Hey all! I just got back from a quick trip to Colorado, where, along with Portland, the dream of the 90s is alive and well. However, I’m not going to talk about Colorado today! Instead, I’m (not so craftily) using it as a segue into talking about another great hippie town that I’m much more familiar with: Asheville, North Carolina.
So let’s get right into what I hope will be an ongoing series called — you guessed it — “Take me to hippie town.” Here’s how I’d spend a day (or two — it’s more than worth it) in Asheville.
Accommodations: My personal first choice is to stay at the Cedar Crest Inn, a candy pink Victorian house that was converted into a B&B. They have a variety of housing options depending on your crowd: two people can stay very comfortably in one of the standard rooms in the house (each has its own decorating scheme, which I think is a fun touch). If you have a larger group or you plan on cooking, they also have cottages with multiple rooms and a kitchen.
The inn is in the Biltmore Village and not Asheville proper (5 to 10 minutes away by car), so if you want to be within walking distance to town I recommend this really cute Airbnb option (as of February 27, the cost was $160/night). There’s also a nice Hotel Indigo right downtown — that way you can skip cooking altogether and take advantage of the impressive food scene.
Breakfast: And speaking of food! You may know by now that I’m pretty latte-obsessed, so that’s one of my main criteria for breakfast. High Five Coffee is arguably the best fancy coffee shop around: they make all sorts of hand-crafted drinks, and they serve breakfast sandwiches and such. Two other great options are Hole and Double D’s: Hole serves a rotating donut menu and a fine cup of plain coffee, while Double D’s is a coffee shop that’s less about the food (though they do have smoothies and some baked goods), and more about the fact that it’s housed in a double-decker bus!
Mid-morning: Time to walk around town! There are so many cute shops that you can’t really go wrong, but one place you don’t want to miss is Lexington Avenue. There are tons of funky boutiques and vintage clothing stores there, and at the corner of Lexington and Walnut Street there’s a massive antique market called Lexington Park Antiques. Plan to spend at least an hour there, if not more. Seriously.
Two other must-get-to shops are Malaprop’s and French Broad Chocolates. Malaprop’s is an adorable independent book store/coffee shop (it always comes back to coffee, I swear), and French Broad Chocolates is a confectionary that’s frequently written up in magazines. As a caveat: the lines can be so long that there are bouncers (?!?!) letting people in, but during the day the wait shouldn’t be too bad. My personal opinion: their sweets are tasty enough to merit up to a 15-minute wait; longer than that and I usually lose steam and threaten to just go buy caramels from the drug store.
Lunch: A hippie town deserves a hippie lunch, don’t you think? Dobra Tea is serves many many teas, of course, but they also have lighter vegetarian fare: hummus, pita, soup, etc. You can also get your tarot cards read at the same time, if you’re so inclined. If you’re in the mood for something heartier, Chai Pani reinvents classic Indian street foods in a sustainable, innovative way; it’s been written up in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and so on.
Afternoon: If you’re a history nerd (or just a really really big fan of Downton Abbey), you need to get your butt to the Biltmore Estate. The home was built for the Vanderbilt family and is about as close as you can get to a true castle in the U.S. There are awesome guided and self-guided tours, plus the grounds are absolutely lovely (and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the man behind Central Park in NYC). The onsite winery is also worth a trip: they offer complimentary tastings. (FYI, there are like 14 different wines to sample and they are poured with a heavy hand. Make sure you have a DD!)
If you’d rather treat yourself, check out the spa at the Grove Park Inn. The hotel is nestled in the mountains and is a historic site (thanks to its Arts and Crafts architecture), so the spa is particularly picturesque; however it is decidedly not cheap. More affordable ways to relax and enjoy nature include taking classes at the very well-reviewed Black Mountain Yoga, or simply driving/hiking in the many surrounding mountains. Pisgah National Forest is right nearby, and a bit farther off are the Great Smoky Mountains.
Dinner: One word: Posana. This seasonal/farm-to-table restaurant place has consistently wowed everyone I’ve ever gone to Asheville with. They have a lovely patio for summer evenings (in fact I’ve only eaten on the patio), though as a heads up, the corner it sits on is where a lot of free spirits congregate to busk and play drums — do with that knowledge what you will.
Drinks: Asheville is well known for its microbreweries, so there are tons of places to grab a pint and while away the evening. The Thirsty Monk has a huge selection of suds, and the menus vary between its two floors. However if you’d rather have a cocktail, the SkyBar offers a unique rooftop-esque setting (it’s actually more of a fire escape?) that’s perfect for watching the sunset. And lastly, music lovers should stop by the Grey Eagle: their acts cover everything from bluegrass to metal.
Well, that’s all for this hippie town (for now). Did I get enough bohemian things in there? Eek, I’m not sure! Well in that case, don’t forget the Asheville Raven and Crone metaphysical bookstore. Ok? Ok.