October has passed. The leaves have put on their show. Nights are getting longer and days are colder. The crowds are dwindling and the pace is slowing. This year, 2015, was the busiest ever for the Carolina Bed & Breakfast with close to 100% occupancy for the month. Asheville has been crazy, traffic impossible and restaurants packed. So now that it is all over I thought I would take a minute to tell future guests how to get the best out of Western North Carolina in October (in ten ways!)
- Don’t Come in October
- Visit mid-week
- Consult your innkeeper
- Don’t follow the crowds
- Book in advance
- Book in advance
- Book in advance
- Don’t try to do too much
- Slow down
- Have Fun
Don’t come in October. Western North Carolina has the longest leaf season in the United States. Color starts high in the mountains, sometimes as early as the last week of September. It then spreads downward, reaching peak color in the mountains closest to Asheville around the middle of the month. The leaves in Asheville itself are generally best the last week of October and then the color spreads south to Hendersonville, Flat Rock, and Old Fort. So consider visiting the last week of September-first week of October or the last week of October-first week of November. Believe me, you will see leaves. As I write this, on November 4th, the leaves are lovely in the hills and valleys around us. They may not be as all pervasive as in the middle of the month but you will probably enjoy them more without the crowds. And when hiking the views are actually better with fewer leaves on the trees. Check out this picture taken from Looking Glass Rock in the first week of a past November. See all the color? James and I were almost alone on the rock that day!
Visit Mid-Week. I know not everyone can take advantage of this but, if at all possible, avoid the weekends. As innkeepers weekends are our busiest time which means that when we get time off it is mid-week. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes. Time and again we have had people tell us how crowded a location was when they were there on the weekend only to have our experience be very different.
Consult Your Innkeeper. I know, the Wall Street Journal says you should go to this restaurant and that site. And they are probably not wrong. But with so many good restaurants in Asheville and so many amazing sights, why limit yourself to a list shared by thousands of other people? As innkeepers, we are your feet on the ground. James and I have the enviable job of living here, eating out here, visiting the sights and exploring. Articles go out of date but our information is fresh and can be tailored to what interests you. So yes, do some homework but consider your innkeeper to be one of your best resources.
Don’t Follow the Crowds. Asheville offers so much! Some things do need to be seen. The Biltmore is unique and worth braving the crowds to see. On the other hand, there are also a thousand different places from which to view the mountains and many more roads than just the Blue Ridge Parkway. This year, the innkeepers of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association used their knowledge of the area to create a unique driving trail which will take you to one of the most beautiful valleys in Western North Carolina. You can visit artists in their homes, picnic at a vineyard and walk around a farm, all the while surrounded by some of the prettiest views ever. Every guest of ours who went on the tour loved it. It was such a success that we are offering it again in 2016. This is just one example of how you can see Asheville and the surrounding countryside in a new and different way.
Book in Advance. We usually receive our first booking for October sometime in March. Weekends are generally full by the end of August and weekdays are getting there. So if you want to come in October and you want to have your date and room of choice, book early. We have a fairly generous cancellation policy, allowing you to cancel anytime up to three days before your visit and receive your deposit back less a $40 cancellation fee.
Book In Advance. It’s not just the hotels that will be super busy in October. Restaurants are full to overflowing. So if there is a special restaurant you would like to visit, it is worth it to book well in advance. How far in advance? Recently James and I had trouble getting a table at Curate more than a month in advance of our late October visit. Not all restaurants will be as busy as Curate but it is definitely worth booking if you can. Your innkeeper will be happy to make recommendations. At the Carolina, we send a list of recommended restaurants to our guests when they book. This comes with the caveat that it is not intended to be all-inclusive (Asheville has WAY too many restaurants for that) but rather a sampling of some of the best. We are happy to help if none of them suit our guests.
Book In Advance. It’s not just hotels and restaurants that are super busy. Asheville has lots to see and do and many favorite activities can, and should, be booked in advance. The Biltmore requires a house entry time for visitors on most busy weekends and every day during October. They do this in order to manage the number of people in the house at any one time. Entries are timed to every fifteen minutes. Your innkeeper can book these for you when you buy your tickets from him. (And speaking of tickets and planning ahead, ticket prices from the Biltmore vary according to when and how you buy them. Check out your options in order to get the best price but know that the closer it is to the date of your visit the more expensive they will be to buy from the Baltimore) Other activities like Zip-lining, Segway, Beer, and Food tours are also best booked well in advance. (Or see item #1 above and enjoy them at your convenience mid-week in November!
Don’t Try to Do Too Much. Asheville really needs at least three days for a proper visit: one day for the Biltmore, one day for a hike or drive in the mountains, and one day to explore the town. And this will only touch the surface of all there is to do and see. But most people don’t have three days (or more) so it is a good idea to decide on one or two things you really want to do and limit yourselves to that leaving time to enjoy our night life and wonderful music and arts scene as well. Maybe you will be able to return another time?
Slow Down. In general, this is always good advice but in October even more so. There will be traffic and there will be crowds: but Asheville is all about people-watching, so slow down and enjoy it! Walk instead of driving. Our inn is just 3/4 of a mile from the heart of downtown Asheville. Your walk to town will take you through one of Asheville’s oldest neighbourhoods, all decked in Autumn’s glory. Explore our shops and look out for little treasures like fairy doors on the side of a building or an unexpectedly good busker. Don’t make your visit a check list of activities or you will miss the essence of this town!
Have Fun. That’s all. Just have fun.