Along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there lies a Shangri-La that captivates eco-tourists, history buffs, artists, writers, musicians, chefs, baristas, brewers, and dreamers donned in flannel and sporting beards. A hipster haven in the heart of Appalachia. Despite being the largest city in the western part of North Carolina, it has less than 100,000 people. But don’t let that fool you; all of that aforementioned creative genius that resides here has transformed this town into one that will easily satisfy your epicurean taste buds.
While Asheville is a year-round destination, the fall and spring may serve as the best time of the year to go given pleasant temperatures and the changing foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Ideal timing aside, we actually checked out Asheville in winter; we took a relatively impromptu trip to Asheville during the week of Christmas as a side road trip between Atlanta and Nashville as we had a few extra vacation days. Given a perfect storm of bad luck (cold temperatures and a government shutdown preventing maintenance of icy roads) the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed when we were there. Furthermore, we opted to skip out on the Biltmore Estate because ticket pricing was inflated given Christmas week without the upside of being able to pleasantly enjoy the outdoor estate space given the cold temperatures.
But like any experienced traveler will tell you, expect the unexpected. Since our trip was only for 36 hours, we chose instead to enjoy all of the culinary excellence Asheville has on offer. Satisfied cravings, full stomachs.
WHERE TO STAY:
HOTEL INDIGO - We stayed at this hotel and found the location to be convenient to many of Asheville’s attractions (most within walking distance). If you are looking for a great mid-range hotel, this could be the choice for you. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60742-d1465118-Reviews-Hotel_Indigo_Asheville_Downtown-Asheville_North_Carolina.html
FIRST 12 HOURS:
After checking into our hotel, two of our immediate requirements were food and coffee. Our plan was to knock that out in the River Arts District of Asheville which is part of the “got next” future of Asheville.
What’s more American than tacos, right? Any “Ugly Delicious” fan would agree. So we decided to grab food at White Duck Taco Shop which had some delectable multi-ethnic tacos (mexican, korean, thai, BBQ, seafood, etc.) - https://www.yelp.com/biz/white-duck-taco-shop-asheville.
Just up the road from the tacos, we were able to grab some beans at Ultra Coffee Bar - https://www.yelp.com/biz/ultra-coffeebar-asheville (the fact that they had oat milk made my wife’s day).
Now appropriately replenished and rejuvenated, we explored some of the murals along the River Arts District and naturally ran into the most instragrammable spot in the River Arts District - the “Good Vibes Silo” along the train tracks. Lucky for you it has its own mention on Google Maps and has a parking lot nearby.
We then headed back to the hotel to drop off the car so we could begin exploring on foot. Thereafter, our first stop was to head to Montford Rooftop Bar to grab some cocktails before sunset. Lucky for us, the Montford Rooftop bar is right next to Hotel Indigo. We knew we were gonna sample plenty of beer on this trip, so figured a craft cocktail with a gorgeous sunset was in order first. The rooftop bar is blessed with some amazing views of the Blue Ridge mountains including covered seating as well as a terrace. It is a popular sunset spot so I would try to go much earlier than sunset if you want to get a good spot. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60742-d10722368-Reviews-The_Montford_Rooftop_Bar-Asheville_North_Carolina.html
As the sun took its slumber behind the Blue Ridge Mountains, we headed to our next stop - the Funkatorium. It’s about a 5 min cab ride or a 15 minute walk from Montford Rooftop Bar. While Asheville is populated with innumerable breweries, Funkatorium’s claim to fame is its take on sour beers. If you wanted to try a different type of beer for your palate, grab a flight and check this out! https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60742-d7209432-Reviews-Wicked_Weed_Funkatorium-Asheville_North_Carolina.html
Rather than dinner we decided to just have a more light fare - with appetizer/snacks food. We decided to head MG Road for some grub. It’s a fun atmosphere and some great apps specializing in Indian snack foods. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend this place for dinner or for those with kids. We found the food a tad oily, but since were looking for something greasy it definitely hit the spot at that moment. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60742-d3947152-Reviews-MG_Road-Asheville_North_Carolina.html
Now to explore the opposite side of the spectrum, we took a 5-7 minute walk from MG Road to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge - https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60742-d1501647-Reviews-French_Broad_Chocolate_Lounge-Asheville_North_Carolina.html. It had an amazing collection of desserts and will surely satisfy your sweet tooth. A great way to end the night!
NEXT 24 HOURS:
We had no major plans during the day today (other than a dinner reservation). It was a day of seeing where the day took us. Our first stop was a brunch at Biscuit Head. While the place does not take reservations, the long wait was worth it for some great food and very unique jam bar. If you have the patience to wait in line, a brunch here will definitely be worth your while. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60742-d4295338-Reviews-Biscuit_Head_West_Asheville-Asheville_North_Carolina.html
Remember we mentioned that the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed due to icy roads and a government shutdown. Nonetheless, we still wanted to just take a little road trip and soak in the beautiful mountainous terrain and topography. We just typed in Pisgah National Forest into our GPS and headed towards the foothills of Pisgah National Forest. We explored some babbling brooks and spotted some snow capped mountains before heading back to Asheville. Given the very cold temperatures, we didn’t do any major hikes. Since we didn’t do any particular excursion/hike in Pisgah National Forest, we don’t have any particular recommendations for you. But we wanted to bring this up so you may research Pisgah National Forest (if interested) for your own exploration from Asheville. https://www.exploreasheville.com/outdoor-adventures/national-state-parks/pisgah-national-forest/
After dropping off the car back of at the Hotel, we did a mini brewery crawl at Burial Beer Co and Wicked Weed Brewing Pub, both of which were phenomenal. They are a short 7-10 minute walk from each other. Great brews and flights! https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60742-d3733005-Reviews-Wicked_Weed_Brewing-Asheville_North_Carolina.html and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60742-d4299378-Reviews-Burial_Beer_Co-Asheville_North_Carolina.html
Finally, we were ready for our dinner reservation at Curate. The sheer amount and quality of the reviews for this restaurant on Yelp and Tripadvisor can speak for themselves. To distill it, it is an upscale restaurant that delivers great food and wine without either over-the-top pricing or the burden of pretentiousness that so often can spoil the dining experience. It is a very popular restaurant so definitely make your reservation well in advance. https://www.yelp.com/biz/c%C3%BArate-asheville-2 and https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60742-d2032063-Reviews-Curate-Asheville_North_Carolina.html