I ventured to many different stores, restaurants, bars, and attractions when I was in North Carolina. Though I touched upon each of them in the previous North Carolina blog, I’d liked to review them more in depth. In chronological order of when I stopped in, here are my favorite places places I visited in North Carolina:
- Sweet Peas Hostel: I’ve only ever stayed in one other hostel up to this point, and that was in Dublin, where I stayed in a shared room with bunk beds. This time I opted for a private room in a hostel that my lovely friend spoke very highly of. The location was perfect for me, because it is right in the middle of Downtown Asheville. My private room was small, but had everything I needed really: a bed, sink, coat rack, chair, and table. The bathrooms were shared, separated by sex, and the showers were in the same area. All the facilities were clean and brightly lit. There was also a laundry room, a large shared kitchen, and a common area with comfy seating arrangements, a TV and a library with assorted books and movies. My only issue with Sweet Peas is that it rests on top of Lexington Avenue Brewery, which makes for some noisy, late evenings. However, the hostel graciously provides ear plugs for those who need them. Overall, I had a great stay here; it was cozy and welcoming. ($60/night for the private room)
- Lexington Avenue Brewery: It took my road weary brain a couple tries to find LAB, but I was thrilled when I finally made it to the right place! I loved the atmosphere in this bar. I walked in, and they were in the midst of their trivia night. I took a seat at the bar to read and enjoy a good beer. The beer was delicious (1st Gear Ale) and the crowd was lively. I also loved their music choices, which were as erratic as my music tastes. I didn’t get anything to eat here, however they did have an excellent selection of craft beers and the meals that I observed coming out of the nearby kitchen looked very appetizing.
- Early Girl Eatery: I had my first NC breakfast here because I had read so many good things about it. After a short wait, the host showed me into their sun-filled dining room. Everything at Early Girl Eatery is made from scratch and mostly from local sources. I do not eat eggs (which unfortunately makes me an inadequate breakfast-reviewer), so I chose to have the biscuits and herb gravy and bacon. I know I’ve already said this, but it was seriously the best bacon I’ve ever had. I would drive the ten hours back to Asheville just for that bacon.
- The Biltmore Estate: Absolutely beautiful. If you have the time and the funds to visit, do it. The property is huge, so you do need to drive through it, though they have shuttles from certain parking lots to the mansion. The audio tour through the house is a nice addition, but not really necessary; the booklet has plenty of information on each room and goes in the same order as the tour. In total, the tour took about an hour, and I spent another hour walking through the gardens outside the house. The gardens are definitely worth the walk around, they are gorgeous. All of the food and beverage outlets throughout the property are pretty pricey, so I opted out of eating lunch there. Antler Village and the farm are also worth a look. The day time ticket comes with free wine tasting, which is good because I did not want to spring for a full glass! I wish I had more time to partake in some of their outdoor activities, particularly kayaking, but overall I had a marvelous time exploring the Biltmore Estate. ($60/day pass)
- aSHEville Museum: I knew I would like this place as soon as I walked in. The front portion of aSHEville is a shop full of colorful, locally made and fair-trade goods, from jewelry, to ceramics, to clothing. The museum admission is a recommended contribution (between $5 and $15) to its mission, which is fair enough. The exhibits all feature achievements or life stories from women around the world. My favorite was the exhibit showing sexism in advertising through the decades (“don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer!”). It’s an educational and interactive experience.
- Battery Park Book Exchange: This café/bookstore is everything I need in life. Champagne and literature?? Yes. I’m in. I spent a few hours browsing, drinking and reading in the cozy atmosphere of the Book Exchange. The staff were wonderful, and helpfully allowed me to put my lightly-used-but-new-to-me Ernest Hemingway novel on my bar tab. I could literally spend a blissful rainy day just sitting in this café and reading. The Battery Park Book Exchange is a must visit for any bibliophiles passing through North Carolina.
- Bouchon: French comfort food indeed! This restaurant and the creperie next door by the same name ooze Parisian ambiance. I sat at the only seat open, which was at the bar. As that’s my preferred seat when I’m eating alone anyways, I was happy as a clam. Or a mussel…which is what I ordered. It turns out that I don’t actually like mussels, which was my mistake. I did, however, enjoy the French fries that came with it. The bartender was wonderful and helpful in giving tips on where to go. Despite my poor choice in order (based solely on my personal preferences, I’m sure people who actually like mussels would love these ones), I really loved spending time in this adorable homage to French food.
- Thirsty Monk: I wandered into the Thirsty Monk after dinner one night. I wanted to go upstairs to drink on their terrace (The Top of The Monk), however you have to sign up for membership there or something to enjoy this cocktail lounge. It seemed too complicated, so I went back downstairs to the main floor for a beer. The bartender welcomed me with open taps and suggested a delicious local brew. The atmosphere was jolly in the Thirsty Monk, I nursed my beer and people watched before wandering back to the hostel.
- Tupelo Honey Café: When I decided to travel to Asheville, anyone I talked to who had been there before told me that I absolutely needed to have breakfast at Tupelo Honey Café. It was so hyped up that I was afraid I would be disappointed when I finally tried it…but I wasn’t. Their flagship restaurant is located right in downtown Asheville, within walking distance from Sweet Peas Hostel, where I was staying. I sat outside in the shade of their cute, covered porch and enjoyed a delicious meal of cheesy grits, bacon and a biscuit. The food was very tasty, and that combined with the atmosphere out on the porch made for a perfect morning.
- Chimney Rock State Park/Village: Chimney Rock is a beautiful place to spend a day. The state park has a $15 admission fee, and features quite a few gorgeous hikes, ranging in difficulty. I hiked to the top of Chimney Rock to admire the stunning view, and then to Hickory Nut Falls, which was equally as stunning. The park was so well maintained and everybody that worked there were happy to help with trail suggestions or directions. The village at the bottom of the drive leading into the park is also a treat. There are many restaurants to choose from and little shops to stop into.
- White Horse Black Mountain: I adored this bar, and to be honest, a big part of the reason I loved it so much was the owner. He was so kind and willing to answer any and all of my questions. Plus, White Horse has live music EVERY night. I was there on a Tuesday, which happened to be a free admission night. The live music started with an Irish Music jam sesh and then there was open mic night after. The crowd here was such a good mix of young and old, and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. I sat at the bar, but there were other seating choices, including couches and tables and chairs.
- Monte Vista Hotel: When I pulled into the parking lot of the Monte Vista, located in Black Mountain, North Carolina, I instantly knew that I would like staying there. The check in process was smooth, and I was walked directly to my room in the new wing of the hotel. The room was clean and gorgeous with dark wood floors and a huge bed as the main fixture. The room also featured a huge, walk in closet and a nice bathroom with a tub. After I returned to the hotel after exploring that evening, I had a glass of wine from the hotel bar, enjoying it on their front porch. It seemed that a lot of the hotel guests were enjoying the common areas of the hotel, which is a tribute to the welcoming atmosphere. The next morning I had the complimentary, continental breakfast in the dining room. It was laid out very nicely and featured baked goods, dry cereal, fruit, yogurt, coffee, milk and juice. All in all: a great place to spend the last night of my trip. ($145/night for a queen room)
Have you been to North Carolina? What was your favorite attraction you visited there?