Hot Springs, NC 24 Jul 2016, 8:39 pm
A day trip to Hot Springs
We certainly have some sizzling summer temperatures here lately, soaring into the 90’s and just sitting there, baking each and every one of us. I have not seen this many flip-flop wearers since I was in Florida!
I was thinking of ways to beat the heat this Fourth of July and I instantly thought of a trip to Hot Springs. Hot Springs is a small town with big heart. A town that welcomes all passers-by, drifters and wanderers. A town saturated with history and culture. And more to the point, a place with an abundance of water.
How would you like your water? Pleasantly balmy, highly mineralized, silky smooth and bubbly? Then its Hot Springs Spa for you. Calming, flowing, crisp and cool? Then it’s Spring Creek and the French Broad River for you. How about thrilling, white-capped and raging? Also the French Broad for you and all conveniently located in Hot Springs.
Recreational activities are pretty popular in this area as well. Canoe and tub rentals are available and if you are feeling a bit more free spirited there is always free-floating down the river which is very fun way to experience the river and stay cool.
Of course how could I talk about Hot Springs without mentioning the ole AP. The Appalachian Trail goes straight through downtown Main Street which is a huge reason as to why they are so hospitable to strangers. Interesting people drifting through are a mainstay. And with people stopping by your town during their hike in the AP you better believe they have grub! Hikers are hungry! The Iron Horse Tavern and the Spring Creek Tavern come highly recommended from friends.
With the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest literally wrapping around the entirety of the town you can bet that hiking options are seemingly endless! A hike that I am drooling over is Lovers Leap. I was going to hike it for the purpose of this article but with a heat index of 100 degrees outside I opted for another time. Lovers Leap has sensational views and I can’t wait to share my experience with you!
Hot Springs is only about a 30 minute drive from the Wildberry Lodge. Our 2016 summer has been hot so please bring your sun screen and stay hydrated!
Written by Kate Randall
North Carolina Arboretum 18 Jul 2016, 8:58 am
The North Carolina Arboretum has over 65 acres of charming
gardens and is situated amidst one of the most botanically diverse
and beautiful ecosystems in all of North America. Strolling
through their abundant selection of garden designs is a sound way
to spend the day.
Take a peaceful walk through the world renowned Bonsai Exhibition Garden where you can marvel at the skill and precision is takes to create such specimens which are a true marriage of horticulture and art. The beautiful Juniper, Chinese Elm and Ginkgo really caught my eye for their elegance and grace. The exhibit is designed with a contemporary Japanese flair that temporarily transports you out of the Appalachia.
The Native Azalea Collection showcases every species of Azalea that is indigenous to the United States.
The Quilt Garden takes on a rather unique interpretation of
traditional folk quilting by creating patterns with plants. The
strong bond between heritage crafts and gardening can not be
understated in its important history to our Southern Appalachian
When I think about the North Carolina Arboretum I think about a place that excels at connecting people to plants. Brilliant efforts have been made to ensure that we have plentiful opportunities to unite ourselves with our surrounding environment. Their mission to foster connections with plants and people comes to us in the form of education, exhibition and demonstrations.
Their educational classes are quite varied. I once took a class from them learning how to correctly identify scat (animal poop) and whether or not the scat belongs to an herbivore or carnivore. Strange? Perhaps, but I do make hiking a much more interesting experience for anyone weird enough to join me.
Not interested in scat? Fine. Lucky for you the classes offered here seem endless. Over 140 classes and workshops are taught by our regions leading experts. Dozens and dozens of classes just in the Natural History category are available nearly every day such as ‘Mushrooms of the Blue Ridge’ and ‘Birds & Climate Change’.
Other fields that may be of interest to you are Horticulture
& Conservation, Fine Arts & Crafts as well as Health
Wellness & Adventure. Classes tend to fill up quickly so
pre-register if you are able.
The arboretum is wrapped within Bent Creek Experimental Forest and is right on the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile post 393. 434 acres of gardens, picnic patches, biking and hiking trails are at your disposal. Even on the unusually hot 90 degree weather days we have been seeing lately you can still enjoy the grounds without becoming over-heated. Cooling off under the various wisteria covered gazebos or underneath the shaded woodland trails are options that delight any nature lover.
