With 30 local breweries, Charlotte has a booming craft beer scene. One particular spot has decided to stand out by taking their brew skills to the next level. In addition to traditional ales and lager, Lenny Boy Brewing Co. has expanded their beverage menu to include sours, gluten-free wild ales, and organic kombucha. With a wild flavor list including Lost Rose, Lavenderade, and seasonal Sweet Potato Pie, Lenny Boy is actually the only certified organic kombucha in the entire Southeast. This wide variety of options mean that drinkers and non-drinkers alike are sure to find a new favorite brew.
Featuring a bright, spacious taproom adorned with greenery and views into the brew warehouse, Lenny Boy puts a strong emphasis on their slogan “Culture Matters.” How does a brewery build culture, one may ask. Aside from providing an opportunity for groups large and small to gather, Lenny Boy loves local. By partnering with local groups and organizations to host art shows, weekly fitness classes, non-profit events, trivia, and more, Lenny Boy connects people with culture. Real, local, culture that builds community.
Oh, and there’s always dogs.
What more could you want in a brewery?
Lenny Boy has it all.
Hi everyone! I'm really excited to introduce a new series that I think is going to be a lot of fun!
In the past, I have written about my love for reading and my new-found love for nonfiction books, particularly those that recount someone's personal travel stories and adventures. I may have even said once or twice that I actually love the escapism genre. While these stories are often over-indulgent, exaggerated, and often unrealistic and unattainable for your average person, it's nice to dream once in a while.
I'll be including a similar series on my corresponding blog, The Offbeat Traveler, but here I wanted to focus specifically on books that relate to food while traveling. I mean, isn't that a major reason why so many of us travel in the first place- to discover all sorts of amazing and intriguing cuisines that are unique to various regions.
I wanted to start off with a book that I read last summer and that I also have highlighted on my Travel Reading List page- An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof.
This book is a classic example of escapism. Man and woman leave behind 9-5 office jobs in dreary city to chase the golden sunshine of a warmer, more peaceful paradise. But there's a slight twist- they are sailing their own boat- a 42 foot sailboat named Receta to be exact. Receta meaning "recipe" in Spanish, is a fitting name, as Vanderhoof gives elaborate mention to all the new and exotic foods and dishes she comes to know and love during their journey through 16 countries and 47 islands.
Luckily for us, Vanderhoof includes many of the mouth-watering recipes in the back of the book, so we can literally get a little taste of what life must have been like during the voyage she writes about. Anything from curried lobster to breadfruit salad, pineapple cream cheese and papaya-banana muffins, this book will leave you craving the flavors and spices of the Caribbean.
Intrigued yet? This light-hearted and enchanting journey is one you will not want to put down- but not to worry, you can catch back up with Vanderhoof in her follow-up book, The Spice Necklace. This is one I have on my list as well!
You can find the paperback copy here or a Kindle version here
My husband and I have a weekly tradition of going to a local coffee shop after church on Sundays. One of our new favorites is Queen City Grounds. Located on the edge of Uptown, QCG has everything we want and more in a coffee shop. From the bright, open space to the never-ending reggae music, bar countertops and cozy couches, this modern coffee spot fits the needs of anyone who wants to work, relax, play games or read a book found in the open library. Featuring a full breakfast and lunch menu, classic coffee options, and a few unique creations of their own, QCG has managed to provide an eclectic offering in a simple atmosphere. I have no doubt that our weekly tradition will continue to bring us here for a long time.
Pro tip: If you're like me, then you tend to prefer breakfast, or even brunch, over lunch options. Try the Rancheros Burrito. Made to order with options including bacon or tofu, avocado, pico de gallo, topped with crunchy corn chips and wrapped in a spinach or whole wheat wrap, this option can be altered to suit everyone's preferences. Just be sure to order before they switch over to the lunch menu!
Pro tip: You can't go wrong with any of the drink options. My go-to at every coffee shop is a chai latte, and they did not disappoint. Topped with plenty of cinnamon, this chai was very flavorful and not too sweet. More of a cold brew type of person? Well they have that on tap (as well as a few select beers). Really love their coffee? You can purchase bags to take home with you and try your hand at barista life from the comfort of your kitchen.
Now that you know where to stay in Asheville, where to get amazing brunch, and where to hang out for a couple of drinks, the next logical step is adding a little adventure, because every good weekend getaway should not only include plenty of relaxation, but plenty of fun!
For an easy waterfall hike near Asheville, Looking Glass Falls is the perfect place to go for anyone who wants a bit of nature. Looking Glass Falls is the best waterfall hike near Asheville because it offers gorgeous views that everyone can enjoy, regardless of ability. This extremely accessible waterfall is actually visible from the roadside, meaning that families with small children or those who may not be able to hike are still able to experience great views of the falls. With roadside parking available, you can enjoy the falls from the top, or walk down the staircase to the base of the falls, where you can then wade into the water or scramble along the riverbed rocks.
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!
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.
I travel and then I write about it. I hope you enjoy my experiences, and can learn from my trial and errors!