1. Cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway, , 28806
"America's Favorite Drive," is a 469 mile adventure through the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. The Parkway meanders through the countryside of Virginia and North Carolina.
The Pisgah region (MP 339.5-469) is located relatively close to Asheville. Along with dozens of scenic overlooks of the mountains, attractions along this portion of the drive include waterfalls and various hiking trails.
Highlights include Graveyard Fields (2 beautiful waterfalls via a moderate 3.5 mile hike), the Folk Art Center (a museum of Southern Appalachia arts and crafts), Mt Mitchell State Park (home to the highest point east of the Mississippi), and Richard Balsam (the highest point on the Parkway at 6410 ft).
2. Explore the food scene
Various, , 28801
Asheville has long been regarded as one of the South's top foodie cities. Award-winning restaurants across the culinary board include options such as Italian, Indian, Spanish, American, vegan, BBQ, and many more.
A few must try gems include Chai Pani (fantastic award-winning Indian street cuisine), Vinnie's (authentic NY style Italian), Nine Mile (unique Caribbean inspired fare), Plant (upscale vegan fare), and Blue Dream (unique UK style curry house). For the best views in town, head over to the Blue Ridge Artisanal Buffet at the Omni Park Grove Inn.
Don't forget about all the wonderful independent coffeeshops. The best include High Five (best bagels in town), City Bakery (amazing croissants), All Day Darling (delicious muffins and Danish), and Sweeten Creek (serves coffee from the "Roaster of the Year").
3. Get back to nature at the North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmstead Way, , 28806
One of the best places to enjoy nature and escape the downtown tourist crowds is the North Carolina Arboretum, located a quick 15 minute drive from the city. Featuring 65 acres of cultivated gardens, plus a world class bonsai garden, it's a must visit by any nature lover.
Also on-site are 10 miles of diverse hiking trails, all of which are maintained. The 1 mile nature trail loop features interpretative signs and is easy in intensity, so a great choice if you are looking to keep it simple. As most Blue Ridge area hiking trails require quite a drive, the Arboretum is the perfect close alternative.
4. Go retro at the Asheville Pinball Museum
1 Battle Square Ste, , 28801
Take a blast to the past at the Asheville Pinball Museum as you enjoy old-fashioned gaming, from pinball machines, to arcades, to old-school video gaming systems.
No quarters required here! For just $15 bucks, you can play to your heart's content. With over 100 machines to choose amongst, you can definitely kick back here for at least a few hours, so really it's a great value.
The setting is cool and dark with a fun retro 80's style theme. They also serve drinks. Overall, this is a unique place to escape all your worries and modern tech, if only for an hour or 2. Also makes for a unique date!
5. Spend the day (or night) at the luxurious Omni Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Avenue, , 28804
If you have the spare cash, staying at one of the South's most gorgeous resorts, the Omni Grove Park Inn, is well worth the splurge. The beautiful 4 star resort is surrounded by lovely views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
A daytrip to the resort can be just as exciting. With several restaurants and bars, a world-class spa, a handful of shops, an on-site hiking trail, and a premier Donald Ross designed 18 hole golf course, there are plenty of activities to fill up your itinerary. Note - many activities require advanced booking.
Whatever you do, definitely plan for brunch at the gorgeous Blue Ridge Artisanal Dining room buffet. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains, this is the most scenic place to dine in Asheville, hands down.
6. Relax with a drink at the Battery Park Book Exchange
1 Page Avenue, , 28801
A combined used book store/champagne bar in the heart of downtown, Battery Park has become one of the city's more popular tourist attractions. Featuring thousands and thousands of books in a gorgeous setting, this is the best place downtown to enjoy a drink in a unique setting.
Bibliophiles will love scanning through rare and unique hard to find books, all while sipping on a delicious glass of wine, champagne, or coffee. Additionally, a small selection of snacks are available including a delicious local hummus plate and a cheese board.
Note - on one disappointing note, the staff can be quite rude, even more so during the busy season.
7. Explore the local art scene
Various, , 28801
Asheville's art scene is quite extensive, with many galleries, performing art centers, and studios to explore, as well as endless festivals to attend throughout the year.
The historic Woolworth department store has been transformed into a gallery featuring unique art works by over 175 local artists. As it is located downtown, it's a great stop after exploring the local food scene. A 50's style soda fountain, modeled after the original Woolworth Luncheonette, is a popular choice for comfort food after a long day exploring.
Grovewood Village, located next to the Omni resort, is also well worth a visit. Featuring a sculpture garden, 2 museums, and working studios, it is definitely worth a look, especially if you are planning on visiting or staying at the Omni.
The Folk Art Center, the most popular attraction on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is home to the nation's first craft shop. Rotating displays of more than 3500 crafts are featured.
8. Stroll through the Botanical Gardens at Asheville
151 W T. Weaver Boulevard, , 28804
As a less costly alternative to the Arboretum, the free Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place to picnic, take a nature stroll, and observe local plants and wildlife, all without spending a dime. Although it's free admission, donations are appreciated. Also, they have a great little gift shop to browse through, with a lot of great birding books.
This non-profit garden is conveniently located just minutes from downtown, so a perfect mini break when you tire of the hustle and bustle. While the space is quite small at just 10 acres, it's really beautiful anytime of the year especially during fall foliage season.
9. Shop, dine, and explore at The Grove Arcade
1 Page Avenue, , 28801
This beautiful shopping mall downtown features an interesting mix of shops and restaurants in a historical building. The ornate architecture makes it a beautiful place to spend the afternoon. In addition to local shops, there are a number of restaurants and coffeeshops, as well as a luxurious foot spa and champagne bar.
Highlights include Bebette's (a New Orleans style coffeehouse serving delicious homemade beignets), Wake Foot Sanctuary (specialty scented foot soaks in a relaxing environment), and Well Bred Bakery (homemade pastries and desserts).
10. Relax at French Broad River Park
508 Riverview Drive, , 28806
Asheville's premier public park is a beautiful riverside park located along the peaceful French Broad River. This park features a riverfront walking trail, plenty of shade, and most importantly, a convenient location just minutes from downtown.
The best part of all is that it connects to the 2.5 mile long French River Greenway, so you can turn a quick day at the park into a longer biking/running/walking adventure.
Another bonus - there is a huge dog park here which is conveniently separated into a big and little dogs section.