See & Do
Botanical Gardens at Asheville
Along the garden’s trails are more than 600 species of native plants and varied wildlife habitats, plus meadows for rest or play (you might bring a disc or a ball), creeks strewn with boulders just right for picnics, rock walls and an old breezeway cabin. 151 W.T. Weaver Blvd., Asheville. 828-252-5190, nando.com/bga.
Carrier Park Velodrome, Asheville
This third-of-a-mile bicycle track, also called the Mellowdrome, once was a NASCAR venue. It now hosts all manner of cyclists. In the old infield are a roller hockey rink, a basketball court, volleyball courts and a large playground. Outside the track is a pedestrian/bike trail that wends along the French Broad River, plus a picnic pavilion, a lawn bowling court, boat landings and river overlooks. 500 Amboy Road, Asheville. 828-251-4024, nando.com/velo.
Historic Nu Wray Inn, Burnsville
The three-story building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is steeped in more than 180 years of lore. As you wander the creaky wooden floors, you’ll be following in the footsteps of President Jimmy Carter, singer Elvis Presley, actor Christopher Reeve and authors Mark Twain and Thomas Wolfe. Besides a pastoral garden, the Nu Wray’s charms include an extraordinarily long front porch equipped with an army of rocking chairs. 102 Town Square, Burnsville. 828-682-2329, www.nuwrayinn.com.
Two things define this tiny town, which is tucked into a valley beside the French Broad River. The springs that it’s named for, and the Appalachian Trail, which passes right through the heart of town, with the distinctive AT trail markers molded right into the sidewalk and painted on the roads. There is a handful of restaurants, all of them unpretentious, as is the Hot Springs Resort and Spa, where an hour in your own private tub overlooking a creek can cost as little as $15. 315 Bridge St., Hot Springs. 828-622-7676, www.nchotsprings.com.
Penland School of Crafts
The Penland School of Crafts is perhaps the soul of a region that sometimes seems awash in arts and crafts, and it’s also an unusual opportunity for regular folk to marinate in artist colony life. The school aims to create a sense of community, even for short-term visitors. Some workshops last a week, others longer. The disciplines include book and paper making, clay work, drawing and painting, glass work, iron work, metals, photography, print and letterpress, textiles and wood. 67 Doras Trail, Penland. 828-765-2359, www.penland.org.
Pisgah Loop Scenic Byway
The 47-mile Pisgah Loop Scenic Byway encircles mountain landscapes, military history and a hypnotic natural mystery that has gone unsolved for centuries. Near Milepost 20 is the Brown Mountain Overlook, packed on clear summer nights with crowds hoping to glimpse the Brown Mountain Lights – which seem to float and flicker in the woods or above the mountain ridgeline. Are they gases or ghosts? The drive skirts the Blue Ridge Parkway and connects Linville Falls on the north with Lake James State Park on the south.
Browse & Shop
Akira Satake Ceramics, Asheville
Akira Satake says his pottery expresses “beauty in imperfection,” and sure enough, you’ll see much of life in his graceful asymmetry. But try his wife’s pastries and enjoy an impromptu banjo session, and you may decide there’s nothing imperfect about this modest stop in the River Arts District. The couple’s 20-year partnership in life is symbolized on the counter: tasty samples of her work, elegantly arranged on samples of his. 122 Riverside Drive, Studio C, Asheville. 828-275-7612, nando.com/akira or nando.com/yuzu.
Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, Asheville
You can get lost in this two-level maze of shelves, which hold thousands of books with a specialty in regional history. But the labyrinth opens to reveal surprises – champagne, coffee and dessert bars; airy seating areas of leather and deep cushions; and glass cases full of first editions worth hundreds of dollars. Dogs are welcome, too. 1 Page Ave. #101, Asheville. 828-252-0020, nando.com/battery.
Eat & Drink
Biscuit Head, Asheville
Where the motto is “Put Some South in Your Mouth,” you can expect homemade biscuits, gravies, jams, marmalades, hot sauces and egg dishes for breakfast and lunch. From sweet potato coconut gravy to Sriracha maple sausage, the menu is dazzlingly creative. If you can’t decide on a gravy, order a flight of three samples, or get the “gravy of the day.” 733 Haywood Road, Asheville. 828-333-5145, nando.com/biscuit.
Jack Frost Dairy Bar, Marion
The cones, sundaes, banana splits, parfaits and floats are little changed in the 60 years since the Burgin family got into the business. All their flavors, from chocolate to rocky road, are blended by hand in small containers, just as they did in 1954. The dairy bar often draws a line on summer afternoons. 2449 Sugar Hill Road, Marion. 828-652-1178, www.jackfrostdairybar.com.
Laughing Seed Cafe, Asheville
This vegetarian restaurant distills much that is distinctive about modern Asheville’s charms and quirks to a single place. The food has an international turn, with influences on standing menu items that include Vietnamese, Thai, Cuban, Indian, Pakistani, French, Mexican and Jewish. 40 Wall St, Asheville. 828-252-3445, laughingseed.jackofthewood.com.
Tucked in an old brick building on a side street between the Asheville Arts Museum and the Fine Arts Theatre, chef Hugo Ramirez has fused the cuisine of his native Mexico City with his training in French-influenced California cooking. The results are dishes such as slow-braised short ribs flavored with Rioja wine, or seared sea scallops with stone-ground grits, wild mushrooms and mango salsa. 13 Eagle St., Asheville. 828-252-2327, nando.com/limones.
One World Brewing, Asheville
In a city full of brewpubs, this is a “small-batch, hand-craft nano-brewery,” but from small things big things come – including lots of varieties. OWB is into sustainability and community, with a mission to get people together to address society’s issues over a tasty brew. 10 Patton Ave., Asheville. 828-785-5580, nando.com/owb.