So far in our Asheville series we have talked about some amazing places to chow down on brunch or hang out and grab a pint, and while these are vitally important aspects of enjoying a weekend away, probably one of the most crucial details in planning a weekend getaway is where to stay.
The first time I scheduled a trip to Asheville, this was actually one of the hardest parts of the planning. I had never been before so I didn't have any prior knowledge of the area and while online research is helpful, first-hand knowledge is key (whether it's your knowledge or you're getting tips from someone else). After a last-ditch effort to find something both unique and affordable, I desperately Google searched "glamping in Asheville" and lo and behold there is actually a place called Asheville Glamping.
I was quickly drawn in by the boho-vintagey vibe from the photos of tents, domes, and airstreams and after an excited scroll through the website, I decided this was the place to stay. But the search wasn't over yet. Many of the more popular sites, such as the dome, were booked through for months, and others only had availability here and there. After a second run-through, I was able to find a site that both met our budget and time-frame.
The Deluxe Bell Tent features a queen bed, a heating and cooling system, and now, a hot tub (this addition appeared after our stay) all perched atop a steep hill with beautiful views of the surrounding property and mountains beyond. The tent is constructed on a wooden deck, giving you the perfect place to sit back and enjoy the sunset.
Since our stay at the 15-acre property roughly 30 minutes outside of downtown Asheville, the owners have added two more domes and are currently working on a treehouse. Several hot tubs have popped up at some of the sites, adding a bit more of the "glam" to glamping. If you haven't been glamping before, do not let the luxury aspect fool you. You are still camping and you will still run into some of the same elements of traditional camping, such as insects, dirt, and weather. However, instead of sleeping bags, you'll find yourself nestled in cozy blankets atop real mattresses. Instead of relying solely on campfire flames your ceiling may be draped with twinkle lights. In my opinion, it's the best of both worlds- comfortable nature.
Have you been glamping before? Let me know where in the comments!
Asheville is the mecca place of breweries in North Carolina, with popular beer bars ranging from local mom-and-pop shops to well-known nation-wide labels.
One of the more popular names comes from a beer you've see in stores and bars all over the country-- Fat Tire, by New Belgium Brewing Company. Originating in Colorado, New Belgium has since moved East, taking up residence in Asheville, North Carolina, where its food truck rotations, outdoor facilities, and live music fit right in. Throw in the abundance of bicycle decor and you'd think this company was born here.
While standard brewery activities are plentiful, New Belgium goes the extra mile by renting out the rooms in the brewhouse for events with up to 325 guests (standing room). The 5,100 sq ft space features an 8-tap bar, wifi, and the sounds of boiling kettles and grain raining through the pipes, making this fully functional production space perfect for your next large event (wedding ceremonies excluded due to the noise).
Another way this major beer name has gained strides in the Asheville community is through its sustainability initiatives and environmental transparency. New Belgium advocates for partnering with eco-conscious players and lists the qualities they look for when purchasing. In addition to sustainable values, they practice community positivity through donations, volunteering, and collaborations- just another way large companies can make positive impacts on local communities.
Next time you're in the area, be sure to stop by for some live music, local food truck goodness, and a couple pints- they've made a name for themselves for a reason.
The first stop on our tour of Asheville is one of my favorites- a place that I keep going back to every time I visit. We all have our favorites and sometimes tradition trumps quality, but not in this case! This time around the tradition was born because of the quality; the quality of food, service, and atmosphere!
Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville has it all. While I've only been there for some amazing brunches, they also feature equally amazing lunch and dinner menus, as well as a selection of wines, craft beers, and cocktails.
Rated #1 on TripAdvisor for the best brunch in Asheville, Sunny Point Cafe can also be found on hipster foodies' lists everywhere, ranking in the Top 10 for Best Asheville Brunch/Breakfast spots. Some examples of their award-winning dishes (yes, they have won awards for their amazing culinary talents), are the shrimp 'n' grits, which won the 2016 and 2017 Stoobie Award for Asheville's Best Shrimp 'n' Grits. I've also heard that their avocado toast is among the best in the city.
