5 Things to Know Before you Go to Asheville!

Downtown Asheville, edition

Christy Evers, 5/27/21

How do you say good-by when you weren’t planning to fall in love?

Downtown Asheville from my room at Hotel Indigo

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.

Colorful Downtown Asheville

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.

Asheville Sunset at Biltmore Estates

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!

Spider-Man cruising downtown Asheville

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!

5. Food and Beverage Mecca!

Some of my Favorite eats around Downtown Asheville

Southern Living rated Asheville #6 as The South’s best food cities in 2020.

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!

4. Easily Walk-able

Downtown Asheville is easily walkable from end to end.

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.

3. Where to Stay?

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.

Downtown Hotels

So far my favorite stays have been at the Renaissance, Hotel Indigo and Hyatt Place.

  1. Pros: The upside to staying at a downtown hotel is just as I mentioned above. You can park at your hotel and never have to leave until check out. A Downtown location is perfect for those who want the focus of their trip to be on the exploration of unique downtown restaurants, shops, craft breweries and entertainment and love to walk! A wonderful place to explore for the more liberal and artsy tourists.

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.

Biltmore Estate/Biltmore Village

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.

Shopping/ Airport/ Outlet Areas

  1. Pros: These area’s are obviously convenient to shopping, transportation and tourist areas and will most likely be less expensive.
  2. Con’s You won’t get a true feel for “authentic Asheville”

Natural, Surrounding Area’s

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.

2. Pet Friendly

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!

1. Embrace the Weird!

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!”

Catawba Falls

A MUST See North Carolina Waterfall Near Asheville!

10 Things You Need to Know Before You Go to Catawba Falls

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?

Catawba Falls

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.

Ruins of historic hydroelectric house

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!

#10. Location, location, location!

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.

#9 Where to Stay?

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

The Fairfield Inn, Downtown Morganton is a lovely place to stay

#8 Bathrooms

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.

Trailhead bathrooms

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.

#7 Parking

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.

#6 Trail Length and Difficulty

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.

#5 Prepare to Get Wet!

Facts:

*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.

Wading in the water to get the best view of Catawba Falls

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:

  1. Rain jacket
  2. Change of clothes/shoes/socks
  3. Water shoes
  4. Waterproof cover for your phone or other electronics,
  5. Waterproof boots with good traction
  6. Waterproof blanket
  7. A waterproof bag to store wet clothes/shoes/etc.
  8. Waterproof backpack
  9. Cleaning cloth if you wear glasses
  10. Bathing suit under your clothes
Waterproof blanket to keep from getting wet

Here’s a link to a video of some of my favorite travel gadgets, which include waterproof items.

#4 Kids and Safety

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.

#3 Allot at Least 1-3 Hours for Your Hike

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.

#2 Take Time to Explore, Relax, Take in the Beauty & the History!

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?

#1 Enjoy Safely

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!

Just. Don’t.

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.


Thanks for reading this far! I’d love for you to hop on over and join my on on YouTube Channel for Travel tips, hacks, updates, reviews and deals!

Let me know if this article was useful! I’d love to hear your thoughts and thoughtful feedback.

Happy Trails!

Who Needs a Travel Agent? — Coconut and Laptop Life

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 […]

via Who Needs a Travel Agent? — Coconut and Laptop Life

Who Needs a Travel Agent?

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 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!

Who should use a Travel Agent?

Wow!  You are such a good question asker!  Thanks for being such a wise and curious reader.  Who should use a Travel Agent?

  1.  You’re planning a big trip and you don’t know much about the area and/or haven’t traveled much.   The majority of Travel Agents work commission only. That means they are paid by the hotels, cruise lines and travel suppliers. You don’t have to pay a penny, unless the agency includes a fee.  That means you have a travel planner, for free! (or mostly free.) You can have confidence in advice from an experienced professional, and can give you insights on how to best travel this destination.  Since they Travel agents have access to different travel options and know where to look, plus they know the market is competitive, they are your best bet for getting the best possible price as well. Did I mention perks? Yeah, sometimes agents can add in perks as well.
  2. You’re taking a cruise for the first time and have no idea which ship is best for you. Not all cruise ships are created equal. They all have different target markets and different amenities. You could absolutely boogie-woody love one ship and have a snorefest another. Let a travel professional help you choose the cruise experience that is best for your desires and needs.
  3. You don’t have time or don’t like travel planning. Planning a wedding? Have kids? Heavy workload? too many irons in the fire? Just plain ‘ol don’t like planning trips?  why not have a travel professional do it for you? It costs little to nothing to use an agent, so, why not?But listen!STOP collaborate and LISTEN!!!!

    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.

Who should NOT use a Travel Agent?

  1.  Those who only want the cheapest thing out there.  Will agents give you the best value out there?  Yes.  They will make sure you get the best bang for your buck. However, “cheaper” is not always better.  Travel agents are there because of their love of travel and their experience and will do their dandy-bestest to make sure you get the right vacation that is right for you.  People who want the “cheapest” are usually the ones who make them do the most work, and since they are paid on commission only, that means the smallest pay.  If you want “cheap” then please do it yourself online.  Agents DO want to give their clients the best value possible, but we all cringe when people come in and say, “I want the cheapest vacation.”  It usually means lots more work for little pay and ultimately an unhappy client because they end up having a crappy time. We want to create spectacular vacations, not replicate what you can do online yourself.
  2. If you don’t trust your travel agent.  The Travel agent/client relationship thrives on trust.  If you can’t trust your agent, find another one or do it yourself. It’s no fun for anyone, so it’s best to move on.
  3. You’re not willing to respond to your Agent’s calls or e-mails.  I’ve witnessed terrible mess ups because the client wouldn’t return messages. I had one client that booked a cruise on his own (on-board booking standard practice) and he booked for Christmas the wrong year.  Yes Year!!!  The cruise line passed the booking to me, (since it was an on board booking and he was my client.)  He never responded to my calls and e-mails.  He ended up changing phone number and never updated me.  I had a hunch it was booked wrong, but he wouldn’t get back to me.  When I finally heard from him it was a week before he was supposed to leave did I mention it was over Christmas asking where his documents were.  I finally had to break the news to him that he booked the wrong date.  Thankfully I used my super-agent skills to get him and his family to an all-inclusive in Mexico instead, because all cruises were booked up. Because it was freaking Christmas  I ‘ve also had clients miss out on great deals because they didn’t correspond with me.   Too bad suckahs’! Take that for making me work for nothing!
  4. Those who are apart of a super cool Travel club.  Some clubs, such as Dream Trips does the planning for you and provides 4 and 5 star vacations at 2 and 3 star prices!  Plus, depending on your membership, you have access to your own booking engine with guarantees that you’re getting the best possible price.

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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