The enduringly charming mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina is quickly emerging as one of the East Coast’s most loveable cities.
Nestled up in the NC smoky mountains in the middle of Western North Carolina, it’s a small city known for its quirk, its food, its hopping brewery and coffee shop scene, and above all: the abundance of beautiful hiking and other opportunities for outdoor recreation in every season.
The fresh mountain air, an incredible array of farmers markets featuring locally-grown ingredients unique to the region, dozens of craft coffee roasters, and an unparalleled array of breweries, world-class locavore restaurants, an emerging art scene, and fun opportunities for exploring nature make Asheville a unique and compelling travel destination unlike any other in the South.
Because of its elevation, the best time of year to visit Asheville is in the late spring and early summer (late March through June), as well as autumn (September-October). Summers are HOT, so best to avoid them if you want to have the most fun outdoors.
In April, flowering dogwoods and blossoming apple blossom trees delight the senses, adding beautiful pops of color to Asheville’s illustrious woodlands. It’s a good time to hike, visit the North Carolina Arboretum, or tour the iconic Biltmore Estate.
During “leaf season” in the Fall, meanwhile, the millions of trees and parks that envelop this region turn from lush green to blazing shades of yellow, orange, and red, drawing millions of visitors from all over the country.
^ This is a great time to drive the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway, visit a local farmers market or brewery (and believe us, there are many) or enjoy a meal at one of the area’s beloved farm-to-table restaurants.
Ultimately, from its charming and artsy downtown to the mesmerizing outdoor adventure further afield, Asheville feels like a best-kept secret, a place where one can simultaneously cozy up for weekend at a homey BnB, or relax in the utmost luxury at a world-class resort.
Through this beautiful mountain town courses the French Broad River, a local favorite destination for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and running or biking along the many paths that line it. There are also incredible spas and healing centers in this area that are cradled by the world’s oldest mountains. What’s not to love?
Overall, no matter when you visit, be sure to head over to French Broad Chocolates for a sweet treat before visiting the Asheville Art Museum next door. This is a very crunchy-granola area, a lot like Western Massachusetts, Berkeley, or Austin, with whom Asheville shares the unofficial motto: “Stay Weird.”
Shopping at Asheville’s many bookstores, vintage clothing shops, gem emporiums, record stores, and the Mast General Store on Biltmore Ave animate this local eccentricity beautifully.
Best of all, no matter what you’re exploring, you won’t feel rushed– that’s part of Asheville’s laid-back charm. But, if you are pressed for time and feeling stressed, book a stay at one of the area’s great spa resorts, like the Omni Grove Park Inn (detailed below), for some rest & relaxation to round out your trip. This city has a little something for everyone. Phew!
More recommendations for the best things to do in Asheville, North Carolina follow in our bespoke Asheville travel guide, below. Scroll for more details and bookmark this list for easy reference later.
Be kind, seek out the curious, and enjoy your trip!
Biltmore Estate (& Don’t Miss The Conservatory Greenhouse!)
Beautiful, opulent, and unparalleled in the United States, the grandiose Biltmore Estate is the largest private residence in America. From the stunning plant-filled grand entrance hall to the ornate scarlet library, the Biltmore House is a history and design lover’s dream, built in 1895 for George Washington Vanderbilt.
The Biltmore Estate is Asheville’s answer to Versailles. It’s a French Renaissance chateau with 70-foot ceilings inside and 8,000 acres of magnolia- and tulip-filled gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. (The same landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park.)
Inside, the mansion is more than 175,000 square feet, with 250 rooms and a bowling alley and swimming pool in the basement– literally. Let’s just say they had an indoor toilet in the Louis XV bathroom at a time when many of America’s homes didn’t even have indoor plumbing! It’s bonkers.
You could easily spend a whole day here wandering around the decadently appointed mansion and exploring the 8,000 acres and 2.5+ miles of beautiful gardens, trails, and grounds. (There’s also shopping, dining, and a winery on site, but those are secondary to the main event of architecture + garden exploration.)
