10 Things You Must Do in and Around Asheville
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Whether you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, a spa lover, or craft cocktail indulger, Asheville has something to offer every recreational appetite and you are sure to find some things you love. Keep reading to find out how I spent some of my time in and around Asheville this year.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, NC
Fall is my favorite season and what better way to experience fall than to watch the leaves change while visiting the beautiful city of Asheville, NC. This cozy city touts itself as being “a small mountain town with a big city feel” and I have had the pleasure of visiting it three times this year. Each visit has been in a different seasons which is a total bonus. There is so much to do and see while in Asheville and I’m here to narrow it down for you. Below I am going to share some “Rue Approved” suggestions for your next trip to #asheville.
As I wrap up my third trip to Asheville this year, I have to admit the cute little mountain town has grown on me. Each time I’ve been the weather has been amazing and the people have been wonderful.
As most of you already know, there are tons of “outdoorsy” options in Asheville (should that be your speed) however, most of you also know I avoid being in nature at all cost since bees and other vermin just seem to love the scent of my Chanel No. 5 perfume *insert eye roll. Needless to say, a gal like myself wanted to figure out a way that I could enjoy the splendor of Asheville without hiking a trail and dodging mosquitoes.
There are so many websites and blogs that cater to those with a strong desire to be outdoors, so this post is for those looking for things to do that have more of a metropolitan flare to them.
Side note: I have to be honest, one thing I would love to see is some of the many waterfalls in the mountains near Asheville. Maybe one day, hey, a gal can always dream, can’t she? (*sigh).
1. Stay Overnight
I live in Charlotte, a mere two-hour drive and easily a day-trip from Ashville. But why stay in Asheville for a day when you can stay for a week!
In all seriousness, I highly suggest staying in Asheville anywhere from 3-days to a week depending on how close you live.
During my Fall 2021 trip, I met so many people who flew into the city from the northeast (New York, New Jersey and Michigan). I totally didn’t know Asheville was a destination spot for people outside of the southeast but hey, I learn something new every day. If you are coming from afar, you’ll definitely want to stay for a week in order to get the most out of your stay. However, if you are closer, you can always make several trips throughout the year to take advantage of the different seasons like I did.
For more information on hotel suggestions, I'll be positing a non-sponsored article on my suggestions on where to stay in Asheville.
2. Visit the Biltmore Estates
The Biltmore known as “America’s largest home” boasts over 8000 acres of land with much to see. I was fortunate enough to spend my birthday (February 2021) at the Biltmore Estates for a full week! The Biltmore has tons to do; taking in beautiful views, touring America’s largest home, dining at the delicious on-site restaurants and let’s not forget, complimentary wine tastings!
Touring #thebiltmore mansion is something everyone should do at least once. George and Edith Vanderbilt’s vision was remarkable. Each room is filled with beautiful antiques and immaculate furnishings. Plan for at least one full day to spend touring the home and surrounding areas.
After touring the house, you will want to spend the rest of your day walking through the gardens, visiting the gift shop, taking a grounds tour via Land Rover while soaking in sights of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains from the balconies of the mansion.
The Biltmore is an absolute must and is definitely Rue Approved!
Views from the Biltmore House balcony
3. Indulge in the city’s eclectic food scene
Believe it or not, Asheville is well known for its diverse culinary scene. First off, I would recommend any of the restaurants at the Biltmore, that’s a given. But I have a few other suggestions after you exit the grounds to venture into the city.
Red Ginger Dimsum & Tapas is a modern, small plates eatery and the dishes are bursting with flavor. I enjoyed every dish I had there and even got to try my very first scallion pancake. I’m not a huge fan of Chinese food but this place hit the mark and was the best place I dined at during my summer 2021 visit to Asheville. I highly suggest!
Scallion pancake at Red Ginger Dimsum and Tapas
By the way, this was my first time visiting a #dimsum spot (and it wasn’t the traditional dimsum atmosphere probably due to Covid). Have you ever been to a traditional dimsum restaurant? If so, drop it in the comments. I’m itching to go to one once things get back to normal.
Also, making the top of my list was White Duck Taco Shop (WDTS) which we ate at during my birthday trip in February. Someone from work told me it was a must and there were no lies told! We ate there upon arriving to Asheville and skipped the included breakfast at the Biltmore to ensure I would have room for tacos on the way home.
Of the tacos I tried, the pork belly taco was the best. It is so delicious that as I type this I’d like to have another. So now, I get one every time I go. But I also switch things up with another one of the many creative tacos from their menu, all of which are bursting with flavor.