My personal favorites are the Huevos Rancheros- eggs topped with black bean cakes, feta, and cilantro crema (a gluten-free dish), and the Fried Chicken and Waffle sandwich- a pecan waffle topped with fried chicken, bacon, pimento cheese, and jalapeño jam. Their menu also features several options that can be made gluten-free or vegan.
INSIDER TIP: Because of the cafe's popularity, it is more than likely that you will arrive and have to add your name to a long list of those waiting- DO NOT LEAVE. I know how easy it is to be turned off by long wait-times, but believe me it is well worth it. In fact, the cafe understands your displeasure with having to wait, and makes it infinitely more enjoyable by providing a coffee station in the outdoor waiting area, where you can help yourself to unlimited refills of fresh coffee, and enjoy watching West Asheville life pass you by. On a nice day, you may even get to experience some live music, as local bands have been known to set up and play for hungry customers.
Aside from the incredible variety of dishes and flavors that are served up here, one of my favorite things about Sunny Point Cafe is that they are very socially conscious, featuring a different nonprofit partner every month! Every table in the restaurant has an envelope on it for customers, should they so choose, to donate money for the nonprofit that month. Along with the money from generous customers, Sunny Point also adds a donation to the collected funds, and delivers it to the chosen partner. In 2017, they raised and donated $16,856, and in 2018 they increased that number to $20,517. Read more about the organizations they've partnered with here.
INSIDER TIP: After your meal, head outside to the neighboring garden- here you can walk through the garden beds and see where the cafe plants and harvests the produce found in your meals! It's as fresh as you can get!
INSIDER TIP: Take a bit of the West Asheville flavor home with you! You can shop the selection of jams, dressings, and sauces that you may have experienced in your meal. If that's not enough, you can even purchase the Sunny Point Cookbook, featuring several recipes that have developed since the opening of the cafe, as well as other timeless comfort food dishes.
Have you been to Sunny Point Cafe? Let us know your favorite dishes in the comments! Got another favorite Asheville brunch spot! Let us know so we can check it out!
I've been to Asheville a handful of times, as it's roughly a 2-hour drive from Charlotte, and each time I love taking advantage of all this amazing city has to offer. From the wide selection of craft breweries, local coffee shops, and eclectic restaurants, it is truly a millennial's dream. If those are things you also value, then Asheville is the place for you.
Located in the western part of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has a population slightly under 100,000 people. Known for its vibrancy, it has a large (and growing) art scene, fascinating historic architecture, and is what a foodie's dream are made of. Walking the streets you are guaranteed to see layers of art and messages of peace adorning the walls. Ample opportunities exist to experience the local culture through artisans, food, and entertainment.
And if the city life becomes too busy for you, an escape to the mountains is a stone's throw away. From the Blue Ridge Parkway to waterfall hikes to cozy cabins, the great outdoors is ready and waiting for you.
In this new mini-series, I'm going to share all that I have come to know and love about Asheville, from the food and drink to art and nature. I was quick to identify Asheville as my spirit city, and if you stick around you may just find that it has something for you too.
If you've ever been to Asheville, share your favorite spots and things to do in the comments!
When it comes to camping, there are many different styles that have emerged over the years. From the rugged backcountry sites that require multi-mile hikes in, to the more ~luxurious~ fad of glamping, complete with queen-sized beds and space heaters, and everything else in between, camping has evolved to fit the desires of many. As someone who has participated in, and enjoyed, several of those styles, it's hard for me to choose one type of camping that I prefer over all the others. It just depends on the season and what I'm really in the mood for.
On this trip, we choose a nice middle-ground camping experience. We were able to drive our cars up to our sites and take showers in the bath houses, but we also got to pitch a tent, build a campfire, and cook our own food. It was adventurous, yet comfortable- exactly what we were looking for. In fact, it matched what we were looking for so much that dare I say, it was the best campsite I could have asked for.
