Planning a few adventures in Asheville, North Carolina? You’re in the right place! Keep reading to discover all the things that made me fall in love with this amazing city.
In this blog, I share:
- Fun and relaxing things to do whether you want to explore the city or venture out into nature.
- My favorite spots in and around Asheville from yummy foodie finds, phenomenal street art, and vintage pinball arcades… to local shops, spas, and even an auto shop that was converted into a super cool sake brewery and beer garden!
- An adventurous new way to explore the city, especially if you’re into history and architecture.
- Where to stay (hotels, cabins, B&Bs, & more!)
[Posted on May 2021, Updated August 2022]
How Did I End Up in this Great Smoky Mountain City?
Asheville… Where nature meets luxury.
Is that their official motto? Nope. But, if I had to make one up, that would seem the most fitting. 😉
Asheville is the type of city that you go to for relaxation, fun, good food, beautiful natural scenery, art, and culture. Although I will admit… But, I almost didn’t make it to the city. I judged it far too quickly. Why? Read on!
Well, one day, I was chatting with a neighbor about spirituality and spots in the U.S. to unwind and that’s when she told me about Asheville. I put it in the back of my mind…
Fast forward a few years… I had just ended a 3-year relationship and needed a little distraction from my breakup. Feeling adventurous, I decided to take a fun little road trip from New England and see what my neighbor had been raving about.
The Road Trip
I would embark on a 75-day road trip, starting off at the easternmost point of the U.S. in Lubec, Maine, heading down the coast till I reached the southernmost point of the U.S. in Key West, Florida.
The road trip was so much fun! I stopped at so many cool places along the way. Some of which I had been to before but also, new sights too! Stay tuned for more of my road trip adventures, this blog is just about Asheville and the surrounding area.
Did I reach my final destination in Key West?
You bet I did!… Just not in the time frame I originally planned on as COVID-19 had blown up while I was in the middle of my road trip and I had to hunker down in Key Largo for a few months for safety.
Luckily, I had visited Asheville in January and was able to enjoy all the amazing things the city had to offer before the pandemic happened.
However, I was sad to learn after my trip that so many of these same places are now permanently closed and never recovered after the lockdown.
*** Before you go to any of the places I mention in this blog, check with the business first to confirm that they’re still open. ***
Planning a Trip to Asheville
When is the Best Time to Go to Asheville?
I went to Asheville in January so a lot of the things I wanted to do were sadly closed for Winter Break. After doing some research online for this blog, I learned that the best times of year to go to Asheville are Spring and Fall from March to May, and September to early November.
Which makes total sense. You don’t want to go outdoors when it’s super hot… hello, Summer! If only I had known that, to begin with! That’s alright. I got to see the city when it wasn’t crowded.
Where to Stay in Asheville: Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, and Cabins
What type of accommodation suits your personality?
For me, it all depends on the environment of the place I’m traveling to! I don’t have a one size fits all travel style so, I like to experience different hotel personalities.
When planning my Asheville trip, I wanted to feel the natural beauty of the area… So, I decided to stay in Hendersonville, North Carolina which is only about a half-hour outside the city of Asheville.
Which by the way… is such a cute mountain town! I’ll cover my adventures in a separate blog.
I was aiming for something cozy and idyllic. What I got was an adorable Airbnb cabin in the woods.
It had everything I wanted… woodsy flooring and walls (the kind only a cabin would have)… a fireplace, outdoor campfire pit for smores, it was a nature lover’s dream, truly.
Before arriving, I went to the nearby Publix grocery store and got enough groceries to last me a week so I wasn’t just dining out at every single meal.
Cabin not for you? That’s okay!
B&Bs & Country Inns
There are a lot of other lodging options to explore in Asheville, Biltmore, and the surrounding Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains area if you want something more quaint and cozy.
Is a modern hotel more your speed? Totally don’t blame you! Sometimes having a full-service hotel is a much more comfortable stay.
If you prefer the services and amenities associated with a hotel, I highly recommend Marriott. They have 7,100+ properties across 30 brands and are known for hotels with different budgets & personalities.
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Before we dive into any stories or reviews, I thought you should know… As of this posting, the following blog posts are not sponsored. Any products or services reviewed were paid for out of my own pocket unless otherwise noted.
