Visiting Asheville?

Feb 06, 2020 • Connie Matisse

Come visit us!

Come visit us!

Ask any travel listicle where to plan your next getaway and 99% of them are going to tell you to come to Asheville. Clean mountain air, live music. Everyone’s got their own version of a “perfect” weekend getaway, and our style might not be your style, but we get a lot of folks asking us about where to go, what to eat, and so forth when they visit Asheville and we truly do have very strong opinions about it. And so here they are! A few of many very fun, delicious, energizing, relaxing things to do, eat, see, drink, and experience in Asheville, North Carolina.  

What to do?

Rest, Relax, Recover
Rest, relaxation, and recovery are literally part of the city’s heritage. With clean air, a temperate climate, and breathtaking mountain views, it’s a perfect place to run away to when late capitalism’s turned you into an anxiety-addled, screen-addicted robot. Give your thumbs and eyeballs a rest. We’ve got yoga! We’ve got salt caves! We’ve got herbalists! We’ve got literally every modality of therapy and alternative healing that’s ever been practiced! So book a massage and acupuncture and a pedicure and reiki and don’t feel bad about it.

  • Sauna House: Cedar and infrared saunas, a cold plunge, heated lounge chairs and icy cold, bubbly, adaptogen beverage—go here if your body hurts and your brain feels wacky. Easy to get to, plenty of parking, and less than $50 a person!
  • Shoji Spa: Outdoor hot tubs on the side of a mountain, overlooking downtown Asheville, and only 15 minutes away. Bring a bottle of bubbly wine from Crocodile or Metro Wines. Just as perfect solo as it is with a group of 6.
  • Madison County Hot Springs: The more adventurous among us might opt for a 45 minute drive NW of town to where someone plunked jacuzzi tubs atop actual natural hot springs by a rushing river. It’s amazing. BYOB. There’s also a campfire.
  • Salt Cave: My mother-in-law was very disappointed, though, when she learned you had to keep your clothes on in the Salt Cave. I get where she’s coming from, but the folks who run it swear that you don’t have to be nude to soak in its healing properties. Literally, you sit in warm, coated, floor-to-ceiling Himalayan pink salt. Recommended for eczema, allergies, asthma and more.
  • Sensory Deprivation Tank: Thomas from our Finance Department says the Sensory Deprivation Tank at Still Point is “full body relaxation from brain to toe.” Basically, you lay down in a room temp water chamber full of so much salt that you float, in pitch black darkness, until all your worries melt away.

East Fork Pollen bowls laying in a bed of grass and flowers.
Get Outside
Asheville really is breathtaking most months of the year (don’t come in February or March, it’s really just a mud pile). Take a hike or several if you can. One of our favorites is The Big East Fork Trail—no relation. If big hikes are a no-go you can find a great list of incredible, accessible mountain views or forest paths here.

  • Big East Fork Trail: Though we’re partial to the name, we truly love this moderate hike. Not too tiring, but long enough to feel secluded and head-clearing. Might we add, it’s exceptionally beautiful when the leaves begin to turn.
  • Skinny Dip Falls: A light hike (under a half mile) to clear, cascading waterfalls—perfect for a swim in the heat of summer. Bonus: it’s right off Blue Ridge Parkway!
  • Navitat: I haven’t taken my kids zip-lining yet, and probably, if I did, Vita would scream for half an hour in protest until we took her home, but some people really love the feeling of soaring through the trees in a harness and helmet!
  • The Arboretum: We go here a lot when we want to be in nature but don’t want to work too hard. Pack a picnic—or pick up a sandwich from Wild Ginger—and stroll through the incredible Bonsai collection.
  • Asheville Botanical Gardens: Walkable and bikeable from Downtown! In warmer months, we’ll bring takeout and find a tree to sit under and let the kids run wild. No dogs.
  • Max Patch: Breathtaking during any season of the year, Max Patch is the perfect spot for picnics, cloud gazing, and grass laying amongst the mountaintops.
  • Graveyard Fields: Do not be spooked by the name; it refers to the fact that the main field has weathered some massive fires and windstorms that fell hundreds of the spruce and fir trees on its slopes. Numerous waterfalls, hike options, and spectacular views right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A glimpse into the East Fork Factory.
Take a Tour
  • East Fork: Did you know we offer tours of our ceramics factory? We do! Every Friday at 2pm. Reserve a spot here.
  • Biltmore House: Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s also really cool, and if you do the audio tour, you’ll learn something!
  • French Broad Chocolate: Not all chocolate is created equal. Learn about how cacao is grown and see it transformed into the good stuff at Asheville’s own bean to bar chocolate factory.
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing: Even if you’re not a beer drinker, it’s worth checking out the most beautiful brewery in the country (think miles of copper, volcanic glass floors and a beer bottle chandelier). The guided tours also include beer samples.
See Some Art
  • Asheville Art Museum: Newly renovated! The collection at the Asheville Art Museum is so perfectly representative of the city’s subtle understanding of and grappling with that blurry line between craft and art. A great art museum for kids of all ages.
  • Black Mountain College Museum: Not exaggerating—basically every major artist of the 20th century had ties to Black Mountain College, an experimental school founded in 1933 in Black Mountain, NC. Learn more about the school and notable alumni like Josef and Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, M.C. Richards, Merce Cunningham, and Elaine de Kooning. It’s impossible to visit and not be inspired. - Virginia
Buy Some Crafts
  • Akira Satake: Our friend Akira used to be a professional banjo player and music producer in Brooklyn, but he moved to Asheville and went full-time potter about 15 years ago. His work is good. Cynthia, his wife, makes French pastries with Japanese ingredients—like yuzu creme puffs and matcha shortbread.
  • Melissa Weiss and Southside Studios: Melissa runs a group studio where you can see her wild, beautiful, organic-feeling pottery alongside dozens of other makers.
Move Your Body
  • Studio Zahiya: An Asheville institution at this point, right downtown, and our favorite place to get really sweaty while shaking your butt. Drop in for Hip Hop Fitness, Bangra, Samba and more.
  • West Asheville Yoga There are like 25 yoga studios in Asheville, but we love this one for its humble, DIY interior and the highly-experienced teachers.
  • Climbmax: Climbing is big in Asheville—both inside and out. Climbmax has two, beginner-friendly gyms in town, and if you’re a bit more experienced, go climbing outside in Rumbling Bald! - Lindsey

