Why Asheville? As you might recall from last year’s blog, California Dreamin’ with Kids, DCPS now has a week break in February. Last year we felt like taking full advantage by using the time to fly somewhere. This year we wanted to take my mom and do something more low key. We drew a radius around what was drivable and hit upon Asheville, NC, a city Mr. Real Life Style and I had visited for a few days before kids and had always wanted to return.
Known for being a kind of liberal, hippie enclave with a great culinary scene in the middle of more conservative North Carolina, it did not disappoint.
Day 1- The Drive and Our Lodgings
The drive down to Asheville was supposed to be about 7 and a half hours without stops, so of course it took a bit over 9 for us with a stop for lunch, and morning and afternoon bathroom breaks. We ate lunch at a true country restaurant, Mrs. Rowes, in Staunton, VA. The restaurant is known for their homemade desserts, which did not disappoint. They even had a kid’s menu that was remarkably low-priced and came with one of their homemade cookies.
Can we talk about food some more? Mr. Real Life Style popped into the Made in Virginia store next to the restaurant and emerged with delicious, high-quality pancake mixes, no-sugar apple butter, jams, three kinds of peanuts, and an incredible blackberry syrup. Anticipating the need for milk and eggs to go with these items for breakfast the next morning, I put in a Whole Foods delivery order on my phone and it arrived at our rental house after the kids’ went to bed.
The rental house we chose was in West Asheville, only 15 minutes from the main downtown area of Asheville. We chose it because it was called Family Funhouse on AirBnB and lived up to its name! The house had two adult bedrooms and one child’s room, and was equipped with everything you would need to entertain and care for a child from age 0-12, including a trampoline and the best backyard jungle gym I’ve ever seen.
Day 2- The National Aboretum
On Sunday the kids wouldn’t leave the house until they had spent hours playing in the backyard on the trampoline. Eventually we got them out of the house to wander around the National Arboretum, which was having a special free hot chocolate day, and to eat lunch at Burial Brewing Company. Yes, kids are welcome at pretty much every brewery in Asheville. We had dinner at El Que Pasa near our house and the kids fell into bed from exhaustion.
Day 3- River Arts District
Again, the kids were having so much fun playing with the toys in the house that they didn’t want to leave. We finally lured them out with the promise of BBQ and mac and cheese at 12 Bones (the River Arts district location). Little did they know that I had ulterior motives of actually looking at art and what I didn’t get to do on our family trip to California, shopping!
We walked through the River Arts warehouse building and the artists let the kids in to look around and ask questions. One particularly friendly gentlemen showed James how he screen printed tea towels from start to finish. The vintage stores were incredible. I bought a dress for my upcoming (or perhaps not) 1920’s party at Sugar Britches, a super funky upcycled/vintage/hand-made boutique, and a few other fantastic pieces at Wildflower’s, an amazingly curated vintage boutique.
Thankfully there was also a Skate park right there to keep the kids entertained, although I only got out of there by promising James that I would sign him up for skateboarding lessons when we got back to DC. Mr. Real Life Style and I wanted to rent a truck to bring back all of the fabulous furniture finds from Sunnyside Trading, Co. The kids had a little too much fun playing on the chairs in the giant warehouse/showroom. We were too tired to do much after the long day, so we ate at home that night.
Day 4- Downtown Asheville Part 1
We only made two restaurant reservations for the trip, one of them being for lunch at Curate, Asheville’s #1 rated restaurant. It did not disappoint. The kids gobbled up the octopus. Seriously. This day was my other big shopping opportunity. Some of my favorite stops were Honeypot Vintage, where I bought a beautiful spring dress, Curated, a beautiful furniture and interiors store, and the Asheville Bee Charmer, where I bought this amazing tee shirt and this fantastic moisturizer. The honey was very good too! My mom and I snuck off to City Bakery for really good coffee, treats, and some fresh bread in the afternoon, and wandered around the Mast General Store with James. Unfortunately I did not have a chance to hang out at Dobrá Tea house, which looked like the coolest tea place ever, but you should definitely go! They have vegan food options, which my stomach would have really appreciated at that point. We rewarded the kids after the long day with ice cream at The Hop in West Asheville, the best homemade ice cream in the area. They had some very interesting flavors and ice cream made from alternative milks. Again, the kids were so tired we ate dinner at home.
