Updated: October 26, 2018
Asheville, North Carolina is a quaint mountain town nestled in between three of the state’s most popular National Parks: Pisgah, Nantahala, and Great Smoky Mountain. It is known for its bustling college life, foodie hotspots, and endless outdoor activities. The streets are lined with hip boutiques, micro-breweries, and eclectic street performers. Asheville is one of my favorite North Carolina destinations for all these reasons and more. I have been countless times and still manage to find new things to explore every visit.
Asheville is about three hours from my hometown, so growing up it was a frequent summer and winter destination. From Biltmore House school field trips to romantic outdoor adventures with David, I have so many amazing memories in Asheville. I have put together my favorite places to visit, eat, and drink below, but if you are interested in a free custom itinerary or want more recommendations, please contact us!
How to Get There: See Fall 2017 Destinations Post
What to Do
Walk around Downtown Asheville: You don’t need a rental car to explore the vibrant downtown Asheville. It is walkable, friendly, and full of life. There is no shortage of fun shops, cute cafes, and people watching. In fact, I would argue the people watching is the best in North Carolina. Oh, and the food scene is on point.
Mast General Store: Right in the heart of Downtown Asheville lies Mast General Store. There are several throughout the state of North Carolina, and the one in Asheville is top notch. Mast General carries a variety of home goods, old timey candy, and cozy outerwear. It is pet-friendly and a great place to spend an hour or so.
Kress Emporium: One of my favorite shops in Asheville for multiple reasons. 1. It houses 100+ local artisans’ handcrafted products. From candles to artwork to Christmas ornaments, they have a little bit of everything. My most recent purchase from this magical store was a hand-sewn journal that I will be using for my next big trip (details coming soon!).
Asheville Urban Trail: The 1.7 mi walk through downtown is a great way to hit the highlights and get some exercise. The official starting point is Pack Place. Maps are available at lots of restaurants and stores downtown.
Craggy Gardens: Beautiful, easy trail with lots of options ranging from a 0.8 mile round-trip walk to the visitor’s center to a 6.2 mile hike on the Mountains-to-Sea trail. Dog friendly. About half an hour from Asheville.
Pick Apples: August-October is apple-picking season in North Carolina. There is a stretch of apple orchards about 30 minutes south of Asheville. Picking your own apples is a perfect fall activity. Plus, who doesn’t love endless apple pies all fall?
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway: Coined as one of the most scenic drives in the United States, the Blue Ridge Parkway is absolutely stunning. The 469-mile stretch of road is beautiful year-round, particularly in the Spring – when the flowers are blooming – and the Fall – when the leaves are changing colors. Asheville exits are between Mileposts 382 and 293. Craggy Gardens and Mount Mitchell are two great spots for a picnic or hike. As a word of warning: part of the Blue Ridge Parkway closes in the winter months, so make sure to check road closures before setting out on your scenic drive or adventure.
Visit the Grove Park Inn: This romantic and luxurious inn happens to also be the spot my parents got engaged on New Years Eve decades ago. The holiday and winter season is an extra special time to visit the Grove Park. For one, they have the largest wood-burning fireplaces I have ever seen, and who doesn’t love drinking hot chocolate in a rocking chair in front of a wood-burning fireplace. Exactly. Two, the Grove Park holds an annual Gingerbread House contest. The houses are displayed between November 26-January 4 and boy are they are sight to see. Three, the spa. It is the best spa I’ve ever been to, hands down. It is on the expensive side, but oh so worth it. Check out their website for more details.
Visit the Biltmore House: Ok, so I must say I am torn about this one. I feel like everyone should see the Biltmore House once just because of the history, but once is sufficient. The house itself is impressive and the grounds are immaculately maintained. Outside of the interesting history, to me, it is just a historic home with a high admissions fee. My recommendation: Asheville has too much to offer to spend a full day touring Biltmore House so spend your time elsewhere.
Where to Eat
Plant: A new favorite! The perfect upscale plant-based restaurant for your next date night. The vegan cheese plates was phenomenal!
Elements: Smoothies, avocado toast, and fresh pressed cashew milk. This is my go-to for a healthy, quick breakfast.
Tupelo Honey Café: An Asheville icon. I ate here for the first time a few weeks ago and I must say, the food and service were great. We ordered the crispy brussels sprouts, veggie burger, shrimp and grits, and shakshuka. It might be a little overpriced, but overall it was a great experience.
Cúrate: My favorite dinner spot in Asheville. David and I were introduced to this Spanish tapas hotspot by two friends back in 2014. It has only gotten better with time. They offer a wide selection of small hot and cold plates, charcuterie, and paellas. I prefer the hot over the cold small plates, but both are delicious. Book as far in advance as possible because they fill up weeks in advance, although you can try to get in early and sit at the bar.
White Duck Taco Shop: The perfect place to grab a quick lunch or small snack. White Duck offers individual tacos for around $3/piece. My favorites are the Lamb Gyro and Bangkok Shrimp. They have two Asheville locations so chances are, you aren’t too far from one.
Trader Joe’s Picnic: I love a good picnic. Downtown Asheville has a great Trader Joes and even better picnic locations. Grab some meat and cheese and head to the River Arts District where there are plenty of places to have a seat and enjoy the view.
Wicked Weed: There is no shortage of breweries in Asheville. There IS a shortage of breweries with delicious food, but don’t worry, Wicked Weed has got you covered on that front. David and I visited Wicked Weed on a romantic weekend trip last year. We had a beer at the bar before enjoying the best burger I’ve ever had. They offer your traditional bar food (at a high quality) and small plates which make for a perfect afternoon or evening out.
Where To Drink
Fun fact: Asheville has the most breweries per capita in the United States.
Wicked Weed: Given its prime location, Wicked Weed makes a convenient place to drop-in after an afternoon of exploring Downtown Asheville. The beer is great and plenty, and did I mention the food is good?
Sierra Nevada: Located right outside of Downtown Asheville. The massive property houses a Sierra Nevada brewery plus a tap room, walking trails, and activities for the whole family. It is truly a unique brewery experience.
Other breweries: There is no shortage of small and large breweries in Asheville. It feels like there is one at every corner. Whatever your beer preference, you are sure to find it in Asheville.
Dobra Tea: Not into beer? No problem! Dobra Tea Room is a cozy café in Downtown Asheville (with other Asheville and US locations). They have a wide selection of tea and baked goods. A great place to relax or take a break after exploring.
Looking for more recommendations? Visit these websites!