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2017 Family Travel Destinations

It’s official: our family has lived in Alabama for over a year now. Last year, the stress and expense of our cross-country move seriously limited our travels; we ventured only to the beach for a week and the mountains for an extended weekend. Now that we’re all settled in here in our new home, I’m seriously itching to adventure out into the big wide world and see what we’ve been missing. In planning our family vacations this year, we were looking for destinations that offer a little bit of everything: relaxation, adventure, enrichment and fun. In the end, we narrowed it down to four trips that we think fit the bill quite perfectly.

Family travel destination ideas

Family travel ideas
Photo credit: courtesy of washington.org

Our DC itinerary is really full and really exciting. Rather than stay in a hotel in the city, we’ve opted to rent an apartment in Arlington with convenient access to the Metro.  Ever since our trip to Hawaii a few years ago I’ve really favored staying in rental homes or apartments because they offer both amazing value and the convenience of being able to stretch out a bit more than a traditional hotel room allows. We also really enjoy being able to cook our own meals if we want to.

In addition to visiting with dear family friends who live in Virginia and trying some great restaurants, here are some of the highlights we’ve got planned:

Nighttime walking tour of the national mall and monuments

During our first trip to DC years ago we had the opportunity to tour several of the monuments but this will be the first time we’ve ever visited at night. We’re looking so forward to seeing everything beautifully lit up.

 

Family travel destination ideas
Photo credit: courtesy of washington.org

Family travel destination ideas

Family travel destination ideas
Photo credit: courtesy of washington.org

Visits to several museums

We’re heading to the International Spy Museum, the Newseum, the Daniel’s Story Exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Of those, the only one we’ve visited before was the Air and Space Museum so we’re definitely looking forward to some new experiences.

Family travel destination ideas
Photo credit: courtesy of washington.org

 Tour the Capitol building

Have any of you done this? I’m not dying for this particular tour but I’m hopeful that it will be interesting.

Family travel destination ideas


Of all the trips we’re taking this year, this next one is perhaps the one I’m most excited about. We’re heading north  of the border; it’ll be our first trip to Canada (not counting the Alaskan cruise that stopped briefly in Vancouver).

Family travel destination ideas

Family travel destination ideas
Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Friends, I don’t even know where to start with this one. Just look at the beauty! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Banff/ Lake Louise, the area is located just over an hour outside of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Probably best known for its gorgeous, glacier-fed lakes, Banff offers families a ton of opportunity for outdoor, active adventure. We’ll be splitting our stay between a condo in Canmore and the luxurious Post Hotel in Lake Louise. When we planned our trip we didn’t know it but were delighted to discover that Canada is celebrating a very special birthday this year and admission into her national parks is complimentary all year long! Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve got planned during our visit:

Family-friendly Hiking Trails

As you might imagine, this part of the Canadian Rockies offer countless trails. There’s a little something for everyone, including a plethora of mild to moderate trails well suited for families. One of the things we plan to do is hike to a remote tea house to enjoy fresh-baked treats before turning around and heading back. Isn’t that fun?

Family travel destination ideas
Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Explore the Town of Banff

While Banff is the name of Canada’s most visited National Park, it’s also the name of the town nestled within the park. Its streets are lined with fabulous restaurants and quaint mountain shops where visitors can pick up Canadian goods and souvenirs. There are also tons of festivals and events hosted here throughout the year.

Family travel destination ideas
Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Whitewater Rafting

Several years ago we went whitewater rafting in Durango, Colorado. In between the adrenaline rush of the Class III rapids, the raft floated leisurely down the river. We’re looking forward to another afternoon spend rafting in Canada.

Family travel destination ideas
Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography

Canoe Lake Louise

There is no chance I would pass up the opportunity to experience the grandeur of the scenery from the middle of it all.

Family travel destination ideas
Photo credit: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson

I can’t wait to come back with my own pictures to show you guys!


Because we so thoroughly enjoyed our visit last year, we’re spending another week at the beach.

Family travel destination ideas

Family travel destination ideas

Seagrove Beach is located on Florida’s emerald coast, in the beaches of South Walton, along 30A. Last July we spent a week in a rental house and had THE best time. We rented bikes and stand up paddleboards and spent seven relaxing days with our toes in the sand. The only complaint we had was that it was ridiculously humid–crazy humid. We’re going in the fall this year and I’ve heard that we can expect gorgeous weather.

Family travel destination ideas

South Walton Beaches are absolutely gorgeous. Until our visit last year, I had no idea that Florida had beaches like this. I thought one had to travel to Mexico or the Caribbean for emerald ocean and white sand. Not so. And that sea grass?! So pretty.

Family travel destination ideas

The beaches lie in a string along a coastal highway and each one has a bit of a different feel to it. The photo above was taken in Seaside, where The Truman Show was shot. As you can see, there are a ton of cute shops and restaurants to check out.

Family travel destination ideas

We had fun biking from beach to beach to see what each had to offer. The photo above was taken in Rosemary Beach. There was an adorable town center there where they had free music in the square. Isn’t the architecture charming? Truly, each beach town was unique. We’re opting to stay in Seagrove once again because it’s conveniently located along 30A for quick biking access to several great spots. I’ll share more when we return from our trip later this year.


And, finally, the last trip we have planned is a cruise.

Family travel destination ideas

Family travel destination ideas

It’s been a couple of years since we last sailed on one of Disney’s beautiful ships. This year, we’re embarking on a quick little Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream. The Dream is the only one in Disney’s fleet of four cruise ships that we’ve not ever sailed on so it’ll be fun to check that box.

If you’re looking for a fun-filled, super simple beach trip, Disney cruises are pretty tough to beat. Once you step foot on the ship, there’s not much else to worry about but for when you’re going to eat and which activities you want to prioritize. Especially for families with children, this vacation will dazzle. Aboard the ship, guests have a plethora of options for dining, activities and entertainment. And then the ports of call offer a little something different, depending upon the itinerary you choose. During our upcoming cruise, we’ll be making a stop at one of our favorite ports, Castaway Cay.

Family travel destination ideas

Castaway Cay is Disney’s private Bahamian island. It is one of our favorite stops because the ship pulls right up to the dock and passengers disembark for beach time. The food is included in the price of the cruise so you don’t have to worry about money for that. And there are a ton of options for excursions on the island, too. In the past, we’ve done bike rentals, snorkeling, parasailing and kayaking. Of course, if you’re most easily pleased lying on the beach with a tropical drink in hand, that option is always available as well.

Family travel destination ideas


Which destinations have you decided to include in your vacation planning this year? Where should we consider traveling to next year?

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Project 40 // month two

There are those Dove models–brazen to be shot beneath studio lights from all angles. And then there’s me, accounting for every ounce that changes on the scale. Single, wiry hairs devoid of color are so commonplace now that I’ve stopped keeping track; I pull my hair up and shift a strand here or there to tuck them quietly away. I have fidgety eye skin that poses unforeseen makeup challenges. Crooked toes. Aging hands and unflattering … Continue reading Project 40 // month two

White Chocolate Apricot Bread

White Chocolate Apricot Bread

There is an adorable little bakery that recently opened here in Huntsville. It’s located in a section of the city that features the most charming brick buildings and a  pedestrian-friendly community. Jeff and I like to pop in there for breakfast treats on his off Fridays. We’re almost always swayed by their delicious coconut orange rolls served warm, straight from the oven. It didn’t take us long to realize that the prepackaged goods they sell … Continue reading White Chocolate Apricot Bread

Project 40 // Month One

I turn forty this year. You may or may not regard forty as something to remark over but considering that I refused to call my thirtieth birthday for what it was and instead insisted upon calling it my twenty-ten birthday, forty is something I’m taking notice of. It’s landing on me so very much differently than my thirtieth did, though. Whereas that one came rolling in like the giant stone boulder on Indiana Jones, this … Continue reading Project 40 // Month One

