An eclectic, outdoorsy city that’s a perfect destination for a getaway any time of year, Asheville is a North Carolina gem filled with wonderful local shops, gorgeous gardens and trails, great barbecue spots, and places to enjoy a tasty libation. Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure or a place to enjoy a thriving art scene, Asheville has much to offer—plus, as The Scout Guide Asheville Editor Meagan Harris says, her city is simply “good for the soul.” Here, she shares an insider’s travel guide to her area.
Where to Stay
Downtown, the AC Hotel Asheville Downtown (10 Broadway Street) is a recent welcome addition thanks to its central location, walls are adorned with local art, and beautiful mountain views. The hotel’s restaurant, Capella on 9, is the perfect spot for tapas, stellar vistas, and craft cocktails—The Bee City Knees, made with Monkey Shoulder scotch, honey syrup, lemon juice, and egg white foam, is Meagan’s post-check-in cocktail recommendation. Her inside tip for those making a reservation: Request one of the balcony rooms on the fifth floor.
Another option located just two blocks from downtown, Bunn House Hotel (15 Clayton Street) is a boutique hotel known for its grounds. Meagan loves the hotel’s little surprises, like complimentary beer and wine in the mini fridge and in-room breakfast.
For a high-style stay, The Windsor Boutique Hotel (36 Broadway), situated in the heart of downtown Asheville, has a distinctly Parisian vibe. Recently renovated, this hotel is historic with luxury amenities, an amazing art collection, and top-notch service.
What to Do
“No question, all visitors must start at The Biltmore Estate,” says Meagan of the landmark located at 1 Lodge Street. America’s largest home was built by George Vanderbilt on 8,000 acres with views of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Today, it hosts must-see exhibits (this spring, the costumes from the movie “The Titanic” are on display until May 13, and after that, a Chihuly exhibit in the gardens will be on view) in addition to tours of the garden and grounds (Meagan recommends the rooftop tour of the estate for the unforgettable views and photo ops. After taking it all in, she recommends a late lunch on the Sunset Terrace at The Grove Park Inn (290 Macon Avenue).
To give out-of-towners a taste of the local artisan scene, Meagan takes guests to Lexington Glassworks (81 South Lexington Avenue) to watch the makers in the hot shop blow glass and grab a pint of local beer served in a hand-blown creation. Afterward, she recommends heading over to Momentum Gallery (24 North Lexington Avenue), a newcomer that focuses on exhibitions from emerging and mid-career artists.
To experience the outdoorsiness that Asheville is known for, take a long drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping at any trailhead to explore the magnificent hiking trails. Meagan’s favorite is Craggy Gardens (Milepost 364.4 along the parkway) for its kid-friendly, wide-open spaces and fantastic vistas.
Asheville’s Sierra Nevada Taproom in Mills River is another one of Meagan’s must-see spots. Sometimes you can catch music in its amphitheater (check their website for event information), and you can always take one of their unique tour options or visit the on-site organic gardens. Additional can’t-miss spots to enjoy Asheville’s beer scene include Highland Brewing for great views and live music, Hillman Beer to hang with the locals and enjoy a Rueben or handmade warm pretzels from Rise Above Deli, Burial, Green Man Brewery, New Belgium along the French Broad River, and Blue Ghost.
Where to Shop
If you’re looking for a great place to wander, visit Biltmore Village, where boutiques and restaurants are housed in the former residences of workers at The Biltmore Estate. While there, Meagan recommends popping into Bette Boutique (2 All Souls Crescent), NEST Boutique + DIY Studio (10 Biltmore Plaza), and Scout Boutique (18 Brook Street) for on-trend women’s apparel and accessories, The Gardener’s Cottage (34 All Souls Crescent) for florals and gifts, and MTN Merch (22 Lodge Street) locally made and locally themed goods.
Downtown Asheville is very walkable and brimming with galleries, restaurants, and shops. On Meagan’s can’t-miss list are women’s clothing shop Traveling Chic Boutique (30 Haywood Street), men and women’s clothing store Union His & Her Boutique (18 Haywood Street), and Minx (64 North Lexington Avenue), where you’ll find fun frocks. For unique gifts to bring home with you, don’t miss Duncan & York (33 North Lexington Avenue).
Biltmore Park is home to locally owned floral store and studio Blossoms and Baggie Goose (both located at 8 Town Square Boulevard), which Meagan loves for gifts and stationery. For travelers who like to bring home a treat for their pooches, Woof Gang Bakery (33 Town Square Boulevard) is a must-visit.
Where to Eat
If you’re looking for a fun lunch, you’re in the right city. Asheville has options for everyone. Meagan recommends going to Buxton Hall BBQ (32 Banks Avenue) for whole-hog barbecue and famous fried chicken sandwiches made by James Beard Award winners. Locals also flock to 12 Bones (5 Foundy Street) for Asheville-style barbecue and to White Duck Taco Shop (1 Roberts Street) for “The best tacos in town,” according to Meagan.
For an afternoon treat, Meagan and her family love the hand-crafted ice cream sandwiches at Sunshine Sammies (99 South Lexington Avenue) and the single-yeasted dough donuts at Hole Donuts (168 Haywood Road). Need a little caffeine in your dessert? Then head to Karen Donatelli Bakery & Café (57 Haywood Street) for the Downtown iced mocha with chocolate ganache. If your idea of a treat is a little more raw, then there’s Mountain Juicery (1863 Hendersonville Road in South Asheville), where they serve killer smoothies, fresh pressed juices, and healthy salads and snacks (Meagan recommends the Cashew Mango Lime smoothie).
Dinner tends to be a relaxed affair in Asheville. If you’ve indulged in a barbecue lunch, Meagan suggests going to Rezaz (28 Hendersonville Road) for a light bite. Her favorite items on the menu include the Chickpea Battered Spanish Mahon Cheese, Tunisian Seared Ahi Tuna, and the Grilled Romaine Heart Salad.
Looking for a dinner that’s distinctly Asheville? Then check out Smoky Park Supper Club (350 Riverside Drive), which is housed in old shipping containers. “I love the rawness of the space,” Meagan says, adding that visitors should be sure to try the Char Grilled NC Oysters.
For a more intimate atmosphere, there is The Bull & Beggar (37 Paynes Way). Hidden in the River Arts District, this bi-level spot is known for its steak. The filet is served with madeira sauce and bone marrow, and, according to Meagan, goes best with the Tartiflette on the side.
After dinner, enjoy a drink at one of Asheville’s top-notch watering holes. Crucible Bar (140A Roberts Street) in the River Arts District is an artist-run cocktail bar with great drinks and a cool vibe. For a comfortable wine bar experience, visit L’Ecluse (62 North Lexington Avenue), which features an extensive, hand-picked list. Better yet, hit them both!
For more insider’s tips on what to do and see in Asheville, follow Meagan on Instagram.