I've always felt so lucky to call Asheville my home, even since birth. Asheville has a certain magic to it, and it always has as far as I can tell. It's a jewel tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains with a vibe all its own. We're known for our mountains (duh), our beer, and the Biltmore. And while all of those things are amazing and high on the list of reasons I love this city, there is a lot more visitors to Asheville should enjoy!
So between that and the fact that I get pretty frequent emails asking me for recommendations on where to go while here on a visit, I'm making my official list of eight awesome things to do in Asheville. Technically speaking, I've included WAY more than eight single things to do or places to go. I've just tried to organize all my exuberant love for this city into eight neat and tidy categories, including tips on where to eat, drink, stay, and have fun in the sun! And parents, I've got some insight on what to do with kids during your stay, too! *fist bump*
TAKE IT OUTSIDE. Did you really come to Asheville to stay inside? Nonsense! Most of Asheville's attractions keep you in the great outdoors, whether hiking off the Blue Ridge Parkway, strolling Biltmore's gardens, or walking between our many breweries. If you really wanna roll up your sleeves, pack a swimsuit and book a rezzie with one of Asheville's river adventure companies. Tubing, rafting, kayaking, and paddle boarding down the French Broad are all fabulous ways to spend a summer Saturday. Fly high in the sky on a treetop canopy zip lining experience with Navitat.
GO ON TOUR. Kick your feet up and let someone else do the driving while you take in the best of Asheville. Turn the keys over to Asheville Brewery Tours which leads all different types of beer- and food-focused tours in various districts around Asheville. Humor-meets-history on the La Zoom bus tours which lets you bring your own beer on board. Gray Line Trolley Tours let you hop on and off at 10 stops around the city, letting you enjoy the city and explore where your spirit leads you.
Photo by @lahmanswife taken at Asheville Brewing
DIY BREWERY TOUR. Let's be honest: when in Beer City, you're pretty much required to try some of our famous craft beer. And boy there's a lot of it! Asheville's breweries are incredibly family-friendly, especially those with outdoor areas. Let the kids run off some steam while you sip a cool beer and grab a snack from a food truck. Some breweries will require driving to, others can be grouped into a walking tour all in one area of downtown. Also, be forewarned that some breweries suspend serving flights during their peak hours. It just gets too busy to serve that many tiny beers to that many people.
For starters, you HAVE to make the drive to Sierra Nevada. It's the Disney World of brewing. You won't believe the scale and first-class experience of their Mills River location. Grab a table in their tasting room featuring farm-to-table cuisine, or step out into their outdoor space equipped with its own bar, kid's play area, bocce ball courts, rocking chairs, fire pit, and grassy slope. You can catch live music on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Be prepared for lines, though. (*Note: non-beer lovers can get a good glass of wine here, too.)
Highland Brewery is Asheville's original craft brewery. Their large outdoor field is always hosting awesome events, from Bacon Fest to film festivals. Check out their event calendar for goings-on during your stay, or drop into the tasting room to sample their delicious slate of beers.
New Belgium sits on the banks of the French Broad river and boasts a gorgeous view of the river and downtown. Get there early to grab a seat on the porch -- the tasting room isn't very big and fills up quickly.
The South Slope area of downtown is busting with breweries. Make your own walking tour and follow this trail: start at 1) Asheville Brewing, then head to 2) Twin Leaf, 3) Catawba, 4) Green Man (go to Dirty Jack's, it's the original tasting room and has tons of character!), and finally 5) Bhramari. Bhramari's burger just won 'best in town' by a local food critic and after all that beer, you'll probably need it.
MAKE IT KID FRIENDLY. As a local mom blogger, I'm asked all the time the best places to take kids during your stay. If you can, try to book a room at The Windsor Boutique Hotel. All their suites have bedrooms, living rooms, full kitchens, and a washer/dryer combo. We stayed there for a staycation and couldn't believe how kid-friendly and accommodating it was. It felt like home and it's right in the middle of downtown.
Photos taken from our suite in the Windsor Hotel
For kid-friendly activities, take them to AMOS science museum downtown for some hands-on learning. Pack a swimsuit and let them play in the interactive fountains of Splasheville in downtown's Pack Square Park. Drive out to the WNC Nature Center for a zoo-esque experience featuring wildlife indigenous to the Asheville area, including bears, cougars, wolves, and otters. Take them for a hike at one of the trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway (HERE is a list of the top 50 places to go off the BRPW in the Asheville area). Let them jump their wiggles out at trampoline park Sky Zone. Rainy days are well spent at The Fun Depot, full of arcade games and an outdoor ropes course. And, of course, remember that many of our breweries like Sierra Nevada and Highland, have giant outdoor spaces perfect for letting kids run while parents relax over a beer. (Read the Brewery section above for more details.) Check out local watering hole and outdoor space Salvage Station for some river-front afternoon fun.
