Crowder's Mountain State Park sits roughly 30 miles to the west of Charlotte, North Carolina and offers a wide variety of hiking trails. With 11 trails ranging from easy to strenuous, visitors can enjoy summit peaks or lakeside strolls, Crowder's Mountain is one of the most popular hiking destinations for visitors from Charlotte.
With two main summits, Crowder's Mountain and the Pinnacle, hikers have the opportunity to witness sprawling views of the Piedmont region, including the Charlotte skyline 25 miles away.
I have visited Crowder's Mountain twice. The first time I went alone, on a Friday in November. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but the trails were quiet and I only encountered a handful of people at the summit.
The second time I went was yesterday, the first sunny day after a week of rain, and a Saturday, in February. I knew it would be crowded, but I was not prepared for the hoards of people I saw in the parking areas. Families, couples, individuals, dogs. Everyone was accounted for. This has become my experience more and more as the pandemic continues. These are the things that people are doing now, which is great! I highly encourage people to get outside, take their families or pets, and explore their communities. However, if you prefer quiet trails, check out this park on a weekday and save the lesser know parks for weekends.
During my first visit, I hiked the Pinnacle Trail to the Pinnacle summit. My second visit I wasn't looking to summit because 1. I had done it before, and 2. the aforementioned crowds. I hiked about a mile on Crowder's Trail to Rocktop Trail, where I hiked another quarter mile or so until a came to a rock scramble. I took some time to enjoy the views and get some water, then hiked back down. From there I drove to the overflow parking area and did two short loop trails, Lake Trail and Fern Trail, each about 1 mile long.
Let me know what your favorite trail at Crowders has been! And if you're from Charlotte, let me know your favorite hiking spots!
Need to Know:
I highly recommend visiting the park on a weekday. On nice weekend days, the park is extremely crowded, with cars filling up the overflow parking areas.
Use the Sparrow Springs access point to check out the Visitor Center, get information on trails, and pick up a sticker for your North Carolina State Parks Passport
Sparrow Springs access and visitor center
522 Park Office Lane
Kings Mountain, NC 28086
Linwood Road access4611 Linwood Road
Gastonia, NC 28086
My family has been traveling to the Outer Banks for decades. After so many years of visiting the same place, we have developed a list of favorites and must-dos for each trip. While that list may vary from year to year, one thing remains the same: visit Jockey's Ridge.
Jockey's Ridge State Park, located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina's eastern shores, is the tallest living sand dune on the United States East Coast and a popular spot for locals and visitors, families and adults. The perfect place to fly a kite or watch the sunset, the fun that comes with a visit to the dunes easily invokes a sense of childhood simplicity, reminding you of how easy it is to have fun, no equipment needed.
While some may see the park as a glorified sand box, and it can certainly feel that way, Jockey's Ridge has played a major part in the history of the Banks and forms a part of a complex living ecosystem. Believed to have formed between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, the dunes are constantly shifting as winds blow in different directions, resulting in an ever-changing silhouette.
Lined with sea grasses and small shrubs, the sand does support some plant life. You'll find thicker pockets of live oaks, wax myrtles, and red cedars near the parking area. Small mammals can also be found within the park boundaries, including rabbits, foxes, raccoons, oppossums, and dozens of bird species. Check out the Visitor Center museum to learn more about the history and ecology of the area. Visitors can also participate in hang-gliding lessons on the dunes.
Need to know:
Entry fee: None
300 W. Carolista Drive
Nags Head, NC 27959
Visitors with mobility restrictions can call 24 hours in advanced to reserve a ride to the top of the dunes-- 1-877-722-6762
I don't know about y'all, but tacos are one of my favorite foods. I mean, we served jerk chicken tacos at our wedding, so we will let that speak for itself.
I believe the main reason for most peoples' love for tacos, besides from the general deliciousness, is that they are so versatile and have the option to be completely customized. And the thing is, no matter how you change up a taco to fit your personal preferences, and no matter what theme you're in the mood for, you can always make a taco work.
This is why the White Duck Taco Shop (WDTS) in Asheville is one of my favorite local places to get tacos. The menu is so diverse in the types of tacos offered, with a range of flavor palettes and something guaranteed to meet the tastes of everyone! They standby their claim that "if you like food you will love us!"
My personal favorites have been the buffalo chicken taco, as well as the pork belly with pickled watermelon rind. Honorable mentions are the black bean and Bangkok Shrimp (you might need a few extra napkins for this one).
Now, WDTS has several locations throughout NC, as well as a few in South Carolina and Tennessee, including one in my very own Queen City of Charlotte. However, I have only ever visited the Asheville locations because everything is just better in Asheville. The original location is located in the River Arts District (RAD) and is the first location I visited. They have since moved a block over from their original setting, but the atmosphere hasn't changed!
During our most recent trip to Asheville, we visited the downtown location as it was within walking distance of our hotel. Now, it is COVID time, so things were a little different, but with plenty of outdoor seating and the same delicious menu, the tacos were as good as ever!
