We pulled up to the office of Wilson’s Riverfront RV Park in Asheville, confused. The office was attached to an old mechanic’s shop. The business was deserted and we couldn’t see a campground anywhere. Eric took the Jeep and eventually found sites around the corner. There was a sign by the camp host, but no one was there either. A couple walking by said, “Just pick whatever open site you like and you can pay later.”
Welcome to Asheville, where everyone is low-key and the scenery is unforgettable.
Oh, did I not mention the scenery? Once at our site, our backyard was the French Broad River. The backyard to our backyard was the Blue Ridge Mountains. The French Broad River Greenway ran straight through the campground, giving us a verdant route for walking along the river.
We had intended to stay for our regular two weeks. But it only took a day or so for us to double our time in Asheville, North Carolina.
We stayed in Asheville, NC from Aug. 5 to Sept. 2, 2017.
Things We Did in Asheville
The Asheville Visitor Center generously offered us tickets to the Gray Line Trolley Tour and we jumped at the opportunity. We had only arrived a few days before, so the tour was an excellent overview of Asheville, giving us ideas for places we wanted to return to and explore in-depth.
➡ Keep reading: “Enticing Introduction to Asheville, NC on City-wide Trolley Tour”
It’s an investment, but we couldn’t consider our time in Asheville complete without visiting the iconic Biltmore Estate. Everything you’ve heard is true; it’s wonderful. If we had a little more cash to spare, I would’ve sprung for an annual pass, so we could visit multiple times during our month in Asheville. I don’t think I could ever get tired of just spending time on the estate grounds.
Those of you with little ones, there’s a designated room in the basement for nursing, feeding, and diaper changing. You might feel like you stepped into a scene in Downton Abbey.
After touring the Biltmore House itself, we drove over to Antler Hill Village. If you’re a wino, definitely make time for Biltmore Estate Winery. Tastings are free and theoretically unlimited (as long as you’re standing up, I suppose). Don’t forget to leave a tip!
We purchased our tickets to Biltmore Estate at the visitor’s center, while we were there for the trolley tour.
1 Lodge St. – Website
Asheville Community Theatre
I’m surprised by how few locals were familiar with Asheville Community Theatre. Eric and I went there on a date to see “The Producers.” The cast was fabulous and the facility is newly renovated. It’s an intimate venue, so every seat is a good one. Highly recommend.
Fun fact: Charlton Heston and his wife, actress Lydia Clark, were artistic co-directors at the theatre in 1947.
35 E Walnut St. – Website
Our campground wasn’t far from West Asheville, so I was a frequent visitor. I love, love, love this neighborhood–full of coffee shops, good food, and cool local businesses. Our family enjoyed just walking up and down Haywood Road and wandering into wherever caught our attention. If you read down to our “Things We Ate” section, you’ll notice a lot of the places were in West Asheville.
For our six-year anniversary, Eric gave me a shopping spree to whatever clothing place I wanted. I decided to go to rec•i•proc•i•ty, a vintage/boho boutique in West Asheville. This was one of my first times buying new-to-me clothes since before I was pregnant, so I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
River Arts District and Jonas Gerard
Our campground was within walking distance of the River Arts District, home to an eclectic assortment of galleries and studios.
Our most memorable visit was to Jonas Gerard Fine Art, where visitors are allowed to touch all of the artwork. Caspian was mesmerized. We really enjoyed meeting the artist himself, who was really sweet with our little one.
Day Trip: Blue Ridge Parkway to Pisgah Inn
Before we arrived in Asheville, we were fortunate to connect with fellow fulltime RVer, Jerry Minchey. Jerry spends a good deal of the year in the Asheville area, so he’s well-acquainted with local treasures. He suggested we meet for breakfast at Pisgah Inn, which is up the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of Asheville.
If we didn’t have an RV, I would want to stay at this place. The inn room balconies look out on the expanse of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As the fog lifted at mid-morning, a magical coolness lingered in the air. Fortunately for us, anyone can eat at the restaurant and lounge in the rocking chairs behind it.
Reservations are not accepted. You may consider dining outside typical hours, in order to avoid long wait times and possibly get a seat right by the floor-to-ceiling windows.
408 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Canton, NC – Website
Day Trip Continued: Blue Ridge Parkway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Continuing up the Blue Ridge Parkway from Pisgah Inn, you can enter Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The distance to Oconaluftee Visitor Center is 40 miles, but it’ll take you more than an hour on the windy parkway. If you’re not in a rush, this is by far the most charming route to our country’s most popular national park.
After a gorgeous morning, the clouds rolled in. By the time we got to Great Smoky Mountains, visibility was dismal. We drove all the way up to Clingmans Dome, a favorite vista in the park. The parking sites were right on the cliffside. But instead of looking out on the mountains, we were looking straight into a bank of clouds. There wasn’t even a point to climbing up the dome.
In retrospect, I wish we had turned around on the parkway and waited for better weather on another day. Worn out from our drive, we took the most direct route back to Asheville.
1194 Newfound Gap Road, Cherokee, NC – Website
Day Trip to Brevard, NC
So many people told us to make a day trip to Brevard, less than an hour away from Asheville. It’s really a neat little place. We started by hiking down to Looking Glass Falls. I stopped for coffee and incredible fresh scones (still hot) at Bracken Mountain Bakery. We spent a lot of time in D.D.Bullwinkel’s Outdoors, an outdoor clothing and gear shop, and we had really good fish for lunch at The Falls Landing. In between, there were a ton of little shops to explore.