What to eat?

Breakfast with fruit and yogurt.

Breakfast
  • OWL Bakery: Rose almond croissants, cardamom buns, danishes with crystallized herbs and maple mascarpone—the pastries at OWL are truly world-class. I always get overwhelmed and order 3 too many. You should too.
  • Farewell: New to town and oh so sweet. Finally a place on the Southside to get a good, savory breakfast and a latte done right, with lots of outlets for your laptop and plenty of natural light. The good wine selection doesn’t hurt either.
  • All Day Darling: If you’re looking for a substantial morning meal and want to avoid Downtown congestions, join the Montford locals at this sweet spot that serves everything from fried chicken biscuits with chili honey to shakshuka.
  • Liberty House Cafe: Outdoor seating, quality avocado toast, honey-lavender lattes, and adjacent to town’s biggest yoga studio. This place is always packed with locals, and for good reason. I especially appreciate that there’s a fence between my children and the street.
  • Karen Donatelli’s: When I was pregnant with Lucia, I ate a Karen Donatelli’s chocolate chip cookie every single day. It’s the least “hip and trendy” on the list, and that’s why I like it. Try the marmalade brioche if it’s in the case.

Curate at lunch in Asheville.
Lunch
  • Curate: Everyone wants to go to Curate for dinner, but go for lunch instead—same menu, much chiller, and one of the very few “special” feeling spots in town open before 5:00 pm. A pitcher of sangria at 2 pm tastes great.
  • Buxton Hall: Virginia’s Pick— The brainchild of partners: Elliott Moss (formerly of The Admiral) and Meherwan Irani (owner of Chai Pani + founder of the Chai Pani Restaurant Group). Buxton Hall can, in my opinion, do no wrong. How can you not like a place that serves bourbon + Cheerwine slushies? (And amazing BBQ, of course). Make sure you save room for dessert—I dream about Buxton Hall’s pies.
  • Wild Ginger: A little bit of a trek, but for this Los Angeles transplant, Wild Ginger is a godsend. They serve perfectly executed Vietnamese classics like barbecue pork bánh mì and pho tai but don’t miss the exceptional calamari with nuac cham and whole fried fish.
  • Rocky’s Hot Chicken: Everyone orders the hot chicken, but we’re here for the fried coconut shrimp and mac ‘n cheese.
  • Taco Billy: My all-time favorite budget breakfast-brunch-lunch dish in Asheville is the Migas tacos but add on avocado, bacon, and a side of jalapeno crema. In the afternoon, the Grandberry taco sends me straight back to after school snacks at my Mexican grandma’s kitchen table. For some bizarre reason, they make a Nutella wafer cookie called Chocobilly that make not a lot of sense on the menu but might be the best cookie I’ve ever eaten. I crave it.
Dinner
  • Bull and Beggar: Our favorite place in town, even though they don’t use our dinnerware (whatever, Matt Dawes). Yes, they make the best burger in America. Yes, you should also order non-burger things. Go at 5 for $1 oysters and a bottle of Champagne.
  • Cucina 24: True Italian food using regional ingredients. Brian Canipelli and his team put together a well-priced family-style tasting menu that deep dives on particular regions. One month it might be Rome, the next Alto Adige.
  • Benne on Eagle: We love this restaurant—the drinks, the food, the decor, the ethos. All of it. Chef Ashleigh Shanti builds a menu inspired by the African diaspora, with dishes like Akara Fritters and Oxtail & Creamed Peas and the restaurant does its best to service this essential Asheville community through its hiring and employee retention practices.
  • Plant: The vegan population in this town is definitely higher than most, and we have the restaurants to prove it. Plant is one of the highest on the list with an upscale, yet welcoming, approach to vegan dishes. From house-made, nut cheese charcuterie and decadent tamales to crème brûlée and ice cream you can get by the pint, Plant hits the spot every time. - Lindsey

