In just two short visits, Asheville has quickly become one of my favorite places to explore. A 4.5 hour drive from Nashville, Asheville has a small town feel with all the attractions of a large city.
On our first visit, Andrew and I spent much of our time downtown eating and enjoying the many breweries Asheville has to offer. On our second trip however, we built in more variety by including hiking, neighborhood exploring, and fine dining to the itinerary.
Read on – there’s much to explore!
Asheville is among the list of U.S. cities with the highest number of breweries per capita with a whopping 30 breweries in town. It is easy to spend a full day cruising from one brewery to the next, many of which are within walking distance of each other.
On our first trip to Asheville, breweries were at the top of the list. Andrew and I managed 6 local breweries plus a vineyard over the course of a weekend. Twin Leaf was my favorite with the most creative and tasty beer options followed by Burial. Many of the breweries offer guests food options and games as well. It’s easy to spend a few hours enjoying the scene.
Many of the most popular spots are located in the South Slope, appropriate deemed Asheville’s Brewery District. Here you’ll find Wicked Weed, Hi-Wire, Catawba Brewing Company, and Green Man. Sours fan? Check out the Funkatorium as well.
Want to mix in a bit of art with your brew? Spend time exploring the River Arts District. This fabulous part of the city is littered with art galleries, restaurants and, of course, more beer! We hit up Wedge Brewery and then walked across the bridge to New Belgium to join their free and highly rated brewery tour.
While there’s no shortage of beer in this town, there are other great watering holes to explore as well. We loved the Battery Park Book Exchange, a multi-level bookstore with a fancy cocktail bar. There’s also Sovereign Remedy located downtown where you can enjoy specially mixed absinthe drinks.
Our favorite place, however, has to be Ben’s Tune Up. This joint has great drink specials, live local music, and an awesome outdoor patio area. Oh, and the food is great, too! If we lived in Asheville, we would be at Ben’s often.
While small in size, Asheville is bursting with fantastic restaurants — you’ll want to try them all! There’s certainly many more delicious spots than the places we’ve managed to visit and, of course, my list was significantly longer than I could eat in a singular weekend. I am not a barbecue expert but it’s my understanding that the Carolinas are among the three main types of ‘cue. Knowing this, I had a few key barbecue spots to check out. Last visit, we ventured over to West Asheville’s Bonfire BBQ to try their sampler platter. We’d just completed a strenuous hike and received the recommendation to try this one. Buxton Hall was also on the list but it’s closed on Sunday, when we were attempting to dine.
For a more upscale dining experience or date night, I’d highly recommend Nightbell or Curate. Both are located downtown and are sister restaurants with critically-acclaimed executive chefs at the helm. It won’t be the cheapest eats in town but possibly the best food you’ll have.
Beyond that, we enjoyed a healthier pizza option in the River Arts District called All Souls Pizza and, after an afternoon of playing retro games (see “play” below), stopped over at Red Ginger for amazing dim sum. White Duck Taco was also well recommended and on the list but we were 0 for 2 in making it there during business hours. Thankfully we planned a few hikes as well to help balance out all the eating and drinking in this great city.
Visiting a destination with outdoor adventure options is rapidly becoming a must for me and Asheville does not fall short. The website Romantic Asheville has a terrific list of nearby hiking options including levels of difficulty and distance. On our last visit, we hiked to Catawba Falls, an easy hike with multiple waterfalls to see, and Mt Pisgah Summit, a much more challenging hike with a worth-while view at the end. Arrive early for both trails as they become more crowded as the day goes on. For me, the fewer people I see on a trail, the better.
Asheville has a special collection of throwback bars and “museums”. I’d first learned about the Pinball Museum from a travel show. This place allows guests to pay a small entrance fee that grants you access to over 80 pinball machines. On our second visit we found the Retrocade, a two-story bar with throwback arcade games, including pinball, as well as current video game options like X-Box, Playstation, and Nintendo Switch. The bar is all-ages before 9pm and stays open late for the 21+ crowd. You can also leave and return throughout the day as often as you’d like. A little Mariokart racing is always fun!
I hope to continue to visit annually with more to see, do, eat, and drink in Asheville. Next time, the goal will be to visit in October to enjoy a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, admiring the beautiful fall colors on the trees. And, although I’ve never been, The Biltmore Estate is a special destination for visitors as well. The entrance pass always seems a bit high for me but it certainly looks stunning. Spend the day exploring the gardens, exhibits, and wine tasting. I’m already looking forward to the next visit and the opportunity to add to my favorite things!