Home >Magazine >Our Trip to Asheville Was About Amazing Food, Blue Ridge Beauty-and Newfound Friends

Our Trip to Asheville Was About Amazing Food, Blue Ridge Beauty-and Newfound Friends

What’s more fun than discovering the delights of Asheville, NC? Doing it with a group of fabulous women who know how to connect and carouse.

Mushrooms, sparkly sunglasses, vinyl records, sunset views, a massive estate called the Biltmore, and a group of fabulous women singing along to classic rock tunes in a big white van as we rolled through the mountains.

These are the memories that rise to the surface when I think of my NextTribe trip to Asheville. It was an amazing adventure, and I don’t think I have laughed so hard so many times in one weekend in my life. 

You too can experience a NextTribe trip filled with fun and friendship. Our next trip to Asheville is October 2024. Find all the details here!

That said, putting all my recollections of Asheville into one brief article feels a bit like trying to jam a sleeping bag into a too-small stuff sack. It’s impossible that we did so much in one weekend. Time must be stretchier in the Blue Ridge mountains. Like yoga pants. There’s always room for a little more.

Read more: Marfa and Big Bend: Savoring Art, Nature, and New Friends in West Texas

Of Food and Friendship

The gang gathered at the original soda fountain in a Downtown Asheville Woolworth’s.

Since I’ve started with this terrible metaphor and in the interest of full disclosure, I brought a giant Tony’s Chocolonely bar with me on the trip because I’m a snacky person. But what I couldn’t have predicted is a) it is impossible to be hungry on this trip and b) you’re never just sitting around. So I never ate my candy bar. If you know me, you know this is shocking.

Jeannie Ralston and Ellesor Holder, a.k.a, our Fearless Leaders, had amazing food lined up for us from morning until night. Starting with my oat milk latte at Penny Cup to amazing dinners at Zambra, The Bull and Beggar, and Haywood Common, we were never lacking something delicious to eat. And fresh donuts! I should really mention Sunday morning’s donuts, because they were more delicious than they needed to be.

But this bounty of food is a nice segue into our trip’s first outing on Saturday, a foraging trip with No Taste Like Home.

Before I left, when my friends at home asked what I was going to do in Asheville, the foraging excursion always came to mind, probably because I was a little nervous about it. This led to some odd conversations.

“Foraging for what?” They asked. “Mushrooms?”

Everyone always thinks of mushrooms. Then they want to know if I’m afraid I’m going to die.

“There’s a guide. I’m sure they won’t let us eat anything poisonous.”

“Why would you want to do this?”

Why would I want to forage for my food? It’s like the Menopausal Lady Hunger Games.

I shrugged. “It’s like the Menopausal Lady Hunger Games.” At this point my friends would stare at me, blankly, because no one thinks my jokes are funny except me. “We’re also going to The Biltmore.” 


“Oh, that’s nice!”

No one knows anything about finding their own food, but apparently everyone knows what The Biltmore is. Except me. I had never heard of The Biltmore before our agenda arrived.

Learning to Be (and Forage) in the Moment

Adventures in foraging, clockwise from top left: Comparing our finds; we sampled some unusual items; our foraging finds cooked for dinner, and in their raw state before being transported to an Asheville restaurant.

Mansions aside, I was right to fixate on the foraging because it was probably my favorite thing we did.

First, let me say that Alan and Ellie, our guides from No Taste Like Home, were amazing, thoughtful, intelligent people who took time to show us how to experience the natural world in a completely different way. One of the things that struck me was Alan telling us to “try not to learn anything today” and just be in the experience.

Our guide told us, ‘Try not to learn anything today’ and just be in the experience.

I fear that I failed spectacularly at not learning—our guides were such a wealth of knowledge—but I loved being reminded to respect the value of time and experience, an idea that I tried to carry with me for the rest of the weekend. One walk could never teach a person the difference between Japanese knotweed and sheep sorrel. (Don’t try foraging at home, kids.) 

But taking the time to notice, smell, sometimes taste, and occasionally eat things from nature was an illuminating experience. Remembering to slow down and live in the moment, particularly with such an amazing group of women walking together, talking together, and sharing what we had found, set the stage for a wonderful and spiritual start to our long weekend together.

