Take the Tour

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Happy tourists

Every once in a while it’s fun to play tourist in your own town. When my husband and I lived in Houston, the downtown area was a 30-minute drive away from home. We (along with friends) would stay at a hotel downtown for a weekend to take in a play or concert and eat out at some of the best restaurants in the area. It was relatively short travel to this exciting destination. In Asheville, downtown is a mere 10 minutes from our driveway, so we don’t feel the need to do an overnight stay. But doing touristy things in Asheville gives us that “we’re visiting” vibe which makes it seem like we’ve traveled to somewhere new and exotic.

One excursion was to the Grove Park Inn, a historically famous hotel nestled in the hills with a bar, restaurant, spa and gardens and fantastic views of the mountains. You can go there any time for free to walk the grounds and sit in the bar for a drink (not free) and enjoy the vista. As we strolled through those nostalgic hallways, we gaped at all the pictures of famous dead people who had graced the place with their presence. It’s one of those fantastically expensive places where we might spend a night or two after winning the lottery. But since it is not downtown and there is actually not much else there besides the building itself and a couple of tiny museums, one featuring old cars and another exhibit of Asheville’s weaving industry of yore, a pricey weekend stay is not likely to entice us.

Hop aboard

There are plenty of trolley tours of our quaint mountain town. We took one called Haunted Asheville. We hopped on the open-air trolley at a downtown location and settled in for the guide’s stories about the weird, bizarre and eerie goings-on in numerous places around the city. I found it suspect in that many of the so-called ghosts were well-known figures in Asheville’s history. But, we got to see our famous cemetery, houses and hotels of unfortunate occurrences and other odd places being haunted by named and unnamed weirdos of old. That’s all you see. No ghosts. I felt I should have had a drink before hopping aboard for such a disappointing jaunt through these historically haunted locales. Then I might have been more open to believing Zelda Fitzgerald makes the occasional appearance in the window of the ex-sanitorium on dark and stormy nights. I’m willing to bet you can find just such a tour in whatever town you happen to be visiting, no matter when it was founded. Good luck seeing actual ghosts though…

One type of tour that’s fun to do is a walking restaurant tour. We’ve done this in other places, but not yet in Asheville. Walking around and stopping at different eateries to sample the wares combines two of my favorite activities! Most tours accommodate vegetarians and vegans if you make that preference known. You get to sit at a table and try not to talk politics with complete strangers, which is easier to do than with your own relatives. If you’re lucky, you might find a new favorite restaurant–a place you’ll come back to next time you’re nearby. Of course, you might also find the one you would never set foot in again. Any restaurant can have an “off” night, so you should try not to make too harsh a judgement about the slimy pickled duck feet everyone else was served while you noshed on the delicious fiddlehead ferns in foam. Then again, read the entire menu before deciding to carve a wide path around the place.

Brewery reward

One wonderful type of visit is to a local brewery, of which Asheville has many! We toured the tiniest brewery in the area, for which we didn’t even have to leave our table. The owner merely pointed to the corner in which each contraption of beer brewing was sitting. The cidery we toured was slightly bigger than that, requiring a ten-minute trip around some large vats and a whole lot of lecture on how cider was made vs. beer. In both places, the tasting that went with the tour was of course, the most fun and least boring part. There are a couple of gigantic brewing enterprises in town, but that just means you have to do more walking and less imbibing of their final product. If you don’t drink, you can amuse yourself by asking the guide if they serve anything nonalcoholic and watch the immediate cringe (whether of embarrassment or disgust, I don’t know).

I must admit I have not toured any local wineries, but I will if anyone knows of a place where you get to stomp around in a vat of grapes with your bare feet. You can assume nobody will be consuming that particular batch on the day of your visit, but then, you might be drinking the squishings of some former visitors. They boil that stuff, don’t they? If someone ferments something in your home town, you can bet on them offering tours of the place along with an over-informative lecture on how it’s done. Breweries, wineries, cideries, meaderies and anything with a drinkable first syllable and an eries at the end are a sure bet that your tour will end with a bang. Consider taking one of those little buses that roam from place to place so you can try it all. Then eat something and call an Uber to get home.

Nice places to see

We took a tour yesterday which promised to take us walking around downtown. It was a Meetup group run by a friend, and although around downtown sounded rather vague, we signed up for meandering with a knowledgeable person on a nice afternoon. A lot of other people did as well, so we formed a rather large and unwieldy group of fogies puttering along and taking up space on the sidewalk. We went to at least one place I had never been (Triangle Park!) and that was enough to satisfy my wanderlust without getting lost. If there’s a neighborhood in your area you’d like to cruise around in, find a friend who is familiar with the location and promise to buy them a beverage of their choice if they go strolling with you there. I’ve hit up a few parts of town with one friend, who I have informed must remain fully cohesive throughout our journey lest I get lost and can’t find my way back to the car. When you trust your guide, you can roam around in your head while losing track of your whereabouts on the streets of your own community. For free…not counting the beverage.

Bad things happened here

There’s all sorts of tours one can take at home, especially if you live in a touristy area. There are tours for almost everything, almost everywhere. Architectural and geological tours, if you are so inclined. Historical tours of houses, neighborhoods, cemeteries, places where bad things happened, like Gettysburg Battlefield or the grassy knoll in Dallas–both of which I’ve toured, and places where good things happened such as Betsy Ross House and the Astrodome, and even places where nothing much has been going on, maybe the U.S. Senate. Where ever you live, big or small, somebody wants to proudly show you around. You can start by looking for that special place in your own home town.

Tour responsibly,



  1. We have a water tower you can visit..,,, ha ha. And the sun shines here when it’s not cloudy, so many out of towners may be visiting our area in April! Hint

  2. You’ve brought forth a desire in me to be touristy in Houston again!

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