Arriving in Asheville
My neighbor made Asheville seem like a cute artists colony tucked away someplace… the ultimate place to unwind.
However, the way she described the city was a bit hippie dippyish… so, not gonna lie, I almost didn’t go.
You see, she’s a tie-dye and patchouli oil kinda gal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… it’s just not me. I tend to go for destinations with glam vibes but can also appreciate a bit of rustic charm mixed in as well.
I was pleased to discover that Asheville was a perfect blend of both.
Fortunately, bloggers who I follow (like I previously mentioned above) gave a different side to the city that convinced me I had to check it out. So glad I did! Asheville would actually end up being right up my alley after all.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived and not only realized that they were right.. but, that there’s actually so much more to love about the city than I originally expected. I just wasn’t expecting there to be so many different things to do!
Things to do in Asheville, NC
This spectacular city has no shortage of fun and relaxation. Doesn’t matter who you’re traveling with because there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whether you’re into the city scene or nature!
Spend one day pampering yourself at the spa or hiking in the mountains… the next day, at a swanky bar or catching a live music festival. The options are seriously endless! It’s amazing!
Enjoy the City Scene
If you’re feeling really spontaneous… there’s clubbing and drag shows too! And the city is totally LGBTQIA+ friendly.
Socially Distanced Activities
Looking for a fun, COVID-19 safe activity? Try a scavenger hunt! It’s outdoors and perfectly socially distanced.
Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Both scavenger hunts are free and done at your own pace! You can do it through an audio tour, video tour, &/or an interactive or printed map.
You can also try Adventure Quest which has scavenger hunts all over the country, not just Asheville! Use code REALGIRL20 for 20% off!
When you’re done with that… there’s so much still to do in and around town!
Nature Lover’s Paradise
If you’re a nature lover, get ready to explore all the natural wonders all around Asheville… You’re going to want to do it all!
So what is there? Well, to name a few…
America’s most visited National Park whose key 5 entrances are within 1.5 hr or less of Asheville.
Take a Drive on the Iconic Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway has some of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River. This was one of my favorite ways to enjoy the scenery all around. It’s also great if you have small children or people with mobility challenges in your group.
It’s no coincidence that the Blue Ridge Mountains are blue! The color comes from a chemical that trees release into the atmosphere called isoprene.
Go for a Hike
The Blue Ridge Parkway has some of the best hiking trails including the legendary Appalachian Trail and the beautiful Black Balsam Trail. You may even be able to smell the sweet scent of the balsam fir trees!
Try one of the many great day hikes! You can even take a nice picnic while having 360-degree views at these high altitudes!
Not up for a picnic?
Go grab a bite with a view!
There are plenty of restaurant options in Asheville with breathtaking views.
Have a lovely meal at the historic Omni Grove Park Inn while taking in the gorgeous views of the famous Blue Ridge Mountains. I enjoyed our lunch at the Inn’s restaurant Edison. The Inn even has a dueling piano bar!
The Pink Lady is one of Asheville’s most famous resident ghosts and is said to have been seen roaming the hallways at Omni Grove Park Inn after a tragic accident that ended with her falling from a 5th-floor balcony in the 1920s.
Up for more adventures in Asheville? Hell, there’s even…
Then, when you’re ready to relax and recharge, head back to your cozy cabin for a tasty home-cooked meal and warm up by the fire!
My Adventures in Asheville, NC
My Goal for Asheville
Just opened the journal I wrote in on my trip to Asheville trip. This was my goal:
“To explore a new place and feel the energy..
I will get in touch with my spirituality in Asheville and Hendersonville and heal my chakras, cleansing myself of any unwanted thoughts or negative energy in the process.
We’ll be staying at a cozy cabin in the woods.. not just any woods… the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains! I want to go hiking. It will be so perfect.
I will allow myself to relax and feel great this week. This trip is to get in touch with my inner self… discovering the new me and rediscovering the old me and all the things I’ve loved about myself.”
Awe… I was so cute. Guess I set my intention right because I pretty much did all that!
What I Did in Asheville
No matter what your interest are, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Asheville and the surrounding area!
And now I share some of my favorite picks! I hope that you get to explore Asheville sometime in the near future.