Day 5-Downtown Asheville Part 2
The kids wanted to stay home and play at the house in the morning so I sent Michael to do a grocery store run at Ingles, the local chain, and got some laundry done. We went back into downtown Asheville for lunch at Chai Pani, a brightly colored Indian Street Food restaurant. Mr. Real Life Style and the kids then proceeded to spend 3.5 hours at The Pinball Museum, which is a place filled with cool pinball machines and vintage arcade machines. You pay one price and then can play almost everything for free as long as you’d like. I loved that they also had a TV playing 80’s music videos! At one point I needed a break (gee, I don’t know why?!) so took a walk around by myself. I tried sneaking into the fabulous Wake Foot Sanctuary for a foot soak but they were booked up for days. Ladies, plan ahead! This place was AMAZING. As consolation, I bought myself a lavender neck pillow, the kind you can heat up in the microwave, in their fantastic shop. It’s the best one I’ve ever had. I also found Kyle’s birthday present among their great selection of jewelry. Again, realizing the kids would not make it to a restaurant, we picked up dinner at Taco Billy. I highly recommend the veggie taco on a plantain shell!
Day 6-The Biltmore in the Snow
Surprise! It snowed all day on Thursday, the day my mother and I had booked to go to the Biltmore, the grand, historic early 20th century home open to the public. Not ideal for roaming the grounds, but very beautiful. Luckily for us, the Biltmore was hosting an expansive Downton Abbey exhibit while we were there. My mother is a huge fan and while I’ve only ever seen one episode, I was obviously down with seeing costumes from the show, which takes place from the 1910’s-1920’s. The exhibit was incredibly well done and a great compliment to the architecture and story of the Biltmore itself. It was also interesting to learn about how women’s opportunity to work outside the home changed during and after WWI.
Mr. Real Life Style and the kids busied themselves with lunch at the New Belgium brewery and a trip to another arcade, the Retrocade. We had dinner reservations that night but they were canceled because of the snow so we happily stayed in with the kids.
Day 7-West Asheville
By this point I was hyperventilating with the amount of work I needed to get done on the computer. Not very family vacation friendly, but this is what it takes to run a small business! Mr. Real Life Style took the kids to Launch, a crazy amazing trampoline park, plus a cool playground, while I stayed home and got some work done. Then we went into West Asheville to check out some of the stores, the OWL bakery (I loved the Squirrel bread!), and have dinner at 9 Mile, a Jamaican restaurant. Whist was one of the best gift stores I’ve seen and we found a lot of fun stuff there for everyone in the family. There was a homesteading store called Villagers where Max somehow talked me into buying him a very small container of mushroom hot chocolate for $14. Don’t tell Mr. Real Life Style. We also spent a long time in a used book store called Bagatelle Books and a funky record store, Harvest Records.
Day 8- The Ride Home
We stopped at Macado’s in Blacksburg, VA, a chain with cool memorabilia on the walls and a giant menu, for lunch on the way home. More importantly, we made our afternoon bathroom break at The Apple House, a discovery from last year’s trip to the Shenandoah. I scored the last half dozen apple cider donuts and we were ready to get back on the road. Unfortunately there was an accident so the ride home took an extra 30 minutes or so, but we made it home by 7:30pm. I even got a Whole Foods order in by 7pm and had groceries for the next morning by 8:15pm.
Have you been to Asheville, NC? We had so much fun in February I can’t wait to go back in the summer when the weather is better!
Lani Inlander is a personal stylist who has been working with clients who want to feel their best and look put-together every day for over 20 years. You can find her in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Learn how you can train with Lani and Kyle to become a personal stylist at The Stylist Studio.
You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.