December is upon us. As the wind sharpens and banks of grey clouds fill the sky, you’d be right to wonder what you can still do in Asheville. After all, the city’s main attractions—downtown and the Blue Ridge—both involve facing the open air. That’s getting to be a chilling proposition.
Well, my first suggestion is to simply brave the cold. The weather could be far worse. You could be in Michigan. My second suggestion is to enjoy downtown’s shopping, dining, and holiday ornamentation from the comfort of the indoors—that’s right, the indoors—via a visit to the Grove Arcade. What follows is a list of my five favorite stops within those festive halls, curated for your reading pleasure.
Longtime followers of Asheville Cottages will be familiar with my enthusiasm for this locale. After all, I am a lover of books, especially used books, especially in such a wonderfully cozy environ as Battery Park’s.
In this particular season, I’d suggest accompanying your visit here with the Exchange’s tea service. The price point is one of the best in town. Likewise, used bookstores make for excellent gift-shopping, as their products combine the personal with the unexpected.
Embrace the Season: Bring a sled-load of festive literature (A Christmas Carole, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc.) for trade. I am told they are sold at a premium this time of year. This may be your opportunity to become a millionaire.
There is little so irresistible as a shiny rock. It follows then, that the stores that sell these shiny rocks—such as Grove Arcade’s Enter the Earth—must be equally irresistible.
I can confirm this logic with personal experience. With fossils and minerals from across the globe, this stop in the Grove Arcade offers some solid opportunities to marvel at the fruits of the earth.
And again, we come to gifts. Jewelry, houseware, collectible gemstones; all are available here and all make for excellent holiday tribute.
Embrace the Season: Like the almighty bear, enter the earth, and hibernate. Perhaps you’ll find some shiny rocks of your own on that journey into the chthonic depths. Sleep and dream and awaken to a kinder climate.
If on your visit to the Grove Arcade you should find yourself with the twin problems of limited time and unlimited hunger, might I suggest Baba Nahm. Their grab-and-go Middle Eastern cuisine surges with warmth and flavor, especially the spit-roast lamb.
They say that among quality, speed, and cheapness, you can only claim two at a time. Somehow, Baba Nahm claims all three
Embrace the Season: Have Baba Nahm for your holiday dinner. Why? Well, why not?
A warm drink can set everything right on a cold winter’s day. If that drink happens to be loaded with more caffeine than you can stuff into a jet plane, then not only will everything be set right, but you will find yourself among the lucky few who can speak with the Christmas lights themselves.
All that is to say Bebettes is a nigh-necessary addition to your visit to the Grove Arcade. Grab a made-to-order beignet. Drink a latte. Absorb their energy and launch into your gift-shopping, holiday-wandering, and/or romantic evening with reckless abandon.
Embrace the Season: Mix eggnog into your coffee. The results may surprise you. The results may horrify you.
To wind down this list, and possibly your visit to the Grove Arcade itself, I’ll suggest dinner at Carmel’s Kitchen and Bar. Should you be so inclined, and so warmly garbed, their alfresco seating is some of the most spacious in downtown Asheville. As far as menu, their Southern-twist fare—fried tomatoes, pimento cheese, chicken and waffles—is a pleasure year-round, but especially when the weather demands increased caloric intake.
Embrace the Season: I once had a delectable cheerwine sauce at Carmel’s. I can’t find it on the menu but I think about it still. If you can find the sauce, I will accept it as my personal holiday tribute.
Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar
1 Page Ave #101, Asheville, NC 28801
Enter the Earth
1 Page Ave #125, Asheville, NC 28801
1 Page Ave #139, Asheville, NC 28801
Bebettes: A New Orleans Coffeehouse
1 Page Ave Unit 111, Asheville, NC 28801
Carmel's Kitchen and Bar
1 Page Ave, Asheville, NC 28801