Where to Eat, Watch Sunsets, & What to Do in this Gem of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Every fall I meet up with my best friend from Michigan for an extra-long girls weekend. We love hiking and being in the outdoors and can live on a few protein bars (as long as I have a nice hotel), but we are also aspiring foodies, enjoy the arts, as well as partaking in a few adult beverages. With that in mind, we chose Asheville, North Carolina, as our annual girls-trip vacation. It didn’t disappoint, having the perfect combination of nature and culture, with an eclectic art scene, funky street art, and beautiful scenery everywhere you look. Visiting the Biltmore Estate was just lovely, and for me exploring the grounds was even more fun than touring the home itself.
This post includes our sample three-day itinerary as well as recommendations of where to stay, eat, drink and what do in Asheville. In most cases, just click and you’ll find a direct links to each of the places I’m talking about in this post.
There are now many flights on major airlines directly into Asheville (AVL), but in our case it was more convenient (and cheaper) to fly into Charlotte (CLT) and drive a little under two hours west to Asheville. Our flights into Charlotte were less than $150 roundtrip, the rental car process at the Charlotte airport was super easy, and rental car for three and a half days was under $200. I prefer to fly directly into a slightly larger airport most of the time, especially when I’m meeting someone (more flights daily just in case there are any issues), so the 3 Day Itinerary includes driving in from Charlotte. It’s a nice drive over the hills and through the mountains, so we rented a Jeep and made even better with my “Girls Trip” playlist that I created for the occasion on Spotify, which I’ve linked HERE.
3 Day Itinerary
OK, before we get too far, I want to explain that I don’t have a rigid agenda for all my trips, but I wanted to at least have my dinners planned out this trip. After a week or two of research, making dinner reservations simply evolved into a whole 3 Day Itinerary that was aspirational, with no pressure to hit everything on the list. That being said, we kept finding ourselves pretty much on target every day with a few modifications here and there. Again, no pressure, but you’ll always have something fun to do or delicious place to eat!
10:00 – 11:00 am: Arrive at CTL, get luggage, collect rental car, etc. (we gained some time here, as we didn’t have checked bags and the rental car was easy).
11:00 – 1:00 pm: Drive to Chimney Rock State Park at Lake Lure, stopping to grab lunch to eat in the car along the way. Lake Lure is beautiful, nestled in the mountains perfectly. One misstep on my part is that I didn’t realize it was where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed. I’m a huge movie buff and would have spent more time there had I known!
1:00 – 3:00 pm: Explore Chimney Rock State Park. You can drive most of the way to the top of the mountain and then can either hike to the top or take an elevator up the inside of the mountain. There are several hikes to explore from the Chimney Rock area, so we opted for the elevator and then hiked to Hickorynut Falls. The hike is moderately difficult and about a mile out and back. A scene from Last of the Mohicans was filed at the falls.
3:00 – 4:00 pm: Finish driving to Asheville. You’re really only about 25 miles away, but the roads are windy.
4:00 – 6:00 pm: Check into hotel, relax, shower and get ready for evening. We stayed at the Village Hotel at Biltmore on the Biltmore Estate. The hotel is just down the hill from the Inn at Biltmore Estate, adjacent to the Biltmore Winery at Antler Hill Village. Staying on the estate provided us with unique opportunities to hike the grounds and enjoy the countryside, but to be honest it was also a pain in the butt to get downtown to enjoy the restaurants at night. That being said, there is a shuttle from the hotel downtown, and we also used Uber and Lyft with no issue getting in and out of the gated property. There is also a shuttle on the estate property for the estate’s hotel guests that stops at the various restaurants, hotels and the historic home itself.
6:00 – 8:00 pm: Sunset views at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Take in the gorgeous stone building, enjoy sunset on the terrace, and walk around the resort. This view easily fits in my top 10 list for best sunset of all time. The historic inn opened in 1913, and has hosted the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, John D. Rockefeller and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Word of advice, there are large herds of ladies here on girls weekends, so you may need to aggressively stake out a table on the terrace, but its worth it. We were a little late to the party and didn’t realize they had a killer spa here – you need to book months in advance to get in, so book early! Depending on the time of year, you may need to adjust the time of your visit here to make sure you are there when the sun goes down. It took us about 20 minutes to get here from the Village Inn at Biltmore.
8:00 – 10:00 pm: Dinner at Rhubarb in downtown Asheville, a contemporary Appalachian farm to table concept. All of the restaurants we ate at were downtown, as were the breweries, so as I said before, I’d likely stay downtown for my next visit.
