I wound up in Asheville, North Carolina, by way of Italy. Sort of. Let me explain.
As a travel writer, I’m always watching for deals on cheap airfare, which is why I came to learn about relatively inexpensive flights to Italy in 2022. Once I saw that, I immediately reached out to a couple of friends to see if they were interested. My friend, Julie, was at first but ultimately decided it’s just not the right time for her to vacation outside the U.S. because of her young kiddos.
So, one night Julie and I decided to see what cheap domestic flights were available instead. (She’s the queen of finding cheap flights. I’m not quite sure how she does it.) Turns out, flights to Asheville were quite reasonable and we booked our tickets–although neither of us had actually heard of Asheville before.
I can assure you, Asheville is a place you’ll want to visit. Here are some tips on where to stay, play, and eat while you’re there.
Where to Stay in Asheville, NC
Having booked our flights, it was time to find a place to stay during our four night getaway. My travel writing experience means I am basically the queen of researching hotels, so I got to work finding us some options. We considered quite a few hotels.
The Omni Grove Park Inn looked fabulous with its onsite spa, but it was a little outside of our preferred price range. The Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park appealed to me for its somewhat quieter location a few miles outside the downtown area. Meanwhile, after reading reviews mentioning noise and bug bites (no thank you), I ruled out the Kimpton Hotel Arras. Of course, you can’t always know whether a bad review is legit, but we didn’t want to chance it.
Ultimately, we chose Aloft Asheville Downtown. Its proximity to restaurants and bars nearby was a big plus because we decided not to rent a car. Though mountain view rooms were available, we saved a few bucks and chose a regular room. It still afforded views of some smaller mountains as well as the downtown, so it wasn’t a bad view by any means.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Aloft was the adorable little dog staying there. (I’m pretty sure I exclaimed “puppy!” once we entered the funky lobby–and probably every time we walked by him). Turns out, that little dog was looking for his forever home through Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue. We really thought a couple was preparing to adopt him as we sat at the bar later that night, but unfortunately they didn’t. I hope he’s since found a loving home. He was such a good little dog!
Unique Things to Do in Asheville
We arrived in Asheville at night so our first glimpse of the city in the daytime was exciting. And when I ventured out of the room to the lobby in search of a much-needed cup of coffee, I was delighted to find a gorgeous view of the mountains as I waited for the elevators. There’s nothing quite like seeing mountains and realizing you have days of exploring a new city ahead of you.
We visited in January so the mornings in Asheville were pretty cool. Our first morning it was 28 degrees but we still sat outside in the sunshine, sipping mimosas from Café Bomba. We people watched and I’m sure people watched us–two crazy Minnesotans having a cold cocktail outside. We were the only ones brave enough to do it but damn, that sunshine felt amazing after weeks of winter in Minnesota!
Julie found us some unique activities to try out during our trip, including a foot spa. We looked at the menu prior to our trip and were both impressed by how reasonable the prices were. Then we proceeded to book the most expensive package available–but it was so worth it!
Then there was the Crocodile Wine store, tucked around the corner and down some steps from the main drag’s sidewalk. We may have been a little buzzed when we visited because the next morning when we strolled by, we couldn’t believe we ventured into a fairly unlit area of the downtown. Not our finest moment, but all turned out well.
Food & Drinks in Asheville
Because Julie and I both appreciate good wine and cocktails, we made sure to visit plenty of bars and restaurants. We made reservations at Strada’s rooftop bar but were told we couldn’t get in early. Naturally, we just assumed it was busy and there was no room until our reservation time. No problem for us–we decided on an early dinner and then figured we’d head upstairs to check out the view.
While perusing the food menu, we decided we were going to splurge on a bottle of wine. The $100 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon called to us until I spotted the $125 bottle. After all, at that price point, what’s another $25? (We may have had a few cocktails before this point.) The waiter brought it right over and had Julie sample it. She told him it was great so he poured us both a glass and walked away. I tasted mine and it burned all the way down–not exactly what you want in an expensive bottle of wine.
Julie goes to me, “I know! But I didn’t know what to do so I told him I liked it.” After a whispered debate (my mother-in-law and sister-in-law both have experience sending wine back–do we call them? do we tell the waiter? do we just shut up and drink up?), we decided to just suck it up and drink a shitty bottle of expensive wine. Word to the wise: That’s not the way to go. My research post-wine-debacle indicates you should let the waiter know you don’t like the wine and let them guide you on the options. They might taste it to make sure it isn’t corked, they might let you choose a different bottle, or they might not really do anything.
The food there wasn’t bad, though the service was a little odd. Our waiter was nice–though also a bit odd–but after dinner, we went up to the rooftop only to discover it was empty. We were the only two customers up there yet they wouldn’t allow us to enter before our reservation time. The view wasn’t much to speak of, so if you visit, don’t get too hung up on getting a seat in the rooftop area.
Asheville is Worth Visiting
We certainly made some memories in Asheville, North Carolina. What started off as a potential trip to Italy turned into a memorable visit to North Carolina instead. We did have quite the experience at an Italian restaurant and learned a thing or two about ordering expensive wine, though. Stay tuned for more about Asheville, including travel tips and insider knowledge about places to visit and the most unique cocktail experience.