FOODTOPIA REMIX: VISITING AVL DURING COVID

It’s September and COVID is still a thing–2020 is still being 2020 and we’re just too scared to even ask, “What’s next?” As essential workers, the grind hasn’t stopped for us, and even the temporary shutdown and phased reopening didn’t really slow things down. Totally understandable, as it’s important for everyone to have access to their medications and health needs–but it’s also meant that we’ve really badly needed a getaway and of course, traveling isn’t really on the top of our list of to-do’s with ‘Rona doing its thing.

But…getting away to unplug and recharge does so much good for the soul and while the passport might be collecting dust at the moment, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t nearby getaways to explore. We absolutely love Asheville (AVL) and even shared a mini trip guide with y’all before [Weekend Getaway in Asheville, Foodtopia]. It seemed like the perfect quick and mini weekend adventure for our quarantine bubble, and it truly was just right for getting our wanderlusting feet wet again!

So, here are the highlights from our trip…from July. [Yes, we’re just now getting to put this post together–whoops!] We do hope that y’all are staying well, washing those hands, staying 6 feet apart and taking care of yourself!


CLT to AVL is a little over two hours away depending on what part of the city you’re coming from. We have taken different routes as well and this time around, we drove through Morganton so we can make a pit-stop midway since our AirBnB check-in wasn’t for later in the afternoon anyways.

First stop: Lake James State Park in Nebo, NC

Pre-COVID, you could actually swim in a specified swimming area for a nominal day pass fee. But luckily, this state park is still open during COVID and there are lots of different ways to spend your time here. There are several hiking and biking trails ranging from easy to advanced throughout the park. Here is a handy list [click here] to plan ahead, especially to make sure the trails aren’t closed! [Note: Due to hiking restoration efforts or weather, sometimes they will close certain trails.]

There are also boat ramps and different areas to fish! We were only trying to kill 45 minutes to the next pit stop before AVL, so we picked just a random trail near the closed swimming area. There are plenty of picnic tables nearby that we saw some families enjoying!

Second stop: Fonta Flora at Whippoorwhill Farm

Fonta Flora at Whippoorwhill Farm on its own is worth the day trip from the Queen City (especially if you are outdoorsy and decide to hike a trail or two at Lake James or any other area nearby). There is also a tasting room location in Downtown Morganton that we’ve previously checked out, but it’s a completely different feel at the ‘farm’. The open area and super duper spaced out picnic tables made us feel that much more comfortable being out and about–and nothing beats a cold craft beer out in ‘nature’.

Fonta Flora is a unique brewery focused on artisanal crafts. They love to partner with local farmers and foragers and create unique beers. For example, we once had a beer brewed with the invasive kudzu–Kudzilla, was a dry-hopped pale ale made with kudzu flowers. They also like to work with other local businesses for some funky mash-ups. We had their Hoppin’ John Lagerbier on another trip–it’s a collab with Buxton Hall BBQ featuring smokey flavors from the hickory-smoked wheat malt, Carolina gold rice, and red peas. It certainly was interesting. But if you’re not into funky beers–this shouldn’t keep you from visiting them. We recommend the following:

– Rotating Topsy Slushee: varies depending on what’s on tap but honestly on a hot Southern day, we’re sure that any variation will hit the spot
– Tajin-topped Lake James brew: enjoy any one of the Lake James series beer with a sprinkle of Tajin, it’s their take on a Michelada
– Other faves: Stingray Shuffle (Double IPA), Holla’gram (Stout)

Another pro-tip: don’t miss out on the ‘zza!!! Order a pie or two from Single Wyde if they’re open. My goodness, it was soooooo good! As you can see below, Grayson also very much enjoyed himself at this stop! What a fun time we had! [Support local and snag yourself this COVID Koozie from Front Porch Sundays–one of our absolute fave local businesses in CLT: click here for their virtual store front to purchase!]

So, now on to actual AVL things….we rented an AirBnB and we’ll be glad to share the link to it. If you’re interested: please DM us on Instagram! We absolutely lucked out on the house as it was situated right outside of Omni Grove Park Inn–quiet enough of a neighborhood to be away from too many people but super short drive to all the spots we wanted to check out!

We’re happy to report that most of AVL was complying to some form of COVID measures. Mask-wearing was pretty much a standard across the board, and we didn’t feel judged wearing ours. But we also did do our research before the trip in picking out which businesses we wanted to support–so that may have affected what we saw.

