The Polar Express!
Bryson City, NC is a cute little Christmas Town with it’s own real life Polar Express!
Here’s the story of my personal experience, inspired by the children’s book, The Polar Express, By Chris Van Allsburg.
The Polar Express!
Bryson City, NC is a cute little Christmas Town with it’s own real life Polar Express!
Here’s the story of my personal experience, inspired by the children’s book, The Polar Express, By Chris Van Allsburg.
What’s it like riding the longest mountain coaster in America? Watch this Pigeon Forge Alpine Coaster video to see!
Rocky Top Alpine Coaster in Pigeon Forge Tennessee, is the longest alpine coaster not only in Tennessee, but also in the US, lasting about 9 minutes! It’s also the first in the world with four, count them, FOUR uplifts!
Take in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains as you twist and turn through 360 degree turns and whip through multiple tunnels with some funny jokes and entertaining props along the way.
Each car can go up to 30 MPH, but don’t worry. If that’s too fast for you, that’s not a problem. You get to control to speed.
This Pigeon Forge Alpine Coaster is good for all ages starting at three years old and up!
lI got to have a unique Alpine Coaster ride by experiencing the fun at night! I watched the sun go down and the coaster lights turned up! A totally unforgettable experience. I have a link for you, here, with a lowest price guarantee where you can conveniently reserve your tickets in advance so you can skip the line, and allows you free cancellation with 24 hours advanced notice if needed.
You’ll find them at 2940 Veterans Boulevard in Pigeon Forge, TN. If found it tons of fun and reasonably priced! For alpine coaster lovers, I rate this a 9 out of 10 for things to do in Pigeon Forge!
Be sure to join me on my YouTube Channel! for travel destination info, travel tips, hacks, deals and reviews! Drop a comment and say, “Hi!” if you stop by! I’d love to hear from you!
How to use, navigate, earn and save with TopCashback
Hey fellow travel lovers!
Today I’m sharing a budget friendly travel hack to show you have to get cash back on your travel purchases and even earn money as well. I’m not just talking earning money through gift cards or discounts. We’re talking real cash to go in either your bank account or PayPal, which ever you choose. You also can choose gift cards as well, the point is, you can choose how you receive your earnings. If you like gift cards, you can get gift cards, but you can choose money in your account if you’d rather use it to pay bills, use as fun money or even pay for your next vacation!
TopCashback is a super easy web-site that gives you cash back on your online purchases. There are over 4,000 retailers on TopCashback like Amazon.com, Walmart, Walgreens, even grocery stores and so much more, so you literally can earn cash back from online purchases that you would make anyway! Even better for travelers, you can earn cash back for your travel purchase all the way from hotel and house rentals, flights, car rentals & shuttle service, activities & excursions, even your luggage and accessories and more!!!! It’s a no brainer. I’m new to this web-site but I wish I had known about it earlier. It’s amazing and I’ve missed out on getting back so much money from not being part of this site sooner!
It’s completely free to sign-up and use and they are offering a special bonus right now when you sign up as a new user. Here’s the link in the description below. It’s important to use the link provided in the description box to be able to take part in this offer, so be sure to click the link below. When you click on the link I provided for you, you’ll be eligible for a $5 CASH BACK sign-up bonus after you spend $25 by going through the TopCashBack website. This is just for new users, so if you haven’t signed up yet, take a moment to click on the link below and you can follow along as I take you to the web-site to show you how to sign up, use, maximize and navigate the TopCashBack web-site as well as how to save money for you next trip, earn cash back on your travel planning and even how you can make some extra money along the way too.
I’m amazed with this site! You can literally get cash back from every part of your next vacation or trip planning from start to finish and everything in between.
I’ll show you all that, but first, if you’re new to my site, welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. Happily 4 Evers After is all about travel destinations, travel hacks, deals and reviews and I have a YouTube Channel that goes along with this blog. So if you’re into all that, you’re in the right place so be sure to hit the follow or subscribe button. If you find this information helpful, be sure to hit the like button too and leave a comment so I know you enjoyed it. I like to create content that my viewers like, so the like button helps me know what topics I should run with and which ones people aren’t that interested in.
This post and above video is sponsored by TopCashback, so thank you for choosing to work with me. I’m excited to share what you’re all about and how TopCashback helps us travel more for less by earning cash back, through online purchases that we’re already making anyway.
If you haven’t clicked on this link yet, go ahead now and give it a click so you can follow along with the above video above to go along with the transcript below:
First, remember to use this link so you can take advantage of the $5 TopCashback sign-up bonus that they’re currently running. If you don’t, you’ll be out of luck. No Cash back bonus for you! Follow directions! Once you’re on their site, enter your e-mail and choose a password. When it asks how you heard about them you can choose, online forum. Once you have your account, you authenticate your account with your e-mail. And your in! It’s that simple to sign up.
They have a start up guide and FAQ section if you’d like to learn more before you start purchasing and browsing.
You simply search, select, shop and you get cash back. It’s really that easy. Here, let me show you.
As I mentioned earlier, TopCashback has over 4,000 retailers, but since this is a travel channel, I’m going to focus on their travel section. As you can see over here from the drop down tab from the menu, click on “categories” you’ll see they have an entire section dedicated to travel.
Look at all they have!
I mean look at this! There’s booking sites that most of you are familiar with like Booking.com that gives you 7% cash back and Travelocity gives 7% cashback too. Hotels, even concert tickets! Look here, you can earn 5% by purchasing your concert and event tickets through Tickemaster! There’s car rentals, more hotels . . . lots of hotels, pretty much near every type I can think of practically.