The standard $66 advanced booked ticket (which is $74 the day of) will get you access to the Biltmore House & Gardens, Antler Hill Village & Winery, and the seemingly endless trail loops around the property. Guests are welcome to linger in the gardens after the actual house closes, so you really can make a day of it.
The tickets are valid all day– and trust me, you will need it— and they include a free wine tasting with a valid ID. And yes, there are dining options on-site. (Including, for example, the Stable Cafe, a go-to for casual, locally-sourced cuisine with open-air seating in what used to be the horses stable.)
Biltmore Estate is open from 9 AM to 5 PM every day. On select weekends in the summer, the Biltmore Summer Concert Series brings world-class musicians to perform on the South Terrace. (You can find more info on that event programming here.)
Shuttles from the parking lots leave and return every 20 minutes. (You can’t drive directly to the estate. Rather, you have to drive to 2 miles into the estate, park in a lot, and take a shuttle an additional mile into the grounds.) The sheer size of this property is astounding! There is no coat check, but backpacks and such are allowed.
Best Time to Visit
The Biltmore Estate’s gardens are at peak bloom from April to May, which is the best time to experience “Biltmore Blooms.” It’s also ideal to visit the Biltmore Estate during this time as the inside of the house can get stuffy and hot after May. (The house was built before air conditioning was invented, after all.)
Nearby, Biltmore Village also offers unique upscale dining, shopping, and recreation activities like horseback riding and falconry. Resembling a small English hamlet, it’s a great place to shop for estate jewelry and antiques before dining at local favorite date spot, Corner Kitchen.
Also: During the holidays, the mansion and Antler Village showcase an incredible light display. Grab a mulled cider and browse the holiday pop-up shop!
Driving The Blue Ridge Parkway During “Leaf” Season
Beautiful, autumnal foliage makes for pleasant photo ops and gorgeous views across the smoky mountains in the fall. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile scenic drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
Hailed as “America’s Favorite Drive”, this ridge and plateau stretch leading up the Pisgah Region is among the drive’s most beautiful.
In Summer, the drive above Asheville is just as lovely as the trees are at their most lush. Still, Fall is really when the splendor turns up a notch. Around 300,000 people live in Asheville, but over 10 million people travel here annually— many of them to see Autumn’s red, orange, and yellow leaves.
Accordingly, Fall, like Spring and early Summer, are some of the best times to visit Asheville and drive the scenic parkway. Pull over to take pictures while gazing at some of the highest peaks this side of the Mississippi. Or, stop to hike any of the area’s well-maintaining hiking trails featuring beautiful fields of wildflowers.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a great place for hiking, ziplining, and fly-fishing. In the Summer, cool mountain breezes and secluded swimming holes are sought after in the forests.
In the Fall, enjoy apple picking, pumpkin picking, corn mazes, hot cider donuts, and Asheville Oktoberfest. The Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, one of the South’s largest craft fairs, also takes place here each October.
For road condition and closure information about the Blue Ridge Parkway, call 828-298-0398. Find maps and more information about the Parkway here.
Shopping + Exploring Downtown
Downtown Asheville is full of cool curiosities. There are precious gem emporiums, vintage clothing shops, quirky bookstores, all-natural skincare boutiques, brick-and-mortar record stores, numerous chocolate retailers, mom n’ pop co-ops, and other bohemian alcoves. There’s always something to explore!
Basically, there’s something for everyone in this fun little town. I love Malaprops Bookstore Cafe, Diamond Brand Outdoor Shop, C&Co Handcrafted Skincare, and of course, French Broad Chocolate (<— More on this can’t miss local hot spot, below.)
For the most active shopping and people watching in Asheville, head to Biltmore Avenue and Lexington Avenue, both of which intersect downtown. This area feels like a hybrid between “main street” in a small town and a walkable slice of larger cities further afield.
There are also plenty of dining options, cafes, street art murals, and small galleries here to keep you occupied for hours. Plus, there’s frequently live music and street performance when the weather permits.
Hike These Three Iconic Trails
Hiking is one of the best, most enjoyable, and most accessible outdoor activities to do in Asheville. If you like hiking, you must do so here!
