But with the ongoing pandemic (is this ever going to end?), we’re leery of close encounters with other people. The excellent restaurants, the bookstore champagne bar, and the myriad breweries…alas, not this time. We readjusted our desires, and focused our attention instead on places where we could comfortably enjoy Asheville outdoors—the enchanting North Carolina Arboretum, and the colorful, weirdly wonderful River Arts District.
The North Carolina Arboretum
We discovered The North Carolina Arboretum on a previous trip to Asheville, when the stick covered hills of early spring left us uninspired to pursue hiking in the mountains. The arboretum is lovely at every time of year, with 65 acres of exquisitely curated gardens and more than 10 miles of hiking trails.
We visited the arboretum in mid-August and again in mid-September, and it was interesting to see the changes from summer to early fall. On our second visit we met up with our dear friend Winn, who has recently sold her home in southern Oregon for the same reasons we sold ours—drought, smoke, and wildfires.
Click on any photo for a larger image
The River Arts District
The River Arts District houses more than 200 artists’ studios, and is a visual feast of graffiti and street art. Once a ghostly, abandoned area of warehouses and factories, it’s now vibrantly alive. It’s colorful, somewhat gritty, somewhat weird, and very cool.
On a previous visit to Asheville, we enjoyed hanging out at one of the local breweries in the River Arts District and lingering in the galleries. This time, we just walked the colorful streets, paid a quick visit to a farmers’ market, and picked up smoked turkey to take home from 12 Bones, the barbecue joint made famous when the Obamas visited.
We enjoyed our colorful excursions in Asheville. But the traffic is intense, and when we made a brief foray into the crowded downtown area, we quickly got ourselves out of there instead of exploring on foot, as we usually would do.
The combination of the pandemic and living on the remote Forgotten Coast of Florida for the last year-and-a-half has affected our desire for city adventures and our sense of ease in crowds. I know there are many people who avoid cities like the plague (pandemic or no pandemic). But we’ve always enjoyed city adventures. I hope we haven’t lost our edge.
“avoid cities like the plague” Great play on words there Laurel… :>) Like you and Eric, we avoid crowded places like the plague too. However, we’ve decided that we need to get used to this “new normal” and begin traveling again.
Thanks for appreciating my subtle humor, Riley. :-) We finally decided we needed to get traveling again. And even though it’s not like the ‘before times,’ we’re very happy we took the leap. We’re already plotting our next adventure. Can’t wait to hear what you and Karen are planning!
Wonderful pictures of such a colorful place! I loved the bronze fox’s pose, like a kitty! I’d love to see the quilt garden, it’s so unusual and interesting each season.
I think you’ll get your “edge” back, when it’s completely safe. Meanwhile, there are plenty of things to do and see with an occasional dash into a city for good measure!
I totally agree Sue, wonderful photos! And Laurel, I like the way you caption to explain them all.
Thank you, Terri. I’m glad you read the captions! :-)
I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos, Sue. Asheville is so colorful, it’s a fun place for photography. The fox does look a lot like a critter we know and love, LOL!
As far as the pandemic, I want it to go away. But in the meantime, as you said, we have plenty of things to keep us happily occupied.
It looks like you could spends days exploring Asheville and never get bored! :) And, yes, WHEN is this going to end?? :(
Bruce, I don’t think it’s possible to run out of things to do in Asheville and the surrounding area. We’ve been having a fantastic time, despite the never ending stupid pandemic. So glad you all are getting relief from the smoke and heat in the Rogue Valley so that you can enjoy the gorgeous fall there!
Great post, thanks Laurel. It was 69 in No FL this morning. Whoo hoo.
Whoo hoo is right!! 69 degrees sounds absolutely fabulous! That means it’s safe to return home soon, LOL. It’s great to hear from you, Kathryn.
I don’t think you’re done with cities. Everything is weird right now and being in crowds is legitimately less safe than being in open spaces. This isn’t going to last forever, though, and I bet when it’s done and things have returned to some semblance of normal, you’ll crave the same things you did before. In the meantime, luckily there are lots of beautiful things to see and do outside. Love that botanical garden!
