The United States is filled with exquisitely fun small towns which can be explored over a long weekend. Asheville, North Carolina, is one of those towns that can provide you with fun-packed few days. I had heard so much about this town tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I had to experience for myself what all the hype was about.
Asheville is filled with unique eateries, wildly tantalizing breweries, artisan shops decorating the riverside and embellishing historic buildings, and numerous trails to hike for any difficulty level. I definitely sensed the workings of a strong and united community as I walked along the streets. Historic buildings have been revitalized, a strong push to go green in every way possible is pervasive, and restaurants and bars alike utilize the resources of the local farmers as much as possible. If the mountains and sense of community doesn’t do it for you, there’s always the Biltmore mansion, which is the largest property estate in the country.
It doesn’t take long to see why this town attracts so many people far and wide.
My partner, Justin, and I spent 3 amazing days exploring Asheville and its surrounding area. We loved every part of it, under rain or sun. In sharing how we spent our 3 days here, I hope to inspire your inner adventure and provide you with ideas of what to do and what to eat and drink while there.
How to get around
I highly recommend you rent a car to get around Asheville. Even my Airbnb host suggested it! You’ll want the freedom of your car to take you in and around the town. It’s the best way to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains at your own pace, to get to the Biltmore, and even visit the Omni Park Grove Inn. There is plenty of parking everywhere in Asheville. If you’re flying into Asheville Regional Airport, this will be the easiest place to reserve a car rental. However, there are tons of spots in West and East Asheville to rent a car if you prefer.
Where we stayed
We decided to stay in an Airbnb in West Asheville. It was the perfect spot to get to the mountains and downtown. New to Airbnb? Here’s $40 off your first rental!
There are plenty of hotels and even BnBs you can find yourself in. We just found the Airbnb more affordable.
Not to Miss Breweries
One World Brewing – 10 Patton Ave #002
This was our first brewery experience and it set a high bar. The beers were unique and nothing like we had ever had before – welcome to Asheville! What made this bar even more unique was the location. It’s nearly hidden down an alley and down some stairs in the basement of a building.
Catawba Brewing – 32 Banks Ave
Such a great atmosphere here. This is very family friendly bar, so much so, there was a wedding party going on. Definitely one of my faves!
Green Man Brewery – 27 Buxton Ave
Twin Leaf Brewery – 144 Coxe Ave
Twin Leaf has an open and airy environment that is family and dog friendly. We took refuge here during a passing rain shower and it was the perfect space. There are some bar games to play and the beer line goes quickly so you’ll always be topped off.
The Funktorium – 147 Coxe Ave
An extension of Wicked Weed except this has a large space in the back with the perfect set up for live music. They have great upscale bar food, but the beer was subpar compared to what we were trying at other bars. The music is what makes this place a MUST!
Hi-Wire Brewing – 197 Hilliard Ave
Depending on when you arrive, heading straight for the mountains is definitely an option. Luckily, Justin and I arrived just after 7am and headed straight to Bryson City to get our adventure blood pumping. He had done some white river rafting in this area as a young child, so this was a MUST on our list. I highly recommend renting a raft from the Nantahla Outdoor Center (NOC). They will take such good care of you and provide ALL the clothing you will need, from water shoes to wet suits and even dry outer-shell jackets. We didn’t know what to expect, so we tried our best to pack what we needed, but ended up not using any of it as their equipment was top notch. The trip down the Nantahla River is an 8-mile journey which takes about 3 hours to raft down. This will be the most memorable 3 hours of your entire trip and there will be pictures at the very end to prove it. There are plenty of quiet moments to take in the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but also moments the rapids will bounce you up and down in your raft in preparation for the final rapid. Be sure to smile as you make your way through the last rapid as the NOC has a photographer positioned to capture the last moments of your journey. If you fall in, as we did, it makes the pictures even better in my opinion. Have no fear! 🙂
Once back in Asheville, a much deserved dinner was waiting for us. There are a variety of eating establishments to choose from. Price ranges vary, but you can expect local farmto table dishes nearly everywhere. We tried White Labs Kitchen & Tap, but weren’t entirely impressed, to be honest. If you’re looking for something quick and easy, it’s a good spot with decent pizza, but we found the service to be quite slow. A block over there is Wicked Weed Brewing Pub which is usually packed with people and popular for their food and beer.
If you have any last minute energy on Day 1, try to check out at least 1 or 2 breweries to get a taste of what your weekend will be like.