I think I’d call it hope

1996. More often than not I’ve got a two-year-old on my hip or at my side or strapped in the backseat of the car, content to go where’er I take her. Whether it’s insecurity or in proof of a point or just a matter of convenience I can’t recall but I bring a date to my 19th birthday dinner at Gram’s house. Everyone around the table–everyone but me–knows it will never last. His is one … Continue reading I think I’d call it hope

Christmas at home

I was one of those kids who adored carnival rides that simultaneously spun and rotated so fast that when the ride came to an end, the rider would exit and stumble about for a few seconds, trying to regain some semblance of balance. I bring it up because this year, the period between late October until early January was almost as dizzying. I never got a chance to check in here and show you photos … Continue reading Christmas at home

Currently

**I was provided with a gift card by Bonefish Grill for the purpose of this visit. No other compensation was provided.** As the title suggests, this post is all about what I’m up to, currently. Awaiting: My mom’s arrival! She’s flying in for a long weekend. This post will be published as we are on our way to pick her up from the airport in Nashville. She’s coming to a) celebrate my birthday with me … Continue reading Currently

Do you have a travel bucket list? I do. I take it a step further, though, and keep a travel experience bucket list. It includes things like: stop and listen to a strolling accordion player alongside a Venetian canal drink something hot and spiked at Christmas in a German village capture the perfect photo from a canoe on Moraine Lake Last week, we spent three nights in Asheville, North Carolina and I was able to check off another travel experience bucket list item: picnic along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. I absolutely adore hearing/reading about destinations both exotic and not-so-much, especially when I'm researching for a trip. With that in mind, I wanted to share our experience. Come on along with us. In case you just want to skim for opinions and not do in-depth reading, I'm offering a letter grade of each experience. Asheville is a quaint little foodie-friendly city in North Carolina's mountain country. Maybe best known for the opulent Biltmore Estate, my family discovered that even without a visit to George Vanderbilt's stately country home, Asheville is a city brimming with opportunities for active young families and couples. Asheville travel guide Where to stay in Asheville Aloft Asheville Downtown - A+ We opted to stay downtown so that we could easily walk off all the calories we consumed. As it turns out, that was a good call because we did indeed consume a lot of calories during this trip. Our hotel, Aloft Asheville Downtown, did not disappoint. Have you ever stayed in an Aloft hotel? From the moment you walk in, you'll notice trendy decor and a definite hipster vibe. The lobbies and guest rooms in each Aloft I've stayed in have been furnished with artsy pieces that have clean lines. Public spaces are spacious, but inviting. The Aloft Asheville Downtown had an open-air dining space that overlooked the bustling Biltmore Avenue.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCOne of things we most appreciate about Aloft Hotels, though, is that they allow dogs to stay without any extra deposits or fees. If you look towards the lower right-hand corner of this photo of the hotel lobby, you'll see a dog crate. During our stay, this crate was inhabited by Ginger, a local rescue dog in need of a home. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe loved staying at this hotel because it was within walking distance of some of Asheville's top restaurants. It also served as a convenient jumping off point for exploring the city on foot. Parking is available in an attached garage for $7 per night. Where to eat in Asheville Asheville definitely qualifies as foodie-friendly. Flavors and textures and aesthetics rule the plate. I liked that there was a little something for everyone, from small plate, tapas-style restaurants to hip new breweries to upscale fine dining establishments. Here's a glimpse at what awaits the Asheville-bound traveler. Biscuit Head :: B If I'm being honest, I have to admit that Asheville's reputation for 'culinary cool' is what left me dying to visit. And, friends, my thighs might wish I could say differently but the truth is that my taste buds were rewarded time and time again during this trip. Our first meal in town was at Biscuit Head--named that way because their biscuits are the size of a cat's head. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhen we arrived for breakfast at about 11:00 on a Saturday, the line stretched out the door. I hear that's a common occurrence on weekend mornings. Still, our wait was not long at all--maybe twenty minutes. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCFood here is ordered at the counter and then delivered to your table. We struggled because even after we ordered, we found there to be a scarcity of open tables with seating for four. Seeing that we had two littles with us, a kind couple offered to give up their spot for us but a table for four opened up at the last minute and we snatched it right up, gratefully declining to displace that kind couple. We started the meal with a pitcher of mimosas ($17). Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJeff ordered the pulled pork biscuit, which came topped with local pulled pork, jalapeño pimento, bacon, poached egg, and maple syrup.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJayce had the mimosa fried chicken biscuit which came with mimosa fried chicken, sweet potato butter, sriracha slaw, 
and a poached egg.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCCassidy had biscuits fried like donuts and served with lemon curd (not pictured). I was creeped out by the whole poached egg thing and opted instead for a classic that came topped with cheddar and scrambled egg. But once I saw the topping bar, I decided to eat mine open-faced and leave half of my biscuit for a slathering of sweet potato chai butter. Oh, friends, I did not regret that decision. My brunch also came with a side of chevre cheese grits and they were delicious.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCMy food was good. The chai slathered biscuit was better than the cheese/egg biscuit which was a little dry and didn't taste fresh. Based on that and the fact that seating wasn't seamless, I'd give Biscuit Head a solid 'B'. Given the chance, I would revisit Biscuit Head but I think next time I would order just a plain biscuit and go wild at the topping bar. Posana :: B- Later that evening we headed just up the sidewalk from our hotel and dined on the patio at Posana. The weather that night was perfect. The restaurant looks upscale, but our kids were welcomed and treated very kindly by both the hostesses and our server. They even had coloring menus and crayons.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJeff and I were still fairly stuffed after Biscuit Head so we opted to share an appetizer and entree. We started with the Brussels Salad. It came topped with Asian pears, candied spiced walnuts, sesame seed goat cheese and honey buttermilk dressing.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThis salad looked better than it tasted. It was somewhat bitter and just not all that tasty. The red fish we ordered for an entree was much better. It was served over a bed of October beans and came with seared honshimeji mushrooms, sweet corn and red wine. The portion size was just right for sharing given that we had late breakfast.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCGiven the chance, I don't think I'd return to Posana. While the food was good, it wasn't great, though the prices suggested it should be so. OWL :: A On Sunday morning we hopped in the car and drove to OWL bakery. OWL, in this case, stands for Old World Levain.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCI cannot explain to you the adorableness of this bakery. Storefront-wise, it looks like a tiny little house. We actually drove right past it the first time, thinking it was a residence. Google Maps insisted though and we circled around. It's just as cute inside.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC 275b1403 275b1415Jeff and I shared an apple turnover. It was easily the most perfectly-tender and flaky pastry I've ever eaten (and I've eaten pastry in Paris, mind you).Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe also tried something new. The young woman at the counter called it 'porridge bread' and described it as a thick, oatmeal-y bread. It was the exact opposite of the pastry in that it was dense and hearty. It was SO good. It was unmistakably artisan-made. We just cut slices and ate it untopped and untoasted. We liked it so much, though, that we went back and bought a full-size loaf for that day's picnic lunch.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThe kids ordered the Sunday special, which was two thick slices of French toast filled with pumpkin cream and topped with house pumpkin syrup and toasted pecans. At $5 per order, it was a steal.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC I also had the most lovely hot buttered spiced chai latte made from loose-leaf tea. I'm going to do my best to replicate it at home. I would revisit OWL bakery in a heartbeat and highly recommend that you stop by if ever you're in Asheville. French Broad Chocolate Lounge :: B- This is another fun foodie place that was well within walking distance from Aloft. We went on a Sunday afternoon right around three o'clock and the line was out the door. Service was noticeably slow, too; we waited for quite a long time. The good news is that the interior of the lounge was very cute and trendy.