In Asheville, the leaves are turning. There’s cool winds and clean air, and its altogether hard to believe that four weeks ago, the Southeast was gripped by the frightful anticipation of Hurricane Dorian.
During that storm’s reign of terror, a friend of mine was evacuated from Savannah—thankfully that evacuation turned out to be needless.
As a matter of coincidence, this friend found himself waiting for the storm to blow over in none other than Asheville, the Paris of The South.
I of course inquired as to what he did during his brief stay in my excellent homeland. His answer brought me great sorrow: he stayed inside. You might say I write this article to right a wrong; it would be wrong to find yourself in my hometown, and simply stay inside.
Thus, I invite you to read on, and study my plan for how I would spend 3 days in Asheville.
Day 1: Downtown
Start at the heart; that’s what I always say. Assuming that the first day of your 3 days in Asheville is partially encompassed by travel, I’d suggest holding off on significant activities until about 10:00. At that hour, you should find yourself on approach to downtown, via Biltmore Avenue.
After passing City Bakery (on your right), you should contemplate parking. The south side of downtown is host to many garages, lots, and curbsides, most of which require some form of payment.
After acquiring parking, you may walk north along Biltmore. On the way you’ll pass the Bender and Ariel art galleries, as well as a Mast General Store—host to all manner of knick-knacks and classic candies. After exhausting these amusements, as the final stop before lunch I suggest Horse + Hero, my favorite downtown gallery. The art there is certainly not de l’academie but it possesses immense character and variety, and it is authentic to what I consider the true Asheville spirit.
Lunch may be had at any number of restaurants in proximity to the Vance Memorial—you’ll have a buffet of options. Although each palate differs, mine prefers Green Sage, due to their light but powerful fare, and their multifarious coffees, milkshakes, and teas.
At some time between 11:00 and 1:00, the second part of Day 1 shall commence.
A brief note: my schedule is more of a guideline of things to do in Asheville—embrace the timestamps, or ignore them.
After lunch, you may walk or drive up North Lexington Avenue, past such a number of clothing stores that my mind truly fails to comprehend its immensity. Although I am not much of a sock-shopper myself, I am told by more fashionable minds that Asheville has some splendid boutiques, and many of them lie on North Lexington.
If that’s not quite to your style, you may move directly on to the next diversion: Well Played. Getting there may require some backtracking to Wall Street, on the southwest side of downtown. With the right company—and some suggestions from the café’s most helpful staff—you’ll be able to hunker down and fill the afternoon with hours of boardgames you have never heard of but will love to play.
If you find the sun’s set by the time you leave Well Played, you can find dinner on nearby Patton Avenue, home to downtown’s best restaurants, many of which I’ve written about previously.
With regard for both minimum wait-times, and maximum flavor, I’d suggest Jerusalem Garden Café. You may be so lucky as to find yourself seated in this restaurant’s cushioned backroom, where you may reflect on the first of your 3 days in Asheville.
Day 2: West Asheville and The River Arts District
The second of your 3 days in Asheville shall start off at 10:00 once more, this time with brunch at OWL Bakery, in West Asheville.
I was introduced to this unique café by my sister, who appreciates their salads as much as I appreciate their soft-boiled eggs. They’ve recently expanded their seating into a semi-enclosed yard, which somewhat mitigates the smallness of their location.
Note that OWL is closed Mondays; in the eventuality that your Day 2 occurs on a Monday, you may substitute BattleCat. Although not as continental as OWL Bakery, BattleCat does possess a flavorful character, and furthermore, it’s a local favorite. After brunch, stay in West Asheville to admire the French Broad on a walk from Carrier Park to the aptly named French Broad River Park.
Once you’ve satisfied your appetite for river-watching, cross over to access Lyman Street, the River Arts Districts’ most dense collection of galleries and workshops.
If you require further artistic stimulation, you may venture up Depot Street, or towards any location marked on the District’s official map, found on their website (see “Businesses Mentioned). Simply moving about the River Arts District is an experience unto itself.
The mural-scale graffiti and overgrown warehouses speak volumes of what Asheville has been, and what it has become. And of all the things to do in Asheville, perusing the River Arts District presents the most photo-ops. If you persist in this aesthetic setting until dinner time, I suggest HomeGrown’s West Asheville location. The food is good, and their decorations will top off your encounter with Asheville’s vibrant art scene.
Day 3: The Blue Ridge Parkway
Asheville proper may be splendid, but no work of man can compare to the boundless ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The third and final of your 3 days in Asheville must be earmarked for hiking. The best trails lie about an hour out from downtown, and thus much of your morning will be spent driving.
But regardless of how far you wind up the Blue Ridge Parkway, the journey itself is one of the finest in the region. From the road, you can see Asheville spread out beneath you, nestled within green-blue foothills. Maybe you’ll even be able to recognize someplace you’ve been.
My favorite hike is Black Balsam Knob.
Underbrush and twisted pine-roots give way to the open, barren grass of the summits. They roll on and on—I’ve never found the last peak. When the wind is quiet up there, its quieter than you’ve ever heard. The air is cold, but after mounting Black Balsam’s rugged, rocky paths, it’s a welcome refreshment.
For an easier, but equally delightful experience, I’d suggest either Graveyard Fields or Skinny Dip Falls—famous trails, mentioned in previous articles. For nutrition on your hike, the simplest option would be packing a picnic. However, if you’re feeling fortunate, and it’s not Autumn or a holiday, you may be able to find lunch at the Pisgah Inn. Even if you don’t eat there, the Inn is worth a stop. It’s the only civilization around for miles, and their vistas are some of the best in the area.
After returning from your hike, I suggest you take your last Ashevilleian dinner at Wild Ginger Vietnamese. If you’ve had Vietnamese before, you know whether you like it or not; its not for everyone, but Asheville has no shortage of restaurants.
However, if you are yet unacquainted with this manner of cuisine, Asheville’s Wild Ginger is one of the very best places to give it a try. Perhaps you’ll wind up like me, contemplating Black Balsam over some cream-filled coffee, and a steaming bowl of pho, knowing that after you leave Asheville, you’ll have to come back.
29 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
19 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Mast General Store Asheville
15 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Horse + Hero
14 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Green Sage Cafe Downtown
5 Broadway St, Asheville, NC 28801
Well Played Board Game Cafe
58 Wall St, Asheville, NC 28801
Jerusalem Garden Cafe
78 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
4545, 295 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
BattleCat Coffee Bar
373 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
River Arts District
3 River Arts Pl, Asheville, NC 28801
219 Amboy Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
Black Balsam Knob
East Fork, NC 28716
Graveyard Fields, Canton, NC 28716