Laura, I know you and Kevin enjoy city adventures just as much as we do. I really do hope that things are going to return to normal one of these days. Sooner rather than later, please!! Until then, as you said, there are so many wonderful things to do outside. You would love the arboretum in Asheville—put it on your list for your next visit!
Asheville looks like an awesome place to visit. Perhaps I’ll make it there some day! I bet you’ll be ready to explore cities again when it is safe to do so!
Lisa, Asheville is such a cool little city! When you and Hans get your next RV, I hope you’ll make the trek to the east coast. There are lots of places I know you would enjoy—and lots of great hiking.
Asheville is such a fun city. We camped in the Pisgah forest just down the road from the arboretum last time we were there but never made it to the arboretum!! Next time for sure…
We are leaving this week for the winter in Arizona and California desert. I have some trepidation about city touring but am optimistic about being able to safely enjoy the outdoors. We are really happy with the changes we made in the remodel – lots more seating, storage and cell service💯
Pat, I hope you’ll be posting photos of your RV remodel! How fun that you’re taking off for a winter in Arizona and California. Even without spending time in the cities you’ll have plenty of outdoor beauty to keep you happy (as you know). Say ‘hello’ to the desert for us. :-) And next time you’re in Asheville, check out the arboretum. It’s one of the best we’ve seen in our travels.
AHHHH, will it ever end???? We just got our 3rd shot and decided it will be with us for awhile so we can either hunker in and go to a nursing home or we can travel…. we choose to travel, safely of course!!! We head to Ecuador in mid Nov. and will do Amazon as well. Small lodges of max of 6 and a private birding tour of just us and the guide. It can be done safely. Living our best and being reasonable about it makes us happiest!!!! The alternatives are difficult as we have all found out. SO GET OUTSIDE and enjoy!!!! If we were 60 perhaps we would feel different, we only have a few more years of freedom as we want to be home after 80 doing quilting and gardening…. the window is shrinking for us!!!!
Julie, your upcoming travels sound wonderful, and it seems as though you’re being reasonably cautious while also pursuing your dreams. We feel much the same way—we have no intention of giving up on our travels! We wish you happy and safe journeys, and look forward to seeing your photos and hearing all about your adventures!
We love having Asheville so close to us and now count two couples among our friends that have moved there recently from other parts of the country. Asheville is very “senior-citizen” friendly and there are lots of opportunities for non-credit learning. Nevertheless, there is a funky side too. My favorite T-shirt quote is “Keep Asheville Weird!” Enjoy!
Joe, we’re really loving Western North Carolina—it’s high on our list as a potential place to relocate should we decide Florida isn’t where we want to be long term. Our former hometown in southern Oregon reminds us a lot of Brevard…and Asheville is just a bigger version (much bigger). We feel pretty comfortable with anyplace that has a t-shirt that embraces weirdness. :-)
I spent an afternoon in Asheville while on a cross-country trip with a girlfriend several years ago. In just a few hours, I knew that I wanted to return and spend more time there. I wondered around the downtown area and had no idea there was an Arboretum or Arts District (I didn’t even get to the Biltmore). It was a cold day in March so it wasn’t too crowded. One of these days, I hope to get back there with more time to explore.
I know what you mean about cities, though. They have a lot to offer but I also need the peacefulness of nature.
Janis, I hope you’ll have the opportunity to come back to visit Asheville, as well as the smaller towns in Western North Carolina. This is a wonderful region, with incredible natural beauty as well as art, music, and great food. The downtown has a lot to offer, as you know—and I’m sure you would enjoy the arboretum, the arts district, and the Biltmore. To my way of thinking, this area has the perfect mix of nature and culture.