If you’re thinking about traveling during the pandemic, be sure to check out local COVID-19 guidelines before taking a trip and stay safe!
Asheville Pinball Museum
Cost: $15/pp for unltd. gaming. Free to enter.
Get ready for your nerd fantasies to come true… This place is full of nostalgia and proves that everything that was once old is new again… even your Star Trek obsession. There’s something every generation can enjoy!
- vintage pinball machines
- old-fashioned arcade games dating back all the way to the 1940s!
- novelties like old lunch boxes with your favorite characters, figurines, a hamburger phone, collectors edition well…everything!!
Everything caught my eye but something that stood out to me was a McDonalds happy meal toy collection, all intact and still in its original plastic…
I kept asking myself how long it took to acquire all this memorabilia?!? And what it sold for!?
It’s no wonder why vintage games are making a comeback!
On a regular day, they have 3 hour wait times out the door.
I picture some parent at a garage sale saying, “Ya want this? My boys are too grown now. Will just collect dust in the basement”. With some happy gamer quietly realizing its potential worth, “sure… if you insist”… fake sigh… And now… what a gold mine!
There’s also a video and museum in Hendersonville, right near Asheville which was also equally impressive.
My only complaint is that when I stepped inside, the place blew me away… I mean literally, the sweat was so strong. It was like the people hadn’t left the joint. That’s an addicted gamer for you.
I couldn’t last longer than 15 min before I was ready for some air. But with a bar, snacks, restroom for the Mr. or Mrs. Pacman in you and so much flashing all around, I can see why people choose to stick around.
Definitely recommend it for anyone with or without children, a S.O., anyone who’s ever seen Television, anyone who’s ever enjoyed games, basically everyone… to check out this place. At least to grab a drink and walk around. The nostalgia will suck you in.
In the 1940s-70s, pinball machines were illegal.
You can’t go to Asheville without doing a “Street Art Crawl” in the River Arts District.
Asheville is known for its art scene so it’s no surprise that you’ll find displays of graffiti on nearly every block and building bursting with colors. The artists are so creative! The area has a very hip vibe to it.
You can easily make a whole day in this district. I hopped around from street to street before going shopping and grabbing some bites and flights (wine & beer). They even have a skatepark which I visited! Took me back to my Cali childhood.
Take a stroll through Asheville’s African American business district with colorful murals on the walls by lead muralist Molly Must.
Downtown Asheville Scavenger Hunt
So many great photo ops! If you want to explore Asheville in an entirely unique (yet organized) way while learning about the city, do a scavenger hunt!
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My first impression of this building was “WOW”. It has a historical vibe to the architecture in a beautiful atmosphere with shops and foodie finds.
I came to Asheville for relaxation so of course, I couldn’t leave without having a foot soak, massage, and some tea. I ended up getting the Jet Setter package. It included local truffles and a pot of tea.
You get into a robe and sit in a cozy room with comfortable chairs and brought a big bowl to soak your feet in. Followed by tea and goodies. You also get a warm wrap for your neck and massages.
You can also get other baked goods which are from local bakery Swoon and yummy hot teas like banana macaroon rooibos or Madagascar coconut as well as chilled drinks. Shop while you wait inside their boutique gift shop.
The spa is located inside the Grove Arcade building with lots of other great boutiques and foodie finds to check out.
Talk about refined nature…this hotel is located on a beautiful property overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I loved lounging in front of the ginormous fireplace (The North Fireplace) in The Great Hall, reading the history of the hotel, and seeing memorabilia all throughout.
Lots of greats have stayed here such as “The Vagabonds”, a group that consisted of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs.
They have this antique car to show what they drove when they were adventuring in nature.
After looking around, I went to a farm-to-table restaurant inside the resort called Edison where I had some lunch with a gorgeous view. Everything was delicious! (Photos of the food and recommendations below.)
You can also walk out on the Sunset Terrace and have a drink while taking it all in. They’re a ten-time recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Sadly, I went in the Winter when the terrace was closed for dining but I hear that it’s lovely in the Summer.
Take a drive or stroll through the area. The homes are historic and beautiful.
This is a great area to walk around in. Much of the scavenger hunt is in this part of the city.
I walked around the museum and saw some art pieces. But honestly, I’ve found most of what was interesting to be outside of the building.
