This is a guest post from the travel savvy blogger, Rachel from Sneaker Travel Tips, enjoy!
It is not an exaggeration to say that Asheville is one-of-a-kind. This small Appalachian city is a magnet for outstanding artists and bohemian musicians, and yet it never strays far from the region’s heritage and cuisine. What’s more, it is home to arguably the most beautiful estate in the US, the Biltmore. To top it off, the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains serves as a backdrop. Asheville makes it possible to experience grandeur, nature, and a myriad of artistic styling, all within a long weekend.
How to Get Around
I rented a car for my trip to Asheville, which proved essential to my itinerary. Not only did it grant freedom to explore the outskirts and surrounding region, but a vehicle enabled me to stay in neighboring communities that provided cheaper accommodations than if I stayed in Downtown Asheville. Plus, the decision to rent a car made it possible to fly into Charlotte and drive to Asheville, which was ultimately cheaper and quicker than flying directly to Asheville.
However, it may be possible to do Asheville without a car, depending upon which attractions you’d want to see. Downtown and the River Arts District are about a half-an-hour walk from one another, and are compact enough to fully explore by foot. Other popular destinations like the Biltmore are accessible through narrated Trolley tours, and hipster West Asheville can be reached from the Downtown using the bus system.
What to See
The River Arts District: Asheville is a hotbed of talented artists, and many of them situated their studios in this particular neighborhood. While Downtown galleries will sometimes sell their pieces, the ability to visit the studios and talk to the artists about their works made the experience much richer. Even those on a tight budget will easily find prints within their price range, as plenty were as cheap as $25.00.
The Downtown: Downtown Asheville is where the magic happens. Here, you’ll see gifted musicians playing on street corners and, if you’re lucky enough to be in Asheville on a Friday night, you can even participate in the weekly drum circle. Peruse the various boutique shops, play a game or two at the Pinball Museum, and don’t’ forget to eat at one of the many delicious restaurants in Downtown!
The Blue Ridge Parkway: Asheville is optimally positioned to explore the surrounding nature, so it would be a great disservice not to seize the opportunity. Beautiful and accessible spring through fall, the Blue Ridge Mountains are thick with trees, water falls, swimming holes, and spectacular views from high peaks. A popular destination is Craggy Gardens Trail, thanks to its close proximity to the city and the 360-degree view that can be seen from the Craggy Pinnacle.
However, we chose to explore the Black Balsam Knob using the Art Loeb Trail as an alternative. Located a little over an hour from the city, the hike tested our endurance but ultimately proved incredibly rewarding. The view of the fall foliage from the mountain’s bald was enough to make this trek the best hike I ever encountered.
Another highlight of the Blue Ridge Mountains was Crabtree Falls, also located roughly an hour from Asheville. Being able to be up-close-and-personal with the cascading water framed by thick foliage felt straight out of a painting or movie. As for the hike itself, the upwards grade made us out-of-breath, but the cleared-out path made it a lot easier to walk than the Art Loeb Trail.
Biltmore: For full disclosure, I decided not to go to Biltmore during my first trip to Asheville. Both locals and the travel articles I read highly recommend visiting America’s largest home. In addition to 250 rooms, the grounds provide well-cultivated gardens, hiking trails, and a widely celebrated winery. Over one million visitors have made the journey to see the Vanderbilt estate, and its won a slew of awards. No blog post about Asheville would be complete without acknowledging this American treasure.
Moog Factory: Moog is the inventor of musical devices like synthesizers, minimoogs, and modulars, and continues to set the gold standard for quality equipment today. You don’t have to be a musician or engineer to greatly enjoy their free tour of the factory. The guide mixed fascinating music history about rock and roll greats with demonstrations for the various complex devices for an entertaining 45 minutes.
Asheville is incredibly layered, and there’s plenty of unique attractions to see in this high-energy, artistic city. Being that I will return within the next few years, I’d love to hear readers’ recommendations on additional things to see while in Asheville. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!
Rachel of Sneaker Travel Tips is a travel blogger who values affordability and venturing away from the cliché tourist traps. Make sure to check out her blog and Twitter for travel inspiration and tips on how to cut out costs and stress for your next trip.