A weekend in Asheville isn’t nearly enough time but it can give you a small taste of this unique North Carolina city. Just enough to know you’ll want to come back.
Asheville is located in western North Carolina in the heart of Pisgah National Forest. It’s close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Mount Mitchell State Park – the highest peak east of the Mississippi.
This Asheville itinerary assumes that you can get off work around noon on Friday and arrive in the city that night in time for dinner. Then leaving late on Sunday evening.
Asheville is a sprawling town with cute downtown shops, an incredible foodie scene, and it was named Beer City USA multiple years in a row. It’s definitely one of the best weekend getaways in the US!
There are tons of outdoor adventures here as well as sightseeing in the city to enjoy. No matter what you do, I’m sure Asheville will hold a special place in your heart after you leave.
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Dinner at Sunset Terrace at the Omni Grove Park Inn
The Omni Grove Park Inn is one of the most luxurious and awarded hotels in Asheville. It’s been open for over 100 years so there’s a good bit of history to this place.
They have multiple restaurants and the best one for sunset views and drinks is the Sunset Terrace. The only seating available is outdoors and you’ll have a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains as the sun slowly slips away.
They focus on steaks, chops, and seafood and you won’t be disappointed with any of it. Reservations are currently required so be sure to call in advance.
Bare Dark Sky Observatory
Do you ever see those dark sky photos in outdoor magazines and dream of getting to see that yourself? Well you are in luck.
About an hour northeast of Asheville, you’ll find the Bare Dark Sky Observatory. They have telescopes to view the moon, planets, and stars plus a planetarium.
The price of tickets for the Observatory varies by the season so be sure to check their website. You are allowed to visit when the Observatory is closed but you’ll need to bring your own telescope, blankets, etc.
Take a Hike
Asheville is pretty much the hiking capital of North Carolina. Maybe even the southeast. There are tons of trails near here so it will be very hard to choose.
There are plenty of trails to take at Chimney Rock and if you want a full morning then take the Four Seasons Trail instead of riding the shuttle from the parking lot.
That brings you out on the Hickory Nut Falls Trail so turn right once you intersect it and go to the bottom of the falls. Then turn around and head back to the Outcroppings Trail and climb all the stairs to the top of Chimney Rock.
For multiple waterfalls on one hike you better visit DuPont. You’ll see Hooker Falls, High Falls, and Triple Falls on a loop trail here. The loop is made up of multiple different trails but there is tons of signage here. You’ll wind up walking somewhere around 5 miles.
Park at the Visitor’s Center at the High Falls Access Area. The address is 89 Buck Forest Rd, Cedar Mountain, NC 28718. I’ve gotten very lost trying to find the trailhead before.
Craggy Gardens is the easiest of the three options by far but the view is incredible. 360 degrees all around you and all you see is mountains.
The trail is actually named the Craggy Pinnacle Trail and it gets very crowded after 9am and unbearable on weekends. So go early – sunrise would be the best. Plus its right on the Blue Ridge Parkway so you can take a leisurely drive in the area!
Go On a Food Tour
After you’ve burned off all that energy you’ll want to fuel up and Asheville has no shortage of good places to eat.
Since you don’t have much time, a food tour is the best way to experience the most restaurants possible. Plus food tours are my absolute favorite way to take a tour of a city.
Depending on the tour you take, you’ll try 5-6 different local spots and get a smaller version of one of the dishes that they specialize in.
If you’ve never been on a food tour, it’s basically like a walking tour of the city but every so often you stop in at a restaurant for some snacks.
The restaurant is waiting for you and already has all your food prepared so no waiting for that. You walk in, sit down, and enjoy what’s in front of you.
I’ve been on a tour with Eating Asheville and absolutely loved it.
Explore Downtown Asheville
During the food tour make sure to take note of any interesting looking storefronts. If you see something that catches your eye then go back and take a look!
Asheville has some really cute boutique shops and specialty stores. Take a chance to get lost in the streets and see what you can find.
If you are into art then one place you shouldn’t miss is the old Woolworth’s store. It’s now called the Woolworth Walk and it’s an art gallery and craft emporium.
The only thing that might overshadow the food scene is the beer scene here in Asheville! It’s been awarded the name Beer City USA multiple times in a row.
It seems like every street you turn down you’ll find a new brewery, but there are lots of them within walking distance in the South Slope District.
If we are going out at night, this is definitely my favorite spot to go. Asheville Brewing serves great pizza and Bhramari has wonderful food as well. Burial Beer Co. and Twin Leaf Brewing are great choices.
Hi-Wire has a fun circus theme and is quickly growing. Catawba Brewing is known for the White Zombie and Green Man is a popular option. Finally Wicked Weed has two locations but its Funkatorium is in the South Slope district.
