If you’re into great food, a vibrant arts scene, beer, gorgeous mountain views and an overall laid-back vibe, then a trip to Asheville, North Carolina should be in your near future. In addition to the aforementioned, you’ll also find an the largest privately-owned home in the U.S. (you can take a tour), a luxurious mountain resort, and more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the country. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a beautiful town with lots to offer its visitors and locals alike. Herein lies my recommendations for all the best spots and things to do on your visit.
GRAND BOHEMIAN HOTEL | Biltmore Village
11 Boston Way, Asheville, NC 28803 • 828.505.2949
The Grand Bohemian is an upscale Kessler Collection hotel located in the historic Biltmore Village, just outside of the entrance to the Biltmore Estate and a short 5-10 minute drive to downtown. Rustic luxury describes the feel of this hotel which is fitting for its Asheville address. The four-sided fireplace in the lobby makes a great place to enjoy a cocktail before dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, The Red Stagg. In the evenings, enjoy live music by local musicians in the lounge area. And don’t miss all the original artwork in the hotel’s own art gallery which has over 100 pieces from local, regional and international artists. Plus, the hotel has its own spa so you don’t have to leave the property to be pampered.
GROVE PARK INN | Sunset Mountain
290 Macon Ave., Asheville, NC 28804 • 800.438.5800
The Omni Grove Park Inn is a sprawling resort sitting on top of Sunset Mountain in Asheville. It’s just minutes from downtown which is great if you want to venture off the property, but there is no shortage of things to do at the Inn itself. There are 10 restaurants and bars, including a fine dining option, several casual farm-to-table choices. lighter options at the spa café and even an underground dueling piano bar perfect for some nighttime entertainment. Speaking of the spa, the Grove Park has a world-class subterranean spa offering luxurious treatments and extensive amenities like therapeutic waterfalls, relaxation pools and inhalation rooms. A favorite feature of the hotel is the lobby with two giant fireplaces surrounded by rocking chairs, a bar and a killer view of the sunset.
THE INN ON BILTMORE ESTATE | Biltmore
One Lodge St., Asheville, NC 28803 • 1.866.336.1245
If you want a taste of what it feels like to live as a Vanderbilt, stay at the Inn at Biltmore, the luxury 5-star hotel located on the enormous Biltmore estate. This hotel is my favorite at Christmas time, but there’s plenty to do all year round with all the Biltmore Estate has to offer (more on that below). The Inn itself is beautifully decorated and features a gorgeous lobby with an inviting seating area around a large fireplace, a restaurant, luxurious guest rooms and stunning views. (For a more casual and family-friendly option, check out the Village Hotel at Biltmore.)
THE WINDSOR | Downtown
36 Broadway, Asheville, NC 28801 • 844.494.6376
The Windsor is an adorable and unique boutique hotel in downtown Asheville, an easy walking distance away from tons of great restaurants, breweries, galleries and more. If you want to be in the perfect downtown location, head to The Windsor! What we love about this hotel (besides its location) is the decor and ambiance — its 14 luxury suites are styled differently but all feature a kitchen, private bedroom and a separate, fully-equipped kitchen and living room area. You’ll also notice the hotelier’s affinity for the arts… original artwork from the local area and Paris (!!!) line the walls of every floor. This place feels much like a bed and breakfast, with all the conveniences of a hotel.
CORNER KITCHEN | Biltmore Village
3 Boston Way, Asheville, NC 28803 • 828.274.2439
Corner Kitchen is a great place to go for brunch or a low-key, cozy dinner. It’s located in a little two-story house in Biltmore Village, and is surrounded by lots of shops and art galleries so you can walk around with plenty to do in case you have to wait for a table (I suggest making reservations). When the weather is nice, request a seat outside in the adorable garden patio.
CÚRATE | Downtown
13 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, NC 28801 • 828.239.2946
Cúrate is an adorable Spanish tapas bar in downtown Asheville. It has a great, lively atmosphere perfect for grabbing a quick bite at the bar or having dinner with friends. The menu does not disappoint, featuring traditional Spanish cuisine and an impressive selection of Spanish wines. The restaurant has a great, passionate team behind it that even leads yearly guided “Cúrate trips“ to Spain, leading 16 travelers on a culinary journey through the country.
OVER EASY CAFE | Downtown
32 Broadway St., Asheville, NC 28801 • 828.236.3533
Over Easy is a great spot for casual breakfast, brunch or lunch downtown (open ’til 2pm). The menu is sourced from local farms and is served in a laid-back atmosphere. Whether you’re wanting something light (like a fresh juice, smoothie or salad), or would rather go the more indulgent route (Benton’s bacon omelet, hotcakes, mason jar mimosas!) there’s no shortage of options on the menu. And if you love art you’ll love the decor – the restaurant supports the local art community by allowing artists to sell directly to customers of the restaurant.
LIMONES | Downtown
13 Eagle St., Asheville, NC 28801 • 828.252.2327
If I could only have one meal in Asheville, it would probably be at Limones. Brunch, dinner – I’ve tried it all and its delicious any time of day. Trust me when I say that this is not your average Mexican restaurant.The chef is a native of Mexico City who trained in San Francisco and has crafted a menu of traditional Mexican dishes with a Californian twist. Everything from the cocktails to the main course to the little cayenne-pepper-covered chocolates they bring you after your meal is delightful. After dinner, head next door to their sister cocktail bar En La Calle for a nightcap.
NIGHTBELL | Downtown
32 S Lexington Ave., Asheville, NC 28801 • 828.575.0375
This swanky establishment is from the same hospitality group that brought us Curate. Craft cocktails and American small plates made with Appalachian ingredients are the focus of the menu. Go for date night or with a group of friends and order lots of different small plates to share. The ambiance is super energetic making it the perfect place for a fun evening.
