From the locals at AVLtoday. ⛰
Some call it the Southeast’s best-kept secret – but from being named the 5th top music city in the U.S. (National Geographic) to one of the best places to travel in 2018 (CNN Travel) – the mountain town of Asheville is undeniably a tourist hub at the base of the Blue Ridge mountains. It’s also known as “Beer City USA” with 30+ local breweries (that’s 21.6 breweries per 100,000 people).
Luckily for us, Asheville is only 2.5 hours away for a nice weekend getaway full of outdoor adventures, live music, cooler temps + of course, libation. (And with our funky AVL Airbnb roundup, you already know where to stay.)
We asked our sister-publication AVLtoday to give you the lowdown on what to see + do from a local’s perspective. Especially helpful since must-do’s often change before you can update your bucket list (speaking from experience here).
Disclaimer: They tried their best to pack as many activities into the schedule while still keeping it as realistic as possible; so they couldn’t include everything they wanted to (if only we could all be in three places at once). 👇
Day One (Friday)
3 p.m. | Check in
Asheville is a super hilly city, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. It’s also a super casual vibe, so feel free to keep it simple in the outfit department, and even break out your more eclectic wear. You’ll fit in, we promise.
If you don’t want to go the Airbnb route, here are some AVLtoday-approved places to stay:
Omni Grove Park Inn 📍290 Macon Ave.
Starting rate: $215
This century-old hotel includes a golf course, a 43,000-square-foot spa (a must-do in itself) + mountain views. Bonus: You can stay in Scott Fitzgerald’s room, where he got some of his writing inspiration from.
The Windsor📍36 Broadway St.
Starting Rate: $289
This classic boutique hotel is in the heart of downtown. Each suite has a private bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room + washer/dryer. Treat yo’ self.
Other downtown options:
Princess Anne Hotel 📍301 E. Chestnut St.
Starting Rate: $205
The three-story, shingle style hotel first opened its doors in 1924
The Asheville Inn 📍1 Ancton Cir.
Starting rate: $60
The mod black, white + red theme is a stylish twist on a motel.
Bon Paul & Sharky’s Hostel 📍 816 Haywood Rd.
Starting Rate: $60
Live like a local in West Asheville, a historic neighborhood with bars, restaurants + shopping.
Feel like a Vanderbilt for a day + explore the campus of the largest house in the nation. Bonus: Check out the Grand Bohemian, just off the grounds. *Prices of hotel rooms may vary. We tried to find the lowest summer rates.
3:30 p.m. | Start your self-guided brewery tour
Grab a rideshare or walk to the South Slope, where there are a number of breweries within a few blocks. Be sure your phone is charged up so you can navigate.
Burial Beer | photo by @AVLtoday
Circa 1997. Taprooms in two locations. South Slope production brewery with additional pilot system and brewpub serving pizza and pub fare. Original taproom, pizzeria + second-run movie theater in North Asheville.
The sister site of Wicked Weed serves sour + unique beers.
Circa 2014. Production facility and taproom on South Slope with outside seating.
Circa 1999. Taproom with pilot system, rotating food trucks, and venue space on South Slope. Smaller taproom near Biltmore Village. Original production brewery and taproom in Morganton, and large production brewery and taproom in Charlotte. Purchased Charleston’s Palmetto Brewing Company in 2017.
Circa 2013. Brewery and taproom with large outdoor area on South Slope. Production brewery with taproom featuring a variety of American craft beers opening Fall 2018 near Biltmore Village (16 Shady Oak Dr.).
Circa 1997. Taproom with outside patio (Dirty Jack’s) and tasting room in new brewhouse next door (Green Mansion).
6:30 p.m. | Grab a bite to eat
Finish up your beer marathon at Bhramari Brewing, which has a full dinner menu.
🍺 Bhramari Brewing Company📍101 S. Lexington Ave.
Circa 2016. Production brewery, taproom and restaurant with outside space + parking. Try the patatas bravas (basically fancy french fries) with carnitas, pickled veggies, goat cheese + spicy tomato sauce.
All breweried out? Try these other South Slope eateries:
Buxton Hall 📍32 Banks Ave.
Classic Carolina BBQ. We recommend the fried chicken sandwich.
Ben’s Tune Up 📍195 Hilliard Ave.
This mechanic garage-turned-outside garden restaurant makes its own house sake + serves Japanese-American fusion food. Bonus: Live music most weekend nights.
10 p.m. | Find the music 🎶
For dancing, check out Tiger Mountain (club), MG Road (low-key cocktail bar), Room 9 (club), or Scandals (with nightly drag shows). If you want to be real tourist, check out the Off the Wagon Dueling Piano Bar.
Day Two (Saturday)
10 a.m. | Brunch it like a pro
The coffee is to tide you over until you can get into Sunny Pointe Cafe for brunch, which, on Saturdays, can be about an hour wait. However, they have live music, order-while-you-wait drinks + pastries, and a huge walkable garden. Best. Wait. Ever.
Want to grab something to-go? BimBeriBon serves gluten-free + vegan pastries and brunch.
12:30 | River Arts District
Take a jaunt down to the River Arts District where many working artists have their studios, which are open to the public on weekends.
