Are you traveling or moving to our beautiful mountain town? We often receive questions on what to do and where to go in the area, and while there are already many great guides available online, we decided it was time to create our own. We are going to skip the amazing restaurants, (over)abundant breweries, fancy estates, antique malls, and best coffee shops --- you can find those tips at sites like Design Sponge, National Geographic, or The New York Times.
Instead, this guide will focus on aspects of our town and landscape that have inspired and informed the shop. It is a resource for the adventurous traveler looking to get their hands dirty, cook their own meal with farm fresh produce, learn something new, and perhaps leave Asheville better than you found it. It may also prove useful to folks moving to the area who wish to be more connected to where their food comes from or how to get involved in the community, from the ground up!
EAT IN SEASON WHILE IN ASHEVILLE
It's hard to resist the temptation to highlight all of the quality places to dine in Asheville, especially the farm-to-table restaurants. But if your accommodations have a kitchen, how about a homemade meal made with local fare or a picnic on the parkway?
photo of Paper Crane Farm fields + produce
If you are here during the growing season, your best bet is to head to one of Asheville's many farmers markets, where you will find seasonal produce, pastured meats, dairy + eggs, freshly baked breads, and so much more. Read our blog post Tips For Shopping Your Local Farmers Market if you've always felt overwhelmed or intimidated by the experience.
We are extremely lucky to have the Appalachian Sustainability Agriculture Project (ASAP) as stewards for all things related to local food in our region. Check out From Here, their online calendar, blog, and forum. Then head on over to their searchable Local Food Guide, and also keep an eye out for the print version distributed for free all over town.
You can take it a step further and visit the farms themselves! Many keep open public hours and offer you-pick harvests. In the summer, fill your buckets of blueberries at Long Branch Environmental Education Farm. In the fall, gather apples galore at Skytop Orchard. And you are welcome year-round at Hickory Nut Gap Farm for everything from picking berries, apples, and pumpkins to hay rides, picnics, and barn dances. You can even gather and arrange your own flower bouquet at Flying Cloud Farm. Should you happen to be here mid-summer, you might be able to catch the ASAP Farm Tour -- the next one is scheduled for June 23-24, 2018.
For those wanting to go even deeper, consider a Wild Foods Tour with No Taste Like Home. Or make a visit to the George Washington Carver Edible Park, right in the heart of town with impressive views of the Asheville skyline. If you are moving to the area and are interested in community gardens, check out this list put together by Bountiful Cities.
Can't make it to a market or farm or forest or park? First, question why that is. And then head to your next best bet at the smaller grocers in town -- ones that work hard to source local produce and goods whenever possible. If you are downtown, head on over to the French Broad Food Co-op, and if you are on the west side, visit the friendliest little local grocer at West Village Market.
LEARN SOMETHING WHILE IN ASHEVILLE
Take advantage of the abundant folk knowledge in these mountains by attending a class, workshop, or more intensive studies with some of the resources listed below. There are a wide array of options available, from evening or weekend classes all the way up to entire years of study.
photo at Mountain Gardens by Lydia See
HERB + FARM SCHOOLS IN ASHEVILLE
I first moved to Asheville to attend the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, an experience that taught me how to approach food as medicine and plants as teachers. You no longer have to travel to Asheville to glean their wisdom now that they solely offer online courses, as does One Willow Apothecaries. But if you are looking for a tangible, in person experience check out the Terra Sylva School of Botanical Medicine, Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine or Appalachian School of Herbal Medicine. It is definitely worth a day trip out to Mountain Gardens -- check their website for classes and give them a heads up if you wish to visit the apothecary or gardens.
For insight on organic farming, it doesn't get much better than Living Web Farms. They offer a lot of their content for free online, but as we all know an in person experience is worth a thousand clicks. Families and those wanting a more contained environment will appreciate the North Carolina Arboretum, with tons of programs for both adults and children. Speaking of kids, let's not forget Forest Floor Wilderness Programs, a mentoring program designed to reconnect youth and adults with the natural world.
CRAFT + FOLK SCHOOLS IN ASHEVILLE
Do you enjoy the gratification of making something yourself, with your own two hands? From primitive to refined, there are many opportunities to spark the creativity and craftsmanship that is inherent tp all of us. Here are just a few suggestions to consider.
For primitive and back-to-the-land skills check out Wild Abundance and the Firefly Gathering. Learn to bake your own artisan wood-fired bread at Smoke Signals Baking. Ground yourself by working with clay in a one-night pottery class at Odyssey Clayworks. And for a menagerie of folk + craft workshops check out the Joseph Campbell Folk School, the Penland School of Crafts, and The Cabbage School.
...and please don't forget to check out our own lineup of classes at the shop!
LISTEN WHILE IN ASHEVILLE
This recommendation is short and sweet. You can learn a lot about our little town by tuning into the frequencies of our independent radio station, Asheville FM on the radio at 103.3 fm.
And perhaps most important of all, please please please take yourself on a Hood Huggers Tour. Educate yourself on the black history of Asheville and the long standing impacts of segregation, gentrification, and tourism on the black community in our town.
GET INVOLVED WHILE IN ASHEVILLE
Whether you are in Asheville for a weekend or plan to stay for a spell, we feel there is value and enjoyment in really getting to know the needs of the people who live here -- and sometimes the best way to do so is to volunteer your time with a community organization.
Our local paper, the Mountain Xpress, put together an amazing list of volunteer opportunities. But if we had to choose just a few, we are big fans of the environmentally focused efforts at Greenworks and River Link. For example, you could spend an afternoon in a kayak on the French Broad River, picking up trash that other residents or tourists have dumped in our waters.
GO OUTDOORS WHILE IN ASHEVILLE
This one is so obvious we almost feel it is unnecessary to mention. Go explore the beautiful outdoors. But... sorry! We are going to keep the secret gem spots selfishly to ourselves. We did find this local hiking guide that highlights some of the best day hikes in the area, as well as this great list compiled of family-friendly hikes for those of you with little ones in tow.
If hiking isn't your thing, may we suggest a soak in hot natural mineral water beneath an open sky? At the Hot Springs Resort + Spa you can rent private tubs by the hour, then walk the streets of this charming mountain town.
If nothing else, make sure to get out there and explore the forests and rivers and waterfalls that are literally surrounding us in every direction.
Please feel free to contribute to this guide by making further suggestions below!
photo of Angelica seeds atop Black Balsam Knob