Admission is free but you do pay a $12 parking fee per vehicle.
The first Tuesday of every month, the Arboretum also offers a 50%
discount on personal vehicle parking ($6).
Written by Kate Randall
Joy Riding in Leicester 11 Jul 2016, 9:15 am
I have lived here in Leicester, North Carolina for 7 years now
and in that time I have yet to become dulled or bored by joy riding
throughout our gorgeous country side. It’s as though our winding
switchbacks have magical doorways that appear and reappear in
different ways leading me down exciting new roads to discover each
time I set out.
My day trips through the serpentine shaped streets often surprise me with sights of meandering renegade buffalo and wild turkeys wandering around aimlessly, taking up all the road space they so desire. I get to witness beautiful hawks sweeping down into close view with a snake in talon. We even have a neighborhood peacock. Yes, a stunning peacock just randomly hanging out on the side of the road, showing off its feathers as people drive by.
The melding of the turquoise skies and the forest green landscape after a nice rain create colours so brilliant and so vibrant that it imprints itself forever in my mind. Our sunsets simultaneously still and stir my spirit gifting me the awareness that I am forever rooted here no matter where I end up in my life.
Many travelers are rightfully drawn to the monumental views of the Blue Ridge Parkway but I have found that I get equal views on the back roads of Leicester with the welcomed addition of charm. The charming touches of our quaint little town are indeed boundless.
We have adorable cobble stone cottages and archetypal colonial style farmhouses from the 1800s that still thrive in these parts. Nearly every oncoming vehicle pleasantly waves as you pass each other by which is not only a country tradition but also small town hospitality at its best. People are so very friendly around here and usually eager to lend a helping hand.
Tail gate markets by way of curb side pop up all around too. The one time I found my self a bit lost and hungry from taking one too many coin toss turns, I was lucky enough to drive by a tail gater with loads of watermelons in the back of his truck. I had no money but he chopped up some of that sweet juicy melon for me anyway and helped guide me back to a main road. His name was Charlie and it was the best watermelon I have ever tasted.
All of these sights and countless more have shaped my experience and perception of Leicester. These stories are what make it my home. A home which I will always love and always come back to.
Written by Kate Randall
Historic Grove Park Inn 4 Jul 2016, 9:12 am
The Grove Park Inn is one of the most celebrated resorts in our history and widely recognized throughout the entire country. Ten U.S. presidents have stayed here such as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Barack Obama while countless celebrities like Thomas Edison and Dan Akroyd have graced the hallways.
The distinctive architecture is unparalleled and seems to mirror the brilliance of the mountains. Every stone was hauled from Sunset Mountain to create a timeless intimacy between the edifice and its natural environment.
The work ethic that went into building the hotel is practically unheard of. With a crew of 400 men working 10 hour shifts 6 days a week they completed the enormous project just shy of a year. They used mules, wagons and rope to transfer building supplies and much to my astonishment even moved 10,000 pound granite boulders!
The Great Hall is a feature with some real wow factor. You enter into a dimly lit room with 24 ft. ceilings and two stupendous 14 ft. stone fireplaces. The whole room is lined with an assortment of comfortable yet stately lounging chairs creating the perfect ambiance for relaxing with a fine bourbon in hand.
I go here just to perch on Sunset Terrace and take in the beauty of the city-scape and juxtaposing mountain views. No need to book anything for a peaceful day here.
Then of course there is the spa. This 43,000 sq ft subterranean spa is certain to leave a lasting impression. The elegance and attention to detail cannot be understated. Explore the cavernous rock walls and spiraling staircases, archways and tunnels in quiet and solitude.
You can easily spend an entire day here feeling at rest and peace whether you are booking treatment or not. A day-pass at the spa treats you to their numerous mineral contrast pools with therapeutic waterfalls, fiber optic starlight and soothing underwater music. You also have relaxation rooms with whirlpools, saunas, tanning beds, eucalyptus infused steam rooms and various nooks and crannies with fireplaces to curl up to a good book and hot tea.