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThey serve ice cream, sipping chocolates (they call them liquid truffles, isn't that great?!), assorted baked goods, housemade truffles, coffee, tea and milkshakes. We bought two truffles, some peppermint brownies and a tall slice of pumpkin spice cake. Our reviews are mixed, but mostly not great. The horchata truffle we got was really quite good. The chai one, though? Not so much. The pumpkin spice cake was okay but the frosting was awful--truly terrible. It tasted greasy and flavorless, like it had been made from margarine. The brownies were for the kids; I didn't try them. I suspect that this would be an ideal location to sit down with a cup of sipping chocolate and a carefully selected truffle and I might revisit for that purpose. I would not, though, ever order a piece of cake from here again. Mamacitas :: A With all the amazing dining options in Asheville, it might see odd that we opted for takeout nachos one evening. Here's the deal, though: the Arizona Cardinals were playing and when the Arizona Cardinals are playing it's a fairly safe bet that my handsome husband and I can be found in front of the TV. Mamacitas was located just down the street from the Aloft hotel we were staying in. About an hour before game time we walked up the street and bought some goodies from the Chocolate Lounge (more on that in a minute) and then down the street to Mamacitas. We bought two orders of nachos to go.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThis is a counter service restaurant similar to Subway in that you place your order at the front of the line and then work your way towards the register as the person behind the counter prepares your order based on your preferences. We piled our nachos high with all the fixings. They used housemade chips and pico and also, real cheese! None of that nasty queso sauce was anywhere in sight.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCI'm not going to pretend it was a gourmet meal but I will tell you that they were yummy nachos with plenty of toppings. I would totally revisit Mamacitas. Filo :: A While we were eating at OWL we overheard fellow patrons talking about another great bakery in town, Filo. We wanted to give it a try. We left the kids to watch cartoons one morning and went to grab breakfast. This was another super cute bakery, inside and out.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe ordered chai lattes (have I ever told you guys that I don't do coffee?) and a couple of pastries to share--an almond croissant and a pumpkin scone. The kids had cinnamon rolls (not pictured). We even got a fresh-baked dog treat for Mowgli, which he appreciated quite a lot.275b1597 275b1591 Our pastries and lattes were both very good. The chai needed a little something--either an added kick of spice or a little sweetener, but overall it was pretty good. The scone was flavorful and had great texture but it paled in comparison to the almond croissant, which was delicious. I would definitely revisit Filo and can enthusiastically recommend it. Tupelo Honey Cafe :: A+ If I'm being honest, I have to say that I suspected Tupelo Honey Cafe might be a tourist trap; I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was proved wrong. The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. We went for lunch and were really looking to sample several dishes rather than stuff ourselves with individual entrees. We ordered three small plates: fried green tomatoes, fried avocado and crispy Brussels. If you notice a "fried" theme, you're much quicker than I. We typically don't really care for fried food but for some reason those three appetizers called our names and we went with them. It wasn't until they were all plated before us that we sort of winced at the fried-ness of our choices. It didn't stop us from digging in, though. I'll start by telling you that there is a reason fried green tomatoes are infamous, and it has nothing to do with the movie. These were served over a bed of soft yet hearty chevre grits. Our only complaint about this dish is that there were only four servings; we ended up licking the plate clean.The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. The fried avocado was a bit of a different story. We are avocado aficionados around my house but we agreed that while the dish was cute and creative, it didn't win us over in the taste category. Avocados, I believe, are best served freshly-mashed with lime juice and cilantro on a tortilla chip. Still, this dish wasn't bad, per se, but I'd relish the opportunity to try something different during a future visit.275b1653 The last dish we tried at Tupelo were the crispy Brussels served with lemon zest, bacon and freshly-chopped herbs. Do you like Brussels? I absolutely adore them in most any presentation, crispy notwithstanding. I don't think these counted towards our vegetable serving that day but if they had, it would have been win-win. The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. I would be remiss not to show you of the biscuits Tupelo is famous for. I'm told that these are served with every order, no matter how big or how small.The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. Would I go back to Tupelo Honey Cafe? You bet I would. Taco Billy :: B On our last morning in town we headed to Taco Billy for breakfast tacos. This was my first experience with breakfast tacos, but it wasn't my last. Taco Billy is a cute little joint safely nestled away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Asheville, not far from OWL Bakery.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC The menu is fairly simple and straightforward (and penned on butcher paper which was super cute).275b1869We ordered, you guessed it, breakfast tacos. The standard creations seemed somewhat limiting to us so we went with the build your own option. I wish I had thought to specify what type of tortilla I preferred because corn wins every time but I forgot and they didn't ask, so soft flour it was. I chose eggs, sweet potatoes, goat cheese and avocado as my fillings. My taco was served with a small side of avocado tomatillo salsa which was really the tipping point on making this breakfast a memorable one. 275b1864Jayce, too, ordered the build your own variety of breakfast taco but unlike mine, his included just about every variation of meat that was offered.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Like I said, I do wish I had ordered the corn tortilla but even on the relatively flavorless flour tortilla, this taco was quite good, especially with the addition of the salsa. My complaint about Taco Billy was that they kind of failed by using store-bought tortillas. Maybe it's the Arizona in me but I can't help but believe with the whole of my heart that if you have a restaurant that serves only tacos, you really have no excuse not to serve housemade tortillas (flour, corn and otherwise) with aforementioned tacos. No excuse. That said, the tacos were yummy and did inspire me to recreate them at home--on corn tortillas, of course! Yep. I'd totes try Taco Billy again. What to do in Asheville Shop @ the Tobacco Barn :: A+ Confession: outside of eating, we didn't do a whole lot in Asheville. That's not to say that there is nothing to do. There are a plethora of active options including miles and miles of trails for hiking and biking. Visitors can drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for beautiful views. There is a lively River Arts District filled with galleries--if that's your thing. And there is ample opportunity for shopping, which we took full advantage of on our first day. Asheville has an outlet mall and we did stop by there for just a hot minute. There were a variety of shops but we didn't stay long because it wasn't really my thing. I did, however, spend upwards a significant amount of time wandering through the most fun antique mall, the Tobacco Barn. They had so very many finds that were perfect for my farmhouse-style home. Here's a peek at just a sampling of them. Do you have a travel bucket list? I do. I take it a step further, though, and keep a travel experience bucket list. It includes things like: stop and listen to a strolling accordion player alongside a Venetian canal drink something hot and spiked at Christmas in a German village capture the perfect photo from a canoe on Moraine Lake Last week, we spent three nights in Asheville, North Carolina and I was able to check off another travel experience bucket list item: picnic along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. I absolutely adore hearing/reading about destinations both exotic and not-so-much, especially when I'm researching for a trip. With that in mind, I wanted to share our experience. Come on along with us. In case you just want to skim for opinions and not do in-depth reading, I'm offering a letter grade of each experience. Asheville is a quaint little foodie-friendly city in North Carolina's mountain country. Maybe best known for the opulent Biltmore Estate, my family discovered that even without a visit to George Vanderbilt's stately country home, Asheville is a city brimming with opportunities for active young families and couples. Asheville travel guide Where to stay in Asheville Aloft Asheville Downtown - A+ We opted to stay downtown so that we could easily walk off all the calories we consumed. As it turns out, that was a good call because we did indeed consume a lot of calories during this trip. Our hotel, Aloft Asheville Downtown, did not disappoint. Have you ever stayed in an Aloft hotel? From the moment you walk in, you'll notice trendy decor and a definite hipster vibe. The lobbies and guest rooms in each Aloft I've stayed in have been furnished with artsy pieces that have clean lines. Asheville travel guidePublic spaces are spacious, but inviting. The Aloft Asheville Downtown had an open-air dining space that overlooked the bustling Biltmore Avenue.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCOne of things we most appreciate about Aloft Hotels, though, is that they allow dogs to stay without any extra deposits or fees. If you look towards the lower right-hand corner of this photo of the hotel lobby, you'll see a dog crate. During our stay, this crate was inhabited by Ginger, a local rescue dog in need of a home. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe loved staying at this hotel because it was within walking distance of some of Asheville's top restaurants. It also served as a convenient jumping off point for exploring the city on foot. Parking is available in an attached garage for $7 per night. Where to eat in Asheville Asheville definitely qualifies as foodie-friendly. Flavors and textures and aesthetics rule the plate. I liked that there was a little something for everyone, from small plate, tapas-style restaurants to hip new breweries to upscale fine dining establishments. Here's a glimpse at what awaits the Asheville-bound traveler. Biscuit Head :: B If I'm being honest, I have to admit that Asheville's reputation for 'culinary cool' is what left me dying to visit. And, friends, my thighs might wish I could say differently but the truth is that my taste buds were rewarded time and time again during this trip. Our first meal in town was at Biscuit Head--named that way because their biscuits are the size of a cat's head. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhen we arrived for breakfast at about 11:00 on a Saturday, the line stretched out the door. I hear that's a common occurrence on weekend mornings. Still, our wait was not long at all--maybe twenty minutes. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCFood here is ordered at the counter and then delivered to your table. We struggled because even after we ordered, we found there to be a scarcity of open tables with seating for four. Seeing that we had two littles with us, a kind couple offered to give up their spot for us but a table for four opened up at the last minute and we snatched it right up, gratefully declining to displace that kind couple. We started the meal with a pitcher of mimosas ($17). Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJeff ordered the pulled pork biscuit, which came topped with local pulled pork, jalapeño pimento, bacon, poached egg, and maple syrup.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJayce had the mimosa fried chicken biscuit which came with mimosa fried chicken, sweet potato butter, sriracha slaw, 
and a poached egg.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCCassidy had biscuits fried like donuts and served with lemon curd (not pictured). I was creeped out by the whole poached egg thing and opted instead for a classic that came topped with cheddar and scrambled egg. But once I saw the topping bar, I decided to eat mine open-faced and leave half of my biscuit for a slathering of sweet potato chai butter. Oh, friends, I did not regret that decision. My brunch also came with a side of chevre cheese grits and they were delicious.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCMy food was good. The chai slathered biscuit was better than the cheese/egg biscuit which was a little dry and didn't taste fresh. Based on that and the fact that seating wasn't seamless, I'd give Biscuit Head a solid 'B'. Given the chance, I would revisit Biscuit Head but I think next time I would order just a plain biscuit and go wild at the topping bar. Posana :: B- Later that evening we headed just up the sidewalk from our hotel and dined on the patio at Posana. The weather that night was perfect. The restaurant looks upscale, but our kids were welcomed and treated very kindly by both the hostesses and our server. They even had coloring menus and crayons.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJeff and I were still fairly stuffed after Biscuit Head so we opted to share an appetizer and entree. We started with the Brussels Salad. It came topped with Asian pears, candied spiced walnuts, sesame seed goat cheese and honey buttermilk dressing.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThis salad looked better than it tasted. It was somewhat bitter and just not all that tasty. The red fish we ordered for an entree was much better. It was served over a bed of October beans and came with seared honshimeji mushrooms, sweet corn and red wine. The portion size was just right for sharing given that we had late breakfast.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCGiven the chance, I don't think I'd return to Posana. While the food was good, it wasn't great, though the prices suggested it should be so. OWL :: A On Sunday morning we hopped in the car and drove to OWL bakery. OWL, in this case, stands for Old World Levain.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCI cannot explain to you the adorableness of this bakery. Storefront-wise, it looks like a tiny little house. We actually drove right past it the first time, thinking it was a residence. Google Maps insisted though and we circled around. It's just as cute inside.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC 275b1403 275b1415Jeff and I shared an apple turnover. It was easily the most perfectly-tender and flaky pastry I've ever eaten (and I've eaten pastry in Paris, mind you).Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe also tried something new. The young woman at the counter called it 'porridge bread' and described it as a thick, oatmeal-y bread. It was the exact opposite of the pastry in that it was dense and hearty. It was SO good. It was unmistakably artisan-made. We just cut slices and ate it untopped and untoasted. We liked it so much, though, that we went back and bought a full-size loaf for that day's picnic lunch.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThe kids ordered the Sunday special, which was two thick slices of French toast filled with pumpkin cream and topped with house pumpkin syrup and toasted pecans. At $5 per order, it was a steal.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC I also had the most lovely hot buttered spiced chai latte made from loose-leaf tea. I'm going to do my best to replicate it at home. I would revisit OWL bakery in a heartbeat and highly recommend that you stop by if ever you're in Asheville. French Broad Chocolate Lounge :: B- This is another fun foodie place that was well within walking distance from Aloft. We went on a Sunday afternoon right around three o'clock and the line was out the door. Service was noticeably slow, too; we waited for quite a long time. The good news is that the interior of the lounge was very cute and trendy.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThey serve ice cream, sipping chocolates (they call them liquid truffles, isn't that great?!), assorted baked goods, housemade truffles, coffee, tea and milkshakes. We bought two truffles, some peppermint brownies and a tall slice of pumpkin spice cake. Our reviews are mixed, but mostly not great. The horchata truffle we got was really quite good. The chai one, though? Not so much. The pumpkin spice cake was okay but the frosting was awful--truly terrible. It tasted greasy and flavorless, like it had been made from margarine. The brownies were for the kids; I didn't try them. I suspect that this would be an ideal location to sit down with a cup of sipping chocolate and a carefully selected truffle and I might revisit for that purpose. I would not, though, ever order a piece of cake from here again. Mamacitas :: A With all the amazing dining options in Asheville, it might see odd that we opted for takeout nachos one evening. Here's the deal, though: the Arizona Cardinals were playing and when the Arizona Cardinals are playing it's a fairly safe bet that my handsome husband and I can be found in front of the TV. Mamacitas was located just down the street from the Aloft hotel we were staying in. About an hour before game time we walked up the street and bought some goodies from the Chocolate Lounge (more on that in a minute) and then down the street to Mamacitas. We bought two orders of nachos to go.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThis is a counter service restaurant similar to Subway in that you place your order at the front of the line and then work your way towards the register as the person behind the counter prepares your order based on your preferences. We piled our nachos high with all the fixings. They used housemade chips and pico and also, real cheese! None of that nasty queso sauce was anywhere in sight.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCI'm not going to pretend it was a gourmet meal but I will tell you that they were yummy nachos with plenty of toppings. I would totally revisit Mamacitas. Filo :: A While we were eating at OWL we overheard fellow patrons talking about another great bakery in town, Filo. We wanted to give it a try. We left the kids to watch cartoons one morning and went to grab breakfast. This was another super cute bakery, inside and out. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe ordered chai lattes (have I ever told you guys that I don't do coffee?) and a couple of pastries to share--an almond croissant and a pumpkin scone. The kids had cinnamon rolls (not pictured). We even got a fresh-baked dog treat for Mowgli, which he appreciated quite a lot.275b1597 275b1591 Our pastries and lattes were both very good. The chai needed a little something--either an added kick of spice or a little sweetener, but overall it was pretty good. The scone was flavorful and had great texture but it paled in comparison to the almond croissant, which was delicious. I would definitely revisit Filo and can enthusiastically recommend it. Tupelo Honey Cafe :: A+ If I'm being honest, I have to say that I suspected Tupelo Honey Cafe might be a tourist trap; I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was proved wrong. The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. We went for lunch and were really looking to sample several dishes rather than stuff ourselves with individual entrees. We ordered three small plates: fried green tomatoes, fried avocado and crispy Brussels. If you notice a "fried" theme, you're much quicker than I. We typically don't really care for fried food but for some reason those three appetizers called our names and we went with them. It wasn't until they were all plated before us that we sort of winced at the fried-ness of our choices. It didn't stop us from digging in, though. I'll start by telling you that there is a reason fried green tomatoes are infamous, and it has nothing to do with the movie. These were served over a bed of soft yet hearty chevre grits. Our only complaint about this dish is that there were only four servings; we ended up licking the plate clean.The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. The fried avocado was a bit of a different story. We are avocado aficionados around my house but we agreed that while the dish was cute and creative, it didn't win us over in the taste category. Avocados, I believe, are best served freshly-mashed with lime juice and cilantro on a tortilla chip. Still, this dish wasn't bad, per se, but I'd relish the opportunity to try something different during a future visit.275b1653 The last dish we tried at Tupelo were the crispy Brussels served with lemon zest, bacon and freshly-chopped herbs. Do you like Brussels? I absolutely adore them in most any presentation, crispy notwithstanding. I don't think these counted towards our vegetable serving that day but if they had, it would have been win-win. The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. I would be remiss not to show you of the biscuits Tupelo is famous for. I'm told that these are served with every order, no matter how big or how small.The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. Would I go back to Tupelo Honey Cafe? You bet I would. Taco Billy :: B On our last morning in town we headed to Taco Billy for breakfast tacos. This was my first experience with breakfast tacos, but it wasn't my last. Taco Billy is a cute little joint safely nestled away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Asheville, not far from OWL Bakery.