Need to know:
Location: View the map here
Menu can vary by location/season- view here
What's your go-to taco order? If you've ever been to White Duck Taco Shop, or any other honorable mentions, let me know in the comments!
If you've ever strolled the streets of downtown Asheville, you may have noticed a bright red double-decker bus. It would be pretty hard to miss, after all, and may even make you do a double take, as these buses are a bit of a rare sight this side of the world.
Double D's Coffee and Sweets is located within this particular bus, nestled in a shady corner on Biltmore Avenue, right in the heart of the city.
While you first feel a bit of surprise, you will quickly feel enchanted as you step into the unusual world of a coffee bus. From the bus people themselves, the experience has an effect on children and adults alike.
Stepping onto the Double Decker Bus has a very distinct effect on people. For children, it makes them feel like grown-ups. They get to be the captain of a vessel that only encourages their imagination. For people who are already grown up, it makes them feel like kids. However, regardless of age, the Bus ignites something special in every customer who walks through those red doors, and the result is always positive. A cozy red Bus nestled into a cozy, quaint town makes everyone feel at home. The vintage surroundings paired with organic coffee roasted locally by Notorious Coffee Roasting Company and local desserts made with love is the recipe for Asheville's Landmark Coffee Bus.
With a menu featuring classic coffees, hot or iced, as well as flavored lattes, chais and frappes, there is something for everyone at this one of a kind coffee shop. Needing a little bit more than a coffee? Try a smoothie or even one of their milkshakes! They also have an assortment of pastries and other sweet desserts. My personal go-to anytime I see it on the menu is a lavender latte, and the Double D's Lavender Honey latte did not disappoint!
Need to know:
41 Biltmore Ave
Asheville, NC 28801
Double D's Coffee & Desserts has reopened with an extensive safety system in place. We are confident that the level of safety precautions we have provided will protect our customers and our employees. We require 6 ft. distancing, face coverings at all times, except when seated at a table. We consistently sanitize all tables and high touch areas. All employees have temperature checked before they start their shift.
Living in Charlotte, North Carolina, I have access to many local gems, as well as short distances to other incredible cities, such as Asheville, North Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia. While these are all amazing options for a weekend getaway, sometimes we just don't have the time to drive even two hours out of the city. The good news is that doesn't have to be a deal-breaker!
With only one night to spare in our crazy schedule, I did some detective-level internet searching to find the perfect getaway location for us. The best part? It was only a 40-minute drive away. At first that might not seem very enticing. A getaway is supposed to be removed from home, right? At this quiet, secluded, and nothing but peaceful Airbnb, it wouldn't matter if it was a 5-minute drive down the block- it had everything we needed, and nothing we didn't!
From the moment we arrived on the property, we were greeted warmly and directed to all the locations we may need, from the room itself to the eco-toilet to the hottub and the paths around the edge of the farm. Our room, a barn loft situated on a 20-acre farm, was tucked in one corner of the property and felt close enough to the other amenities, but also private and secluded.
As the only guests on the property at the time (it was a random Thursday night after all), we had the place to ourselves. The hosts do live on-site, and you may catch them in a conversation or two, but it never felt overbearing or cramped.
The room had everything we needed, from plastic wine cups to basic grilling supplies, and a lovely tea and coffee bar, as well as a mini-fridge. Our room featured a private deck with a grill out back, and right outside our door was the fire pit. After dinner out, we enjoyed wine and the hot tub, but decided against building a campfire this time around.
The eco-toilets were the absolute cleanest and well-maintained outdoor toilets I've ever used (which is a lot) and I felt extremely comfortable walking the property, even at night, to use the sink. Perhaps one of my favorite features of the entire farm was the outdoor rain shower. It was in fact raining during much of our stay, and there's something so calming about showering outdoors in the woods with the rain tapping the roof above. Despite the rain, our stay was so wonderful and cozy, although if you happen to visit during sunnier weather, the hosts even provide hammocks for you to enjoy in the adjacent woods.
While our stay was brief, this quick off-the-grid adventure was exactly what we needed to reconnect and reset.
Oh, and if a barn loft doesn't strike your interest, the farm also has its very own stone greenhouse or woodsy treehouse which is definitely where we'll be staying next time around.
More information can be found on the farm's website, The Green Omnivore.
Photos by The Green Omnivore
One of the things I love about Asheville is the overwhelming sense of comfortableness that this city exudes. Everyone is simply comfortable being themselves, and expressing it in a way that suits them. One very noticeable way this can be seen is through the city's prominent street art. Every street, every corner, and every alley is guaranteed to feature a work of art, and if you walk the streets long enough, you will start to recognize an artist's work by the style you see repeated throughout.
The best place to view a highly concentrated amount of street art without the worry of potentially getting hit by a car is in a quiet corner of the River Arts District. This patch of land, located on Old Lyman Street, is known as the Foundation Walls Project. Property owner Brent Starck began the project when he couldn't face tearing down the falls that had been covered primarily in graffiti tags. Instead he worked with the Asheville Legal Department and the Graffiti Appeal Committee to come up with a plan for allowing artists to put their work out there in an organized and inclusive manner. As long as artists follow the rules (no racist, hateful, or inappropriate content), they can obtain a permit and are free to let their designs come to life.
