With North Carolina’s leaf-peeping season getting under way, now’s the perfect time to visit this charming mountain town. But there’s more to Asheville than meets the eye.Nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Smokies, Asheville, N.C., is one of those towns with scenery so beautiful, you might feel like you’ve stepped into an oil painting. But don’t admire Asheville only for its eye candy; those who scratch below the surface will find a culinary scene that rivals that of any major metropolis, locally brewed beers to please even the biggest ale aficionado, and places to rest your head that the word hotel wouldn’t do justice. And if after all that, you still can’t peel your eyes from the lush landscape — well, we wouldn’t blame you.
Sleep Ever dream of living in a tree house? Thanks to the Village of Cheshire, you can at least vacation in one. Located just 20 minutes outside of Asheville, this master-planned, eco-friendly community offers tree houses and cabins for rent within walking distance of the Cheshire town center, which borders the Blue Ridge Mountains. Or choose your own adventure at Asheville’s elegant Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, where you can opt for either the charm of the recently renovated historic main inn or the luxury of the resort rooms. For an especially fun night’s stay, book one of the themed suites — such as the Gatsby, which boasts spectacular art deco details, or the Gallery, which celebrates the vibrant blend of mountain culture and rich artistic flavor that makes the city unique.
Eat Eating locally isn’t just a passing fad for the residents of Asheville, which has designated itself a Foodtopian Society. It’s easy to see why, with 17 active farmers markets in the area as well as scores of restaurants that serve dishes made from local ingredients. Try the sweet potato black bean cakes at the Early Girl Eatery , which serves Southern-style comfort food all day long. Or stop into the Laughing Seed Café for seasonal and organic vegetarian fare, including spinach-pesto manicotti. If pub grub’s what you’re craving, visit Jack of the Wood for a Celtic-inspired meal accompanied by a local brew.
Drink Though Asheville boasts a modest 80,000 residents, it’s home to a whopping 10 breweries and four annual beer festivals, more than earning its nickname, Beer City USA. Thirsty imbibers can hop aboard the Asheville Brews Cruise, a sampling tour of the local offerings that includes visits to the Pisgah Brewing Company (the Southeast’s first certified organic brewery), the Asheville Brewing Company and more.
See No trip to Asheville is complete without a visit to the famous 8,000-acre Biltmore estate, which was completed for George Vanderbilt in 1895. Tours can take up to two hours, as there’s a lot of ground to cover — 175,000 square feet and 250 rooms’ worth, to be exact. Peruse the antique treasures housed inside, including a chess set that once belonged to Napoleon and a library containing more than 10,000 volumes, but leave enough time to wander the Frederick Law Olmsted–designed gardens and enjoy a glass of Biltmore pinot grigio at the estate’s winery.
Do For a bird’s-eye spin on the fall-foliage tour, travel a few minutes west of town and let Asheville Hot Air Balloons take you for a flight over the Smoky Mountains. If you’d rather be in the midst of the forest, spend three hours on a zip line course through the Blue Ridge Mountains with Navitat Canopy Adventures. If you prefer your adventure on terra firma, hike through the grounds of the North Carolina Arboretum on more than 10 miles of wooded trails or wind your way through 65 acres of pristine gardens.
Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa
290 Macon Ave.
Early Girl Eatery
8 Wall St.
Laughing Seed Café
40 Wall St.
Jack of the Wood
95 Patton Ave.
1 Approach Road
Asheville Hot Air Balloons
Navitat Canopy Adventures
242 Poverty Branch Road, Barnardsville
(Season runs through the end of November)
North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way