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC The menu is fairly simple and straightforward (and penned on butcher paper which was super cute).275b1869We ordered, you guessed it, breakfast tacos. The standard creations seemed somewhat limiting to us so we went with the build your own option. I wish I had thought to specify what type of tortilla I preferred because corn wins every time but I forgot and they didn't ask, so soft flour it was. I chose eggs, sweet potatoes, goat cheese and avocado as my fillings. My taco was served with a small side of avocado tomatillo salsa which was really the tipping point on making this breakfast a memorable one. 275b1864Jayce, too, ordered the build your own variety of breakfast taco but unlike mine, his included just about every variation of meat that was offered.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Like I said, I do wish I had ordered the corn tortilla but even on the relatively flavorless flour tortilla, this taco was quite good, especially with the addition of the salsa. My complaint about Taco Billy was that they kind of failed by using store-bought tortillas. Maybe it's the Arizona in me but I can't help but believe with the whole of my heart that if you have a restaurant that serves only tacos, you really have no excuse not to serve housemade tortillas (flour, corn and otherwise) with aforementioned tacos. No excuse. That said, the tacos were yummy and did inspire me to recreate them at home--on corn tortillas, of course! Yep. I'd totes try Taco Billy again. What to do in Asheville Confession: outside of eating, we didn't do a whole lot in Asheville. That's not to say that there is nothing to do. There are a plethora of active options including miles and miles of trails for hiking and biking. Visitors can drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for beautiful views. There is a lively River Arts District filled with galleries--if that's your thing. And there is ample opportunity for shopping, which we took full advantage of on our first day. Asheville has an outlet mall and we did stop by there for just a hot minute. There were a variety of shops but we didn't stay long because it wasn't really my thing. I did, however, spend upwards a significant amount of time wandering through the most fun antique mall, the Tobacco Barn. They had so very many finds that were perfect for my farmhouse-style home. Here's a peek at just a sampling of them.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCAfter leaving the Tobacco Barn, we headed to a nearby park just to stroll and take some photos. Do you have a travel bucket list? I do. I take it a step further, though, and keep a travel experience bucket list. It includes things like: stop and listen to a strolling accordion player alongside a Venetian canal drink something hot and spiked at Christmas in a German village capture the perfect photo from a canoe on Moraine Lake Last week, we spent three nights in Asheville, North Carolina and I was able to check off another travel experience bucket list item: picnic along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. I absolutely adore hearing/reading about destinations both exotic and not-so-much, especially when I'm researching for a trip. With that in mind, I wanted to share our experience. Come on along with us. In case you just want to skim for opinions and not do in-depth reading, I'm offering a letter grade of each experience. Asheville is a quaint little foodie-friendly city in North Carolina's mountain country. Maybe best known for the opulent Biltmore Estate, my family discovered that even without a visit to George Vanderbilt's stately country home, Asheville is a city brimming with opportunities for active young families and couples. Asheville travel guide Where to stay in Asheville Aloft Asheville Downtown - A+ We opted to stay downtown so that we could easily walk off all the calories we consumed. As it turns out, that was a good call because we did indeed consume a lot of calories during this trip. Our hotel, Aloft Asheville Downtown, did not disappoint. Have you ever stayed in an Aloft hotel? From the moment you walk in, you'll notice trendy decor and a definite hipster vibe. The lobbies and guest rooms in each Aloft I've stayed in have been furnished with artsy pieces that have clean lines. Asheville travel guidePublic spaces are spacious, but inviting. The Aloft Asheville Downtown had an open-air dining space that overlooked the bustling Biltmore Avenue.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCOne of things we most appreciate about Aloft Hotels, though, is that they allow dogs to stay without any extra deposits or fees. If you look towards the lower right-hand corner of this photo of the hotel lobby, you'll see a dog crate. During our stay, this crate was inhabited by Ginger, a local rescue dog in need of a home. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe loved staying at this hotel because it was within walking distance of some of Asheville's top restaurants. It also served as a convenient jumping off point for exploring the city on foot. Parking is available in an attached garage for $7 per night. Where to eat in Asheville Asheville definitely qualifies as foodie-friendly. Flavors and textures and aesthetics rule the plate. I liked that there was a little something for everyone, from small plate, tapas-style restaurants to hip new breweries to upscale fine dining establishments. Here's a glimpse at what awaits the Asheville-bound traveler. Biscuit Head :: B If I'm being honest, I have to admit that Asheville's reputation for 'culinary cool' is what left me dying to visit. And, friends, my thighs might wish I could say differently but the truth is that my taste buds were rewarded time and time again during this trip. Our first meal in town was at Biscuit Head--named that way because their biscuits are the size of a cat's head. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhen we arrived for breakfast at about 11:00 on a Saturday, the line stretched out the door. I hear that's a common occurrence on weekend mornings. Still, our wait was not long at all--maybe twenty minutes. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCFood here is ordered at the counter and then delivered to your table. We struggled because even after we ordered, we found there to be a scarcity of open tables with seating for four. Seeing that we had two littles with us, a kind couple offered to give up their spot for us but a table for four opened up at the last minute and we snatched it right up, gratefully declining to displace that kind couple. We started the meal with a pitcher of mimosas ($17). Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJeff ordered the pulled pork biscuit, which came topped with local pulled pork, jalapeño pimento, bacon, poached egg, and maple syrup.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJayce had the mimosa fried chicken biscuit which came with mimosa fried chicken, sweet potato butter, sriracha slaw, 
and a poached egg.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCCassidy had biscuits fried like donuts and served with lemon curd (not pictured). I was creeped out by the whole poached egg thing and opted instead for a classic that came topped with cheddar and scrambled egg. But once I saw the topping bar, I decided to eat mine open-faced and leave half of my biscuit for a slathering of sweet potato chai butter. Oh, friends, I did not regret that decision. My brunch also came with a side of chevre cheese grits and they were delicious.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCMy food was good. The chai slathered biscuit was better than the cheese/egg biscuit which was a little dry and didn't taste fresh. Based on that and the fact that seating wasn't seamless, I'd give Biscuit Head a solid 'B'. Given the chance, I would revisit Biscuit Head but I think next time I would order just a plain biscuit and go wild at the topping bar. Posana :: B- Later that evening we headed just up the sidewalk from our hotel and dined on the patio at Posana. The weather that night was perfect. The restaurant looks upscale, but our kids were welcomed and treated very kindly by both the hostesses and our server. They even had coloring menus and crayons.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJeff and I were still fairly stuffed after Biscuit Head so we opted to share an appetizer and entree. We started with the Brussels Salad. It came topped with Asian pears, candied spiced walnuts, sesame seed goat cheese and honey buttermilk dressing.