And even here, they are offering cash back to sign up with Clear! Clear is pretty much like TSA precheck only they are privately owned. Clear expedites the document/identity screening process and TSA Precheck expedites the physical screening process. They are even giving cash back to give their 2 month free trial a go.
You can get cash back with Kayak.com. I use them all the time to find cheap flights. I did a video not long ago showing you how to navigate their system to find the cheapest flights possible. There’s VRBO for house rentals, 5% cashback at SeaWorld Parks!
Look at this! You can even earn cash back when you need to park your car at the airport or other long-term parking needs. 8% here at the Parking spot. Look at this! OMG 20% cashback through AirportParking.com. There’s even shuttle service, seriously, there’s so much here to go through I can’t possibly go through them all. Literally hundreds of choices to earn cash back for your travels. I’m doing my best to give you a brief but thorough overview, but you really need to sign up and look through all of the possibilities yourself and see which suppliers will be best for your travel needs.
Here’s 6% for City pass and lets not forget cruising! There’s 3.5% cashback from CruiseDirect.
There are so many hotels and chains to choose from. Some individual hotels like Holiday Inn gives 6% cash back. And look here. There’s hotel Indigo also 6% cash back! I love staying at Hotel Indigo when I’m in downtown Asheville. I’ve done a video on their property. How great is that to stay at an amazing property like Hotel Indigo and then getting 6% cash back from your stay. Bonus!
Then there’s Viator.com. I use them all the time not just for my clients, but I use them for me and my family for activities and excursions. Let’s take a peek to show you what they have to offer. First check to see what type of offers they have listed. It’s a good idea to look at the terms and conditions as well. There are some stipulations that tell you what situations may stop you from getting your cash back. Things like; if you use a staff or student discount code, or a promotional coupon code not approved by TopCashback, or when you cancel your purchase. Make sure you’re aware so you don’t miss out.
Let’s go back up and look at this offer that gives you 50% off things to do plus free cancellation and gives you 6% back on your activity purchase. as you see when you click on the offer it takes you to viators web-site. It’s important that you go to viators web-site by first going through TopCashback.com, becuase that is how they are able to link your purchase and track the cash back available to you. Just put in the city you want to go to as well as the dates. Let’s see what there is to do in costa rica. You can purcahse ziplining, horseback riding, tubing adventures, waterfall and volcano hikes, ATV through the rain forest, go on a catamaran cruise, go sailing or snorkeling . . . you can book all of your vacation adventures and earn cash back by purchasing through your TopCashback web-site! As I mentioned, I have used Viator a lot for my own travels as well as for my clients. Travel Agents and consultants use Viator all the time, so I can tell you 100% from experience that they are a great company to purchase your excursions and activities from.
Simply choose your activity, the dates and continue booking through the site as usual. As long as you’ve arrived at the Viator site via the TopCashback web-site first, you don’t have to do anything else. They take care of the rest for you. Your purchase is tracked. Once the supplier processes your purchase then it will show up in your account. When checking out make sure not to apply any unapproved coupon or discount codes book special rates or you may be disqualified from earning your cash back.
It can take up to a few days, even to a few months for some purchases to show as tracked in your account. Especially when it comes to travel. In the travel industry it is standard that no commissions are paid until travel has been completed. As a travel agent I’m used to that. When my clients travel I do not get my agent commissions until 2-3 months until after my clients have traveled. So, It did not surprise me at all to learn that is the same with travel suppliers and cash back sites. That is the way TopCash Back is able to give you cash back on your bookings. The travel supplier give TopCashBack comission for bookings that go through their web-site and TopCashback gives you 100% of that commission. 100%! That’s unheard of. Because of this they are able to consistently feature higher rates than their competitors. Usually cash back sites will take a cut of the commission, but TopCashback gives you the whole kit-n-caboodle. The hotels, cruise lines, car rentals, etc. need to make sure you travel without cancellation before the commission can be paid and your cash back can be processed.
When you shop with a store, like Walmart for example, the orders and cash back are processed quicker. For example my last purchase was a curling iron from Walmart. Although when I made the purchase it said to allow 7 days for the transaction to process into my account, it was actually processed much quicker, as in, it was processed by the end of that day, quicker.
If you have any questions regarding your account, they do have a customer service department. In my personal experience they have got back to me every time in less than 24 hours to answer my questions.
If you’re wondering how TopCashback makes any profit if they give their users 100% of the commission, I’m with you. I wondered the same thing. The way they are able to profit and pay their employees is through adverts and sponsored links which are clearly labled as “Zero Cash Back” If any members ever click on a sponsored link, then it goes to support their site. Merchants and their tracking agencies are also prepared to pay them bonuses for things like bringing high traffic volume to their site. All those things together support TopCashback to remain financially sound and able to give their users 100% of the travel commissions as cash back.
Another thing that makes TopCashback unique is that they do not have a minimum payout. Many Cash back sites have dollar amount minimums before they will allow you to get your payout. That is not the case with TopCash back. As soon as your payout has been processed and is available, you are able to claim that amount immediately.
A couple other tips to keep in mind that can be useful:
Thank you so much for joining in today! If you still need to sign-up, don’t forget to use the link in the description below so you can take advantage of the $10 sign-up bonus after you spend $25 at one of the retailers or travel suppliers through TopCashback
Let me know what you think of TopCashback. Are you going to sign up , or did you sign up to earn cash back on your online purchases? Are you already a member? I’d love to hear your experiences.
As I said, I’m new to the site, so I’m looking forward to coming back in the future to give you updates. Please keep in touch, leave a comment and I hope you become apart of the Happily 4 Evers After community by subscribing. I’m thankful for you!
