Author: Jana Downs

Finding the Ocean on the Mountaintops

You no longer have to choose between surf and turf when thinking about your favorite WNC destinations thanks to the ECCO Ocean Center and Aquarium. If you assume that you will have to forgo all things beach-related when planning a trip to Western North Carolina or that you’ll have to travel hours upon hours to reach your ocean destination, prepare to be greatly surprised. One of the area’s newest attractions and coolest treasures, located a stone’s throw from downtown Asheville, is the ECCO Ocean Center and Aquarium. With a focus on education and with the ridiculously reasonable entrance price...

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Calling All Fly Fishermen! FLY FISHING MUSEUM

Have you ever wondered about the history of fly fishing or just happened to watch A River Runs Through It too many times in the nineties? Bryson City, North Carolina has a solution to those burning questions about throwing a string into a stream to catch some tasty mountain trout. On September, 24th, the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians is reopening in its new location, Bryson City, NC. Since one of NC’s most popular pastimes is fishing, it only made sense that we’d do a little pre-investigating for you. If you, like me, were curious as to...

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Biltmore Dining: Deerpark

One of the most romantic spots on the Biltmore Estate combines a beautiful atmosphere with the casual dining of a buffet enabling you to thoroughly explore the gorgeous atmosphere without the restriction of regular dining. If you think that means you won’t enjoy gorgeous Biltmore style, you’d be wrong, Deerpark has it in spades. This was perhaps the most beautiful restaurant on the estate and the waitstaff was just as poised and talented as any of the restaurants available. Open from 10am to 2pm daily and later on concert nights, this is where you want to drag your date...

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Biltmore Dining: The Stable Cafe

Steps away from the Biltmore house, the Stable Cafe is the place to visit for all your southern cuisine. Carved out from the remains of the former horse stables, this restaurant has an abundance of historical charm with delightful little elements of its past expertly interwoven with clean, modern elements. It really is the perfect place to drop by after you finish your tour of the Biltmore house and grab lunch before heading toward your next Asheville adventure. This is the epitome of casual dining in a family-friendly atmosphere. You can enjoy a plethora of southern foods at this...

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Biltmore Dining: The Dining Room

Described as “refined elegant dining,” this is the place you want to take the in-laws if you want to impress them. Dress up, grab a glass a wine or elegant cocktail from the full bar, and wait for your reservation because you’re going to need one. Since I was spending several days exploring the restaurants in and around the estate I figured I needed to switch it up and try out their morning meal since the Dining Room offered it. As one of the older, more established formal eateries, you wouldn’t expect it to be as hip as some...

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Biltmore Dining: Cedric’s Tavern

Everyone loves a good pub. I am not the exception. Cedric’s Tavern on the Biltmore Estate is a great pub to drop into for several reasons: First and foremost, the food is great and they offer smaller snacks so you have the option of making it more of a brews outing than a meal if you really want to. Second: they have a full bar with both local craft brews and international brands, as well as local wine selections. This is where you want to start your night out with friends. Last, but certainly not least, Cedric’s Tavern has...

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Biltmore Dining: Bistro

For the environmentally conscience diner, this is the restaurant for you. As a Certified Green Restaurant, an accolade awarded to surprisingly few restaurants, those who want to make a small carbon footprint will be pleased that this is a guilt-free restaurant. As with almost all the eateries at Biltmore, the Bistro is another farm-to-table place and prides itself on its local, seasonal offerings. This does make the menu somewhat limited and that seems to be the chief complaint among those who found fault with the restaurant. I, however, did not find the menu limited. The menu offered everything from...

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Biltmore Dining: Library Lounge

If beautiful scenery and excellent amenities are only whetting your palate for the Biltmore Estate, wait until you get a gander of the food. With several dining venues available on the sprawling acreage, I couldn’t choose just one. For the next few articles, we’re going to explore the awesome restaurants together so you can pick and choose which ones to drop into on your own Biltmore adventure. The first restaurant we’re going to explore is the perfect place for an afternoon brunch. The Library Lounge has the aesthetic of the elegant library in the Biltmore house that it was...

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Pack’s Tavern

After you hit up Pack Square for your shopping needs, head over to Pack’s Tavern because, sweet lord, this is one heck of a restaurant. Located in downtown Asheville, this somewhat recent addition to Asheville’s food and brew scene is not something to miss. Whether you’re looking for sports, live music, or a fun casual dining experience, this is where to go. Food is the most important aspect of heading out to a restaurant and Pack’s delivers very well in this particular area. The waitstaff was incredibly attentive and everything arrived to the table in a timely manner and...

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Biking at Biltmore

Many people who visit the Asheville area love a little nature with their vacation, but if you’re intimidated by the wilder trails of the state park or you didn’t have the space to bring your favorite bike, Biltmore has a solution for you. The gorgeous Biltmore estate has bikes available for rent for all types of trail-rides throughout the estate. You are guaranteed to see one of the most well-kept and beautifully maintained places in the Asheville area. If you did manage to bring your bike with you, you can take advantage of all of Biltmore’s trails with your...