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThis salad looked better than it tasted. It was somewhat bitter and just not all that tasty. The red fish we ordered for an entree was much better. It was served over a bed of October beans and came with seared honshimeji mushrooms, sweet corn and red wine. The portion size was just right for sharing given that we had late breakfast.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCGiven the chance, I don't think I'd return to Posana. While the food was good, it wasn't great, though the prices suggested it should be so. OWL :: A On Sunday morning we hopped in the car and drove to OWL bakery. OWL, in this case, stands for Old World Levain.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCI cannot explain to you the adorableness of this bakery. Storefront-wise, it looks like a tiny little house. We actually drove right past it the first time, thinking it was a residence. Google Maps insisted though and we circled around. It's just as cute inside.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC 275b1403 275b1415Jeff and I shared an apple turnover. It was easily the most perfectly-tender and flaky pastry I've ever eaten (and I've eaten pastry in Paris, mind you).Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe also tried something new. The young woman at the counter called it 'porridge bread' and described it as a thick, oatmeal-y bread. It was the exact opposite of the pastry in that it was dense and hearty. It was SO good. It was unmistakably artisan-made. We just cut slices and ate it untopped and untoasted. We liked it so much, though, that we went back and bought a full-size loaf for that day's picnic lunch.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThe kids ordered the Sunday special, which was two thick slices of French toast filled with pumpkin cream and topped with house pumpkin syrup and toasted pecans. At $5 per order, it was a steal.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC I also had the most lovely hot buttered spiced chai latte made from loose-leaf tea. I'm going to do my best to replicate it at home. I would revisit OWL bakery in a heartbeat and highly recommend that you stop by if ever you're in Asheville. French Broad Chocolate Lounge :: B- This is another fun foodie place that was well within walking distance from Aloft. We went on a Sunday afternoon right around three o'clock and the line was out the door. Service was noticeably slow, too; we waited for quite a long time. The good news is that the interior of the lounge was very cute and trendy.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThey serve ice cream, sipping chocolates (they call them liquid truffles, isn't that great?!), assorted baked goods, housemade truffles, coffee, tea and milkshakes. We bought two truffles, some peppermint brownies and a tall slice of pumpkin spice cake. Our reviews are mixed, but mostly not great. The horchata truffle we got was really quite good. The chai one, though? Not so much. The pumpkin spice cake was okay but the frosting was awful--truly terrible. It tasted greasy and flavorless, like it had been made from margarine. The brownies were for the kids; I didn't try them. I suspect that this would be an ideal location to sit down with a cup of sipping chocolate and a carefully selected truffle and I might revisit for that purpose. I would not, though, ever order a piece of cake from here again. Mamacitas :: A With all the amazing dining options in Asheville, it might see odd that we opted for takeout nachos one evening. Here's the deal, though: the Arizona Cardinals were playing and when the Arizona Cardinals are playing it's a fairly safe bet that my handsome husband and I can be found in front of the TV. Mamacitas was located just down the street from the Aloft hotel we were staying in. About an hour before game time we walked up the street and bought some goodies from the Chocolate Lounge (more on that in a minute) and then down the street to Mamacitas. We bought two orders of nachos to go.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThis is a counter service restaurant similar to Subway in that you place your order at the front of the line and then work your way towards the register as the person behind the counter prepares your order based on your preferences. We piled our nachos high with all the fixings. They used housemade chips and pico and also, real cheese! None of that nasty queso sauce was anywhere in sight.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCI'm not going to pretend it was a gourmet meal but I will tell you that they were yummy nachos with plenty of toppings. I would totally revisit Mamacitas. Filo :: A While we were eating at OWL we overheard fellow patrons talking about another great bakery in town, Filo. We wanted to give it a try. We left the kids to watch cartoons one morning and went to grab breakfast. This was another super cute bakery, inside and out. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe ordered chai lattes (have I ever told you guys that I don't do coffee?) and a couple of pastries to share--an almond croissant and a pumpkin scone. The kids had cinnamon rolls (not pictured). We even got a fresh-baked dog treat for Mowgli, which he appreciated quite a lot.275b1597 275b1591 Our pastries and lattes were both very good. The chai needed a little something--either an added kick of spice or a little sweetener, but overall it was pretty good. The scone was flavorful and had great texture but it paled in comparison to the almond croissant, which was delicious. I would definitely revisit Filo and can enthusiastically recommend it. Tupelo Honey Cafe :: A+ If I'm being honest, I have to say that I suspected Tupelo Honey Cafe might be a tourist trap; I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was proved wrong. The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. We went for lunch and were really looking to sample several dishes rather than stuff ourselves with individual entrees. We ordered three small plates: fried green tomatoes, fried avocado and crispy Brussels. If you notice a "fried" theme, you're much quicker than I. We typically don't really care for fried food but for some reason those three appetizers called our names and we went with them. It wasn't until they were all plated before us that we sort of winced at the fried-ness of our choices. It didn't stop us from digging in, though. I'll start by telling you that there is a reason fried green tomatoes are infamous, and it has nothing to do with the movie. These were served over a bed of soft yet hearty chevre grits. Our only complaint about this dish is that there were only four servings; we ended up licking the plate clean.The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. The fried avocado was a bit of a different story. We are avocado aficionados around my house but we agreed that while the dish was cute and creative, it didn't win us over in the taste category. Avocados, I believe, are best served freshly-mashed with lime juice and cilantro on a tortilla chip. Still, this dish wasn't bad, per se, but I'd relish the opportunity to try something different during a future visit.275b1653 The last dish we tried at Tupelo were the crispy Brussels served with lemon zest, bacon and freshly-chopped herbs. Do you like Brussels? I absolutely adore them in most any presentation, crispy notwithstanding. I don't think these counted towards our vegetable serving that day but if they had, it would have been win-win. The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. I would be remiss not to show you of the biscuits Tupelo is famous for. I'm told that these are served with every order, no matter how big or how small.The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. Would I go back to Tupelo Honey Cafe? You bet I would. Taco Billy :: B On our last morning in town we headed to Taco Billy for breakfast tacos. This was my first experience with breakfast tacos, but it wasn't my last. Taco Billy is a cute little joint safely nestled away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Asheville, not far from OWL Bakery.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC The menu is fairly simple and straightforward (and penned on butcher paper which was super cute).275b1869We ordered, you guessed it, breakfast tacos. The standard creations seemed somewhat limiting to us so we went with the build your own option. I wish I had thought to specify what type of tortilla I preferred because corn wins every time but I forgot and they didn't ask, so soft flour it was. I chose eggs, sweet potatoes, goat cheese and avocado as my fillings. My taco was served with a small side of avocado tomatillo salsa which was really the tipping point on making this breakfast a memorable one. 275b1864Jayce, too, ordered the build your own variety of breakfast taco but unlike mine, his included just about every variation of meat that was offered.