October is hands-down one of my favorite months to travel. There are plenty of leaf-peeping trips you can take up and down the East Coast, the weather is incredible, and it’s nice to get on the road before the holiday season begins.
One of my favorite places to visit in the fall? Asheville. This mountain town is packed with incredible food, beer, and it is a haven for both outdoor enthusiasts and leaf peepers alike.
Last weekend, we made a very spontaneous decision to visit Asheville. We both have visited plenty of times before and wanted to explore it again since it’s within driving distance. We learned a lot during our spontaneous road trip, and now know we have to do a bit more planning in advance to take advantage of everything Asheville has to offer during COVID. I’m hoping we can squeeze in one more trip when Asheville reaches peak foliage in the next few weeks!
Thinking about planning a trip to Asheville this fall during COVID? Here are a few things you need to know when lookin for things to do in Asheville NC!
Things to do in Asheville NC
What You Need to Know
First things first: only travel if you’re feeling healthy and comfortable! I recommend booking refundable hotels and experiences, just in case you need to cancel last-minute. There is no reason to travel if you’re not feeling 100%!
Second, make sure to pack your masks. There is a county mandate that masks are required while visiting any business, so plan accordingly. I like to bring one reusable mask for every single day that I’m traveling — it’s recommended that you wear a change your masks daily!
Lastly, make time for your skincare routine. Wearing masks keeps everyone healthy, but they also might clog your pores. I followed this skincare routine each night to prevent breakouts!
Things to do in Asheville NC: How to Get There & Getting Around
Asheville is about a 7-hour drive from Washington D.C. A bit lengthy, but definitely something you can do in one day! There are also several nonstop flights to Asheville’s airport (AVL) that depart from BWI, IAD, and DCA if you feel comfortable with flying right now. We opted to make the drive this time around!
We personally loved having a car in Asheville because we could drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and get around town pretty easily, but depending on your travel style, you might not need one. Asheville has Uber and Lyft if you want to go car-free, and the downtown area is very walkable.
I wanted to limit as much contact as possible, so that’s why we opted to drive instead of fly and use Uber/Lyft. However, the decision is ultimately up to you!
Things to do in Asheville NC: Where to Stay
During our trip last weekend, we stayed at the AC Hotel by Marriott Asheville Downtown. I’m a big fan of the AC Hotel brand, and after I visited their rooftop during our last trip to Asheville, I knew I wanted to stay there.
I loved the hotel, and I thought it was clean, safe, and in a great location. It is right on College Street, in the heart of Downtown Asheville. There were so many great restaurants, breweries, and shops within walking distance! I also wasn’t charged a parking fee either to park my car overnight in their garage, which was an unexpected surprise.
The only downside I have for this hotel? The elevator had occupancy limits of 2 people and/or one family at a time. I was totally fine with this policy, but there were a few times when some of the other guests asked to join our elevator ride — despite the fact that it would exceed the COVID-19 occupancy limits. It was a bit awkward to be put in that situation, but it’s something you can expect when staying in high-rise hotels during COVID.
When we visited in 2017, we stayed at the Downtown Lofts by Yonder NC and I think that would be a great option to maintain social distancing. They have luxury private homes and lofts available for rent, and they also have support available 24/7. Their lofts are located in Downtown Asheville and are within walking distance from a ton of shops and restaurants as well!
Things to do in Ashville NC: Things to Do
Most attractions in Asheville are open at the moment: you just have to wear a mask, and sometimes, you might need to make a reservation. You can view more things to do in my last Asheville guide, but here are some of my favorite social distancing activities for COVID:
- Blue Ridge Parkway: I’m not going to lie: hiking is sometimes hard for me, with my knee problems and all. However, you can enjoy scenic views without the hike. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a must if you’re in Asheville! The mountain views are stunning, and there are plenty of overlooks and picnic areas to enjoy on the route as well.
My suggestion? Head to Craggy Gardens (MP 364) for a beautiful lookout point. Also, as it gets colder, make sure to check for possible road closures due to inclement weather before you make the trip.
- Hiking: Again, hiking isn’t my strong suit. However, if you want to go on a hike in Asheville, there are plenty of different trails to choose from at varying levels of difficulty. You can view a detailed list of the trails available here!
- North Carolina Arbetorum: I was thrilled to learn that the North Carolina Arbetorum is currently open. This is one of my favorite spots in Asheville: the property has a large botanical garden, hiking trails, a bonsai garden, and special exhibits that rotate throughout the year. Face coverings are required, and social distancing is encouraged on the hiking trails.
