I am so excited to bring you my Asheville, North Carolina guide today! My sisters and I headed to AVL for Memorial Day Weekend and had a wonderful trip—it was a great long weekend trip from the DC area, so if you’re looking for somewhere to go later this summer over Labor Day Weekend, I can’t recommend it enough. We drove down first thing Thursday and left first thing Monday morning—so we had about three and a half days to enjoy everything Asheville has to offer, which felt like the right amount of time to spend in town.
I was born in North Carolina and spent the first eight years of my life there, but had never made it to Asheville. A big reason I wanted to visit was to see The Biltmore Estate—I love learning about the Gilded Age, and my interest was particularly heightened after we saw some of the Vanderbilt “summer cottages” in Newport, Rhode Island several summers ago. We ended up spending an entire day at Biltmore, so I’ve separated out a recap of our amazing day spent at George Vanderbilt’s mansion in the mountains into a separate post—you can read it here!
When we took our trip to Asheville, all Covid-related restrictions and mask mandates had been lifted; it was actually my first time going to a restaurant since the pandemic started where servers weren’t wearing masks—talk about a culture shock! Given the pandemic has a lot of restaurant reservation policies and other procedures in flux, if you’re using this post to plan a trip to Asheville, I’d recommend double-checking to make sure this is still the latest and greatest information.
So, without further ado, here’s a girls’ weekend guide to Asheville, North Carolina!
HOW TO GET THERE + GETTING AROUND ASHEVILLE —
We decided to drive to Asheville and while it was a long drive, it was doable in a day. We planned this trip before vaccine rollout was strong, so we figured driving would be our safest bet—plus flights over Memorial Day Weekend are always more expensive and so we wanted to save a bit of money by driving. With stops, it took us about eight and a half hours both ways—on Thursday morning, we got up bright and early and were on the road by 7am, and when we returned home on Monday, we hit the road by 9am. To get there, we took I-66 to I-81 to I-77 to I-40, and that’s the route I’d recommend if you’re coming from the DC area. Asheville is right off I-40, so it is super convenient to get to from that perspective.
Even though the drive was somewhat a drag, I was really glad we had a car once we were in Asheville. While the downtown area is very walkable, a lot of what you might want to do—like the breweries, the Biltmore, the hiking trails, the Blue Ridge Parkway—is somewhat spread out and having a car allowed us to easily get from place to place without having an Uber. Within the core downtown area, there are a lot of city-operated parking garages where you can park for cheap—I don’t think we ever paid more than $6—so it makes getting downtown very easy. We stayed in nearby Biltmore Village (more on that below!), which was about a ten-minute drive from downtown, so that’s another reason why we were happy to have a car. If you are dead set on staying carless, I would recommend staying downtown so you can walk to a lot and then only take Ubers when it’s absolutely necessary.
If you want to fly into Asheville, there’s a small regional airport in town—heads up, it’s very expensive to fly into! You could also fly into Charlotte or Greenville and rent a car—the drives are about two hours and an hour and a half respectively. Next time I travel to Asheville, that’s probably the approach I’ll take so spare myself the long drive from DC!
WHERE TO STAY —
Given we were in town over a holiday weekend, a lot of the hotels right downtown were super pricey. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I am a Marriott loyalist, so I wanted to stay at one of their properties to get nights + points. The Courtyard in Biltmore Village, about a ten-minute drive from downtown and a two-minute drive from The Biltmore Estate, was priced right for the weekend and so that’s where we booked.
We were really happy with the hotel—it’s brand new, so everything was so clean and modern. The room and bathroom were huge, which is great for when you have three girls trying to get ready! The beds were also sooo comfortable—it felt like I was sleeping in my own bed at home. Parking is included with your stay and there’s plenty of it. Breakfast is not included (we skipped the hotel breakfast and bought Bruegger’s Bagels down the street, there’s also a Starbucks nearby), but it is served, and at night, there’s a full bar. There’s also a fitness center and both an indoor and outdoor pool if that’s of interest. Whenever I head back to Asheville, I would totally stay at this hotel again and would definitely recommend it to anyone.
At some point in my life, I’d love to splurge and stay at the Omni Grove Park Inn—more on that below!
