By Zac Lennox
Southern Proper Hospitality Culinary Director
There aren’t too many guarantees in the world. If you or your family venture on this hike, you will have a great time! It is a lightly sloping, smooth wide trail with lots of people out and having fun. The trail follows a shallow river for just over a mile (20-25 minutes) to a 80ft cascading falls. There is a nice pool at the bottom to enjoy the mist, cool your feet and rest for the return trip. The downhill walk back is a piece of cake. Lots of little trails to the river with rocks and logs to explore on the way. Plenty of room for everyone up at the top. It’s a very rewarding payoff for a small investment in time and energy. You don’t have to be a strong hiker to make it and anyone will be inspired looking up through the mist at these amazing falls. If you are an expert hiker there is another hike that starts at the base of the lower falls, but it is quite dangerous and slippery…not for the weak, young or faint of heart. I highly recommend a trip to Catawba, it’s beautiful hike with a delightful prize at the end, a classic hidden gem.
Downtown Black Mountain
Blocks away from the Monte Vista is the heart of Black Mountain. Great coffee at the Dripolator, excellent ice cream at Kilwin’s, old book stores, quilt shops, outdoor outfitters, handmade stringed instruments and an honest to goodness general store are all in town center. Cool little restaurants and a couple of bars are sprinkled around everywhere and it is really satisfying to just go peek in windows, dip into store fronts and see what happens. Great small town vibe, everyone is kind and hospitable. Just down the road the other way is Tomahawk Park, a great spot with walking/running paths around a nice size lake with bridges, fountains, and bathrooms. There is a seasonal town public pool “The Black Mountain Pool,” that’s perfect for the family. It has a daily entry fee for a nice pool with a splash zone for the kids. It’s well kept, has a lifeguard, changing room, snack bar and they have towels and pool toys for rent if needed.
Photo courtesy of Southeast Discovery
Blue Ridge Parkway
The history and workmanship of this gorgeous stretch of mountaintop road shines as it weaves in and out and through the tallest peaks of the Blue Ridge range. Winding and perfectly graded, this prime highway has panoramic views, easy to navigate viewpoints and overlooks, perfectly landscaped roadsides with bright flowers, grassy areas and woods. Perfect for convertibles, motorcycles and a great family drive. Plenty to see everywhere. Roadside hikes, a mountainside hotel, a small grocery store, waterfalls and truly amazing vistas are on this majestic engineering triumph. Seriously, a cool road sounds weird, but it is perfect in every way.
World famous turn of the century estate custom built by one of the Vanderbilt scions to the highest possible standard imaginable. No expense was spared and no higher level of craftsmanship (or ostentation) has ever been achieved. The attention to detail is mind-blowing. Hand hewn doors, fireplaces railings to epic libraries, underground swimming pool and cathedral sized grand dining room to a domed official entryway with statues and ming vases on display are so abundant you get numb to the grandeur. The grounds are awe inspiring in many ways and include fountains, private indoor, outdoor and formal gardens, walking trails that follow a creek to a private lake, fields of corn and pastures filled with livestock. There is a very prolific winery with a tasting room, hotels, restaurants and running/biking trails are all on the estate grounds but the estate building itself is the centerpiece. Literally everything a person could want if you had everything. It is very interesting little glimpse into another time. Oh yeah, and it was built before cars. Keep that in mind.
Asheville is a great town. Phenomenal food scene. Excellent art, theater and music available. Festivals, art shows, street markets, farmer’s markets, performing arts and concerts galore. Always something going on and a very creative population to drive interesting goings on. Reminiscent of Austin and Portland, maybe some Nashville sprinkled in…or maybe those cities remind me of Asheville. Fun city.
Dinner at Miltons
Don’t. Miss. This. There is an excellent young chef at the hotel. His name is Cole Pate and he has great style for the area that uses local ingredients and products to the fullest. He blends comfortable food combinations with fine dining flair at affordable prices. Nothing better than a great dinner downstairs from your room without spending an arm and a leg. Perfect chance to experience an excellent young local chef working with hyper local ingredients in a place known for its agriculture. Thriving local markets drive Chef Cole’s daily specials and are always a good bet. The bar has its own menu and a fireplace on the covered patio. It’s a great place to have a drink and enjoy the mountain air. The Monte Vista has a grace all its own, but to have that backdrop and also be able to dine with fine dining level execution at a moderate price point is a rare find. Milton’s Restaurant is more than a hotel amenity, it’s a destination. People will wonder how you got so smart when you book a room at the Monte Vista and have dinner at Milton’s after a fun day.
Mountain biking, hiking, waterfalls, zip lining
Many options near and far in the area, plus golf, rock climbing, fly fishing, paddle boating, rafting, inner tubing, swimming and rock jumping. Any of these options are top notch with reasonable travel times. Talk to the staff at the Monte Vista and they will find the perfect match, whatever you are looking for in a fun day outside.
Biltmore Estate Winery
More people go to the Biltmore Winery tasting room than any other winery in the country. They sell 150,000 cases of wine annually and their wine is available in 35 states. Located in Antler Village on the 8,000 acre Biltmore estate. It’s bustling and fun in the tasting room, wide range of varietals and a lively atmosphere. There is a reason it is popular, very well run and easy to see why they are successful. I had a good time and the worst day wine tasting is better than the best day at work, or so I hear.
Guided Brewery Tours
There are more than 30 breweries in Asheville from mega-breweries to one room craft houses. There are guided brewery tours galore, some of the more well-known are BREW-ed Brewery and Historic Walking Tours, Asheville Brewery Tours, Asheville Brews Cruise. Can’t go wrong with something for everyone. If you don’t feel like a trek to Asheville, just outside the Monte Vista Hotel, Pisgah, Black Mountain and Looking Glass all have breweries and tasting rooms in Black Mountain. Pisgah has a significant compound that hosts regular events and concerts, and their beer is really good. Grey Beard IPA, just sayin’.
Photo courtesy of Asheville Ale Trail
One of the best donuts ever
They make donuts to order at Hole. Only four rotating flavors and they are all great. It’s funky but clean, organized and efficient. I know, everyone has a favorite donut place, but this is special. This is different.