Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to carve out time on the calendar for a quick mid-winter getaway!
On the top of my list of weekend destinations is Asheville, North Carolina. Only 3.5 hours from Roswell, Asheville is a very accessible long weekend spot. Dubbed “The Paris of the South,” this town has plenty of things to do and a rich history to discover. Asheville began taking shape in 1880 when the railroad arrived. Around the same time, George Vanderbilt arrived in Asheville and purchased 120,000 acres to build what we all know now as The Biltmore House and Gardens. However, Asheville isn’t only known for its grand architecture and tourist attractions, it’s also got a great live music scene, microbreweries and farm-to-table restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and nature trails. Asheville’s got plenty to keep you busy during every season of the year.
If you’ve never visited Asheville before, you should consider visiting the Biltmore House and Biltmore Village. On my first visit to the Biltmore, I was skeptical that it’d be worth the steep price tag of $54 per person. Yet, it truly is a magnificent structure and tour! They have done a fantastic job keeping the house up and the tours are captivating and informative. That said, I’d recommend that you also make a second trip back to Asheville this Spring or Summer so that you can take in the breath-taking gardens during your chateau visit. For the rest of your wintertime trip, I’d recommend that you focus your attention on the food and the music. There are wonderful places to eat in Asheville (UrbanSpoon.com lists many of them) and the town has great music to be heard virtually every night. So, here’s my recommendation for 48 hours of food, music, and relaxation in Asheville, NC.
On my most recent trip two night trip, a few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to check out the Laughing Seed Cafe due to the great reviews and their “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” recognition. We are not vegetarians but we like food of all kinds and so we wanted to give it a whirl!
The Laughing Seed Cafe is located downtown on Wall Street. The Cafe serves as the perfect oasis to escape a blustry winter evening. The space is very open and has a bit of a tropical feel -- it’s immediately relaxing. As our first order of business, we ordered drinks. They have an eclectic beer, wine and spirits menu. I ordered one of their custom cocktails, the Fireflower Margarita. The ingredients listed include Rosangel hibiscus-infused reposado, Cointreau (that one I know), fresh lime and Buchi Fire. I didn’t know what most of that meant, but I went for it anyway after talking with the bar tender and I’m glad I did! It was not overly sweet and it had a peppery, spicy bite to it, which I loved. My advice is to have fun with their unique drink menu. Next up, we ordered the Jalapeño Onion Fries as and appetizer and all I can say about these is, "yum!" These fries are super tasty and great for jalapeño lovers. As for dinner, I ordered the Enchiladas Rojas which included black beans, squash and guacamole, among other things. It was tasty, fresh and went great with my fancy Margarita, but will not be terribly memorable. My husband, however, had The New South. This entree had a great presentation and it was as unique and tasty as any vegetarian dishes I’ve ever had (again, caveat, I am not a vegetarian). The dish includes a couple of breaded portabella caps, quinoa, black-eyed pea salad, grilled greens and a Tabasco aioli on top. If you like the veggies I just listed, give this dish a try as it was delicious and southern. That’s definitely what I’ll be ordering the next time!
After our bellies were full of french fries and vegetables (what a juxtaposition!), we headed over to Tressa’s Jazz and Blues club. Tressa’s has been around since 1997 and has a jazzy, eclectic feel inside. The night we went was open mic jazz for ladies (or something like that). The group that played first were at or around retirement age, but they really jammed out! The place was quite empty when we arrived, but people started rolling in to fill up the club by 9:30 p.m. This is certainly a fun place to listen to live jazz music so be sure to check it out!
Pay a visit to The Spa at the Grove Park Inn. The Grove Park Inn Spa is such a special treat that you should book your appointment now as spots fill up quickly. I’ve experienced the classic massage and it is extremely relaxing, as you’d expect. Most recently, I tried out the “Walk in the Clouds” pedicure. I was a little nervous about booking this because I wasn’t sure if it would feel “special” enough. However, it was amazing. It was 60 minutes of foot massaging, chair massaging, lavender eye pillow-wearing, champagne drinking and chocolate eating -- it was nirvana. Let me be clear, though, the Grove Park Inn Spa is a splurge. For two people, you’re going to spend at minimum $300 on two spa treatments (including tips). Their pricing is organized by day -- Inaugural Days (Mon. - Thurs.), Traditional Days (Friday and Sunday - guests save $10 off of Pinnacle Rates) and Pinnacle Days (Saturday - Peak Rates). So if you’re on a budget or just want to save, it’s always best to go during the week or on a Friday. That said, I find the spa there to be a worthwhile splurge. The people running this place pay attention to the small things -- every little detail is in place to make your visit completely perfect and better than you even expected it would be. And, as a guest of the Grove Park Inn Spa, you are able to take advantage of the numerous spa amenities all day long. So, after your treatment, you can enjoy the indoor pools, the waterfall jacuzzis, the eucalyptus rooms and the outdoor jacuzzi overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. This spa truly is a little slice of heaven! My husband and I really enjoyed our most recent visit and left feeling completely relaxed.
That evening, we headed out to try to eat at the Tupelo Honey Cafe because it has such good reviews online. It was a Friday night and when we arrived, the Cafe had an hour and a half wait! So, I guess if you’re going to go to this place, try it on a week day! Instead, we went next door to Mayfel’s. Mayfel’s has a nice atmosphere -- the decorations are eclectic and the menu has Louisiana and southern favorites such as Gumbo, fried green tomatoes and beignets for dessert. The food is fair to good, but not terribly memorable. We ate a friend green tomato sandwich (fair), tomato soup (delicious) and gumbo (not bad). Next on the agenda: Jack of the Wood for a full night of live music.
Jack of the Wood, a Celtic pub, is located right below The Laughing Seed Cafe. It is the home of local Green Man Brewing company and has some delicious brews including the Green Man Porter (my husband’s favorite). It’s a cozy place to sit, drink, dance and enjoy music all night long. The opening act the night that we were there was a group called The Get Downs. Their music is a unique and energetic fusion of many different genres. You can definitely hear the influence of rock, jazz, and ska. And I think I detected a little Led Zeppelin in there and if I am not mistaken, even a touch of Matchbox 20 in the vocal style. They are a group of four very talented young musicians and we were blown away by how passionate, fun and just plain good they were. We enjoyed every song and would be thrilled to see them again sometime soon! Maybe we could extend them an invitation to come play in Roswell!
Next up, The Fighting Jamesons. This group is an Irish band, and they have a great stage presence! They exhibited that level of engagement and showmanship that indicates that these guys are professionals. Their energy is infectious, their songs are catchy and fun; they had the whole place up stomping their feet, clapping their hands and the like until the floor boards were shaking! It was a great way to bring our 48 hours in Asheville to a close!
While you might not immediately think of heading to the Blue Ridge mountains in the wintertime, Asheville’s food and music scene offers a warm and welcoming distraction to the otherwise “ho-hum” months of January and February. And, because it’s the off season, you’re sure to snag some great deals on accommodations! And, while you’re at it, why not book a spa appointment to escape the winter’s cold days? You deserve it. :)