Quick Summer Getaway to Asheville
One of the things that made me most excited about moving to Athens was how close we would be to North Carolina. I was born in Winston-Salem and spent many of my childhood summers visiting my father there so it will always hold a special place in my heart. Once I read about the flourishing plant-based food scene and awesome hiking in Asheville, I knew it wouldn’t be long before we took a road trip for a quick getaway.
Because Brandon works in academia, we took advantage of his summer flexibility and stayed during the week to avoid crowds and save money on lodging. A few of the hikes were still pretty busy, even on a weekday, but overall it worked out well. Even though it was a short trip, we fell in love with Asheville and already have plans to go back in the fall to see the leaves change colors.
WHERE WE STAYED
The Windsor Hotel. If you want a super clean and cozy place to stay in the heart of downtown Asheville then this is your place. The building dates back to 1907 and was historically renovated by the Windsor in 2013. The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated with ridiculously comfortable beds. Seriously, I slept so well that I had to ask them the brand and it turns out they’re locally made and organic.
If you can find a good deal I would recommend staying here for a first time visit, as it’s very convenient to explore the downtown area and walk to virtually everything. Otherwise there are some adorable Airbnbs throughout the city; I just couldn’t find any that I liked that allowed dogs.
WHERE WE ATE
Vortex Doughnuts. This modern doughnut shop opened in 2014 and prides themselves on supporting local and regional suppliers including 1000 Faces Coffee which is roasted right here in Athens. They have a wide variety of creative flavors, including several vegan options. My favorite was the classic glaze!
Green Sage Cafe. I love this place. It’s not vegetarian or vegan, but they are committed to providing wholesome responsibly sourced foods for every kind of diet. We ate here for breakfast and lunch, and both times we were left with full and satisfied bellies. You can tell the ingredients are super fresh and thoughtfully prepared. I wish they would open a location in Athens.
Over Easy Cafe. This adorable farm-to-table restaurant is located just a few doors down from the Windsor Hotel. They pride themselves on sourcing locally and the presentation of the food is just gorgeous. The porridge sounds simple but it’s phenomenal, as is the ginger spice pancakes and seasonal hash bowl, both of which can be made vegan.
Rosetta’s Kitchen & Buchi Bar. Open all day and night, this is a great spot to take in a late lunch with cold kombucha after a long hike. Everything here is 100% plant-based and incredibly tasty. The tempalo wings with ranch are a must!
The Hop Ice Cream Cafe. A locally owned ice cream shop that offers regular and dairy-free ice cream and sorbet. You can also bring your pup along for a special dog-friendly treat!
Sunny Point Cafe. Voted the best brunch in Asheville, this quaint cafe serves what they call “upscale comfort food”. The vegan options aren’t quite as photogenic as their standard fare, but they were still delicious and filling. We especially enjoyed the beautiful dog friendly patio!
Plant. I was most excited to try this restaurant I’m happy to say that it did not disappoint. Every course is artfully prepared with flavors that highlight how diverse and appetizing plant-based food truly is. Everything we had was mouth watering, especially the peanut butter fudge cake which I wasn’t able to get a decent picture of because the sun had already set. Plan for an elegant (while still somewhat casual) dinner here and get ready to savor every bite!
Chai Pani. Another gem in the heart of downtown, Chai Pani serves up a creative spin on authentic Indian Street Food. The okra fries and vegetable uttapam are excellent.
Bean Vegan Cuisine. Originating in Charlotte, Bean opened their second restaurant in Asheville in 2015. The menu is pure southern comfort featuring foods like fried pickles and pulled BBQ sandwiches. Brandon loved his Reuben sandwich but I wasn’t thrilled with my burger which I think is due to the Daiya cheese. It’s just…gross. Next time I would get it sans cheese.
Laughing Seed Cafe. This was the first vegetarian restaurant in Asheville and it’s been around for over 20 years so they must be doing something right. We had a very late brunch here on the first day and there was almost an hour wait so I would recommend going a little earlier if it’s for brunch. The whole wheat sweet buns with vanilla-orange glaze are fantastic.
French Broad Chocolates. If you’re a chocolate lover then a visit here is a must. We went around 9:00pm on a weeknight and there was a line out the door, some of which were locals. We got the sipping chocolate and olive oil cake, and both were scrumptious. Lucy got nothing.
Places we plan to try on our next trip:
- Nine Mile. Delicious caribbean-themed fare.
- Dobra Tea Room. An organic tea house with vegetarian and vegan treats. Yes please!
- Biscuit Head. A local favorite that just started serving vegan/GF biscuits with creative gravy options like sweet potato coconut curry.
- Elements Real Food Cafe. Light and healthy plant-based eats like smoothies and salads.
- Blue Dream Curry House. Serves international curries from around the world.
- Asheville Brewing Company. Local beer and pizza, duh.
- Roman’s. A popular deli with veggie sandwiches, burgers and soups.
- King Daddys Chicken & Waffles. Another southern restaurant with a vegan/GF option. Asheville, youda best.
- OWL Bakery. Recommended by East Fork Pottery (stop in the downtown location for some gorgeous dinnerware), not sure what their vegan selection looks like.
- High Five Coffee. Highly rated local coffee.
WHAT WE DID
Chimney Rock State Park. Located about 30-minutes southeast of Asheville, this park is known for it’s 315-foot spire overlooking Lake Lure. The park requires $15 per person to enter and offers several activities like hiking and interactive areas for children. To get to the top of Chimney Rock you can either take an elevator (which was out of service when we were there) or walk up 500+ stairs. FYI- if you have a dog you have to take the stairs. Lucy got a free ride thanks to Brandon.
Omni Grove Park Inn. This historic hotel has one of the best views in all of Asheville. There’s a parking lot for visiting guests that’s free if you stay for less than 3 hours. Just enough time to grab a cold glass of sangria and appreciate the view from the patio. Also, their spa is supposed to be other worldly but I didn’t get a chance to check it out.
Three Falls Hikes in DuPont State Forest. One of the most popular hikes in the area, this relatively easy 4.5-mile round trip hike takes you past three stunning waterfalls: High Falls, Triple Falls, and Hooker Falls. The last one has nice pool for swimming in the summer but be prepared for it to be crowded. Also the water is ice cold!
Harper Creek Falls Hike. Brandon and I both agreed that this was our favorite hike because it felt more remote and less trafficked than Triple Falls. That said, to get down to the falls requires navigating a steep cliff so it might not be ideal for really small children or elderly folks. But if you’re able to make it down there you’ll be treated to a huge (and deep!) swimming pool with a stunning back drop. I wasn’t able to go in past my thighs because it was so cold but the water was sure was beautiful.
We were hoping to take Lucy for her first swim but she gets cold really easy and I didn’t want to traumatize her so I just dipped dipped her belly in. ;)
If you’ve been to Asheville and have any recommendations for our return trip, please let me know!