Santa's Land, Tupelo Honey, & The Thirsty Monk

When you think of the mountains of North Carolina in May, you naturally think of Santa, elves, reindeer, and baby bears right?  Ha! On Tuesday morning we had originally planned on going to the Biltmore in Asheville.  We weren't planning on touring the house, just the petting zoo, grounds, and winery.  When I went online to check the time it opened and details I found out that there is no way in without buying a full ticket.  At $60 a person.  Um.  No.  Everyone with us had already been before so it just wasn't worth it. Poppy made the suggestion to check out Maggie Valley. I did a little research decided it looked good and we all headed out for the day.

My first stop was going to be Ghost Town in the Sky.  An old western town on top of the mountain that you take a chairlift up to.  When we got there it was closed. Apparently a new owner had purchased it and was redoing it.  We began seeing signs and billboards for Santa's Land in Cherokee. I pulled it up on my phone and it had rides, trains, baby bears, animals so we decided to make the drive to see it. All the way there through the winding roads we saw these bill boards and Poppy and I kept saying to each other that we bet when we get there it is a hokey little tourist trap.  Fortunately, we were wrong!

Santa's Land turned out to be the highlight of my little ones trip.  I was super impressed with how nice it was, clean it was, friendly, and the best part.. everything was geared toward my little ones and there really weren't any other visitors there at the time we were!  SCORE.  They had freedom to see and try and do and ride anything they wanted to as much as they wanted too.  

Christmas card?? 

The elf making deer shoe nail rings

The boys loved feeding all the animals through the holes in fence!  (No, they didn't let you feed the bears!)

feeding goats

climbing candy mountain

catching mommy

One of the biggest hits?  The arcade!  Their first trip to an old fashioned arcade.  The won tickets and were super excited about all the junk prizes they won..

picking ducks for tickets

stomping spiders

When you ask Eli & Beckett about their favorite part of the mountain vacation.  Eli says "riding the rollercoaster" and Beckett says "helicopters"  Both were at Santa's Land.  These were original old vintage rides.  They were so cool.  And perfect for their size.  

race cars

tow truck


Dad and Beckett are on the fire truck

The captain :-)

Reindeer names

That is my Eli on this roller coaster!

my Beckett's favorite! It had a bar to "fly" it up and down

 We went to the feeding of the bears.   I told Eli "look baby, the bears are eating their lunch" and Eli said "mommy, Eli want to eat some lunch!"  Time for a pizza break :-)

They both love choo choo trains and this one did not disappoint either one of them.  While we waited on the train they had a great time on the playground with dad.

Yep.. even the Easter bunny was there :-)

After the train, we ran into the man himself.  Well, let's say - they ran from the man himself.  Neither wanted to get close to the Santa Claus.  You can see them headed for him, they get a good view, and then they both head the other direction.  This happened twice! May love the North Pole but not the head chief :-)

and they see the man in red.. 

and they cross the tracks!

Beckett is out. of. here.

Spent my birthday with Santa :-)
 A great end to a very merry day at Santa Land.  On the way out, Poppy & Justin won the boys a prize in a shoot out game.  They are IN LOVE .. and my sweet boy shared his juice with his new mountain friend.

I have to say that as excited as I was that day about parting ways to spend my birthday in Asheville, I got all teary saying good bye to my sweet boys.  After some hugs and love, Justin and I borrowed Dave's car and headed for some adult fun and birthday time in Asheville.   After a quick nap and showers we set out for some fun on the town. Asheville is such a cool town and it did not disappoint in food or beverage.

After researching we decided to eat at Tupelo Honey Cafe.  Its been voted one of the top farm to table restaurants in the country.  They grow as much of their vegetables as they can and purchase the remaining from area farmers, co-ops or organic providers.  They are a "new south" restaurant with a spin on the traditional southern dishes.   The restaurant has such a cool vibe and I love that their bar is called "The Pickled Okra".  How cute!  Well, it didn't have to be too cute because the food was amazing.  AMAZING.   We started off with fried green tomatoes over gouda grits (A+) and the waitress immediately brought us fresh scratch made biscuits with local blueberry homemade jam.  Hmm... We also tried the brussel sprouts because we are loving them at home right now and wanted to see how they were made.  I LOVED them, Justin said mine were better.  Whoa!  Huge compliment there :-)  Now we ordered 2 dishes.    Here is the description of the trout -

Sunburst Mountain Trout with Capers, Roasted Red Peppers and Spinach Beurre Blanc » Our sautéed trout is topped with a spinach beurre blanc with capers and roasted red peppers then sprinkled with toasted almonds. Served over our signature Goat Cheese Grits and garnished with asparagus spears.

And the Shrimp and Grits

Brian’s Shrimp and Grits » When your chef puts his name on a dish, he has to be pretty proud of it. Such it is with our shrimp and grits – seven large delectable shrimp served over goat cheese grits and anointed with a spicy roasted red pepper sauce - SHOO-Mercy » A dozen shrimp with bacon, caramelized onions, spinach and sautéed mushrooms

Hands down winner no questions asked - the trout!  I literally could have licked the plate.  I think its the first time I had trout too and was super surprised how light and tasty.  The shrimp and grits were just WAY too spicy. Although we were happy to cool off with a blueberry lemon cream pie.  Delish!

Across the street and down the block a little we visited The Thirsty Monk You would have thought it was Justin's birthday because it was his dream bar.  Really.  I mean Garden & Gun ranks it in the top 50 bars in America.  So there you have it.

What was cool about it was not just the vibe but the incredible selection.  I ordered from the top and Justin says to the bartender.. do you have any Belgium beers on tap because he couldn't find any on the menu.  The guy said "just 100 on tap in the basement?" What??

So of course we headed downstairs to check it out.  They handed him paper, pens, a menu, and Justin was over the moon.  Shouldn't have written down what we tasted from the flight but I was too busy enjoying my local blueberry wheat from Pisgah.  

Making his selections

#4 was my favorite :-)

How funny is this?  Grape beer!
After lots of yummy food and drinks I have to say we hit the hotel pretty early for it being a birthday night.  I needed my rest though because the next morning I hit the gym, pool, and spa before heading to my spa morning booked for my birthday by sweet Poppy and Dee Dee.  It was the perfect "touch" to the vacation!

Before heading back up the mountain we stopped at one of our favorite missed places that reminds us of sweet home Alabama.. Zoe's!  Um.. I dream of that Greek dressing and chicken salad :-)

With birthdays like these I don't mind getting older!  What a special treat.  Thanks Poppy and Dee Dee for the time away to relax, enjoy each other, and get to know Asheville a little better. Oh yeah.. and to eat a meal without high chairs and food on the floor :-)  


The Riley's