36 hours in Asheville, North Carolina

Ian had a milestone birthday last month, and to celebrate, we went on a little getaway. Ian has wanted to visit Asheville, North Carolina for a while. For those that don’t know about craft beer, it sounds like an odd choice for a destination… but the small mountain town has 28 (!) craft breweries. Visiting Asheville is a pilgrimage for Ian, who loves craft brewing.

I coordinated all the details for a 2-night getaway, and wasn’t going to tell Ian where we were going until we got to the airport. But a few days before the trip I noticed that he wasn’t getting excited because he had no idea where we were headed. So I decided to tell him so he could do some reading online and prepare. As much as I loved the idea of making the trip a true surprise, I realized that I was robbing Ian of the fun of anticipation. So I spilled the beans. He was so excited!

We flew from Toronto to Atlanta, and then on to the little regional airport in Asheville. There is Uber in Asheville, and the downtown area is walkable. But if you want to venture further out, I recommend getting a rental car at the airport.

After dropping our bags at an adorable Airbnb, we drove to the Grove Park Inn for a drink on their impressive stone patio, with views out to the Blue Ridge mountains. Asheville is steeped in history, and that includes the Grove Park. It has been a stylish destination for dignitaries, celebrities and artists for decades. It’s where F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed when visiting his beloved Zelda while she was in a sanatorium in Asheville. After our drinks, we wandered around the hotel, looking at century-old photos and the gorgeous Arts and Craft style architecture and furnishings.

We left the Grove Park and drove to Sierra Nevada’s new North Carolina brewing facility, where they have an onsite brew pub. We ate outside, savouring the sweet, warm air as I had a half-pint (I was driving) and Ian enjoyed some beer tastings. Sierra Nevada is family friendly (there’s a little playground and sandbox on site), and dog-friendly. It has a super chill vibe with a giant outdoor fire pit and Adirondack chairs.

The next morning we toured the Biltmore Estate. It’s HUGE and beautifully restored. The audio tour of the manor takes a couple hours, and then we walked around the gardens. There were glass sculpture installations by Dale Chihuly all around the Estate. Gorgeous!

That took us into the early afternoon, so we headed back to downtown Asheville for a late lunch at Asheville Brewing Company. They make tasty pizzas and serve them to you on picnic tables in their covered patio area. Is there anything better than pizza and beer? After lunch we had a little nap and then it was time to start our epic beer crawl.

Many of the breweries in Asheville are walking distance from each other, in the South Slope neighbourhood. We planned our route so we’d start at one end, hitting as many spots as we could handle, moving downhill the whole way (the neighbourhood isn’t called South Slope for nothing – it’s hilly). We hit up Hi-Wire, Bhramari, and Wicked Weed for delicious and innovative brews.

By the time we got to Catawba, we were hungry again. Luckily it’s next door to Buxton Hall BBQ, and you can place a take-out order and then bring the food over to the brewery to eat with your beers. I know I said there’s nothing better than pizza and beer. Except for North Carolina BBQ and beer. That is perfection. We continued on to Green Man and Burial Beer Co. before I tapped out. A short Uber ride took us back to our Airbnb, where we relaxed on the cozy screened porch before calling it a night.

The next morning we caught our flights home from Asheville to Atlanta and back to Toronto. We probably could have used another day in Asheville to explore more, but the 36 hours we had really were fantastic. A birthday trip neither of us will forget.

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