Asheville Gay Vacation Guide – Romantic Weekend in Asheville, NC
Often mentioned in the same breath as Portland, Brooklyn, and Austin thanks to its locavore-minded artisan aesthetic, fervent progressivism, and proliferation of hipsters, Asheville, population 88,000, is more intimate and easygoing than those places. This creative hub famous for Arts and Crafts architecture has a highly visible LGBTQ community and storied setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains, not far from Smoky Mountains National Park. With a stellar craft beer and farm-to-table food scene, it’s also a culinary hotspot.
At the famed Biltmore Estate, which contains the immensely grandiose 180,000-square-foot retreat of George Vanderbilt II (a great-great uncle of Anderson Cooper), tour the glorious gardens, winery, and pastoral grounds. Set aside an afternoon to drive a stretch of the famously scenic Blue Ridge Parkway—stop inside the Folk Art Center, which celebrates the region’s rich design heritage. The Appalachian Trail also cuts through this outdoorsy region rife with hiking, white-water rafting, and cycling.
In downtown Asheville, it’s impossible to throw a rock without hitting a fantastic restaurant. Start with a hearty Southern breakfast at Early Girl Eatery or West Asheville’s Sunny Point Cafe (try the grit cake tostadas). Breweries abound, from the eastern outposts of heavy hitters like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada (the latter gives impressive tours of its Arts and Crafts–inspired facility), to quirkier local spots like Burial Beer, Wicked Weed, and Wedge, which has festive outdoor seating, live music, and food trucks. Stop by French Broad Chocolate Lounge to indulge in exquisite chocolates and pastries, or a mug of luscious Liquid Truffle sipping chocolate. For lunch or dinner, look to All Souls for creative thin-crust pizza (try the one with smoked North Carolina shrimp and chilies)— it’s steps from the River Arts District’s thriving gallery scene. At Cúrate, chef Katie Button—who trained at Spain’s world-famous El Bulli—prepares ethereal tapas (Galician-style octopus, Segovia-style cochinillo roasted suckling pig). Local Provisions offers an artful take on modern Southern cuisine, and East Asian restaurant Gan Shan Station, set in a funkily retrofitted auto repair shop, turns out boldly flavored pork belly ramen and Korean-style chicken wings.
One of the Southeast’s most memorable wedding settings, the Omni Grove Park Inn captures the rustic grandeur typical of a national parks lodge. This Arts and Crafts jewel with panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains is noted for its renowned 43,000-square-foot subterranean spa with serene soaking pools framed by rough-hewn rock walls and soaring arches, and an award-winning golf course. Plan to dine on the terrace of Edison Craft Ales + Kitchen, which serves delish creative comfort fare and offers a fine local beer list. Just outside the gates of Vanderbilt Estate, the contemporary and luxurious Tudor-style Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville has cushy rooms with stone floors, antler chandeliers, and tufted-velvet headboards. Walls and public areas are hung with a world-class art collection.
Featured image: By Greg West