Before heading out, I stopped at the gift shop for a colorful umbrella… a nice memento to remind me of the city. Within 10 min of my walking out with it, I got 3 compliments including a bus driver turning to look then honking!
Among 112 other buildings in Asheville, Grove Arcade is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Visit some of them in a scavenger hunt of the city!
Shopping in Asheville
As I’ve shared in the past, I love supporting small businesses in the cities that I go to. Asheville is no different! In fact, it’s what I loved about the city. It didn’t have a very corporate vibe to it… mostly small businesses from boutique shops and inns to spas and foodie finds.
Here are the small shops I gave my business to.
What an adorable vintage shop! Lots of goodies in here from 20+ different artists and makers. You can even make your own headpieces at their “Feather Bar”. I walked away with a vintage green cardigan with embroidered high heels all over from the 70s and a pretty white cashmere nightgown and robe.
This joint has sustainable, recycled, organic outdoor apparel. If you enjoy nature or a self-proclaimed hippie, you’ll love this store! They have bumper stickers, outdoor apparel, and accessories for children, adults, and even dogs! I got some stickers for my scrapbook.
Right outside Asheville, you’ll find Weaverville.
When dining at Curate in Asheville, I learned that the honey in my eggplant dish was from Honey and the Hive. Turns out, the honey in a lot of Asheville’s restaurants is sourced from local bee farms.
I just had to go to one and get my hands on some to bring back home! I got different infused honeys like lavender.
The shop was doing a farmer’s market type thing which had booths from local artists and farmers. They also have a beginner beekeeper series.
Foodie Finds: What I Ate and Drank in Asheville
Asheville’s food scene is known as “Foodtopia”. They have a lot of farm-to-table spots and places to grab a drink.
They pride themselves on taking an “Old World approach” and craft small batches focusing on locally sourced grapes.
Great place to grab a drink in the River Arts District! I grabbed a sparkling flight after looking at street art in the area. They also had a farmer’s market inside when I went.
This coffee shop is in an awesome part of the River Arts District with graffiti all around. Grab a coffee and walk around. Or, sit inside. The place also has a cool upstairs lounge spot as well.
A delicious Spanish tapas bar by James Beard-nominated chef Katie Button! She’s worked for legendary Spanish chefs José Andrés and Ferran Adrià. View menu here.
The setup of the place is really nice! It’s very trendy. Expect to order a lot of food.. they are tapas after all. View menu here.
The restaurant also has a bodega on the inside… “Jamoneria”, which looks like an authentic butcher counter.
The seafood is kept in a can to preserve freshness, best quality. We ordered everything Food and Wine recommended.
I recommend: I loved the cochinillo, a tradition from Segovia, a quarter of a roasted suckling pig raised by Sebastian Bayon. The jamon is from a papa negra which are fed a diet of acorns. Also enjoyed berberechos con salsa de aperitivo, buñuelos de bacalao, berenjenas con miel, gilda.
Thought it was funny that my waiter literally had to ask me 3x if I ordered red or white sangria.. his abrupt fashion kind of put me off. Just looking forward to the meal.
Don’t let the outside fool you… this joint is open for business. Ben’s Tune-Up is a converted auto shop and now a very unassuming sake brewery and beer garden. And also… the only place in Asheville that has a brewery just for sake! In fact, it’s brewed on-site and unpasteurized.
We ended up getting a flight with some sake infusions like Lemon Ginger and Pineapple Jalapeno and which had a kick to it!
You have also your option of wine and beer.
Hungry? They also have an Asian fusion restaurant from which I ordered some bites from!
I’m so influenced by social media… because of great places like this! Ben’s Tune Up was recommended to me by a fellow blogger, Julie from More Than Main Street.
The food was delicious and the views were stunning. Highly recommend!
I recommend the smashed potatoes, pimento fritters, fried pork belly, fried green tomatoes, Hi-Wire lager, grilled cheese with fries, pear, and pistachio salad.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my adventures in Asheville, NC, and got inspiration for your own trip!
What are you looking forward to in Asheville, NC? If you’ve been, what was your favorite part?
Would you like more of this type of content? Or maybe there’s something else you want me to write about?
I would love to hear about it! Comment below!
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