Since “social distancing” entered our everyday lexicon in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, finding ways to hang out with small groups of friends in a safe setting has required new, creative outlets. The warmth of Asheville’s summer lent itself to outdoor, spaced and small gatherings (widely accepted to be the best way to see friends and family without spreading the coronavirus). As the chill of fall in Western North Carolina sets in, continuing outdoor meet-ups and hang-outs is still possible. Here are some ideas for fall fun with family and friends while still social distancing.
Fired up – Patio firepits offer an ideal focal point for small outdoor get-togethers. Besides providing warmth, they can do double-duty as a cooking source: Think s’mores on a stick or roasted hotdogs or kabobs on a skewer. Once the fire dies down and you’re left with hot coals, you can treat everyone to a campfire-foil “meal” (chopped veggies and a protein combined in a single-serve packet, placed in the coals – never the fire); this can also work on a grill, and eliminates the need for clean-up or shared serving dishes.
Hot spot – When the temperatures drop, turn your backyard into a cozy outdoor “living room.” Heated blankets and portable space heaters can keep your guests toasty while you socialize under the stars. Or shift hang-outs to the afternoon, while the sun is out and has had a chance to warm things up.
Garage bond – If you have a spacious garage, roll up the doors, move out the cars and set up some spaced-apart seating for a socializing spot that’s protected from the elements. Also consider carports, covered patios and screened-in decks for small gatherings that can stay safely outdoors.
Heightened activity – Even though hiking in the mountains is often associated with warm weather, the activity can be enjoyed year-round. Bundle up and meet friends on the trails for a fun way to socialize and get in some blood-pumping exercise. While the Blue Ridge Parkway closes in the colder months, there are still plenty of spots in Western N.C. to hike year-round. Pack a thermos of hot chocolate or savory soup to warm up while you take in the splendor of iced-over foliage, crisp long-range views, and clean, invigorating air. Bonus: Hiking hotspots tend to thin out during the colder, less-busy seasons, which means locals can take advantage of the open spaces to social distance while still enjoying the company of friends.
Happy trails – Asheville is replete with in-town greenways and trails, which means you can enjoy a social stroll or bike ride almost anytime. Take a group mountain bike ride (which naturally lends itself to social distancing!), either in town or a short drive away at one of the popular trails in DuPont State Forest or Pisgah National Forest.
Eat, drink and be merry – safely – Breweries and restaurants around Asheville have gotten creative since the start of the pandemic, setting up outdoor dining areas, offering touchless ordering, limiting numbers in a group, and taking extra cleaning and safety precautions to stop the spread of coronavirus. As the weather shifts, breweries and eateries continue to offer outdoor seating options, adding heat lamps and space heaters to keep customers warm. So grab your coat and head out for a brew and a bite with friends.
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