No matter the season, Asheville’s the place to be. The consensus may be that fall is the best time to visit, what with the colorful leaves and all. But personally—speaking as someone responsible for raking those leaves—winter has always been my favorite time to be in Asheville. All the city’s cafes and coziest corners come to life once the trees are bare and year after year there’s no shortage of local holiday events. If you find yourself in Asheville this splendid time of year, you’d do well to check out some of the following attractions.
Nestled away in south Asheville, Biltmore Park feels like a miniature slice of downtown. It's got the restaurants, the shops, and its walkable. Its missing the buskers but three out of four ain’t bad. I suggest driving down for lunch or dinner and sticking around for some last-minute gift shopping—perhaps at O.P .Taylor’s—and acquiring some ingredients for your Christmas casseroles (or whatever you’re making) at Spice and Tea Merchants of Asheville.
As to the restaurants, my favorite spot for brunch/lunch is Another Broken Egg. So far as I’m concerned, the fried egg is the pinnacle of culinary genius. No joke. For dinner, I suggest Nine Mile Caribbean.
Embrace the Season: Get ice cream at cold stone creamery. If it's cold enough, your dessert should be sufficiently solid for use in a snowball fight.
Speaking of gift shopping, if you need a lifeline in that regard, I have some suggestions. Bottom line: you’re probably going to want to go downtown, and I can’t blame you. It's one of the most vibrant in the Southeast, and no small contributor to Asheville’s regional fame. And as any self-respecting downtown, it's rich in cafes.
I am a purveyor of many of them but if you want the most seasonally appropriate brew, look no further than Double D’s Coffee and Deserts. Located in an old double-decker bus, you can take your coffee up top for some rather cozy seating, or outside in an adjacent courtyard. Things may be a bit chilly out there but luckily, you can fortify yourself with one of Double D’s signature mochas, ranging in flavor from peppermint, to crème brulee, to red hot chili pepper. If that doesn’t warm you up, nothing can.
Embrace the Season: Carry a flask of eggnog. Mix it into your drink. Mix it into other people’s drinks. They’ll thank you later.
The Biltmore Estate’s seasonal events demonstrate exactly why I believe winter is the best time to visit Asheville. Inside the house, you’ll find its soaring architecture bedazzled with some of the most extravagant Christmas decorations yours truly has ever seen. That said, entry to the house does run at a fairly steep price.
So if you’ve already taken a tour of the house, or like me, prefer the great outdoors, tickets for the Biltmore’s grounds are considerably more affordable. With over twenty miles of trails and gardens, and a vast conservatory full of festive flora, walking the Biltmore’s grounds makes for a bracing yet invigorating winter’s outing.
For the icing on the cake, this winter the Biltmore is hosting “Van Gogh Alive” a multisensory exhibition of the artist’s works, arranged biographically. For what its worth, the exhibition has my Art Student Seal of Approval.
Embrace the Season: Dress in period-appropriate attire. Speak in old-timey speech. Become one with the Estate. Come to live there, in secret.
In the vein of winter-walks, Asheville has no shortage of excellent hiking trails. But if you want to stay close to home, so to speak, the NC Arboretum lies within twenty minutes of downtown and just five minutes from Asheville Cottages. Their trails lie on the casual side of things. No leaping over streams or clambering of rocks; they're suitable for all ages.
You may notice somewhere from one-thousand to one-million Christmas lights, strung all over the gardens. After dark, these light up for the Arboretum’s Winter Lights, one of the most holiday-appropriate events in all of Asheville. This year’s tickets are selling out fast, but luckily, it's an annual affair.
Embrace the Season: Bring Christmas ornaments. What you do with them is up to you.
Little encompasses the holiday spirit more than a glass of cider. Fermented apples; it's practically winter in a barrel. Located in Asheville’s famed South Slope brewing district, the Urban Orchard Cider Company pours out a panoply of flavors. Perusing their taps and specialties, some of the most festive appear to be coffee-vanilla, cinnamon-peach, and peppermint-cardamom-blueberry. But that’s just my two cents. Order a cider flight and find out for yourself.
If cider doesn’t quite float your boat, or if you seek to extend your holiday brew-hopping, I suggest the following article.
Embrace the Season: Dress up like Santa. My thinking: if people give Santa free milk, why not free cider? The math just works.
2 Town Square Blvd #130, Asheville, NC 28803
Spice & Tea Merchants of Asheville
8 Town Square Blvd #140, Asheville, NC 28803
Another Broken Egg Cafe
27 Schenck Pkwy, Asheville, NC 28803
Nine Mile (South Asheville)
33 Town Square Blvd, Asheville, NC 28803
Double D's Coffee and Desserts
41 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
The North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806
Urban Orchard Cider. Co - South Slope
24 Buxton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801