Adventures in Asheville!

Adventures in Asheville!

We recently took a week long family vacation to Asheville, North Carolina. This was our first time in Asheville but after an amazing week of adventures, it probably won't be our last time. 

Check out our adventures, thoughts, and recommendations - 
Where to Stay

I'm including our Air BNB rental as the first thing because this was a true gem that we found just a few minutes south of Asheville. Jan and Larry, our Air BNB hosts, were truly the best - made even better by their two sweet dogs, Toby and Greta. 

Cane Creek Valley is a recently renovated guest space which includes a private saltwater pool, hot tub, and gorgeous mountain views. Lots of little details were thought of by the hosts to make sure every guest has the best stay.  

young girl cartwheeling off diving board of blue inground pool with Blue Ridge Mountains in background
Lots of gymnastics happened off the diving board at our Air BNB
two young kids with black Cairn Terrier dog on driveway
The kids loved Toby - the sweetest host! He also looks exactly like our dog Ollie. Toby will come visit the guest quarters and my kids loved having a furry visitor. 

Where to Adventure 
When I start planning our family vacations, I do a basic 'what to do in Asheville...' google search and then open every single tab until I'm totally overwhelmed ;)  Then I slowly sort through them and start making us a list of actual viable adventure options. 

There was so much to do in Asheville - outdoor adventures, amazing breweries and restaurants, and of course a pretty famous mansion. 

Biltmore Estate - (Mike's favorite adventure) We spent our first full day in Asheville just touring some casual real estate. The Biltmore Estate is synonymous with Asheville and there's good reason. The entire experience is impressive, starting with the 15 minute drive up the winding driveway. Make sure to buy tickets online first to save a little bit of money. Give yourself lots of time to explore the grounds and shops. We enjoyed dinner at the Stable Restaurant where they have renovated the old stable into a unique dining experience. As a former equestrian, eating in a horse stall felt very natural. The chicken cobb salad was so good that my kids have requested I make it at home and we've named it Biltmore chicken salad. 

After lunch we toured the estate - each guest gets a handheld audio device to personally listen to the tour at their own pace. The kids tour is narrated by the notorious Vanderbilt St. Bernard - Cedric. All that walking through the house worked up our sweet tooth and we grabbed some ice cream from the dairy shop right next to the house - get the vanilla churn with cookie dough!

Tubing down the French Broad River - This was the closest I got to relaxing for 2 hours while vacationing with kids. We booked through Asheville Adventure Company and they were so great - so easy to book, just show up ready to float down the river. We packed some snacks and got the extra cooler tube so the kids could enjoy snacks as we floated. This section of the French Broad River has a nice, calm current, and everyone really enjoyed the views and sunshine from the water.

This river float will also be notoriously known in our family as the day I was bitten by a wild's a story for another day. 

Lake Lure - (Emerson's favorite adventure) As a fan of Dirty Dancing, I was so excited to visit the Lake where they filmed the famous water lift scene. Despite Mike not being willing to recreate the lift scene with me, Lake Lure is a true gem. This gorgeous lake cuts between the mountains for some breathtaking views. The beach area is easy to access and has a convenient check in building with changing rooms and lake day supplies for purchase. There is a fee for beach access and everything I read said to get there early because there's a 400 person capacity on the beach. We did get there around 10am and stayed until 2pm, it was busy but didn't reach capacity and there was a lot of space to enjoy the lake. 

The beach/swimming area of the lake has a splash pad and two racing water slides that dump you quickly into the shallow lake. Our kids must have ridden the slides 50 times, and those fast slides solidified Lake Lure as Emerson's favorite Asheville adventure. 

After you enjoy your day at Lake Lure, walk across the street to this little ice cream shack. It's the most unassuming roadside stand with the best mint chocolate chip ice cream I've ever had. 

image of lake lure near asheville lake in mountains
Lake Lure cutting through the mountain is too gorgeous to capture in a photo. 
water slides at Lake Lure near Asheville
The water slides were a kid favorite. If you zoom in on the second slide, you can see Emerson making a very graceful entrance into the water. 

Chimney Rock (Everett's favorite adventure) - After a great lake day, we stopped at nearby Chimney Rock and climbed what felt like 120 flights of stairs. Chimney Rock is very popular and the visit is easy to navigate by driving up a long driveway, paying a recreation fee, and then follow the signs. All of the trails and views are well marked and Everett proclaimed our trip as the best vacation ever while standing at the top of Chimney Rock. The views are worth every single step climbed. I also recommend the short hike to a gorgeous waterfall that was staffed with a park ranger who happily shared knowledge and showed my kids some water snakes. 

man and two young children standing on rocks with mountains and trees in background at Chimney Rock North Carolina
All smiles after a long climb up. 
view of elevation sign and town below at Chimney Rock North Carolina
The view was worth all the steps. 

