Between the Blue Ridge Parkway, bustling craft beer scene, and beautiful fall colors, a trip to Asheville, North Carolina during October has been on my bucket list for quite some time. With some extra flight credits to use (thanks COVID-19) we decided to book a long weekend getaway to explore this amazing city. And I have to say this is one destination that, leading up to our trip, everyone I talked to had nothing but amazing things to say.
We flew in on Friday evening (arrived around 5:30 p.m.) and flew out on Monday morning so it was a quick trip to try and pack in as much adventure, food and beer as possible. Below I'm sharing my full itinerary breakdown. You may also like these other Asheville posts:
Where to Stay:
We are a big fan of staying in Air Bnbs when we travel and this adorable loft in West Asheville was the perfect home base for us. It had a private entrance and lockbox entry which are also two of my top criteria when searching for a place. It was also located within walking distance to a number of great restaurants and breweries in West Asheville and only a short drive from downtown. We ate out most of our meals but there was a full kitchen area if you were staying longer and wanted to cook more of your own meals. Our host was great and very helpful for communicating parking/check in instructions as well as local recommendations.
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We landed at AVL airport and picked up our rental car (recommend if you plan to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway) and headed straight downtown to grab dinner - at a brewery of course! We chose Wicked Weed Brewery. They offer over 25 unique craft beers and also have a second location dedicated completely to sours - the Funkatorium. We were seated on their outdoor patio which had a couple fire pits and heaters for those chilly October evenings. The fish and chips was one of my favorite meals from the entire trip paired with the Raspberry Starfruit Burst sour. We also loved the chips and beer cheese small plate which is actually more like a nacho dish. You can't add your name to the list until you arrive so expect a bit of a wait.
But good news - they are located just around the corner from lots of great shopping if you need to kill some time. A few of my favorite stops were Diamond Brand Outdoors (all the hiking gear and where we found our ornament for this trip) and Mast General Store. Who says you have to wait for dessert after dinner? Head around the corner to grab a delicious ice cream sandwich from Sunshine Sammies.
Our first full day of exploring in Asheville we woke up bright and early to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway. On our way to breakfast we made a quick mural stop at Haywood Common (suggest going before they open for the perfect photo with no cars in the parking lot). Before hitting the road we headed to Biscuit Head for grab and go ordering in a tent outside (or online). They serve several different varieties of fresh hot biscuit dishes and are known for their speciality jams. I ordered the biscuit sandwich with bacon and my husband ordered their biscuits and fried chicken gravy - yum! Also recommend the Carmoolita latte if you're looking to warm up with a cup of coffee while you wait.
And we were off on the Blue Ridge Parkway - one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Asheville. This massive road weaves 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina with countless hikes, overlooks and amazing views the whole way. The parkway is also unique in that big trucks aren't allowed to drive it and the speed limit is 45 mph which allows you to really slow down and take in all the beauty around you. You could easily spend multiple days exploring this area but our goal was to only spend an afternoon driving and get the most bang for our buck. In addition to a few overlooks that caught our attention, our main stops were:
Read all about our day exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway here. The stops we made took us about 5 1/2 hours to complete. I would suggest packing a lunch or snacks for your drive. There isn't anywhere to stop along the way but plenty of picnic and grassy areas to enjoy lunch with a view. Our original plan was to stop at Sierra Nevada Brewery on the way back to Asheville but they were only offering takeout food and beer so we opted for Chik-fil-a drive through instead.
After a quick stop at our Air Bnb to shower and change after a day full of hiking. We drove back downtown for dinner at Curate. This tapas bar is centered around celebrating authentic Spanish cuisine. In addition to their small plates menu you'll also find an extensive wine list. In fact, they have been voted one of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. They are reservation only and book up super far in advance so be sure to plan ahead. My husband and I had never dined in this type of restaurant before and our waiter did an AMAZING job at guiding us through the menu and providing suggestions. We split a cheese plate, three small plates and dessert and it was the perfect amount of food and allowed us to try a lot of different options and styles of food. This would be my top pick for dinner in Asheville!
Day two started with breakfast at two different stops..because vacation! I had to try the crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside doughnuts from Hole Donuts. They were only doing online ordering while we were they and I highly recommend ordering the night before as the wait was already an hour out first thing in the morning when we went to pick ours up. They keep things simple with only four flavors to choose from - vanilla glaze, cinnamon sugar, toasted almond sesame cinnamon, and a rotating seasonal flavor. The toasted almond was a must try for me and had a super unique flavor but I think my favorite was the classic cinnamon sugar. My husband doesn't like donuts so we headed over to Early Girl Eatery, also located in West Asheville, for a more hearty breakfast. Lots of unique options on the menu here with a focus on local, organic, and seasonal ingredients. I also recommend trying their homemade jam and biscuits (if you can't tell I love a good biscuit).
After our bellies were full we were off to the Biltmore Estate which is an iconic Asheville site that simply can't be missed. The price tag to tour the largest home in the U.S. can get a bit steep, especially on the weekends in the fall, so many people question if a visit is worth it. While it isn't somewhere I would go back to again and again, I will say it's a super unique piece of history and we did enjoy our time. You'll purchase a timed ticket online in advance which corresponds with your house tour time. However, the gates to the estate open at 9 am and you can arrive as early as you want to wander the shops and gardens before touring the house. You'll also definitely want to make time to head over to Antler Village for more shopping, including an epic Christmas pop up shop depending on the time of year. There are a few different restaurants if you're looking to grab lunch or dinner, a farm, bike rentals, and the Biltmore Winery. A complimentary tasting of 5 wines is included in your ticket, you'll just need to reserve a tasting time when you arrive at Antler Village.
Our goal this night was to try out a few more breweries, because well that's what Asheville is known for. Unfortunately, it seems like everyone else has also discovered how amazing Asheville is. That paired with COVID-19 capacity limits made it extremely hard to get into breweries without long wait times. If you have your heart set on experiencing this aspect of the city, I would suggest finding places you can make advance reservations for. We did however stumble upon Rabbit Rabbit which was initially designed as on outdoor music venue and offered a large and colorful outdoor seating area. They serve Asheville Brewing Company beer (which is located next door) from a walk up window so you can still check out the local beer scene or dine from food trucks on site.
For dinner we headed over to the Riverside Arts District to dine at White Duck Taco Shop. This mix and match taco shop is served a la carte so you can try a little bit of everything - from Bangkok shrimp, to fish, or the crispy chicken BLT. I will warn you, the tacos are huge and my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach. The only thing on the menu I wasn't super impressed with was the street corn - perhaps because it was served cold which threw me off a bit. There is a second location in downtown Asheville but the Riverside shop had a large outdoor patio and views along the river and is also dog friendly.
Not far from White Duck is another famous Asheville mural which is painted on a large silo (1 Roberts Street). The message changes from time to time but a great spot for a colorful photo op. After dinner you would have extra time to shop, grab dessert or try to visit another brewery. However, we were tired from a long day on the go and had an early flight so we decided to head back to our Air Bnb to relax and pack.
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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