If you’re looking for a fun and funky mountain town with tons of trails for hiking, running and mountain biking, then Asheville is your place. In addition to being an incredible outdoor playground, there's an awesome food scene in Asheville as well as several art galleries, a gorgeous river and more breweries than you’ll have time for.
The closest airport is the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) which is about 9 miles south of the city and about a 15-minute drive. Other options include the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) which is about an hour and fifteen minutes south and Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) – which is about a two hour drive.
(Tip: If you’re trying to maximize the weekend, we recommend trying to fly into Asheville rather than flying into GSP or CLT.)
Where to Stay
Asheville has several hotels to choose from, many of which are clustered downtown. The city also has some cool bed and breakfasts, numerous Airbnb's to choose from and even a few hostels.
Downtown Asheville is both walkable and bikeable (You’ll see locals doing both to get around). Driving a car isn’t impossible although traffic is getting thicker each year as more people move to the city and tourism increases.
As far as public transportation goes, you can hop on the bus for $1 per ride, or pick up a Ticket Booklet which gives you 11 rides for $9. Don’t like any of those options? You’re in luck, Uber is in Asheville, as well.
Here's how to maximize a full weekend in Asheville, North Carolina:
3:30 – 5 p.m. – Go foraging for food with a company called No Taste Like Home. A guide will take you on a Wild Food Stroll on the grounds of the Omni Grove Park Inn and teach you how to identify local edibles.
During your eco-tour you’ll find anywhere from ten to twenty different things to nibble on and collect. It’s one of the coolest and most unique adventures in the city (if not the Southeast).
7 p.m. – After your Wild Food Stroll, grab a drink on the outdoor terrace of the Omni Grove Park Inn. The view is incredible and is easily one of the best places to watch the sun dip behind the mountains.
8 a.m. – Head out for a run in the River Arts District. There’s a lot of cool outdoor murals and numerous art galleries in this section of town. Be sure to have your route take you through the Foundation near 12 Bones BBQ, the Wedge Brewing Company and the outdoor skatepark. Definitely consider bringing your camera since there’s so much to see here.
9:30 a.m. – Pick up an everything breakfast bagel at Tiger Bay Cafe. This delicious egg sandwich is smothered in cream cheese, topped with avocado and tomato and is nothing short of addictive. It’s also located in the same building as BattleCat Coffee Bar so you can also snag a cup of locally roasted coffee.
11 a.m. – Western North Carolina is known for its waterfalls. Head east out of the city and make your way to Catawba Falls. The trail and falls are part of Pisgah National Forest. The hike itself is relatively flat and comes in a little under 3 miles roundtrip.
3 p.m. – An adventure in Asheville isn’t really complete unless you spend some time on (or by) the water. Stop by French Broad Outfitters and check on current river conditions. They run a bunch of different trips, and also rent gear. (Plus there’s public river access right behind the shop.)
If the water levels are too high, head on out to Richmond Hill Park. They’ve got a disc golf course as well as hiking and biking trails.
6 p.m. – Hopefully you’ve worked up an appetite because there is so much delicious food on the menu at Gan Shan Station. Since 2014, Patrick O’Cain and his team have been creating and serving up some of the most flavorful dishes in Asheville. There are specials each night of the week and the drinks are as tasty and inventive as the food.
Household names like the Avett Brothers and Band of Horses have passed through the Grey Eagle’s doors on their way to eventual stardom. This is your chance to catch some great artists on their way up before they start selling out stadiums.
7 a.m. – Grab a cup of coffee and a bite at Odd's Cafe. The baristas are super friendly and the baked goods are made locally. Plus they have an extensive selection of loose-leaf teas and a couple of great beers in the cooler in case you want to grab a can or two for later in the day.
8 a.m. – Head on over to Climbmax Climbing at the Smoky Mountain Adventure Center. Get a Day Pass and explore their 35-foot indoor walls, 45-foot outdoor walls, and boulder problems. (Bonus: There’s also a smoothie bar here in case you didn’t get up early enough to make a pit stop at Odd’s Cafe.)
11 a.m. – Check out Second Gear, a gear and outdoor clothing consignment shop. We’ve found (and sold) some really good things here over the years; everything from gently used Chacos to trucker hats to camping equipment.
12 p.m. – Grab a quick bite at BimBeriBon (you can eat it there or take it to go). They’re entirely gluten free and have tons of healthy options to choose from. We recommend the gnocchi bowl and the adobo chicken sandwich.
2 p.m. – Go mountain biking in Bent Creek. There’s a network of fun trails to explore in this area, everything from wide, old road gravel and dirt roads to single track trails. You’ll see everyone from the beginner mountain biker to the advanced rider out on these trails (as well as hikers and trail runners).
Need to rent a bike? No worries, head on over to Youngblood Bicycles. They’ve got full suspension mountain bikes in various sizes for rent. (They’ve also got road bikes.)
4 p.m. – Post-ride, drive a stretch of the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway is 469 miles of winding road with numerous overlooks that are worth stopping for. Take your time sightseeing and watch for wildlife, cyclists and hikers. Also, be sure to check the website before you go since during the winter, certain sections may be closed.
5 p.m. – Grab one last drink at New Belgium Brewing Company. You can take a tour every hour on the half-hour, or just kick back and enjoy a beer before you have to leave. Their location along the river is pretty hard to beat and they’ve got lots of choices for both indoor and outdoor seating. Oh, and grab a six-pack on your way out. It might just make leaving a little easier.
6 p.m. Instead of crying in your beer that your trip is over, just start planning your return. Asheville is a great place to visit any time of year. There’s unique things to do in all four seasons.
Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are based in Asheville, North Carolina, but are currently traveling the country in their van. You can follow along with their adventures at Authentic Asheville.
All Photos By Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley.
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