Asheville, North Carolina might be one of those ideal destinations – offering something for every type of traveler and everyone in your group. With fairly temperate weather, beautiful natural surroundings, and plenty of interesting places to explore, Asheville is a great destination whether your idea of fun is hiking, shopping with friends, or simply relaxing. After a month in the area, we didn’t see it all and want to experience the affect of the different seasons. We enjoyed late spring with its many blooms, but know that fall on the Blue Ridge Parkway or Christmas at the Biltmore would be beautiful.
For those of you anticipating a trip to Asheville or looking for ideas for your next vacation, Here are our top reasons for why you should visit:
Reason #1: Outdoor Adventures as mild or wild as you wish
Whether your idea of communing with nature is taking a beautiful drive to enjoy the scenery or hiking to a remote area for camping, Asheville has you covered. The Blue Ridge Parkway comes right through this area and offers multiple drives with scenic overlooks and signage to explain what you are seeing.
Hikers can choose from literally hundreds of hikes that go from “Grandma, let’s go see the waterfall” to “Can’t… take… another… step.”
I enjoyed the variety of plants and flowers along the hikes.
Or if you like the more structured and flatter outdoor area, there are plenty of options to take a stroll among gardens.
The gardens of Biltmore offer plenty of options for long or short walks.
Reason #2: Chance to find your artsy side
Asheville and the surrounding smaller towns must have more artists per capita than any other area in the country. (I see you Santa Fe and raise you). Artist studios and galleries can be found throughout the area and offer a variety of mediums, genres, and price options. Whether you are looking for a great focus piece for your living room or a small gift for a friend, you will find something here. While you can spend hours and days exploring all the art options, my top picks for those with limited time is to visit the Woolworth Walk to see a variety all in one two story space.
If you like talking to the artists, visit River Arts District. This is a very large area with multiple buildings so it can be confusing and the hours for each artist vary. Their brochure and website outline the buildings and list the artists by medium so, with some research, you can make sure to find what you want. Or if you plan your trip to be on a second Saturday of the month, the area offers shuttles to get around and many of the studios are open and artists available.
There also a lot of options in the surrounding towns like Brevard where the main street includes multiple galleries and shops as well as a lovely art coop on the corner. We also enjoyed a good arts festival in Saluda which also has a very historic and artistic main street. There were several other areas like Black Mountain that sounded like a great excuse to come back and explore more.
Reason #3: The Craft Beer Scene and all that includes
Craft beer is all the rage across the country and Asheville certainly represents with more breweries and options that most larger cities. There are more than 100 local beers and a Trail Ale brewery app to keep up with your options! Now, I am not a huge beer fan and tend to the less adventurous varieties; but with the craft beer scene, comes fun breweries with patios and often local musicians. It also makes for a great rest stop after a long hike or day of shopping!
Reason #4: Shopping and More Shopping
This corner of North Carolina has a lot of options for shoppers whether you enjoy clothes, jewelry, local crafts or anything else. In Asheville, there is a walkable downtown area (though it is hilly) where you can enjoy browsing among a variety of cute independent shops. The area is also interspersed with plenty of options for food or drink if you need to fortify before moving on to the next area. While there are shops with every thing you need, in case you have missed anything, Mast General Store likely has it.
Do a honey tasting at Asheville Bee Charmer which has more than 20 flavors or enjoy other treats of Asheville. Or enjoy a blind date with a bookseller and get a surprise new read.
The Grove Arcade in Asheville offers a variety of shopping and fun restaurants while the White Squirrel in Brevard is an eclectic shop honoring the legendary white squirrels who make their home at the nearby college.
Reason #5: Great food and ingredients
When traveling, you want to enjoy delicious food and the local flavors. This area boasts a variety of flavors including delicious fresh produce to be found at the large West North Carolina Farmer’s Market. With multiple sheds, a gardening center and daily operations, it is easy to get some fresh ingredients from here or one of the numerous markets held around the area.
In addition, there are many choices for eating out. On the healthy side, we really enjoyed Green Sage. It was conveniently in the middle of the shopping adventure and offered delicious juices, smoothies, and bowls. For the other side of indulgence, we enjoyed Tupelo Honey, a downhome southern eatery that satisfies the soul.
French Broad is a dessert restaurant but get there early as a line forms after dinner or just go next door to the shop and buy it to go. The Book Exchange and Champagne Bar offers treats like cake, champagne and a new read.
Reason #6: You have the chance to live history
For those who enjoy history, this area offers great options to learn and appreciate. With Asheville as your base, you can walk in the steps of the Vanderbilts, learn more about Native Americans or visit a few Civil War sites. Asheville makes it easy to spot much of its history with its Urban Walk that features plagues that draw attention to the history of the city including its literary history with authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, who set his book Look Homeward, Angel here in his boyhood hometown.
Learn about illuminaries like author Thomas Wolfe, landcape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect E.W. Grove who all had a large impact on Asheville.
The Vanderbilts offer not only their own intriguing history, but also a glimpse into the world at that time. With a family history that exemplifies the American dream of rags to immense riches, the Vanderbilts had a large impact on this area. Not only did George Vanderbilt build Biltmore, but he is also credited with saving a large portion of the surrounding forest which eventually became the beginning of our US Forest Service. Edith Vanderbilt created Biltmore Industries which taught young men wood crafts and young women how to weave what became known as Homespun, a world known cloth used to dress people like President and Eleanor Roosevelt.
History shows up in unexpected places like stepping back in time to the oldest grocery store in N. Carolina, Thompsons found in Saluda.
Reason #7: Waterfalls
Touted as the “Land of Waterfalls,” the area delivers! You can enjoy waterfalls from your car like the beautiful Looking Glass Falls, take a ride down Sliding Falls, or hike up to a variety of large and small falls. Many are very easy walks so everyone can find their favorite falls.
Reason #8: The Biltmore Estate
I wouldn’t really have believed it, but so worth the admission and the time. This grand house and gardens give you a wonderful view into another life, but also a chance to really enjoy all this area has to offer in natural beauty. We talked in length about it with our At Least 15 Tips for Visiting the Biltmore so see that for more detail, but plan a trip to this American castle.
The Vanderbilts stand ready to receive you and offer you a glass of wine at the end of your day.
Reason #9: Enjoying the natural beauty
This is one of most beautiful corners of our country that I have found, so far. The mountains seem to go on forever and there are more colors of green than you can count. Add to this the already mentioned waterfalls and all the plants, blooming or not and you have a gorgeous area. Even where man has put up buildings and highways, nature has been to add her stamp with plants that I had never seen before.
Enjoy Asheville and its surrounding areas. It has something to offer everyone!
- The Asheville website is a one of the best I have found and a great resource to plan a trip with options for every itinerary.
- A trip to the Asheville Visitor Center is also a great way to start your trip with plenty of brochures to find your niche as well as super helpful volunteers with ideas to make your trip better.
- There are plenty of spots to stay in, including two options on Biltmore Estate, but for history and beauty, the Grove Park Inn cannot be beat. Now an Omni, it offers golf and spa as well as beautiful lobby and scenery.
- For those of you camping in a RV, we stayed at the Rutledge Lake RV Park which was convenient for exploring the area with good spots and amenities.
- For those of you traveling with children, I suggest Crazy Family Adventure for ideas on Asheville and other great vacation spots.