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK —
I know I say this every travel guide, but there are so many great places to eat and drink in Asheville, so definitely come hungry. Here’s a roundup of where we ate and drink—
- Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar—OMG, this might be the most “me” place I’ve ever been! It’s a used bookstore that also houses a Champagne bar. This was where we did happy hour when we first got into town, and we loved it. It’s a popular spot and they don’t take reservations, so despite getting there around 4pm, we did have to wait about 15-20 minutes for a table. It gave us time to explore the bookstore, though! We sat outside, where they also had live music. We didn’t eat here, but they had a good menu of cheese and charcuterie. I would 100% go back here the next time I am in town!
- Curate—After a little champs for happy hour, we headed over to Curate for a tapas dinner. This place came recommended to us by everyone—and it lived up to the hype. If you want to eat here, I would highly recommend getting a reservation, which go fast! (I figured out that they were releasing new reservations one day at a time at midnight online, so I snagged our table right when it went up on the website; I am a night owl!) We did a pitcher of the red sangria, the pan con tomate, a seasonal asparagus salad, gambas al ajillo, patatas bravas, and the meatballs. We ordered a few of our favorite dishes twice—everything was so, so good.
- Wicked Weed Brewing | We ate at the Brewpub on Biltmore Avenue—This was one of my favorite meals we ate in Asheville; I would highly recommend this place! They don’t take reservations, but we went on a Friday night and the line moved really fast, so don’t be discouraged. I am not a huge beer drinker, but my sisters thought their beer was really good! I, however, enjoyed a champagne cocktail that was so good. (I love when beer-centric places cater to non-beer drinkers, too!) We ate here after spending the day at The Biltmore, and we really were craving some greens—we got one of their mixed greens salads to start and ended up loving it so much, we all swapped out fries for more of the salad with our mains. I did the fried chicken sandwich, with the aforementioned salad, and it was delicious.
- The Blackbird Restaurant—Our Aunt Becky was in town visiting a friend when we were in town, so we all met up here for brunch! The service was kind of slow, but I give that a pass because of the pandemic. The food was delicious and the drinks were even better. They also had the cutest bar area!
- Chiesa—This was probably our least favorite meal in Asheville, but it still wasn’t bad by any means. It also wasn’t right downtown, so it was a nice change of pace. If you love homemade Italian, I’d definitely recommend this spot—I did a wonderful pasta and caesar salad. However, the atmosphere just felt a little off—they seemed to do a huge takeout business, so if you’re looking for a meal to eat at a hotel or Airbnb while in town, definitely add this place to your list.
- Early Girl Eatery | We ate at the West Asheville Location—On Sunday morning, our last full day in town, we knew we wanted to do brunch. A lot of the most popular brunch places in town don’t take reservations, so we knew there might be a little bit of a wait. We struck out at Sunny Point Cafe as the wait was 2+ hours, but we went down the street and got on the list for Early Girl Eatery. We did have to wait about an hour, but it was worth it—they had awesome food and “mega” mimosas! While we were waiting for brunch, we walked around the neighborhood a bit and stopped at the Bridge & Tunnel Coffee Company truck for some caffeine. (I’ll also flag—we are not early risers, so if you go on the earlier side to either Early Girl Eatery or Sunny Point Cafe, you might not have as long of a wait as us!)
- Luella’s BBQ | We ate at the North Asheville Location—you can’t go to Asheville and not get BBQ! I loved this place; it was no frills with lots of Christmas lights up, and the food was amazing. I did pulled pork, slaw, potato salad, and Mac and cheese. (And no, I didn’t eat it all—not even close! But I wanted to try a lot of it!) They had lots of beer and several signature cocktails—I did the Jolene, because #Dolly. It was basically a Shirley Temple with gin.
- Biscuit Head | We went to the one on Biltmore Avenue—Biscuit Head came highly recommended to us by so many people! We placed an order online for takeout, which truthfully, is the way to go—you can skip the really long line this way! This was our last meal in town before we hit the road and it kept us sustained through the long ride home.
I also wanted to specifically call out the Omni Grove Park Inn and New Belgium Brewing, as those were both highlights of the trip for me—along with our day at the Biltmore, those were probably my three favorite things we did in Asheville.