You can view their website for hours and pricing as they do tend to vary. Booking your spa day in advance is highly recommended.
The man behind the vision of the Grove Park Inn is Edwin Wiley Grove, also known as the “Father of Modern Asheville”. Upon launching his pharmaceutical business and the success of his elixir called the “Tasteless Chill Tonic” he went from rags to riches. Within the span of 20 years he sold 1.5 million bottles affording him a life style that he had only dreamt of.
Interestingly enough, it was his own maladies such as chronic bronchitis and exhaustion that inspired the creation of his best-selling tonic and also led to his doctor suggesting that clean mountain air would make him right as rain. Enter Asheville.
Inspiration and ambition arose from spending time in the Asheville Mountains, and that inspiration led to what we now know as the Grove Park Inn.
Written by Kate Randall
Dobra Tea House 30 Jun 2016, 9:31 am
Dobra certainly has a unique presence as there is no place quite like it in Asheville. They created an environment with a worldly appearance drawing much inspiration from the Moroccans and Himalayans. The back of the building is dimly lit with divided sections where you take of your shoes and step up to circular tables and sitting pillows which is a time-honored way to drink and eat in many eastern cultures throughout the world.
Their tea menu is rather extensive offering hundreds of loose leaf tea varieties from all over the globe and served in traditional ways. Decaf and herbal options are also available. Two of my favourites to get are the “Bees Knees” with coconut water, lavender, rose, mint and layers of local honey and the “Bubble Tea”. Bubble Tea is such a fun drink. It originated in Taiwan and is filled with chewy tapioca pearls. You get to choose your tea to infuse and it is served cold. Perfect for a hot summers day especially if you plan on walking around downtown.
Dobra also has plentiful munchies. Of course there is a focus on the middle east so you can bet they have hummus, babaganoush and pitta bread! The hummus they use is our local Roots hummus which is probably the best I’ve ever had. It is, however, the Daifuku Mochi that I place on the Food of the Gods pedestal. I worship this dessert. It is a traditional Japanese dessert made with mochi sweet rice flour and inside is a bean paste. This one I believe has adzuki bean paste. I know it may sound vey different from American sweets but if you come by I highly recommend you give it a try!
Now many people think that Dobra has its roots in Asheville but they actually originated in the Czech Republic and did not come to the states until 2003. They have definitely made a name for themselves as they just finished opening up their third location in the area. We now have locations in downtown Asheville, West Asheville and Black Mountain.
Dobra is open Monday-Saturday from 9AM to 7PM and Sundays from 11AM to 7 PM. They are located at 78 N. Lexington Ave.
Written by kate Randall
Day trip to Weaverville, NC 21 May 2016, 7:18 pm
A Walk through Weaverville
Weaverville and the Reems Creek area seem to serve as a beacon
for people seeking out small town, laid back living.
The area has deep roots in catering to restoration of health and of spirit. In the 1800’s the town was known for its grandeur hotels and being within close proximity to natural hot springs that fed the soul and revitalized well-being. Quickly, this little town made a name for itself as a quaint vacation destination.
Weaverville’s main hub is downtown Main Street. The strip is a
beautiful walk housing all the essentials for a fun day. You’ll
find great eats, sweets and artistic treats just waiting to meet
Top picks in Weaverville
Glass Onion- (18 N Main St.) The owners Eddie and Natalie focus
on Northern Italian and Global Cuisine with a focus on fresh local
ingredients. I highly recommend their scallop dish.
Stoney Knob Café- (337 Merrimon Ave.) This happens to be my favourite restaurant in the entire Asheville area. They definitely have a funky scene with an old world meets disco ball theme going on. Trust me, it’s fun in there. The food is a delightful blend of Americana, Greek and European.
Bavarian Restaurant and Biergarten- (332 Weaverville Rd.) Schnitzel, bratwurst, spätzle and authentic beer from Deutschland await you in this little lodge-like nook.
