By Torie Temple

View from Grove Park Inn 

Four years as a Marine in Camp Lejeune is where Laurel Lippay developed a love for North Carolina. Even after she came back to Louisville and traveled for Yum Brands Inc., North Carolina remained close to her heart. Her continued passion for the state has made her an expert on all things Asheville. Find out Laurel’s recommendations for unusual tours, historical stays, and irresistible eats.

Owning her own business, Lippay Way, allows Laurel to travel more than 10 times a year with Ashville being her favorite destination. Not only does she love the great food and endless activities, she enjoys the Louisville-like ambiance and the short five-hour drive. With each trip to Asheville, Laurel seeks out historical places to stay such as the Grove Park Inn. “It was bought by the Omni Hotel system but still has the old-time feel,” she says. “The spa is the best spa I have been to in the United States. It’s literally where I go in my mind when I meditate. Words are hard to find for this heaven on earth.”

The Grove Park Inn has been treating guests to a heavenly retreat for 102 years and has played host to many presidents along with other dignitaries and noteworthy people. The Inn is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and continues the nature theme in its spa with cavern-like areas, rock walls, and therapeutic water. The Inn offers events throughout the year and activities such as golfing, swimming, and a history tour that covers the construction and early years of the resort. Click here for one of the luxurious spa sessions such as the Heaven Series Treatments.

If you’re famished after a long day of pampering, Laurel says you can eat your way through Asheville with the Eating Asheville Food Tour. “We do this each time we go to Asheville,” she says. “It’s an affordable way to try many local restaurants. I would recommend doing it on day one so you get to know the downtown vibe and get to test four to five great spots before you make reservations for dinner.” With 30 restaurant partners, Eating Asheville takes guests to several of the city’s top eating establishments that are open just for the participants. Chefs and owners talk to the participants about the dishes that are prepared especially for the tour. The two-and-a-half-hour walking tour not only provides the chance to fill up on high-quality foods but also allows visitors to get an eyeful of historic downtown.

The Lexington Avenue Brewery is one of Laurel’s favorite spots. 
Catawba Brewing Company 
Wicked Weed Brewing 

After the food comes the drink, and you can get plenty of it while on a brew tour. “For beer lovers like my husband Norm and two stepsons, there are a lot of breweries within walking distance of each other,” Laurel says. Asheville Brewery Tours offers different ways to dive into each brewery, including walking tours or a ride in its passenger van. From tastings to in-depth insights on each brewery, Asheville Brewery Tours has each day of the week covered. “We liked Catawba and Lexington Avenue Brewery the best,” Laurel says. “But Wicked Weed Brewing is an attraction in itself and should be visited just to get the Asheville vibe.”

Cabin in the hills of North Carolina where Laurel and her family have stayed. “So many locations in and around the Asheville area,” says Laurel. “Great, easy to use app; helpful staff and beautiful properties — highly recommended.”

Not only is there plenty of food and drink in Asheville to fill your stomach during your visit, but the abundance of shopping and attractions will fill your calendar. While the Biltmore Estate may be a staple in Asheville, hidden in its shadow sits the Biltmore Village, which Laurel describes as a quaint village where you will find stores selling Christmas decorations and gifts as well as furniture stores, antique stores and cafes. The village was originally built for the Biltmore estate workers and the community, but it has since grown into a contemporary shopping destination. The Corner Kitchen is Laurel’s favorite place to have brunch on her shopping expeditions through the village, but she recommends making a reservation for this popular historic restaurant.

You can shop for a varied selection of items — including furniture at Biltmore Village. 

Eating at the Corner Kitchen is a treat for Laurel. 

If the Biltmore Village isn’t enough, the River Arts District will be the perfect next stop to get your art fix. Home to painters, clay and ceramic artists, and basket weavers, the River Arts District is a place to score memorable souvenirs and, according to Laurel, a great cup of local coffee.

Art enthusiasts will be able to find something they love at The River Arts District. 

“Asheville is at the top of my three favorite places I have traveled,” Laurel says. (Her other two are North Topsail Beach in North Carolina and St. Augustine, Florida.) “There are things about it that are like Kentucky.” They say there is no place like home, but for Laurel, Asheville sure comes close.

Laurel at Zambra Wine and Tapas.