I want to be the things I see: Asheville, NC edition
June 16, 2016 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Heading to Asheville, NC this weekend and would like recommendations for obscure or unique experiences that are off the beaten path.

I typically like to experience a new city as an established local rather than a tourist (to the extent that I can), so any recommendations for the nitty gritty, holes in the walls, etc. of Asheville would be lovely. I'll be staying off of Rankin Ave. but I will have a car to travel by. My interests:

Barcades and arcades (the more old school the arcade the better...not a huge fan of prepackaged barcades)
Local music (specifically metal, psych, shoegaze, etc.)
Hiking (the more scenic the location the better...perhaps with a bit of bird watching)
Interesting cuisine, coffee shops, etc.
Breweries are OK, but I have no interest in drinking the entire time or much at all. Still, if one or two are absolutely mandatory, I'll check them out.
Weird oddities, books, comic stores, etc.
Events that might be interesting to check out this weekend if possible
Anything else that comes to mind

Much obliged, hivemind!
posted by Young Kullervo to Travel & Transportation around Asheville, NC (24 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Anything else that comes to mind

When you get to Asheville, send me an email...
posted by NoraCharles at 8:18 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. I was totally charmed by this place last time I visitied.
posted by kimdog at 8:31 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Burial (especially if they're serving Bolo Coconut Brown)
Sierra Nevada (awesome scenery, amazing food)
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 8:43 AM on June 16, 2016

Thomas Wolfe's House
posted by at at 9:12 AM on June 16, 2016

Seconding the Thomas Wolfe house (http://wolfememorial.com/); the tour was incredibly cheap and really awesome, full of weird local historoy.
posted by joycehealy at 9:27 AM on June 16, 2016

My husband and I went to the pinball museum last time we were there and if you like arcades, I think you'll dig it. I think it's like $10 and all you can play, plus you can buy beer there and hang out.
posted by kat518 at 9:47 AM on June 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Can you tour the Moog factory? 'Cause if I were there, I'd want to tour the Moog factory and see all the cool synthesizers being made.

Edit: Yes you can!
posted by SansPoint at 10:06 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you like comics, you should definitely visit ZaPow. It's a really cool gallery of "illustration, narrative, and pop art". We always stop by on every Asheville trip and see something different every time.

I also second Battery Park Book Exchange as not quite like any other bookstore.

Graveyard Fields is a not too difficult, super pretty Blue Ridge Parkway Hike. Especially if you want to see the waterfalls, go on a weekday, because it's a popular place.

Bird watching in the area is pretty ubiquitous. Whenever I go hiking in the Black Mountains, I see ruby-throated hummers, scarlet tanagers, ovenbirds, lots of warblers, and indigo buntings. When I'm by myself, I regularly see grouse, partridge (non-native), and turkeys (and they usually jump up as I walk by and scare the shit out of me). And from any peak or overlook, expect to see lots of hawks.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:12 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Mothlight, Isis, and Gray Eagle are 3 venues in West Asheville that don't get many tourists and have interesting and inexpensive shows. Isis is also a restaurant and has great free bluegrass Tuesdays, Gray Eagle has an in-house taco shop. West Asheville also has 2 comic book stores, a record store and a co-op book store.
This weekend has a good lineup for Downtown After 5 (which is downtown, as you might expect, on Friday) free outdoor music and beer.
posted by genmonster at 10:22 AM on June 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

N Lexington Avenue is spitting distance, and that has its share of weird/funky/local-orientated, especially up towards the I-240 exit, including the Poe-themed Crow & Quill. West Asheville is more local-centric, especially East-West Asheville (the stretch of Haywood Road east of 240) with DeSoto Lounge and Battle Cat and the Double Crown and some funky shops, including Harvest Records. There's also the Odditorium at the far end of Haywood near the junction with Patton Ave.

The music calendar's a bit thin, and it looks like many venues that aren't of a more roots/bluegrass/acoustic tendency are doing midsummer dance nights on the weekend. However, NC Stage has Dark Horse's Sideshow, and their productions definitely tap into keep-Asheville-weird.

