The Blue Ridge Mountains feed your soul, while the breweries and eateries inspire your taste buds. visit ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA to reawaken all five of your senses.
Gaining popularity in recent years due to its rapidly rising beer scene, Asheville truly has something for everyone. Through the years, I’ve had the great fortune of visiting countless times. This guide is a compilation of my favorite places to frequent!
GET THERE: The Asheville Airport is located along I-26, about 15 minutes from downtown. It sees about 20 inbound and 20 outbound flights each day, to as far away as Denver (they just added the direct flight!). It’s a smaller airport, so don’t be alarmed by slightly higher airfare. If you don’t mind hopping in a rental car and driving a couple hours to save money, Asheville is about three-and-a-half hours drive from Raleigh-Durham. It’s a two-and-a-half hour drive from Columbia, S.C. and about an hour from Greenville.
NOTE: You will need a car for exploring Asheville as most hiking is 30 minutes to an hour away from town.
STAY: Rooms, suites and whole houses, oh my! Your Airbnb options in this mountain city are varied. I’ve stayed with two other people at this affordable, stylish suite in West Asheville. This whole bungalow in the Woodfin area (north of UNC-Asheville) is perfect for four to five guests. If luxury is more your style, The Indigo, Aloft and Omni Grove Park Inn are all excellent choices. For a B&B experience, look for a spot in the Historic Montford neighborhood.
Chances are, you’ll be rolling into town later in the afternoon, so keep things simple by heading downtown for a round of drinks.
Grab a seat by the fire pit at Wicked Weed Brewing Pub, where the tap is always flowing with super suds to sip on.
Don’t get full on brew – if you’re digging delicious vegan food, walk north on Biltmore Avenue, passing through the heart of Asheville, to Rosetta’s Kitchen for a bite to eat. Their “family friendly” entree, comprised of peanut butter tofu, sauteed kale and smashed potatoes with “gravy” is a cult classic. If you’re all about the meat, drop in to Farm Burger Asheville for amazing french fries and grass-fed beef topped with fried eggs, avocado and havarti.
Start your day by fueling up at Over Easy Cafe downtown.
Can’t decide between the American Pig Omelette and Lavender French Toast? Get both – you’ll need the calories.
Your playground for the day is the Blue Ridge Mountains. Make sure your bring snacks and thing for lunch. There’s no food where you’re headed! You’ll get on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of town – we like to enter by the N.C. Arboretum. Your adventure will begin about 40 minutes south of that point, at Black Balsam Knob. Our trail review details your options for exploring this wide open bald. While you could easily spend all day here, you’re going to want to cap your time at two hours, so you have time to experience some of the other incredible spots.
After you’re done taking it all in, backtrack on the parkway, stopping at Graveyard Fields for a look at a beautiful meadow and glistening waterfalls. You’ll be able to look back up at the bald you were just playing on.
Give yourself an hour here, then hop back in the car and drive north to the Mount Pisgah trail head parking lot. We’ve detailed this hike, too. By the time you’re done summitting this baby, you’ll probably be pretty wiped. Head back to town to clean up for dinner.
Before heading to dinner, stop by the Grove Park Inn, a stunning, stone masterpiece perched on the hillside north of downtown. Grab a seat in one of the Arts and Crafts style chairs (if you’re lucky, in front of the massive fireplace) and order a glass of wine. Rest your feet and relax!
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Asheville is a food lover’s paradise. Curate’s Spanish tapas bar is a dream. Bring a friend or fly solo, and try a handful of the flavorful (and filling!) small plates.
Save room for dessert – about a block away you’ll find French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Be patient – on a weekend night, there’s sure to be a line out the door. That’s totally normal. It moves quickly and honestly, you’re going to want that time to decide what to get. Sipping chocolates, dusted truffles and moist cakes will send you to bed in a cocoa coma.
You can’t go to Asheville without visiting the Biltmore Estate.
A visit to Biltmore takes a minimum of four hours and maximum of all day. Head to the estate early in the day, right when the gates open. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around the $80 plus ticket, but if you are fascinated by homes/design/history in ANY capacity, you’re going to get so much out of the visit. Get the audio guide so you don’t have to rely on reading the placards in each room.
The story of the Vanderbilt family, which still owns the estate, is truly incredible. The ticket includes a tasting at the winery, but if you’re a wine-o, I’d probably skip it (not a fan of the wine) in favor of wandering through the gardens and grounds that surround the house.
If you only spend half a day at Biltmore, grab a bite to eat on the grounds or at The Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village (off the property). Then, hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway heading north to go for a hike at Craggy Gardens. Look for the visitor’s center around mile marker 364.
Head into the rhododendron foliage for a quick, 1.5 mile trek out-and-back on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail. The summit offers spectacular views.
When you’re finished at Craggy, head back to town. If you have the time, stop at the overlooks along the parkway. The flowers and foliage and always interesting to observe, no matter what time of year (though, remember: the parkway is CLOSED in inclement weather – be sure to check here before planning your drive).
Before dinner, grab a seat at Urban Orchard Cidery in West Asheville (I’d Uber there – nothing is too far) for a different kind of take on American cider. I like to recommend the tasting – the ciders range from a sweet English take to a spicy, habanero version.
At this point, there’s only one cure for the hunger you’re probably feeling. Have a hankering for fried chicken? Buxton Hall Barbecue is home to America’s best friend chicken sandwich. I can attest – it’s damn good. Their barbecue is just as divine. You can’t go wrong with any of their desserts.
Take note: resist the urge to stuff your face with the amazing food – you will regret it later when you don’t feel like moving.
Hop on I-26 east to the Brevard exit to explore Pisgah National Forest. For a challenging, six mile roundtrip hike, trek up Looking Glass Rock. Nearby John Rock Loop Trail is a less strenuous, but just as long, hike that gives you a clear view of Looking Glass Rock. Take a good look at Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock, too. If it’s hot outside, take a spin down the rock!
Grab a burrito at Pescado’s in Brevard if you’re hungry then head back to home base to prepare for your departure (you might cry – seriously!).
Easy add ons, depending on your preferences:
- If you really like Thai food: Suwana’s Thai Orchid Cuisine is amazing AND affordable.
- If you need another dessert fix: The Hop Ice Creamery (two locations) has great hand scooped flavors (with pretty good vegan options) and Whit’s Frozen Custard features good old vanilla and chocolate with a rotating “flavor of the week”.
- If it’s fall: Sky Top Apple Orchard offers up amazing views from its orchard in Flat Rock. The farm is about 30 minutes
- south of Asheville. Don’t leave without trying the apple cider doughnuts.
- If you’re interested in the business of brewing: Heavyweights New Belgium and Sierra Nevada both have breweries in town. You can take a tour at either. Sierra Nevada (in Mills River) offers an extensive (expensive!) lunch and dinner menu. Of course, Asheville is beer capital U.S.A. so all of the locally-based breweries offer fabulous perspectives on craft brewing.
- If you’re a Hunger Games fan: Explore the trails and waterfalls in Dupont State Forest. You might recognize Triple Falls and High Falls from the popular Hollywood franchise. I like adding Bridal Veil Falls to make an eight mile trifecta of waterfall goodness.