There are a number of amazing hikes in and around Asheville. For the quintessential experience, try the Roan Mountain Hike on the Appalachian Trail. It’s a 3-4 hour out-and-back with 300 feet in elevation gain to Round Bald, 200 feet to Jane Bald, and 500 feet to Grassy Ridge Bald. Totally worth every minute!
The Little Bradley Falls Trail is also a heavily-trafficked 1.8-mile hike with lovely waterfall vistas. This is ideally suited for people who are less comfortable hiking strenuous trails.
Finally, the Craggy Gardens Trail is a short, intense hike ideal for experienced hikers and bikers, with equally amazing sightlines. Your quads will forgive you once you see the view from the top.
Beer Tasting + Brewery Tours
Asheville has long been known as Beer City USA. The number of breweries in Asheville stems from the abundance of local hops farms and the pristine mountain water, which is the origin of the phrase “mountain dew”.
The craft beer wave began here in the early 1990s in the South Slope neighborhood. Today, the scene features everything from experimental microbreweries to major national brands.
Today, Asheville is home to over 100 local craft beer makers. This is more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in the United States! Visit Burial Beer Co, and Bhramari Brewing Company, and Dssolvr for the quintessential experience of old and new Asheville staples.
Also, for non-alcoholic folks: Ginger’s Revenge Craft Brewery makes alcoholic, gluten-free ginger beer which we recommend trying if you’ve never had such a thing. It’s right behind the French Broad Chocolate Factory, and they do tours and tastings. (Well behaved dogs are allowed, too, so that’s a plus.)
Ultimately, there’s a wide variety of patios, rooftops, and beer gardens around town. Beer lovers can also partake in guided beer tasting tours and a popular Oktoberfest.
Explore Asheville’s Coolest Coffee Shops
In addition to beer, Asheville is also known for its stellar coffee. Accordingly, the coolest coffee shops in Asheville come in all different forms: there’s a Double Decker Bus cafe, a handful of foodie-friendly doughnut cafes, health-food-focused coffee counters, and plant-filled coffee-and-wine bars.
Many of these outposts are quirky in a quintessentially “Asheville” way, which is part of the charm. This is a laid-back city, even when it comes to double shots of espresso.
Find more specific suggestions in our guide to The 9 Coolest Coffee Shops in Asheville, North Carolina.
French Broad Chocolate
A visit to downtown Asheville wouldn’t be complete without a visit to French Broad Chocolate, a super popular chocolate boutique and cafe that serves everything from sipping chocolate to brownies to ice cream.
The bars here are even better than the truffles– be sure to stock up for the perfect Asheville souvenir. We love the Chai Masala 45% milk chocolate bar, which is a collaboration with local spice vendor Spicewalla. (It uses special direct-source cacao from Anamalai, India.)
They also have a chocolate lounge, a flagship dessert restaurant that features a “chocolate library” and everything from chocolate cake to crème brûlée to Mocha Pot de Crème and exquisite cookies; as well as a chocolate factory where you can take a tour and/or buy a wide variety of chocolates.
For the full experience, be sure to try the truffles, ice cream, and some sort of baked good. (If you go with a group, everyone can order something different so that you can all try it.)
We love their coffee caramel– a dark chocolate cup of coffee-infused soft caramel, made with Methodical Coffee. They also make a rare Sorghum Caramel– a milk chocolate gem filled with sweet liquid caramel made with locally-grown Sorghum molasses. So cool!
Explore The River Arts District
The River Arts District– aka “RAD”– is easily identifiable by the giant water tower painted with a mural that simply says, “Stay Weird”. As one of the more hipster neighborhoods in Asheville, its full of industrial-historic buildings, art studios, and skate shops scattered along the French Broad River.
Here, you’ll also find 200+ artists working at studios, galleries, painting murals, and showcasing their wares at cool cafes in community centers like The Foundation. <—- This place features indoor skateboarding, BBQ, beer, coffee, and various mediums of art such as metal, textile, ceramics, blown glass, paint, etc. It’s a whole scene.
