Tucked away among the teal skyline of the Blue Ridge Mountains is Asheville, North Carolina – also known as the “Paris of the South.” Walkable streets filled with cafes and boutiques, historic architecture, street murals, and breweries galore – there’s no shortage of adventures! Here’s how to spend the perfect weekend getaway enjoying Asheville, North Carolina.
Indulge in Cocoa Bliss at French Broad Chocolate Lounge
A lounge dedicated to chocolate?! These are the things dreams are made of! Chocolate ice cream, truffles, drinks, cookies, truffles – there’s no shortage of cocoa bliss at French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Located downtown, the cozy café is the perfect place to satisfy your sweet tooth after a dinner date. French Broad is a family owned lounge serving hand-crafted artisan chocolates, with an emphasis on local and sustainably sourced ingredients. Indulge in their desserts with a recommended wine pairing. Savor handmade bonbons with raspberry, lavender, habanero, and other unique flavors. Even head five minutes down the road to tour their chocolate factory. It’s a chocolate-lover’s fantasy come true!
Live Colorfully in the River Arts District
The center of creativity in Asheville lies on the outskirts of downtown in the River Arts District, where more than 200 active artist studios are just waiting to be explored. Paintings, metalworks, pottery, glass sculptures – you name it! What first appears as a regular industrial district opens up to intricate murals, bustling studios, and galleries galore. One of the best things about visiting the River Arts District is that you can often see artists in the zone while they work on their masterpieces. Don’t miss the abstract brilliance of Jonas Gerard, the small studio charm of Odyssey Clayworks, and be sure to stop by Wedge Brewing Company for their Cherry Sour before you leave!
Tap Into the Beer Scene
Speaking of beer, Asheville’s craft brewery scene is bursting at the seams. They have 26 of them! Fun fact: apparently Asheville’s perfect for brewing because much of the water flows from Pisgah National Forest. Regardless of what the reason is, they’ve made quite the name for themselves, having previously held the title of “Beer City, USA.” With so many to choose from, it’s hard to say which ones are the best. However, these five are constantly recommended: Burial Beer Co. – Asheville Brewing Co. – Green Man Brewery – Wedge Brewing Co. – Highland Brewing.
Explore 8,000 Acres at The Biltmore
Built by George Vanderbilt in the 1800s, The Biltmore is a 250-room French Renaissance mansion sitting on 8,000 acres of land. If 8,000 acres sounds big, think again! The original property lines span 125,000 acres – many of which were sold to the federal government to become Pisgah National Forest. Construction of Biltmore House was a massive undertaking that took six years to construct and 1,000 laborers to complete. The finished home featured an indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, gymnasium, 65 fireplaces, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms… and who knows what else! Today, the estate is a historic site and has two hotels, a winery, shops and restaurants, and Walled Garden featuring 50,000 tulips in the summer and an All-American Rose Garden.
Escape to Japan at Shoji Japanese Spa
Perched proudly on a hilltop in Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains is an authentic Japanese escape that you didn’t know you needed. Shoji Japanese Spa & Lodge is the East Coast’s only outdoor Japanese Retreat, boasting a wide variety of services and treatments for pure relaxation. Soak in a private hydrotherapy salt hot tub overlooking the forest. Steam your stresses away in their wet cedar sauna. You can also enjoy traditional Japanese massage treatments. Here’s everything you need to know about Shoji Spa and my experience while visiting!
Venture Where the Wild Things Are – Go Hiking!
Who can resist the teal skyline of the Blue Ridge Mountains? Or the dripping hardwoods and massive streams of Pisgah National Forest? There are so many trails in Asheville for all hiking levels. On our visit, we hiked the popular Graybeard Trail in Black Mountain which was stunning! The undeniable scent of fresh rain, low-hanging clouds, and gurgling streams made it feel like stepping into a storybook! I only wish we allocated more time to be out in the forest, but the hike was a gorgeous drive from downtown and just strenuous enough to be a light workout. For a list and description of popular hikes in the area, check out the Asheville Hike Finder from Explore Asheville.
Eat Your Heart Out
First off, let me say – the food scene in Asheville is bustling! Maybe it’s because we visited on Valentine’s weekend, or maybe it’s just that good, but when in doubt, DEFINITELY make your reservations in advance. It was quite difficult to find anywhere to eat without already having a table booked, and we didn’t get the true foodie experience because of it. For the couple of notable restaurants we did get to try, brunch at The Market Place was a standout. The Banana Bread French Toast with whipped crème fraiche, seasonal macerated fruit, and maple syrup was to DIE for!
Shop ’til You Drop at Grove Arcade
Prettiest. Shopping mall. EVER! Contrary to its name, the historic Grove Arcade isn’t an arcade at all. Built in 1926, the unmistakable landmark is an architectural jewel featuring a mix of more than 35 eateries, galleries, and locally-owned shops. But aside from a retail center, the breathtaking design is an experience. When you walk in, light floods the glass atrium surrounding by green plants, spiral iron staircases, marble floors, and intricate details. International cuisine, art galleries, artisan shops and yes, even a Foot Sanctuary spa make it a can’t miss stop in Downtown Asheville.
As you can see, there ‘s so much to see and do in Asheville! Where will you visit first?