Snacks in East Fork Bitty Bowls.
Drinking While Snack/Snacking While Drinking
  • Forestry Camp: Brian Cannipelli showcases often misunderstood basque-region cooking in this tucked away spot. This is the place to come for expertly prepared snails and unctuous pork shoulder. It’s equally fun to come with a group and sit at one of their long biergarten-style tables in the raucous downstairs area or for an intimate dinner with your sweetie in the dark-wooded, moodily-lit upstairs dining room. Forestry Camp is owned by the folks behind, Burial, one of our favorite breweries in town, but when we’re here, you can find us ordering a bottle from their extensive and stellar wine list.
  • Sovereign Remedies: One of the OG cocktail bars in Asheville with a liquor selection and drink menu to back it up. The room is open and airy—a perfect spot to waste away the afternoon before the nighttime crowd rolls in. Their executive chef, Graham House, does an excellent job highlighting regional produce. Don’t skip his vegetable preparations.

Sweets
  • French Broad Chocolate Lounge: Three words: liquid truffle affogato. Warm drinking chocolate poured over the housemade ice cream flavor of your choice. It makes you feel like both a five year old and a member of the royal family.
  • Hole: They’re stupidly delicious! Worth the hype! Must go!
Beer
I personally only want to drink a beer if it’s 104 degrees outside and I’m floating down a desert river and if that beer is a Tecate with lime, but in case you haven’t heard, craft beer is a THING in Asheville. If beer friends are in town, here’s where we’d take them:

  • Burial: The only beer place we come to regularly because the food is so damn good. Beer people say the beer is great, too!
  • The Wedge: The only place you want to be to drink beer when it’s nice out. Outdoor, communal seating, lots of cornhole, and some of Asheville’s classic beers. I love the Julian Price Pilsner.
  • Funkatorium: There is something magical and satisfyingly scientific about enjoying a sour beer at the Funkatorium. I’m all about the La Bonté Pear. - Corey
  • Hi-Wire: Hi-Wire is great all the time, but for years I’ve been visiting Hi Wire Big Top on Wednesdays, when they do $3 pours on select beers. Give me a $3 Strongman Coffee Milk Stout, a cheeseburger from the Foothills food truck outside, and lots of dogs to pet, and I’m a happy girl. - Virginia

Wine
  • Crocodile Wine: Though technically a wine store, you can buy a bottle and just post up in the cute, little, plant-filled corner with a book or a laptop and fill up on a beautiful, thoughtful selection of natural (i.e. wine made with nothing added or taken away).
  • Metro Wines: A great wine shop on Charlotte Street with a super sweet staff and a selection to fit all palettes.
  • Bottle Riot: If you’re waiting on a table at Bull & Beggar, pop into this wine bar for a list that might surprise you. The funky, grungy vibe makes the very thoughtful, grown-up, kinda-nerdy wine list feel delightfully unexpected. They’ve got 50 beautiful wines by the glass.

Where to stay?

In-Town
Hotels in Asheville are stupidly overpriced. Even if you have that snazzy Hotel Tonight app, rarely does a good or interesting deal pop up. I’m sorry.

  • The Chestnut Street Inn: Emilie and Arturo might be the nicest humans in the city. They used to work in the natural wine world in NYC, but a few years ago, they traded late nights behind the bar for life as innkeepers. It’s a B&B we can really get behind.
  • The Grand Bohemian: This hotel’s decor has turquoise and lucite and taxidermy and brocaded rugs. It’s so tacky and weird, and that’s why we like it.
  • Foundry Hotel: New to town, centrally located, great lobby bar, and—most importantly—next door to our fave joint, Benne on Eagle.
  • The Mountaineer Inn: If I’d come to Asheville with my parents and siblings on a family road trip in 1998, this is where my dad would have made us stay. It’s a grungy motel with real *character*, but it’s close to town and usually half the price of the more cleaned-up spots downtown.
Out-of-Town
  • The Nook: Our friend and his friends built this little nook by hand! It’s itty bitty, but every corner is just perfect. There’s a swing inside, a little loft set up for tea service, a big round window, and—hallelujah—shelves stocked full of East Fork.
  • The Swag: If you’re looking to get out in the mountains, yet stay close-ish to town, The Swag is a great option. Mountain views, good food, romantic!

Bringing Kids?

Children enjoying a snack of grapes drinking from East Fork Toddler Cups.
Kid Friendly
  • Asheville Art Museum: A really cute getaway for kiddos on the second floor where they can make their own art, read books, build foam towers, etc.

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