Asheville, NC – Getaway
It was time for a surprise family vacation! Real Estate Dad lived in Western North Carolina in a prior life. He said he didn’t enjoy it at the time, but that he thinks he would have enjoyed it with me. I always heard great things about Asheville so I booked a trip and drove us there, and kept it a surprise until we were so close that all signs pointed us to Asheville and the cat was out of the bag.
Prior to leaving DC I had noted a bunch of kid-friendly things we could do but I really only booked a couple things. One was gem mining and another was a class for making hot chocolate bombs. The rest of the long 4 day weekend was up for grabs. I mean, kind of. I am still a bit Clark Griswaldie in that when I’m doing or learning something new, I like to dive in whole-hog.
We took advantage of the fact that the kids had a random Thursday, Friday and Monday off to get out of dodge. I added Wednesday to the trip and drove to Asheville that day. It took 7 hours and then some, by the time you add in stops. I booked us at the pet-friendly Biltmore Residences.
We arrived in time for dinner. We checked in, dropped our stuff and Annie and Ziggy, and went to Vinnie’s for dinner. It was awesome Italian food that did not disappoint. Their claim to be Brooklyn born seemed legit, as I generally find that authentic NY Italian food is tough to find, and easy to mess up.
Thursday morning, we had to do two conference calls with the girl’s teachers, because that was actually parent-teacher conference day. M’s teacher said, “Does she sometimes go off in her own world?” Real Estate Dad and I laughed. Hard. That girl loves her life.
Based on my list for options of what to do in Asheville, you would think I was ambitious. Based on what we actually accomplished, you would know that I was. After the teacher conference calls, we went to eat breakfast at the highly rated “Early Girl.” Peoples, I am going to say right here that I put one of the most delicious things in my mouth in that restaurant. Sorry to report you can’t get it all the time, it’s a seasonal special. Pumpkin Cornbread in a Skillet. It seems they put a bunch of butter and brown sugar in the skillet, then the bread batter, then serve it with another side of butter. Hello, the south, it’s been too long.” Real Estate Dad and I also had breakfast bowls with a bunch of stuff in them and I was full for the rest of the day.
We had a 2:00 appointment at Asheville’s Best Gem-Mining. When we arrived, Real Estate Dad decided to get the girls this huge $100 bucket. I legitimately cringed because, wtf Real Estate Dad, where are we going to fit more stuff in the house? But the girls loved it and the people working there love their jobs and explaining everything about the gems. Leia got a geode that we then cracked open to see the crystals inside. We left with two bags of gems, and a $25 credit to go back which of course, appealed to the Terzis in me. Win-win all around! Mental note made: We’ll be back to cash in our credit, Asheville’s Best Gem-Mine, we will be back.
From there, we decided to head down to Hendersonville to see RE Dad’s house he lived in from 95 – 2002. These were the seven years in his life right before we met in 2003. He lived in a historic house in downtown Hendersonville. He asked if we should knock on the door and I was like, “Yeahhhh!” because I’ve been hearing stories about this house for 18 years now. I wanted to see it in real life.
We parked and walked up. When the owner opened the door, he introduced himself and before he finished the sentence she said, “You used to live here!” She invited us in and we got to see the whole house. It was wild to see where he spent 7 years of his life, fixing up an old house that always needed fixing. After we left the house, we went into the little downtown area and got some pastries and snacks, then we headed to the car and back up to Asheville.
We headed back home and the adjustment to fresh mountain air was apparently too much for me and I slept right through dinner.
Friday we stayed closer to downtown. First, we tried to eat at Biscuit Head, but we went to two different locations and they both had lines. We also passed Sunny Point Café – line. This is one thing we noticed, almost every well-rated restaurant has lines. We grabbed a quick bite at the West End Bakery. They only have a few things on their menu, it sort of didn’t seem like a restaurant. It was more like a pop-up restaurant.
After we left the west side, we hit up the Antique Tobacco Barn and looked at tons of old antiques. I had to cut L off with her questions because it really is impossible to answer “what’s this” 100 times inside of an hour. I felt bad but I was like, “You have GOT to stop!” Then I said, “Oh look, there’s dad, wonder what he’s looking at” and meandered around to another shop. M says, “I see what you did there.” I said “what?” She said, “You sent her to dad.” Yup. And I have no shame M, now let’s RUN!! The Tobacco Barn is pet-friendly by the way. We saw quite a few doggies there!
They girls were sufficiently bored so we went downtown to the Pinball Museum. There was a wait, so we put our names in and wandered around downtown Asheville. We spent too much time in Rocket Fizz, the coolest old-time candy store with an unbelievable amount of soda. The girls got ice cream and hit the toy store, Curio, which is the cutest little toy store ever.