Graveyard Fields is an easy hike but gets busy. Dupont State Forest's another obvious option, or Craggy Gardens up the Parkway if you want to head north, but again, weekends are busy: if it's bright early, get out soon after sunrise and it'll be cooler and you'll have more room to yourself. There are also trails around Montreat and Ridgecrest. The Carl Sandburg Home down past Hendersonville is a really lovely place to visit. The house itself is being refurbished, but the estate is open, with a range of trails, with bonus goat-petting.
posted by holgate at 10:28 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Since holgate mentioned it, I will put in a plug for my former employer. Montreat has some fantastic hikes. Lookout is the most popular and again pretty crowded on the weekends. If you have more of a day to devote to it, Graybeard is one of the very best hikes I know about, and once you get above Graybeard Falls (where a lot of folks stop), it is very peaceful and the bird watching is usually fantastic.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:28 AM on June 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm obsessed with Biscuit Head for outrageously delicious and innovative biscuit based sandwiches (only open for breakfast and lunch), Chai Pani for American-southern-food-inspired take on Indian food (their matchstick okra fries are amazing), and Hi wire brewery for one of the best among a large set of great Asheville breweries.
posted by vegetableagony at 3:18 PM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you want something a little more upscale, I like Tupelo Honey and Early Girl Eatery.
posted by vegetableagony at 3:21 PM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Listen to vegetableagony and go to Biscuithead. There are two locations, and they're not open the same hours/days. The Downtown Market is a pretty cool consignment shop with a bar. In the main downtown (near the pinball museum, Tupelo Honey, etc) is Earth Guild, kind of a neat knitting/weaving/leatherwork/etc supply shop. And up the street is Rosetta's Kitchen - good healthy food and kombucha.
To hike, get out of town and head north a bit to Barnardsville, which borders the Pisgah National Forest.

(These suggestions all based on my short recent visit to Asheville, with local friends who took me to a few of their favorite places.)
posted by attercoppe at 3:42 PM on June 16, 2016

See if the Chocolate Lounge factory tour has openings. There's an escape room bar that looks cool. The Captain's Bookshelf downtown is smaller than Battery Park Book Exchange, but has great books. At Hole, you can watch them make the best doughnuts in the world and eat them fresh and hot. There are lots of cool antique/junk shops around (Lexington and Walnut is my favorite). Definite second on the pinball museum.

And if you like yarn and/or sock monkeys, stop by Purl's (next to Early Girl), and I'll hook you up!
posted by rikschell at 4:48 PM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and we have a group watching Star Trek TNG on Sunday at 6 at the shop, too.
posted by rikschell at 5:12 PM on June 16, 2016

You should go to both Malaprops (Haywood St., downtown: new books, lots of local authors) and Downtown Books and News (Lexington Ave: used books and totally amazing).

Have spent untold hours in both. You won't regret it. (Source: went to UNC-Asheville, worked in Montreat for 3 summers, lived in the area for 7 years).

Also, you didn't ask about ice cream, but The Hop is an Asheville institution for a reason. Locations on Merrimon Ave. and in West Asheville.
posted by concertedchaos at 5:42 PM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I went to Asheville a few weeks ago and asked a similar question. Got some great MeFi responses, and included my favorite spots at the bottom.

posted by forkisbetter at 6:02 PM on June 16, 2016

Also seconding rikschell about the antique and junk shops. Hours of entertainment.
posted by concertedchaos at 6:09 PM on June 16, 2016

Welcome to town!! It's a great place. Stay away from Pack Square, Curate, Wicked Weed, and FB Chocolate Lounge (these are so overly touristed it's no longer representative of a "local" experience). My other top tip would be to look up restaurant sanitation grades on Buncombe County dot gov before you go. Some restaurants are really good, pay living wages, and take it seriously. Other restaurants are cynically cashing in on tourist dollars and cut a lot of corners. The details of their inspections will clear up questions if you have them.

