Asheville, North Carolina, offers plenty for visitors to do in every season. Though fall is definitely time to do a little leaf-peeping – the mountains here are especially gorgeous – and summer calls for waterfall hikes and river tubing, no matter when you visit, there are a few essentials you simply have to see, experience, taste or drink to make your Ashville visit feel complete. We’re helping you get started on your own Essential Asheville list with a few of our favorites.
The Biltmore Estate has been an Asheville icon for more than a century. On the 8,000-acre estate stands America’s largest privately-owned home, a Gilded Age beauty – a French chateau style mansion – that’s so big it’s measured in acres instead of square feet; the most-visited wine tasting room in the nation; gorgeous gardens; and miles of hiking and biking trails to explore.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway, a mountain-hugging scenic highway that stretches from western North Carolina to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, runs right by Asheville and the ride is slow, pleasant, and gorgeous. Head north or south on the Parkway, it doesn’t matter, you’ll find hiking, waterfalls and picture-perfect views in either direction. The Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Folk Art Center features artwork and crafts from artists working in Appalachian mountain traditions as well as fine arts.
North Carolina Arboretum
Just south of Asheville, the North Carolina Arboretum draws everyone from hikers to mountain bikers to stop-and-smell-the-roses stroller to the gardens, paths and trails that make up the 434-acre arboretum. In summer, free concerts in the gardens are a treat; but in fall the leaf change transforms the whole place; but winter, with holiday-themed garden “rooms” offers surprises; but the first blooms of spring and the return of green livens up the landscape. Oh, it’s simply perfect in any season, and with the network of hiking and bike-friendly trails, you can easily wander for an afternoon.
Downtown Asheville is packed with restaurants that are so good they’re reason enough to visit. Some of our every-time-we’re-in-Asheville restaurants are:
Mela, for some of the best Indian food in North Carolina. Their menu stretches beyond the expected and familiar dishes and opens up diners to experience more of Indian cuisine than most of us know.
Limones dishes up Mexican cuisine that’s authentic, tasty, and a far cry from the get-it-anywhere Tex-Mex you can get, well, anywhere. (And their margaritas are A+)
Twisted Laurel has Greek food with an Asheville twist: chicken marinated in IPA beer, bison burgers from a local rancher, and little touches – from herbs to tomatoes to cheese – from right here in town.
Mellow Mushroom has a laid-back vibe that’s perfect here. With great psychedelic rock or bluegrass coming from the speakers, an impressive beer list and totally munchable pizzas on the menu, it’s an easy lunch or late night.
No trip to Asheville is complete without tasting some beer. On the South Slope, Catawba Brewing, Hi-Wire and Green Man deliver in the suds department. If you want to take some home – and beer is the perfect drinkable souvenir – you can hit a bottle shop like Bruisin’ Ales where they carry hundreds of bottles of beer from Asheville breweries and the best North Carolina breweries.
If you find you’re hungry and thirsty (they often go together), try Lexington Avenue Brewery where the beer and the food (exceptional pub grub) are perfectly matched.
Asheville’s an artsy town, and at Woolworth Walk you’ll find more than three dozen micro-galleries featuring work by local Asheville artists working in a range of mediums. Some of our favorites are abstract collages and well as the pottery and ceramic art. If you want to make some art of your own – we’re guilty – head to Claying Around, a paint/glaze-your-own-pottery place where you can create a personalized souvenir. And while you’re out checking on the galleries, head down to the River Arts District for a dozen galleries and studios to tour.
Finally, swing by Mast General Store for penny candy (pro tip: bring more than a penny, you’ll want all the candy), outdoor gear (from brands like Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear) and home goods like cast iron skillets and décor items.
Where to Stay in Asheville
We always stay in a B&B in Asheville; the conversation and breakfast in the morning always leads to something fun during the day. Members of the Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association always deliver an awesome stay, which is why we’ve returned to Chestnut Street Inn Bed & Breakfast and the Beaufort House Inn again and again.