Hi, friends! I am here with my first “Travel” post in a very long time (the very first of the series was day trip to Winston-Salem back in January). Like many of you, all of my vacation plans this year were cancelled due to COVID-19 (bye Portland, bye Virginia), and I have been staying home since mid-March. This weekend, I took a short trip to Asheville, NC with Alex, my mom, and my sister Jiyoung. We were there for about 24 hours, and I wanted to share my experience with you in this post, especially in light of COVID-19.
When I go to Asheville, I usually take off Friday or do a half day at work so I can go Friday and come back Sunday for a slightly long weekend. Because my mom is a small business owner and she was only able to take off Saturday, we only stayed in town for one night (Saturday going into Sunday). Though it was my mom’s first time in Asheville, the rest of us had been before so there was no pressure to see and do all the things, which was nice. My friend AJ was generous enough to gift us his Biltmore guest passes so our itinerary was centered around spending Saturday at Biltmore.
We stayed in this airbnb, and it was the cutest! We were booking pretty late, and there weren’t a ton of places left (since you know #asheville #fall) so we got really lucky with this one. It seems pretty new based on the number of reviews—our stay was great, and we’d totally come back to this one (I also want to decorate my house like this one).
SATURDAY – the drive and lunch before Biltmore
It takes about 3.5~4 hours to get to Asheville from Raleigh/Durham, so we made sure to leave by 8am-ish Saturday morning so we could make it to Asheville by lunchtime. Like the type A person I am, I did some research and came across The Döner inside Asheville Mall! I had Döner (Turkish kebab) for the first time last year in Portland, OR, and you don’t see a lot of Döner around here so we were excited to have found it much closer than Portland or Germany (where Alex had it for the first time). I was surprised at how many people were at the mall, but we got the food to go and ate in the parking lot.
Before heading over to Biltmore Estate for the rest of the day, we took a stroll around Downtown Asheville and did some shopping too! All of the businesses are requiring masks for entry, and I loved seeing creative signs! I hadn’t been to Element Tree Essentials before, and they have this candle that is also lotion?! We left with some of their soaps! A couple of the other stores we checked out were Charmed (my mom bought a dress for the warm weather we were having since she packed for fall weather) and Dolce Vita (Jiyoung got some cute earrings from here).
Y’all. Everyone who has been to Biltmore told me that it is one of those places you have to go at least once—I used to think “okay whatever”, but I’m going to have to echo those people. If you are not familiar, Biltmore Estate is American’s largest private home, built by George W. Vanderbilt II. I 100% recommend visiting Biltmore at least once! I do not think I can do this place justice so I’ll photo dump some of the million photos I took here:
When you visit, do plan to spend a whole day exploring the Estate since there is so much to do and so much to see! I highly recommend bringing water, especially if the weather is nice, since you’ll want to hydrate yourself. We were only there for the afternoon/evening and walked about 6 miles. Also included in your admission is wine tasting at the Winery, which you have to sign up for in person on the day of. Unfortunately, the only available times left were during our tour so we couldn’t do the tasting, but no worries—we left with bottles!
For the House Tour, you have to choose a specific time (you can be on the estate all day the day of the hour, beginning at 9am). To enter the building, you have to wear a mask over your nose and under your chin–they will issue two warnings and you will be removed after third violation. They limit the size of the bag (i.e. fanny pack/clutch) or you can bring a larger clear bag (I only brought my phone and lip balm). We were too cheap to get it, but audio guide is highly recommended for the house tour since it is self-guided. It took us about an hour to go through the house (some sections were closed off due to COVID and some sections require additional fees), but you would probably need to block off an hour and a half to two hours if you’re doing the tour with the audio.
We ended the day with a dinner at Village Social, right next to the Winery. Per recommendation, we made a reservation on OpenTable. Village Social has a good range of dishes (from my $16 chicken sandwich to Jiyoung’s $36 maple glazed salmon). We enjoyed everything we got (shrimp and grits and the pork chop), and found the food to be above-average good. They do require face coverings and all employees wore their masks over their nose, though I saw a few patrons whose faces were missing masks.
SUNDAY – brunch, Farmer’s market, and donuts
All of my Asheville trips end with a brunch on Sunday, and this was no exception. We went to Biscuit Head per usual, and of course, it didn’t disappoint! Last time I was here, we were waiting in the rain and one guy was like “is this worth it?” and everyone in the line said YES because it is. We got Biscuits & Gravy (with sausage), Pulled Pork Biscuit, Mimosa Fried Chicken Biscuit, and Fried Green Tomato Biscuit, and everything was SATISFYING. Of course, we got their S’mores latte and Maple Bacon latte because WHY NOT?! You can order online for to-go orders. They are not sitting people inside, but have added outdoor seating in the parking lot and the tables are actually well spaced out. We sat at one of those tables (you order at a table in front of the entrance door before you can claim a table) and felt safe.
Whenever possible, I love checking out local bookstore(s) and farmer’s markets. Since this trip was pretty short, we couldn’t make it to their Saturday market, but we made sure to stop by the WNC Farmer’s Market, which is comparable to NC State Farmer’s Market, just smaller. We love supporting/buying local and made a few purchases! We got jalapeño cornbread mix and tomatoes for our lunch/dinner this week. (My mom bought some beans though she has 200 pounds of 10 different kinds of beans at home lol.)
Before we hit the road, we got some donuts from Hole Doughnuts, which is another one of our favorite spots! They are not letting anyone inside, and you must place your order online. They have a table outside for touchless pickup! If you get a decent amount of donuts, they are coming out in pizza boxes–how fun! We got all four donut flavors–vanilla glaze, cinnamon sugar, toasted almond sesame cinnamon (my favorite), and gin, orange & fennel (flavor of the day).
Despite the trip being short (less than 24 hours!), we did so much! We introduced mom to a couple of our Asheville favorites, and did some new things (HELLO BILTMORE). COVID-19-wise, I felt pretty safe, but we kept our masks on at all times unless there was no one around. Walking in Downtown Asheville, there were groups of tourists not wearing masks or wearing them on their chins, but most of the businesses and vendors are being good with wearing masks and enforcing their mask policy. Be responsible and be smart, and I think you’ll be fine.
Hope this post is helpful for you if you are considering a trip to Asheville! Let me know if you have any questions (or if you want to see one of the many Christmas tree photos I took throughout Biltmore Estate lol)!