Foundation Walls is a great place to see a lot of the city's artists in one area. The artists respect the work of others and work to support each other, rather than compete for the best wall space. The inclusive and collaborative approach makes unique park a noteworthy destination during your stay in Asheville.
What's your favorite street art destination? Share in the comments below!
The first stop on our tour of Asheville is one of my favorites- a place that I keep going back to every time I visit. We all have our favorites and sometimes tradition trumps quality, but not in this case! This time around the tradition was born because of the quality; the quality of food, service, and atmosphere!
Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville has it all. While I've only been there for some amazing brunches, they also feature equally amazing lunch and dinner menus, as well as a selection of wines, craft beers, and cocktails.
Rated #1 on TripAdvisor for the best brunch in Asheville, Sunny Point Cafe can also be found on hipster foodies' lists everywhere, ranking in the Top 10 for Best Asheville Brunch/Breakfast spots. Some examples of their award-winning dishes (yes, they have won awards for their amazing culinary talents), are the shrimp 'n' grits, which won the 2016 and 2017 Stoobie Award for Asheville's Best Shrimp 'n' Grits. I've also heard that their avocado toast is among the best in the city.
My personal favorites are the Huevos Rancheros- eggs topped with black bean cakes, feta, and cilantro crema (a gluten-free dish), and the Fried Chicken and Waffle sandwich- a pecan waffle topped with fried chicken, bacon, pimento cheese, and jalapeño jam. Their menu also features several options that can be made gluten-free or vegan.
INSIDER TIP: Because of the cafe's popularity, it is more than likely that you will arrive and have to add your name to a long list of those waiting- DO NOT LEAVE. I know how easy it is to be turned off by long wait-times, but believe me it is well worth it. In fact, the cafe understands your displeasure with having to wait, and makes it infinitely more enjoyable by providing a coffee station in the outdoor waiting area, where you can help yourself to unlimited refills of fresh coffee, and enjoy watching West Asheville life pass you by. On a nice day, you may even get to experience some live music, as local bands have been known to set up and play for hungry customers.
Aside from the incredible variety of dishes and flavors that are served up here, one of my favorite things about Sunny Point Cafe is that they are very socially conscious, featuring a different nonprofit partner every month! Every table in the restaurant has an envelope on it for customers, should they so choose, to donate money for the nonprofit that month. Along with the money from generous customers, Sunny Point also adds a donation to the collected funds, and delivers it to the chosen partner. In 2017, they raised and donated $16,856, and in 2018 they increased that number to $20,517. Read more about the organizations they've partnered with here.
INSIDER TIP: After your meal, head outside to the neighboring garden- here you can walk through the garden beds and see where the cafe plants and harvests the produce found in your meals! It's as fresh as you can get!
INSIDER TIP: Take a bit of the West Asheville flavor home with you! You can shop the selection of jams, dressings, and sauces that you may have experienced in your meal. If that's not enough, you can even purchase the Sunny Point Cookbook, featuring several recipes that have developed since the opening of the cafe, as well as other timeless comfort food dishes.
Have you been to Sunny Point Cafe? Let us know your favorite dishes in the comments! Got another favorite Asheville brunch spot! Let us know so we can check it out!
I've been to Asheville a handful of times, as it's roughly a 2-hour drive from Charlotte, and each time I love taking advantage of all this amazing city has to offer. From the wide selection of craft breweries, local coffee shops, and eclectic restaurants, it is truly a millennial's dream. If those are things you also value, then Asheville is the place for you.
Located in the western part of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has a population slightly under 100,000 people. Known for its vibrancy, it has a large (and growing) art scene, fascinating historic architecture, and is what a foodie's dream are made of. Walking the streets you are guaranteed to see layers of art and messages of peace adorning the walls. Ample opportunities exist to experience the local culture through artisans, food, and entertainment.
And if the city life becomes too busy for you, an escape to the mountains is a stone's throw away. From the Blue Ridge Parkway to waterfall hikes to cozy cabins, the great outdoors is ready and waiting for you.
In this new mini-series, I'm going to share all that I have come to know and love about Asheville, from the food and drink to art and nature. I was quick to identify Asheville as my spirit city, and if you stick around you may just find that it has something for you too.
If you've ever been to Asheville, share your favorite spots and things to do in the comments!
p.s. if this content looks familiar, it's because you've seen it before! This originated over at www.feedthepassport.com and is migrating here to our site. Feed the Passport is transitioning into a foodie-focused travel blog and we are picking up the pieces, focusing on the hidden gems, hole-in-the-wall, off-the-beaten-path treasures in cities around the world. Stay tuned on both accounts for the best in what to do, where to stay, what to eat, and how to experience the authenticity of each place we visit.
I like hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, and offbeat destinations