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Highland Brewing Company

One of the most well known breweries in the Asheville area, Highland Brewing Company offers some of the best brews in the state. Founder, Oscar Wong, set up shop in downtown Asheville and began serving the craft beer needs of the southeast shortly thereafter. From a very centralized beginning in downtown Asheville to being distributed from Indianapolis to Miami, Highland Brewing is the craft brewer which other smaller breweries always find themselves compared. The humble roots of this craft brewer began in 1994 with the first kegs rolling out in December of that year. Like most craft brewers in...

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Boo! Explore the Haunted Side of Asheville

Some believe the best part about exploring a new city is searching out all the old historical, haunted areas and hearing about the town’s morbid side. If you’re the person eating popcorn and watching endless reruns of Ghost Adventures, I’m talking to you. Asheville offers ghost stories and haunted locales in spades. If you have always had an interest in the macabre or just want to hear some interesting stories, try out one of the oldest tours in the city by Haunted Asheville. Owned and operated by Joshua P. Warren, author of Haunted Asheville and famed paranormal investigation expert,...

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Orange Peel: Grab a Slice of the Fun

You, like me, might have first assumed that the Orange Peel was a fancy sherbert shop. What? Was that just me? Apparently it was because this awesome venue has been featured in national magazines like USA Today, Travel and Leisure Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, Turner South Cable Network, Rolling Stones Magazine, and a ton of others. How did this little Asheville club become so well known? This “social club” is home to a series of year round live concerts, friendly staff, and world class brews. As a concert venue for upcoming stars as well as old hats, this is...

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Biltmore: A Ride in the Park

When it comes to one of the biggest tourist draws in the area, it’s nice to know what you’re getting into so you can pick and choose from the many activities the Biltmore Estate offers. Lucky for all you crazy kids out there, we have explored to give you the skinny before you book your Biltmore vacation! First off, I love horses and horseback riding. There is something to be said about the nostalgia of seeing the world from the comfort of the saddle. The fact that Biltmore offers a plethora of horseback, horse drawn carriage, and other horse-related...

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Ziplining: A Canopy Adventure

Many who visit Asheville possess an adventurous spirit. If you’re one of the those who do, the one experience you can’t miss out on is the zipline canopy tour over the gorge. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the ziplining experience, it’s a pretty simple concept. Climb up a tower in the canopy of a tree, attach yourself to a thin metal wire, and then slide from tree to tree like some kind of Tarzan action star. When you decide to have your own ziplining adventure, there are a few things you should know. First, this is...

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Grove Park Inn

If a relaxing Asheville vacation is what you’re after, you’re probably looking for somewhere to spend your vacation time. How about a hotel that is historical, nestled right against the Blue Ridge Mountains, and offers amenities like you wouldn’t believe? Sound good? It sounded good to me as well. The Grove Park Inn is really a resort experience more than anything else and I was lucky enough to explore everything that makes it the prime place to book for an Asheville vacation. Driving up to the Grove Park Inn, you are immediately struck by several things. First, the inn...

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Unto These Hills

One of the longest running outdoor dramas in the United States, Unto These Hills, is a definite must-see for those visiting Asheville or the surrounding areas. Beautiful music, oftentimes heart wrenching history, and a glimpse into the cultural landscape of the area’s native inhabitants combine into a visually spectacular display in a lovely outdoor setting. Cherokee, North Carolina is much more than a casino and this is one of the hidden gems that most visiting Asheville pass over. Lucky for you, I headed out to Cherokee to make sure it lived up to expectations and I wasn’t let down...

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Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Sierra Nevada Brewery may be new to the Carolinas but it has been in existence since 1980 and was named after the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. The founders, Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi, started out as homebrewers with a passion for craft brewing before it was a mainstream pursuit. With their first brew shop set up in Chico, California, it wasn’t long before expansion was necessary. Fast forward to 2012 and you have the opening of their North Carolina location. Why NC? According to sources at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. it was so they could more adequately provide...

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Sliding Rock, North Carolina

Nothing is as relaxing as North Carolina’s gorgeous wild landscapes and well-maintained trails. This is made possible by the park rangers whose job is to care for some of the most beautiful sights in the world. It’s especially lucky for you and I who get to enjoy those sights for very reasonable prices. One of the sights and experiences that is a must-see for those visiting this corner of the parkway is sliding rock. All the fun of a water park with a whopping 2 to 3 dollar admission price during peak times of year makes this one of...

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Boojum: Beer, Folktales, & Good Times

The legend of the Boojum is a much-loved and happily remembered folktale that includes a gem-stealing, beer-loving monster and the plethora of shenanigans that a mountain monster can get into. It’s no wonder that Boojum Brewery stole this slightly scary while still loveable creature as its unofficial mascot. With a taproom on Main Street and the brewery sitting pretty at the start of Maggie Valley, this brewery would make any Boojum thirsty for more. Kelsie and Ben Baker, a brother/sister duo and founders of Boojum Brewery, started their brewery with a dream of owning a family business and being...

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