As I've been expanding on my Asheville travel guide content lately, I've been asked, as a local, what makes Asheville so special? It's a bit of a loaded question, one I feel a big responsibility in answering since, for one, it's pretty subjective, and two, there's so much about Asheville that makes it remarkable. While I can't say this is the end all-be all answer, one thing I cherish about Asheville is our 'Paris of the South' reputation. Not the title so much as what it means. We're an artist's oasis tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, home to Biltmore, breweries, and Beaux-Art architecture. Whenever I'm asked to recommend the best things to do and places to see in Asheville, my list always straddles our historic landmarks and our modern-day marvels.
Coincidentally, or conveniently perhaps, one place that embodies both the historic and the contemporary Asheville experience is the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville. Envisioned by Edwin Wiley (the same visionary behind Grove Park Inn), the Grove Arcade still stands over 100 years later as the curated "palace of dining and shopping enchantment" Wiley intended it to be.
To call it a palace is not far off the mark. The minute you walk through the Grove Arcade's doors you're swept up in it's beauty: the skylight atrium, the spiral staircases, the greenery spilling over wrought iron balconies sitting atop the first-level shops and restaurants. When you walk into Grove Arcade you feel a little like you stepped into a time gone by because, frankly, they don't make buildings this beautiful anymore. But the experience is anything but out dated. Grove Arcade's directory is rife with purveyors of regional crafts, locally-made luxuries, and delectable spirits. OH -- did I mention they're a Wi-Fi hub, too? You can beat the heat or escape the rain, recharge your and your phone's batteries, snap a Selfie, and sip some champagne.
About that: there's a champagne bar in a vintage book store. So go ahead and put that on your "Must Do" list while you catch a sneak peek in this video diary I made of a day at Grove Arcade!
Now that I've indulged my 'proud local' side with a mini history lesson and humble brag, I thought I'd share some of my favorite 'Must See' spots in the Grove Arcade for you to check out on your next trip to downtown Asheville.
Serenity + Scott Apothecary
Go for the makeup, stay for a glow up. In addition to their locally-made makeup (that's Paraben-, gluten-, and cruelty-free BTW), Serenity + Scott offers services of every caliber, from full-blown bridal makeup to 15-minute lash applications. If you've got a fun night planned with your S.O. or girl gang, go by Serenity + Scott for some quick lashes and a custom-made scent from their fragrance line. Men's mustache and beard grooming kits also available.
Woodrow Instrument Company
These tiny stringed instruments called Woodrows actually put out the most wonderful sound, instantly transporting you to a campfire sing-along with friends and family. Handmade by the owner right here in western North Carolina, each instrument puts out it's own folk music sound. Ask for a demonstration while you're there to enjoy the hallmark sounds of the Asheville Appalachia. Learn more about how the instruments are made and the differences in sound on the Woodrow Instrument Company site.
Battery Park Book Exchange and
Books, champagne, and cheese plates. What more could you ask for? This two-story vintage book store carries thousands of books ranging across all genres. Grab a glass of champagne or local craft beer as you peruse their collection. They also serve coffee, cakes, and one of my favorite cheese plates in town. Once you're done browsing the books, grab a table outside to sip, snack, and take in the bustling atmosphere of downtown Asheville. Check the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar site to take a glimpse at their menu and live music schedule.
Wake Foot Sanctuary
If you're looking for a vacation from life, step right on in to Wake Foot Sanctuary. You can relax in a big cushy chair as you soak your feet and enjoy a massage. I love that their spa experience doesn't require taking the whole day off just to unplug and unwind for a little while. Come early or plan to stay afterward to shop their line of bath salts, sprays, and body powders.
Enter The Earth
If you like pretty sparkly things, you're in for some eye candy at Enter The Earth. It's considered a museum for rock, mineral, and fossil lovers and collectors, and you'll see why the minute you walk in. Shelf upon shelf is lined with the most beautiful stones in the richest colors you'll ever see. They import rare minerals and rocks from all over the world, including Ocean Jasper out of Madagascar that can only be found in the entire United States at Enter The Earth.
Santé Wine Bar & Tap Room
Santé Wine Bar is one of my favorite places to meet my girlfriends for wine and a wind down. Their wine collection is super impressive but not pretentious or intimidating. The staff is also really great at matching your palette with the right wine. Last time there I got a Pinot Noir that knocked my socks off and didn't blow my budget. Not always easy to find! Their outdoor tables make it easy to enjoy Asheville's awesome weather three seasons out of the year.
It's actually pretty difficult whittling down all the awesome shops and restaurants at Grove Arcade to my top faves because there are so many wonderful things to see and food to eat! For instance I love the European feel of al fresco dining at Carmel's under their signature red umbrellas. OH! You can't miss the local artists' stalls by the south entrance. They've got art, jewelry, metalwork...all kinds of cool, Asheville-only creations.
Whether you're a local or a visitor to our mountain town, I hope you'll stop by Grove Arcade on your next trip to or stay in downtown Asheville! Be sure to check their website or follow along with them on social media to help you plan your trip!
PS: If you're interested in my outfit details, here are links to my velvet blazer, camisole, denim skirt, and hat.
Thank you to Grove Arcade for partnering with me on this travel guide post! Rest assured that all opinions expressed herein are my own.