I’m getting to the age where I turn into a pumpkin at midnight so we didn’t go out, but there were live musicians downtown, plenty of nightlife, breweries and rooftop bars to enjoy after dinner if you want to keep going.
9:00 – 10:00 am: Breakfast at The Corner Kitchen in historic Biltmore Village. Note, this is just outside the gate into Biltmore Village but is still several miles from the Village Hotel at Biltmore. While researching Asheville, I found the references to Biltmore Village to be confusing never having been there before, but it is not on the actual estate property. Another casual option for this morning is Biscuit Head.
10:00 am – 2:00 pm: Tour the Biltmore Estate and Gardens. George Vanderbilt began construction of the 250-room French Renaissance mansion in 1889, containing 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. When George Vanderbilt died in 1914 he sold 87,000 acres of the land to the US Forest Service, and in 1930 his daughter opened the home to the public to generate income to preserve the estate. Today the estate encompasses approximately 8000 acres of rolling hills, gardens, streams, ponds, and trails. You’ll need about two hours to tour the home, grabbing a bit to eat, and visiting the gift shop area. After that, you can get lost for a few hours in the gardens and greenhouses on-site. If you bring your hiking gear, you can enjoy hiking some of the trails around the estate grounds. There are designated times for admission to the home, so book your ticket well in advance to secure the date and time you plan to visit. It can be a long line to pick up admission at the visitor center on-site, so its a good idea to print your tickets in advance. Note, if you are staying on estate property, notwithstanding the time of your designated admission you can enter the home at any time with the purchase of your ticket.
2:00 – 3:00 pm: Rest and regroup. (We never seem to do much of this, but take it when we need it.)
3:00 – 5:00 pm: Visit the River Arts District (RAD). More than 200 artists work in the one mile stretch that comprises the RAD, where you can visit a multitude of working studios and galleries, grab a bite to eat, take an art class, check out the creative street art, or watch the cool kids in the skate park. If you are looking for some IG worthy murals, this is your place. Most studios will be open from 11-5, but check in advance if you want to visit a specific artist. I also recommend having a late lunch or afternoon snack at Rosabees, a fresh new Hawaiian fusion restaurant in the Arts District where savory meets sweet.
5:00 – 6:30 pm: Back to Antler Hill Village and the Biltmore Winery on the Biltmore Estate for a little shopping and wine tasting.
6:30 – 8:30 pm: Rest and change for dinner.
9:00 – 11:00 pm: Dinner at Cúrate. You may be in Asheville, but get ready to visit Spain for the night. This Spanish tapas style restaurant is the best place I’ve eaten in the last five years and you should plan your day around getting a reservation here. Book early because it will fill up, or opt for lunch or a really late dining time like we did (9:45 to be exact). It was worth it. Order the ensalada verde, pulpo a la gallega (octopus), table de jamones, white anchovies, and the tomato bread… and I could go on, and on…
8:00 am – 12:00 pm: Hike of your choice. There are lots of amazing trails within an hour or so of Asheville for every skill level, which you can check out at Asheville Trails or at Explore Asheville, each linked here. We had our sights set on Mount Mitchell, Craggy Ridge and more water fall hikes to the southwest of Asheville, but decided to make the most of staying on the Biltmore Estate and decided to hike on-site this morning. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for our afternoon brewery tour, so the idea of spending a lot of time in the car just didn’t work this trip. We hiked four miles from our hotel along the river to the main house, visiting with deer and horses along the way as we wandered through fields of wildflowers.
12:00 – 1:00 pm: Rest, regroup, and get ready for an afternoon of beer.
1:00 – 5:00 pm: Brewery tour. Luckily many of Asheville’s finest are close within walking distance of one another, so you can take an Uber or Lyft and hit several spots in one afternoon.
Don’t miss Wicked Weed Funkatorium or Burial Beer Co. (where I had my favorite beer of the trip, and also scored my favorite photo with a velvet painting of Tom Sellek). I’ve linked some of the most recommended Asheville Breweries in the “Best Of” section below. (Most epic mural of all time at Burial Beer…
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Continue on the brewery tour or kick back and relax before dinner.
8:00 pm – 10:00: Dinner at Limones, where you’ll need to make sure you order the lobster nachos.
“Best Of Asheville”
In addition to the links above, in this section I’m including lists of restaurants, hotels, breweries and things to do. Click on any of the links below to take you directly to the website for that location.