First stop was Mars, PA (30 minutes north of Pittsburgh) since we had heard a rumor that a spaceship had landed in the town square. Unwilling to miss this photo-op we landed in a parking spot, located the silver disc, and tried to find a place to eat breakfast. We tried the local diner, Mamma’s Place, but the service was so horrible and the wait so long that we paid for our coffee and headed across the street to the Mars Brew House. Luckily this exceeded our expectations,since it was now lunchtime and we were starving.
Fortified, we continued on through West Virginia and Tennessee (gorgeous mountainous drive-highly recommended) until we arrived in Asheville where we spent four days.
What we Recommend
- Mount Pisgah Campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway-Fantastic campground with friendly campers, helpful rangers, and clean showers with flush toilets. There’s a general store down the road for ice, firewood, and other camping necessities and the drive from Asheville is stupendous, with plenty of overlooks to pull off at. It’s popular so arrive early in the morning or make a reservation.
- Tupelo Honey Café-Hands-down the best meal we had in Asheville! Tammy got Eggs Betty and I ordered the Fried Chicken and Biscuits with Tennessee ham, fresh basil, and milk gravy; both were absolutely delicious. Especially complemented by our daring cocktail order-the Violet Beauregarde and the Lavender-Limeade Fizz.
- The Gallery on the Woolworth Walk-Located in the historic F.W. Woolworth building (complete with an old-fashioned soda fountain) the gallery exhibits and sells the artwork of both professional artisans and those who create as a hobby. One of my favorites was Cynthia Decker-imaginative and provocative.
- The Biltmore Estate and Gardens-Designed by George Vanderbilt, noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, and architect Richard Morris Hunt, this 250 room French Renaissance château, surrounded by vast gardens, isn’t to be missed. Admission is a bit pricey but its well-worth it to see how the rich and famous lived. Just imagine a bowling alley, an indoor pool, and 65 fireplaces! I was especially enamored with Vanderbilt’s library, all 10,000 volumes of it. And the Rose Garden was incredibly fragrant; I could have lingered there forever.
- The Chocolate Fetish-Really, really good artisan chocolate. So much to choose from but we finally settled on milk and dark chocolate frogs (like the classic Turtle).
- French Broad River Campground-Sites too close together, inadequate bathroom facilities, on the river but not particularly scenic.
- Mayfel’s Restaurant-Food was mediocre and cold. On the bright side, the beer selection was good (Wicked Weed Pernicious IPA!), the service friendly and helpful, and the restaurant right next to Pritchard Park so you can’t beat the people-watching or interesting encounters.
- Pisgah Inn-We agreed that we would go there again for a glass of wine and to enjoy the amazing view of the mountains. However the wait for a table was over two hours, the hostess obnoxious, and the food uninspiring, considering the price.
- The Moog Factory and Showroom-I was excited to see this as Robert Moog, inventor of the Minimoog Analog Synthesizer (1970) began his journey in my hometown of Trumansburg. Unfortunately though it was described as an opportunity to get “hands-on with these legendary instruments” the man working there did not seem to appreciate our experimentation efforts with the Theremin and it seemed more like a big room without much interesting historical content. Frankly the History Center in Tompkins County’s recent exhibit on Moog and his creations was far superior to this one.
With only a few days in this lively city, I didn’t get to do everything on my list. If I go back, I’d like to write on the “Before I Die” wall, eat at the Well-Bred Bakery and Café, and check out the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area & Campground for outdoor recreation.