Its vibrant art scene and historic architecture makes Asheville, North Carolina one of those places you just have to travel to at least once in your life. Nestled in North Carolina’s western Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is about an 11 hour drive from Miami making it the perfect post-quarantine road trip. I first traveled to Asheville in October 2019 knowing very little about the city other than it being a modern day hippie sanctuary of sorts. Naturally, that’s exactly what drew me to venture out there.
Because I took this trip pre-COVID and only had three days in the area I did end up flying, and only paid about $90 round trip on Spirit Airlines, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Here’s my three day guide to the great outdoors of Asheville.
Asheville Regional Airport might be the smallest I’ve ever been to. Usually, I’m landing in big cities where the airports are MILES long and filled with retail stores and restaurants galore. Not this one. But anyway, the small size of the airport makes it perfect to get out quickly and begin your adventure. It’s also best to rent a car, the city center is about a 30 minute drive from the airport, plus it gives you the freedom to explore anywhere in the surrounding area.
Day 1 – Arrival & Chimney Rock
Once we hopped in our rental car we went straight to our quaint little hotel, the good ol’ Best Western on Tunnel Road. Who knew that Asheville was such a popular place to travel to during Columbus Day weekend. We chose this property because it was situated at the entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway and just outside of the city and by just outside I mean about four stop lights away. There was also a pretty picturesque mountain right behind the property, pretty cool if you’re from Miami.
After check-in we headed to downtown Asheville for a quick breakfast at World Coffee Cafe, a local cafe in the “Flatiron Building” area of downtown. We grabbed some bagels and cups of coffee, jumped in the car, and headed straight for Chimney Rock. I’m not sure what road we took but it was long and winding. You could definitely tell you were going straight up a mountain and it took about an hour to get to our destination. Since we were still technically digesting our bagels and coffee we opted out of hiking up the mountain and decided to take the elevator to the lookout which opens up to a breathtaking view of Lake Lure. Fun fact, Lake Lure was the filming location for Dirty Dancing not upstate New York like the movie says. For lunch we headed back down the mountain into the Chimney Rock Village and ate at Medina’s Village Bistro. That evening we had reservations for the ghost tour so we headed back into downtown early. After our ghost tour, which was highly entertaining, we had dinner at Tupelo Honey. Reservations are highly recommended! Even though we had a reservation we still had to wait about 30 minutes to be seated. Like I said, Asheville seems to be a popular place during Columbus Day Weekend.
Day 2 – Blue Ridge Parkway & Pisgah National Forest
Our second day was gloomy and misty so we knew we had to plan something out that wouldn’t require us to get out of the car too much. We started out with breakfast at the Corner Kitchen in the Biltmore Village where Barack Obama once visited. The most delicious All-American breakfast I have ever had was right here in this Victorian cottage turned restaurant, try the eggs benedict! With full bellies, we took a drive through the village and the very luxurious neighborhood of Biltmore East. Blocks and blocks of modern and colonial mansions lined up along the tree-lined streets some with driveways that looked a mile long. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to snag tickets to visit the Biltmore Mansion so we started our adventure through the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Before heading out we stopped at the Visitor’s Center to pick up a map and use the restrooms in case this turned out to be a long adventure. Along the Blue Ridge Parkway there are various stops you can make to check out the elevation and the name of the peak that you’re at. On a sunny day I’m sure the views are beautiful but we mostly saw fog and mist from the rainy day. We were only able to make it halfway up because as we kept going the fog just became so dense we could barely see where we were going. As we headed back to the hotel we took a detour to Pisgah National Forest which looked like it would be an active spot in the summer. We stopped at the Lake and did a lap around before it started raining again. For dinner that night we went to a very local Italian spot in the suburbs called Vinnie’s. A place where everybody knows each other. The plates of food were huge and delicious, we went home very full that night.
Day 3 – Point Lookout Vineyard & Sierra Nevada Taproom
On our last day we decided to head out to the suburbs near the airport to see what was out there. To our surprise we found out about a plethora of vineyards in the area. Our first stop was Point Lookout Vineyard in Edneyville. I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to God than at that vineyard. Located at the very top of a mountain, we were able to look out into the distance as far as the eye could see. In all seriousness, this would make for a beautiful day wedding location. We did a little wine tasting, walked around to take in the sites and headed to our next location.
Just around the corner from the airport, literally in the road behind the airport, sits the Sierra Nevada Taproom and Brewery in Mills River. Never have I been so impressed by a brewery before. It was huge and included a restaurant, taproom, actual brewery, and an immense back patio with rocking chairs and seating all around. There were even small hiking trails leading out to the woods where patrons were walking their dogs. It was incredible and I was so sad to have found it the day we were leaving. Anyway, we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon there before heading back to the airport. One last beer for the road.
Exploring Asheville had to have been one of the most random trips I’ve taken, other than Richmond, Virginia, and I’m so happy I did. Even though we weren’t anywhere international it’s still interesting to see how other people around the US live. If you feel ready to take a trip I would definitely recommend Asheville for relaxing, hiking, and drinking a few good beers!