On the second Saturday of each month, artists have open houses featuring demos, art classes, and live music. (From March to December only, though.)
In general, many artists hang out here at places like Clayworks and Leicester Studio. Look for work by artists like photographer/mixed media artist James Henkel, ceramicist Brock Flamion, and textile artist Erin Castellan. (I love all of their work and find each to be a unique representation of the regional art scene. Their stuff makes great souvenirs!)
RAD is also home to several local favorite eateries like Hole Donuts, PennyCup Coffee Co., and White Duck Taco. (<— All worth checking out if you’re biking or exploring the area on foot!)
Epic Farmers Markets
Are you a foodie traveler? In addition to having great farm-to-table restaurants, Asheville has a number of amazing farmers’ markets that run throughout the year.
These local produce havens are a great way to get to know what grows in the region and what local artisans in the region are known for. Asheville happens to be one of the few cities on the East Coast where you can still find the illusive Appalachian paw-paw fruit. (My fellow plant nerds, take note: This is very cool!)
If you want to shop local or cook for yourself, read our guide to The 6 Best Farmers Markets in Asheville, here.
Breakfast at Over Easy Cafe
As we wrote in our guide to Asheville’s 12 Best Breakfast Spots, Over Easy Café serves what are easily the best eggs benedict in Asheville.
This art-y, somewhat hipster cafe in the heart of downtown Asheville has perfected the art of making beautiful, wholesome breakfast food. The menu, like the interior, is somewhat minimal, but it packs a punch.
It’s worth the possible wait (especially if you’re going on a weekend!) just to experience the moist, crispy biscuits with excellent hollandaise and perfect runny eggs. (See above; our favorite breakfast in the city!)
Beyond that, the granola is also excellent. You just can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here. The picture above doesn’t lie. It’s lovely.
Basically, if you only have time for one brunch or breakfast in Asheville, I would go here. This cafe is colorful, funky, fun, and fabulous. Don’t miss out!
Twilight Tea at Dobra Tea House (+ Exceptional Healthy Baked Goods!)
Tea is a way of life in Asheville– so much so that the community has almost as many tea houses as coffee houses. Far and away the most beautiful and charming tea house in Asheville is Dobra Tea House, which has two locations in the city– but you’ll definitely want to go to the Downtown location (Lexington Ave) for the quintessential experience.
Walk here after dinner or go here before dinner for twilight tea under the twinkling lights. Dobra has over 100 teas from across the globe– from Matcha Lemonade to Peach Mango White Tea to Staroborshov, their most famous dark oolong tea shaken with fruit sugar so that it develops a frothy “head” like a draft beer. They also serve a wide variety of iced teas, hot teas, and Southern-style sweet tea.
We love the ceramics and baked goods at this gorgeous tea house, which stocks local ceramicists like Akira Satake and Brock Flamion. You can also buy beautiful local and international teas of every variety in their tightly curated gallery.
Most importantly, the select array of pastries at Dobra Tea House are also, quite frankly, incredible— especially if you’re looking for something unique, gluten-free, paleo, or vegan. The black sesame tea cake, pistachio cardamom rose cookies, and buckwheat fig tea cake are all absolutely SENSATIONAL– but the specific flavors are always on rotation. Don’t miss out!
Ultimately, sitting down for tea here is just lovely any time of day. And if you’re not an herbal or green tea person, they also have authentic chai and bubble tea.
Also expect special, tea-related programming like Japanese Tea Ceremonies and herbal self-care workshops. They also have lectures on topics like The History of Tea.
Yoga Hike Amidst Waterfalls with Namaste in Nature
Namaste in Nature’s Yoga + Hiking combo is such a cool, fun way to get out in nature in Asheville. It’s beautiful and perfect for outdoor and fitness enthusiasts who want to get out into the mountains with an experienced yoga teacher Miranda Peterson, who founded the practice with a vision of combining yoga, hiking, and meditation with the best views, waterfalls, sunsets, and natural surroundings that the greater Asheville area has to offer.