We loved the arboretum, and it’s nice that your post showcases a few areas we didn’t get to. I’m happy you’re finding lots to keep you delighted in that area and still enjoying exploring 🥰
Joodie, I could happily visit the arboretum at least once a month! I love seeing the seasonal changes in the gardens. We’re really happy we decided to pry ourselves away from Florida and get back to some traveling. :-)
Sad to see so many great people leaving the Rogue Valley. Instead we have all the transplants from California fires thinking this is their place to escape. Maybe not. Trouble is, Ashland is the sweet island of liberal sanity in the area, and if the good guys all leave we are left with the 71 percent of Trump voters who live in Grants Pass, with more coming! Yes, smoke, fires, other stuff not so nice, but we do love our home, and at our time in life I don’t see us leaving. I love Asheville. It was such a great town, but like all the other best places seems to be getting more and more overrun. No matter where you go there you are. The Arts District is wonderful. We didn’t know enough to explore it when we were in Asheville. Funny thing, a great creative and whimsical artist who lived in Asheville relocated here to Grants Pass, living in an Airstream in the Applegate Valley. Hard choices. Our family is here in Oregon as well, which adds to the thought that we will probably never leave the west, in spite of getting inundated with smoke and fire and losing all our water. Just makes me so incredibly sad. Glad you are able to be where you are. You know how much I love your Florida home. Nice to see you are traveling well.
Sue, I understand exactly what you’re saying, and we share your sentiments. It was a very difficult decision for us to sell our home in Ashland. If we had family in the Rogue Valley, it’s unlikely that we would have left. It is a beautiful, unique place, with all of the things we love, including a community of like-minded, wonderful friends. If it wasn’t for the increasing drought and wildfires—including the fire that started two miles from our home last fall—we never would have left.
However, there are no perfect places, as you said. We’re grateful for our beautiful home in Florida, and we’re also open to other possibilities. I think we’ll always be looking for a place as idyllic as Ashland was for us.
I love the luna moth mosaic. It’s fun, as always, to journey along with you both!Happy travels.
Joanne, every time I see mosaic artwork I think of you and the beautiful mosaics you’ve created! I hope you’re doing well and enjoying a lovely fall in Oregon. Thanks for traveling along with us. :-)
How wonderful to meet up with a friend from AshLAND in AsheVILLE. Has she moved to North Carolina or are you enticing her to Florida? Shhhhh about the forgotten coast or it won’t be forgotten for long.
I love the idea of a quilt garden but not the work that it would take. Also love the Luna Moth. It is amazing what some cities like Asheville and Richmond have done with their warehouse districts.
I’m sure you were referring to me when you spoke of city avoiders. I definitely am one. Years ago, when Asheville was much much smaller I went to a 6 month series of monthly frame drum workshops with Layne Redmond. I know I would not recognize it now.
Sherry, I did think of you when I was thinking of our friends who don’t like cities. But you’re not alone—we have other friends who also avoid cities. As you know, we enjoy a mix of nature adventures and city adventures. Even with the growth in Asheville, I think you would find a lot to like! For one thing, I know you would absolutely love the arboretum.
Our friend Winn has family in North Carolina and in Florida, so she will likely be spending time in both places. It’s wonderful for us to have a long time friend from our hometown on the east coast.
Once again I’m at the bottom of the list. But this time I have an excuse! We were at Ridgeway SP and didn’t have any 4G. I love your visit to the arboretum. So much to take in. The bonsai bougainvillea is adorable! Sweet that you got to meet up with an Oregon friend. I’ve always been attracted to graffiti style art work. There some super talented individuals. I love watching a train that has lots of graffiti. It amazes me what they can do with spray paint. Sounds like you are having a mountain good time.
Pam, you’re never at the bottom of the list! I’m always happy to hear from you, whenever you have time to check in. :-)
The bougainvillea bonsai was my favorite in the bonsai garden, too. I’m thinking to make one at home in Florida. They’re supposedly pretty easy to create, and instead of taking decades, can be created in only one growing season. Wish me luck with that, haha. As far as the graffiti, you’re right—it’s remarkable what graffiti artists can create with a can of spray paint. You would love perusing the graffiti in Asheville—I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else!