Well Bred Bakery- (26 N Main St.) Voted the best bakery in WNC for two years running now, this is definitely a local favourite for hand crafted goods. They make everything from baklava to blood orange macaroons to the most gigantic eclairs I have ever seen. In fact, my husband and I frequent this place specifically for the eclairs. Not into sweets? That’s OK, they also have great brunch/lunch options such as bacon loaded quiche, a variety of sandwiches and side options.
Creperie and Café- (113 N Main St.) They offer a large assortment of sweet and savory crepes. Need I say more? Tiny pancakes for the win!
Mangum’s Pottery and Studio- (16N Main St.) The people, Rob and Beth Mangum, are just as wonderful as the pottery they create. They strive to “find the union between heritage and contemporary design”. If you are visiting studios, I highly recommend you stop by.
Crucible Glassworks Hot Glass Studio and Art Gallery- (60 Clarks Chapel Rd.) Specializing in hand blown vases, glassware and platters as well as hosting live glass blowing demonstrations most Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Written by Kate Randall
Asheville Drum Circle 14 May 2016, 7:29 pm
Bodacious Beats of Asheville
The drum circle holds a very special place in my heart. I am not
a native here (transplant from, yep…you guessed it, Florida) and
when I was researching for a new place to put roots down I knew I
wanted a place with a down-to-earth and welcoming community.
I quickly learned of the drum circle and felt an instant pull. I also found it be quite representative of the way of life here. I say this because of how diverse the circle is. You have men, women and children of all ages, backgrounds and interests joining in together for the pure love of music, every Friday.
The drum circle is a great deal of importance to our Asheville tribe. Some even think of it as the heart of our community, and after living here for the last 7 years, I tend to agree.
The magic begins around 5 pm and continues into the night until about 10 pm, sometimes later. This event has an all-inclusive vibe to it, inviting anyone and everyone to participate whether you are a local or a visitor. You cannot help but to move and feel moved by the primal pounding of the drums!
A handful of lead drummers will start at the gathering and as soon as you are feeling the momentum and rhythm, join in and start adding those layers! There are often a variety of dancers joining in as well. From belly dancers to hula-hoopers to crazy-fun toddlers and children dancing wildly and howling, you are sure to have a memorable time!
The circle is FREE and located in Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville every Friday. The only thing you have to worry about is the weather. If it is storming, odds are the circle will be canceled.
A new development is the movement to the Mountain Music Venue at 38 North French Broad Ave from the months of November to March, which is only a few blocks from Pritchard Park. Now the fun does not have to stop just because it’s cold outside!
Drum on, folks. Drum on.
Written by Kate Randall
Asheville Herb Festival 5 May 2016, 3:29 pm
I go bananas! Or in this case I suppose I’d go basil…
I get the anticipated pleasure of spending hours upon hours rummaging through hundreds of freshly sprouted herbs to bring home with me. This year, my haul included aloe vera, yarrow, basil, rosemary, tulsi, heirloom tomatoes and peppers.
Oh and the strawberries! How does sinking your teeth into a giant juicy strawberry the size of golf ball sound? You get a 5 pound bucket full of them.
I know when you hear “herb festival” your mind probably doesn’t automatically go to strawberries, but these bad boys bring people far and wide to this treasured WNC event.
Herds of plant nerds from all over the country gather here to lavish themselves in everything green related. There is a huge variety of vendors and growers that offer medicinal and culinary herbs, mushrooms and heirloom vegetables. It is a place where you can get expert advice from master gardeners, botanists, herbalists and horticultural specialists.
They can guide you in how to prepare the perfect soil for your garden and give you a tremendous amount of insight into taking care of your plants properly to yield the most out of harvest or aesthetics.
For many of us local mountain folk the Herb Festival sparks the initiation into spring. Everywhere I look I see nature inspired artwork which instills an infinite sense of creativity and inspiration inside of me. It gets me amped up, ready for all the hard work that gardening takes to create such intrinsic beauty.
WNC Chapter of the NC Herb Association hosts this annual event. Its’ held every year on the last Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the month of April. The event is FREE and starts around 9 AM and last until about 5 PM. I will let you know ahead of time next year!
