Asheville in Winter with a Toddler - a Three Day Itinerary
I would love to live in Ashveille, NC for a while. It ticks all of the boxes for me - lots of mountain adventures nearby, restaurants with delicious healthy food, a kickin live music scene, tons of good breweries, and quirkiness galore. While a move to Asheville is not in the cards at the moment, Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend was a great chance for a long weekend getaway, even if it was below freezing most of the time we were there. I did this trip while 24 weeks pregnant and with my husband, Jimmy, and our 15 month old son, Lewis.
Day 1 - Catawba Falls and Asheville Street Art Tour
We drove to Asheville from Salem, VA which took about three and a half hours. Our first stop was at Catawba Falls in Old Fort, NC which is only 30 minutes outside of Asheville. It is an easy 1.5 mile hike to get to Catawba Falls and there are some fun sights along the way such as a couple of beautiful foot bridges, historical stone buildings, and an old dam.
This is an out and back hike - so another 1.5 miles back to the car. We were actually the only people on the trail which was crazy to me. It was such an easy hike with a pretty spectacular payoff. I got a lot of inspiration for our Asheville hikes from Romantic Asheville including information on the Catawba Falls hike.
It was a really cold day and windy too, so that probably explains why we had the trail to ourselves and why we found everyone huddled up in the breweries in Asheville. Since I'm pregnant and can't drink, we decided to do a little Asheville street art tour. This was not an official tour but rather something we made up ourselves. I got some inspiration from this site and we then ended up exploring two neighborhoods that were featured there.
Across the street was Urban Orchard Cider Co. which was a great spot to warm up for a bit. They had a non-alcoholic hot cider for the pregnant lady and little one.
Next we drove about 2 miles down the road and parked next to The Refinery Creator Space.
There are a lot of breweries in this area, and we saw lots of Brew Buses full of people. If you love breweries, Asheville should be on your bucket list for sure. This is also really close to the LaZoom bus tour company. While we didn't go on one of their tours, their City Comedy Tour had actually been recommended to me by a friend living in Asheville. I don't think I've ever been recommended a bus tour by a local before, so I would have definitely considered this if we weren't travelling with a toddler (that tour is only for people age 13+). Instead we walked up the street to check out Asheville Hardware. Jimmy and I built two houses by ourselves, and Jimmy still has a keen interest in woodworking tools and supplies. Their slab showroom also turned out to be a really fun place for a toddler to run off some energy on a frigid day.
The French Broad Chocolate Factory was right across the street, so we had to stop in and get a box of fancy chocolates. They were also giving free 20 minute tours on the hour, but the timing didn't quite work out for us to enjoy a tour. Maybe if we had gone on the tour, we would have chosen our chocolates better - the flavors like strawberry balsamic and lemongrass and ginger in the end were just a little too bold for us and we kind of regretted spending $14 for a box of 6 truffles.
Next we walked across the street to Burial Beer Co., not for a beer, but to take a picture of their fun Tom Selleck and Sloth Mural. This place was packed with people, so I didn't feel so bad taking a free-loading shot of their mural. Inside is a lot more Tom Selleck artwork and I think they have a big party for Tom Selleck's birthday every year too. I love that places like this exist even when I can't enjoy them fully.
We were getting hungry at this point, so we drove about 2 miles north to the Historic Montford neighborhood to eat at Nine Mile. Nine Mile is a Caribbean restaurant where you can order most any dish with your choice of fish, chicken, or jerk tempeh. I went for the Empress Menen Salad which was very tasty. They had a kids menu, but we generally just let Lewis eat bits off our plates. He was also very pleased with the black beans, garlic bread, jerk tempeh, and apple bits.
I had forgotten to bring a hat for myself, and Lewis could still do with some more running around time before the day was through, so we decided to make a visit to the Asheville Mall. They did indeed have a hat for me and a fun indoor play space for Lewis. I think it's fun checking out the local playgrounds when travelling with a toddler. I just recommend a thorough hand sanitizing afterwards. I am not generally a germ-a-phobe, but I learned from our last trip when I took Lewis to a play space and then ended up with a sick baby on vacation - not fun. Luckily no one got sick on this trip.
