It’s bittersweet having friends and family across the country – I miss being able to see them whenever I want, but I love the excuse to plan a trip to visit, especially to places I’ve never been!
Shortly after we moved to Washington our good friends moved to North Carolina. They knew they wanted to be in the Asheville area and rented a place for a while so their kids could enroll in school and acclimate before building a lovely house in the Blue Ridge foothills.
We always catch up when we’re all back in Ohio for the holidays, and I always promise we’ll be out to see them but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to those plans the last couple years. So I was beyond thrilled when Brian mentioned he had a work conference in Charlotte – it was the perfect excuse for me to tag along so we could spend the weekend ahead of time in Asheville!
A weekend wasn’t nearly enough time to catch up with them, but we made the most of it. We ended up visiting a few spots that have been on our list as well as a few spots our friends recommended. If you’re looking for things to do and places to eat, drink and be merry in Asheville, here are a few we enjoyed!
Dale’s Wheels Through Time
One of Brian’s top picks for the trip was visiting the Dale’s Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum. While I’ve had my own motorcycle for more than 10 years, I have to admit that the bikes themselves don’t interest me nearly as much as riding them.
I got the impression this was going to be a small collection of one guy’s bikes and didn’t think we would be there long. Boy, was I wrong!
This museum is both legit and extensive – I was completely and pleasantly surprised, and I ended up really enjoying the experience. While most people who visit are interested in motorcycles or vehicles in general, there was so much historical information that being a motorcycle enthusiast is not a pre-requisite.
One of my favorite exhibit areas was about how the U.S. Army has used motorcycles, including during WWII. In addition to the bikes and iPads of information to read, there was archival video footage of troops learning to ride the bikes on these crazy courses.
Another area I really enjoyed focused on bikes with sidecars, which Brian and I want to own some day. Imagine my surprise to learn that one of the early sidecar manufacturers in the U.S. was based in Loudonville, Ohio!
Sidecar racing reached its peak in 1919 and 1920. The FLXIBLE sidecar company of Loudonville, OH offered special racing hacks, in which the sidecar wheel articulated with the motorcycle itself.
This 1919 features a 61ci single cam Harley factory racing engine and was raced at Wauseon in the 1/2 mile antique motorcycle race in 2012.Bike and information card pictured below
The museum is a short drive from Asheville through a beautiful stretch that runs along the mountains. After several hours at the museum, we grabbed lunch at Pop’s Butts on the Creek, a yummy Carolina BBQ joint with a fantastic seating area overlooking the water.
Almost everyone I know has visited the Biltmore Estate, and living so nearby, our friends have an annual membership so they can frequently enjoy the gardens and the creamery!
They were kind enough to extend us one of their guest discounts so we could spend Sunday morning touring the inside of the house, walking through a small portion of the gardens, and conducting a tasting at the winery before regrouping with them for lunch.
Given our limited time, we opted for the audio guide tour of George Vanderbilt’s 1895 chateau.
It came as no surprise that I loved the atrium and all of the library and reading rooms, but I was tickled to discover the swimming pool and room where they invited friends over to paint the walls!
The gardens were lovely but very warm and sunny. We walked through the walled garden and rose garden toward the conservatory but ended up looping back to our car. Our lack of sunscreen, sunglasses, and headwear did not bode well for our light complexions!
We ended up driving over to Antler Hill Village, the former home of the people who worked on the estate, to check out the winery. When we arrived at the estate that morning, I had booked our wine tasting timeslot and we enjoyed our flights of whites and reds before concluding our visit.
There were so many other things to do, including miles of trails around the gardens and grounds, and numerous shops and restaurants. We could have easily spent an entire day here!
New Belgium Brewery Tour
Sunday afternoon our friends made arrangements for their kiddos and told us they would meet us for a couple brewery visits. They had been on the New Belgium Brewery Tour before and thought we might want to enjoy that until they could meet up.
The timing was perfect – the skies let lose a downpour just as we pulled in! We waited out the worst of it in the car before scrambling inside and signing up for the next tour group. It turned out there were only 4 of us, and our guide was a New Belgium fanatic – he is obsessed with the company, detailed everything they do for their employees, and should be paid for his role as a brand ambassador!
The tour itself was pretty standard, although we were disappointed to discover they were undergoing some maintenance so several areas they usually take you were inaccessible during our visit. In happier news, we loved trying a few of their beers and sliding down the giant indoor slide – not sure the last time I went down one of those!
(Other) Things to Do in Asheville
A few other highlights from our trip:
- Walking the trails in the North Carolina Arboretum
- Wandering around the River Arts District
- Breakfast at Biscuit Head (their tagline is “put some south in your mouth!”)
- Lunch at Rosabees (amazing Hawaiian-inspired cuisine + my friend’s friend owns it!)
- Brews and food trucks at Highland Brewing
One final plug: If you’re planning a visit, I know some very friendly people with a privately accessible and amazing AirBnB in the Blue Ridge foothills about a 10-minute drive from downtown Asheville. It’s not always listed so send me a note if you’re interested, and have fun exploring!