- West Asheville Tailgate Market: The West Asheville Tailgate Market is a pop-up farmer’s market that’s hosted every Tuesday, and it is open seasonally. Usually, it’s open from April-November. I’m really impressed with their COVID guidelines: only one guest can visit a vendor tent at a time and they also offer contactless payment options. This is a great way to support small local businesses!
Things to do in Asheville NC: Shopping
Asheville has so many incredible local boutiques, and now more than ever, they need our support! Remember: face coverings are required if you want to shop indoors in Asheville, and many stores have occupancy limits. If a store has hit the occupancy limit, you might have to wait a few minutes for someone to exit to be able to enter the store.
If you’re shopping for women’s clothing in Asheville, here are some of my favorite independent boutiques:
- Hazel Twenty Boutique: I had a hard time not buying everything at this boutique! It has a great selection of Free People, they carry some of my favorite denim brands, and they also have an incredible selection of gifts as well, just in time for the holiday season.
- Minx Boutique: Minx was the cool-girl boutique of my dreams. They have a curated selection of on-trend pieces and they carry some of my favorite brands, including Levi’s and JUST.
- EDGE Boutique: For all my boho queens out there, this shop is for you! They have a great selection of attainable brands at great price points, such as BlankNYC and Z Supply.
Things to do in Asheville NC: Breweries
Most breweries are open in Asheville, but the beer tasting experience is a lot different than usual! I highly, highly recommend that you make a reservation before visiting some of the bigger breweries in town. They are operating at limited capacity, so seating is limited. New Belgium and Wicked Weed are two of the bigger breweries in the area that accept reservations in advance. As of right now, Sierra Nevada is closed for tastings, but you can pick up beer to-go and do free virtual tastings.
Some of the other breweries we enjoyed visiting were Burial Beer Co., Eurisko Beer Co., and Hi-Wire Brewing (Big Top location). Each one of these breweries had large outdoor spaces and were places that have a good amount of walk-in availability.
Things to do in Asheville NC: Where to Eat
If you can make a reservation in advance at a restaurant, I would highly recommend it! Restaurants are operating at limited capacity, and you can avoid long wait times by making a reservation in advance.
Some of my favorite spots to eat in town are:
- Early Girl Eatery: Early Girl is an Asheville classic, serving classic American dishes with a Southern twist. While they don’t accept reservations, it’s worth the wait. You can order off of their full menu all day long, making this a perfect brunch spot.
- Sunny Point Café: We tried Sunny Point Café when we visited last weekend, and absolutely loved it. There was a bit of a wait on the weekend, but it was worth it. They were incredibly organized, and the line flowed very well. Get the Mega-Mosa and the Breakfast Burrito; you won’t regret it!
- Double D’s Coffee and Desserts: An iconic, Instagrammable coffee spot downtown. Get there early to avoid a line, and make sure to bring cash — they do not accept credit/debit cards.
- Cúrate: If you’re going to eat anywhere in Asheville, this is Tom and I’s favorite spot in town, hands down! They serve the most incredible Spanish tapas and also have a solid wine program as well. You will need to make a reservation in advance in order to dine here. Luckily, if the restaurant is booked, you can also order food for takeout or delivery to enjoy at your hotel/rental home.
- Itto Ramen Bar & Tapas: We tried out Itto for the first time last weekend, and we loved it! They have a great selection of ramen and Japanese tapas. They have a few tables outside, and limited capacity dining available inside. This is also a great place to order takeout as well!
- H&F Burger: H&F Burger has a great selection of oysters, burgers, cocktails, and pasta. They have plenty of seating available, but they also offer takeout and delivery as well.
- South Slope Cheese: Need a break from beer? If you’re a wine drinker like me, you’ll love South Slope Cheese. They have a curated cheese selection, and they also offer “to-go” cheese boxes. I love that they offer a box of cheese/charcuterie to pair with white wine, as well as a red/rosé wine option! They have a limited amount of outdoor seating available, but you can also take your cheese to-go.
- Flora: Flora is part retail, part coffee shop, and is 100% adorable. Head to the back of their shop to explore their new outdoor coffee/wine garden. I loved how much space there was here, and how spread out everything was!
Need more restaurant options? You can view my original guide to Asheville here!
Which of these things to do in Asheville NC are you most interested in trying? Let me know in a comment below!
Photos by Tom McGovern