Lucky for us Charlotteans, there was a WDTC being built at the exact same time I was eating at the one in Asheville in February 2021 and now the city of Charlotte and surrounding areas has 3 locations. So, you don’t have to drive to Asheville for the extraordinary taste, but at least you know that the option is there should you get “the itch” while visiting.
Asheville has too many yummy restaurants to write about in this one post so, in addition to my mentions above I would highly suggest taking one of the many food tours that are offered in the city.
During my trip this Fall I had the pleasure to tour with Eating Asheville and my lovely tour guide, Lindsay, did not disappoint. She took us to 6 restaurants where we tried food and beer from local restaurants in the downtown area (not to my surprise, White Duck Taco Shop was one). Lindsay is an #Asheville aficionado and was gracious enough to share tons of Asheville history and other restaurants to try throughout our tour. (I kept a running list and will try some of them during my next trip.)
I highly recommend the #EatingAsheville food tour and I will be touring with them again next time I go for sure (can’t wait to go back). The cool thing about this tour is if I let them know it's my second time, they will switch up the restaurants.
In addition, although I didn’t take this tour, I met the owner of Asheville Food Tours and I am looking forward indulging in their tour during our next trip as well. You read that right, I’ll be doing two tours in one trip, talking about setting a record.
One more thing to mention about Asheville food scene, while there it is a must that you visit one (or 7) of their many chocolate shops. Yes, you read that right, this place is flooded with chocolate shops. You will find gourmet chocolate cafes sprinkled throughout the downtown area. Why? Welp, there’s no particular reason but let’s be honest, do you really need one? Don’t be shy, go in and grab a handmade truffle or gelato. Gelato makes everyone smile. These little yummies were from French Broad Chocolate Lounge and were absolutely delightful!
4. Pick up wine and cheese from South Slope Cheese Co.
So yeah, this place deserved its own number lol. South Slope Cheese Company is a local, husband and wife run cheese and wine store that we discovered during my birthday trip in February. Since then, I make it a point to visit this place every time I go to Asheville.
This small shop is packed with local and specialty cheeses, assorted wine varietals and my favorite, fresh baked mini baguettes that for some reason seem to always be perfectly warm when I get there (it’s like magic, I swear).
I always like to stock up for the hotel fridge upon arriving to town, so I usually grab a few warm baguettes, their signature smoked salmon and caper cheese spread and olives or a charcuterie board while I’m there.
Trust me, visiting this shop is a must. You know I’m the queen of supporting small business and I make it my business to #shoplocal and #shopsmall
5. Sip in Asheville’s craft adult beverage scene
Asheville is home to some incredible breweries and distilleries. It’s been said that Asheville has more breweries per capita than any U.S. city. When I heard that I thought to myself #challengeaccepted.
While in Asheville this fall I did a bit of a self-directed beverage tour and it was TO LIVE FOR! Below are the places I would consider being my highlights.
Sierra Nevada Taproom & Restaurant
This place is like the “Taj Mahal” of breweries; it is a sight to see! I’m not kidding, this brewery is beautiful, huge and surprisingly off the beaten path. About a 25-minute drive from Asheville, this stunning “beer metropolis” is situated behind a small forest in Mills River, NC. One of the coolest things about it is its gourmet menu offering creative dishes such as Duck Fat Fries, roasted quail and my choice of the day pork belly served over porter beans, which was a super bougie version of pork and beans and was absolutely wonderful.
What I loved most about this place was the hospitality! The staff was mega friendly and were able to squeeze me in even though I didn’t have a reservation. Yeah, that’s right, be sure you make a reservation. This place was packed by 11:30 and I almost had to wait a few hours to get seated so don’t forget to call ahead.
Here are a few other places that are Rue Approved along with highlights for each. Be sure to check their days and hours of operation prior to your visit.
Sierra Nevada Taproom & Restaurant
Over 23 of their beers on tap
Gourmet food menu
Spiked kombucha… need I say more?
The prettiest distillery you'll ever visit (as pretty as their Instagram, hard to believe but true)
Delicious craft cocktails made with their own “Cultivated Cocktail” spirits
Incredibly friendly staff (and patrons)
Downtown Asheville (very walkable area)
Insanely inexpensive cocktails (no, really, it’s unbelievable)
Very chic wine bar
Solid wine selection offering both North Carolina and California varietals
Friendly staff and killer play list for lounging
I was able to buy pickled okra from there… I love pickled okra
Right next door to Cultivated Cocktails, so it’s kind of a no brainer
Super cute brewery with local bookstore/coffee shop vibes
Located in South Slope area of Asheville
Local beer and wine selection
Again, amazing staff (I would never send you to a place where I didn’t have a top-notch experience).
