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The first-timer’s Asheville itinerary

Biltmore Estate

Even after four trips to Asheville, I could easily spend weeks more in this beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains city. But sometimes, all you have is a long weekend, and if that’s your situation, you can absolutely still make an Asheville trip work. Below, I’ve compiled my must-dos in the city and condensed them into a logical Asheville itinerary that will give first-time visitors a good sense of the area and what it has to offer. And for the rest, there’s always next time!

THE FIRST-TIMER’S ASHEVILLE ITINERARY

Chihuly garden
Biltmore Estate

DAY 1 – BILTMORE ESTATE

If you’re staying downtown (and I highly recommend you do so—particularly at The Foundry Hotel), walk over to The Rhu first thing in the morning. The little sister of popular restaurant Rhubarb, The Rhu serves coffee, tea, and a selection of pastries and breakfast items, including toasts, breakfast sandwiches, hashes and frittatas. 

Afterward, head over the the Biltmore Estate for a chance to beat the crowds. Ticket sales begin at 8:30 a.m., while the house, gardens and conservatory officially open at 9:00 a.m., 365 days a year. You’ll want to arrive as close to opening as possible if you’re interested in dodging throngs of other visitors, and also if you want to get your money’s worth, as tickets aren’t cheap. Prices fluctuate by day, but they can get as high as $89; plus, there’s tons to see besides just the Biltmore House itself. You’ll want time to explore the gardens, see works by famous glass artist Dale Chihuly, and maybe even do a wine tasting or have afternoon tea. Nearby Biltmore village has plenty to explore, too.

Take a break back at the hotel before dining at Table (make a reservation in advance!), one of Asheville’s best restaurants. Everything on the menu is amazing, so don’t hold back while ordering and definitely spring for dessert, no matter how full you may be. After dinner, grab a nightcap at cocktail spots Sovereign Remedies or Little Jumbo

Mills River Valley Overlook sunrise

DAY 2 – BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS

Start the day early—before sunrise early. Jump in the car and make your way to Mills River Valley Overlook, about 40 minutes outside of downtown Asheville. Here, you can watch the sun rise over the Blue Ridge Mountains in spectacular fashion. Just remember that it can get cold up there, so dress appropriately.

After dawn turns to morning, hop back in the car and make the short drive to Pisgah Inn for breakfast. Grab a table facing the giant windows to keep enjoying the Blue Ridge Mountains in all their glory! Take some time to hang around the inn after breakfast and enjoy its outdoors space before heading back to town.

If you’re up for it, stop for a hike on your way back to Asheville. There are tons of shorter options available (think 1-2 miles), so there’s really nothing stopping you. Also be sure to keep your eyes out for bears and other wildlife on the ride back toward town!

For dinner, keep it simple (assuming you’re staying at the Foundry) and make a reservation for Benne on Eagle, a restaurant inside the hotel that celebrates the history of its former neighborhood, known as “The Block.” You’ll love the innovative twists on soul food classics, and getting there couldn’t be more convenient than walking across a courtyard from the hotel.

Omni Grove Park Inn

DAY 3 – AROUND TOWN

After a weekend full of activities, take this day to see what Asheville itself has to offer. Start in the neighborhood of West Asheville, home to quirky shops and lots of street art, to take it all in. Try Flora for coffee or Owl Bakery for baked goods (or both, obviously), and then spend the rest of the morning roaming around this hip part of town. If you’re still there by lunchtime, hit up Gan Shan West, a casual pan-Asian restaurant with phenomenal ramen.

After lunch, downtown Asheville is your oyster. Pop into shops, enjoy music from street performers, and definitely don’t leave with checking out a (brewery) or two—Asheville is, after all, famous for them. Before the sun sets, find your way over to the Omni Grove Park Inn, whose expansive patio makes the perfect spot for sundowners. Have a drink while watching the sun set behind the mountains, and then head inside to enjoy lobby fireplaces that are so big, you can walk inside of them. 

For your last dinner in town, you have tons of great options, including Smoky Park Supper Club (for beautiful al fresco dining), Curate, and The Bull and Beggar. You really can’t go wrong, so pick whatever suits your fancy. If you want to make one last toast to your Asheville trip, check out either of the cocktail bars listed above or grab a drink at The Waterbird

For more on how to visit Asheville for free using points and miles, check out the 52 Cities free resource library or  register to join me on an upcoming masterclass. And for more on Asheville, check out my bar and restaurant guide, see my full city guide and read my review of The Foundry Hotel!

Hope this Asheville itinerary helps you plan your trip! What other questions do you have about visiting Asheville? Let me know in the comments! >>

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Asheville itinerary
Asheville itinerary
Asheville itinerary

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