Asheville, North Carolina is one of my favorite U.S. cities, and as an avid domestic traveler, I like to think that’s saying a lot. I love its food, its proximity to the mountains, and its size—large enough that you’ll never run out of things to do, but small enough that you won’t feel overwhelmed. Those factors and more have drawn me back to the city four times over the last six years, and in that time I’ve compiled a lengthy list of tips and recommendations. Read on for my full city guide to help you plan your own Asheville weekend trip!
THE ULTIMATE ASHEVILLE WEEKEND TRIP GUIDE
GETTING TO ASHEVILLE
Until my fourth trip to Asheville, I had never actually flown into the airport there. That’s because the city makes a great road trip destination: It’s doable from cities as far away as D.C. in one day (it’s long, but I’ve done it!), and it’s in easy driving range from other great destinations (potentially with more/cheaper flight options) such as Charlotte, Durham, Atlanta, Charleston, Nashville… need I go on? It’s also great to have a car in Asheville once you get there so that you can explore everything the Blue Ridge Parkway has to offer.
That said, if you do want to fly, you have plenty of options, particularly if you’re willing to fly low-cost carriers. If you’re interested in using points and miles to get to Asheville by plane, all three major U.S. carriers offer non-stop options (American from Charlotte, Dallas, New York and Philadelphia and other locations seasonally; Delta from Atlanta and other locations seasonally; and United from Chicago, Newark and Washington Dulles), and you also can get to Asheville from just about anywhere with a one-stop itinerary. (Do be warned that the airport isn’t as close to the city as you’d think for a small-ish city; it’s more than 15 miles away!)
WHEN TO VISIT ASHEVILLE
October is high season in Asheville, with prices to match, and it’s no surprise given the gorgeous foliage you can find on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The thing is, these days, peak foliage isn’t hitting until November; last year, I visited in late October, and there was scarcely any fall color visible. Save yourself some money and disappointment and try booking your trip for early November if autumn leaves are your main draw.
Summer can also be a nice time to visit Asheville, as the city boasts plenty of outdoors activities. But if you do aim for the warmer months, be warned that thunderstorms can throw a wrench in your hiking plans on the daily!
THINGS TO DO IN ASHEVILLE
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway – Asheville has its own brand of urban charm, but if you ask me, the mountains are the main attraction in the area, and you can’t head this way without seeing them. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a winding road brimming with mountain vistas, so just start driving and pull off at will to admire the view. Up for catching the sunrise? Head to Mills River Valley Overlook, and then grab breakfast at nearby Pisgah Inn.
Go for a hike – If you’re able to spend some time outside the car, Asheville has an endless list of nearby hikes, many of which are in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’ve listed a few I’d still like to do in the “Still on my list” section at the bottom of this post!
Day trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park – You can reach parts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in under an hour from Asheville, so if you have several hours at your disposal, give it a go. Clingmans Dome is a highlight, and watch out for wildlife along the way, too! (Hint: BABY BEARS.)
Watch the sunset at the Omni Grove Park Inn – I’m a sucker for skyline views, and the Omni Grove Park Inn has a great one. Watch the sun set behind the mountains and the city with a drink in hand from the Omni’s massive patio. Once night falls, head inside to the rocking chairs lined up in front of the biggest fireplace you’ve ever seen!
Visit the Biltmore Estate – Built between 1889 and 1895, this Gilded Age mansion is the largest privately owned house in the U.S. and now serves as a museum, too. In addition to the house itself, there’s tons to see around the grounds, including gardens and works by renowned glass artist Chihuly. Make sure to leave plenty of time if you’re going to go in order to see it all (and make the most of that pricey ticket!).
Shop hop in West Asheville – If you like street art and small businesses, head over to the colorful neighborhood of West Asheville, where you’ll find plenty to keep you busy for a couple of hours. Shop for records, gem stones, baked goods, you name it—this eclectic stretch of storefronts has it all.
Explore downtown – Downtown Asheville is bustling, with plenty of tourists, college students and street performers to keep things interesting. But it’s also small enough to explore on foot, so give yourself a couple hours to do exactly that.
Check out a brewery – Asheville boasts more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city, so if you don’t try out at least one while you’re in town, you’re doing it wrong!
See an Asheville Tourists game – I wouldn’t necessarily call Asheville a sports city, but a Tourists game can be fun no matter how invested—or uninvested—you are in baseball. After all, the class A team’s moon logo comes from “moonshine,” and the stadium serves the biggest ice cream helmets I’ve ever seen.
WHERE TO STAY IN ASHEVILLE
The Foundry Hotel – A member of Hilton’s Curio Collection, The Foundry has all the charm of a boutique hotel, but you can actually book it using Hilton Honors points (or earn points if you pay for your stay!). This will forever be my go-to option in Asheville. And did I mention it’s only a year old?! Here’s a full review of my October stay!
Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville – This is another points option, this time for Marriott Bonvoy enthusiasts, but one I admittedly have not tried myself. While it looks really nice and I like the design touches, I’d be a little nervous about the location. It’s close to the Biltmore Estate, but it’s a drive from downtown, so unless you’ll have a car with you, I would consider another option.
Hilton Garden Inn Asheville Downtown – Here’s another centrally located option—again, bookable with Hilton points—that can work in a pinch when The Foundry is expensive. I stayed here once and had a perfectly fine experience—exactly what you’d expect from a clean, up-to-date Hilton Garden Inn.
Asheville River Cabins – For something different (especially if traveling with a group!), those who have a car handy can check out these cabins for gorgeous views of the French Broad. They’re well-appointed, comfortable and boasts plenty of outdoor space for dining and hanging out.
WHERE TO EAT IN ASHEVILLE
Table – Hands down my favorite restaurant in Asheville. Go with a significant other, go with your family, go alone—it’s the perfect place for any outing. The food is simply out of this world from start to finish.
Gan Shan West – This pan-Asian spot in West Asheville is always my first in the city for food, and it’s because of the ramen. The relaxed atmosphere and playful decor certainly don’t hurt, though!
Smoky Park Supper Club – I’m so glad to have gotten this recommendation from a local reader because you truly won’t find a better spot for dining al fresco in the warmer months. Smoky Park’s location (along the French Broad River) is second to none.
The Rhu – Need breakfast, lunch, baked goods, or just some drinks and snacks to take along on a trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway? Stop into the Rhu, conveniently located right downtown. Check out sister restaurant Rhubarb while you’re at it, too.
The Waterbird – The Waterbird has everything from breakfast and coffee drinks to lunch-and-dinner food, plus a killer cocktail list for later in the day and evening and the most spot-on interior design you’ll find in Asheville.
WHERE TO DRINK IN ASHEVILLE
Flora – I can’t say enough good things about this lovely coffee-shop-meets-plant-shop. Just be prepared to want to buy everything (and photograph everything, too).
Little Jumbo – Vintage decor? Check. Friendly, laid-back neighborhood vibe? Check. Awesome cocktails? Check, check, check. If you’re in search of drinks, Little Jumbo really has the best of every world.
Looking for more places to eat and drink in Asheville? You’re in luck. I’ve got a dedicated Asheville bar and restaurant guide featuring tons more options for a longer stay!
STILL ON MY LIST
Sunset hikes – Rain has gotten in the way of my hiking plans multiple times in Asheville, so I still have a few short sunset hikes I’d love to do. Black Balsam Knob, Devil’s Courthouse and Max Patch are all ones I’m eyeing!
Hope this Asheville weekend trip guide is helpful! What other questions do you have about visiting Asheville? Let me know in the comments! >>
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