Ah, Asheville. This city has been on everyone’s radar in recent years, and for good reason. It’s a beautiful, progressive city located near the western border of North Carolina, and it definitely boasts a culture of its own. Read on to discover just a few of the activities that are awaiting you in Asheville!
When I went to Asheville, North Carolina, it was actually a couples’ getaway for my partner Adrian and myself. However, I think that a lot of these activities work for group trips or even solo travel. Also, please excuse the lack of pretty photos in this blog post – this trip was definitely about relaxing and unplugging versus documenting.
Without further ado, let’s dive into Asheville!
Table of Contents
- 1 Outdoor Activities
- 2 In the City
- 3 A Note on the Biltmore
Asheville is well-known for its surrounding nature, so there are lots of options for hiking, biking, and more. That said, here are a few of the outdoor activities that we chose to do.
Hiking to Douglas Falls
Funny story with Douglas Falls: it’s actually located north of the Asheville city center, in a less populated area called Barnardsville. This is where we happened to rent our Airbnb, by the way.
Douglas Falls is definitely a trek that you need to leave at least 3 hours for. Here’s why: the mere drive up to the trail from the main road can take about an hour. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that this drive is incredibly scenic.
As you wind your way up the mountain, you’ll pass campsites and other hiking trails that you can choose to go on instead. We decided to continue all the way to Douglas Falls because our host highly recommended it. However, check out the photos below and decide for yourself if it’s worth the trip!
Guided Bike Tour
Another great activity to do in Asheville is bike riding. If you’re a beginner or intermediate level, consider taking an e-bike (electronic assist bike) tour through the mountain roads. We booked a tour with Asheville Adventure Company and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
I will note that this particular tour focuses more on local “mountain” roads, which were basically residential streets and backgrounds that happen to be surrounded by the mountain landscape. If that’s your jam, then you’ll love this tour. If you want to be legit mountain-biking, you might want to look elsewhere.
The highlight of the tour was definitely watching the sunset at our half-way stop, the Omni Grove Park Inn. This hotel is absolutely gorgeous, and has a generous series of back patios where you can watch the sun set over the mountains. It’s incredible.
The Asheville Arboretum is perfect if you want to experience some nature without going deep into the woods. With gardens, exhibitions, and trails galore, it’s a great place to go solo or with friends/loved ones! Currently, they have a bonsai tree exhibit that’s quite lovely; and when we visited, they were setting up for their holiday display.
In the City
As much as there is to do in the outskirts of Asheville, there’s plenty to experience in the city as well. We only had a few days to experience both sides of Asheville, so here’s just a sample of what you can find in the city!
River Arts District
River Arts District is the perfect spot for any art lovers or aficionados. This district has galleries, exhibitions, and workshops from nearly every type of medium; and you can even tour the artist workspaces! Be sure to check the website’s interactive map to find out which places are opened or closed, as it all depends on the day of the week.
Notable gallery: Jonas Gerard
Our favorite gallery in the district by far was that of Jonas Gerard. I’ll let the photos below speak for themselves in regard to how stunning his work is, but I also loved how the gallery encourages you to touch and interact with the artwork. It was a refreshing change from the usual cautious atmosphere of a gallery. If you visit River Arts District, be sure you visit Jonas Gerard’s gallery.
I will preface this section by being honest: we didn’t get to explore as much of the culinary scene in Asheville as we wanted, because I was sick for the first half of the trip. However, two restaurants in particular definitely made an impression: Modesto and Kathmandu Kitchen.
Modesto is a very modern Italian restaurant that prides itself on fresh, farm-to-table ingredients and elevated dishes. Modesto is not cheap, but it’s not wildly expensive either. Be sure to make a reservation in advance if you don’t want to sit outside; because the inside gets packed really easily!
Although I wasn’t able to enjoy my Margherita pizza too much on the night that we visited due to my illness, I did find that the tomato sauce and cheese tasted light and fresh. It also made great leftovers once I got over the stomach sickness, and I enjoyed it even more the second time around.
Kathmandu Kitchen Nepali Food
Oh man, we fell in love with Kathmandu Kitchen. The atmosphere makes you feel like you might just be in Nepal, the establishment seems to be family-run with a friendly staff, and the food is reasonably-priced and absolutely delicious.
Not going to lie, we went to this place TWICE during our short trip. That’s how good it was. Adrian was obsessed with the sizzling tandoori chicken, and I couldn’t get enough of the saag paneer with garlic naan. I highly recommend that you do not miss Kathmandu Kitchen when you visit!
Asheville has a bunch of nightlife options, but we were surprisingly tame in exploring during this trip. This link has a more exhaustive list of nightlife spots, but here are a few spots that we visited:
Off the Wagon Dueling Pianos Bar
This was only my second time being in a dueling piano bar (the other was in Nashville), but the experience is certainly growing on me. Off The Wagon in particular was packed on the Saturday night that we visited, and the piano players were great at interacting with crowd and keeping up with all of the song requests.
This kind of bar is a great choice if you want to sing along and maybe even dance to some classics (across many genres).
Hemingway’s Rooftop Bar
Hemingway’s admittedly doesn’t have much of a view of the mountains, but it does have a spacious interior as well as a really nice patio with fire pits outside during the cooler months. Hemingway’s is a great place to grab a chill drink and relax, so you might consider starting or ending here versus making it your main destination.
Antidote Cocktail Lounge
Asheville has an abundance of bars that have a speakeasy-vibe, which is perfect if you want to have some unique cocktails with an equally unique atmosphere! One of these bars in particular is Antidote Cocktail Lounge. With a tagline of “The Cure for the Common Cocktail”, you know this place is going to be good.
A Note on the Biltmore
You may notice that I didn’t mention the Biltmore Estate, which is arguably one of the landmarks that Asheville is most known for. Well, there’s a reason for that: mere admission to the estate grounds cost upward of $80, let alone a tour of the estate.
Honestly, there are tons of gorgeous palaces and historical estates that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit in Europe (such as Versailles), and they cost way less than this. So simply as a matter of principle, Adrian and I refused to pay so much for a non-royal and (comparatively) young “castle”. Ha! This might sound silly, but it worked for us and we don’t feel like we missed out.
You may decide differently, and that’s totally fine! I’ve heard that the Biltmore is a gorgeous property, and I have no doubt that it this is true. The beauty of planning your own trip is just that: it’s your trip and you call the shots.
I hope that some of these ideas help you start planning your own Asheville trip! What other hot spots do you recommend visiting?