Located in Tugaloo State Park, we signed up for a certain type of campsite (i.e. basic, waterfront, RV, etc.) and then it was first come, first serve, so the site you ended up with depended on when you arrived and how long it took you to select a site. I choose a waterfront site, and from there, we drove around the park a few times trying to find the perfect spot. It didn't take long however, as one specific site really stood out to us. It was located on a piece of land that jutted out into the water a bit, and the site next to us was empty. While there was a camper on the other side of us, it was far back enough that we still had privacy. Our chosen site was also a quick walk over to the shower-house, meaning we had everything we needed while still feeling removed enough to enjoy the trip.
My absolute favorite part of the camping site however, was that we were surrounded by water on two sides. We saw beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and nothing beats the sound of waves gently lapping on the shore while you're laying in a hammock, watching the campfire flames crackle and pop.
We spent the nights relaxing by the fire and the days exploring the nearby state parks, written about in previous posts. The best part was that it was Gary's first time ever camping (if you don't count a glamping weekend) and he loved it; he quickly became a campfire omelette expert!
In addition to camping, Tugaloo State Park also offers swimming, water skiing, and boating in the 55,590 acre Lake Hartwell. If tent-camping isn't your style, there is a large rv/camper facility, as well as several yurts and cottages available to rent.
The quiet peacefulness and tranquil-like atmosphere quickly made this my all-time favorite camping destination. Turns out, the middle-ground is a great place to be!
Following our visit to the most beautiful waterfall in Georgia, we wanted to swing by another waterfall series. In hindsight, we should have gone there first, as anything after Toccoa Falls would be judged with a tough eye as the bar had been set high.
We drove out to Tallulah Gorge State Park for some afternoon fun. This park, set on more than 2,500 acres, features a 1,000 foot deep gorge carved out by the Tallulah River. Within the gorge are the main attractions of the park, the six waterfalls formed by the river, known as Tallulah Falls. These falls cause the river to drop 500 feet in one mile.
Activities at the park include camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, whitewater paddling, and more. There are rim trails along the park that visitors are welcome to hike, but the number of hikers allowed to make the trek down to the gorge floor is limited to 100 people a day. Permits are required but are free and can be obtained the day of at the Interpretive Center.
My favorite feature of the park was the suspension bridge that swings 80 feet above the gorge floor, offering amazing views of the gorge and falls below.
While the walk down to the bridge is a piece of cake, climbing the stairs back to the top was excruciating. In fact, I don't know if I've ever been sweatier in my life. If you recall from a few posts ago, I mentioned that it was August, in Georgia. It was hot, humid, and at this exact point, utterly unbearable. The light drizzle that began to develop as we climbed back up did little to ease our discomfort. The light at the end of the tunnel was that our campsite did in fact have a shower house.
Tallulah Gorge State Park had a high standard to meet, and I would say it succeeded. It did not feature the beauty that was found at Toccoa Falls, but it made up for it in a rugged wilderness that all adventure-seekers yearn for.
The next stop on our Georgia road trip was one straight out of a fairytale. In fact, it is so gorgeous that it was named for its beauty, receiving the name Toccoa, which is the Cherokee word for "beautiful." And it is indeed that. Toccoa Falls is an unbelievably charming and mesmerizing waterfall in northern Georgia, less than a two hour drive from Atlanta.
One thing I've adopted as a traveler is making lists. Packing lists, shopping lists, "Restaurants to try in _____" lists, etc. I strongly encourage you to create a "Waterfall Hikes in GA" list, or, if you live in Georgia, maybe a "Georgia Day Trip" list and put this on there because you will not regret it. In fact, it is so lovely, that if I had not just gotten married a few days beforehand, I would surely choose this as my wedding venue. The best part is that it is an extremely accessible hike, taking approximately two minutes to reach.
Located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College in Stephens County, Georgia, this waterfall has a drop of about 186 feet and has been claimed to be the tallest free-falling waterfall in the Eastern United States, although that claim has been disproved by at least four other falls. In fact, it's not even the tallest waterfall in Georgia , as Amicalola Falls features seven cascades totaling 729 feet. Despite its failed claim-to-fame, Toccoa Falls is sure to top your list for one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia.
