As a born and bred southern gal, Macon York couldn’t help but eventually set her roots back down on southern soil. Macon grew up on the Georgia coast near Savannah and studied art at Sewanee in Tennessee before beginning her design career in New York City. In the spring of 2012, she left New York to hike the entire Appalachian Trail (check out her Dream Trip story here), from Georgia to Maine. Macon now lives in Asheville, devoting all of her energy to growing her small business creating custom letterpress wedding invitations and a line of colorful greeting cards, tending her vegetable garden, and enjoying all that Asheville has to offer. Today she shares her ideal 24 hours roaming the city of Asheville.
Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg
Read the full guide after the jump…
An eclectic hamlet nestled in the Appalachian mountains, Asheville is a small, historic town bursting with arts and culture. Outdoor enthusiasts can find endless opportunities for hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and mountain biking in the beautiful French Broad River Valley. The city has done a wonderful job balancing the architectural integrity of the past and filling the old buildings and streets with excitement and creative projects of today. Asheville proudly celebrates all things local and is a supportive community to the many nearby breweries, farms and makers.
6:30 am: My day begins to the sound of birds chirping in the woods that surround my home. Morning is my favorite time, and I love getting up early to start a new day. I make stovetop coffee from Appalachian Coffee Company and walk down to the garden to check on my vegetables, do some quick weeding, and water. It is astonishing to note the growth that occurs literally overnight. This is my first summer gardening, and I’m already learning so much and enjoying my harvest thus far.
8 am: After the garden chores, I gather my things from my home design/print studio and drive over to West End Bakery for breakfast and more coffee. I read over the tasty specials, but end up ordering my regular: a simple egg and cheese sandwich on fresh baked whole-grain bread. When I was strongly considering moving to Asheville, West End Bakery helped seal the deal on the great vibe of this town. Everything is made from local ingredients resulting in delicious food in a welcoming atmosphere. As I sip my coffee, I read through my job notebook to go over the status of various wedding jobs and greeting card orders. Then I check my email to see if I have heard back from any bridal clients with feedback on invitation designs.
9 am: Time to get printing! As a letterpress printer, Asheville BookWorks is essentially my home. BookWorks is the personal studio of Laurie Corral, which she has opened to the public and print and bookmaking community. Printmaking presses and supplies are available to rent, and classes and workshops are offered throughout the year ranging from technical instruction to creative inspiration. There is a small gift shop and art gallery in the front of the space that is open to the public. While I have a small print studio at home, I prefer the bigger Vandercook machine to print my wedding invitation jobs. I love the community and creativity that happens when artists share a space.
12 pm: Printing works up an appetite, so I head over to my usual lunch spot, WALK (West Asheville Lounge & Kitchen). The space is big and airy, with high ceilings and windows, making a great ambiance for a lunch break. You can find me here about once a week with a cold beer and turkey melt (with horseradish, melted cheese and cucumbers on naan). Great service, plentiful seating, good prices and delicious food.
1 pm: After a pleasant lunch, I love to wander around the shops of West Asheville. I begin at Whist, a wonderful gift and card shop that recently relocated from Brooklyn. As a stationery designer with my own line of greeting cards, I love seeing the work by other talented card-makers. Whist offers a witty and colorful selection, and the friendly owners are helpful in picking out the perfect card.
Next door is Flora, which always gives me a “Narnia” sensation; the minute I walk through the doors I feel like I have been transported into the setting of a fairytale. This floral studio and gift shop is utterly charming, and I relish in the romantic greenery.
Further down Haywood Street is the beautiful local homestead and garden shop, Villagers. After perusing the herb, vegetable and fruit tree starts out front, I go inside and begin fantasizing about the homestead I aspire to build. Villagers offers books and tools for many authentic living options: keeping bees, making cheese, brewing beer, cultivating mushrooms, fermenting, canning and gardening. In addition to the tangible resources, the shops frequently host workshops and classes. I always leave here feeling excited about the endless opportunities for living more in tune with the natural world.
Shelter Collective is a new shop in West Asheville. The space is a work studio and retail shop for the owners who design gorgeous handbags. The shop also carries goods from many amazing designers from the local area including jewelry, pottery, clothing, woodwork, apothecary and paper goods.
3 pm: After a fun hour of shopping, I make my way across the French Broad River to the River Arts District. From the 1880s to the early 1900s, many industrial warehouses were built along the river and the railroad. In 1985, the conversion to art studios began. Now the River Arts District is home to over 180 artists, several restaurants and a brewery. Most artists’ studios are open to the public; it’s so inspiring to see the work of Asheville’s best artists and crafters. Potters, painters, printers, woodworkers, photographers and so many more practice their mastery here. Some notable spaces include Riverview Station, Asheville Glass Center, Jonas Gerard Fine Art, Wedge Studios,and Phil Mechanic Studios. My boyfriend Luke is studying the art of woodturning with M. H. Libman, so I stop by the woodshop to see the beautiful wooden bowls they are turning.
