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From Art Trails to Apple Picking: Unique Ways to Experience Color-Changing Foliage Outdoors

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18 Aug 2020

In Western North Carolina, September marks the conclusion of the summer season by offering one final major holiday: Labor Day. To many, this holiday weekend is the final opportunity for them to trade the 9-5 workday for a getaway and for their kids to make the most of their final stretch of summer vacation before school begins again. While it’s still technically considered summer until the end of the month, September offers a slight break from the intense heat and instead gives way to breezes and milder temperatures. The month of September also marks the gradual and much-anticipated transition into the fall color season. 

When booking your Labor Day Weekend stay, take advantage of our search by amenities option to include a gas grill, outdoor fire pit, or spacious deck to soak in the last bit of summer. Even though Fall looks and feels slightly different this year, there’s still many seasonal activities that you can enjoy with your friends and loved ones while still maintaining comfort and safety. 

Art Crawl 

They say that art is subjective, and while there are plenty of fine artists that have made the mountains their home and inspiration for their pieces, there's also an incredible urban art scene throughout the city. Journeying through downtown, you’ll find everything from pastel storks to Asheville “saints” to flying squirrels. The best part about these colorful and complex installments is that they’re completely free to enjoy. Trust us when we say that there’s another category of beauty to explore in the eccentric Land of Sky during the fall apart from natural landscapes.

Welcome to Asheville! The Lexington Gateway mural began in 2008 as an effort to radically transform the stark, dull concrete construction into a creative manifesto by and for the community. The mural covers the six concrete piers that support the I-240 bridges over Broadway Avenue and is the entryway into our eclectic downtown.  

If a 10ft painted chicken serving major side eye doesn’t draw you in, I don’t know what will. Chicken Alley, as it’s affectionately called, was once the hot spot for chickens to gather and where a family-run poultry processing plant ruled the block over a century ago. With it’s haunted history and clever backdrop of chickens hanging upside down in a stylized pattern, Molly Must’s gorgeous mural tucked within this narrow alley is a must see while you’re downtown. 

Above the parking lot of Patton Avenue Pet Company in Downtown along the wall it shares with Well-Played Board Game Cafe, there is a mural filled with the most curious and imaginative comic strip characters and surrealist depictions that fits perfectly between the two businesses. From a hare with a speech bubble above its head that reads “Better Checks than Houndstooth” (a punny nod to the pattern that fills in the outline of its body), to swirling patterns in black, green, and pastel blue to mischievous animals grinning with hypnotized eyes and dancing feet, it’s a mural that never fails to capture the attention of those that pass it. 

The “Good Vibes” and “Stay Weird” Silo in the River Arts District is shrouded in graffiti and wisdom. The message has changed a few times in the last several months, but it currently reads “Stay True” which serves as the perfect reminder to remain authentic in the face of adversity and unncertainty. Some people read horoscopes, but we prefer to read the River Arts Silo.

In West Asheville you’ll find a larger-than-life mural of the beloved blonde herself, Dolly Parton. This portrait is the perfect tribute to the Patron Saint of Dreams, Butterflies, and Country Music, and it’s the perfect selfie backdrop for her admirers. 

The BMCA (Black Mountain Center for the Arts), a historic landmark and fixture in the community, recently added a mural that realized a long time dream of theirs. The mural is a stylized representation of all the activities that take place inside and was created for “all of the artists, past, present, and future who have called Black Mountain home.” 

This gorgeous portrait of the famous female knight, Joan of Arc, can be found at Beacham’s Curve in West Asheville. She is framed by Willy-Wonka-esque colors and shapes, turning this tale from antiquity into a bright, contemporary tribute. The local artist, Ian Wilkinson, has a trove of other work sprinkled around the city including Day Dreamer (on the side of Aloft hotel downtown), Blue Heron (Cotton Mill Studios in River Arts District), Girl with Dandelion (Pleb Urban Winery in River Arts District), and the Graffiti Silo mentioned above.

On the wall of Black Mountain Brewing, you’ll find the grammy-winning songstress who was also a native of the town. Roberta Flack, famous for the 1970s classic hit "Killing Me Softly With His Song," was born in Black Mountain and lived here until she was nine years old. This stunning mural done in various shades of gray, black, and white, is a dramatic and beautifully-crafted rendition of an iconic figure in Black Mountain’s history that should not be missed.

These awe-inspiring sites not only tell the story of our historic city, they prove that art is a living and breathing force that shows the inner workings of the people who inhabit that city. Take a stroll under the golden ginkgo trees, feel the cool breeze, and sip a cup of delicious coffee while you observe regional art in its many forms. From stunning portraiture in murals to classic graffiti to art deco architecture to surrealist comics, the city of Asheville delivers when it comes to art and arbor. 

Recreation & Adventure 

One of the biggest draws to the Asheville area is the fall season’s peak color. While the vivid scarlet, gold, and pumpkin-colored trees can be spotted on any given drive or stroll through the city, there are certainly ways to snag the best vantage point. 

Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop at an overlook or trailhead for hiking, or continue driving to other neighboring hiking spots. Scale the highest peaks to see the peaks of color in a sea of trees all around and beneath you, or journey to a waterfall where the leaves have collected in the pools of water at the base. Waterfalls are undoubtedly a mighty and beautiful sight to behold, but that beauty is enhanced tenfold in the fall. 