Your post has reminded me that it has been FAR too long since our last visit to a botanical garden. The NC Arboretum looks spectacular, even in the more muted fall colors. You know, you have plenty of space for hydrangeas at your home in Florida. Just sayin’.
The arts district reminds me of Wynnwood in Miami, but with a much lower likelihood of getting mugged. Looks like a perfect place to enjoy some striking and colorful art without spending much time indoors.
We visited Asheville only briefly, for a day trip, and we missed all these things. We must go back at some point.
Shannon, I know you and Ken enjoy botanical gardens as much as we do, and I’m sure you will love the NC Arboretum when you get back to the Asheville area. It’s a wonderful combination of cultivated gardens, wild trails, and art scattered throughout.
I went back to your blog and read your post about visiting the Wynnwood in Miami. You did a great job of explaining the difference between graffiti and street art. I’d say the River Arts District in Asheville is a combination of graffiti and street art—I know you’ll enjoy it, too.
And yes, I’m going to plant hydrangeas in our garden at home!
We’ve been in the mountains of Idaho with two other couples for a week of ATV riding, enjoying the gorgeous fall colors, blue skies, and spectacular mountain scenery. No cell coverage, no internet and no people. Traveling home Tuesday I had culture shock or plague shock–people everywhere! Out came the mask again before I would even go into the gas station stores. Will it ever end. I am of the opinion we should sell our Montana place for the exact reasons you guys sold your home in Oregon but my Montana born and raised husband would struggle I’m thinking. The smoke was so thick when we arrived at home it was unbearable–will smoke season ever end this year?? Loved your photos!
Janna, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re being plagued again by smoke in Montana. I can understand how it would be difficult to leave your beautiful home there—and I also understand how it is difficult to think of staying. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like the wildfire/smoke situation is going to improve anytime soon in the west. It’s just devastating.
I’m so glad you had a week of beautiful weather on your trip to Idaho—it sounds like it was a perfect respite from everything!
Our kind of place!! I need a good dose of quirky, enlightened locales in our travels. That quilt garden is such a fun idea. It’s fun to see how people bring art into different mediums. Looks like you made the best of our modified world – still so much to see and do when we can be flexible. In many ways I think it provides us with opportunities we would otherwise miss. Love those glorious Fall colors! We’re still very green here.
Jodee, Asheville is definitely your kind of place! It’s a fun, vibrant city and you’ll love both the arboretum and the arts district. Even though we missed being able to visit some places because of pandemic restrictions (some self-imposed), we found plenty to enjoy. Being flexible is key, as you said. I know you and Bill will also love the small towns in Western North Carolina. It’s an area that’s rich in nature and culture—and great food, with outdoor dining!
Unlike you and Eric we visited Ashville only once and we fell in love with the city to a degree that we thought we might like living there. Then reality hits, oh its in the East Coast. Even if this is your third visit you managed to share with us lots of interesting places you have discovered.
Like you I love gardens, botanical, arboretum and have visited some in the East Coast and of course most recently in Kauai. This place makes me happy !
That quilt garden looks like a lot of work, but interesting!
ML, we’ve also thought that Asheville would be an interesting place to live. But we’ve found that we’re enjoying the smaller surrounding towns just as much, or more! Like you, we love gardens, and we visit them everywhere in our travels. It seems like every little town we’ve explored in Western North Carolina has a botanical garden—the climate is perfect for growing things here (including some moss on our trailer we just discovered, LOL).
Loved your botanical garden/jungle excursion on Kauai. :-)
Is this ever going to end? The recurring question in our minds every day … and I keep coming up with the same answer … not anytime soon unless the unvaccinated wake up and realize they are the culprits extending the pandemic.
I love visiting gardens and arboretums … especially when they add sculptures, water features and such. This place looks fantastic.
I love murals so the River Art District would be right up my alley.
Erin, unfortunately, I think you’re right. It seems like we’re in for a really long haul with the virus, with so many people continuing to refuse vaccines—and refusing to mask! All of those wild conspiracy theories and people being stubborn because they think their rights are being violated make me crazy. We’re just going to continue to live our lives as fully as possible, masking up, staying away from crowds, not doing things indoors.
