Hidden in the middle of the vastness of forests and mountains, Asheville is famous for being one of most beautiful, colorful and happiest places in the United States. With over 87,000 residents, it is the biggest city in Western North Carolina. Local art and music characterize this gorgeous city, and the scenic drives and hiking trails surrounding it makes Asheville a paradise for outdoors enthusiasts.
There is nothing like experiencing the outdoors of Asheville. The city is surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest, the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains. For the best experience in a short period of time, drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway until you reach Craggy Gardens.
Craggy Gardens offers one of the best view points of the Blue Ridge Parkway; you can stare at a landscape that stretches all the way into Tennessee. The summit of the Craggy Pinnacle Trail is reachable through a 1.4 mile round trip hike and offers an incredibly breathtaking 360 degree view. Furthermore, flowers of all types and colors cover the entire trail, which makes it a perfect hike and photo-session spot.
If you want to see artists at work, have a beer, a good meal or a fun night out, downtown Asheville is the place to be. Start in Pritchard Park, and make your way to Wall Street. This hidden little street offers plenty of restaurants, local shops and murals. After that, walk over to Biltmore Avenue to see the Vance Memorial.
For a unique mountain vibe, visit the Omni Grove Park Inn. This is a century-old hotel and golf club. The hotel is on the way to the Pisgah National Forest and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Whether you go to your Craggy Gardens hike or you return from it, stop at the Omni hotel for a fantastic view of the landscape and of this unique architectural gem.
A large component of Asheville’s charming personality is its abundance of live music and street performances. Live music includes night clubs, festivals, performance venues, street performances and even restaurants and bar performances. My personal favorite venue for live music is Tressa’s. This establishment has an original jazz vibe and is home to various types of live bands. Enjoy a cocktail, watch a live band and dance the night away at Tressa’s.
There are so many good restaurants in Asheville that it is hard to pick one singular eatery. One of my favorite places to eat at is ‘Mamacitas Taco Temple’, a taco hub where you can also enjoy a good margarita. The restaurant is located on 132 Charlotte Street.
For dessert and coffee, stop at Double D’s Coffee and Dessert. This coffeeshop is integrated into a double decked bus, offering a unique experience. Get a milkshake, a warm brownie Sundae or just a regular coffee. Double D’s is located on 41 Biltmore Avenue.
Across the street from Double D’s you can drink the most succulent hot chocolate in town at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Aside from their variety of hot chocolates, the Chocolate Lounge also offers home-made ice creams, brownies, truffles and caramels. For a stronger drinking experience, head over to the Bier Garden, on 46 Haywood Street.The Bier Garden offers a large-scale selection of beers from everywhere in the world (over 250). They also have 26 TV’s, in case you want to catch a game.
When to go
Fall, fall, fall! The entire area has one of the most diversified and longest fall color seasons on the planet. This is due to the rich bio-diversity that characterizes Western North Carolina but also due to the differing levels of elevation. In October and November, the colors are at their brightest so this is the best time to go. The scenic drives will be the prettiest then but it is also a perfect time to enjoy a warm cup of apple cider!
Plane: The Asheville Regional Airport is located 9 miles from downtown Asheville. It offers flights to main hubs such as Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicago, LaGuardia and Newark.
The downtown area is small enough that you can get around by foot. If you don’t have a car (which is highly recommendable in order to take the scenic drives) you can always get a taxi or a Uber. Otherwise, the Asheville Redefines Transit offer 16 bus lines that run through the city as well as to Black Mountain.