North Carolina turned out to be another expectation-breaking place. After getting stuck on one side of the mountains in Tennessee without being able to explore them, we thought we’d give it one more try across the border. Alas, the weather was still too cold and snowy; roads weren’t plowed, meaning paths weren’t accessible. At least we tried! We’ll just have to go back to the Smoky Mountains someday (although the “we’ll have to go back” bucket list is growing at an alarming rate.) We spent a couple of days holed up in Waynesville at the base of the Smokies, until finally accepting that our mountain dreams weren’t meant to be.
On recommendation from several folks, we found our way to the town of Asheville- which, surprise surprise, we loved! We’d heard it described as an art community and a hippie enclave, and neither disappointed.
Asheville has a lot of good things going for it- the Smokies tower in the distance, while this small, hilly town is nestled quietly below. It had a great mix of elements- most of the neighborhoods we explored had an urban feel, with bits and pieces of exciting life around every corner. Downtown Asheville is contained to a relatively small area, but the main streets and side arteries buzz with unique, beautiful businesses and spaces.
We were surprised to learn that Asheville calls itself the “Beer capital of the world”; it has the highest number of breweries per capita than any other US City. We had fun testing out the regular stuff, as well as visiting a taproom specializing in sour beers (Wicked Weed’s ‘Funkatorim‘). We even hit Ben’s Tune-up which specializes in house-made sake.
One of our favorite stops in Asheville was at the Moog factory and store. Because our travel style is pretty spontaneous, we usually Google a place we’re headed just before arriving, to see what types of things we can do (obviously, this method occasionally backfires – we’ve learned several times over that many things close during specific seasons!). The spur-of-the-moment discovery that the Moog factory is in Asheville led to an hour-long tour, and we couldn’t have loved it more. We’re both big music fans, and learning about the roots of Moog Synthesizers was fascinating. They are nearly 100% handmade to order in the US and are gorgeous pieces of machinery.
We also explored West Asheville, a newly up-and-coming neighborhood full of great spots. We ate fried chicken and waffles at King Daddy’s and explored several surrounding businesses. Our waitress recommended things to do for the rest of our stay in Asheville, and upon learning that we were from Minneapolis, expressed admiration for our home city. It’s clear why Ashevillians would like Minneapolis and vice-versa- the cultures and creativity felt very similar to us.
Unsure of what else to do in North Carolina (the Blue Ridge Parkway, notably one of the most beautiful drives in the US- was closed up and inaccessible due to weather, and the coast felt like too much of a mileage stretch)- we made a brief stop in the research triangle region (Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill). We had fun exploring the areas, but these are clearly student towns. The campuses were fun to see, and our drives offered some unique scenery- but after a couple of days we were ready to move on to South Carolina.
Asheville is like the “Austin of the Appalachians” (credit is due to our friend Brian for this gem, but we wholeheartedly agree).
North Carolina has many facets (and we didn’t even see all that many!); even with the most beautiful attractions closed for the season, we still enjoyed a great deal of what this state had to offer. It’s not an easy place to fit into a box, and that’s a good thing.
US Anywhere is a year-long, cross-country documentary project by newlyweds Carl and Anna. They are taking the 52 weeks of 2016 and are using them to travel the country and make short films about all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.). The project will seek to illuminate the states and the hugely diverse urban and natural landscapes of the US. They hope to inspire others to dream, travel, explore, and connect with the United States.