Fortunately, there are many beautiful things in the world to do outdoors, as you know. That’s keeping us sane and happy.
Asheville is a favorite of ours as well, we spent an Oct there a few years ago. Art, nature, bbq—truly paradise!And if we thought we were flexible as nomads before covid, we have all reached a level never thought possible- enjoy, safe travels.
Leah, I’m betting you had a fabulous month in Asheville, pre-pandemic. And to be there in October must have been positively idyllic. I need to find out all of your favorite places that you discovered while you were there! We’re hoping when we return next year that the pandemic will have calmed down. We can hope, right?
Laurel, there is nothing not to love about Asheville, except possibly January, and not being near the ocean. Other than that I can’t think of a more perfect place. Thanks for showing Asheville ‘outdoors.’
Suzanne, I think you’re right about the very few drawbacks of Asheville! It sounds as though you are familiar with this interesting small city and all of the wonderful things it has to offer. The mountains are especially gorgeous right now dressed in their fall colors. And….we’re looking forward to returning to our coastal home. :-)
I know how you feel about spending any amount of time in close surroundings with strangers. We’ve been in Bandon (Bullards Beach SP) for the past week and decided to go into town on Sunday since I love to peruse the unique boutiques and gift shops (not the touristy junk, though!). Sadly, one of my favorites is closed on Sun/Mon (typical in OR) and the other has gone out of business. I wandered into a little shop, looking for a gift for my aunt’s 75th birthday, and it was so crowded that I stepped outside until some of the customers had exited. Everyone was wearing masks — except the owner! Grrr. This county has a high rate of Covid, so we got our takeout fish and chips and ate in the rv. We haven’t left the campground since. I’ve gone for long walks out to the beach and today it’s raining, so I plan to curl up with my current book (The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley – it’s excellent), while Rod finishes his manuscript for his book!
I love all your pictures from the arboretum (that quilt garden is so creative!), which makes me think we should have taken a short drive up to Shore Acres, which is lovely any time of year. We’ve been a couple of times and the gardens and huge waves crashing along the bluff are marvelous. Your photo of the graffiti in the River Arts District reminds me of all the graffiti/mural artwork that I saw when we were in Vienna. It’s nice when done tastefully and not just full of profanity. :)
How does your kitty do while you’re gone for the day? Does she sleep the day away or getting into mischief? ;)
Les, I don’t know when (or if) I’m going to ever feel comfortable spending time in close quarters with strangers. Fortunately, we’re finding plenty to do outdoors, including eating at restaurants, which has been so much fun and almost feels like the ‘before’ times.
Your trip to Bandon sounds delightful—that was one of our favorite getaways when we lived in Ashland. And we also love Shore Acres! Have you been there for the holiday lights? It’s magical!
Thanks for asking about Magnolia. She has a lot of energy, and we’re her playmates, LOL. We have several rambunctious play sessions with her daily, and she spends hours outdoors in her catio watching the world go by. Of course, she’s alone for several hours during the day when we’re away, and we think she just sleeps most of the time (although we put away all computer and phone cords and anything else enticing—we learned to do that when we discovered tiny teeth marks in the cords. :-)).
We have not seen the holiday light display at Shore Acres, but my mom (and stepdad) did many years ago and said it was wonderful.
If you can, plan a little holiday getaway there…I know you will love the light display! :-)
Laurel, Alan and I just returned home Sunday after five weeks on the road and I’m catching up on all the posts I’ve missed on my favorite blogs. A love of hydrangeas is yet another common trait we share. Apparently, the list goes on. Safe travels home – if you’re not there already!
Hi Mary, thanks for checking in! I hope you had a wonderful trip—I’m looking forward to reading about it on your blog. We’ll be home this afternoon, and although part of me would like to keep on traveling, I’m also looking forward to the peace of being at home. Planting hydrangeas is on my list of things to do this fall! We really need to meet up in person. :-)