Find myriad outdoor activities, a vibrant arts scene, delectable dining options, and more craft breweries than you can count (almost) in the mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina.
If you are visiting Asheville from the middle of September onwards for a few weeks, you may be in luck. This is the time of year when thousands of monarch butterflies make their annual migration through the region en route to Mexico. The top viewing spot is Wagon Road Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 35 minutes south of the city.
About an hour southeast of Asheville is Chimney Rock, a natural wonder 535 million years in the making. Over millions of years, wind, water, and extreme temperatures eroded the land that surrounds the rock, and today you can stand atop the 315-foot Chimney Rock and enjoy 75-mile views of the region. On clear days, that is.
In just under an hour’s drive from Asheville you can find yourself in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which stretches from North Carolina into Tennessee and is the most visited national park in all of the U.S. Filled with hiking and bicycling trails, fishing and horseback riding opportunities, not to mention waterfalls and wildlife, this national park has it all. The park is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Foraging is to Asheville as are the mountains and the river. Join a tour with No Taste Like Home and venture into the surrounding fields and woods to find edible greens, berries, mushrooms, flowers, nuts, roots—whatever Mother Nature yields. That evening, nibble your finds, or take them to a local restaurant where the chefs will whip up an app with your “catch of the day.”
Best Day Trip
The iconic Blue Ridge Parkway travels 469 miles atop the Southern Appalachians. Considered “America’s favorite drive,” it is easily accessible from downtown Asheville. There’s more to do than drive the parkway, however. Hiking, bicycling, wildflower hunting, and bird-watching are just a few of the ways to spend a day.
Off the Beaten Path
With one of the country’s most popular national parks nearby, and a fantastic parkway to explore, there are still plenty of places to get off the beaten path in Asheville, including DuPont State Recreational Forest. Lose the crowds on 84 miles of well-marked and maintained trails through more than 10,000 acres of forest, and chase waterfalls along the way.
Most Iconic Place
Think of Asheville and most certainly Biltmore Estate comes to mind. “America’s largest home” sits on 8,000 acres and was built by George Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895; the house features 250 rooms and 65 fireplaces. Exhibits are installed throughout the year to highlight the house and its gardens, inviting everyone in to its timeless elegance.
Asheville’s live music scene has long been considered one of the best in the U.S., and the city has the venues to match. One local fave for which to check the calendar is Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club, and another is The Grey Eagle, one of the longest-standing venues in the city.
For more than 20 years, locals, tourists, hippies, and hipsters alike have all come together around the drum circle that happens every Friday night in Pritchard Park. Whatever your style, whatever your groove, everyone is invited to come and dance to, well, the beat of their own drum.
Neighborhood to Explore
The River Arts District, appropriately nicknamed RAD, is a terrific neighborhood in which to spend time exploring. More than 200 artist studios fill what were once working tannery, cotton, and agricultural mills. Creativity flows here in all mediums, just as the French Broad River flows on the west edge of the neighborhood.