Are you ready for some hot, sizzling tips on how to enjoy Biltmore Estates this summer? You are? Great! Let’s go!
Biltmore Estates is an ever-changing environment, especially from season to season. Even if you’ve been to Biltmore one or a hundred times, there’s always something new. Each season ushers in new discoveries, activities, exhibits and food! Lets look at the summer fun that you can expect this year! There are some activities that you can expect to find at Biltmore every summer, but pay attention because some are here only for the 2021 summer season!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to reserve your house ticket in advance! Only a specific number of people are allowed in the house at a time and with Covid, the numbers may even been smaller. Not to mention, summer is a popular time at Biltmore Estates and space fills up quick. If you wait until your arrive at Biltmore to buy your house admission ticket, you may be out of luck. If viewing the inside of the Biltmore House is important to you, reserve your time slot online ASAP! The good news is, if you secure a time and end up missing it, it’s easier to switch your house time when you already have a ticket, than it is to get a ticket once space has filled up. If you missed your house time or need a new one for any reason, just ask the nice greeters at the house waiting line. They’ll let you know when you’ll be able to enter.
For extra fun at Biltmore in the summer, be sure to horse around! I mean, like litterally, horses can take you around the estate in a carriage or on a guided trail ride. Carriage rides are a special Biltmore treat that is NOT offered year round. Weather permitting, summer is a fabulous time to explore the estate on 30 or 60 minutes carriage rides for up to 6 people or you can opt for a 90 minute private ride for up to 4 guests. To participate in a carriage ride, you will need to have either a daytime ticket to Biltmore Estates, an annual pass, or be a guest at one of Biltmore’s onsite, overnight properties.
You’ll want to take time to see the unique, temporary exhibits that can only be found at Biltmore this summer. Included with your admission price to Biltmore Estates, you can enjoy unique, temporary works of art such as Stickwork, an interactive, outdoor sculpture, entitled Free as a Bird, crafted and displayed in Antler Hill Village. Internationally acclaimed artist, Patrick Dougherty has built over 300 of these works, such as this one-of-a-kind stick sculpture that can only be seen at Biltmore Estates. But hurry! This exhibit is only sticking around until September 30th, 2021 ! (Did you see what I did there? Stickwork is sticking around 😀 (*insert laughter here)
The Biltmore Railway is another temporary exhibit that you can view this summer. It can be found in the conservatory until September 26th. The winding train displays feature replicas of structures connected with Biltmore and its founder George Vanderbilt. Each beautifully executed piece was handcrafted from such natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs and runs in and out of the conservatory meandering from room to room and even outside spaces.
Weather you eat at one of the house restaurants or at Biltmore Village, dining is a unique and delicious part of the Biltmore experience. Their menus feature fresh, estate-raised produce and meats and local, seasonal ingredients.
Some restaurants offer online reservations such as the Dining Room, some don’t. Make sure to check on Biltmore’s web-site to check to see if you need a reservation and hours of operation. Biltmore is busy in the summer, so if you don’t have a reservation there’s very likely going to be a long wait for seating as a walk in, so you’ll want to get your name on the wait list before you get too hungry. We don’t want any hangry people at Biltmore, now do we?
To done on the estate, you need to have a daytime ticket to Biltmore, an Annual pass, or stay at one of the estate’s overnight properties. Or, if someone in your party is a annual pass holder, everyone in the same car can dine at Biltmore Village without paying an entrance fee after 5PM.
Wander through historic gardens and woodland trails. Meander through the meadows along the French Broad River. Enjoy Biltmore at your own pace with nearly 22 miles of hiking trails on the estate or take a guided hike. Maps are available at the Bike Barn and Outdoor Adventure Center.
Access to more than 20 miles of biking trails are free for all guests*! Choose from well-marked, single-track woodland dirt trails for a challenging ride, or flat, paved trail along the French Broad River for a more leisurely ride. Bring your own bike or rent one.
Rental bikes, trail-a-bikes, and trailers are available on a first-come, first-served basis from the Bike Barn, located on the second floor of Antler Hill Barn. No advance reservations are offered or required. It’s recommended that all guests check in for a trail map and current trail conditions.
Bike Barn hours vary seasonally; please see Estate Hours for current hours.
“*Only Biltmore Annual Passholders, lodging guests, and ticketed guests may ride bicycles on estate roads and designated bike trails. Bicycles are considered vehicles in North Carolina and must be operated in full compliance with state vehicle laws and all traffic and directional signage on estate property. Bicycles are prohibited in all non-guest areas and in the shuttle zone in front of Biltmore House. Riders must disembark and “walk” bicycles on garden paths.”
There’s so much more to do at Biltmore than you can imagine! From animal encounters, such as falconry and time a the animal farm, off-road Land Rover Rentals, kayaking, clay shooting, boating and more, there are all kinds of adventures to be had beyond the house and Gardens! Check out the web-site for info, pricing and hours.
It can get rainy in Asheville. It’s a good idea to bring a water resistant jacket or maybe even an umbrella just in case. It can’t hurt to bring water proof protection for your electronics as well. A rainy day can be salvaged if you’re prepared. It’s better to be safe than soaked!
There’s simply a different feel to staying onsite at the Estate. You can stay at the Inn on Biltmore, Village hotel, or one of their cottages. To stay at Biltmore is to immerse yourself in the Biltmore Culture by staying at a property where you’re surrounded by acres and acres of Biltmores farms, trails waters and shades of times past. It takes you out of the hustle and bustle of the city and gives the feel of an out-of-the-way country estate where you can leave the cares of the real world behind for a while.
Check out the special offer packages that you can book along with your room for discounts and custom experiences.
