Mountain Escape

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GETTING AWAY TO THE BEAUTY OF THE BLUE RIDGE

There’s a lot to love about Asheville, North Carolina, in the spring: Delightful weather, the Blue Ridge Mountains backdrop, the crisp, clean air. The mountain town also offers a bounty of outdoor adventures — hiking, climbing, fishing, camping, boating, biking, birding, rafting and off-roading.

If you’re looking for something a little less active, there’s unique shopping, dining and art displays.

What began as a small mountain outpost in the late 1700s has become a hip, artsy mecca for both outdoors enthusiasts and foodies — just a six-hour drive from the Lowcountry.

WHERE TO STAY

The Foundry Hotel, which opened in December, is just minutes from the heart of downtown Ashville; an irresistible whiff of nostalgia floats through the South Market Street space. Built in 1885 as the Asheville Supply & Foundry Co., it provided building materials for many of the town’s oldest buildings, including the art deco-style city hall.

Thanks to a $30 million renovation by developer David Tart, the hotel’s three contiguous buildings feature original brick, exposed steel and wood beams, and lifts and pulleys for an elevator.

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Larry Crosby, director of guest services, described hotel as “industrial chic with history.”

“It’s our story that we try to tie into every guest experience,” he said.

The 87 rooms boast original wood floors, industrial oversized windows, comfortable Waldorf bedding, mini bars and fridges, marble bathrooms, stylish luxury appointments and waterfall showers.

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Guests can gather for a drink around the two-sided fireplace in the cozy 3,500-square-foot Workshop lounge or enjoy authentic Appalachian soul food at Bennes on Eagle, owned by renowned local chef John Fleer of Rhubarb, another favorite Asheville eatery.

The Foundry is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. Crosby says the staff of 55 practices the “art of performing excellent service,” which includes escorting guests in the hotel’s Tesla X courtesy car.

WHERE TO EAT

Benne on EagleTop-rated Curate, with its array of Spanish tapas overseen by Beard-nominated chef Katie Buttons, whose husband and business partner is Spanish, offers delicious, locally sourced food presented in a lively environment. The bite-sized octopus with potato puree, hot peppers stuffed with goat cheese, and toasted tomato-based bread are musts. It’s always busy, so be sure to book a reservation.

Chestnut on Biltmore Avenue is thoroughly American. Lobster bisque, trout and halibut are go-to choices. The interior is spacious and well-appointed, the wine list is extensive, and the bar serves craft cocktails.

For true Southern food, head to Tupelo Honey, where omplimentary homemade biscuits with jam and honey begin your culinary odyssey. Made-from-scratch Southern originals include pecan pie French toast, a pimento and fried pickle burger, and honey-dusted fried chicken. Expect a wait.

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Bouchon serves locally sourced French comfort food in a cozy setting. Start with a glass or two of French wine and a charcuterie board. Highly recommended entrees are the boeuf bourguignon and sautéed Carolina trout encrusted with almonds.

And don’t forget the breweries; Asheville has become a craft beer hotspot. Not sure where to start? The Foundry offers a beer walk that will take you to some of the 17 micro-brew gastropubs and tasting rooms within a half-mile of the hotel.

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WHERE TO GO

The River Arts District, with studio after studio on the city’s west side, is housed in 22 formerly vacated commercial buildings along the French Broad River. Visit more than 200 working artists including glass blowers, ceramic artists, sculptors, print makers, photographers, furnishings craftsman, and basketry and jewelry makers.

The new, 70,000-squre-foot Asheville Art Museum will open late this spring with an exhibition titled “Appalachia Now,” featuring 50 selected artists telling the contemporary story of the region. The project also preserved the 1926 Pack Library and renovated the old museum.

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Asheville native Thomas Wolfe wrote “Look Homeward, Angel” in 1929 and famously proclaimed, “You can’t go home again.” His boyhood residence, his mother’s boardinghouse on North Market Street, is part of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and open for tours.

George W. Vanderbilt invited his first guests to Biltmore, his Chateauesque-style mansion, in 1895. Still America’s largest privately owned home, the mansion sits on 8,000 acres and has 250 rooms and 65 fireplaces. After touring the mansion, explore the historic gardens, winery, bicycle trails and shopping.

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For an afternoon of pure pampering bliss, book a treatment at The Omni Grove Park Inn. Located at the historic Grove Park Inn, opened in 1913, the subterranean spa offers a variety of massage, body and skin care treatments plus stunning mineral-based pools set among cavernous rock walls, arches and tunnels.

GET OUTDOORS

For a bird’s-eye view, head to Navitat Canopy Adventures just north of Asheville. Zip line courses will have you soaring 350 feet above the treetops.

There’s also nearby Grandfather Mountain, the highest and oldest peak in the area. Your hike to the top — roughly a mile above sea level — will be rewarded with a trip across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, the country’s highest suspension footbridge.

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Of course, you can enjoy the scenery without the strenuous activity. Take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping at lookout spots for breath-taking views. Or grab a picnic basket at The Rhu — a café, bakery and pantry on South Lexington Avenue. Choose salad, sandwich, meats, cheeses, vegetables beverages and bread from one of the five tasty lunch/brunch selections, let the staff pack it up and head for the hills for a leisurely afternoon.

PHOTOS BY EXPLOREASHEVILLE.COM