Going to Asheville was on my radar because I’ve heard fantastic things about the city. The appealing part was the eccentric nature and the hiking. I would say that the city did not disappoint! Asheville is very cute and it’s the perfect city getaway if you’re looking for something more mellow. I’m glad I came here as a place to unwind and work remotely. Although it wasn’t my most favorite place, it’s definitely worth a spot on your bucket list.
The main thing about Asheville is that it’s within quick proximity of the Blue Ridge Parkway, so driving ~1 hour in any direction gives you access to a lot of wonderful hikes. You’ll mostly be driving east or west. If you are a beer fan, you’ll love Asheville since it’s known for its breweries! Asheville is a good middle point to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It’s easy to get around Asheville, but your plans will dictate if you’ll need to rent a car. If you’re only interested in staying around the downtown area, you won’t need a car at all - it’s incredibly walkable. However, if you’re interested in driving out to Biltmore or outside of the city, you’ll want to rent a car.
Below, I’ll put my top recommendations in bold. I would visit Asheville again in a heartbeat to see everything else that I missed the first time around!
Honestly, I would recommend all of the hikes below. But if you really had to prioritize, I would recommend the hikes around Grandfather Mountain first.
Top Recommendation: Grandfather Mountain
You could probably spend an entire day hiking and immersing yourself in the area around Grandfather Mountain because it’s absolutely stunning. There are numerous trails, but I only did one main hike since I started my day a little bit later.
You’ll want to set your GPS towards Grandfather Mountain Upper Parking, and going inside the park costs $24. Personally, I thought the price was pretty steep but the convenience made it worth the cost. Hikers will have to park in a specific area, while if you’re just there to see the bridge the park ranger will send you all the way up.
Start your day by parking at the designated area (Black Rock) and then hiking the half mile to the Mile High Swinging Bridge. The bridge is basically a suspension bridge that gives you sweeping views of Grandfather Mountain. And, you don’t even need to hike to get the view! Absolutely recommend the stop.
After seeing the bridge, you’ll have several options of a hike. You can hike all the way to Calloway Peak (which is what I wanted to do), or hike halfway to Macrae Peak. This is the hike I did, which I definitely recommend! You get amazing views and the hike is somewhat challenging. There are some ropes and ladders you’ll have to use to get to the peak.
I would budget at around 2-3 hours round-trip for Macrae Peak. What I didn’t know before going to the park was that you have to be back at your vehicle by 6pm. Going all the way to Calloway Peak was listed as a 5 hour round-trip hike, and I couldn’t do that hike and make it back on time. You should definitely pack some water and a snack, which you can enjoy when you get to Macrae Peak! It’s definitely worth the time.
Some overlooks that were nice to see - stopping for <10 minutes would probably suffice:
Top Recommendation: Biltmore
Half the reason why Asheville was on my bucket list was because of Biltmore. It’s essentially America’s largest home, and has a lot of history to it. It had everything I like on a vacation: some history via a museum, good hiking and gardens to look at, and great food. If you’re coming to Asheville, you HAVE to come here - it’s a must.
What you have to know is Biltmore is absolutely massive. Driving from the entrance to Biltmore House is like at least 2.5 miles, along with getting to most other places in the grounds. You’ll need to book a ticket & reservation ahead of time, and the cost varies by season. When you book your ticket, you’ll have to pick a time to see Biltmore House - this is essentially the house that the Vanderbilts lived in, and it’s gorgeous. The time on your ticket is when you can ENTER the house, but you can enter the grounds at any time.
If I were to do this again, I would recommend putting your house tour as early as possible (probably 9:30am as the earliest, since the grounds only open at 8:30am) and then doing everything else. I did my day a little differently since I thought there was going to be rain but it ended up working out.
My day, short version:
I started out my day by walking in the gardens. This was actually a great choice since there weren’t a lot of people, so I had everything to myself. More people definitely start to trickle in later in the day, so overall I would recommend coming early.
I started my walk going into the Walled Garden, Rose Garden, and the Conservatory. Then I walked further down through the Azalea Garden to finish at Bass Pond, and then made my way back. I would defintely recommend doing the whole walk down to Bass Pond since it’s absolutely beautiful. Another reason why I was glad I did this earlier in the day is because it wasn’t as hot.
Then, it was my time to go into Biltmore House. I would say this is the crown jewel of your entire visit, since it’s fascinating and beautiful. You just walk one direction into the house until you hit the end, so it’s incredibly structured. You’ll get an audio guide at the beginning. Normally I’m not a fan, but you should definitely take one - the history of each area in the house is really interesting.
After the house tour, I went to The Stable Cafe for lunch, which is right near the house. They converted the old horse stables into this restaurant, which I thought was pretty cool. I got the tomato basil bisque and the smoked pork sandwich which were both good! The portions were reasonable but it was on the pricier side than what I would like to pay for lunch. There’s also quick-service options out in the courtyard if you’re wanting something more cheap.
After lunch, I decided to spend the rest of the day at Antler Hill Village. On the way there, I drove along the path of the Lagoon Trail, which I would had wanted to hike. However, since I was driving alongside it I thought I would save myself some time. The view here is also beautiful, so I would recommend doing this if you have time.
Antler Hill Village is pretty cute, but it’s not too big and reminded me of a shopping mall. There’s some things to see and shopping, but the top things to see are:
When it’s time for your wine tasting, you’ll be taken into a tasting room where you can taste 2 white wines, a rose, and 2 red wines. Overall, I rarely drink and I thought it was pretty good! Definitely make sure you make a reservation for this.
After all of this, I still had some time in my day but decided to end it since I was a little tired from the day before and I needed to get up early the next day. You may or may not need to take a little bit more time, but I would definitely budget a day in case you want to take it slower than I did!