We document our family's working sabbaticals as well as adventures a tad closer to home.

A Few Things to Do: Asheville

A Few Things to Do: Asheville

When I was little and we were living in Georgia, we went to the Biltmore Estate, the epically huge house built by the Vanderbilt family and the largest private residence in the US. I had this deep belief as we drove off after visiting that the family saw me and realized I was the kid they were looking for to become the heir apparent. I didn't know about Anderson Cooper. Or property taxes. The indoor pool wedged itself in my tiny brain, and I was hooked. I wanted to live there, real bad.

Thirty some odd years later, the place still has a pull.

While we drove through Cleveland and Pittsburgh to get to DC, we opted for a southerly route on the way home. We looked into a few towns. We needed to make enough progress that we'd only have to stop for one other night. Charlottesville, Richmond and Charlotte were out.  

But Asheville could work. I didn't know a ton about it outside of the fact that, hey, the Biltmore, but some quick reads showed it to be our kind of town. I then advocated unsuccessfully for Dollywood, too. But I won on the Biltmore. Shoot for the stars, get the moon, etc.

After stopping at Stoney Point Railroad, we made our way to into the Smokey Mountains and this hilly lil' enclave of culture and counter culture.

I don't have an exhaustive guide for all things food and fun. Sorry. I do have a few things we did that I'd highly recommend, whether you're traveling with pals or tiny people.

1. Stay at Eli Reeves Cabin at Hobbyknob farm.

If you are a small group/family, this cabin is perfection. There's just one bedroom upstairs but it has a single bed pullout sofa. One of the better kitchens we've had in any space we've stayed as well as all the rustic, wood-y charms you want to feel like you're channeling Daniel Boone (if he had access to great kitchen stuff).

There are options in Asheville itself, for sure. We really enjoyed the bull frog serenade and rustic vibes of Hobbyknob farm.

2. Try Sliding Rock

It's a 60-foot natural rock waterslide that's technically a mellow waterfall. And that's Loie and Brett in the center mid-ride.

It is crazy cold. And crazy awesome. Lo went once, loved it, then a second time and freaked out and then demanded a third time for redemption. While it's not too fast or too deep (you land in 6-8 foot water) you can spin around as you go down and the cold is bracing. Not a great option for scared or new swimmers.

It used to be a hidden gem. Now the 2$ entry fee covers a decent changing area, viewing platforms and lifeguards. You can slide for free during daylight hours when no one is on duty, but 

And, be super careful navigating there. Pisgah National Forest is divided into seemingly two different parks on Google so depending on where you are when you begin navigating, it can take you all kinds of places. . If you aren't careful you could end up on a many hour detour with limited help Google map.

More about Sliding Rock on Atlas Obscura.

3. Hit up the Pinball Museum

Seriously. Everyone wins here. One entrance fee gets you unlimited play.

The Asheville Pinball Museum has over 75 games to play including other arcade games in the back. We stumbled in during a squall. There's sometimes a wait but they'll text you when you got next. There's an indoor mall, the Grove Arcade, right across the street if you need to kill some time.

4. Hit up Rocket Fizz

Rocket Fizz is bursting with sweet and colorful things. We have a friend who collects unusual sodas. That was our excuse for going in.


Once in I was in candy heaven. I really like candy.

We grabbed a few weird sodas and a selection of taffy for the road. It was Wonka-esque in its options from Egg Nog to every fruit and chocolate combo imaginable.

5. Go to the Biltmore. 

Started by George Vanderbilt in the late 1880s, it was opened to the public in the 1930s with the hopes of boosting visits to nearby Asheville. Asheville has enough going on now on its own to warrant a visit, but the Biltmore is really, really fun. It's got opulence and organs, Renoirs and Sargents. Lots of stairs and things to climb, gardens to explore and more. We did the audio tour with a 5 year old and she loved it. 

We can talk about my perhaps inappropriately deep love of the Gilded Age. Any time you want, I'm here. But don't skip this.

One tip: Channel your inner Vanderbilt. Pack a lunch and picnic on the hillside looking down onto the approach road and estate. You can park nearby and leave your lunch till after a morning tour. It's a great view and saves a few bucks. Tour tickets aren't cheap.

Some other things we loved included the Friday night drum circle in Pritchard Park, breakfast at Early Girl Eatery and a stop at Dolly's Dairy Bar for giant ice creams after the rock slide.

Y'all, I won't lie. I'd move to Asheville. It was like Oak Park in the mountains.

Jet lag is a drag. And yet, off we go.

Jet lag is a drag. And yet, off we go.

DC Side Trip: Stoney Point Railroad

DC Side Trip: Stoney Point Railroad