Our walk ended with—wait for it—finding and collecting reishi mushrooms. Alan sautéed part of what we had gathered for us to taste, and the rest was taken to The Bull and Beggar restaurant, where they served us a risotto made with our wild foods.

How fabulous is that?

Chatting Our Way Through a Gorgeous City

The author with a blanket-ful of sorel that we harvested in the wild.

But foraging was just the beginning, because Asheville is full of stores, galleries, restaurants, and music. As a tour guide, Jeannie knows how to find all the spots we would love. On our walks, we saw Thomas Wolfe’s house (remember, ladies, we’re all assigned Look Homeward, Angel for summer reading), stopped to hear drum circles, and browsed through a Woolworth-turned-art-gallery, complete with soda fountain.

But while Asheville itself is a fun city, what I loved just as much was simply walking as a group, chatting amongst ourselves and getting to know one another. It’s such an unusual and wonderful experience to be with so many interesting women from so many places—from New York to Michigan to Texas to California—as we discovered Asheville and each other.

It’s such an unusual and wonderful experience to be with so many interesting women from so many places.

Our visit to Citizen Vinyl certainly lived up to expectations. It’s hard to top a tour of a vinyl-record pressing plant and recording studio for sheer coolness, and our tour guide took us through the physical process of pressing records, as well as giving us a history of the Asheville Citizen-Times building that houses Citizen Vinyl. To top it off, we had a fabulous lunch from Lost Flamingo on the balcony overlooking what had once been the main floor of the local paper’s newsroom.

Meeting Authors and Artists

Enjoying great food; meeting local authors; watching the sunset from the best spot in town–the terrace of the Grove Park Inn.

Before this trip, I hadn’t realized what a vibrant artist community Asheville is. On Saturday afternoon, we went to a Literary Lunch hosted by local writer Maggie Marshall, joined by writers Heather Newman and Patricia Green. While enjoying the lovely breezes on Maggie’s beautiful back deck, she gave us a wonderful overview of Asheville’s rich literary history, and we listened to all three writers read from their work and talk about the Flatiron Writers Room, a local writing community. It’s quite a treat to be able to chat with writers about their work in such a relaxed and engaging environment. We all enjoyed ourselves very much.

The next day, we went to an artist reception in the River Arts District with local visual artists, where we got to see them working on some of their current pieces and talk to them about the local artistic community. Li Newton, an artist who works in collage and mixed media took time to show us one of her works in progress and talk about her process. The whole experience was vibrant, friendly, and affirming.

Meeting My New Best Friends

Out in the field during our foraging foray, with our knowledgeable wilderness food guide (the one with the beard).

Which brings me, again, to the best part of our trip—the other women we were with. No matter what we were doing—eating, walking, foraging, or talking to writers and artists—what made each outing so special is that there was always someone fabulous standing right next to you to say, “Hey, isn’t this cool?” 

No matter what you were doing, there was always someone fabulous standing right next to you to say, ‘Hey, isn’t this cool?’

It didn’t matter which one of us it happened to be. All sixteen of us were friends by the end of the first night, so whether you were oohing and ahhing at a painting, a sunset, one of the glass sculptures at the Chihuly exhibit, a plate full of escargot, or even a piece of mushroom—and mushrooms became the theme for the weekend—there was always a friend right there to share the experience with. 

Someone who, while shopping and goofing around, would show off their new mushroom t-shirt, buy a fun pair of sunglasses with sparkles just because they were awesome, sing along to “Carolina in My Mind,” or raise a glass to join you in a toast. Someone who would always scoot over to make room for you to join in on whatever they were doing.

Which is really the best part of any trip. Doing it with friends.

Oh, and we also went to the Biltmore. The Vanderbilts lived there. (See? I learned things!) But no matter how gorgeous the mansion is, its beauty is at its best when seen with a wonderful group of women by your side. 

Read more: Best Things to Do in Asheville, NC

Top photo by Marcellina Kampa.

By Christina Kapp


Related Articles

Find your tribe

Connect and join a community of women over 45 who are dedicated to traveling and exploring the world.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This