Mountain backdrops, hippie charm, and literary bona fides have enthralled generations of Asheville visitors. Add a craft beer boom and thriving arts scene to that scenic history, and the appeal of the city and its lively neighborhoods has never been quite so sky-high.
WHY WE LOVE IT
For years, visitors were drawn to this town in the Blue Ridge Mountains for its unabashed quirkiness (drum circles, street performers), outdoor excursions (hiking, biking, rafting, and zip lines await the adventurous), and the perpetually popular Biltmore Estate. Now those wanting a new reason to explore Asheville will find a growing beer and restaurant culture bolstered by myriad festivals, pub crawls, and working art studios.
Galleries, boutiques, and watering holes dot Asheville’s walkable downtown. Cúrate (Spanish tapas) and Nightbell (restaurant and cocktail lounge), both masterminded by chef Katie Button, are located there, too, as are Tupelo Honey Cafe (Southern fare) and Rhubarb (farm to table). These days, however, Asheville has expanded beyond its historic city center to these buzzy neighborhoods.
Asheville boasts one of the highest numbers of microbreweries per capita in the country, and South Slope is where aficionados belly up. Try Burial Beer Co. (don’t miss the velvet Tom Selleck painting), or sip sours at Wicked Weed Brewing’s Funkatorium. Refinery Creator Space offers local art exhibits, and stop in at ZaPow Illustration Art Gallery for fantasy-style work. Finally, fuel up with low-and-slow-smoked pork at the acclaimed Buxton Hall Barbecue.
Just a short drive from downtown, West Asheville is in the middle of a renaissance. Residential streets radiate out from pedestrian-friendly Haywood Road, where you’ll find shops like Reciprocity and Harvest Records, casual eats at WALK and Nine Mile. Perennial favorite the Admiral offers fine dining in a dive-bar atmosphere. End your evening at music venues such as the Mothlight or UpCountry Brewing.
River Arts District
This once-industrial area, located along the French Broad River, now hosts galleries and artist studios—see them all during the RAD Studio Stroll that takes place every May and November. A new greenway winding along the river is in the works; in the meantime, catch a band or a comedian at the Grey Eagle, have a pint at Wedge Brewing Co., or stop in for a jam session at the Asheville Guitar Bar.
Please Your Ears
A bevy of bars and listening rooms offer live music that includes—but goes well beyond—bluegrass. The Orange Peel downtown welcomes nationally touring acts; at West Asheville’s Isis Restaurant & Music Hall, you can dine while taking in a show. And the warm months bring free outdoor festivals to green spaces, including RiverMusic in the River Arts District and LEAF Downtown AVL.
An array of sightseeing tours give newbies an insider’s perspective. The Asheville Urban Trail features a self-guided 1.7-mile walking tour among art installations. LaZoom Comedy Tours offers comedy rides, seasonal shows, and a Band & Beer bus tour. Want more suds? Pick an itinerary courtesy of the Asheville Ale Trail, or for a more in-depth experience, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has several options, including a three-hour Beer Geek Tour. The engaging Hood Tours explore Asheville’s historically African American neighborhoods and landmarks.
Western North Carolina has a rich craft history. Asheville makers carry on traditions and innovate new forms in ceramics, glass, wood, fiber arts, and more. The biannual Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands spotlights heritage arts while the Big Crafty, which also happens twice yearly, features indie crafters. Outdoor markets pop up on weekends throughout the warm months.
WHEN TO GO
October leaf peeping brings large crowds to Asheville, and even with four distinct seasons, the city enjoys moderate temperatures. Expect cool summer nights and outdoor activities year-round. Fans of diverse music can experience the best of art and nature at the biannual LEAF festival in nearby Black Mountain.
Music Video Asheville
Asheville Beer Week
American Craft Week
Christmas at Biltmore Estate