Spots we checked out/supported:
– Red Ginger Dim Sum Tapas
– Buxton Hall BBQ
– Five Points Restaurant
– Haywood Common
– Burial Beer
– Reems Creek Nursery
– North Carolina Arboretum

We explored this short list during our stay from Saturday-Monday! Busy enough to see plenty but just right that we were able to still relax to recharge!

RED GINGER – Dim Sum Tapas

We’ve been absolutely hankering for some dim sum, especially since our trip to NYC back in April was cancelled and also since Dim Sum in Plaza Midwood has been closed this whole time…so we were glad to try out Red Ginger Dim Sum.

We ordered a little bit of everything and it sure. did. hit. the. dang. SPOT!

Make sure to order the xiao long bao, har gow, and the pork belly buns. YUM!

An AVL trip isn’t complete without some Buxton Hall BBQ for us. We’re bummed not to enjoy a spiked Cheerwine slushee, but glad to get some finger-lickin’ good BBQ nevertheless. I can’t believe we only ordered one platter of BBQ and somehow we all managed to share and not get into a fight over it! LOL!

This picture looks deceiving as if we dined inside a restaurant for breakfast but this was our to-go order from Five Points Restaurant. We highly recommend ordering the COUNTRY FRIED STEAK. As pictured, this gigantic breakfast comes with 2 eggs, hash brown, and 2 biscuits. (You can also opt for home fries or grits instead of the hash–and toast instead of biscuits!)

Not sure why we ordered 2 separate orders of pancakes–someone HAD to get blueberry while another HAD to get chocolate chip. Sooooo, yeah. Stacks on stacks on stacks!

Peep our fourth foodie member–Grayson sporting his mask!

We checked out Haywood Common for some Sunday Funday fun–they have a market from 11am-3pm on Sundays. We got there right as the stalls opened up. There was a good variety of fresh produce, crafts, gifts, etc.

We also enjoyed a great brunch spread. Only thing was that we got there so early on Sunday to try to beat the potential “crowd” that the Whale wasn’t open yet! We just will have to come back to see what they have next time.

Any other time, we definitely would have (and highly recommend) hanging out and grabbing a bite to eat and several pints of beer from Burial Beer but alas…CORONAVIRUS! They are open at limited capacity and it seemed that most people were adhering to social distancing guidelines, but we weren’t quite ready for that level of social interaction at this time. We have, however, been ordering (almost weekly) beer for shipping from Burial as they’ve literally had some major drops–so we made sure we placed our order that week and picked them up (proxied for some CLT beer folks, too–peep this haul!)

If you’re into plants–whether you’re an established plant mom/dad or a novice that got into it during ‘quarantine’…Reems Creek was a fun local nursery shop that we visited. They have a large collection of outdoor plants but they also have a decent indoor section. We were sad to get there and see that most of their more rare plants were still just rooting and not ready for sale, BUT it’s a good sign that maybe when we do come back, they’ll be ready! He he he!

They have a great section of pottery and all sorts of other planting needs and we scored on some pots and some plant support for a good price!

BONUS: We absolutely loved this welcoming sign that clearly posts they require COVID compliance!

And saving the best for last….the North Carolina Arboretum! This could literally be an all day stop if you plan your meals correctly–LOL! Most people could probably bring a snack for in between hikes and walks and such, but our foodie group unfortunately needs full meals to prevent HANGRY episodes. So we just planned to get there really early to again avoid potential crowds and explored our way through–then we had that spread from Haywood Commons for brunch! When we went, the popular traveling exhibit by Sean Kenney was there: Nature Connects (R): Art with Lego (R) Bricks. Literally, super duper cool–16 HUGE Lego sculptures that we found all throughout the gardens. We also roamed around into the trails and found our way into a very peaceful creek filled with moss–we channeled some amazing planty vibes and just absolutely cannot recommend enough a trip here. Even without the Lego exhibit, you can totally just get lost and enjoy the place! There is a $16 parking fee per car but it’s good for the whole day with multiple entries–so if you did have to leave to grab a meal out, you’re still good to come back and enjoy the place!

Not sure if we would violate any copyright issues if we post the exhibit photos that we took, but if you want to get a little peek–DM us on Instagram, and we will share some of our faves with you. The exhibit will run until November 1, so you have plenty of time to check it out. If you have little ones, it’s a must!

So there you go…our first trip during COVID. Still full of amazing food, great fun, and good times! Are you traveling yet? Are you ready to brave air travel? How do you feel about AirBnB or hotels? We are still exploring how we feel about all these other modes of travel and hope to be able to get back into it but do want to make sure that we are doing it safely for us and to do our part for our community! 😉

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Pharmacists by trade helping people on their path to better health; Instabloggers by choice to help QCers on their path to having fun.

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