Gone are the days of butterflies, and sunscreen, and ice cream from the Hop, all blown away like so many dried leaves. Winter approaches, and soon it’ll be too cold to enjoy your favorite hikes, your strolls through the Biltmore Estate and the Arboretum. That said, some people will not be dissuaded by freezing temperatures. The madmen.
But me, I do like a cold day. Gives me an excuse to stay indoors and stir a hot cocoa packet into my daily ration of coffee. And if by some necessity I’m forced to go outdoors, well, I get to throw on my favorite jacket. Then passers-by can look at me and say, “Hey, cool jacket.” They really do say that.
Anyways, what I’m getting at here is its all about silver linings. Maybe the Parkway's been closed for ice. Maybe downtown’s turned into a wind tunnel again, and you don’t fancy risking your nostril hairs for a simple urban frolic. Well, fret not. There are tons of great things to do in Asheville on a cold day. Read on and discover some of the best.
Dobra’s been on my mind recently. More so than usual, I mean. And I do think it's the weather. Nothing beats a blazing cup of Dobra’s finest black tea on these chilly late Autumn days.
For the uninitiated, Dobra is my favorite local tearoom, serving invigorating beverages sourced from across the globe. Mate, pu’er chai, oolong, herbal teas, bubble teas, Turkish tea; you name it, they got it, plus delectable pastries in spades.
When I’m downtown, I like to visit their location on North Lexington Avenue, near a splendid spread of vintage clothing stores. Where, incidentally, I bought that cool jacket I mentioned earlier. It’s all coming together.
They also have a location in West Asheville; downtown’s equal in every way. And, in the past year or so, they’ve gone and opened a third location in East Asheville, just a five minute’s drive from the WNC Nature Center. I count myself lucky to be an Ashevillean. I really do.
The Weather Outside is Frightful: If hot cocoa is more your speed, Dobra’s winter menu provides just that.
Round about when the frost starts biting comes that flurry of gift-hunting and parcel-wrapping which proceeds grand old Christmas. Never too early to start looking for that perfect gift for that perfect someone. That’s what I would say if I was sensible. Me, I’m more in the last-minute-panic camp, though it's no choice of my own.
Any who, if you got some holiday shopping to do, or simply want to hide from the elements, downtown Asheville’s the place to be.
I’m a big proponent of books. Words in general too. And if that’s the kind of shopping you’re after, I recommend Malaprop’s, their sister store Downtown Books and News, and the Battery Park Book Exchange. The latter two got all manner of nooks and crannies to them. They’re the kind of places you can stir up a real weird find. The Battery Park Book Exchange also moonlights as a champagne bar. Ooh-la-la.
For boutiques and the like, I’d mention again Lexington Avenue. Get a drink at Dobra, venture north, venture south, and you’ll be positively swimming in fashion. Which is a good thing with weather like this. Keeps you warm.
The Weather Outside if Frightful: Gift shopping bonus round: the Mast General Store just south of downtown’s Pack Square. Board games, candy, apparel, kitchen ware, and so on. They don’t call it a general store for nothing.
We’re now up to three entries devoted to the cold day delights of downtown Asheville, and I’m starting to think this is the place to be come winter. Certainly, beats coaxing a fire out of two branches and a spot of lint up in the Blue Ridge, to be sure. For one thing, they don’t got chocolate up there.
And what’s even the point of weather like this if you aren’t going to consume untold quantities of fat and sugar, in preparation for your long winter’s hibernation? Fear not, for I give you chocolate. Well, really I just tell you where to find it. You have to get it yourself.
By name, I suggest the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, right off Pack Square in the heart of Asheville. They got it all, from truffles to mousse, from biscotti to more substantial patisserie, a la crème brulee and rich creamy cakes.
But for a cold day in Asheville, I particularly recommend their sipping chocolate. Like hot chocolate, but more chocolatey, if you can fathom that. Incidentally, it also makes a great gift.
The Weather Outside is Frightful: Prolong your evasion of the elements by visiting the Asheville Art Museum right next door. Three stories of fine art, plus a rooftop café.
This here indoor shopping center is my tried-and-true for things to do on a cold Asheville’s day which don’t involve losing my fingertips. It's like a microcosm of downtown: restaurants, cafes, galleries, and boutiques all sheltered within a bastion of beautiful Late Gothic Revival architecture.
Some of my favorite stops include the Enter the Earth gem shop, Huli Sue’s Hawaiian Barbecue, and Bebettes New Orleans coffee and beignets. The latter truly calls to me when the weather turns south, saying “Consume, be warm.”
And as the icing on the cake, the aforementioned Battery Park Book Exchange (and champagne bar) can be found within the Grove Arcade as well.
In short, there’s plenty to keep you busy here—busy and warm. Parking can be tricky though. Recently my method’s been to circle the street side spots around the Arcade a couple times. Sometimes I get lucky. Usually, I end up in the Wall Street Garage, just across the street.
The Weather Outside is Frightful: Come late November, the Grove Arcade hosts a tree lighting ceremony, as they bedeck their halls with garlands, strung lights, and Christmas trees. It is both holly and jolly.
My final recommendation for a cold day in Asheville is to book a show at a local theater. It keeps you indoors, off your feet, and engaged in some of the best showmanship and high art you’ll find in the entire Southeast.
If you want to stick around central downtown—close to the Art Museum and French Broad Chocolate—check out the Diana Wortham Theater. Highbrow, black tie, fancy and fun.
For a taste of more local theater, head to the North Carolina Stage company, near Malaprop’s. You can read a more in-depth analysis of theaters in Asheville right here, along with some recommends for movie theaters. Another great thing to do on a cold day in Asheville.
The Weather Outside is Frightful: Keep your eye out for tickets to holiday classics. The Nutcracker. A Christmas Carol. Rudolph. Elf. You get the idea.
Dobra Tea (Downtown)
78 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Dobra Tea (West)
707 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
Dobra Tea (East)
1011 Tunnel Rd, Asheville, NC 28805
55 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801
Downtown Books & News
67 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
French Broad Chocolate Lounge
10 S Pack Square, Asheville, NC 28801
Diana Wortham Center for the Performing Arts
18 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
North Carolina Stage Company
15 Stage Ln, Asheville, NC 28801