Everyone knows that if you’re going to Asheville, a visit to the mind-blowing Biltmore Estate is mandatory, but did you also know that Asheville also offers a thriving arts and crafts community, a plethora of restaurants offering a cornucopia of international cuisine, a shopper’s paradise filled with various indie boutiques-many located in a beautifully restored Woolworth’s and a gorgeous walkable downtown filled with outstanding Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical buildings?
Here are 10 favorite “must do and sees” recommended by Asheville insiders:
1. Take a stroll through the River Arts District Artists (RADA) a hip, resurrected warehouse district filled with 150 artist work studios and galleries. It’s great fun to watch the artists in action and buy straight from the creative source.
2. Grab some take-out (and plenty of napkins) at 12 Bones Smokehouse, the President Obama’s favorite local “Q” stop. Must order: Blueberry Chipotle Ribs, Smoked Potato Salad and Sweet Vinegar ‘Slaw. Note: They are open for lunch only.
3. Guided tours run the gamut from a walking tour of the Montford Historic District, a zany LaZoom Comedy Tour bus, or the truly brave can join the Haunted Asheville Ghost Tour, which includes a stop at the old jail and gallows.
4. More the independent type? Follow the self-guided 1.7-mile Asheville Urban Trail map. Highlights include beautiful Art Deco buildings, 30 bronze outdoor sculptures and local writer; Thomas Wolfe’s neighborhood.
5. Downtown may be small but it offers a wealth of night time entertainment. Culture lovers can get their fix by catching a live performance at the Community Theatre, the Contemporary Dance Theatre, the Lyric Opera, or Asheville’s Symphony Orchestra-marking it’s 50th season.
6. The Friday night drum circle at Pritchard Park has been a town tradition for the last decade. Dozens of enthusiastic drummers provide a throbbing beat that will get you up and dancing in no time.
7. For breathtaking views drive, hike or bike a patch of the magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway, “America’s Favorite Drive”, winding through the Southern Appalachians.
8. Wind down at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, which houses the world’s largest collection of arts and crafts furniture. The award-winning 43,000 sq. foot spa’s main feature is a spectacular subterranean Grotto Pool Area with underwater music, waterfalls and a cooling lap pool.
9. Recently voted Beer City USA, Asheville offers more breweries per capita than any US city. Asheville Brews Cruise offers a behind-the-scenes tour complete with designated driver. Try Highland’s Brewing’s unique Mocha Stout Ice Cream.
10. The piece de resistance still has to be exploring the 250 rooms of the Biltmore House, America’s largest home. You can easily spend the whole day spending the day touring the home (don’t miss the servants’ domain, complete with a gigantic rotisserie kitchen, canning room, bakery, etc.) extensive gardens, and Antler Hill Village, which encompasses a farm, barn, kitchen garden, award-winning winery, Mrs. Vanderbilt’s 1913 car and other historical exhibits.
The Doubletree Biltmore is located right next door and makes a dandy headquarters for your stay-particularly if you opt to upgrade to their tastefully appointed new Vanderbilt Executive Tower. This wing is loaded with amenities such as their cloud-like bed, indoor saline pool, full breakfast with omelet station and those hot chocolate chip cookies.