With charming neighborhoods, vibrant history, and beautiful surrounding mountains and hiking trails, Asheville is the perfect city for a quick weekend getaway. Once famous for being the home of the Vanderbilt family, Asheville has since become an interesting oasis for artists, craft brewers, hikers, and more. Intrigued? Read on to hear our tips for a perfect weekend in Asheville, NC.
When to Go
With four seasons and a temperate climate, Asheville is a fantastic weekend destination year-round. However, if you enjoy outdoor activities, it’s best to visit in the late spring to early fall to enjoy warmer weather and ensure the mountain roads will be open.
How to Get There
Located in western North Carolina, Asheville is accessible by car from several cities on the East Coast of the United States. It’s about 7.5 hours driving from Washington, DC and 3.5 hours from Atlanta, GA. Additionally, there are several domestic arrivals from all over the United States each day at Asheville Regional Airport (AVL).
What to Bring
Visiting Asheville is similar to visiting any other US city, so pack as you normally would for a weekend trip. Some extra things I would consider bringing include:
- A light thermal jacket (Asheville is in the mountains, so there are times when it gets chilly year-round)
- A rain jacket
- Hiking boots
- Hiking gear
- Camping gear (If you’re planning on heading west to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or simply want to stay at a campsite in one of the parks)
Where to Stay in Asheville
Since Asheville is a popular tourist destination, there are plenty of places to stay in the city, ranging from chain hotels to locally-owned boutique B&Bs.
For a central location near many of Asheville’s best restaurants, bars, and walking areas, the Hotel Indigo is a fantastic and affordable choice. (Check reviews on Tripadvisor | Book Hotel Indigo now)
If you’re seeking a higher-end, local boutique bed and breakfast option, the Princess Anne Bed & Breakfast is a charming and cozy oasis. From any of these hotels, most of the main attractions in the city are within a short walk or drive. (Check reviews on Tripadvisor | Book Princess Anne Bed & Breakfast now)
As a travelers on a bit more of a budget, we decided to forego both of these options and, instead, stayed in an AirBnb a little outside of town but very close to the mountains. The Airbnb we booked was comfy, cheap, clean, and only about a 15-20 minute drive from anything we wanted to see in Asheville or the surrounding mountains. (You can save $40 off your first stay by clicking on that link!)
The Perfect Weekend in Asheville: A Sample Itinerary
Arrival: Farm to Table Dinner in Downtown Asheville
When you arrive, check in to your hotel or Airbnb to drop off your things and freshen up. To unwind from your long travels, head to Rhubarb, one of the city’s most incredible farm-to-table gems, to enjoy a house-made cocktail and some fresh locally-sourced dishes. If you’re seated near the back of the restaurant, you can watch the chefs create their farm-to-table concoctions – pan searing fish, braising pork belly, and chopping vegetables – in the open kitchen. Don’t forget to top off your meal with dessert – they have some really delicious options! Afterward, if you have the energy, head to a bar or music venue to experience some of Asheville’s buzzing live music scene.
Day 1: Exploring Asheville’s Highlights and Hidden Gems
It’s your first full day in Asheville! Take this day to wander around the city center and soak in everything this fun and unique city center has to offer.
Once you wake up, grab a quick breakfast and a coffee at the Green Sage Cafe. Their vegetarian options are to die for (yes, even my meat-loving boyfriend adored them!). After that, you can begin wandering around the city. There’s so much to see in Downtown Asheville, and some of the best hidden gems can be found simply by exploring on foot.
You can also join a tour of Asheville to help orient yourself and get a local perspective on the city. Afterward, check out some of the colorful streets filled with local boutiques and gift shops, or drink champagne and read a book at the Battery Park Book Exchange.
In the early afternoon, head to the River Arts District, which boasts a street full of colorful art galleries with work by dozens of local artists. Here you can find home furnishings, paintings, jewelry, sculptures, and more in these eclectic, refurbished warehouses by the water. The coolest part of this adventure is that you can actually hang out and talk with many of the artists about what inspires their work or how they came to be artists.
Grab lunch at a traditional North Carolina barbecue joint. Some of Asheville’s most famous BBQ restaurants include Buxton Hall BBQ or Luella’s Bar-B-Que. North Carolinians will argue that their BBQ is the best in the world, so if you’re from out of state, you really can’t miss this regional delight. Afterward, check out some of Asheville’s amazing local breweries in the South Slope Brewery District.
If you’re up for being spooked, try a walking ghost tour of Asheville, which takes you on foot to many of the haunted historic sites in the city. Sleep early, because tomorrow will be an active day!
>>> Need more inspiration? Check out this post on 50 things to do in Asheville. <<<
Day 2: Farms and Fresh Air
Start your day off with brunch at one of Asheville’s esteemed brunch institutions. Our personal favorite was Over Easy Cafe, a delicious southern comfort food joint with incredible savory dishes.
After brunch, head to some of the surrounding farms to learn about Asheville’s agriculture and sample fresh foods, including jams, cheeses, and meat products. A few that accept visitors near Asheville include Gladheart Farm and Hickory Nut Gap Farm.
In the late morning and early afternoon, take some time to explore the incredible nearby mountain areas. Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is no shortage of hikes or outdoor activities in the areas surrounding Asheville. It’s worth taking a day to explore the nearby Pisgah National Forest, Linville Gorge, Chimney Rock Park, or some of the nearby waterfalls in the Blue Ridge. Alternatively, you can rent a stand up paddle board and explore the regional nature that way.
For an unforgettable sunset view, head to Black Balsam Knob trail in Pisgah National Forest. It’s only about a 10-15 minute easy hike to the summit, which boasts amazing views into the surrounding ridges and valleys below. In the summer, you can set out a picnic blanket and enjoy the last few rays of golden light to end your trip in the most beautiful way.
What about the famed Biltmore Estate?
A trip to Asheville for any history or architecture fanatic would not be complete without a visit to the Biltmore Estate, a mansion and grounds that were built for and occupied by the esteemed Vanderbilt family. You could spend the entire day touring the grounds or wandering through the nearby Biltmore Village.
However, in good, Jetfarer faith, I want to caveat: I didn’t go to the Biltmore Mansion during my trip there. Why? Tickets for the Biltmore aren’t cheap, at ~$65 per person, more if you do not book in advance. For us, who enjoy hiking and fun neighborhoods more than upscale historic sites, it wasn’t worth the cost.
However, if you enjoy these kinds of historic homes, grandiose architecture, or simply want to learn more about the Vanderbilt legacy, the Biltmore is one of Asheville’s most iconic sights and will definitely be worth it for you.
Getting Around Asheville
Many neighborhoods in Asheville are walkable, but the best way to get around is to rent a car or drive into town. There are so many beautiful mountain hikes near Asheville that are only accessible by driving, and you DEFINITELY won’t want to miss out on those stunning Blue Ridge views.
If you’re flying in and need to rent a car, Hertz is our preferred, go-to car rental company.
Asheville is a gem of a city hidden in the valleys of some of the most beautiful mountains on the East Coast. For the history buff, the foodie, the hiker, or the artist in you, there’s something that will pique your interest. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that has a little bit of everything, Asheville’s character and charm will not disappoint.
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Have you ever visited Asheville, NC? What were your favorite activities there?
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