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Like I said, I do wish I had ordered the corn tortilla but even on the relatively flavorless flour tortilla, this taco was quite good, especially with the addition of the salsa. My complaint about Taco Billy was that they kind of failed by using store-bought tortillas. Maybe it's the Arizona in me but I can't help but believe with the whole of my heart that if you have a restaurant that serves only tacos, you really have no excuse not to serve housemade tortillas (flour, corn and otherwise) with aforementioned tacos. No excuse. That said, the tacos were yummy and did inspire me to recreate them at home--on corn tortillas, of course! Yep. I'd totes try Taco Billy again. What to do in Asheville Confession: outside of eating, we didn't do a whole lot in Asheville. That's not to say that there is nothing to do. There are a plethora of active options including miles and miles of trails for hiking and biking. Visitors can drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for beautiful views. There is a lively River Arts District filled with galleries--if that's your thing. And there is ample opportunity for shopping, which we took full advantage of on our first day. Asheville has an outlet mall and we did stop by there for just a hot minute. There were a variety of shops but we didn't stay long because it wasn't really my thing. I did, however, spend upwards a significant amount of time wandering through the most fun antique mall, the Tobacco Barn. They had so very many finds that were perfect for my farmhouse-style home. Here's a peek at just a sampling of them.Do you have a travel bucket list? I do. I take it a step further, though, and keep a travel experience bucket list. It includes things like: stop and listen to a strolling accordion player alongside a Venetian canal drink something hot and spiked at Christmas in a German village capture the perfect photo from a canoe on Moraine Lake Last week, we spent three nights in Asheville, North Carolina and I was able to check off another travel experience bucket list item: picnic along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. I absolutely adore hearing/reading about destinations both exotic and not-so-much, especially when I'm researching for a trip. With that in mind, I wanted to share our experience. Come on along with us. In case you just want to skim for opinions and not do in-depth reading, I'm offering a letter grade of each experience. Asheville is a quaint little foodie-friendly city in North Carolina's mountain country. Maybe best known for the opulent Biltmore Estate, my family discovered that even without a visit to George Vanderbilt's stately country home, Asheville is a city brimming with opportunities for active young families and couples. Asheville travel guide Where to stay in Asheville Aloft Asheville Downtown - A+ We opted to stay downtown so that we could easily walk off all the calories we consumed. As it turns out, that was a good call because we did indeed consume a lot of calories during this trip. Our hotel, Aloft Asheville Downtown, did not disappoint. Have you ever stayed in an Aloft hotel? From the moment you walk in, you'll notice trendy decor and a definite hipster vibe. The lobbies and guest rooms in each Aloft I've stayed in have been furnished with artsy pieces that have clean lines. Asheville travel guidePublic spaces are spacious, but inviting. The Aloft Asheville Downtown had an open-air dining space that overlooked the bustling Biltmore Avenue.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCOne of things we most appreciate about Aloft Hotels, though, is that they allow dogs to stay without any extra deposits or fees. If you look towards the lower right-hand corner of this photo of the hotel lobby, you'll see a dog crate. During our stay, this crate was inhabited by Ginger, a local rescue dog in need of a home. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe loved staying at this hotel because it was within walking distance of some of Asheville's top restaurants. It also served as a convenient jumping off point for exploring the city on foot. Parking is available in an attached garage for $7 per night. Where to eat in Asheville Asheville definitely qualifies as foodie-friendly. Flavors and textures and aesthetics rule the plate. I liked that there was a little something for everyone, from small plate, tapas-style restaurants to hip new breweries to upscale fine dining establishments. Here's a glimpse at what awaits the Asheville-bound traveler. Biscuit Head :: B If I'm being honest, I have to admit that Asheville's reputation for 'culinary cool' is what left me dying to visit. And, friends, my thighs might wish I could say differently but the truth is that my taste buds were rewarded time and time again during this trip. Our first meal in town was at Biscuit Head--named that way because their biscuits are the size of a cat's head. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhen we arrived for breakfast at about 11:00 on a Saturday, the line stretched out the door. I hear that's a common occurrence on weekend mornings. Still, our wait was not long at all--maybe twenty minutes. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCFood here is ordered at the counter and then delivered to your table. We struggled because even after we ordered, we found there to be a scarcity of open tables with seating for four. Seeing that we had two littles with us, a kind couple offered to give up their spot for us but a table for four opened up at the last minute and we snatched it right up, gratefully declining to displace that kind couple. We started the meal with a pitcher of mimosas ($17). Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJeff ordered the pulled pork biscuit, which came topped with local pulled pork, jalapeño pimento, bacon, poached egg, and maple syrup.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJayce had the mimosa fried chicken biscuit which came with mimosa fried chicken, sweet potato butter, sriracha slaw, 
and a poached egg.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCCassidy had biscuits fried like donuts and served with lemon curd (not pictured). I was creeped out by the whole poached egg thing and opted instead for a classic that came topped with cheddar and scrambled egg. But once I saw the topping bar, I decided to eat mine open-faced and leave half of my biscuit for a slathering of sweet potato chai butter. Oh, friends, I did not regret that decision. My brunch also came with a side of chevre cheese grits and they were delicious.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCMy food was good. The chai slathered biscuit was better than the cheese/egg biscuit which was a little dry and didn't taste fresh. Based on that and the fact that seating wasn't seamless, I'd give Biscuit Head a solid 'B'. Given the chance, I would revisit Biscuit Head but I think next time I would order just a plain biscuit and go wild at the topping bar. Posana :: B- Later that evening we headed just up the sidewalk from our hotel and dined on the patio at Posana. The weather that night was perfect. The restaurant looks upscale, but our kids were welcomed and treated very kindly by both the hostesses and our server. They even had coloring menus and crayons.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCJeff and I were still fairly stuffed after Biscuit Head so we opted to share an appetizer and entree. We started with the Brussels Salad. It came topped with Asian pears, candied spiced walnuts, sesame seed goat cheese and honey buttermilk dressing.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThis salad looked better than it tasted. It was somewhat bitter and just not all that tasty. The red fish we ordered for an entree was much better. It was served over a bed of October beans and came with seared honshimeji mushrooms, sweet corn and red wine. The portion size was just right for sharing given that we had late breakfast.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCGiven the chance, I don't think I'd return to Posana. While the food was good, it wasn't great, though the prices suggested it should be so. OWL :: A On Sunday morning we hopped in the car and drove to OWL bakery. OWL, in this case, stands for Old World Levain.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCI cannot explain to you the adorableness of this bakery. Storefront-wise, it looks like a tiny little house. We actually drove right past it the first time, thinking it was a residence. Google Maps insisted though and we circled around. It's just as cute inside.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC 275b1403 275b1415Jeff and I shared an apple turnover. It was easily the most perfectly-tender and flaky pastry I've ever eaten (and I've eaten pastry in Paris, mind you).Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe also tried something new. The young woman at the counter called it 'porridge bread' and described it as a thick, oatmeal-y bread. It was the exact opposite of the pastry in that it was dense and hearty. It was SO good. It was unmistakably artisan-made. We just cut slices and ate it untopped and untoasted. We liked it so much, though, that we went back and bought a full-size loaf for that day's picnic lunch.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThe kids ordered the Sunday special, which was two thick slices of French toast filled with pumpkin cream and topped with house pumpkin syrup and toasted pecans. At $5 per order, it was a steal.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC I also had the most lovely hot buttered spiced chai latte made from loose-leaf tea. I'm going to do my best to replicate it at home. I would revisit OWL bakery in a heartbeat and highly recommend that you stop by if ever you're in Asheville. French Broad Chocolate Lounge :: B- This is another fun foodie place that was well within walking distance from Aloft. We went on a Sunday afternoon right around three o'clock and the line was out the door. Service was noticeably slow, too; we waited for quite a long time. The good news is that the interior of the lounge was very cute and trendy.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThey serve ice cream, sipping chocolates (they call them liquid truffles, isn't that great?!), assorted baked goods, housemade truffles, coffee, tea and milkshakes. We bought two truffles, some peppermint brownies and a tall slice of pumpkin spice cake. Our reviews are mixed, but mostly not great. The horchata truffle we got was really quite good. The chai one, though? Not so much. The pumpkin spice cake was okay but the frosting was awful--truly terrible. It tasted greasy and flavorless, like it had been made from margarine. The brownies were for the kids; I didn't try them. I suspect that this would be an ideal location to sit down with a cup of sipping chocolate and a carefully selected truffle and I might revisit for that purpose. I would not, though, ever order a piece of cake from here again. Mamacitas :: A With all the amazing dining options in Asheville, it might see odd that we opted for takeout nachos one evening. Here's the deal, though: the Arizona Cardinals were playing and when the Arizona Cardinals are playing it's a fairly safe bet that my handsome husband and I can be found in front of the TV. Mamacitas was located just down the street from the Aloft hotel we were staying in. About an hour before game time we walked up the street and bought some goodies from the Chocolate Lounge (more on that in a minute) and then down the street to Mamacitas. We bought two orders of nachos to go.