If you’ve watched some of my other Biltmore video’s you’ve probably seen me mention the sunset on the terrace at the Biltmore house. Unfortunately, in the summer months the Estate house and grounds have closed long before the sunsets. But don’t worry. There are other great places on the estate to catch a beautiful sunset.
If it’s your first trip to Biltmore Estate, the audio tour is sufficient. It will give you a lot of history and fun facts about the Esate and each specific room as you pass through. However, if you’ve already done the audio tour, or if you are a history buff and want to see and hear beyond what is included in the audio tour, then an additional specialty tour is right for you. I’ve personally taken the Roof Top tour and Loved it! It’s also a cool tour to take in different seasons to get a bird’s eye view of what the gardens and grounds look like in each season. I took my tour around Christmas time and I’m itching to get back to see what it looks like when the gardens are more vibrant. Summer would be the perfect time to see the grounds in their full glory!
Other tours that you can choose from are the Backstairs tour, the Behind the Scenes Winery and tasting tour and they even have tours for kids.
If you’d like to learn more about the Roof Top Tour and also hear some tips on how to get discounts on some tours, you can watch the video I made on that very topic here.
Usually Biltmore offers live concerts on the lawn, unfortunately due to the current pandemic, the concerts are cancelled this summer. Fingers crossed that they’ll be back in 2022!
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you enjoy travel and learning about destination information, travel hacks, tips deals and reviews, be sure to follow this blog and my YouTube Channel and drop a comment to say “hello!”
How do you choose where to stay when visiting Asheville, NC? Where can you go that will make you want to come back again and again?
The rustic and natural countenance of the Blue Ridge Parkway, nearby waterfalls and hiking spots glistens like dew drops against her daredevil smile.
At times she has a contemporary flair, with her proximity to shopping areas and modern day conveniences.
Other times she wants to show off her sister cities and the adventures they offer, such as the Native American culture of Cherokee and historic Morganton.
Then there’s Dillsboro, the town that looks like it’s been plucked out of a Hallmark Christmas movie, or the day train you can catch in in Bryson City to explore the Nantahala Gorge.
Asheville truly has something for everyone.
Where you choose to stay can greatly impact your over-all experience. It’s wise to check out the differences and select which is best for you, your budget and your desired Asheville experience.
If you follow my YouTube Channel, Happily 4 Evers After, you already know how much I adore the quirky, hippie vibe of downtown Asheville. As a result, I tend to share that aspect of Asheville quite a bit. A disproportionate amount, actually. Yet, I realize downtown isn’t everyone’s cuppa tea, and that’s OK. Asheville is a fascinating lady and deserves to be loved for her colorful and multi faceted personalities.
I’ve realized that I need to be fair to this amazing city that I love, so I’ve sought to expand my horizons and stay in area’s that I’ve never explored before.
It’s a rough job, but hey! Someone’s got to do it! I am up for the task!
Most recently had the pleasure of spending a full 24 hours in an area of Asheville that I didn’t know existed. Let me introduce to you (*insert drum roll here) BILTMORE PARK! (*insert cheering crowd with wild applause)
Once apart of the massive farmland of Biltmore Estates, George Vanderbilt’s descendants, George H.V. Cecil and son John F.A.V. Cecil, combined the vision of two companies, Biltmore Farms and Crosland to design . . . “Asheville, NC’s first mixed-use community, Biltmore Park Town Square is meant to serve as a blueprint for a smarter, more sustainable way of creating community spaces that are livable, functional, energy efficient, environmentally-friendly and people-focused..”
In other words, they created a community with old-time values in mind. Good food, walk-able shopping, entertainment and environmentally friendly concepts of sustainability that goes back to Biltmore Estates founder . . . a safe place where people can live with seasonal (yet pandemic restricted) farmers markets, concerts and other gatherings with plenty to do and eat so you can ditch your car and don’t have to get back in again unless you want to. Heck, you don’t even need a car at Biltmore Park. You can grab a taxi or take the Hotel Shuttle from Hilton Biltmore Park and you’re good!
If you want to take time to see other parts of Asheville . . . no worries.
*It’s only about 8 miles, or approx. 14 minutes from Biltmore Estates.
*Roughly 15 minutes or 12 miles to Downtown Asheville,
*and only about 4 miles or 8 minutes from the Asheville airport.
While Biltmore Farms has four hotels in the Asheville area, Biltmore Park currently offers only one property, the Hilton Biltmore Park. “The AAA 4-Diamond Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park offers sustainable luxury in a modern, mixed-use community, overlooking the French Broad River.”
As a matter of fact, I could see people rafting down the French Broad River from my room!
If you want to ditch motor transportation and immerse yourself in Biltmore Park, you need to stay at the Hilton Biltmore Park, the only hotel in this particular area. Yes, there are other hotels in Biltmore farms and the surrounding vicinity, but if you want the pedestrian-friendly, car-ditching experience, Hilton Biltmore Park is THE ONLY place to be!
Not only are you within walking distance of EVERYTHING that Biltmore Park has to offer, Hilton Biltmore park also;
A. Is Pet-friendly
B. Has Free Wifi
C. Has Free Parking
D. Free Airport Shuttle
E. Has Indoor Pool & Fitness Area
F. Onsite Spa
G. Has Digital Keys (This is huge if you forget your key or don’t want to carry a key around. Oh, and let’s not forget the good ol’ “my key was demagnetized by my phone.” yeah, good times. I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time through-out my life that my key suffered death by phone. Not at Hilton Biltmore park, tho. The digital key allows you to open your room door, hassle free, with zero extra trips to the front desk. (*insert angelic choir here)
H. With 165 guest rooms and 3850 sq. ft. of meeting space, this is a great location if your planning a retreat, event or conference!
