants, library, old paintings, intimate detail in each room especially with the library with a gorgeous ceiling mural, huge dining room tables, red chairs and all lit up for Christmas, Vanderbilt bedroom, sitting room, 3 floors and stone corridor in basement with stunning detail on the rails going up and down the stairs, bowling alley, swimming pool, gym, vegetable pantry, servants bedroom and dining room, kitchens with various pots and pans, large gingerbread home and beautiful billiards room. It did cross my mind during the 1 hour walk through how much of this was here in the beginning and what was added at a larger time period.
I took the shuttle going back to Antler Village where I had parked and saw some sheep on the hill going back. I left the grounds and saw more cows on the side of the road. I went to Moose Cafe for dinner. There was a huge moose statue on the outside welcoming me in. It was a cute country looking restaurant near the Arboretum. I got the Biltmore sampler with country fried steak, buttermilk chicken, biscuit, cornbread, stone ground cheese grits, collards greens, as well as chicken and dumplings. It was a lot of food but so delicious. The biscuit was soft and pillowy with a delicious side of jam. All the food was delicious with a great comforting service and fair prices. I left by 6pm and it got insanely busy. I spoke to the waitress who told me that with the popularity of the Christmas Biltmore events and Arboretum the volume of people has got busier over the last few years. The Winter Lights Arboretum was sold out for the whole night and tried to go to an earlier show, but the option wasn't available unfortunately. I would totally recommend to buy the night time online ahead of time and have an idea what time is best to go to the show.
I had a lot of time to kill before the 8pm show so I drove 10 minutes away to Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville. It was a cute little shopping mall with a lot of shops. Unfortunately many of the shops inside the Arcade was closed, but the outside area on the streets many restaurants was busy and some shops was open to walk into. There was bakeries and bookstores to check out. The downtown area is a must see and very easy to walk around as it isn't ridiculously too large. I left to go to the Arboretum to try and park early at 7:15pm but wasn't allowed to do so. I was told to come closer to the designated time. I didn't realize what a big deal the parking was for the event. I drove around for a little and when I came back the guy didn't charge me the $14 parking to go in since he had felt bad with not allowing me to come in earlier.
The Winter Lights was stunning with lights all flickering, trees lit up, chandeliers hanging off trees and music all around. I got myself a hot chocolate and the weather was perfectly cool to walk around. I spent about 30 minutes there checking out the different displays. I headed back to the Airbnb to go to sleep since it was a long day. The bed was comfortable, great shower pressure and exquisite hosts. I went to Early Girl Eatery in downtown. It was a cute Southern looking restaurant. I got the porky breakfast bowl that had home fries, pulled pork, eggs, cheddar cheese all in a bacon gravy. The pork was soft with flavorful eggs and mouth watering gravy. The only minor thing that I thought was funny was the home fries was really wedges, but it was still delicious. I headed home enjoying my trip overall and hope to go back when it is warmer. It was a very charming mountainous drive on the trip back. I appreciated the drive a lot more since I was able to see all the forests, mountains and homes on the hill without the fog going in. There was gorgeous sunshine and no cloud in the sky. The city definitely is a must see and I was very happy I went at the time of the year that I did.
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