August 31 2010 by Karla Henriquez
Late August is a perfect time to take a drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and stay in Asheville, North Carolina. This city, with its folk music, Southern hospitality, and location in the gorgeous and romantic Blue Ridge Mountains is bound to enchant. In fact, go ahead and play some fiddle tunes while you read the rest of this post: music.
2010 happens to be the Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th birthday and was celebrated on Saturday, August 28th at the Parkway Visitor Center. Rangers led tours along the "Voices of the Parkway" trail starting at 10:30 am. That afternoon and evening, there's the Big Ivy Mountain Music Festival for some world-class bluegrass and clogging. For those who'd rather join in and jam with other musicians there's Shindig on the Green at Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville on Saturday nights through September 4th. That fun starts around sundown - don't forget your fiddle, harmonica, drum, tambourine, triangle, clarinet, or whatever instrument you want to play! If you miss this weekend, check here for September festivals - there are plenty.
While you're in the area, you should definitely stop by George Vanderbilt's 8,000-acre and 250 room estate, Biltmore. I've toured gilded age homes all over the country and none of them compare to this one in pure size and accessibility. The history of the family and the era really comes to life as you tour the home and listen to stories on the self-guided tour. For some reason I was particularly impressed by the size of the butler's pantry, which was full of the family's silver and china. It was about the size of my home. The grounds merit a visit on their own and offer a wide variety of terrain - French and English gardens, woodlands, fields, streams, and everything in between. You can probably spend a few days exploring! On my last visit, I vowed to rent a Segway the next time I go. You are also welcome to take your own horse to ride the 80 miles of equestrian trails, a kayak for a paddle down the French Broad River, or a bike to access all the trails. As I said before, anything seems possible on these grounds.
Finally, we come to dining in Asheville. Let's just say that the city has the world's only Foodtopian Society. I suggest you begin to explore the culinary side of Asheville with a walking food tour. This will offer you a leg up on getting to know its 250 independently owned restaurants. I love the names of these places - here are my picks to start eating around town:
Tupelo Honey Café - 12 College Street
Easy Girl Eatery - 8 Wall Street
Mamacita's Mexican Grill - 77 Biltmore Avenue
Laurey's (yum!) - 67 Biltmore Avenue
12 Bones Smokehouse - 5 Riverside Drive
Magnolia's Oyster Bar & Grill - 26 Walnut Street
Apollo Flame Bistro - 485 Hendersonville Road
Chocolate Fetish - 36 Haywood Street
Noodle Shop - 3 Pack Square
I'm getting hungry already - see you soon in Asheville!