Bold Rock Cidery (Downtown location)
Best. Blackberry. Cider… EVER! (I mean it)
Eclectic food menu with unique offerings
Hard cider flights
Dining al fresco (optional)
To be honest, the beverage options are endless in Asheville. The real challenge is narrowing it down to just a few.
6. Rent a tub at the Hot Springs nearby
Yes, you read that right. Hot Springs, NC is a picturesque, 45 min drive from Asheville and well worth the trip. If you’re not familiar with what #hotsprings are, they are bodies of mineral water that are naturally hot (sometimes reaching temperatures of up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit or more, naturally).
These waters are said to have therapeutic benefits and I can attest that they work wonders for the skin. So, grab your towels, food, and beverages of your choice and head out to this cute little “resort” where you can relax in your own private hot tub overlooking the French Broad River.
The tubs are sanitized between uses, and they have different spaces to rent depending on your party size.
Now, don’t expect a really fancy place, the Hot Springs Resorts definitely gives that great outdoorsy feel and if I can recall, the French Broad River was a palish-brown, but it’s the only place I could find in NC that would give me access to the hot springs so yeah, it was worth the visit and YES I would go back. If you’re open to being in the great outdoors then this place has your name written all over it!
Even I had a good time there despite the outside digs. Sitting in the naturally warm mineral waters was euphoric and the 1.5 hours we had carved out was just not enough time. I wish we could have stayed for four hours (okay that’s probably excessive but you know what I mean).
Note: Our accommodations were in Asheville because Hot Springs, NC is a bit on the rural side and I prefer newer hotels. My suggestion would be to stay in Asheville to be on the safer side.
7. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
The breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile stretch of road, travels through parts of Virginia and North Carolina and passes right through Asheville and gives some of the most magnificent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The trip this fall was planned specifically to see the leaves change and although we were a bit early (it was supposed to be the week, but mother nature had other plans) the views were still stunning!
There was a lovely lady, Laura, at the welcome center who helped us with a route from Asheville, through Waynesville with the final destination to Cherokee, NC. The views were breathtaking.
There are look out spots along the parkway and if you’re anti-morning (like myself) and get a late start to your day, you may be lucky enough to catch one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see!
Do yourself a favor, make your way to the Blue Ridge Mountains, you will thank me later.
8. Try your luck at Harrah's Cherokee Casino
Yes, you can go straight from the mountains to gamble at the casino! When I tell you that #HarrahsCherokeeCasino gave everything it have to give, I MEAN IT!!
I had the time of my life at this #casino but let’s be honest, that’s because I left “up”. That’s another story, speaking of which, leave a comment below if you want me to write a post about my tips on how to "win” at the casino.
Anyway, back to Cherokee, this place is beautiful and filled with slots and sprinkled with crap tables (my two casino go-tos) so I was definitely happy. The casino also offers tables for more of the “skilled games” like #poker, black jack and the one and only roulette. The casino has a hotel and plenty of parking and you get a sliver of Vegas feels while there.
One thing I always like to mention is “play responsibly.”
9. Soak in Rooftop views + cocktails
Asheville has some amazing roof top bars that are Rue Approved.
Capital Club of Asheville
Private event center downtown right above Red Ginger Dimsum and Tapas
If you’re lucky and they don’t have a private event going you can get in
Staff was awesome and so were the views
No food so go for drinks only
Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville (hoping to stay here next time, its soooo cute)
Modern and trendy
Extensive drink menu
Restaurant and outdoor bar
10. Plan your next trip
Of course, the only thing left to do is to plan your next trip to Asheville. Let’s be honest, it took me three trips to cover this much of Asheville and I still have items the need to be checked off my Asheville must-do list. Just remember, Asheville isn’t going anywhere, so while you’re there make a mental note of other things you want to do and just remember that there’s always next time.
So, there you have it, my Asheville Top 10. I hope you found something on this list that you would like to try. If so let me know in the comments. Also, feel free to share in the comments if you have already been to any of the places I mentioned and share your experience. And if you have any Asheville faves share those in the comments as well, I’m always looking for my next adventure. #fortheblog
Be sure to check back next week for my next post on Hotels to Stay at in Ashville.