White House: Meet Biltmore House

18 02 2011




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One stop in Asheville, and you can’t help but return – and if you don’t believe me, take it from President Obama.  After visiting briefly in 2008 while on the campaign trail, Obama vowed to bring his family back for a more relaxing visit.  Just last spring, he and Michelle returned for a quiet weekend getaway (at least as “quiet” as the first family can ever hope to achieve.)

Returning to the same barbecue spot he visited in 2008, Obama exclaimed, “I told you I was coming back!”  12 Bones Smokehouse offers classics like pulled pork and mac & cheese, as well as clever options like award-winning chipotle-blueberry ribs and jalapeno cheese grits.  My visits to this awesome joint predated the President’s, so I too can testify that Southern food doesn’t get any better.  The Obamas feasted on ribs, mac &cheese, greens, cornbread, and baked beans for a grand total of $24.36 – catch the video below!

After filling up at 12 Bones, I’d suggest sticking around for the afternoon in the River Arts District – full of old warehouses and factories transformed into artist studios, craft shops, music venues, and even a microbrewery (known as Beer City USA, Asheville has more breweries per capita than any city in the US).

Now, as college students, your trip will likely differ a bit from that of President Obama – starting, of course, with accommodations.   The Obamas checked in to the historic Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, built in 1913 and offering breathtaking views and a phenomenal golf course (or so I’m told).  In fact, Obama’s two stays at Grove Park make him the 10th President to vacation there.

For most of us, a stay at the Grove Park Inn is a bit out of our price range – but that doesn’t mean you should leave it off the itinerary!  I’d recommend coming in for brunch (the Bloody Marys are incredible) or just to explore the grounds and sip hot chocolate in the famous Great Hall, which features two colossal fireplaces built of granite boulders hauled from nearby Sunset Mountain.  Rather than an afternoon spent on the golf course like the President, enjoy the stunning views from a hike through the Blue Ridge Mountains (try the Mountains to Sea trail).

Now of course the Obamas couldn’t go home without a private tour of the legendary Biltmore House, the estate of the Vanderbilt family and the largest private residence in the country.  Your tour, however, is likely to be a bit more crowded.  Regardless, it is quite the experience, and differs substantially from season to season.  During the winter holidays, the house features remarkable decorations and enormous Christmas trees; in springtime, the conservatory is filled with lush flowers and plants; and in warm summer months, you can catch the outdoor concert series.

Lastly, complete your trip to Asheville by soaking in some live music – whether it be bluegrass, blues, rock, jazz (if you didn’t get enough last weekend at the NC Jazz Festival), reggae, or electronic, the music fervor in Asheville is infectious.  In fact, just a few years ago the Orange Peel was named one of the five best rock venues in the nation (yes, in the nation) by Rolling Stone.  In some ways, it reminds me of the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill – intimate, yet high energy.  The article explains, “In the Seventies, the Orange Peel was a premier funk-and-soul club. Since it reopened five years ago, Bob Dylan and Smashing Pumpkins (who picked the spot for their nine-show reunion run last year) have gone out of the way to play the Peel — drawn by Asheville’s bohemian vibe and attentive crowds.”  More to come on the Asheville music scene in future posts.

Enjoy your Presidential weekend!


The wrap-up:

  • Distance from Duke: 3.5 hours
  • Recommended trip duration: weekend
  • Recommended season: The Obamas chose April!



2 responses

20 02 2011

This is a cool write-up of both President Obama’s visit to Grove Park as well as the different aspects of Asheville worth looking into. I think a lot of people don’t consider traveling to the western part of the state for an enjoyable weekend, but clearly there is a lot going on. It seems like there are always tons of different festivals from music to food to wine. Definitely worth noting if you are a traveler.

25 02 2011
The Blue Ridge Parkway – “America’s Favorite Drive” « tobacco roads less traveled

[…] stops within the North Carolina portion (likely to be addressed in future posts) include Asheville, Blowing Rock/Boone, and Grandfather Mountain.  Particularly if making the drive during warmer […]

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