Starting in the visitor center and gift shop, you will pay a small admission fee ($2/adult, $1/seniors, $6/family of 4+, children six and under are free) and then follow a 100-yard handicap accessible gravel path. You can access the falls from 8:30am-sundown. Following alongside a babbling brook, you will round a small bend, and this amazing scenery will come into view.
Once reaching the base of the falls, you can spend time wading in the shallow water, climbing the boulders for prime photo opportunities, and taking in nature's handiwork. As it so happens, chairs had been arranged for an upcoming wedding the day of our visit, providing visitors with space to relax and reflect.
Despite its renowned beauty, the falls carry a sad history. In November of 1977, after five days of constant rain, the dam at Kelly Barnes Lake, located above the falls, burst, sending 176 million gallons of water down to the campus below, flooding the space in a matter of minutes. 39 college personnel who lived in the flood path were swept to their deaths in the Toccoa Creek, causing it to be the worst natural disaster in Georgia in more than 40 years.
You can learn more about the history, the community, and the college by taking some time to explore the area. The City of Toccoa is cute, friendly, and lively. In fact, after visiting the falls, we decided to grab lunch in town, where we were warmly invited to attend a free music festival later in the evening. Check out this town of beauty and prepare to be enchanted.
The Roadtrip Chronicles continues, and with it came a night's stay at an incredibly charming and wonderfully exciting nature and adventure lodge in Whitesburg, Georgia. Historic Banning Mills features many opportunities for connecting with nature, learning about the history of the area, and experiencing the thrill of adventure. Below are five great reasons to plan a visit and see for yourself what it's all about!
1. The lodging reaches new heights
Probably the most alluring part of visiting Historic Banning Mills was the opportunity to stay in a tree-house. That was definitely a bucket list item, although now having done so, instead of crossing it off the list, I will probably only want to stay in tree-houses from now on. There's just something about crossing a swinging bridge to enter your front door, and feeling the gentle sway of the building as you move inside. Not to mention the massive tree trunk running up straight through the middle of the room! If you're interested in a more traditional lodging setting, cabins are available, as well as rooms in the main lodge building.
2. You can experience the Guinness World Record-setting Zip-line Tour
The adrenaline-inducing adventure course at Historic Banning Mills holds the title for two Guinness World Records! Participate in the Flight of the Falcon, soaring over 3400 feet through the skies, taking in the gorgeous views of the woods, water, and lodge property. Not up for that much adventure? Check out Level 1 or Level 2 of their zip-line tours - still offering incredibly fun and exciting opportunities to soar through the trees, but at a much more comfortable level- perfect for beginners!
3. There's something for everyone
Do you prefer to keep things a little slower? Maybe a little closer to the ground? If flying through the air at top speed hundreds of feet about the ground isn't quite your thing- that's okay. There are outdoor activities for everyone of every age, and you don't have to be an adrenaline-junkie to participate. From climbing walls and kayaking to horseback riding and birds of prey nature events, your entire family is sure to love experiencing getting a little closer to nature, and at their own pace.
4. Ecosystem conservation is a high priority
Historic Banning Mills is more than just a retreat and conference center. It is actually a 501(c)(3) conservation center founded with the mission to "preserve the unique and pristine ecosystems of the Snake Creek Gorge and Chattahoochee watershed areas..." The staff has worked in partnership with the Trust for Public Lands and the Chattahoochee River Keepers to preserve over 1500 acres of the Snake Creek Gorge. Future goals include building an on-site Historical and Natural History Museum and constructing an eco tree walk bridge system for visitors to enjoy nature without causing disruption.
5. Relaxation comes naturally
All that adrenaline can be tiring, and eventually you'll need to relax. Check out the Day Spa and choose from a variety of spa and body treatments. Perfect for unwinding after the outdoor adventures of hiking through the woods and soaring through the sky. Enjoy some alone time or pamper yourself with a couple's massage- that way you'll be rested up for another day of adventuring!
Last time I told you guys we stopped for a night in Americus, GA, but I didn't tell you why. The reason we choose tiny little Americus is because of its proximity to our next destination.
Now, I don't know about you guys, but when I think about Georgia I think of coastlines, hot summer sunshine, and of course, peaches. Whether the colonial feel of Savannah or the urban sprawl of Atlanta comes to mind, Georgia has a lot of character.
