For years, Asheville, North Carolina was just a blip on the radar compared to its much more popular southern neighbors like Charleston and even Charlotte. But in the last ten to fifteen years, there’s been an obvious switch from sleepy mountain town to one of the region’s top destinations boasting a nationally acclaimed food, music, and arts scene that rivals any larger city. The move, though gradual, has put Asheville on the map, drawing day travelers from North and South Carolina as well as Tennessee and visitors from all over the US. What was once the South’s best-kept secret is now a relative hot spot.
While there are charming B&Bs and larger luxury chain hotels (aloft, AC Hotel, and Cambria are great options) to choose from, you’d be remiss if you didn’t stay on the grounds of the historic Biltmore Estate. The one-time estate of railroad titan George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore is the largest privately-owned home in the US. And it’s because of this that you feel an instant welcoming warmth the moment you walk through the inn’s doors. Whether you opt for a room at the inn or the newer village property on the estate, you’ll feel at ease among the cozy, traditional decor that feels at once welcoming and relaxing. The stunning gardens are on display year-round; they feature almost ten acres of perfectly manicured flowers, trees, and plants including more than 250 varieties of roses alone. Grab a glass of wine and wander the more than two-and-a-half miles of paths that snake through the gardens. Downtown, stay at the intimate boutique property, the Bunn House Hotel. This charming five-room (and one suite) hotel was built in 1905 and restored to its original charm with modern touches for today’s travelers. Each room’s en suite bath is outfitted with L’Occitane products, heated floors, and a steam shower for ultimate relaxation.
Asheville exudes an earthy, organic vibe, which is exactly what you’ll find at most dining destinations: farm-to-table ingredients cultivated in a sustainable way. And what is more farm-to-table than scouring the city’s forests for the ingredients for your very own gourmet meal? At the wild foraging tour by No Taste Like Home, plan on rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty. During the three-hour tour through the woods, you’ll be guided by some of the area’s top chefs on the berries, mushrooms, and edible flowers you should grab for your meal, which is then created by one of six restaurant partners.
If hiking through the woods for your food isn’t your thing, head to Beacham’s Curve in West Asheville. Quite possibly the hottest dining neighborhood in town, here you’ll find coveted foodie spots like OWL Bakery, Hole Doughnuts, Pizza Mind, Archetype Brewing, and recently added Gan Shan West, boasting East Asian cuisine. Asheville can’t-miss staples abound, though, so keep White Duck Taco Shop, Curate, and Tupelo Honey on your short list.
For the beer aficionado, Asheville is a mecca for breweries. Make a point to head outside the city limits to breweries that are destinations unto themselves. Located in a thirteen-acre complex that’s covered in legal street art, the Wedge Brewing at Foundation sits adjacent to barbecue hot spot 12 Bones Smokehouse, making for the prime coupling of beer and ‘cue in one place. One afternoon, head down to the River Arts District, the heart of Asheville’s cultural center, where artists from all genres collide. Tour the art scene via guide as district founder and glass artist John Miguel Almaguer provides an insider’s look at how the artists create their work.