I. Hilton Clean Stay Program! Naturally you may be wondering about Hilton’s policies and procedures when it comes to keeping guests and employees safe during a pandemic. Their Clean Stay Program places a seal with a QR code over your door so you can see all that has been done to clean and sanitize your room up to standards.
Grab your shoes and hat, I’m gonna take you for a ride. Are you ready for the possibilities of what there is to do in 24 hours in Biltmore Park? You are? Sweet! Let’s go!
Up and At em! Rise and shine! We only have 24 hours in Biltmore Park, not a moment to spare!
First order of business. Breakfast. Assuming you’ve taken my advice and you’re staying at Hilton Biltmore Park, you should take advantage of that fact. If you need a little extra time to get ready for the day, no worries. Order in room service and start your day in the privacy of your room. But for those of you that are bright eyed and bushy-tailed . . . enjoy a hot, made-from-scratch, locally sourced breakfast from Fork Lore, a locally and independently owned onsite restaurant.
I had a made-to-order omelet with potatoes, fruit and whole wheat toast. YUMMMM! I will be sure to order that again when I return!
Your belly is full, got your comfy walking shoes on, now it’s time to hit the shops!
The book lover in you will be head over reading glasses that Barnes and Nobles is only a few steps away. Once you’re done with books, books and more books, you’ll find clothing boutiques, REI, OP Taylor’s Toy store, (where I caught a mad game of ping pong taking place!) Talloni Shoe Salon, where, ironically enough, you’re welcome even if your dogs are barking.
Speaking of dogs, a trip to Asheville wouldn’t be complete without Fido having a store dedicated specifically to him. Stop in Woof Gang Bakery to pick up a goodie for your fur baby.
Whew! All that shopping has made me hungry! Luckily there is plenty to choose from. Hilton’s Fork Lore is open for lunch, but if you’d like to venture outside the hotel for an afternoon bite, you can choose from familiar spots such as Brixx Pizza or Which Which. Or if you’d like to keep it healthy, let me suggest Tasty Greens. Super healthy and yes! I can attest. Healthy and tasty! They offer both indoor and outdoor seating, or take it back to your room. No matter what their adequate portions will leave you feeling healthy and satisfied.
I ordered a Mediterranean bowl with Greek Chicken for my meal and a Greek salad to take back to the room for late night snack. They were both filling, delicious and fresh. I’ll be sure to order both of these entrees again!
You’re belly is full again, so what to do? What to do?
If you’ve already Shopped til you dropped, maybe Sensibilities Day Spa is calling your name.
Or, maybe you need to spend some time in Hilton’s work-out center so you can unashamedly indulge in Cold Stone Creamery or Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory without worrying about the extra calories. Then again, “Calories shall not exist whilst on holiday.” 1st Vacations 24:7
You’re on vacation after-all, so why not get your drink and creativity on at Painting with a Twist, or enjoy a brew and meet new friends at the Thirsty Monk.
I know, I know, I know, It’s already been a full day and you’ve done so much, but you only have 24 hours. You don’t want to waste it, do you? No. Of course not.
It’s been a full day of shopping and activities, now it’s time to treat yourself to dinner and a movie.
You can choose to eat at a more well-known restaurant like Hickory Tavern, or choose one of the locally owned haunts like Nine Mile or Luella’s Barbeque. Luella’s closed down for a bit during the height of the Covid 19 pandemic but have re-opened their doors after installing the Reme Air Purification System and welcome their guests to dine in or order online for curbside takeout and delivery.
Now it’s time for a movie at the Regal Biltmore Grande! Don’t worry if you’re exhausted because it’s literally across the street from the Hilton Biltmore Park. You won’t have far to walk in order to get back to you room and pour yourself into bed after a full day of walking, shopping & dining.
There are so many Pro’s to staying at Biltmore Park I hope I don’t forget to mention them all. If I forget something, please don’t hesitate to nicely and respectfully let me know what I left out in the comments. Some of the pro’s include but are not limited to;
For the con’s I would say that if you’re looking for a unique Asheville experience, this isn’t the place to find it.
Don’t get me wrong. You can find some shops and restaurants that are unique to Asheville in Biltmore Park, yet the over-all feeling is one that you could get in any mixed-use community in any city. Which, of course, is perfectly fine, if that’s the type of experience that you’ll enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s simply important to know if you long for the artsy edge of the River Arts District, or find pleasure in street performers and one-of a kind restaurants and boutique shops that can only be found in Downtown, or you want to Immerse yourself in the Vanderbilt’s extravagant life at Biltmore Estates. . . you won’t get that same immersive feeling in Biltmore Park.
That being said, as much as I love Downtown, and Biltmore Estates, I will stay in Biltmore Park again. I loved the Hilton Biltmore Park, I love the proximity of the theater, shopping and restaurants as well as how safe the area felt. Yeah, sure, I still love staying downtown and at Biltmore Estates, but this is an area worth returning. I will be back and I can’t wait to bring my family and fur babies back along for the ride!
Downtown Asheville, edition
Christy Evers, 5/27/21
How do you say good-by when you weren’t planning to fall in love?
When I first stepped foot in Downtown Asheville in 2019, I had no idea the impact it would have on me. Yes, I had heard about it, drove past it and even did some of the touristy things in the surrounding areas like hiking waterfalls and exploring the ever-popular Biltmore Estate. All of which I thoroughly enjoyed, yet I didn’t really KNOW the full charm of Asheville until the quirky, artsy vibe of Downtown captured my heart and swept me off my feet.