Book her for a private yoga hike or yoga session, or reserve a spot in the various public group hike and class offerings. You can even do Full Moon Hikes, Waterfall Hikes, or practice Sensory Meditation in the beautiful NC Mountains under her tutelage.
For more information or to book your spot, head to Namaste In Nature.
Related: 9 Great Free Meditation Videos for Stress Reduction & Relaxation
Music Lovers: Visit the Moogseum
Robert “Bob” Moog, the inventor of the theremin (an early electronic instruction) and the synthesizer as we know it, is a veritable patron saint in the music industry. His invention revolutionized electronic music, and after his passing in 2005, his relatives opened The Moogseum to provide music lovers with an opportunity for experiential historical exploration through multi-sensory education exhibits.
Located in the heart of downtown Asheville– where Moog spent his last 30 years– The Moogseum has interactive stations that teach you how to play the theremin. You can also learn how electricity is converted to sound in the process of making music.
Many indie music fans have made the pilgrimage to this intriguing little museum since it opened in May 2019– but it still remained relatively under the radar. Plan about 30 minutes to an hour for your visit.
Tickets are cheap, too– only around $6 per person for entry. The place is small, so no need to book ahead.
The Moogseum is open 11-5 PM Daily. It’s closed Sunday and Tuesday.
Get Fried Chicken at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack
Fried chicken is one of the foods you simply must try in Asheville– they make it extra special in these parts. We adore the flavorful fried chicken at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack, which is one of Asheville’s beloved local gems.
I love their zesty-crispy-salty batter, the surprisingly wide variety of dipping sauces, and the fabulous Texas-style toast you can get with your buffalo thighs. (<— Recommended!) For a certain kind of fried chicken lover, it’s just about heaven.
If you can’t make it over to Rocky’s, there are several other great places to try fried chicken in the city. For that, foodies can scroll our guide to The 6 Best Places to Get Fried Chicken in Asheville.
Load up on the wet wipes and enjoy!
Visit Asheville Art Museum (+ Other Cool Galleries)
Open 11 to 6 every day, the Asheville Art Museum is the area’s premier contemporary art space, exhibiting major artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries. Their collections include work by artists like Andy Warhol, as well as major sculptural pieces that experiment with material and form.
With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, they somewhat recently underwent a major renovation that added a new glass wing that is impressive on architectural merit, alone. (See above.)
Outside the museum’s downtown facade sits an alluring blue ball glass sculpture, Henry Richardson’s “Reflections on Unity”, which is now one of the most Instagrammed spots in Asheville.
After you’ve made your way through the museum, enjoy some refreshments. The on-site Perspective Cafe has nice mountain views and a signature beer collaboration with locally-owned Burial Brewery (detailed above). The museum is also located right next to French Broad Chocolate, so that’s a bonus!
Art That’s Off The Beaten Path
Asheville is a haven for artists, both in the River Arts District and across a smattering of galleries downtown. (There are 20+ galleries, studios, and museums here within a 1-mile radius. Don’t miss out!)
For example, Tracey Morgan Gallery has amazing paintings and museum-quality photography on display. They also showcase work by local artists like textile queen Erin Castellan (my favorite sweater maker!) as well as photographer James Henkel.
The North Carolina Arboretum
The North Carolina Arboretum is nestled at the base of the Southern Appalachian Mountains at the University of North Carolina, Asheville.
It has lovely walking trails and a prized “patchwork quilt” garden inspired by the local craft tradition. (Fortunately, this blooms 9 months out of the year, with a variety of plants that go in and out of season to ensure that it’s constantly changing.)
They also have a beautiful native azalea collection that blooms gorgeously in spring. Meanwhile, a wonderfully-curated collection of bonsai trees is on display throughout the year. (These are lined up in a rather zen, industrial-minimalist display. It’s pretty visually satisfying.)
Admission is free, and you can access the garden from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393. Drive that way to experience two beautiful natural wonders in one setting! Once you arrive, they also have some easy, low-intensity trails for walking around and stretching your legs amidst the greenery.