You can take an Asheville Art Studio Tour for $39 from 2–4 p.m. (available every Saturday), or take a self-guided tour.
If you opt for the latter, here are some galleries to get you started: Phil Mechanic + Stand Gallery, North Carolina Glass Center, the Cotton Mill Studios, the Wedge Studios, Pink Dog Creative, The Lift Studios, Riverview Station, Revolve + Karen Hardy / Hardy Letterpress.
Be sure you roam over by Summit Coffee on Foundry St. to see the Foundation Walls, where dozens of walls are covered in street art. If you aren’t tired of breweries yet, check out the 2nd New Belgium site right on the French Broad River.
3 p.m. | Head up the Parkway
Take a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway (3.6 miles from downtown), and stop at the Folk Art Center for history of the parkway + a museum of Appalachian arts. From there, you can pop on the Mountains to Sea trail for an easy hike (and just turn around when you’re ready to head back).
For more serious hikers, here are some classic trails that are worth the views:
📍Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 407.6 | Strenuous | 3 miles (round-trip) | 🚘 ~45 mins from AVL | 🐶: yes; active dogs only
This hike is filled with some of the best views of the Asheville area. Bonus points if you can point out Biltmore Estate once you’re at the top. This trail is rocky so wear good shoes. Protip: Make the hike a day trip by taking the six-mile loop to Fryingpan Lookout Tower which is marked on the Pisgah trail (or drive to Milepost 408.5 to start the trail there).
📍3074 Catawba River Road, Old Fort, N.C. | Easy | 3 miles (round-trip) | 🚘 ~30 mins from AVL | 🐶: yes
Perfect for the whole fam, this 100-foot waterfall has an amazing view + is a great spot for an afternoon picnic. For the best view: Upper Falls (for skilled hikers only) is a strenuous ½-mile hike that takes you up to a 50-foot waterfall above the Lower Falls.
*See our full hiking guide here.
The North Carolina Arboretum – which was designed by the father of landscape architecture (who also was the visionary the Biltmore Estate land), Frederick Law Olmsted – has 10 miles of hiking trails. Plus, until October, they have over 50 types of Bonsai in their annual Bonsai Garden.
Alternatively, get your adrenaline rush at Navitat Zipline + Canopy Adventures, where you can zipline 3/4 of a mile + up to 65/mph through the Blue Ridge mountains. There are a few different routes, all where you learn about the Western N.C. subterranean and see the landscape from above.
8 p.m. | Choose your own adventure for dinner
Take a post-hike break + go out for a nicer Saturday dinner. The best way to explore downtown? Just walking. You’ll experience the shops, restaurants, and buzzing foodie scene in all its Saturday night glory.
🍴 Posana (Contemporary American)
🍴 Sovereign Remedies (New American)
🍴 Limones (modern Mexican)
🍴 Nightbell (American small plates)
🍴 Chestnut (Seasonal American)
🍴 Chai Pani (Indian Street Food).
🍴 Or, if you snag a reservation early, the famous Cúrate (traditional Spanish tapas).
🍴 Or, head to the historic Charlotte St. neighborhood and have dinner + drinks on the Omni Grove Park Inn’s patio. The sunset views are unreal.
10 p.m. | Time for a nightcap
Day Three (Sunday)
9 a.m.-3 p.m. | Biltmore
You can’t visit Asheville without spending a day at the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house in the U.S. The 178,926-sq.ft. mansion was built by the Vanderbilt family and was opened up as a tourist attraction in 1930.
Now, it serves as one of the more prominent examples of the gilded age (think: the Titanic + The Great Gatsby). Adult daytime passes start at $65. Now until October, you can see a giant installation of glass sculptures by the famous glass artist Dale Chihuly. See a sneak peek here.
Chihuly at Biltmore | photo by @AVLtoday
There is a cafe + restaurant on the grounds, plus acres + acres of gardens (including botanical gardens). You’ll want to plan a whole day here, but it’s worth the cost + time of a return visit.
I’ve actually had a rolling list of Asheville eats, drinks + fun in my iCloud notes since 2013 – and every time I go, I xx something off of it. All of those recommendations are from friends, word of mouth, press coverage I read, etc. over the years – so I’m really excited to have a brand new list of current recommendations from locals to add.
Many of my all-time favorites were mentioned in AVLtoday’s itinerary – like Chai Pani, 5 Walnut, The Orange Peel + Ben’s Tune Up. But I also have to plug some additional, personal recommendations they ran out of time for, like Battery Park Book Exchange (my beloved bookstore with champagne + cozy couches), Vortex Donuts (so good, and connected to a brewery with an Eno hammock mini-park in-between), Chevron Trading Post (a bead/gemstone/DIY materials store with the cutest shop dog that will inspire you to make your own necklaces, like it did me), Biscuit Head (AVL is the OG location; try all the butters + jams) and possibly the greatest dive bar that ever lived: The Double Crown (old school booths, indoor Christmas lights + a shrine to Hank Williams).
Coming to crash in your guest room soon, Mary.
I hope y’all get to plan a long weekend to Asheville soon. If you do, tag #AVLtoday in your photos for a chance to be featured in their social media. They’re cool; we promise.