Having enjoyed the few days I was able to spend in Asheville, N.C., years ago, I made sure to jump quickly on a two-month pet sitting opportunity when it arrived in my inbox earlier this spring. This extended visit has provided me with an insight I didn't fully appreciate the last time I was here. This place has virtually barrier-free access to the region's rural amenities.
While other cities may force you to drive through endless sprawling suburbs in order to enjoy the outdoors, this mountain destination provides direct and easy access to mother nature, agricultural tourism experiences and even an artisanal cheese trail. After a day of hiking, farm visits and scenic drives, this traveler prefers to grab a bite at urban venues that are chilled out and casual. Following are some of my favorite finds in the city. Bonus? They are all dog friendly.
Ice cream: After a healthy hike around the perimeter of Beaver Lake, I love heading to The Hop Ice Cream Cafe for gourmet ice cream in a pet-friendly setting. With a retro vibe and rotating beer flavors based on brews from the area's craft breweries, it's a fun place to hang out with a price tag most will find affordable. Vegan options are also available.
Tacos: In a city known for its beer scene, it only stands to reason you'd be able to grab a great growler to go along with your custom taco order. Such is the case at Tacos and Taps, a drive-through taco shop offering a variety of local beers on tap for vacationers and locals alike. Our favorite solution is to grab an order to enjoy by the backyard fire pit, but you can certainly dine with your pooch at one of their outdoor tables before hitting the ice cream shop.
Barbecue: Perhaps the best place to go for barbecue in Asheville is a place called 12 Bones. Located in the River Arts District, this venue is known for great food, encouraging customers to write messages on its walls, and delicious, dirt cheap sides. They are also famous for their unusual flavors of barbecue sauce, one of which caught the attention and appreciation of former POTUS Barack Obama.
The key to navigating this dining experience successfully with your dog is to take advantage of the local brewery connected to the venue. The Wedge has a secondary tasting room attached to 12 Bones with indoor and outdoor picnic tables where you can hang out with Fido. Simply grab your barbecue order to go, and make your way to the tasting room to order a flight and grab a spot where your fur baby can be behaviorally successful.
Along with being dog friendly, Asheville's River Arts District is a serious creative hub with studios, outdoor urban murals, plentiful parking and a gritty-in-a-good-way vibe. When I first explored the district several years ago, it was just getting started. Now, it is a thriving area easily worth a full afternoon or evening of your time. It's also right across the water from the French Broad River Park, which offers picnic spots, walking trails, public restrooms and an off-leash romping area for Rover.
Snacks: Looking for a great place to unwind after a morning hike? Check out Well Played, a unique board game cafe located downtown. With hundreds of games available and an on-site game master to help you navigate ones you may never have tried before, it's a great place to hang out and enjoy cheap snacks in a relaxed atmosphere. With a $5 day pass you can use to come and go, this venue can easily serve as an urban landing zone where you regroup between other excursions.
Pooch access here is limited to the patio area where the more expansive game library isn't available, but there is a selection of smaller games they allow you to use at the outdoor tables without having to pay for an access pass. Beer and wine are also available.
(Lifestyle and travel expert Myscha Theriault blends thrift and luxury to live well for less around the world. She has sold her home, all her furniture and most of her other belongings to travel the world full time with her husband. You can follow her adventures on Instagram via @MyschaTheriault.)
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