Around the holidays, don’t miss the enchanting Winter Lights display, which takes place nightly from November to January. Ultimately, there’s something for every plant and nature lover in every season. You’re sure to see something unique no matter what time of year you visit.
Asheville Pinball Museum + Well Played Board Game Cafe
Between the Moogseum (detailed above), the Well Played Board Game Cafe (exactly what it sounds like), and the iconic Asheville Pinball Museum, Asheville’s got its fair share of whimsical, arcade-like experiences (with beer on tap for adults, of course).
Asheville’s Pinball Museum is all-you-can-play arcade that features over 75 pinball machines, each with a different pop culture theme. See, for example, their Evel Knievel pinball machine and THE WHO-nodding “Pinball Wizard”.
The museum has informative signs detailing the story behind each machine, including the year it was made, how many machines were produced, and other fun trivia. They also have various related collectibles and vintage toys for sale, as well.
Ultimately, it’s a place where you can buy, sell, and learn to play on pinball machines spanning various eras in American arcade history. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon– especially if it’s raining in Asheville, as the games appeal to kids and nostalgic adults, alike.
Ice Cream at The Hop
The Hop is a beloved local ice cream cafe that serves exquisite dairy and non-dairy ice cream in a wide variety of inventive flavors. Showcasing both creativity and food prowess, they work with local purveyors– for example, French Broad Chocolate, Buchi Kombucha, and Spicewalla– to showcase local ingredients and heritage products in their ice cream.
^ Their vegan line of ice creams are also made in a wide variety of nut milks– oat milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, even sunflower milk!– so that they can accommodate people with nut allergies, as well.
Overall, the ice cream at this family-run shop is super delicious and delightfully inclusive. They even have ice cream for dogs!
Related: Read our guide to the 5 Best Ice Cream Shops in Asheville.
Buy Some Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn
Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn is a fun local snack brand with a tidy little storefront selling cheekily “themed” popcorn mixes.
The local pimento cheese popcorn, for example, is like Smartfood and cheese puffs had a baby. (We mean this as a compliment.) Their location-themed popcorn– like the sweet “Asheville” mix or “Kansas City BBQ” flavor– is also popular.
Want to try some Gingerbread-flavored popcorn? What about Dill Pickle popcorn? What about Everything Bagel? Carolina BBQ? Dark Chocolate Pretzel? Spring Confetti? Butter Almond Toffee? Cinnamon Bourbon Pecan? This brand has it all. I recommend that popcorn lovers swing by and sample their wide selection at the store on Tunnel Rd. It makes a great Asheville souvenir!
Check Out Malaprop’s Bookstore Cafe
We love this iconic independent bookstore and cafe in Downtown Asheville. Malaprop’s Bookstore Cafe is regularly named one of the “South’s Best Bookstores” because it is!
For bookstore lovers, Malaprops is a must. It’s a great place to find local authors and popular fiction, nonfiction, classic, and new age works from every genre. (We’re partial to the pop-psychology section, above.)
The shop is also a destination for famous author talks and book signings in Asheville. The cozy cafe, meanwhile, serves Counter Culture Coffee and treats from West End Bakery. It’s a great place to hang on a rainy day.
Experience Hole Doughnuts (Best Doughnuts, Ever!)
If you want to try the Best Doughnuts in Asheville (and believe me, there are actually severally great contenders) look no further than Hole Doughnuts. These delicious handmade doughnuts are fried to order in the River Arts District. Gourmands love the foodie-friendly toppings like Toasted Almond Sesame Cinnamon, Tangerine, and a seasonal flavor that changes every week.
As I wrote in my guide to Asheville’s 12 Best Brunch Spots, this shop was named one of the best doughnut haunts in America by Bon Apetit. And with good reason! The soft, pillowy-crunch of their delectable hand-rolled dough forms the basis of what is, for sure, the best doughnut I’ve ever had.
Plus, the wonder is in the details. They use organic stone-ground flour from local Lindley Mills, unrefined organic cane sugar, cage-free eggs, and they even fry the doughnuts in non-GMO rice bran oil. (No canola oil, here!)