Asheville, the largest city in Western North Carolina & 12th largest in the state is another world, vastly different from the larger cities like Raleigh/Durham or small rural towns. This is where the mountains meet the valley, where rich history is preserved and the progress of modern culture is celebrated. Where the sunset kisses the Blue Ridge Mountains with a blushing glow that would make a bride jealous and where the community supports individuals as well as local business, but it’s more than that.
It’s the biggest little city that you’ll ever find with an even bigger heart! I’ve personally found nothing but kindness around every corner and each, tourist, local & visitor alike are unashamedly encouraged to embrace their weirdness! It’s a melting pot of varying age ranges, life-styles and nationalities with a carefree vibe of love, peace & music. A world refreshingly free from the confining expectation to fit into a cookie-cutter mold.
You’ll never know who you’ll run into. On this particular day I spied Spider-Man cruising in his Spidey-mobile!
If you ever get the chance to visit I hope you’ll love it as much as I do! I’ll provide a variety of tips and info on the Asheville area in this blog and on my YouTube Channel. Today I’m going to simplify and offer you 5 basic things you may want to know before you visit downtown Asheville in hopes of making your stay all the more enjoyable.
Let the countdown begin!
According to Yelp, a popular online reviewing site, Asheville was dubbed “The Best Food City in America!
‘To generate the winners, Yelp’s Data Science team looked at cities that had the businesses in those cities the customers were loving. In the end, Asheville, North Carolina came out on top, which Yelp dubbed a “regional-food powerhouse” with a slew of restaurants, breweries, and food businesses “powered by generations-old family farms.” Portland, Oregon; Charleston, South Carolina; Maui and Honolulu in Hawaii; and New Orleans, Louisiana also made the list. ” ~Bridget Hallinan, Foodandwine.com
When in Asheville, do yourself a favor and seek out restaurants that tickle your fancy and make your mouth water. Even better news! You can eat out guilt free! The majority of restaurants use locally sourced, fresh ingredients and are created with health and sustainability in mind. I personally feel healthier and like I’ve done the community and the planet a favor after dining out in downtown Asheville.
Don’t even get me started on the craft breweries! Rated #1 in the US for craft Breweries!
There are many gluten free and vegan options as well!
Despite hundreds of unique shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, Downtown Asheville is surprisingly compact and walk-able. I haven’t conducted a precise study on measurements and time, but I think it’s safe to say that any able-bodied, healthy person with no mobility issues could easily walk downtown Asheville, end to end, in a half-hour or so.
Weather you’re staying at a central downtown hotel, or you need to park in order to enjoy your downtown activities, you will not need to rely on public transportation or your own transportation to make your way around the downtown area if you don’t mind walking. Quite honestly, walking will most likely be easier than trying to find a parking space.
Asheville is a wildly diverse city and where you stay can directly impact the enjoyment of your stay. Here’s a breakdown of 4 major areas with pro’s and con’s of which is best and worst for different travel personalities.
So far my favorite stays have been at the Renaissance, Hotel Indigo and Hyatt Place.
2. Cons: Due to the obvious high cost of Downtown real estate, most downtown hotels will be pricier than than a hotel outside of the city proper. The downtown area has a visible homeless population and is unapologetically liberal, so bear in mind where that lies on your political spectrum. Where ever that may be, it’s still worth your time to take time to dine in one of downtown’s spectacular restaurants and browse the unique shops even if it’s not your preferred area to stay.
1. Pros: If the main focal point of your Asheville visit is Biltmore Estates, it may be worth your time to stay at a property in Biltmore Village, or directly on the Biltmore Estates. There are also some extra perks and discounts for exploring the Biltmore Estate and enjoying all it has to offer when you stay at one of their onsite properties.
It’s still well worth your time to venture into the downtown area to experience the cuisine, culture and atmosphere unique to the downtown area. Only an approx 5-8 minute drive away, you can experience the best of both worlds.
2. Cons: It’s not advised to walk from the Biltmore area to downtown. Traffic makes it unsafe. Motor transportation is advised so going into downtown will require additional driving, parking, Uber or taxi expenses. Staying onsite at Biltmore is more pricey. Biltmore Village is a better option if you’re on a budget.
1. Pros: This is for the traveler that is visiting Asheville for the hiking, waterfalls, nature and outdoor activities. or maybe you’re looking for more affordable lodging. You can camp, find Tree houses, airbnb’s and hotels surrounded by Asheville’s natural element or in nearby cities like Cherokee, Morganton and anything in between. These are usually in the more economic price ranges.
2. Cons: Again, even if your aim is to dive into nature, but you still want to explore Downtown Asheville for a bit, the only con of staying in a more natural area is the additional drive time and parking expenses in order to do so.
This for for my fellow dog lovers! Downtown Asheville may be one of the most dog friendly cities in the US that I’ve ever encountered. Know as “Dog City USA” Dogs are not only welcome in many of the shops and restaurants, but many hotels are dog friendly and have doggie programs, such as the Hotel Indigo that offers pet beds available upon request.
That’s not all. Check this out. Downtown Asheville has their own official DOG WELCOME CENTER, currently the only in the US with doggy potty area, water fountains, free goody bags, doggie ice cream, and info on their Top 100 dog-friendly attractions, restaurants, and things to do.
It’s across from the Grove Arcade at 1 Battle Square.
The Dog Welcome Center is open Mon-Wed 9-5, Thurs-Sat 9-7 and Sun 11-5.
They also have doggie CBD shops!
Dress how you want to dress, play music, make art, explore the metaphysical. Bring a sense of kindness and you’re good to go.