Then we got our call for the Pinball Museum and off we went! Not a museum so much as a one-price game room where you can play all the games you want. You can drink, you can play, and you can relive your 80’s youth in the backroom with Pac Man and 38 Special videos on TV. It felt good to not shove a bunch of quarters in a machine only to lose over and over. This was a highlight of our weekend. We were only there a few hours, but it was pretty fun, and I had totally forgotten how we used to cheat at pinball in the 70’s, and then I was reminded of this. The tilt!
When we left the Pinball Museum we were trying to figure out what to do for dinner. We made a few calls and got a reservation within the hour at Issa’s so we walked around, found a wine bar on Page Ave, and stopped in for a flight. The girls entertained themselves by making TikToks. When the time was up, (read: when the wine was gone) we went to eat. While I would never select a French Restaurant as a first or second, or third choice, Issa’s was yum. I inhaled my food. We spent a few seconds debating who the worst child is. Leia won by a landslide. Then she longingly started at the toy store from our table, and we headed back to the hotel. Not before we sang Leia a little song though.
Saturday we went to the Cherokee Indian Museum and Village. Three of us really wanted to go. One of us did not. Guess who? Hint: She won the “worst child” award the night before. M has a project and has to pick a Native American tribe on which to do a project. Our summer visit to the Museum of the American Indian was not going to suffice since it’s not really tribe-specific and also, as we found out, the Cherokee’s refused to donate to the museum thus, are not represented in the exhibits. Whoa. It always comes back to the cold hard cash.
The museum was really interesting but what sealed the deal was the tour through the Oconaluftee Village. That really gave us a great picture of what their daily life was like. When we asked the girls their favorite or most memorable part, M said, “That woman could be 6 & ½ feet tall,” and L said, “That you can polish a basket with rock.” We about fell out of our seats because they were both listening. I was not this good of a child, I found this kind of stuff boring. Not that they didn’t find it boring, I think they did after a while though M is a much better sport at these kinds of things than L is.
We had plans to hit a waterfall or two on the way back to Asheville but that was not in the cards for us because this idiot booked a Hot Chocolate Bomb class for the girls at 3:00. So we had to hustle back to Asheville to eat and get to the class. It’s not particularly worth mentioning since a) it wasn’t a well run store or class and b) the owner said she got bad reviews so she’s closing the shop and c) neither a nor b was a surprise to us. She forgot the hot chocolate so she sent Real Estate Dad to the store for it. And she wouldn’t lock the door so people kept coming in for ice cream and she couldn’t tell them no, yet, she was the only one there.
At the end of the class, she was jettisoning all her supplies in the store since she was closing up. We heard her telling people she worked full time at a bank and this was her night job, but I said to Real Estate Dad that this seems to be a trap people fall into a lot. They have a hobby they love, want to open a side business to do that hobby, but have no idea how to run a business or make money. It was sad to watch. I wasn’t sure why she was trying to give us so much stuff, but RE Dad wisely surmised she got a small business loan during covid that was probably forgiven so it didn’t matter. Well, the girls had fun and came home with a bunch of hot chocolate bombs and that’s what matters.
We went back to the hotel to feed the dogs and apparently, I fell asleep – sitting up, on the couch, and no one could wake me up. These vacations take a lot out of me. I woke up at 8 p.m., they had gotten some food from the grocery store so I headed out in search of some cheese and crackers. Here’s one weird thing about Asheville. Everything shuts down. Like, roll up the sidewalks, lights out, everything closed by 8 or 9:00. Unless you’re a bar. If you’re a bar or music venue, you’re open late. So again, I passed a bunch of places with lines out the door and some Jesus protestors (they were in favor of Jesus, not protesting him) and that’s all I could find at 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. Even McDonalds was closed.
Sunday we finally got to use our Gray Line Trolley Hop on Hop off tickets. Totally worth it to make sure we saw what we should have seen in Asheville. The ride from the Visitor Center to the 2nd stop – the Omni Grove Park Inn was pretty awesome. The guide was excellent at giving us a ton of house history which I loved, and talked about the famous and local celebrities who lived in various homes on the way to Grove Park. Then we hopped off and ate at the hotel with awesome views of the mountains. I told this couple they looked like “Joe and Jill Biden” and they seemed sort of horrified. Oops. Oh well.
We got back on and had a different guide, and he had this real twang and it was almost hard to understand even though I knew it was English. I was imitating it the rest of the day and while Real Estate Dad laughed, the girls did not find it funny. Guess I need a different audience.
We finished off the weekend the way it started. We took the ingrates back to gem mining because we’re suckers, and because I wasn’t going to let a $25 gift card slip through my Terzis-like-fingers. Then we went back to Vinnie’s for dinner. I ate way too much, and I would do it again.
On the way home we saw a crazy fast food restaurant called Pal’s, stopped for a photo opp at the Hungry Mother State Park, watched Leia sleep and Ziggy spy on us, and I finally get why they call them the Smoky Mountains!
Verdict: Asheville has some kid-friendly things to do, but it isn’t a place I would go with kids. It’s a weekend getaway, bachelor or bachelorette party weekend type of place. With great food and lots of history.