I’m all about the sun rises when on vacation and luckily, my travel buddy went along with my crazy ideas 🙂 We got an early start, around 6am, and headed into Dupont State Forest, about an hour south of Asheville, to find a trail loop with 3 different trails – High Falls, Triple Falls, and Hooker Falls. The hike was easy and relaxing and the perfect start to the day. As the first light of the day began to appear beneath the trees, it also poured light onto the waterfalls in front of us. From one fall to the next, the scenery continued to impress us. The falls of High Falls and Triple Falls, have areas you can walk down to get a closer look of the water. Triple Falls you can even stand atop the rocks of the second fall and take in everything around you. There is something about waterfalls that is so magical no matter the time of year.
After such an early hike, we were looking forward to a hearty breakfast. Back in Asheville, we tried Green Sage Cafe and loved it! They offer all sorts of teas and coffees to taste, along with bowls, biscuits, and all you could want for a nice breakfast needed to recharge your batteries. If you haven’t had enough, check out Old Europe Pastries next door to get a little snack as you explore the streets of downtown Asheville.
As we walked Asheville’s streets, we admired the unique stores filled with work from local artists, and historic buildings transformed into new-age space for businesses and artisans alike. Don’t forget to check out the River Arts District either. Here you’ll find even more artisans working as a community to restore the old buildings along the river into a colorful walking destination filled with murals.
If you’re looking for a nice dinner somewhere try Bouchon or Cúrate. You’ll want to make reservations ahead of time, but a small nibble at the bar can’t hurt if you didn’t plan ahead. With all the breweries in town, brewery hopping is a must! I’ve never tasted more interesting and funky beer than in Asheville. Most of the bartenders are more than willing to explain the brewing process and the use of Brett yeast which is prevalently used throughout Asheville’s craft beer culture. They say you either like the funky taste of the Brett yeast or you don’t. I hope you enjoy it. Definitely try to make it to Funktorium during your brewery tour. Not only is there delicious food, but they have a great live music stage that brings in talented musicians for you to enjoy. You can’t go wrong with the number of breweries. Check out my list above to see our favorite spots!
Last day meant another hike! But I warn you…before you head on this next hike, be sure to eat a hearty breakfast. Make your way to Biscuit Head. You won’t regret it. The biscuits are flaky, warm, and nearly the size of a person’s head! In addition to the mouthwatering biscuits, there are fresh house made jams and butters to awaken your taste buds. Because this is such a popular spot, be sure to get here early as there was a line around the building (no joke!) as we were leaving.
With breakfast in our bellies, we headed into Pisgah National Forest and landed upon Craggy Gardens. The visitor center at the top allows you to choose from a stationary activity of looking out onto the rolling hills or challenges you to a 7 mile round trip hike (there are shorter hikes as well). We didn’t know what to expect, but decided for a little challenge and headed for the 7 mile trek ending at Douglas Falls. If you’re lucky enough to reach Douglas Falls with no one else around, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the forest listening to the incredible sounds of nature: dripping waterfalls and the wind whipping among the trees. This hike is quite strenuous due to its length and uneven path, but well worth the effort as it makes you appreciate the beauty and simplicity of nature, which, in my opinion, we all need to do more often.
As we made our way back on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we thought it would be the perfect time to make a detour before heading back to Asheville; so we headed to check out the famous Omni Grove Park Inn. At the Inn’s grand hall, you can have a bite to eat while gazing at the spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in front of you, or you can treat yourself to a nice spa, if you wish. The Inn is rich with history and has attracted many distinguished guests from presidents to authors and was pivotal military headquarter during during WWII. We didn’t spend too much time here, as we chose to continue exploring; however, it is still well worth a pass through. We also skipped the Biltmore, as there were other things higher on our priority list.
For dinner that day, we headed to West Asheville’s The Whale. This establishment won’t disappoint and may have been the best meal we had the entire trip. It’s a cozy spot that shares space with a brewery so you can enjoy an amazing meal and continue testing out new beers.
Our time in Asheville flew by, but this adorable town was just what we were looking for. We went in mid-October to admire the foliage color change, but I imagine this town is a great destination no matter the time of year. You’ll head home having tried all sorts of different beers and unique dishes, but you will also feel recharged and refreshed after hiking and rafting through beautiful nature.
Asheville remains a top destination to visit in 2020 and for good reason. The beauty of its nature and the feeling of community within town is palpable. Enjoy!