You’ll find drum circles, art, sculptures, street murals, fairy doors and you never know who you’ll run into. If you’re lucky you’ll spot Spiderman cruising around in his Spidey-mobile too.
Art is everywhere in Asheville! Search alleyways, walls and corner for artistic urban gems. Search on your own or check out this Guide from ExploreAshveille.com
I read an online review that said they didn’t think Asheville was culturally diverse enough to be weird. (whatever that means) I’m not up on the cultural statistics, so I don’t know how correct or incorrect that statement is, but I can say one thing . . . from what I’ve seen, the downtown area will embrace all peace-loving people equally. If someone wants Asheville to be more culturally diverse, my perception is that Downtown Asheville is totally open for that to happen.
In downtown Asheville you’ll dine on locally sourced and farm to table food, listen to street music, watch artisans at work, maybe even participate in a drum circle or discover your favorite shop filled with unique clothing, exotic teas, blown glass and beaded jewelry, all hand-crafted by locals.
In Asheville, there’s an energy in the air. Maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s the quirky and artsy charm. Whatever it is . . . I’m hooked!
So how do you say, “good-bye” once you’ve fallen in love with Asheville? The good news is you don’t have to!
Instead, like me, take a piece of it home with you in your heart and instead say, “see you later & Stay weird!”
A MUST See North Carolina Waterfall Near Asheville!
North Carolina is known as the land of waterfalls and rightly so. There are over 250 waterfalls to discover. The majority spread out from western NC into the North Western Region. Click here for an interactive map of western North Carolina Waterfalls.
If you’re on the hunt for some spectacular waterfalls, it’s hard to know which one to tackle first. How do you choose from so many?
I personally suggest Catawba Falls Trail, an easy to moderate hike only 1.2 miles each way with a well-paved trail on a steady yet mild incline. This pet and family friendly trail is a perfect hike for solo hikers, beginners and/or those who need or want to take their time.
Despite the ease of the trail, the beauty and majesty of Catawba Falls will equally attract and please seasoned hikers. In addition to the prize of 100 ft. cascading waterfalls at the end, you’ll pass some mini-waterfalls, rivers, streams, historic ruins and moss-carpeted respites nestled in fairy-like coves along your journey.
It’s always wise to be prepared before you go in order to make the most of your hike. I’ve compiled a list of 10 basic things you need to know before you go to Catawba Falls. Let’s not waist any time, let’s dig right on in!
The address to plug into your GPS is 3074 Catawba Rd, Old Fort, NC.
Only a short distance off of I-40, at Old Fort Exit 73.
The town of Old Fort is approx;
-4 miles from the Catawba trailhead
-12 miles from Black Mountain,
-28 miles from the artsy, foodtopia of Asheville. Here’s some great hotels to check out.
-and 35 miles from historic Morganton.
– Family owned, Catawba Falls Campground is 1/2 mile from the trailhead. They offer primitive tent sites, RV sites and cabin rentals, all available to book online. They also offer hammock sites for a reasonable rate on a first come, first serve basis.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, those are fabulous towns to look into.
Once you get off the exit, you’ll find the long (approx. 10 minutes) scenic road that leads directly to the trailhead parking lot by turning right at MC Donalds.
Although I’m sure you’ll be anxious to hit the trail, don’t forget to take time to enjoy the nature, quaint buildings, art, live-stock and more. On this route you’ll also find the family owned, Catawba Falls Campground
Speaking of the McDonald’s where you turn right . . . I highly suggest making a stop here for a bathroom break, or at one of the other establishments in Old Fort with public bathrooms, before arriving at the trailhead.
While there is a public, outhouse-style restroom at the trailhead and it looks kind of cute, (How can I say this nicely . . .) it was, hands down, the most disgusting smelling bathroom I have ever encountered. Ever. Maybe I was there on an off day, but the stench nearly made me puke.
You must know that I’m NOT a delicate flower when it comes to bad smells. I’m nearly 50, a mom of 3, have cared for many pets, spent time with the animals on my Grandpa’s farm, used a countless number of primitive bathrooms and outhouses during my lifetime. Never ever have I encountered one that smelled this bad.
Hopefully they will have this fixed by the time you go. As for me, I’m not going to risk it. Next time I go I’ll grab a drink and a snack at a nearby restaurant then use their toilet before heading to the trail. If you don’t want to risk having your nose assaulted by the stench of a rotting sewer rat crawling up your nasal passages, I suggest you do the same. ‘Nuff said.
The Catawba Falls Trail parking lot is a pretty decent size, however, this is an extremely popular hiking spot so it does fill up quickly on weekends and during peak season.
Obviously, if you’d like to avoid crowds it’s best to arrive as early in the day as possible, go on weekdays, or off season. Please note that if you choose to go on a rainy day to avoid crowds, or in the off season (which is winter) the trail can become very muddy and slippery. Caution is advised.
The trail to Catawba Falls is fairly easy for the most part. There are some rocky and potentially slippery spots along the way that could cause some to view it as a moderate hike, especially when you arrive at the final falls where it is extremely rocky.
If you choose to climb up the side of the lower falls it can get a bit steep, muddy and slippery, especially after it rains. If you have mobility issues or concerns about climbing on rocks, it’s best to be content with the view from the base of the falls. In my opinion, it’s one of the best views anyway. You’re not missing much if you’re unable to get any closer.
The trail is predominately flat with a mild and steady incline. In my research I’ve found conflicting information on exactly how steep the incline is from start to finish, but it’s safe to say it’s somewhere between 341 ft. – 465 ft. It’s still mild no matter where that number falls.