Photo by @lahmanswife taken at Hemingway's Cuba
EAT YOUR HEART OUT. It's so hard narrowing down Asheville's expansive roster of awesome restaurants to a concise list. While this is by no means a complete list, my favorites including the following:
For brunch: Sunny Point Café is CRAZY good but gets busy as soon as it opens. It's worth it though.
For lunch: The Corner Kitchen (New American fare + craft drinks); Gan Shan Station (east Asian-inspired cuisine); and Salsas (Mexican and Caribbean fare). Buxton Hall BBQ has awesome BBQ and reportedly the best chicken sandwich in the south. They're next door to Catawba Brewery and you can bring their food into the brewery if you get hungry.
For dinner: The best dinner I've had in a long time came from Rhubarb, a restaurant specializing in contemporary American fare. We let our server guide us through our menu choices and she nailed every single course. Nightbell serves up small plates featuring local Appalachian ingredients and is captained by famed Curaté head chef, Katie Button. Other fave dinner spots include Table and Limones (save room for the churros!). In Biltmore Village, I love Rezaz for their light bites and wine list.
Photo by Ashley Belle Photography for Nest Boutique
SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP. The downtown and Biltmore Village districts house most of Asheville's shops and boutiques. While downtown, stop into Minx for colorful, feminine pieces with a retro vibe. Walk up the street to Boutique LP for luxe basics and designer denim. Men should check out Old North, a shop focused on rugged, modern apparel including denim, shirting, and boots. Grab a coffee in the Desirant café to sip while you shop their ornate home furnishings, luxurious lounge wear, and hand-crafted jewelry. Looking for a gift or souvenir? Duncan and York curates the most adorable Asheville-inspired items, as well as unique gift cards, party supplies, and children's toys, books, and clothing. Walk down to the South Slope district to check out blu29, a boutique specializing in elevated everyday basics like denim, knit tops and tees, as well as modern home decor.
Before or after your trip to Biltmore Estate (more on that below), stroll around Biltmore Village, an historic community planned by George Vanderbilt and team to house his estate workers. Today it's filled with some of Asheville's best shops and restaurants. Find modern feminine separates in standard and plus sizing at Nest Boutique. Invest in your new favorite dress or casual blouse at Bette Boutique. Find the world's softest pajamas and luxe bedding at Porter & Prince (don't forget to grab a cupcake bath bomb!). Get your outdoorsy Asheville branded merch at Mountain Merch. Finally, stop into Scout Boutique for upscale dresses and unique accessories.
Photo taken at Hillman Beer
If you're feeling parched after all that shopping, Catawba Brewery's Biltmore Village location is situated right across the street from Scout Boutique! Just a touch farther down Sweeten Creek Road is Hillman Beer and y'all will love it! Great beer, great food from Rise Above Deli, great tunes, and really great outdoor areas in the front and back.
Photos taken at Biltmore Estate
TAKE A HISTORY LESSON. Step back in time by spending the day on Biltmore Estate, touring America's largest home, strolling the gardens, and tasting wines at their on-site winery. Be sure to spend time in the Conservatory and consider packing a picnic to enjoy by the lagoon. It's a full-day experience so budget plenty of time to get on the estate, buy your tickets, and see everything there is to see.
Across town you'll find the Grove Park Inn, an historic hotel built in the early 1900s and patronized by the who's who of history books. Tour the grand lobby with the enormous fireplaces and don't miss the portraits of the hotel's famous guests. Relax in view of the Blue Ridge Mountains with an al fresco bite and beverage at GPI's formal restaurant, The Sunset Terrace, or on the terrace lounge of The Edison. You can cross the street into Grovewood Village to tour the historic site of Biltmore's old weaving and woodworking operations. There are arts and crafts galleries as well as museums and one of my fave restaurants, the mediterranean Golden Fleece Slow Earth Kitchen.
Photo by @lahmanswife taken at Hemingway's Cuba
BREW WITH A VIEW. Whether you prefer beer, wine or booze, you should wind down your day with a cool cocktail on one of Asheville's awesome rooftop bars. Take a ride in the old-timey elevator up to Sky Bar, a three-story bar set entirely on a fire escape. Go across the street to the Cambria Hotel and ride up to Hemingway's Cuba for an authentic daiquiri just the way Ernest liked them. (Their resort-style furnishings and panoramic view are right up my alley.) Turn your gaze to the east at AC Hotel's rooftop bar, Capella on 9. Their fireplaces warm you up on chilly nights. Walk to the other side of the restaurant for a rooftop view of Asheville's historic downtown architecture.
For a damn good drink sans rooftop setting, you must go to Sovereign Remedies and the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar.
For more recommendations on things to do in Asheville, you should check out The Scout Guide's City Cheat Sheet; Romantic Asheville's incredibly thorough website about all things Asheville; and, AVL Today's Events page.
I hope you find this guide helpful when planning your next trip to Asheville! Thanks for stopping by The Tony Townie today.