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCThis is a counter service restaurant similar to Subway in that you place your order at the front of the line and then work your way towards the register as the person behind the counter prepares your order based on your preferences. We piled our nachos high with all the fixings. They used housemade chips and pico and also, real cheese! None of that nasty queso sauce was anywhere in sight.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCI'm not going to pretend it was a gourmet meal but I will tell you that they were yummy nachos with plenty of toppings. I would totally revisit Mamacitas. Filo :: A While we were eating at OWL we overheard fellow patrons talking about another great bakery in town, Filo. We wanted to give it a try. We left the kids to watch cartoons one morning and went to grab breakfast. This was another super cute bakery, inside and out. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe ordered chai lattes (have I ever told you guys that I don't do coffee?) and a couple of pastries to share--an almond croissant and a pumpkin scone. The kids had cinnamon rolls (not pictured). We even got a fresh-baked dog treat for Mowgli, which he appreciated quite a lot.275b1597 275b1591 Our pastries and lattes were both very good. The chai needed a little something--either an added kick of spice or a little sweetener, but overall it was pretty good. The scone was flavorful and had great texture but it paled in comparison to the almond croissant, which was delicious. I would definitely revisit Filo and can enthusiastically recommend it. Tupelo Honey Cafe :: A+ If I'm being honest, I have to say that I suspected Tupelo Honey Cafe might be a tourist trap; I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was proved wrong. The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. We went for lunch and were really looking to sample several dishes rather than stuff ourselves with individual entrees. We ordered three small plates: fried green tomatoes, fried avocado and crispy Brussels. If you notice a "fried" theme, you're much quicker than I. We typically don't really care for fried food but for some reason those three appetizers called our names and we went with them. It wasn't until they were all plated before us that we sort of winced at the fried-ness of our choices. It didn't stop us from digging in, though. I'll start by telling you that there is a reason fried green tomatoes are infamous, and it has nothing to do with the movie. These were served over a bed of soft yet hearty chevre grits. Our only complaint about this dish is that there were only four servings; we ended up licking the plate clean.The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. The fried avocado was a bit of a different story. We are avocado aficionados around my house but we agreed that while the dish was cute and creative, it didn't win us over in the taste category. Avocados, I believe, are best served freshly-mashed with lime juice and cilantro on a tortilla chip. Still, this dish wasn't bad, per se, but I'd relish the opportunity to try something different during a future visit.275b1653 The last dish we tried at Tupelo were the crispy Brussels served with lemon zest, bacon and freshly-chopped herbs. Do you like Brussels? I absolutely adore them in most any presentation, crispy notwithstanding. I don't think these counted towards our vegetable serving that day but if they had, it would have been win-win. The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. I would be remiss not to show you of the biscuits Tupelo is famous for. I'm told that these are served with every order, no matter how big or how small.The cheese/egg topped biscuit was a little dry and tasted less than fresh. Would I go back to Tupelo Honey Cafe? You bet I would. Taco Billy :: B On our last morning in town we headed to Taco Billy for breakfast tacos. This was my first experience with breakfast tacos, but it wasn't my last. Taco Billy is a cute little joint safely nestled away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Asheville, not far from OWL Bakery.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC The menu is fairly simple and straightforward (and penned on butcher paper which was super cute).275b1869We ordered, you guessed it, breakfast tacos. The standard creations seemed somewhat limiting to us so we went with the build your own option. I wish I had thought to specify what type of tortilla I preferred because corn wins every time but I forgot and they didn't ask, so soft flour it was. I chose eggs, sweet potatoes, goat cheese and avocado as my fillings. My taco was served with a small side of avocado tomatillo salsa which was really the tipping point on making this breakfast a memorable one. 275b1864Jayce, too, ordered the build your own variety of breakfast taco but unlike mine, his included just about every variation of meat that was offered.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Like I said, I do wish I had ordered the corn tortilla but even on the relatively flavorless flour tortilla, this taco was quite good, especially with the addition of the salsa. My complaint about Taco Billy was that they kind of failed by using store-bought tortillas. Maybe it's the Arizona in me but I can't help but believe with the whole of my heart that if you have a restaurant that serves only tacos, you really have no excuse not to serve housemade tortillas (flour, corn and otherwise) with aforementioned tacos. No excuse. That said, the tacos were yummy and did inspire me to recreate them at home--on corn tortillas, of course! Yep. I'd totes try Taco Billy again. What to do in Asheville Confession: outside of eating, we didn't do a whole lot in Asheville. That's not to say that there is nothing to do. There are a plethora of active options including miles and miles of trails for hiking and biking. Visitors can drive the Blue Ridge Parkway for beautiful views. There is a lively River Arts District filled with galleries--if that's your thing. And there is ample opportunity for shopping, which we took full advantage of on our first day. Asheville has an outlet mall and we did stop by there for just a hot minute. There were a variety of shops but we didn't stay long because it wasn't really my thing. I did, however, spend upwards a significant amount of time wandering through the most fun antique mall, the Tobacco Barn. They had so very many finds that were perfect for my farmhouse-style home. Here's a peek at just a sampling of them. Explore Downtown :: B- Our conveniently-located hotel was the perfect jumping off point for exploring downtown Asheville. I graded this activity a 'B' instead of a 'A' because I would have like to see a larger variety of shops downtown. There were a lot of art galleries but not a lot else. I enjoy perusing through cute little general stores and gift shops as much as the next girl and those types of shops were few and far between in Asheville's downtown. Still, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll up and down the streets. Here's some of what we saw. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway :: A+ One of the things I knew we had to do whilst in Asheville was drive at least a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway, for those who aren't familiar, is a National Parkway that winds 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, connecting Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We're told that traffic on the parkway is often bumper-to-bumper during the peak of leaf season along this stretch of "America's Favorite Drive." Luckily and all also not-so-luckily the peak of the season hadn't quite arrived when we visited and traffic wasn't bad at all. The Blue Ridge Parkway, called “America's Favorite Drive,” is a U.S. National Parkway that winds 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, connecting Shenandoah National Park on its northern end and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on its southern end.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCBefore embarking on our Sunday drive, we picked up picnic fixings at Whole Foods and then set off on our way. Our destination for the afternoon was the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, which was about a thirty minute drive from our hotel. Upon arrival we laced up our hiking boots (okay, tennis shoes) and easily made it to the lookout point up top--about a 3/4 mile hike.Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWe stopped at a picnic spot just down the road after the hike. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCI would highly recommend driving the Blue Ridge Parkway if ever you get the chance to visit Asheville in the fall. But just in case you don't, you can always get a glimpse of the views by riding along with me in the video I took. The North Carolina Arboretum :: A I've never visited an arboretum before, have you? If The North Carolina Arboretum is a fair example, I have to say that I've been missing out. Similar to a botanical garden, the arboretum provided ample opportunity to explore beautiful walking paths or just sit and enjoy the autumn splendor. There were also several indoor exhibits but we timed our visit poorly and missed seeing most of those. This attraction is a steal for families because admission is free. There is, however, a nominal charge for parking. Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NCWhere to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC

Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC

*Special thanks to ExploreAsheville for providing hosted accomodation and dining experiences. All opinions are my own.* Do you have a travel bucket list? I do. I take it a step further, though, and keep a travel experience bucket list. It includes things like: stop and listen to a strolling accordion player alongside a Venetian canal drink something hot and spiked at Christmas in a German village capture the perfect photo at Lake Louise Last week, … Continue reading Where to stay, go and eat in Asheville, NC

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