Asheville, NC is an eclectic mountain town full of creativity, culture, history and great food. It’s surrounded by beautiful mountains where you can find amazing views and great hikes in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.
Nickname: “Land of the Sky” – refers to the Mountain region of western North Carolina, adopted from the title of an 1876 novel.
Slogan: “Keep Asheville Weird” – evokes the 1960’s, when Asheville was a center of hippie culture.
We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite things to do in the area and favorite places to eat.
- Sam Knob Trail: Pisgah National Forest, near Canton, NC (2.5 mile out and back, 492’ elevation). Steep and rocky in areas, it ends at Sam Knob (6068’) with spectacular 360 degree views.
- Graveyard Fields Trail: Pisgah National Forest, near Canton, NC (2.9 mile loop, 305’ elevation). This trail has 2 stunning waterfalls, beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and passes through a wide variety of plant life. Parking gets full so get there early.
- Rattlesnake Lodge Trail: Blue Ridge Parkway, near Weaverville, NC. (3.7 mile loop 882’ elevation). This trail starts at a mountain pass that funnels the wind into what can sometimes feel like a gale force until you reach the turn to continue along the mountain. It heads to the ruins of a 1900s summer lodge and then to a short loop through rhododendrons. Near the ruins is a fantastic dead tree we love to visit.
- Buskers: Street performers are a part of Asheville’s positive energy. Our favorites are the ones that play mountain music.
- The Drum Circle: Pritchard Park, Friday nights during warm weather months (say April through October) from about 6 pm to 9:45 pm. People join together to play primal, thundering sounds on drums, dance to the powerful rhythms, or just sit back and enjoy the show of individuality and diverse community.
- Window shop: There are some great places to window shop in Asheville. 1) Downtown. You’ll find quirky, independently owned shops selling handcrafted and curated goods in over 200 locally-owned shops, bars and restaurants. 2) Biltmore Village. Many shops are in historic cottages dating back to the 1890s, making you feel as if you’re in an old village. 3) The Asheville City Farmers’ Market, Saturday mornings in Downtown Asheville. Fresh fruits, vegetables, homemade pastries, honey, cheese, jams and live music. There’s also a Farmers’ Market in Biltmore Park Town Square, Wednesdays from noon to 4 pm (April–October).
- Strada Italiano: We were first introduced to Strada because it’s one of the few restaurants open on thanksgiving and it quickly became a favorite. High quality, delicious, traditional Italian food.
- Early Girl Eatery: Using local, organic, seasonal, fresh ingredients to create delicious Farm to Table food for over 20 years. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner all day.
- Mountain Madre: Fresh, locally sourced ingredients in creatively crafted, flavorful dishes.
- Hole Donuts: All doughnuts are made to order from a single yeasted dough recipe using organic stone ground flour from Lindley Mills, unrefined organic cane sugar, sea salt, cage free eggs and whole butter, and fried in non-GMO rice bran oil. They come in vanilla glazed, toasted almond sesame cinnamon, cinnamon sugar, weekly seasonal flavor. I also recommend their Farm to Home Chocolate Milk. It tastes better than the best melted chocolate ice cream you’ve ever had.
- Old Europe Pastries: A hole in wall spot, where the size of the desserts exceeds the size of a cafe. Delicious coffee, cakes, pastries and traditional Hungarian desserts. My favorite is the as big as your fist, chocolate macaroon.
- French Broad Chocolate Lounge: Fresh, warm chocolate crème brûlée – need I say more? This place regularly has lines out the door. They offer wide variety of high quality, chocolate infused delicacies.
Other Recommended Activities
- Navitat: By far the best Zip-Line experience we’ve ever had. The engineers have built the course using techniques that protect the trees that support the zip lines and platforms from damage. The staff is well educated, charming and engaging. 100% recommend.
- Biltmore Estate: More touristy (and expensive) than we usually like, it is the areas biggest attraction and worth at least one visit. Tour the 175000 square foot mansion, visit the winery, drive a Land Rover or take a carriage ride. We liked exploring the 75 acre gardens best.
- Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway: Free for anyone to enjoy, this 469-mile road weaves around the peaks in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. As the Parkway approaches Asheville, it offers frequent overlooks with impressive views of some of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River.
- North Carolina Arboretum: I especially enjoyed their collection of bonsai trees. You can walk around their winter light festival (over a million lights) with a cozy cup of hot chocolate.
Let us know what you like to do and where you like to eat in Asheville in the comments below.