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Friday, April 25, 2014

Biltmore Estate Summer Things To Do & Ticket Specials

Summer is a wonderful time to explore the Biltmore House, along with its gardens and winery in Asheville, NC. There are 8,000 acres to explore with gardens in full bloom, trails to explore and many options for outdoor adventures in the your Blue Ridge Mountains vacation. See our full Biltmore Guide.

Summer 2014 discounts on Biltmore tickets include:
• Kids 16 and younger receive FREE admission Memorial Day Weekend (starting May 23) through Labor Day, September 1.
• Dads receive FREE admission on Father’s Day, June 15, with purchase of an adult or youth ticket.
• Seniors receive $15 off admission on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
• Save $15 off ticket price by purchasing tickets at at least 7 days in advance of visit; save $10 by booking online 1 to 6 days in advance

The castle-like, 250-room Biltmore House is enhanced this year by a NEW kid’s audio tour for ages 7 to 13. And their specialty tours go all the way up to the home’s rooftop for breathtaking birds-eye views; and down into the basement where a swimming pool and bowling alley reside.
Meander through the colorful and ever-changing manicured gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, or explore the miles of hiking and biking trails that wind through wooded areas and open fields. Take in mountain and Biltmore House views from a bike, on the back of a horse, while floating down a lazy river, on a Segway, or on a carriage ride. Try your hand at fly-fishing, sporting clays or get behind the wheel of a Land Rover.
Admission to Biltmore includes access to Antler Hill Village Farm and Barnyard, both of which harken back to the 1890s when families lived on the estate raising crops and livestock, and tending to milk and ice cream production at Biltmore Dairy. The Barnyard area is home to blacksmiths, woodworkers and other craft demonstrations. Kids can also explore Pisgah Playground, a Children’s Maze and the Land Rover Course for Kids. The Winery hosts a Kids Grape Stomp in the village from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Admission also includes the Biltmore Winery, with complimentary tastings and a production tour.  Specialty tours like the Vine to Wine Tour, Biltmore Bubbles Tour and the Red Wine and Chocolate seminar are available at an additional cost. An exhibition, “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad,” sheds light on the time the Vanderbilt family made Biltmore House their home, and their world travels.
Dance under the stars on select summer nights during Biltmore’s Concert Series, staged on the South Terrace next to Biltmore House. Past performers have included Sheryl Crow, Heart, The Beach Boys, Bruce Hornsby, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alison Krauss and more!
Evening weekends will feature Live After Five in Antler Hill Village with musical performances by area musicians on the bandstand at the Village Green. A variety of culinary options will be available, and Cedric’s Tavern, the Bistro, the Creamery will all be open.

See our Biltmore Estate Guide for many photos, videos and tips for visiting. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Top 10 Things to Do in Asheville for Gay & Lesbian Visitors

Gay Pride, Asheville
LGBTQ visitors to Asheville, North Carolina, find so many things to do, especially in the artsy and lively downtown with  50+ local restaurants, 30 art galleries, antique shops, and a big variety of local shops. Home to the famous Biltmore Estate, Asheville is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains with limitless outdoors adventures. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of most beautiful scenic drives in the country. You will find a diverse population, with a large gay and lesbian community that enjoys meeting visitors (since most of them were once visitors before they fell in love with the area and moved).

To help you plan a trip, here are ten favorite things to co for gay and lesbian visitors to Asheville:

1. Farm-to-Table: A food lovers mecca, great dining options abound with dozens of locally-owned restaurants that work closely with local farms. 

2. Bed & Breakfast or Cozy Cabin: Choose from many gay-owned or gay/lesbian friendly bed and breakfast inns and cabin vacation rentals that offer plenty of privacy and romance. Many B&Bs are near downtown, or find secluded log cabins in the throughout the western North Carolina mountains.

3. Drinks: From beer to wine to coffee, there are many options. Asheville is a Beer City for sure with many brew pubs downtown. Smokey Tavern is a friendly, cozy gay bar in the middle of downtown at 18 Broadway. Many wine and cocktail bars downtown, and a variety of wineries to tour in the foothills. Don't miss the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar! You will find 10 coffee shops in downtown Asheville with local flavor and great atmosphere. Don’t miss the French Broad Chocolate Lounge with French press coffee and liquid chocolate!