4 pm: I’m in need of a snack at this point so I pop over to White Duck Taco, such a fun place to eat. They serve small, creative tacos, made with locally sourced ingredients. The atmosphere is casual and family friendly, so I pull up to a picnic table to enjoy my tacos and flip through Mountain Xpress, Asheville’s weekly “what’s going on around town” newspaper.
4:30 pm: There may be nothing better than sharing a pitcher of beer on a sunny day sitting outside of The Wedge Brewery, so I text Luke to meet me for a cold one. It may not be five o’clock yet, but in Asheville, you will see folks enjoying a beer almost any hour of the day. Nicknamed “Beer City USA,” Asheville has the most breweries per capita with new breweries opening all the time. In the heart of the River Arts District, The Wedge is every bit industrial yet delightful. Because they only focus on beer brewing, a variety of food trucks are available almost every evening.
5:30 pm: The snack and drink have revived me so I head downtown to stroll the lively, historic streets. First stop is Malaprops. I could spend hours in this adorable bookshop and café. Asheville is rich with history, art and outdoor opportunities, and Malaprops is an excellent place to learn more about these subjects. The nonfiction section offers incredible resources for art, travel, homesteading, the natural world and spirituality.
Next shop is Earth Guild, the epicenter of Appalachian craft supplies. From basket weaving materials to looms to colorful wool from local farms, there is no craft project that Earth Guild does not have the supplies for. In addition to materials, excellent instructional books are in the back.
Luke’s birthday is coming up, so I pop into Old North to look over the beautifully made men’s ware and products. They give a sophisticated modern edge to the rugged mountain-man look.
Another shop perfect for gifts is Duncan & York. They have a fabulous selection of barware, gardening tools, soap sets and other home items.
While I have listed some favorites, downtown Asheville hosts a myriad of fantastic shops, most of which are locally owned.
7 pm: As sunset approaches, one of my favorite places to be is Sky Bar. A charming rooftop bar open only when it’s nice outside, Sky Bar offers fancy cocktails, refreshing beer and wine, and incredible views of the surrounding mountains. It is perfect for date night, or to meet up with friends.
8 pm: My summertime dinner spot is Ben’s Tune-Up. It’s located on the south side of downtown in an old converted car garage that kept the original name. The food here is Asian-American fusion done delicious. The menu is affordable, there is plenty of outdoor seating, and the cocktails are astounding. It’s the kind of place you can be in casual attire after spending the day outside, or all dressed up for a night on the town.
9 pm: After dinner, I head next door to Hi-Wire Brewing, one of the newest breweries downtown. The atmosphere is welcoming and the beers are simply marvelous. In a perfect combination of innovative and classic, I can truly say that I love every single Hi-Wire brew that I have tried. This place is especially great in the warmer months when the windows are all open.
Another exciting after-dinner option is Wicked Weed, which feels like the cooler, older brother brewery, who wears dark jeans and a skinny tie. Upstairs the food is terrific, but I prefer to go downstairs to the lively tasting room. With over 20 beers on tap at a time, there is certainly a beer for everyone.
To satisfy my sweet tooth, French Broad Chocolate Lounge offers the best chocolate in the city. It’s not uncommon to see a line out the door. This chocolate provides the most wonderfully indulgent experience.
If I’m up for live music, I check to see who’s performing at the Orange Peel. Almost any night of the week, good music of all varieties is playing. With room for 1,100 standing music enthusiasts, the Orange Peel provides a fun, intimate atmosphere for bands of all sounds and sizes.
11 pm: Having spent such a splendid day in Asheville, I head home for bed, already excited for tomorrow.
If I had more time in the day, I would also visit:
Tucked away on a side street, Zambra is a delightful tapas restaurant that is perfect for a romantic drink and a Mediterranean appetizer, or for a full course meal. The ambiance is charming, the menu is original and satisfying, and the wines are divine.
Although new and exciting, I’m betting that Rhubarb sticks around as long as the perennial it is named for. The food here is fresh, local and marvelous – all in a beautiful setting. It’s a great lunch spot to try some sophisticated, Appalachian cuisine.
Chai Pani is a fun, quirky spot downtown and their menu is inspired by Indian street food. The name, “Chai Pani,” is slang for “tasty snack.” The plates are small and the servers are friendly so I love to ask for suggestions and be adventurous. Namaste, y’all!
For visitors or locals wanting to get outside and see the mountains, Blue Ridge Hiking Company offers guided half-day, full-day, and multi-day private hikes for hikers of all ages and abilities.