Asheville is much more than your typical mountain town. Sure, it may look like those out west, tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, and may also have some of the hippie tendencies, but also has the unique Southern hospitality. In recent years it has become known as “Beer City USA” for the booming craft beer industry. New breweries are popping up regularly. The city is also known for Biltmore Estate, the largest private home in America, where the Vanderbilts once spent their summers. The best time to visit is during the Bele Chere Festival, when you can catch free performances by well-known and local musicians and browse for art in the stalls covering downtown.
What to Do
Biltmore Estate– Easily the top attraction in Asheville, the Biltmore Estate was the home of the esteemed Vanderbilt family. While admission can be a bit steep, it gains you entrance into the sprawling manor and most of its rooms, the gardens, and a free wine tasting at the Biltmore Winery, which can’t be missed. You can easily spend the entire day walking the grounds, shopping and grabbing a bite to eat at Antler Hill Village and going for a horse ride. 1 Lodge Street
Basilica of Saint Lawrence– You don’t expect to find a historic basilica in downtown Asheville, but St. Lawrence is just that. Built in 1905 and named a minor basilica in 1993 by Pope John Paul II, the church is a place of worship for the city’s Catholic community. It reportedly has the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America. 97 Haywood Street
River Arts District– Businesses in a formerly industrial area have banded together to form the River Arts District, which has shops, galleries, restaurants and breweries along the French Broad River. Over 165 artists work in the repurposed buildings. You can check out their regular art walks through the district. Riverside Drive
Grove Arcade– Developed by E.W. Grove, the man behind the Grove Park Inn, the Grove Arcade is the city’s oldest shopping plaza. Built in 1929, it served as the commercial hub for the city before the government took it over during World War II. Today, you can peruse the art galleries, clothing stores and flower shops inside. 1 Page Avenue
Blue Ridge Parkway– One of the most scenic drives in the country goes through Asheville, so spend a few hours driving its winding paths through the mountains.
LaZoom– Asheville is no ordinary city, so it’s fitting that there are not ordinary tours. On the City Comedy Bus Tour, you’ll ride around on a purple school bus touring the city while also enjoying a live comedy show from the crazy cast of characters. 90 Biltmore Avenue
Where to Eat
Table Asheville– Jacob Sessoms, the chef who’s New American style has become a staple in Asheville’s ever changing food scene has created something truly special at Table. The name comes from the, in Chef’s words, overused phrase “farm to table.” Although perhaps stereotypical in use, Table truly exhibits the principles of farm to table produce. Sessoms sources every ingredient from a friend or acquaintance. The entire menu is a rolling based seasonal affair. 48 College Street, (828) 254-8980
Tupelo Honey Cafe– While Tupelo Honey has recently expanded to locations throughout the South, the downtown Asheville location is the first and, undoubtedly, the best. Everything is made from scratch, from the sweet potato pancakes and fluffy biscuits to the “Moonswine Mary” moonshine Bloody Mary cocktail. 12 College Street, 828-255-4863
Sunny Point Cafe– If locals had to pick one favorite brunch spot in town, it may just be West Asheville’s Sunny Point. You’ll have to wait for a table at any time of day, but if it’s nice outside, you can sit on the patio. Items like the Mighty Good Breakfast, Huevos Rancheros and French Toast keep people coming back for more. 626 Haywood Road, (828) 252-0055
Over Easy Cafe– Another great brunch spot, Over Easy has delicious breakfast sandwiches, biscuits and gravy and vegetable hash within walking distance of downtown. 32 Broadway, (828) 236-3533
White Duck Taco Shop– White Duck is to tacos as Lucky Otter is to burritos. Located in the River Arts District, this unassuming spot offers cheap and unusual tacos, so order at least two. The jerk chicken and banh mi tofu have great flavor, so pair them with a half pint of local beer. 1 Roberts Street, Suite 101, (828) 258-1660
Where to Drink
There is no shortage of places to drink for beer lovers, including breweries and beer-focused bars. New ones are constantly opening, but here are just a few.
The most popular brewery is Highland Brewing Company for its dark brews like the Thunderstruck Coffee Porter and Oatmeal Porter. French Broad Brewery is another brewery that gets distributed throughout the South and that is named for the river that runs through Asheville. Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain has a laid back vibe and offers year-round favorites like the nitro stout and seasonal selections like the blueberry what. Wedge Brewing Co, at the River Arts District, is an experience of its own, with food trucks and movies played outside. Wicked Weed Brewing is the newest kid on the block, but already has a loyal following for beers like their Milk and Cookies Stout and in-house restaurant.
For a different experience, check out one of the many brew pubs, which brew their own beer or carry plenty of selections of the local drafts. Lexington Avenue Brewery has live music, delicious food and their own beers. Jack of the Wood is another pub that serves up Green Man beers. Thirsty Monk both brews their own and sells other beers.
Where to Stay
The Omni Grove Park Inn is one of Asheville’s oldest and most beloved hotels. It’s certainly on the luxury side of the price scale, as is the Inn at Biltmore Estate, which is also further out of town. If you want to be downtown, try the Hotel Indigo or Aloft Hotel, both of which are within walking distance of all the action. And for those traveling on a budget, enjoy the flashpacker amenities of Sweet Peas Hostel or the homey West Asheville hostel Bon Paul & Sharky’s Hostel. There’s also camping nearby in Pisgah National Forest. Airbnb is another great option.
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