Trek Travel trip designer Rebecca Falls knows what it takes to create a one-of-a-kind vacation. So when she crafted a cycling trip in her own backyard, the outcome was extraordinary.
What drew you to live in Asheville, North Carolina?
The first time I ever stepped foot in Asheville was the summer of 1999, when I was working as a raft guide in Bryson City, NC. My friends and I came to town for the Bele Chere Festival. This festival no longer takes place unfortunately, but its name comes from an ancient Scottish dialect and means “beautiful living.” It was a perfect way to meet this beautiful city, at a time when the streets were full of music, art, and the energy of people gathered to celebrate many of the things that make Asheville special. I knew after that first visit that I would love to call this place home.
Very few places in the eastern US have access to vast tracts of public land as Asheville does. The nearby Pisgah, Cherokee, and Nantahala National Forests along with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are unbelievable places that have more to appreciate and explore than you could see in a lifetime. Couple that with a great music, food, and beer scene all in a college town of less than 90,000 people and it sounded just about perfect to me. I’ve lived in western North Carolina on and off since 1999 but have been a full-time Asheville resident for four years and I don’t have any plans to leave anytime soon!
What was it like to design a trip in your hometown? What are you most excited for guests to experience?
Designing a trip in Asheville felt somewhat familiar, as friends from out of town often come to visit and I want to show them around and pack as much into their stay as possible! It was fun to have an opportunity to create a trip in an area I know so well, and to be able to build on those past experiences. It was a lot of pressure too! I always approach trip design with this in mind—most people want to see as much of the world as they can, so they may not travel to the same place twice. So if I have one week to show you what this place is all about, what should we do? I made a list of must-do’s and put the trip together from there.
It’s always fun and exciting to take guests to places they haven’t been before, and even more so when that place is your home. I am looking forward to the little things—playing a game of bean-bag toss at The Wedge before dinner on Monday night, introducing someone to a classic southern dish like fried green tomatoes they may not have tried before….and of course the big things are pretty cool too, like standing on the summit of Mount Mitchell, taking in the 360 degree views and knowing you rode your bike up there.
Did you make any new discoveries about the region while completing the research for this trip?
I had not visited the Highlands area before I started researching this trip. I knew that I wanted to get guests out of downtown Asheville for the second part of the week, and I was looking for a smaller town somewhere that felt more wild. A good friend of mine is from the Highlands area and he suggested I come check it out. I was blown away by the access to low-traffic roads, waterfalls, the walkable/upscale downtown, cool restaurants, and was really excited to find the perfect hotel in 200 Main, which is owned and operated by the well-known Old Edwards Inn. He took me riding and hiking around the area one day and I was sold!
Asheville is well-known for outdoor adventure, local food and craft beer. What are the lesser known qualities that make it great?
Personally, one of my favorite things about this area is the local music. I love old-time music—a style that is played on acoustic instruments and usually involves the fiddle and banjo. It’s widely recognized as a feature of Southern Appalachian culture that has roots in the Welch, English, Irish and Scottish music brought by early immigrants to the region. It is associated with folk dancing as well—square dancing and contra dancing, which is also very popular in Asheville. Every Wednesday and Thursday night you can stop into Jack of the Wood, one of the great downtown bars, and catch an old-time or bluegrass jam session. And in Highlands, every Wednesday night a local string band plays at the Ugly Dog Pub—right down the street from our hotel! It’s awesome to have a style of music that is so strongly connected to a place, and to the history of that place.
Tell us about the brewery scene in Asheville. What is your favorite local beer?
The brewery scene here is going nuts! If I may quote NPR…”With more breweries per capita than any U.S. city, Asheville, North Carolina has become a sort of Napa Valley of beer.”
One of Ashevile’s oldest and best-known local micobreweries is Highland Brewing Company, located really close to my house here in east Asheville. Their Gaelic Ale was one of the first beers I ever really loved, so they will always have a special place in my heart! There are SO MANY great breweries here now though. We have really great water in Asheville, which has helped attract bigger breweries like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues. The smaller breweries, however, are of the greatest interest to me and there are really too many to name. I recently suggested a walking brewery tour in downtown to some friends and was surprised to realize you could walk to 6 breweries in a 1-mile loop on the “South Slope” of downtown. That’s pretty amazing to me. My favorite local beer is the Perfect Day IPA by Asheville Brewing. You can only get it at certain times of the year, which makes it more special, and especially delicious to toast with your friends after a long summer day of adventures.
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