Hey there! It’s me, Heidi.
How’s it going? I hope you had a great Monday! Let’s make it an even better Tuesday, shall we?
So, I know I’ve mentioned Asheville, NC twice before, but I’d like to talk about it again. Seriously, that trip was a game changer for me. It introduced me to things that I never thought I would enjoy, and just how relaxing and absolutely beautiful and the world around us can be. Isn’t that what travel is all about? Previously, I talked about hiking in DuPont State Forest and the Airbnb where my friend and I stayed during our trip. This time, I want to talk about the downtown Asheville area and some of the quirky things that are absolutely worth doing/seeing/eating while you’re there, especially if you are an Asheville First-Timer like I was.
Conveniently, I’ve got some family friends living in Asheville (yep, the same ones who recommended our hiking location) and they were so incredibly helpful in helping me plan my trip. Hopefully, I can be that friend for you, because I really do understand how overwhelming planning a vacation to a new and unknown location can be. It always, always, always, makes it easier to get advice from someone who has been there before you? Amiright?
Here’s the list of quirky places you absolutely MUST visit in Downtown Asheville:
1. Basilica of St. Lawrence
This. Place. Is. GORGEOUS. In the late 1800s, architect/builder Rafael Guastavino came to Asheville from Spain to work on the Biltmore house. In 1905, he partnered up with another architect/builder, R.S. Smith, to design the Basilica. What’s incredible is they used an ancient tile and mortar system to build it up, and it’s incredible because there are absolutely ZERO wood or metal beams holding the structure up. It is COMPLETELY made of brick and tile. What’s more, the ceiling is a DOME. Yep… a dome that is totally self-supporting. I’ve honestly not seen anything like this. If you happen to be Catholic, it’s located just on the edge of downtown so you can pop into Mass on a Sunday morning and enjoy the rest of your day wandering the area (which is what we did). For more information on the Basilica, click here.
2. Asheville Bee Charmer
Ok. Y’all. I’m a southern girl who loves her honey, and this is 100% the place to go. Asheville Bee Charmer is a whole store dedicated to all things honey… honey books, honey themed kitchen gadgets, honey t shirts, honey serving utensils, honey bath and beauty products, honey cough drops, honey jewelry, beezwax candles, and there’s a HONEY BAR where you can try the different honey varieties before choosing which you are going to buy. I wound up getting a large mint infused honey, and then a small gift set of three: sourwood, rosemary, and vanilla. I use them in my tea, I’ve used them on pancakes, I’ve even made a pasta sauce with them. I bought a bunch of extras and gave them as Christmas gifts for all of my honey loving family members. Definitely a unique store. I want to go back ASAP!
3. The Captain’s Bookshelf
To all my fellow book-loving nerds out there, The Captain’s Bookshelf, a secondhand and rare books store, is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been. It’s STACKED floor to ceiling with books, books, and more books. I could’ve spent hours in there. I dream of having a library one day that has bookshelves as packed as the ones in this store. Definitely a place to check out if you love to read and appreciate used books. You can shop online, but know that only a fraction of their stock is listed in their online store. It’s worth an in-person visit for sure!
4. Tupelo Honey Cafe
Here I go with the honey again. What can I say? It’s kinda a big deal. Tupelo Honey Cafe serves southern foods that all incorporate honey in the recipes. For realzies (yes, I just said that) though, the food here is so good, and the portions are large. I ate on this meal for two days. I wound up ordering the ‘Shoo Mercy Sweet Potato Pancakes” that were topped with buttermilk fried chicken, apple cider bacon, and spiced pecans. There’s lots of options for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, desserts, a kiddy menu, and some solid cocktails (example: Tupelo honey mimosa, Tupelo margarita, Honeysuckle & lavender flip).
5. The Chocolate Fetish
Ok, now we kind of stumbled upon The Chocolate Fetish, and I am so glad we did! It was pretty darned chilly when we were in town (November), and we were looking for a warm drink. Lo and behold, The Chocolate Fetish has literally one of the best cups of hot chocolate I’ve ever had in all my 29 years of existence. You don’t have to go all the way to Asheville to taste their sweet treats as they ship to most states, but I’d recommend stopping in if even just for a drink (although I couldn’t help myself and wound up buying some other chocolates, too!). They even offer tours!
6. The Spice and Tea Exchange of Asheville
Are you starting to see a theme here? Books and food. Books and food. Books and food. I can’t help myself! The Spice and Tea Exchange of Asheville is something special. I’m a big tea drinker… not so much a cook… but definitely a tea drinker. The entire shop is packed with shelves of loose teas and spices, spice blends, different salts and sugars, even recipe books and tea/cooking accessories. Your body immediately relaxes when you walk in this store just from the delicious and calming smells permeating the air. It’s quite divine! Buy some things for yourself, or they have great gift packs that would be awesome for Christmas, birthdays, or other special occasions.
7. Battery Park Book Exchange
Here I go again with the books. Now, THIS… this is a bookstore. Battery Park Book Exchange is quite a quirky place. The stacks are pretty narrow and there’s chairs scattered here and there where you can sit and read. There was even a conference style table in the back where we witnessed a book club meeting in progress. This isn’t just any used bookstore, though. Oh, no. Not only can you find great books, but you can belly up to the bar for a glass of wine or champagne and a cheeseboard for a mid-book snack. Can you say #classy??? Battery Park Book Exchange specializes in books about North Carolina, American History, the Civil War, and the American South, but I was definitely also able to find some current fiction if that’s more your taste.
8. The Blackbird
The Blackbird restaurant is where we went for Sunday brunch, because duh… brunch. And, it had me in AVOCADO TOAST HEAVEN. The coffee was just like I like it – nice and strong and a little bit sweet. The atmosphere was this nice mesh of modern + hipster. I definitely wasn’t cool enough to be in there, but when in Rome (or Asheville), right? The service was so perfect, I didn’t feel rushed at all. Coming from a New Orleans girl who is used to family dinner outtings lasting two to three hours, not being rushed is a huge deal. I like to take my time, enjoy the company and conversation, sip my coffee, eat some good food, and then digest all while sitting at the same darned table. Great dining experience, great food, with great people. It was awesome. From there, we walked all around downtown and had a glorious day enjoying the fall weather.
9. Appalachian Natural Soaps
Everyone who knows me knows that I love my bath and beauty products. We literally followed our noses into Appalachian Natural Soaps because when we walked by the smell was so amazing we just couldn’t resist! This family owned and operated store has been in Asheville for roughly 30 years, and they have SUCH a fun philosophy… “Don’t get naked with anything you can’t trust!” How hilarious is that?! They hand make 100% natural soaps and skin care products that include ingredients like coconut oil, soybean oil, organic cocoa butter, vitamin e, essential oils, herbs, spices, and other quality ingredients. Honestly, that’s probably why it smells so divine! I bought a couple of soaps and a candle that’s wax can be used as hand lotion! It contains one ounce of lavender essential oil for a relaxing aroma and healing power. You can shop their online store as well, but there’s so much more in-store than what they offer online. GO THERE! They’re lovely people with lovely products.
There are so many other places in Downtown Asheville to explore, but these by far were the quirkiest and my favorites.
Have you been anywhere else in Downtown Asheville that you think we should check out next time we go? Because, we WILL be going again! Leave a comment below.
Until next time,