Last fall, I went on a cross-state road trip through North Carolina and Asheville was one of the stops I was looking forward to the most. I had heard so many amazing things about Asheville, and let’s face it: it was named one of the top ten U.S. travel destinations by Travel + Leisure.
We only had 36 hours to explore Asheville, and we did our best to make every second count. I already know that I want to go back and visit some spots I couldn’t get to while we were there, and I’d highly recommend spending a little more time than we did here. This would make for a great extended weekend vacation, and you could easily spend 4-5 days here and still not run out of fun things to do. A big thank you to Explore Asheville for putting together a fantastic itinerary for us, and showing us a few Asheville spots that were off the beaten path!
ASHEVILLE TRAVEL GUIDE
How to Get There + Transportation Around Town
We drove from Raleigh to Asheville on our road trip, and it took us about 4 hours. Asheville also has a smaller airport that can easily accommodate folks who live a bit farther away — we had a quick layover in Charlotte, and then we were back in the Northeast. Overall, I enjoyed having a car in Asheville. Some of the places we visited were a bit too far for Uber (ex. driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and the NC Arboretum). Street parking was fairly easy as well, and the parking garages were budget friendly as well. However, if you want to go car-free, it’s super easy to grab an Uber or Lyft!
Asheville Travel Guide – Where to Stay
The folks over at Yonder NC graciously hosted us at one of their lofts in Downtown Asheville. We loved the location because we were in walking distance to so many amazing bars and restaurants, and the loft itself was beautiful and spacious! While we enjoyed it for our quick stay, this property would be fantastic if you had more of an extended stay in Asheville. I loved the full kitchen, cozy living room, and the ample amount of closet space at this property. For reference, we stayed at the Lofts 201 location.
Things to Do In Asheville: Sightseeing
- Blue Ridge Parkway: I’ve been on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, and I loved it, so I knew I needed to experience this while in Asheville as well! For those of you who aren’t the best at hiking, you can drive up and down this parkway to get some of the best mountain views. There are several scenic lookout points along the road for you to soak all of the views in.
- North Carolina Arbetorum: Hands down, this was one of the most beautiful parts of our trip. The North Carolina Arbetorum featured a large botanical garden, hiking trails, a bonsai garden, and special exhibits that rotate throughout the year. Since we visited in the fall, we got a fantastic look at some of the remaining fall foliage. When we visited, they were in the middle of setting up their holiday exhibit, so it was a bit of a transitional period for the property. However, we still loved the experience.
- West Asheville Tailgate Market: The West Asheville Tailgate Market is a pop-up farmer’s market featuring some of the best local produce, plants, and arts and crafts in the region. It is hosted every Tuesday, and in 2018 it will run from April 20-November 20. Grab a hot meal, pick up items from local artisans, and if you’re driving back home, be sure to pick up some produce!
- Gallery Hopping in the River Arts District: The River Arts District consists of a vast array of artists and working studios in 22 former industrial and historic buildings, right along the French Broad River. You could spend all day in this part of town: pop in and out of a few galleries, grab lunch and visit a few breweries. It was refreshing to get out of Downtown Asheville and explore some of these spots off the beaten path!
Things to Do in Asheville: Food
- Chestnut: Chestnut features consistently creative cuisine and some of the best craft cocktails in town. We enjoyed a pretty incredible dinner here, and they also feature a jazz brunch every Saturday from 11am-2pm.
- Calypso: Calypso was a little hidden gem in Downtown Asheville: the owner, Esther Joesph, is a St. Lucia native, and has a passion for healthy soul food and island craft cocktails. Every Wednesday, they have a “Dinner and a Movie” event, where they’ll play a classic film while you dine (Flashdance was playing when we visited!)
- Early Girl Eatery: If I were a local and I retired in Asheville, I’d want to eat breakfast here at least five times a week. Early Girl Eatery offers a delicious farm to table experience with a southern twist. I had the Veggie Breakfast Bowl, and it did not disappoint!
- 12 Bones Smokehouse: When you’re in North Carolina, you have to eat copious amounts of BBQ! 12 Bones was located in the River Arts Districts, and I can safely say that it was some of the best barbecue I’ve ever had. They serve lunch only and do not take reservations. They had some of the most delicious BBQ sauces I’ve ever had (including a Cheerwine Sauce!), and I had two helpings of mac n’ cheese.
- Cúrate: Listen: the cerdo iberico a las finas hierbas? It made my boyfriend tear up a bit. Just sayin’. Even to this day, he still gets teary eyed when he thinks about it. It’s also a great option for those on a gluten-free diet, and it’s a consistent bet. One of our friends had a birthday when we visited, and they made her a custom desert to celebrate.
- Double D’s Coffee and Desserts: Nope, it’s not a double-decker bus, it’s a restaurant! This is one of the cutest restaurant concepts I’ve ever seen, and their coffee was delicious, and a necessary pick me up. It’s located right in Downtown Asheville off of Biltmore, so stop in, grab some java, and continue sightseeing!
Things to Do in Asheville: Breweries
Full disclaimer: there are a million more breweries in Asheville that I want to try! 36 hours was not enough time to explore them all, but here’s what I was able to hit in the short time that I was there:
- Wedge Brewing: There are two Wedge Brewing locations in Asheville; however, we went to the one located in the River Arts District. I love that Wedge is so connected to the local community: they host quite a few events every month and partner with local artists, food trucks and more.
- Wicked Weed Funkatorium: I’m a huge fan of sour beers, so I knew I needed to hit up Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium. It was the East Coast’s first sour and funky beer dedicated taproom. There are over a dozen sour beers on tap, and I was in heaven!
- New Belgium: If you’re going to do a tasting and tour of any brewery in Asheville, this is it! They offer a 90-minute tour throughout the entire facility where you can learn about the process from start to finish. You also get to sample beers during the tour. It was an awesome experience to learn about the company and see how passionate their employees are about the brand!
Things to Do in Asheville: Nightlife
- Pillar Rooftop Libations: This newer rooftop at the Hilton Garden Inn was a pleasant surprise — it offered one of the best views of the city, and some of the most delicious craft cocktails in town. It was pretty chilly when we visited, but their outdoor space has tons of heat lamps to keep you warm. The bartenders were super knowledgeable and were able to whip some great drinks for us based on our tastes!
- Capella on 9 Rooftop Bar & Restaurant: Located at the AC Hotel, the Capella Rooftop had a gorgeous ambiance and fantastic drink options. This rooftop bar has a chic, European style and excellent food pairings.
- Asheville Music Hall: I loved Asheville Music Hall because it’s a budget-friendly way to see live music while in town. They’ve hosted a Tuesday Night Funk Jam for the past ten years that has become a favorite with locals in the area.
- The Crow & Quill: This gem has over 600 different kinds of spirits for patrons to enjoy and offers live music (prepare to dance!) I loved the seasonal cocktails on the menu, and the ambiance was perfect.