Are you a beginner and concerned about your stamina? Will you hike with small children or an older pet and concerned about the need to stop along the way? Maybe you’re a take-time-to-smell-the-roses kind of person and prefer to enjoy every inch of the trail. You’re in luck! There are plenty of great spots to sit down, rest, enjoy the sun and wind on your face and immerse yourself in the rushing melody of the nearby river.
Simply put, this trail is perfect for a varying degree of fitness levels and interests. The majority of healthy, active folks will have little difficulty on this trail.
*Rain is common in this area
*At one point you will need to cross an ankle deep section of water to get to the end of the trail.
*You may want to wade in the water or splash around, especially on a hot day.
*Once you get to the main falls at the end, you’ll get the best view by wading out into the middle of the water. It’s not deep, but you will get wet.
With all of this in mind, I suggest bringing your preference of waterproof items and prepare to become one with the water.
Some things you may want to bring:
Catawba Falls trail is a family friendly trail, but I want to point out that there are sections with steep drop offs on the side with little to no protection to keep curious and adventurous youngsters from making a unintentional but dangerous error in judgment.
The main section of concern is around and near the remnants of the old river dam. The trail, in general, is relatively safe but you will need extra vigilance regarding your child’s safety in these areas.
If you’re short on time you can do the Catawba hike in an hour, less if you’re really fit.
This isn’t the type of trail that you’ll want to rush. With mini waterfalls along the route, rivers, streams and historic ruins, there are so many gems along this trail that you may kick yourself if you don’t allow time to explore and take it all in.
There are some smaller, worn trails off of the larger trail leading to mini waterfalls. For safety, it’s best to stick to the worn paths and not venture off.
Catawba Falls Trail was once a Cherokee trail, and a wagon route to Asheville from Old Fort. In the early 1900’s it was the location of the hydroelectric house that supplied power to the town of Old Fort. You’ll find ruins from times past along the way.
As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of places to stop, rest and enjoy the scenery. Bring hydration, snacks or a whole picnic. Find a spot to call your own and sit for a spell.
In the Fall you can enjoy the vibrant foliage. Spring is the time to discover brilliant blooms. Search for wildlife. Wade and splash around in the river. Take your time. Make a day of it! You won’t regret it!
Pictures and video’s can’t do this waterfall justice. Take a look below. There is a woman in the waterfall. Can you spot her without the red markings?
This sounds like a no-brainer and right now you may be thinking, “Thanks for the tip, Captain Obvious!”
Sadly to say, emergency services are called in too many times each year and deaths have occurred due to unsafe choices. Enough so, that I feel it’s important to include this warning.
If you get caught up in the moment and think it’s a good time to channel your inner Indiana Jones by giving into the urge to go past the danger signs to attempt climbing to the upper falls, stand on the unstable dam or wander off the worn path . . . heed this word of warning and just don’t do it!
There is plenty enjoy safely. If you want to get adventurous, try braving the parking lot bathroom. That right there is enough risky adventure for one day.
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Let me know if this article was useful! I’d love to hear your thoughts and thoughtful feedback.
Introduction: Hi! Welcome to my little corner of blogland where I will give you travel tips, reviews and oh, well… why don’t I go CrAzY and just blog about anything travely that makes me go, “Hey! People should see this!” How ’bout dah? First, what makes me worthy of Travel Guru-ness? When I was seven […]
Hi! Welcome to my little corner of blogland where I will give you travel tips, reviews and oh, well… why don’t I go CrAzY and just blog about anything travely that makes me go, “Hey! People should see this!” How ’bout dah?
First, what makes me worthy of Travel Guru-ness?
When I was seven years old I saved my pennies to go to France and bought a French dictionary so I could teach myself (as terrible as it was) French.
Love me for my love of travel, not my French skills.
As a teen, while my totally tubular, leg-warmer wearing, big-haired friends watched MTV, I was glued to the Travel channel.
As a result I’ve worked in the travel/tourism/hospitality industry since the late 1980’s. Some of my boasted employers include; Hyatt Regency, Funjet Vacations and Expedia, to name a few. There’s practically no place in the world that I wouldn’t go. I’ve stayed in everything from European tent hostels, & cruises to All-inclusive resorts, rappelled waterfalls in Costa Rica, swam in the sacred cenotes in Mexico and have flown over the majestic Alaskan peaks. I’m not even close to being finished!
Most recently I worked a Travel agent. That’s right. Travel agent. A good many of you are asking, “Is there’s still such thing as a travel agent? Doesn’t everyone book things online these days?”
I’m glad you asked. Why yes! Yes there are Travel agents, and you are correct! Most people do most of their travel planning online.
Which brings me to my blog post…… *insert exciting drum roll here*
Let’s add some hula dancers too!
Wow! You are such a good question asker! Thanks for being such a wise and curious reader. Who should use a Travel Agent?
If you use an agent to do research, please respect their work
PLEASE DEAR GOD PLEASE and do NOT be a jerk book the trip on your own. Agents are paid by commission only, meaning they are paid through hotels, cruise lines and other travel providers. Would you like it if your boss made you do hours, days and even weeks of work for nothing outside of volunteering, a charity or mission work? Don’t lie I didn’t think so. Not to mention, many agents can get you extra amenities or give “Thank you” gifts. You could miss out on some cool extras.
Anyway, that’s the nuts and bolts of who should and should not use an agent. I look forward to seeing you all in future posts! Leave me a message and say “Hello!”
Below is me in Alaska, when Celebrity Cruise Lines invited me to experience their Alaskan cruise tour this past May. Here I’m touring a place where iditarod puppies are born, trained and raised. This one was born on May 5th. They were thinking of calling him Macho.
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