I’m not saying they’re exactly healthy, but the resulting doughnuts are folksy, wholesomely delicious, and always served warm by nature of how they are prepared. Plus, each one looks like it could be photographed for the cover of any food magazine, which makes them as nourishing to the eyes as they seemingly are to your doughnut-loving inner child. 🙂
Walk, Bike, Run, or Paddle at French Broad River Park
This lovely, meandering waterfront trail system surrounds what geologists have identified as the third oldest river in the world. French Broad River and surrounding park is absolutely gorgeous during “leaf season”. It’s even pretty on a sunny day in the winter, when the water glitters with reckless abandon.
Plus, it’s scenic and dog-friendly, featuring long stretches of paved, tree-lined trails along the water.
The French Broad River is also a favorite local spot for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking in the summer. It’s a local favorite running spot in the Fall.
A local sport, bellyaking, which is best described as “downward-facing kayaking”, was also invented here, in Asheville. The French Broad River is a great place to spot bellyakers in the wild– or even to try it yourself.
Try Biscuit Head Biscuits
This local favorite biscuit bar specializes in rich “cathead” style drop biscuits, which are exceedingly delicious. (Fun fact: They’re called “cathead” biscuits because they’re as large as a cat’s head!) They also do weirdly-intriguing drinks like Teddy Graham Latte specials, Maple Bacon Lattes, and Iced AppalaCHAI– you get the idea.
Go here for decadent biscuit sandwiches featuring local, seasonal ingredients. Their sandwiches feature decidedly local food specialties like country ham, pulled pork, jalapeno pimento, sriracha slaw, and sweet potato butter. Pair these and other standard toppings like runny eggs and avocado with your choice of sauces and proteins. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Choose from a variety of pre-designed sandwiches or build your own. Anything you make will be lovely and filling! As a result, I recommend going here for a late breakfast/brunch. Because trust me: you won’t need to eat lunch after this. Personally, I like getting a biscuit sandwich to go and eating it after a strenuous hike or morning run around the city.
ICYMI: Read more about other amazing breakfast places in Asheville here.
Relax at The Spa at Omni Grove Park Inn (+ Other Alternative Wellness Experiences)
The Spa at the Omni Grove Park Inn is, frankly, ah-mazing! This is one of Asheville’s best spas, with panoramic mountain views, a world-class golf course, and local-food-focused dining, to boot. The subterranean spa on site has numerous water features and mineral pools, some of which have underwater music. It’s wild.
Due to popular demand, spa appointments here are only available to overnight guests. Be mindful of that when attempting to book.
Go here for some world-class R&R in Asheville, and seek out any of their signature treatments like post-massage antioxidant body wraps and multisensory wellness pod treatments. I’m partial to massage, facials, and soaks, but anything you book here will be amazing, especially if you’re a spa-lover.
Best of all, this 43,000-square-foot spa is an electronics-free zone, so you can truly relax and disconnect.
A Word on Asheville’s Wellness Scene
^ FWIW, this is just the peak iteration of the robust alternative wellness scene in Asheville. There are many places to relax and rejuvenate in a beautiful natural setting.
The city also boasts a salt cave, a float spa, and several wellness centers like Shoji Spa (Japenese-inspired wellness spa), Violet Owl Wellness Center (great for shopping/natural products, etc), and the Art of Living Center (an East Coast hot spot for yoga and meditation, which is further afield in Boone, North Carolina). These are worth seeking out if you’re interested in experiencing a wide variety of wellness treatments in and around Asheville.
Have a Pie Flight at Baked Pie Company
Baked Pie Company in Woodfin is a must-visit for dessert-lovers. This bakery on the border of Asheville has homey Southern staples like shoofly pie, as well as a buckeye pie that’s insanely great for peanut butter lovers.
They also have oatmeal pie (a rare find!) and wonderful classics like Honey Pecan Pie and Banana Cream Pie. Basically, it’s a pie lover’s dream!
Specifically, their signature “pie flight” is so, so cute. It features 3 thin sample slices of pie and a scoop of ice cream. This way, you won’t have to compromise when choosing between flavors. (All of them are so good!)