But it also has something else. Something that I guarantee you would never imagine to exist within the state boundaries. Something so grand it has actually come to be known as Georgia's Little Grand Canyon. Yes, you read that right. A canyon. And it is in fact quite grand.
Formally known as Providence Canyon, this 1,000 acre state park features several campsites, picnic shelters, a museum, and a seasonal visitor center. The canyon is a true example of the impact humans have on the environment, as this great landscape came to be during the 1800s, after years of poor farming techniques that eroded the soil and created gullies up to 150 deep. The exposed soil leaves patterns of pink, orange, and purple stripes running through crevices.
Hikers can trek down to the canyon floor, which is often covered in a thin layer of water, indicating the water table below. This is also a trail along the canyon rim that offers amazing scenic views of the top of the canyon; it is rated easy to moderate. When visiting, you have to be very cautious not to climb the canyon walls, as they are actually composed of sand and soil, and will erode when disturbed. Visitors can also take note of the rare Plumleaf Azalea, an Azalea species that only grows in the region, and blooms in later summer after most Azaleas have lost their coloring. Mixed forest vegetation offers other chances to see plant and wildlife species in this quiet and alluring park.
The Roadtrip Chronicles continues! The next stop on our Georgia tour was in the tiny little town of Americus, 3 1/2 hours and 210 miles west of Savannah. With a population of roughly 17,000, it's a small town with a big personality. Americus is home to many well-known organizations, including Habitat for Humanity's international headquarters, the Rosaylnn Carter Institute for Giving, and the Fuller Center for Housing international headquarters. As for the reason why this little community was a destination on our journey - you'll have to stay tuned! What I can say is that it met all our needs for a quiet and charming area to relax before beginning the next chapter of our journey.
1. Visit the Historic Windsor Hotel
Built in 1892, this Victorian-style hotel was designed to draw in visitors from the north during the winter months. Special architectural features included a tower and turret, 100 rooms, balconies, and an expansive atrium lobby. After joining the Best Western family and completing recent multi-million dollar renovations, the Windsor held its grand re-opening in 2010, featuring special guests former President and Mrs. Carter. Whether you choose to stay here or elsewhere, be sure to check out the gorgeous architectural details while walking downtown.
2. Work at Koinonia Farm
Founded in 1942 as an intentional Christian community, Koinonia Farm established itself on the principles of community, equality, and social consciousness. The families and visitors of the farm decided to focus their efforts on improving the poor-quality local housing, a movement that eventually formed Habitat for Humanity, and later, the Fuller Center for Housing. Today, visitors can stop by for a few hours, or a few nights, as they tour the farm, learn about the history, and even participate in daily farm operations. Retreats and conferences are also held at Koinonia, where visitors are invited to stay, work, and serve.
3. Volunteer with New Horizons
Americus is the birthplace of Habitat for Humanity, and home to the organization's international headquarters. New Horizons, an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, seeks to complete the same mission of eradicating housing and poverty issues, but works in a concentrated area, focusing on the town of Americus and surrounding communities. If you've ever wondered about Habitat for Humanity, their mission, goals, and the work that they do, visit New Horizons and experience putting the work on a local level.
4. Learn at the Global Village and Discovery Center
If you don't have time to put in a day's work volunteering with New Horizons, you can check out all that Habitat for Humanity is doing by visiting the Global Village and Discovery Center. Located at Habitat for Humanity's headquarters, this center features 15 life-size Habitat houses from around the world. Walk through the outdoor facilities and learn about the devastating effects poverty has had in communities world-wide, as well as what Habitat for Humanity is doing to provide relief.
5. Grab a drink at Thirteenth Colony Distilleries
Thirteenth Colony Distilleries is a 44,000 square foot facility in Americus and the only craft distillery in the state of Georgia. They have a range of products from whiskey to vodka to gin, and have won several gold medals for their work. Stop by for a drink (or two or three) and experience all there is to know about fine southern distilling.
I travel and then I write about it. I hope you enjoy my experiences, and can learn from my trial and errors!