Thirty-six hours is never long enough to visit Asheville, but I often find myself stopping through on long drives back home to Michigan or short getaways to escape the beach and appease some of life’s primary interests: beards, bluegrass, the Blue Ridge Mountains and of course — beers.
Despite the direction you’re traveling or how long you’ve been driving, there’s just something about the smokey hue of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the pungent smell of hippies that can perk even the weariest traveler up.
And there’s no better time than your arrival in Asheville to enjoy a tasty meal and a strong craft brew to ease those road warrior jitters. While there is certainly no shortage of craft beers brewed in and around Asheville — Wicked Weed Brewing — a local brewery I discovered on my last trip to the city proved to be one of my favorites so far. The upstairs restaurant offers unique daily soups and an olive oil poached tuna, caper and pickled cucumber sandwich that will make you feel whole again after an unfullfilling gas station breakfast.
As far as the beer goes, they’ve got IPAs, sours, blondes, wits, red ales, pale ales and more ales than you ever knew existed. Being an IPA lover, I tried the Hop Burglar, Freak of Nature and Lupulin Lab IPA samplers. Needless to say, I left satisfied and a little wobbly.
It’s likely you’ll be heading out to another ridiculously tasty restaurant for dinner, so this is the perfect time to get out and explore the Blue Ridge Parkway. Don’t get me wrong — if you’ve got more than 24 hours, I’d never steer you away from shopping in downtown Asheville, indulging in the Brews Cruise, hiking at Mount Pisgah or visiting the Biltmore Estate, but the Blue Ridge Parkway is easy to access and offers hiking trails for all levels of athletes (including those who aren’t athletes at all). Check out these short hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway that are remarkably close to the city and still offer those sweeping Blue Ridge Mountain views.
Dinner at Chai Pani
Not your typical dinner restaurant — Chai Pani will leave you with a better understanding of just how diverse and delicious Asheville’s foodie scene can be. The name Chai Pani is actually a slang term used in India when heading out for a small bite to eat, a snack or tea. And that’s exactly what Chai Pani offers — the best Indian street foods you’ll find outside of India for prices that invite you back again and again.
An Evening of Bluegrass
Western North Carolina is known as the birthplace of bluegrass music, so whatever time of year and whichever night of the week you find yourself in Asheville, there’s likely someone picking a banjo nearby. Simply Pickin’ is a great online source for finding local venues to catch live bluegrass music in all different parts of the city from the Jack of the Wood pub downtown Asheville to Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain and the massive Civic Center.
Breakfast at Sunny Point
After a long night of craft beers and bluegrass music, you may wake up a little later than usual, and that’s OK, because Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville serves breakfast all day. Once you taste the huevos rancheros made with local chorizo, homemade salsa, free-range eggs and veggies and herbs picked from the garden behind the restaurant, you’ll understand why Good Morning America rated Sunny Point Cafe among the top four breakfast joints in the country.
If you’re not into a spicy breakfast, the organic cornmeal hot cakes with real Vermont maple syrup or “Build Your Own Biscuit” are sweeter options to give you the boost you need to fit in one more Asheville adventure before you leave.
LaZoom Bus Tours
If the thought of a bus tour makes you start nodding off to sleep, we probably have a few things in common. Fortunately, you can tell by looking at the eccentric purple and gold LaZoom tour bus that you’re not embarking on a typical city tour. “Get on the Purple Bus” for a 90-minute tour of Asheville featuring hilarious comedy skits, off-beat tour guides and so much entertainment you won’t even know you learned something.
The LaZoom bus runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in February and March, so schedule a tour before you hit the road, and you’ll leave with a better understanding of what makes this historic, adventurous and always eccentric mountain town tick.