Dinner at Wicked Weed or Bhramari Brewing
Bhramari has one of the juiciest, well-cooked cheeseburgers I’ve ever tasted. They serve sandwiches plus a variety of sides and small bites.
If you like IPAs then make sure to get the Lorelai IPA and buy as much as you can to take home. It is my favorite beer to date.
In addition to beer, they offer cocktails and wine which makes this a great spot to eat for groups that have folks who don’t like craft beer.
I love eating at Wicked Weed because they also have burgers and sandwiches with an upscale twist. If they ever offer the tuna appetizer again be sure to order that!
Like Bhramari, Wicked Weed sells a variety of cocktails and wine for those who don’t like craft beer.
Sunday – Last Day for a Weekend in Asheville
Woohoo – another day, another hike! My recommendations for today are Lookout Trail, Graveyard Fields Loop, and Devil’s Courthouse.
Lookout is rated moderate but I would say it’s strenuous. You’ll drive through the picturesque campus of Montreat and park in a wooded area.
The trail has a pretty steep incline most of the way. It’s a short trail, but your heart will be racing.
The Graveyard Fields Loop has two different waterfalls on it. There are stairs to climb and you’ll find beautiful rhododendron bushes and sweeping meadows here.
It’s a truly beautiful area. You can also pick blueberries here in late summer – around mid-August!
Wow, Graveyard Fields & Devil’s Courthouse recommended on the same day – not my best choice.
Anyways, Devil’s Courthouse is another short but steep trail. It’s one mile round-trip and the view once you get to the top is really astounding.
If you wanted to switch around the itinerary, this is a great place for sunset.
Breakfast at Sunny Point Cafe or Early Girl Eatery
These are a couple of the most popular breakfast restaurants in Asheville. Sunny Point throws in a little Tex-Mex flare so their breakfast burritos are really phenomenal.
They also have fantastic Bloody Mary’s I hear (I don’t like them) and before COVID times you could get coffee while you waited for a table.
Early Girl Eatery serves the same menu all day and their most popular dish is the Bow to the King – fried chicken tenders over cinnamon-battered buttermilk biscuits with whipped cream on top.
I’ll leave it there.
Visit the Biltmore Estate
While I don’t always recommend visiting the Biltmore, if you’ve never seen it then it’s really a must. Some people wonder if it’s overhyped and in my opinion? It’s not.
The Biltmore is by far and away the largest privately owned home in America. The size of it can’t be comprehended unless you see it.
Even when you see the house it’s hard to believe that people actually lived here. And this was the vacation home…
There is so much to do here other than just the house tour though. FYI the time on your ticket is the time that you need to be in front of the house and ready for your tour.
Once you get through your tour be sure to enjoy the gardens, check out one of the many shops, and hit one of the trails if you’d like.
There’s also Antler Hill Village to explore. Your ticket includes a wine tasting at Biltmore Winery in the Village!
They have all kinds of activities here like fly fishing or driving a Range Rover on property but that all costs extra of course.
Lunch at Stable Café
Once you are done exploring the grounds of the Biltmore, have a late lunch at Stable Café. This is in the building that originally housed their horse stables.
When you walk in, the outside of the room is lined with stables and you’ll find many tables located in these areas. It’s very nice though since it gives you a sense of privacy.
The food here is delicious and you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose.
I love dining anywhere at the Biltmore just because it’s an all-around great experience.
Float the French Broad (Option 1)
Okay, you may not actually have time for this if you spend a lot of time at your hike or at the Biltmore. But just another reason to come back!
Tubing, kayaking, and standup paddle boarding are all popular ways to go down the French Broad. Check out Zen Tubing if you’d like to tube the river.
For kayaking or SUP rentals, check out Asheville Outdoor Center. They provide the kayak/SUP rental as well as the shuttle. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time!
Ideally, you’ll go in the early morning. But this is when it fit into the itinerary. If you want to swap things around you could float the French Broad before you head to Biltmore and cut out the hiking.
Walk the River Arts District (Option 2)
If hiking and the Biltmore are important to you, then skip floating the river and just walk around the River Arts District after you’re done at Biltmore.
This section of town is by the French Broad River and houses many artists’ workshops and galleries in repurposed industrial buildings.
What’s fun about this is being able to see different artists at work instead of only seeing the finished pieces.
Wrapping Up a Weekend in Asheville
At this point, sadly you’ll be leaving Asheville. I told you, you’ll be planning another trip!
Spending a weekend in Asheville just scratches the surface of this eclectic town and makes you wish for more. Why do you think so many are moving here?
Other Things to Do During a Weekend in Asheville
Blue Ridge Parkway
People come from all over to drive America’s most scenic drive. The spring brings lots of wildlife and flowers, in summer everything is in full bloom, and the fall foliage is one of the most popular times to visit.