RED STAG GRILL | Biltmore Village
11 Boston Way, Asheville, NC, 28803 • 828.398.5600
If you’re looking for a nice but cozy spot for dinner, make a reservation at the Red Stag Grill inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Biltmore Village. The restaurant is self-described as “rustic hunting lodge meets modern-chic sensibility.” Hunting lodge is right, from the game and chophouse selection on the menu to the antler chandeliers, it’s definitely a mountain lodge vibe. My favorite part of the restaurant is the bar and lounge area where you can enjoy cocktails and live music in the evenings.
RHUBARB | Downtown
7 SW Pack Sq., Asheville, NC 28801 • 828.785.1503
You will find Rhubarb right in the center of downtown Asheville in Park Square. Chef and owner John Fleer has an interesting background – he is a five-time James Beard Award finalist, was once Mary Tyler Moore’s personal chef, and formerly served as the executive chef of Blackberry Farm for 15 years. Rhubarb is his current focus, with it’s new American farm-to-table menu and the distressed industrial atmosphere. When the weather is nice, the front patio makes the perfect place to sit and people-watch.
If you’re in the mood for some serious authentic Italian comfort food, head to Vinnie’s on Merrimon (about a 5-7 minute drive from downtown). The atmosphere is lively and upbeat and feels more like an Italian restaurant you’d find in New York than North Carolina. They don’t take reservations so be prepared to wait (this place is very popular for tourists and locals alike) but the bar makes excellent cocktails so order one of their famous martinis to enjoy until your table is ready. And it sounds random, but start your meal with the Greek salad! Then order any of their home-cooked Italian dishes – you can’t go wrong.
BATTERY PARK BOOK EXCHANGE & CHAMPAGNE BAR | Downtown
1 Page Ave. #101, Asheville, NC 28801 • 828.252.0020
This dog-friendly bookstore with a champagne bar in it is one of my favorite spots in Asheville. It’s the perfect place to stop for a cocktail while spending the day walking around downtown. There are two floors and thousands of books with a champagne bar and an espresso bar on the main level and tons of cozy sitting areas scattered around.
TRADE and LORE COFFEE | Downtown
37 Wall St., Asheville, NC 28801 • 828.424.7291
This laid-back downtown coffee shop makes great lattes, friendly baristas and is an excellent stop for your morning joe or afternoon pick-me-up. They also have a wine list, just fyi.
WICKED WEED BREWPUB | Downtown
91 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, NC 28801 • 828.275.9599
Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city… a whole guide could be done on the breweries alone! There are tons of great ones to choose from if you’re interested in visiting one, but Wicked Weed Brewpub downtown is a great place to start. The Brewery itself is actually now located in West Asheville, but the downtown Brewpub was the brewery’s original location and still houses the original 15 barrel brewery. It also has a full restaurant, tasting room and a bottle shop. I suggest heading downstairs to the beer bar and ordering a flight. Click here for a list of what’s on tap. You can read more about other Asheville breweries here.
10 Brook St, Asheville, NC 28803 • 828.398.6062
This charming area located just a short drive from downtown is filled with shops, art galleries and restaurants (you’ll find other recommended spots here like the Grand Bohemian Hotel, Corner Kitchen and the entrance to the Biltmore Estate). Larger retailers like Lululemon, J.Crew and Williams Sonoma are scattered among local boutiques like Bon Vivant Antiques, Monkee’s clothing boutique and more.
1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
The Biltmore mansion, completed by George Vanderbilt in 1895, is a 250-room chateau located just minutes from downtown and is the largest privately-owned residence in the U.S. The entire property now includes two hotels, a winery, expansive gardens, protected forests and 8,000 acres or grounds to explore. There are endless things to do at Biltmore, but if you’ve never been inside the house, I suggest adding that to the top of the list. My favorite way to see it is on the candlelight tour at Christmas time… the whole experience is breathtaking.
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
Visitor’s Center – Parkway Milepost 384, 195 Hemphill Knob Rd, Asheville, NC 28803 • 828.298.5330
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in America and can be accessed in Asheville. The parkway is a 469-mile road that winds through Southern Appalachia and reveals unparalleled views of the mountains and scenery. There are tons of stopping points, outlooks, hiking trails and areas to explore along the way. You can access the Blue Ridge Parkway Asheville Visitor’s Center here, and read more about planning your trip here.
The River Arts District spans a one-mile stretch along the French Broad River made up of restaurants, breweries and artist studios housed in former historical industrial buildings. There are really no set hours but at any given time you can find artists at work in their studios and browse and shop their artwork. You can view the Studio Guide here and map here. All parking is free in the District, so find a spot and explore the area on foot.
SPA AT GROVE PARK INN
290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804 • 800.438.5800
For an incredibly relaxing spa experience, book a treatment at the Grove Park Inn spa. You’ll find a subterranean oasis located inside, with mineral pools, therapeutic waterfalls and a lap-pool that plays underwater music and is illuminated by thousands of fiber-optic stars. Appointments book up months in advance, so make yours early. Friday through Sunday appointments are reserved for overnight guests only.
Though Asheville is easily accessible by car from most of the Southeast, the Asheville Regional Airport makes a great option for travelers from further away. It’s served by Allegiant, American, Delta and United and has daily flights from Atlanta, Chicago and Charlotte, plus year-round service from Newark.
WHEN TO GO
Asheville is a great place to visit year round, although it’s most beautiful in the spring and fall. Being in the mountains and with so many cozy spots to warm up next to a fireplace, I like it best in the fall and winter, especially when the leaves have changed or it comes a snow.