Called “the Paris of the South” since the early 1900s, Asheville, North Carolina, is a city full of artists, chefs, innovators and creators who have added clout to the nickname. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, minutes from the storied Blue Ridge Parkway and a short drive from the Great Smoky Mountains and America’s most-visited national park, it’s a haven for outdoors lovers. The city’s galleries, concert venues, cuisine and beer scene have given rise to new generations of visitors who come to celebrate the city’s creative zeal. Hop-headed IPA lovers, sour beer connoisseurs, cider fans and craft brew novices will all find a tasty pint or two in Asheville. Whether you travel for nature, art, culture or food, Asheville belongs at the top of your list. Here’s how to plan for an exceptional getaway to this Southern charmer.
When to go to Asheville
Asheville shines year-round, but fall reigns as the city’s high season. Leaf-peepers descend on Asheville from late September through early November, driving hotel prices to their annual highs and filling reservation books. Summer’s cooler temperatures, mild weather (expect the occasional summer thunderstorm) and bounty of outdoor activities make it the second busiest season, with spring following and winter bringing up the rear. Still, fall is prime time for your visit, with early and late summer as your next best options.
How to prepare for your trip
Book your hotel — and any must-have dinner reservations or concert and event tickets — well in advance, especially if you’re visiting in fall or summer, the city’s two busiest seasons; during Christmas at Biltmore; or on holiday weekends. Downtown Asheville and many of its neighborhoods are walkable and accessible to those with mobility issues, but certain activities — such as hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway — will be less accessible or even inaccessible for some. Sunscreen, bug spray and appropriate footwear are recommended, especially if you’ll be doing any outdoor activities.
How to get there
Driving or flying to Asheville are the easiest ways to visit. The city sits on Interstate 40, and the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) is about a 30-minute drive from downtown. Several taxi companies offer rides, including AVL Taxi, J&J Cab and the accessible Loyal Lifts; Uber and Lyft rides are plentiful; and ART — Asheville Rides Transit — provides bus service (adult fares are $1, 50 cents for ages 65 and up) in the city, to the airport and to a few nearby towns. Downtown Asheville and many outlying neighborhoods are walkable and accessible to those with mobility issues.
Where to stay
From camping to glamping to B&Bs and world-class hotels, Asheville has options that are wallet-friendly, lavish and everything in between. Best of all, you’ll get a view of the gorgeous mountains surrounding this town anywhere you stay.
The Omni Grove Park Inn cuts a fine figure perched on the mountainside overlooking Asheville. Built in 1912-13, this historic hotel has played host to presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Barack Obama and a who’s-who of Gilded Age big shots from Henry Ford to Harry Houdini to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The guests-only spa, the Donald Ross-designed golf course and a quartet of dining venues deliver luxury around every corner, and it’s nearly impossible to match, much less top, an evening drink on the Sunset Cocktail Terrace. A stay here is pricey, even if you’re not in one of the suites; but you can save with senior discounts, Omni’s rewards program and bundled packages.
Downtown, the Foundry Hotel occupies a former steel factory, and it’s made quite the splash with its industrial-chic look, desirable location and on-site dining: Benne on Eagle, a restaurant paying homage to the cuisine of Asheville’s African diaspora. Rooms are comfortable, but they aren’t cheap. The Foundry is only a block from Pack Square, the heart of downtown, and that means a quieter stay with all that downtown has to offer close by.
Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins calls itself an “urban campground,” but there’s not a tent in sight. Instead, there’s a row of 16 A-frame cabins — they’re too chic to properly call them cabins, they’re more like ski-less chalets — about 1 mile from the River Arts District. Add $25 if you’re bringing a dog.
If you want to stay in the middle of the bustle of downtown Asheville, two options will catch your eye. Kimpton Hotel Arras overlooks Pack Square, and a block away, AC Hotel Asheville Downtown has an exceptional rooftop bar (where the drinks are served with an admirable view). At Kimpton Hotel Arras, a pair of restaurants — District 42 and Bargello — keep guests and visitors fed. At the AC Hotel, Capella on 9, the rooftop bar and restaurant, dishes up small plates and entrées to hungry guests and diners.
On the more affordable end of the scale, Asheville has several options, including the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Asheville-Biltmore. The setup is perfect for couples and larger multigenerational groups and families: a short drive (or Uber) to downtown, two blocks from the entrance to the Biltmore Estate and walkable to the antique shops, galleries, boutiques and restaurants in Biltmore Village.