4. Shop: Downtown Asheville is a shopper's paradise with a wide variety of 200 locally-owned shops. To experience a true slice of Asheville, stop by Malaprops, voted "Best Independent Bookstore in the Southeast." The beautiful Grove Arcade has a great variety of shops in one location. For antiques, Biltmore Village area has a big variety of antique stores and malls, including the huge Antique Tobacco Barn. Or come for a Brunk Antique Auction, one of the premier houses in the south.

5. Biltmore Estate: Tour the largest home in America, with an amazing collection of art and antiques, grand gardens, wine tasting at the winery, and the outdoor equestrian center. Take a hike, ride your bike or dine in a variety of restaurants.

6. Live Music and Theatre: To listen and dance to some great jazz and blues, go to Tressa's at 28 Broadway, which has a mixed straight and gay crowd. For a variety of music headliners, check out The Orange Peel at 101 Biltmore Avenue. There are several community (including Asheville Community Theatre) and repertory theatre groups in town, with several choices for professional theatre (Flat Rock Playhouse). Or see a first-run independent film or often a gay-themed film at the Fine Arts Theatre at 36 Biltmore Ave.

7. Blue Ridge Pride: In early October, come to western North Carolina's largest gay pride festival in downtown Asheville.  Read more about Pride and other events.

8. Gallery Hopping: John Cram owns the two biggest galleries in Asheville, Blue Spiral I downtown at 38 Biltmore Ave and New Morning Gallery in Biltmore Village. Walk to 30 galleries in downtown or explore the River Arts District, home to many studios and galleries. There are many art festivals and events all year long.

9. Hikes & Waterfalls: Choose from hundreds of great trails, many taking you to a beautiful waterfall. Find something for all skill levels, from a short stroll to a strenuous full-day hike. Our guide has detailed features, photos and videos of the 40 best hikes and 50 best waterfalls.

10. Dance Bars: The premier nightclub for dancing is Scandals Nightclub, downtown at 11 Grove Street near Patton Avenue in a brick building that looks like a large house. It has a lively dance bar and various bars to escape the madness of the dance floor. There are two other gay clubs nearby, Club Hairspray at 38 N French Broad Ave and O.Henry's at 237 Haywood Street.

For more information, go to our Asheville Gay & Lesbian Travel Guide.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

First Woman Chef wins Competition Dining in Asheville

Chef Michelle Bailey
In Asheville last night, Chef Michelle Bailey pumped a triumphant fist in the air as Got To Be NC Competition Dining host Jimmy Crippen announced that she was the first woman chef to lead a team to victory since the series started in 2012. The finale was held at Biltmore Estate. Bailey is the chef at Season’s at the Highland Lake Inn in Flat Rock. Like many competitors, she won the close battle with Asheville’s Sam Etheridge of Ambrozia Bar + Bistro with the dessert course.

Eight chefs from Asheville, Boone and Flat Rock competed in the seven-dinner series that began March 10 and concluded last night at the Lioncrest at Biltmore in Asheville. Diners watched tensely as the final scores and numbers posted for each dish. Bailey triumphed in the close battle by almost three points. The chef and teammates Stephen Hertz and Todd Mallin took home a $2000 check, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge in Charlotte, and the coveted red chef’s jacket only a Competition Dining winner can wear.

Mac Sullivan, chief executive officer of Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, and Jimmy Crippen, host and founder of Got To Be NC Competition Dining, presented the $2000 check to Chef Bailey and her team.

The final Fire on the Rock battle challenged the chefs to use two featured ingredients, Lusty Munk® Mustard and Beulah’s Bavarian Pretzels, both based in Asheville. The chefs are not told what the featured ingredient of the night will be until noon on the day they compete.

Both chefs rose to the occasion. Bailey’s highest scoring dish of the evening was dessert: Chipotle Mustard Chocolate Cake, Buttermilk Altar Boy Ice Cream, Beulah's Bavarian Pretzel Tuile, Fizzy Blackberry and Lemon Relish, Lusty Monk Raspberry Coulis and Salted Pretzel Caramel Sauce.

For Etheridge, the top-scoring dish was Lobster Sausage, Arugula, Citrus Honey Mustard, Beulah's Bavarian Pretzel Beer-Battered Smoked Shrimp, Chipotle Mustard Tartar Sauce, Slaw, Blue Crab Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust and Champagne Mustard Cream.

Asheville is a food lover's paradise, with many farm-to-fork restaurants, dozens of local craft beers and farms to visit. For more, go to our vacation guide at