When I moved out to North Carolina, I had heard that Asheville was a “Goldilocks town”—not too big, not too small, but just right. People talked about how it had year-round access to the outdoors, great beer and live music, fabulous Art Deco architecture, and even a castle. All of this, it turns out, is true.
Asheville is where I acquired my absolute favorite grits recipe, fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains, and had all kinds of adventures. Though three days is hardly enough, here’s a primer for falling in love with the “Paris of the South.”
Wear clothes that can take you from the mountaintop to the patio rooftop all in the same day.
If you only have time to explore one part of the city, make it the River Arts District for trendy galleries and restaurants.
First things first: let’s get the castle out of the way. The Biltmore Estate is America’s largest home with 250 rooms, 8,000-acres, an onsite winery, and more. Book a tour, wander on-site trails, and ponder what it was like to be a Vanderbilt—it’s the kind of adventure that could take all day if you let it.
From there, head north to the city’s excellent River Arts District, where you’ll find a number of delicious spots that locals buzz about. Vivian, 12 Bones Smokehouse, All Souls Pizza, and White Duck Taco Shop are all standouts.
Asheville is full of sites that make history tangible, from the Basilica of St. Lawrence to the grand homes of the Montford neighborhood. Catch a Segway, walking, or e-bike tour of downtown and its environs to get a feel for this hilly Southern gem.
Another thing Asheville is known for—beyond mountain views, great food, historical sites, and artists—is having one of the nation’s best craft beer scenes. There are around 30 breweries here—the most per capita in the nation—making the town a true suds-lover’s oasis. A tour will help you narrow down which ones to visit (and provide a sober driver).
Set in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and just off the Blue Ridge Parkway (aka “America’s favorite scenic drive”), Asheville offers easy access to scores of outdoor adventures. Pack a picnic and hop on the Parkway—there are regular pull-offs—or head into the Pisgah National Forest on bike or foot. If time allows, head to Craggy Gardens or even Mt. Mitchell State Park—the latter is the highest peak east of the Rockies.
If you’re down for Class II and III rapids, opt for a guided rafting excursion on the French Broad River for a heart-pounding adventure.