Move over, Austin and Portland -- Asheville is the new hip spot. This North Carolina city is in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains, allowing for beautiful vistas and excellent outdoor activities -- everything from hiking and zip-lining to fishing and bird-watching. But that's not all. Asheville has the most breweries per capita of any U.S. city, as well as a thriving arts scene. Also adding to its popularity is the fact that it's beautiful throughout the year, and that there's something for everyone here. Whether you're planning a bachelorette party or family vacation, here's the perfect weekend itinerary for Asheville.
Friday Afternoon: Arrive and Check-In
First things first: Get to your hotel. Most travelers will arrive in Asheville Regional Airport, which is about a 20-minute drive from downtown. Although Allegiant Air offers direct flights from New York City, most airlines require a layover in Charlotte. Asheville has numerous hotel options, from budget-friendly digs to upscale boutiques, so there's something for everyone. For couples, we love the Grand Bohemian Hotel, a stunning Tudor-style property with a great location directly in Biltmore Village. Plush rooms, live jazz in the lounge on some nights, and a spa are big on-site draws. Families, meanwhile, should consider the Holiday Inn Asheville - Biltmore East, which has in-room sofa beds and microwaves. A heated outdoor pool and free breakfast for kids under 18 (with paying adult) add value. Groups of friends visiting for a girls' getaway or bachelor party will likely enjoy Hyatt Place Asheville, set in the bustling downtown area. It has a cool rooftop bar, contemporary rooms with sleeper sofas, and a Starbucks.
Dinner and a Brewery Downtown
After getting settled, head to downtown Asheville for dinner, followed by a trip to one of the city's many breweries. The city has emerged as a great culinary spot, with everything from typical Southern fare to gourmet French cuisine. There are tons of stellar options, but we recommend Cúrate for Spanish tapas inside a former 1927 bus depot; Cucina 24 for fresh pasta and specialty cocktails; and Red Stag Grill, which has a menu of steakhouse eats. If you forget to make a reservation, put your name down somewhere and walk around or grab a drink nearby until your table is ready.
Be sure to save a little room for post-dinner drinks at one of the area breweries -- many of which are family- and dog-friendly. The two-floor Thirsty Monk has indoor and outdoor seating, and a variety of its own brews and Belgian beers. For those seeking a little more entertainment, head to Twin Leaf Brewery for beer, ping-pong, and other games. Travelers wanting to sample a sour beer should head to Wicked Weed's Funkatorium.
Saturday: Waterfall Hike
After breakfast, gear up and head out for a hike to one of the area's several waterfalls. Families especially should make their way to the 100-foot Catawba Falls, an easy hike that's mostly level, aside from the last stretch that requires maneuvering some rocks. In total, it's a three-mile round-trip hike that's suitable for kids and even dogs. A bit farther away is Tom's Creek Falls, another easy hike that leads to a 60-foot waterfall. The Pisgah National Forest and Nantahala National Forest surrounding Asheville both offer ample hiking opportunities for visitors looking to experience stellar greenery -- a real treat during peak fall foliage season.
Lunch and Tour of the Biltmore Estate
Asheville's most popular and well-known sight is the Biltmore Estate, located about an eight-minute drive from downtown. Built by George Vanderbilt on a whopping 8,000 gorgeously manicured acres, it's regarded as America's largest home. Today, the mansion is a museum, with well-preserved bedrooms and living areas that provide a look at its history. In fact, the house has original art by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley. Terraces overlook treetops and mountains, and grounds sometimes have art exhibits and beautiful holiday decor. The adjacent Biltmore Village is packed with restaurants, bars, and shops, plus live music at times. Grab lunch somewhere quick and easy such as Zoës Kitchen, or order Mexican food at the atmospheric Cantina at Historic Biltmore Village.
Head Out on the Town
For those in the 21 and over crowd, book a night with LaZoom Tours, a fun and immersive experience. They offer Band and Beer tours, where a funky band plays as a bus drives to two breweries. Each brewery stop lasts for 45 minutes, and there's typically grub to eat along the way. For instance, Highland Brewing has a rotating lineup of food trucks, plus live music on most weekend nights. Other LaZoom experiences include comedy and haunted city tours. Families with children should head to Asheville's Fun Depot or to the Asheville Community Theatre if they're performing kid-friendly shows. The Fun Depot is a guaranteed good time, offering outdoor and indoor go-karts, laser tag, bowling, a climbing wall, and countless arcade games. The Community Theatre offers regular morning and afternoon performances for kids, as well as occasional nighttime shows.
Sunday: Brunch and Shopping
End your Asheville getaway on a high note with brunch at Tupelo Honey. The all-day menu at this downtown Southern eatery includes fried chicken and biscuits, pecan pie French toast, shrimp and grits, and some light salads. Pro tip: Get an outdoor sidewalk table in the summer and a side of mac and cheese. After brunch, walk around downtown and explore the numerous shops that sell everything from crystals and souvenirs to clothing and artwork. Several hip cafes, bakeries, and chocolate shops are in the area. We especially love Battery Park Book Exchange, a cool bookstore-meets-cafe with tons of books across two floors, live music on weekends, a Champagne bar, and a dog-friendly patio.
With your last remaining hours, head to the River Arts District, which provides a look at the important and thriving art community here. There are more than 200 artists working in the RAD, and visitors can view everything from modern and classical painting galleries to pottery and jewelry stores. Classes are also available at some spots.
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