Our only regret was that we didn’t get to see any of the famous white squirrels. We looked for them, but they refused to make an appearance.
Side note: waterfalls are a huge thing in the Asheville area, and we did a poor job of visiting them. We’ll need to try harder next time we’re in the area.
Things We Ate in Asheville
Eric was diagnosed with diabetes less than a week before we arrived in Asheville. We were still reeling a bit, and learning what he should be eating on his keto diet. Because of this, we didn’t go out to eat much. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a few cool spots. I also made a point of visiting as many local coffee shops as I could.
- Champa – We stumbled into Champa because we were hungry. We enjoyed the Asian cuisine and pretty-without-being-ostentatious ambiance. We learned afterwards that our food was definitely not keto-friendly. Eric hasn’t had Chinese or Thai food since.
- TacoBilly – Small taco shop on Haywood that has an interesting menu (e.g. Mama’s Favorite: sausage, eggs, spinach, sweet potato, goat cheese on plantain tortilla). Being from Austin, we weren’t super impressed. But on the plus side, they source most of their ingredients locally.
- Papa’s & Beer (two locations) – Since Eric started keto, his eating out diet has consisted of Mexican food, barbecue, burgers, and hot wings. We eat a lot of Mexican food. We tried two locations of Papa’s & Beer while we were in Asheville, and enjoyed both visits.
- Farm Burger – We met our wonderful RV friends, Oscar and Liz Williams, for lunch at Farm Burger. Highly rated business, serving grassfed beef absent of antibiotics and growth hormones. The food was good enough, but we thought it was overpriced.
- Juicy Lucy’s Burger Bar – Juicy Lucy’s, on the other hand, left us really satisfied. The style is more kick-up-your-boots than the Portlandia atmosphere of Farm Burger. I had a solid cocktail, and my blue cheese burger with lettuce bun was crazy good.
- High Five – High Five was the first coffee shop I visited and worked remotely at in Asheville. I really liked sitting at the window-side bar looking out on the street. My vanilla latte got an A-plus, too.
- Biscuit Head – I had to do Biscuit Head without Eric because it’s all carbs, all day long. I enjoyed my fried chicken biscuit, though I think it shocked my system, considering I had been eating mostly keto for a few days. The standout was my maple bacon latte. Seriously, a slice of crispy bacon in a maple-flavored latte. There was hardly a time I drove past Biscuit Head in West Asheville without seeing a line out the door.
- Ultra Coffeebar – Honey lavender iced latte and a Magic Bar with coconut. Need I say more? This shop is located in the heart of the River Arts District. Caspian and I were able to walk there from the campground, though our route was slightly treacherous.
- Odd’s Cafe – I visited multiple coffee shops in Asheville, but Odd’s Cafe in West Asheville ended up being my very favorite. It was the perfect place to grab a coffee and park with my laptop. The employees are super friendly, too.
- Sovereign Remedies – You’ll feel like you landed in a New York City cocktail bar. I am 100% for swanky cocktail spots with skilled mixologists.
- Dobra Tea – From coffee to cocktails to tea. All of us absolutely loved Dobra Tea, also in West Asheville. The Bible-sized menu will make your eyes pop. We absolutely loved the green tea flight, which allowed us to taste subtle differences between leaves grown in different seasons of the year.
Can’t Say Enough About Asheville
Writing this article, I’m reminded of how much I loved being in Asheville. If we were ever going to settle down (not on our radar right now), I can see myself being happy here.
Like I mentioned, we stayed at Wilson’s Riverfront RV Park, which we absolutely loved. Thankful to Howard and Lauren Weliver of Nosh Bus for telling us about it. Don’t be put off by the gruffness of the owner (manager?) if you call to make a reservation. He’s a man of few words, but he runs a really cool campground.
It was a weird time for us, as our charming surroundings were occasionally overshadowed by Eric’s health concerns and ongoing issues with our RV. We were so happy when we connected with Mike of RV Trailer and Motorhome Repair, who was able to come out and fix our jacks and our front AC unit.
➡ Keep reading: “Annual Report: 2017 RV Repairs and Maintenance”
Friends also brightened our challenging month. In addition to meeting Jerry Minchey in person, we also got to meet up with Jen and Andrew Hogan of @mobilelocals. The family at Calvary Fellowship was also incredible. I think of them often and miss being there.
There are some towns where you “do everything” and you’re ready to go. Then there are the few places where you simply enjoy “being.” Asheville is one of the latter places for me.
I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to Asheville. There is so much to see and do in the Asheville area. You will have to come back again. And like you said, there are a lot of beautiful waterfalls to hike to. I enjoyed our breakfast at the Pisgah Inn.
Thank you, @jerryminchey:disqus! Your Asheville hospitality was wonderful. 🙂
Restaurant Bouchon is awesome. French bistro cuisine,
That does sound amazing, @disqus_H1R24rB8Gd:disqus. Do you remember what you ordered there?
Our home was in Asheville before we left to travel. Everyone always ask why we left. It’s a great place but I know there are other places, people, and experiences out there. Great write up on your time there!
That’s how we feel about Austin, our home base!