Bohemian. Eccentric. Offbeat. Alternative. Artsy. Historic. Asheville has been called all of these things and every descriptor is true. Jettison stereotypical thoughts about life in the Blue Ridge Mountains and get to know a city that has just as many ties to the Jazz Age as it does to washboard-toting musicians and fiber art. From museums to galleries, electro bike tours to a cornucopia of fun and funky festivals, this outdoorsy paradise truly has a vibe all its own.
Book a Room
Conveniently located in downtown Asheville within a short jaunt of everything from Wicked Weed Brewing to UNC Asheville, The Windsor is a luxury boutique hotel that features hardwood floors, apartment-like amenities (think in-suite washer and dryer and sitting areas), and a mix of Parisian-inspired and warm, modern décor. Once a steel factory, The Foundry Hotel is now an ode to what happens when history and hospitality collide. Don’t miss the hotel restaurant — it’s Appalachian cooking at its finest.
For a more homey option, there’s the Chestnut Street Inn. Rooms in the historic 1905 Colonial Revival are crisp, clean, and surprisingly airy while still retaining much of the original charm. If you miss the biscuits and gravy for breakfast, you can still grab tea on the porch before partaking in one of the on-site events such as a salsa and margarita-making class or wine tasting.
Dine & Drink
If it’s not scratch-made, it isn’t Southern brunch, at least that’s the motto at Tupelo Honey. The café serves brunch favorites like pecan pie french toast and “Shoo Mercy” sweet potato pancakes all day long. For a lighter way to kick-off your day, head to one of the Summit Coffee Co. locations and sample fair-trade, certified organic blends paired with a freshly baked bagel.
Get sauced with a side of science at White Labs Kitchen & Tap. The eatery is an opportunity for the owners to showcase their fermentation skills, with yeast infusing everything from the sourdough-based pizzas to the house list of small-batch brews. At Curate, Chef Katie Button produces seasonal versions of authentic Spanish tapas; order up a table full of bite-sized deliciousness and sample sherry and vermouth to your heart’s content.
See the Sights
The Biltmore is as close as we’ll ever get to experiencing a European manse on American soil but there’s nothing second-rate about this stunning spot. Built between 1889 and 1895 for George and Edith Vanderbilt, the 35-bedroom home also includes a whopping 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, a 10,000-volume library, a bowling alley, and an unbelievable rooftop view. Stop by to take a guided tour, of the house, explore more than 20 miles of trails and gardens, or poke your head into the winery.
One of the biggest reasons to visit Asheville (aside from the incredibly welcoming attitude of the uber-hospitable locals) is the overwhelming abundance of unspoiled terrain. This is especially true at Pisgah National Forest, a 500,000-acre tract brimming with hardwoods, whitewater rivers, waterfalls, and trails galore. It’s open for camping or grab a packed lunch from Louise’s Kitchen and have an alfresco picnic in one of the most beautiful and serene places you’ll ever traipse through.
Don’t leave Asheville without listening to as much music as possible. The local event calendar is laden with incredible acts that jump genres from folk bands to rhythm and blues to electronic music (the latter is thanks at least in part to Bob Moog, father of the Moog synthesizer and long-time Asheville resident).
Stop & Shop
While you’re at Biltmore crossing one must-see item off your travel bucket list, make a side trip to the estate’s Antler Hill Village. After you soak up Gilded Age style at one of the village exhibits and before frolicking with the goats at the Farmyard, shop for treasures at the Carriage House, seasonal souvenirs at A Christmas Past, and everything from home décor to vintage toys at other village shops.
Stock up on art at Woolworth Walk, a privately owned gallery sharing the work of 160 or so of Asheville’s most creative souls. There’s glass, paintings, sculptures, jewelry and more; browse and buy at will.
Asheville is all about small-town shops and quirky finds, so put these independent stores on your list: Malaprop’s Bookstore for great reads, Asheville Bee Charmer for hundreds of products made from or in tribute to local honey, Zapow for pop art and craft beverages, and Instant Karma for an array of hippie goodies that includes Grateful Dead songbooks, energy chimes, and sweet Asheville tees.
What to Know Before You Go
- The Best Way to Travel: Asheville is serviced by a regional airport (AVL) or you can fly into Greenville-Spartan International Airport, about 70 miles away, and rent a car
- When to Go: Asheville is pleasant all year-round except for a burst of humidity during the summer months, but fall is especially magical in the mountains
- Local Currency: U.S. Dollar
- Native Language: English
- How to Get Around: It’s helpful to have a car in Asheville but there are also plenty of ride shares, a local trolley, and even a bike taxi
- Plan To: Go chasing waterfalls. Ignore the wise words of TLC and trek to one of these favorites.
- Here’s a Hint: Walk as much as possible. It’s the best way to meet locals, ensure you won’t miss the colorful street art, and experience the slow, laidback spirit of Asheville the way it deserves to be experienced.