Portions of the road are closed during winter but if you are nearby, it’s neat to see things from a different perspective.
There are all kinds of overlooks to stop at and point of interest like the Moses Cone House that’s been turned into a craft expo, WNC Nature Center, and Linville Caverns.
I haven’t even mentioned the hiking. There are all kinds of trails that you can take off the Parkway.
Asheville has been known for hundreds of years as a wellness retreat. That’s why the Vanderbilts built the Biltmore here.
Asheville Salt Cave specializes in salt therapy and massage. Any of these is the perfect way to spend an afternoon – or full day!
The Arboretum is really a neat place even for people who aren’t super interested in flowers. You can either drive through the front entrance and pay the entrance fee or park on the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike in that way.
They have a large network of trails so it’s a great place for a hike. They have rotating exhibits there so you’ll usually see something different every time you go back.
These are some of the best wineries near Boone as well!
LaZoom Comedy Tours
If you see a purple bus going through town, that’s LaZoom! You can purchase beer at LaZoom’s office to take on the bus as well as at a pit stop at one of the craft breweries.
This tour is full of info about Asheville and good laughs.
There are plenty of other outdoor activities close to Asheville other than hiking and kayaking – though Asheville is home to some of the best hiking in the southeast. You can find zip-lining nearby at Navitat where they have a couple different zip-lining options to choose from.
Sections of the French Broad are calm but did you know that other sections are considered white water?
You can take a white water rafting trip on the French Broad which is pretty family friendly. Other options for rafting include the Nantahala River (Bryson City) and Green River (Saluda).
Johnson City, TN is a nearby town in Northeast TN with tons of outdoor/adventure options as well. Number one being rafting the Nolichucky River! It’s one of the best whitewater river trips in Tennessee.
Visit Small Towns Near Asheville
There is definitely no time to explore the outskirts of Asheville with only a weekend, but if you have more time then visit some of the small towns near Asheville!
Hendersonville is probably the largest town close to Asheville – it has its own beer and food scene you should check out.
Other favorites include Bryson City, Brevard, Saluda, Waynesville, and Highlands/Cashiers. You could also drive up and check out the tiny hamlet of Linville if you visit Linville Falls.
How to Get to Asheville, NC
The most popular way to get to Asheville is to drive. Interstate 40 cuts through east-west and I-26 runs north-south through Asheville.
This will be your best bet because experiencing everything Asheville has to offer is best done with a car anyways.
If you’re coming from further away, then Asheville does have a regional airport. Asheville Regional Airport is actually located in Fletcher, about 20 minutes from the city.
It’s right next to Sierra Nevada so you could check out the brewery as soon as you arrive. What a welcoming committee.
While you CAN take public transport, I wouldn’t recommend it. You’re likely looking at a combination of train/bus travel – or solely on the bus.
However, once you get to Asheville there isn’t a great public transport system in the city. That means taking Uber or Lyft everywhere.
Where to Stay in Asheville, NC
There are so many fantastic places to stay in the North Carolina Mountains! Asheville is one of the major tourist spots in the mountains so of course it has some great options. It’s one of the best places to visit in NC.
While I would LOVE to stay at the Omni Grove Park Inn, that is way out of my price range. Most boutique hotels are as well honestly.
These options aren’t quite budget and they aren’t the nicest you can get. Pretty much middle of the road. If you have a car and don’t mind driving when you come into town then by all means get a hotel outside of downtown.
Tips for Visiting Asheville
Drive/Rent a Car
I’ve already discussed this a bit so I won’t beat a dead horse. To get the complete Asheville experience you’ll really need a car.
If you don’t drive your own then rent one at the airport. Double check that your hotel offers parking!
Bring Layered Clothing
Weather is finicky up here. The days can be hot in the summer and then you’ll have cool nights. In spring and fall the temperatures will be all over the place. Winter will always be cold.
Your best bet is to bring clothes that you can layer. Most people will be dressed casually so no need for fancy clothes. You’ll want some cardigans and a sweatshirt.
Have An Open Mind
Asheville is a pretty quirky city. I think that’s one of the reasons why everyone loves the place. Depending on where you’re from though it can be a little shocking.
Just keep an open mind and have fun with it! Most people you meet here are super friendly and everyone is very helpful.
Stay In Downtown
Since you only have one weekend in Asheville, it’s probably best to stay downtown. With that said, if you don’t mind driving into town and finding somewhere to park then you’ll definitely find a cheaper hotel outside the downtown area.
Asheville is Very Dog-Friendly
This is one of the most dog-friendly cities in North Carolina and maybe even the US. You’ll see lots of people with dogs around town and even more out on the trail.
Most breweries in town are dog-friendly and restaurants that have an outdoor patio usually are as well. There are even lots of shops downtown where you can take your pup inside.
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