When I was surveying friends and coworkers who had visited Asheville, along with Curate, everyone recommended we must see sunset at the Omni Grove Park Inn. So, the Saturday we were in town, we went over to the Grove Park Inn for an early happy hour so we could snag our spot early for sunset. While you can get a reservation at the Sunset Terrace for dinner, what we opted to do was sit at one of their first-come, first-serve tables, located right below the Sunset Terrace. (There’s quite a lot of seating, but it does go fast—regardless of whether or not you get a group of chairs or a table, there’s ample room to walk around and enjoy the view.) There were several bars in the lobby where you could order drinks and snacks—we did a cheese plate and a charcuterie plate—and take them to your spot outside. The Grove Park Inn’s lobby was also amazing—there were two huge fireplaces at either end, which I think would be so cozy in the wintertime. The Omni Grove Park Inn is also known for its spa, and I’ve been told the Obamas and celebrities love staying here, so definitely keep your eye out if you visit! My dad always tells us to “make a memory” and we made a big one at our sunset happy hour at Omni Grove Park Inn—I know it’s something we’ll be talking about for a long, long time.
The other thing we did I wanted to call our was our Sunday afternoon we spent at New Belgium Brewing after brunch at Early Girl Eatery. It was such a low-key, FUN place—they had a bar located on their lawn area, where you could a spot on the grass to sit down and enjoy a cold one. We ended up posting up near their iconic “New Belgium Brewing” sign since there was a bench, but fair warning, you’ll be asked to take a lot of people’s photos if you sit there. You could also get on the list for a spot on their patio, which we did—but we enjoyed the lawn so much more that we actually gave our table up. There was also a food truck on-site in case you needed a snack or a meal (they rotate food trucks and the schedule can be found on their website). As I mentioned, I am not the biggest beer fan, but I did try their Summer Bliss, which was a wheat beer with hints of mango, and loved it—so drinkable! Because of Covid, they aren’t currently doing brewery tours, but definitely something to look into if you’re planning a trip to New Belgium. The brewery’s campus also located right next to the French Broad River and there’s a path down to the River if that is of interest to you—a lot of people tube down the French Broad, which looked really fun! Lastly, if you’re traveling to Asheville with kids, this also seemed to be a really family-friendly place—there were lots of little kids running around.
There were also a ton of places on our Asheville list we just didn’t have time to get to—in case they are helpful to you we also wanted to go to:
- White Duck Taco Shop—for tacos + margs
- Capella on 9—the rooftop bar at the AC hotel downtown
- The Crow & Quill—it was still closed because of Covid when we were in town
- Zambra—we walked by this place a lot since it was close to the parking garages and it looked so fun!
- Hemingway’s Cuba—another rooftop bar
- Farm Burger—if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you know I love burgers
- Rhubarb—this looks like it’d be a great place for a celebratory dinner
- Sierra Nevada Brewing—another national brewery
WHAT TO DO —
If you couldn’t tell—hah!—we spent a lot of our time in Asheville eating and drinking. But we did spend our time in some other ways—most notably, spending a day at The Biltmore—which you can read about here!
We also spent a morning exploring Historic Biltmore Village, which was located right near our hotel. It used to be a part of the Biltmore Estate and housed a lot of the servants—today, it’s been renovated into a mixed-use community with hotels, shops, and restaurants. Truthfully, I wasn’t super impressed with any of the stores—it was a lot of chain stores targeted to an older crowd. However, one store I enjoyed going into was the Olde World Christmas Shoppe—growing up, my grandma always bought me one of their ornaments for Christmas and I love looking at Christmas decor no matter the time of year. If you’re in the neighborhood, it’s definitely worth a quick stroll through this area, but I wouldn’t necessarily make a special trip.
One thing I would do on our next trip is drive the Blue Ridge Parkway—we were told there are lots of stunning lookouts and it’s just such a scenic drive. If hiking is your thing, there are also a ton of mountain hikes to be enjoyed in the Asheville area. A lot of the Blue Ridge Parkway in this area runs through Pisgah National Forest, which used to be part of Biltmore Estate—there’s more history on that in my post on the Biltmore.
We also did some shopping in downtown Asheville. A lot of the stores were a little too hipster for me, but one store we really enjoyed was Hazel Twenty—it was such a cute boutique with a nice mix of clothing, gifts, and jewelry. There’s definitely lots of other stores to pop your head into while you’re in town, and I’ll let you form your own opinion on them!
We really enjoyed our trip to Asheville, and felt like three full days there was enough time to do what we wanted to do in town. I found Asheville to remind me a lot of Charlottesville, so if you love Cville like I do, I think you’ll also appreciate AVL—especially if you like craft beer. If you have any questions about our trip to Asheville and what we did, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below or email me, email@example.com
And, don’t forget, you can view my post about our day at The Biltmore Estate here!