I fell in love with colorful and quirky Asheville four years ago. The gorgeous mountains, eclectic downtown area, artsy culture, and abundant hiking opportunities made me swoon. Just a few months ago, I was lucky enough to return for a second time. This trip solidified my love for the "Portland, Oregon of the East". If you're planning a trip to Asheville, here's a travel guide with some of my favorite spots.
Laughing Seed Cafe: This cafe was Asheville's first vegetarian restaurant. They serve organic, local, farm-to-table cuisine with an international flair. I ordered the harmony bowl, a rice bowl loaded with black beans, grilled tofu, steamed veggies, avocado, purple kraut, and sesame ginger sauce. It was insanely good!
White Duck Taco Shop: If you're looking for unique, off-the-wall tacos that you can order a-la-carte, this is your spot. The menu constantly changes, but there's always something delicious to order. I've had the bangkok shrimp, lamb gyro, and thai peanut chicken, and they were all great.
Rosetta’s Kitchen and Buchi Bar: This restaurant specializes in flavorful vegan and vegetarian dishes made from fresh, whole foods. The atmosphere is friendly and inclusive, and they're all about forging close relationships with artists, musicians, and community groups. If you don't know what to get, order the "family favorite" (baked peanut butter tofu, kale, and smashed potatoes with gravy; SO GOOD!) and a seasonal kombucha.
Limones: This upscale restaurant serves a variety of California cuisine with a French/Mexican twist. If that sounds intriguing, you'll love some of the restaurant's options: lobster nachos, seared scallops with grits and mango salsa, and tequila lime beef fajitas. Save room for dessert, and order the churros.
Vortex Donuts: I have a huge sweet tooth, but doughnuts are my absolute favorite. Vortex came in strong with delicious doughnuts (they offer vegan flavors!) and great coffee.
New Belgium Brewing: My favorite thing about this brewery is the expansive outdoor space. I visited on a warm, end-of-summer day, and the brewery was abundant with picnic tables, outdoor games, and plenty of lawn space that customers filled with beach chairs and blankets. The atmosphere was upbeat, and the beer was delicious.
The Double Crown: This speakeasy-style dive bar is a favorite amongst Asheville locals. With a warm ambiance, string lights, and a unique cocktail menu, what's not to love?
If you're a beer aficianado, check out Hi-Wire, Wedge, Green Man, Sweeten Creek, and the Funkatorium. Asheville has the most breweries per capita in the U.S., so you'll definitely find a brewery you dig.
Trade & Lore: This industrial yet cozy cafe offers experimental coffee while working to promote equality and empower the community. I had a delicious oat milk rosewater latte here.
Izzy's Coffee Den: After shopping around Lexington Avenue for awhile, an iced almond milk lavender latte was just what I needed to beat the heat. The cafe also has a second location on Haywood Road.
High Five Coffee: I stopped here before driving home to Norfolk. My hazelnut latte was superb, and the staff was knowledgeable and friendly. Asheville obviously knows what they're doing when it comes to coffee.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge: If you aren't in the mood for coffee, come here for drinking chocolate (they offer vegan options), artisan truffles, and pastries. This place is a chocolate lover's dream.
If you want a unique cafe experience, check out Double D's Coffee & Desserts, a double-decker bus that serves coffee, tea, smoothies, milkshakes, and pastries. This is a must while in Asheville.
Looking Glass Falls: This is one of North Carolina's most popular waterfalls. It's just a short walk from the road, so it doesn't really qualify as a hike...but it's absolutely beautiful, so it's worth a visit. Located in the Pigsah National Forest, Looking Glass Falls is 60' tall. Steps lead down to the majestic falls for a closer view. You can walk around the rocks in the stream, or you can even wade in the water.
High Falls: Located in DuPont State Forest, High Falls is another gorgeous waterfall you should try to visit. This hike is only 1.2 miles round-trip, and the view from the base of the falls is incredible. (Warning: The rocks are extremely slippery...don't get too close to the water, or you might fall. I know from experience.)
Chimney Rock State Park: Chimney Rock is considered one of the most iconic sites in North Carolina, and for good reason. The 75-mile panoramic view from the top is amazing. You have to work for it, though! There are more than 500 steps leading up to the chimney.
For a detailed list of easy, moderate, and difficult hikes around Asheville, click here.
THINGS TO DO
Catch the sunset. When I travel, it's always one of my top priorities to find a great spot to watch the sunset. SkyBar is known for its spectacular view of Asheville, and they have an extensive cocktail menu. If sipping a blackberry mint mojito as the sun descends on the horizon sounds appealing to you, check out SkyBar. The Omni Grove Park Inn is another fantastic spot to watch the sun go down.
Explore the River Arts District and snap a photo of the Good Vibes mural. This is arguably the most iconic mural in Asheville. I had trouble locating it during my first visit, so I'll make it easy for you: 104 West Haywood Street.
Visit Malaprop's Bookstore. This independent bookstore is a dream. If you enjoy leisurely browsing a variety of diverse books, you'll love this place. And be sure to order coffee from the cafe. I had an iced white chocolate blackberry latte, and it was divine.
Dedicate an afternoon to the Biltmore Estate. Officially deemed the largest home in America, the Biltmore Estate is a sight to behold. The architecture is so intricate, and the interior contains century-old tapestries, antique paintings, and elegant sculptures. There are 250 rooms in the mansion, so plan to spend an entire day here, or at least an afternoon.
Browse the Western North Carolina Farmer's Market. I can't leave Asheville without buying maple syrup, honey, and jam from the WNC Farmer's Market. The market also features high quality fruits and vegetables, preserves, hot sauce, baked goods, fudge, salsa, and dozens of other items that might tickle your fancy.
What's your favorite thing to do in Asheville? Comment below!