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Bambinos Loves Travel: Asheville Day Tripping

Posted on August 05 2019

Karen Saunders
Owner, Bambinos Boutique & Bambinos Clothing Co., mom to Annie (10) and Sadie (5), on a #shopsmallsummer mission.

Bambinos Loves Travel: Asheville Day Tripping

My family and I have had the best time this #shopsmall summer. It's become second nature when we head out for the day, whether here in San Antonio or far away, to seek out family owned gems. Our latest summer adventure was to North Carolina, where I've traveled once or twice a year since before kids, and I've rounded up some favorite family owned spots just a day trip away from Asheville. Each destination is 1-2 hours away, kid friendly, and packed with local love!

If you want to take the Shop Small Summer Challenge with me, we’d love to share your finds -- just tag us and use the hashtag #shopsmallsummer. This is a fun way explore the destinations you travel to this summer and to get to know your neighborhood a little bit more. We can't wait to see where else this journey takes us!


Biltmore Estate is technically in Asheville, but it warrants a day trip of its own. I've been dozens of times with kids of all ages (and without) and it never disappoints. Biltmore is America's largest home built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s. Today, its as grand as a visit to European castles and the 8000 acres surrounding it make it a must see.

Tip 1: Don't rush it. You need a day, a car, and a plan. 

Taking a car is easy. There is plenty of parking and the shuttles take you right up to the entrance of the house. Having a car there allows you to visit the home, the gardens, the winery, and the petting zoo on your own schedule. If you're staying in Asheville without a car, Uber certainly works. Just know you'll likely want transport during your visit.

Make your reservations ahead of time. You'll need estate tickets just to get in the gates, so even if you plan to skip the house tour, buy tickets before arriving. You save $10 with 7 day advance purchase and this summer kids are free! When you select your tickets, you'll select an entrance time to tour the house. Plan to arrive 30-45 minutes before your tour time to allow for will call pickup, parking and shuttle, restrooms, etc. 

Tip 2: Opt for a specialty tour and see a lot but not everything.

The audio self-guided tour (separate audio option for adults and kids) takes 1.5-2 hours and is worthwhile, interesting and I recommend it....just not my first choice with kids. Instead, I book a specialty tour each trip  (can't book online so call). These are small groups with amazing guides (who know how to keep kids engaged) and totally worth the $25 cost. These behind the scenes tours include parts of the house not seen on the self-guided tour and are filled with interesting bits of history. There are lots of stairs so leave the stroller outside and bring a carrier for non-walkers. The pace is perfect for little walkers to take their time holding your hand through the tour and each stop is pretty confined and away from the crowds. Afterwards you can grab a paper guide and wander through the house while attention spans hold. Kid favorites are the indoor pool, workout rooms, bowling alley, grand hallway (with outdoor access to views of the grounds - photo op), and library.  The docents all throughout the house are happy to help you skip along the route, or open ropes for you and guide your party out when littles are done. 

Tip 3: Save the best kid friendly activities for after the house visit.

Now, you'll surely have the need to get some little's wiggles out. Walk left when exiting the house to visit the gift shops, which are beautifully curated and fun for kids. Don't miss the children's books with stories about the estate and its pup, Cedric. An ice cream break at the Biltmore Dairy Bar (the estate used to have huge commercial dairy operation) is a delicious reward for good listeners!

The next stop kids (and I) love is Antler Hill Village. Its about 5 miles from the house so unless you've planned a long hike, you'll want to shuttle back to your car or Uber. There is parking for the farm and winery so its a great last stop before heading out. There are kid friendly demonstrations and crafts, play area, and a petting zoo for the littles and plenty to see and do (and eat). 

There is so much more at the estate and if you have older kids or more than a day, explore it all. I've just found a way to explore a little and keep everyone happy on a day trip!


Blowing Rock

Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock is a dream for a mother and daughter on a shop small mission! It's easily walkable, filled with local treasures and friendly shopkeepers, and there are sweet treats all along the streets to keep little ones fueled. We checked off a bunch of Christmas gifts from the list, and filled up and extra roll-aboard to bring them home. Here are some of our favorites to visit and follow.

The Last Straw - This shop has it all...women's apparel, gifts, garden and home decor, and more. Follow  @thelaststrawinc.

Sunny Day Park - Home to a children's author on a mission to spread the message: Kindness Wins.

The Mountain Thread Co. - A crafter and quilter's heaven with the most beautiful handmade catch-all baskets! Follow @themountainthreadcompany.

Prayer Garden - Words just can't capture this beautiful place. Read the story behind it and about the business that burned down next to it this summer, then follow the rebuilding of Bless Your Heart boutique.