Day 2 - Frozen Waterfalls in the Pisgah National Forest and the Urban Trail Walking Tour
After a hearty hotel breakfast, we headed about 45 minutes south to the Pisgah National Forest. As we got close, I realized that all of trail maps that I had printed out were sitting on our kitchen counter at home. We managed, but the maps at trail heads and ranger stations in this forest are pretty bad and the road signage is even worse. This was also a Sunday, so ranger stations were closed. So if you want to take a day exploring the falls in this area, bring a map and you'll spend much less time than we did getting turned around.
We started at Looking Glass Falls which is a roadside pull-off, so is very popular and hard to miss.
Next we headed to Moore Cove Falls which should have only taken about 10 minutes. It's an easy 3/4 mile hike out to the falls
It was another 3/4 mile hike back to our car and then we headed about another 10 minutes down the road to Daniel’s Ridge Falls. It’s an easy one mile out and back hike to the falls which is what we did. There’s also a four mile loop that will take you to the top of the falls.
Our final falls of the day would be Slick Rock Falls. The gate to the road leading up to the Falls was closed, so we just parked at the gate and walked a mile up the road to get to the falls.
After our mile hike back to the car, we were ready to warm up and get some food. There are plenty of lunch and brewery options in Brevard right outside of the Pisgah National Forest, but we chose to go back to Asheville and eat at the Laughing Seed Cafe. We were all pleased with our choices but Jimmy's choice of the Raw Spinach Pesto Manicotti was the prettiest.
Well Played Board Game Lounge is two doors down and looked like a fun spot to warm up with older kids. We chose to go to the aSHEville museum instead which was also a short walk down the street. This museum had several exhibits including a tribute to important Asheville women, a curtained off section with photos of naked people, and a collection of old sexist advertisements.
Lewis really enjoys running through museums, and Jimmy and I take turns running after him so we both get a chance to actually look at the exhibits too. Still we prefer small inexpensive museums in case a meltdown occurs and we need to flee. aSHEville Museum fit the bill for us. We realized we were on the Urban Trail Walking Tour, so we downloaded the pdf map and visited a couple more official stops before heading back to our hotel for the night.
Day 3 - Great Smoky Mountains' Frozen Waterfalls, Museum of the Cherokee, and more Asheville Street Art
After a hearty hotel breakfast, we drove about an hour west to the Deep Creek Entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We parked at the Deep Creek Falls parking area and set off on the 2.2 mile loop hike to see 3 waterfalls - Juney Whank, Tom Branch, and Indian Creek.
Next we drove about 20 minutes east to Cherokee which is the prettiest Native American Reservation town I have ever visited. I have been through some pretty sad reservation towns travelling through the US, but Cherokee is just a vibrant town in general with a beautiful park and lots of community centers.
Cherokee is also home to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian which I highly recommend. We spent about an hour and a half roaming through the museum and we could have spent a little longer if Lewis was a little older and had a little longer attention span. Still Lewis found plenty of things to entertain him during that hour and a half period and we learned a lot too. Jimmy has been working on a Western TV series script and so especially appreciated the character inspiration opportunity.
There is also a Harrah's Casino in Cherokee if that is more your style.
After our museum visit, we drove another 20 minutes east to Soco Falls in the Maggie Valley. This is a roadside waterfall stop with just a quick walk down to the viewing platform.
From there it was about 35 minutes to drive back into downtown Asheville for some more mural photography, a visit to the Woolworth's Art Gallery, and dinner at Rosetta's Kitchen, another delicious vegan dining option.
The next day we were going to mosey on back to Southwest Virginia, but with a snowstorm coming, we decided to cut east and drive through Greensboro and then straight home. A fun and free museum that helped us to break up the trip a little bit was the Greensboro History Museum .
Food - $162.23 - breakfast was included with our hotel. We tend to eat one meal at a restaurant a day and snack the rest of the day.
Hotel - $131.33 - We stayed three nights at the Comfort Inn Biltmore West which was about a 10 - 15 minute drive outside of the Asheville city center. This was closer to the waterfall hikes we wanted to do, cheaper than staying in the city, and included a really good free breakfast, so it was a very good option for us. I got one night free from Hotels.com too (buy 10 nights through them and get one night free).
Activities - $32 - Museum of the Cherokee Indian cost us $11 per adult. The aSHEville museum just took donations and we made a $10 donation. There were no entrance fees to any of the places that we hiked.
Gas - $18.40- this is just what we spent driving around the Asheville area in our Prius.
Total - $343.96 for our family of three for three full days in Asheville.
Suggested soundtrack for this trip is the Carolina Chocolate Drops.