You could spend more than a week exploring all that Asheville and the surrounding area have to offer. However, if you only have a few days, here are some highlights of what to do during a weekend in Asheville NC.
Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina, this eclectic mountain town offers diverse experiences, depending on your interests. If you’re the outdoorsy type, there are plenty of places to hike, go fishing, mountain biking, rafting, rock climbing, ziplining, and take in all of the activities available in the surrounding mountains and foothills.
If you’re a history and architecture enthusiast, Biltmore Estate’s magnificent home, grounds and gardens are a must. Those in search of top-notch culinary offerings and breweries can head out to downtown Asheville and artsy neighborhoods like the River Arts District where there are endless opportunities to indulge and imbibe. There are also many local artisan boutiques, galleries, and museums to explore and a vibrant music and cultural arts scene.
While the ideal Asheville experience would be to combine all of the above during an extended vacation, many of us only have time for short getaways. Here is a list of not-to-be-missed things to do for a long weekend in Asheville, NC, the city known as “The Land of the Sky.”
Where to Stay for a Weekend in Asheville NC
Hotel Kimpton Arras is a lovely boutique hotel located in the center of downtown across from Pack Square. This upscale property is ideally situated so you can walk to many of the city’s best restaurants, breweries, shops and other attractions. The property is also very pet-friendly, so your pup can have a vacation, too.
The hotel’s Mediterranean-inspired Bargello restaurant should be one of your options for lunch or dinner while in town. Their beautiful dishes are prepared with locally sourced ingredients from regional and Appalachian farms.
Get Acquainted with Asheville on a Walking Tour
The Asheville Insider Downtown Walking Tour with Asheville by Foot conveniently begins across the street from the Kimpton Arras at the Asheville Art Museum. This approximately one hour and 45-minute tour is focused on the architecture and history of Asheville. The guide also shares interesting insight into the story behind novelist Thomas Wolfe’s historic home. If you’re a first-time visitor to Asheville or want to learn more about the city, this is a great way to get acquainted with downtown.
Asheville has a burgeoning rooftop bar scene, and one way to check out several spots in one evening (and not drive) is to take a Rooftop Sunset Tour with Asheville Rooftop Bar Tours. This small group three-hour experience stops at three rooftop bars for craft cocktails and views overlooking the city. There’s also a bit of history thrown in the mix with stories about Asheville’s ever-changing landscape and old photos of the town dating back to the 1800s and 1900s.
Down a Brew at One of Several Breweries in Beer City
Beer aficionados make pilgrimages to Asheville for what is called a Beercation. With all the beer flowing in town, you can also make beer the focus of your weekend getaway. Asheville was first named Beer City in 2009, and its impressive list of breweries continues to grow today. There are more breweries per capita here than in any other U.S. city with over 100 local breweries producing the hoppy beverage along with sours, ales and porters.
Breweries range in size from impressive large establishments like those of New Belgium and Sierra Nevada to smaller locales such as Burial Brewing Co. and Wedge Brewing Company. Some spots also serve food, others like Green Man are popular local hangouts, and some feature live music.
Sample the Culinary Scene at Local Restaurants
The culinary scene in Asheville is outstanding. Many restaurants partner with local farms and producers to source beautiful fresh ingredients. When those products are combined with talented chefs’ skills, dining out in the city is a real treat.
Of course, you have to start the day with breakfast, so here are a few suggestions. For a tall latte and homemade cinnamon roll or pastry, City Bakery is a quick stroll down the street from Hotel Arras. It’s a cozy spot where you can linger over coffee or place an order and grab-and-go.
A must for doughnuts lovers will require a morning car ride to Hole Doughnuts in West Asheville. Their made-from-scratch yeasty treats are crunchy on the outside and airy on the inside and prepared with wholesome ingredients. They are made to order and fried in non-GMO rice bran oil and glazed or sprinkled with one of four toppings while you wait.
After a late night on the town, head over to the Montford neighborhood to All Day Darling. Their all-day menu features traditional breakfast foods like eggs and pancakes and hearty dishes like Shakshuka with spicy tomato sauce, greens, feta, two poached eggs and flatbread.
If you’re exploring downtown during lunchtime, and want to grab a quick bite, Wicked Weed Brewery is a short walk from Hotel Arras. Their brewpub serves up tasty casual pub grub and cold brews that draw a big crowd, so come early.
There are many excellent choices for dining out in the evening. Established favorites in town are Rhubarb, which serves modern Appalachian-inspired dishes and Cúrate, specializing in Spanish-style tapas and cuisine. Both restaurants are just down the street from Hotel Arras.
Two other favorites are The Market Place and Cucina 24. They are located on Wall Street, which is also within walking distance of the hotel.
For a new spot in town, check out Forestry Camp Bar and Restaurant. The location has a fascinating history in that it was built as a “camp” to house young men while they were building the Blue Ridge Parkway and working on other public projects during the Great Depression.
The folks at Burial Beer Co. own the restaurant, so you can count on a great list of beers to pair with your dinner. They also have an extensive list of wines by the bottle.
Forestry Camp’s menu is French and Spanish inspired, and the chef works with local farmers to incorporate ingredients from Appalachia. Order a few small plates to share or try one of their entrees such as the pan-seared North Carolina striped bass. Be sure to save room for one of the featured homemade ice creams, like salted peach, which is fresh churned with salt-roasted peaches and buttermilk.
For a special evening, head over to The Foundry Hotel for an aperitif followed by dinner at Benne on Eagle. This historic hotel is located in an area that was at one time predominantly African-American and was known as The Block. The delicious regionally sourced cuisine at Benne on Eagle pays homage to the rich culinary roots that once existed in this community in downtown Asheville.
Don’t miss one of their handcrafted specialty cocktails, such as the Hibiscus and Lime, made with Chemist gin, hibiscus, passionfruit,and tiki spices. Then, for an appetizer, order potlikker wings with crispy collard greens, followed by piri piri chicken or oxtail & rice, two of their classic main dishes.
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Biltmore Estate
It would be easy to spend several days on grounds at Biltmore, but if you have one day and are interested in the history of the estate, book the “Exclusive Experience.” This special package features access to the house and gardens, Antler Hill Village & Winery and a customized, private two-hour tour of Biltmore House.
Depending on your specific interests, your guide will take you to areas in the house not shown during a regular visit, which may include the basement with all of the house’s mechanics, the rooftop, balconies and additional rooms.
If you would rather spend time outdoors exploring the grounds, take a float trip on the French Broad River, go horseback riding or take a horse-drawn carriage tour. You can even work with a falconer to learn the ancient art of falconry with his majestic birds of prey.
Take time out to sample the wines at the winery and find your favorite to take a bottle home. When it’s time for a break, grab lunch at Village Social, which is located next to the winery.
Take a Ride on America’s Favorite Drive
If you find you have free time after spending time in the city, head out for a scenic ride on “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 469-mile route runs from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains, and a stretch of the parkway sits on the perimeter of downtown Asheville.
Stop at some of the overlooks for stunning views of the mountains and highest peaks east of the Mississippi River, including Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet.
If you’re like me, you’ll find that four days is not enough time to spend in this city. After a recent long weekend in Asheville, I am already planning to return this fall.
All photos courtesy of Explore Asheville. For more information on Asheville, including things to do in Asheville, NC, this weekend, please visit ExploreAsheville.
– Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Foundation Award Finalist in Journalism and award-winning travel writer. She is the author and owner of PratesiLiving.com with her husband, coauthor of Southern Heat, and freelances for publications such as U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Reader’s Digest, and MSN.