Tweetsie Railroad - Somehow I skipped this spot for 10 years traveling to the Blue Ridge Mountains with kids and I never will again. It is so charming and so worth a drive and the ticket price. There is a day full of fun for everyone from toddler to grandmother. Start with the Wild West Train Adventure. Its a three mile shady ride with a live action performance kids will love. Then take the cutest little chairlift up to miners mountain and enjoy the rides (some even toddlers can ride alone and some you can ride with them), the Mouse Mine Train, the shows, and the petting zoo. All the live entertainment is interactive with audience involvement and no expectation that the kids stay still and quiet. The petting zoo was the highlight of our day with the tamest goats wandering free. With a handful of food they would sit in your lap and let you pet them! After all the fun on the mountain, take the chairlift back down to the Country Fair for more rides including a carousel and ferris wheel and more shows. We went on a weekday and there were no lines and no crowds, and because Boone is 3,000+ above sea level there was a bit of a temperature break and a nice breeze.

Foggy Mountain Gem Mining - This is the place for hands on fun and learning. You can experience it all in an hour or two so its the perfect add on to a day at Tweetsie. You take a bucket of ore (the Big Daddy is the perfect size for a family of 4-6) to the water flumes and sift through the dirt and rocks to find your treasure. After you've made it to the bottom of the bucket you go inside to see what you've uncovered (this is the best part)! The staff are highly trained and excellent at teaching kids (and grown ups). They go through your gems explaining each one and really get the kids engaged. The ore mix is so good that we've never mined without finding a ruby, emerald, and sapphire, along with a dozen other gemstones. You can pick one stone to have cut and polished as a souvenir (included in your bucket price) or even have your favorites made into jewelry. 


Morganton is another charming town a short drive from Asheville filled with mom and pop shops to discover and local treasures to explore. 

Adventure Bound Books - Our first stop in town was and independent book store with a lovely kids section. They were hosting a "Where's Waldo" contest and handed us a bingo card to get stamps in all the local shops nearby and turn it in for a prize. My girls said looking for Waldo while shopping all day was a highlight of their trip. What a fun idea! They host a ton of events including an annual Youth Writing Contest each summer that kids anywhere can enter online and carry adorable dolls and rattles by Clearwater Crafts, a local artist. Follow @adventureboundbooks.

Benjamin's and Libba's - Men and women's boutique with a unique mix of shoes, apparel, and accessories. I discovered two new brands here and LOVE them! Comfortable shoes are critical in retail and my new go to on the floor is the Tulip Slip On by Isle Jacobson (call the shop to order - tts). Away from the shop, I'm living in the Swiss Engineered Cloud shoe by On Running. While I tried on my dream shoes my girls were entertained by the sweetest Schnauzer shop dog, Hattie. This shop is my new shop small source for Barbour, Toms, Hunter, and Ugg! Follow @benjaminslibbas.

Hamilton Williams Gallery  - Beautiful studio and shop filled functional and decorative pottery and ceramics along with unique locally sourced gifts. One of my  favorite finds each time are the dish towels hand woven by Anita Fox of Frayed Knot. Call or message the store to grab one (or a few) for $15. Seriously the only towels I (and now my mom and mother-in-law) use at home! Follow at 

Morganton General Store - Charming Five & Dime vibe with gifts galore. We found sweet little girl pajamas, earrings for a friend, chocolate bars for the kids, puzzles for the family, and gourmet goods for our vacation kitchen. 

Root & Vine - Farm to table scratch made food, 42 beer taps, and 70+ bottles of wine and an amazing kids menu. The wood-fired pizza is a family favorite and my pick is the NC Mountain Trout and Bourbon Bacon Brownie (yum!)  The bar and restaurant scene in Morganton has changed over the last 15+ years from virtually non-existent to destination worthy and Root & Vine was one of the first to make that happen.

Pat's Snack Bar - A Morganton institution with a loyal following, this tasty breakfast and lunch spot is full of local color. Apparently in NC, if you don't have dishes or utensils you can serve food without being a restaurant. Handheld sandwiches (great Cheeseburgers and BLTs) and fries are served on wax paper and a canister of napkins and you don't even miss the plate. Don't miss Dessert First, a from scratch bakery in the back of Pat's. The coconut cake is only available on Friday and you need to get there early before it disappears (same with each day's special). It really is just like Grandma's. 

Martha's Park - Scenic playground, picnic area, plenty of shade, and a splash pad to cool off after a big day of shopping small.

Cheers to happy summer travels and a #shopsmallsummer filled with LOVE!

xo, Karen

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