Another possible activity that incorporates fall foliage is through Guest Services where you can add on our Outdoor Adventure Package. Offered through French Broad Rafting and Ziplining, you can glide along the treetops or feel the thrill of rafting over boulders and waterfalls. This package is a great family outing that offers excitement while including magnificent scenery.

September also kicks off the Horseback riding season at Camp Rockmont for Boys which is nestled in Black Mountain in the Swannanoa Valley. When camp isn’t in session, horseback riding instructor Sara Boelt operates Lighter Mount Horsemanship at the Camp Rockmont barn, teaching children and some adults several different equine activities including: horsemanship and riding lessons, guided trail rides, Saturday day camps, and equine transport. There’s no doubt that this old-world activity allows you to take in the stunning autumn scenery in a very unique way. 

Apple Picking

One of the greatest things about Western North Carolina is experiencing the four distinct seasons, and there’s nothing better than when the sultry summer days give way to chilly fall mornings. Autumn is a magical time in the mountains because the cool weather is often accompanied by cozy sweaters and flannels while sipping warm drinks and crisp ciders. Pumpkins and squash are ripe and ready to be used for savory soups, and the leaves are changing from vibrant green to gold and scarlet. During this prelude to fall, there is a beloved pastime that heralds its arrival: apple picking!

As one of the top ten apple-producing states in the nation, North Carolina’s Henderson County (neighboring Asheville) serves as the top apple-producing county in the state. Generally, different varieties of apples can be picked from August-November, with September and October being the peak months. Fun for family and friend groups, there are several orchards in and around the Asheville area that offer autumnal activities and apple-flavored goodies along with apple picking. From Skytop Orchard’s apple-cider donuts, fritters, and slushies to Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard’s corn maze,  Apple Cannon, and wagon rides, you can spend an entire fun-filled day outside before returning home with your treasure trove of Honeycrisp, Jonagold, and Red Delicious apples. 

Staying at one of Greybeard's Hendersonville or Lake Lure vacation rentals will offer easy access to the area's best orchards. After finding the perfect orchard, be sure to check out an apple-ripening schedule to help you decide when to visit.  

Farmer’s Markets & Tailgates

One of the best ways to show your love for a city and preserve its unique character is to support its local economy. Not only does it help the farmers and makers, buying local also means you get quality materials, organic ingredients, and impeccable craft in the goods and foods you’re purchasing. Asheville is home to over 15 local tailgate markets, all selling farm-fresh produce and artisan wares. Every week during market season you’ll find artists, bakers, farmers, cheese makers and more congregating to provide the best in locally-made products. Here are a few to visit during your stay:

Asheville City Market (Downtown)
Saturdays 8 AM-12 Noon, April-December
You’ll find this popular market between Woodfin Street and East Walnut Street. Free parking for Asheville City Market is available at the HomeTrust Bank lot and the lot across from the YMCA at 35 Woodfin Street. This market is held outside until the 3rd Saturday in December (with special holiday hours) before it moves indoors to the Asheville Masonic Temple during the winter. 

Asheville City Market (South)
Wednesdays 12-4 PM, April-October
This is a mid-week market operated by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), and it’s located off Long Shoals Road on I-26 (Exit 27) in the center of Biltmore Park on Town Square Boulevard.

North Asheville Tailgate Market
Saturdays 8 AM-12 PM, April-November
This is the area's oldest market with 40+ of the best farmers, bakers, growers, chefs, and artists who offer a wide range of products. It’s located on UNCA’S Campus on Commuter Lot #C. You should enter UNCA from the WT Weaver Blvd. via a traffic circle onto University Heights, and then you’ll see the market on the first lot to the right. 

West Asheville Tailgate Market
Tuesdays 3:30-6:30 PM, April-November
It’s located at 718 Haywood Road, Asheville

East Asheville Tailgate Market
Fridays 3-6 PM, May-September
It’s located at 954 Tunnel Road, Asheville

River Arts District Farmers Market
Wednesdays 3-6 PM
This “producer-only” market offers sustainably-grown fruits and vegetables, baked goods, wood-fired breads, and an amazing selection of meats, goat cheese, and handmade soaps. It’s located at 175 Clingman Avenue in the River Arts District. 

Black Mountain Tailgate Market
Saturdays 9 AM-12 Noon, May-October
It’s located behind the First Baptist Church in Black Mountain at 130 Montreat Rd.

Henderson County Tailgate Market
Saturdays 8 AM-12 Noon, April-October
One of the oldest open-air markets in Western North Carolina, this unique market has a festival feel, with local growers who operate small family farms in Henderson County. It’s located at 100 North King Street in downtown Hendersonville. 

Shopping local is about supporting sustainability and culture, but it’s also a way for you to enjoy the best of what our area has to offer. Smaller local farms are more likely to use sustainable farming practices and to grow a wider variety of crops while smaller businesses are more likely to use quality materials and be more ethically-minded in their designs and working conditions. Tailgates and markets keep the spirit of community alive, hearkening back to times past, and they offer variety and inspiration in every product, from the locally-grown vegetables to handcrafted wooden tables to gather around and enjoy them on. 

To avoid the crowds at restaurants and enjoy quality time with the ones you love, we recommend grabbing some local groceries at these markets and heading back to the gourmet kitchen in your vacation rental to enjoy your own fresh, farm to table meal.