Biltmore Estate really, really is worthwhile. Especially in summer when the gardens are all up. The Italian Gardens are aquatic and home to some of the largest lily pads I've seen in life. The rest of the place is just an amazing spectacle, and the food is surprisingly good for a tourist destination. The wine tasting is free and the wine is just okay-pretty good, but it's fun to do that and get a little buzzed, then get ice cream and/or go to the demonstration farm to hang out with baby goats. One of my favorite activities in town.

Downtown, I'd recommend FB Chocolate Lounge EARLY IN THE MORNING ONLY because it actually is great, but it gets so crowded and becomes a parody of itself when the tourists flood it. Their coffee is great. Other good coffee: Trade and Lore. Izzy's. High Five. The pinball museum near Grove Arcade is wonderful, and I'll second Battery Park for champagne and used books. Malaprops/Downtown Books & News (same owners) are probably better for actual books, though. And the staff are super friendly and knowledgeable.

Hiking: Get on the Blue Ridge Parkway and just pick a trailhead. I really like Rattlesnake Lodge; Craggy Gardens is really popular; Panthertown has a lot of good trails too. Just east of Asheville and very accessible, Montreat has some good trails. Also Warren Wilson College. If you want to swim, I'd avoid the French Broad River and get in literally any other body of water.

Enjoy your trip!! Feel free to memail me if you have questions.
posted by witchen at 6:40 PM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Rattlesnake Lodge hike but be very careful parking. I got ticketed on a busy weekend because two of my car's tires were on the pavement.

Here's a weird one that nobody's mentioned: Ride the manually-operated elevator inside a fireplace at the Grove Park Inn. Ask them to take you to the Palm Court Atrium to see the ghost of the Pink Lady (sightings not guaranteed). Skip the valet parking and hit one of the lots or the garage is free for 3 hours. The GPI is definitely touristy, but if you're interested in area history and unique construction it might be worth your time.
posted by achrise at 7:15 PM on June 16, 2016

Yeah, Biltmore has a lot, but is very expensive and if you don't like the idle rich can be as infuriating as it is beautiful. Olmsted also designed the Arboretum, which is like a botanical garden and is free except for parking.
posted by rikschell at 8:00 PM on June 16, 2016

I managed Downtown Books & News for 9 years back in the 90s, and it really is an interesting, eclectic used bookstore with a large magazine/zine selection and interesting local art. It also hosts events from time to time: spoken word, weird music, etc. You might also enjoy the La Zoom trolley tour, which is lots of fun. Downtown has the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the country (because the city was too poor to demolish them to "get modern") so just walking around looking at them is nice. A really good Japanese restaurant is Heiwa Shokudo on the corner of Lexington & Hiawasee just past Downtown Books (it's tiny so get there early). Also try Blue Dream Curry restaurant and Red Ginger Dim Sum restaurant, both on Patton. Jack of the Wood is a funky hippie folky bar. Peruse the Grove Arcade for lots of interesting shops and eateries, including specialists in local crafts (this is where the Champagne Bar/Bookstore is). I recently tried Gan Shan Station (restaurant) on Charlotte St. and liked it. I'm not a hiker so I can't help you with that, but just driving the Parkway is a lovely way to see some countryside. Enjoy your stay.
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:18 AM on June 17, 2016

The Warren Wilson trails are lovely for locals -- I've seen screech owl families later in the summer -- but they're Swannanoa valley trails, which is not necessarily what you come to the mountains to see. (The trail starting at Owen Park pond is a gem.) The Arboretum is now $12 to park, which is why locals who go there more than a few times a year should already be paying for (tax-deductible) membership of the Arboretum Society.

I will empower stalkers by offering an uncensored local perspective on tomorrow morning, which dips into touristy things but has non-touristy priorities. Tentative plans are to show up stupid-early at the New Belgium tasting room for the Belgium-Ireland match, then either the City Market Tailgate or the UNCA Tailgate or maybe first OWL in East-West Asheville, which spoils you for croissants so you won't be tempted by Farm & Sparrow's, and then chores.

You could also do breakfast at Over Easy or hardcore-local it at the Med and then take on the world.
posted by holgate at 9:56 PM on June 17, 2016

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