Sliding Rock at Pisgah National Forest - Sliding Rock is so fun! That's the headline on this adventure. Parking at the site fills up quickly so plan to go early and on a weekday, I could imagine that it gets packed on a hot weekend. A 60 foot natural rock water slide cuts through the forest and people line up patiently to slide down and  plunge into VERY cold mountain water. This Explore Asheville site helped me to plan however the pricing information is outdated. Pricing for parking in the recreation area for Sliding Rock is now $5 per person in the car. I recommend wearing water shoes because the rocks get slippery. There are changing rooms right by the rock but no food permitted in the recreation area. 

photo of young girl plunging into mountain stream at Sliding Rock natural waterslide young boy plunging into mountain stream at Sliding Rock natural waterslide
Both kids loved the cold plunge down the natural rock water slide.

Hiking in Pisgah National Forest - After the cold plunge, we changed and drove a little bit to the Slick Rock trailhead for a hike. Slick Rock has a small waterfall by the roadside followed up a steep 2 mile trail up the mountain. It was very hot and humid for our hike and the highlight was seeing a rattlesnake (from a safe distance) when we got to the base of the mountainside. 

Downtown Asheville - Asheville is a wonderful city full of small businesses, breweries, great food, and public art displays. We found it so easy to find a place to park, and walk around to explore the town. We stumbled upon Kress Emporium which is a large marketplace of independent artist booths. Both of my kids got gorgeous prints by local artists, and I bought a handsewn, upcycled leather bag by The Inverse. I'm already planning another purchase from her because her work is so high quality and gorgeous. 

Where to Eat

Rocky's Hot Chicken - after a very long, rainy 7 hour drive we needed food and quickly. Rocky's Hot Chicken had great reviews and was along the way to our rental. Mike and I both had the classic Rocky Royale sandwich and it was delicious. The honey mild spice was the perfect kick with a touch of sweetness. 

Post 25 - Our Air BNB host recommended Post 25 as a great local restaurant. I really recommend this if you are near Fletcher (a neighborhood just outside of Asheville). Everyone ordered something very different - ribeye, salmon salad, cheeseburger, and fried shrimp and every single meal was delicious! 

12 Bones Smokehouse - If you google BBQ in Asheville, 12 Bones and a former presidents name will come up. So if it's good enough for President Obama then it's good enough for my family! And it was! Get the ribs, that's my official food advice - the ribs! And of course the sides are everything and they were all good - I got the cucumber salad and it was so fresh and added a nice vinegary contrast to the ribs.

Fun and Random Fact - this is the second President Obama approved restaurant that Mike and I have eaten at. We sat at the 'president's table' at Buzz's Steakhouse in Kailua a few years ago. 

Vortex Doughnuts - A friend recommended Vortex Doughnuts and I consider myself a true donut aficionado so I knew I had to try these. I woke up early on Friday morning to take a solo trip into the River Arts district of Asheville to grab donuts for the family and a vanilla oat milk latte for me. Vortex has so many flavors ranging from traditional to unique and available in cake or yeast style donut. Get the apple fritter, best apple fritter I've ever had! 

photo of six donuts in a box from Vortex Doughnuts Asheville
Get the apple fritter. I'm still dreaming about it.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge - We visited the chocolate lounge during a trip to downtown Asheville after I was influenced by targeted ads... I had been searching for Asheville information and then suddenly ads for the French Broad Chocolate Lounge were everywhere. Well the ads worked and I'm glad they did. We all enjoyed a different chocolate treat, from the photo below, you'll see that Everett enjoyed it the most. We also grabbed some sweet treats for our friends and family. Lots of unique flavors and gifts to choose from. 

young boy stuffing face with chocolate peanut butter cake while holding a fork at French Broad Chocolate Lounge
The fork in his other hand wasn't necessary. Chocolate peanut butter cake right to the face!

White Duck Taco - We had to try this taco shop because you could not speak to anyone in Asheville without them mentioning White Duck Taco. There are many locations around Asheville but we picked the River Arts District location on Riverside Dr so we could sit outside and enjoy a view of the French Broad River. I'm declaring the coconut lime margarita, chips and queso, and crispy chicken BLT taco to be last meal worthy... 

Tupelo Honey - I know there is now a Tupelo Honey in Pittsburgh but I wanted to try the original location in downtown Asheville. First, make reservations! Second, save room for the banana pudding. I am a serious banana pudding fan and the sweet treat at Tupelo Honey gave my beloved Magnolia Bakery banana pudding some competition. 

Extra - what to read...

Like a naïve person, I packed 3 books to read. 3 books? While vacationing with kids? Laughable. 

I only got through one book- Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It was a good, easy vacation read but not a must read recommendation from me. I liked the multi generational storyline but it drug on a bit long for me and lacked surprises along the way. 
Have you been to Asheville? What was your favorite adventure? 

Planning a trip to Asheville? Let me know if I can expand on any recommendations! 
selfie photo of woman in white tank top with family hiking ahead of her
Bonus Selfie - this was me, sweaty and wondering why I don't have an all-inclusive resort type family. 

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