Written by Kate Randall
Zambra’s 30 Apr 2016, 5:00 pm
Romance. Passion. Ambiance.
Allow me to introduce you to Zambras, a tapas restaurant of
Spanish and Moorish influence nestled in the heart of downtown
The word “zambra” comes from the “zambra mora” which is a flamenco dance traditionally performed by the Romani people (gypsies) from Granada and is similar to belly dancing. It is a word that conjures gusto, spirit and celebration.
I delight in the atmosphere of this restaurant. With the vibrant décor, throw pillows, stunning Moorish arches and soft amber lighting, Zambras does an outstanding job at providing a romantic and colourful world for couples to revel in.
As a Bed & Breakfast we are often asked to recommend romantic places to dine at and this is a place we mention every time.
Recently, Travel & Leisure Magazine named them one of the
most romantic restaurants in America and won the Wine Spectators
Award of Excellence for their extensively impressive libation menu.
They are also regularly voted as having the best wine selection in
all of Asheville.
Zambras specializes in small plates with a menu that changes daily, so their Chefs really excel at honing inspiration to keep their recipes fun and fresh.
Practicing the farm-to-table concept is a priority for this
establishment as well, offering locally sourced and often organic
ingredients as much as possible. To keep the authenticity of
flavors that the Iberian Peninsula is known for, a wide variety of
items are special ordered directly from Spain.
Zambras has been so kind to spoil the lucky folks that
stay at the WildBerry Lodge with an outstanding discount! For the
entire duration of the month of May all WB guests receive 15% off
of their meal.
Because we love you.
Zambras tapas restaurant is open every day from 5-9:30 on the weekdays and 5-10:30 on the weekends. Every Friday and Saturday you can sit in rapture listening to the sounds of traditional Spanish guitar and /or gypsy jazz performed live by various bands.
Written by Kate Randall
WNC Nature Center 26 Apr 2016, 7:09 pm
WNC NATURE CENTER
For couples and families seeking a fun, interactive and educational experience while in the WNC area, the Nature center is the place to be.
It boasts 42 acres of land and over 60 species of animals such as the River Otter, Red Wolf and Black Bear. Each species is native to the Southern Appalachia and an outstanding way to connect with our local wildlife.
Something that really stands out to me about the Nature Center
is how involved they are in conservation projects and wildlife
rehabilitation efforts. They offer a home to orphaned, injured and
abused animals; giving them a chance for revival and recovery. It’s
nice knowing that I am putting my money towards not only an
enjoyable experience but also to a good cause that helps so many
animals in need.
Did you know that the Red Wolf is the rarest of all candid species in the world? There are less than 400 red wolves alive today.
The Red Wolf Run program was created in the 1970’s as a bold and proactive initiative to bring this native animal back from the brink of extinction. In fact, in the 1980’s the red wolf was officially declared extinct because there were none left in the wild at the time.
Proudly, a lot has changed. The WNC Nature Center is one of the 30 facilities in the world to be a part of the Species Survival Plan and we now have, thanks to their tremendous efforts, over 50 red wolves thriving in the wild today!
Otters’ are so very fun and playful! You’ll catch them
somersaulting, wrestling and belly flopping in the water. They
happen to be the most adorable underwater acrobats ever.
Another fun section to check out is the petting zoo if you adore hands on exploration like I do. The center does a fantastic job offering a place for safe interaction between people and animals.
We are not the only ones that get spring fever so right now is a smart time to head out and have a pleasant day. The animals are all out stretching their legs and happy to bathe in the suns warmth once more.
It takes up to half a day to fully experience all the Nature Center has to offer so you can take advantage of some of their picnic spots if you bring lunch and snacks. They also have an eatery called “Captain Dave’s” as well as a gift shop.
Daily admission is Adults $10.95 (Asheville City Residents –
Seniors (65 & over) – $9.95 (Asheville City Residents – $6.95)
Youth (3-15) – $6.95 (Asheville City Residents – $5.95)
2 and younger FREE!!!!
Open daily 7 days a week.