Southern Road Trip #2: Asheville, NC

This post continues my Southern Road Trip Series, which are blogs I am posting for #traveltuesdays. The story continues with a girls’ trip to Asheville, North Carolina in December, 2014.

#2:  Asheville, North Carolina

Our next post-Christmas trip was a little shorter, this time just consisting of one city. I had been to Asheville before, but only to the outskirts where Biltmore was, and the awesomeness of the downtown really took me by surprise. It’s big and crowded and a great mix of old and new. Speaking of crowded… Apparently everyone goes to Asheville right after Christmas, so beware! We tried, if memory serves, four different hotels before we finally found a vacancy. The streets were teeming with pedestrians, and the streets packed with cars that honked at the most trivial things!

Our destination was, of course, Biltmore. We had pre-reserved tickets for the Christmas candlelight tour, which, I have to say, was pretty awesome. The lights were dimmed, the trees lit, the hot chocolate flowing (not inside the house, of course). There were some of the costumes from Downton Abbey on display at the time we went, and it was interesting to see them in their natural, time-period-appropriate habitat. Right now through April 7 at Biltmore is the full Downton Abbey exhibition, which I have heard is phenomenal.

Biltmore really is a revelation. The dining hall looks like something out of a medieval castle. The library, my favorite room, is reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, with balconies and ladders and shelves reaching to the skies. The bedrooms are really amazing, and the servants’ quarters are straight out of Downton Abbey. The view is not to be missed either. There is something special about looking at the mountains from the balconies at Biltmore, something that caused George Vanderbilt to build his dream home there despite huge obstacles.

There is also a really awesome pizzeria and taproom in downtown Asheville that we went to for lunch. I cannot remember the name (can you tell that this was after my first semester of law school?), but it had Art Deco touches on the ceiling, and we speculated that the building was at one time perhaps a speak-easy. (If you’ve been there and know the name, give me a shout!)

Not to be forgotten is the Smith-McDowell House, which we also toured while we were in Asheville. This has a much different vibe from Biltmore, since it was built in 1840 and has much more of an antebellum estate feel, but we had a really good experience there. It claims the title of the oldest surviving house in Asheville, so it’s something that you want to at least see if you’re there and like history.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one last thing: Asheville is home to The Tobacco Barn, which is an antique store that features 77,000 square feet of antiques. Yes, you heard me. My mom, our resident antique afficionado, was absolutely not going to miss this. I have been wracking my brains as I prepared for this post to remember why I didn’t go in. I knew it was because I was too tired, but why? If you know me, you know I’d have to be pretty tired to miss this. And then, the answer came back: law school. But…my mom highly recommends it. At the time we stopped, they had lots of old supplies for restoring old homes: doorknobs, windows, doors, etc., which sounds pretty neat!

So, while my brain was fuzzy, and my body exhausted, I do have very pleasant memories of Asheville.

Have you ever been?

Stop #3 is…Natchez Mississippi – one of my favorites!

Photo Credit: Biltmore®

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Tara Cowan Author

Tara Cowan is the author of the Torn Asunder Series, including Southern Rain, Northern Fire, and Charleston Tides. A huge lover of all things history, she likes to travel to historic sites, watch British dramas, read good fiction, and spend time with her family. An attorney, Tara lives in Tennessee and is busy writing her next novel. To connect with Tara, find her on Facebook or follow her on Instagram or Twitter.