Come for the pie flights, stay for the cozy vibes. The shop itself is charming and homey, with exposed brick, vintage woodwork, and a patinaed range. Dig in, dessert lovers!
Asheville Foods To Buy & Try
The coolest, most unique Asheville souvenirs.
Hand-knit socks, outdoor apparel, Poppy popcorn, Buchi Wildcrafted Kombucha, local beer if you’re not flying home, French Broad chocolate, chow chow, local honey, pickled okra, pimento cheese, dried herbs, something from Mast General Store, gemstones, records, books, and vintage clothing are just a few of the many fun, quintessential things to buy in Asheville, which is really an artisans’ paradise.
Food-wise, Abby’s Better Nut Butters are locally-made, paleo, and allergy-friend nut butter creations that come in a variety of intriguing flavors like Chocolate Sunflower Butter, Coconut Cashew, Coffee Almond, and Date Pecan Butter. (<– This one’s my favorite! It has only three ingredients: dry roasted pecans, dates, and pink Himalayan salt.)
^ Look for this line at Asheville Whole Foods and other grocery stores if you want to load up on wholesome, special, uniquely local snacks. These nut butters pair beautifully with local OWL Bakery Bread or fresh local apples. Wash it down with a Noble Hard Cider for a truly local grocery experience.
Also, definitely seek out art objects made by local Asheville artisans. Erin Castellan’s hand-loomed sweaters, Brock Flamion’s handmade ceramics (available at Dobra Tea House), Wild Krafted Kitchen’s locally foraged herbal medicine, Ginger’s Revenge Ginger Beer, mixed medium art, or musical instruments are just a few examples. There’s so much here to explore!
Also, C&Co Handcrafted Skincare sells lovely locally-made, all-natural plant-based skincare products at their shop and natural spa on Broadway Street in the heart of town. We love their toning face mists (great for travel!) and softening sugar scrubs.
Asheville Bee Charmer, meanwhile, sells a lovely locally-made dark chocolate bar topped with apricots, local honey, marigold petals, and bee pollen. Chocoholic foodies: this is worth looking into.
Finally, Asheville Goods is also an excellent place to get local product gift boxes. They pack their eco-friendly boxes with themed local goods like local chocolate, sauces, spices, honey, and locally-made skincare. They even have a Beer Lovers box! Look out for Imladris Farm Jam here or at any of the area’s beautiful regional farmers markets.
Other Useful + Fun Things to Note
- The Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) is located approximately 17 miles from Downtown Asheville. Rental cars (from 7 different companies) and ground transportation are available on site. In town, the Asheville Transit Authority has routes throughout Asheville and Black Mountain.
- There are lovely BnB’s and Mountain Resorts in Asheville, but people also like to stay at Air BnB’s in the surrounding woods. Standard hotels are available, but less sought after for the true Asheville experience.
- Drum circles are *a thing* on the streets of downtown Asheville (usually they evolve near the Asheville Art Museum).
- The Asheville Marathon & Half Marathon at Biltmore Estate are super beautiful and lovely events for runners, worth traveling for!
- Lots of folk music festivals throughout the summer, and don’t miss Asheville Oktoberfest and the semi-annual Art in the Park in October.
- Cocktails at Little Jumbo are a favorite among the young and hip crowd. Wine and design lovers, meanwhile, enjoy drinking in the garden at Leo’s House of Thirst.
- Chow Chow is a new annual food festival (named after a popular style of local relish) that’s gotten lots of attention recently. Asheville’s newest culinary event celebrates the colorful flavors of Southern Appalachia. It takes place annually in Summer and Fall. (Check their website for the latest dates.)
- SoulKu‘s handmade gemstone jewelry makes a great Asheville souvenir, one that simultaneously captures the style and notable gemstone obsession of locals. Look for it at the North Carolina Arboretum gift shop, as well as other downtown shops like Embellish, Whist, and Duncan & York.
Related: These are The 15 Best Restaurants in Asheville for Amazing Local Meals.
Brunch lovers should also check out these 12 Charming Asheville Breakfast Spots.
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