36 Hours in Asheville
I can’t lie to you, trying to plan an itinerary for 36 hours in Asheville, NC is hard. Asheville is bursting at the seams with fun and adventurous things to do. We spent over a month in Asheville exploring every nook and cranny we could and we still left feeling like there’s more we could have done. Its abundance of activities, the incredible food scene, and affordable living is why everyone these days are clamoring to visit Asheville. Heck, we’re even considering if we want to move to Asheville!
Not to fear though, we’ve come up with the perfect Asheville itinerary on how to spend 36 hours in Asheville, NC. Because there is so much to do in this great city, I’ve broken the full day into three best of Asheville itineraries – one for nature lovers, the foodie crowd, and the art and culture crew. For your weekend in Asheville, mix and match or follow it exactly as planned. Whatever you choose, I guarantee you’ll be wishing you had more than 36 hours in Asheville!
Table of Contents
How to get to Asheville NC
Asheville has one airport, Asheville Regional Airport, used by Allegiant, American, Delta, Elite, Spirit, and United. Since we have points with Southwest, we flew into Raleigh airport and picked up a rental car to make the four-hour drive. Other cities that are closer to Asheville are Greenville, SC (1.5 Hours), Knoxville, TN (2 hours), and Charlotte, NC (2 hours).
While downtown Asheville is walkable, you will need transportation if you opt to do activities like a hike in Pisgah National Forest or a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We rented a car through the peer to peer car service, Turo, and loved it! So easy and way cheaper than a standard car rental service. Uber and Lyft are also readily available in the city if you choose to go without a rental car, though we don’t advise it.
Parking in downtown Asheville is available through meters and parking garages and, for the most part, not too hard to find. Check out this site for the most comprehensive rundown for parking in Asheville.
Where to stay in Asheville NC
Because we travel with a toddler, we always choose to stay in an Airbnb. There are dozens of affordable and stylish Airbnb’s in Downtown Asheville. If you have a car, you might consider staying in the historic Montford District, the closest neighborhood outside of Downtown Asheville. We stayed there and loved being tucked away from the central hub but still being close enough to access everything quickly. You can check prices for the best Airbnb rentals here.**
Pssst. Check out our post on 10 out of this world amazing Asheville Airbnbs. One of them is a treehouse!
36 Hours: Asheville City Guide
Day 1: Explore Asheville
I’ve started the Asheville itinerary with the first day being your half-day. Feel free to switch it around to suit your arrival time. This 1/2 day is all about taking the time to explore Asheville and its most popular neighborhoods: Downtown Asheville and West Asheville.
Lunch at Tupelo Honey
Start your 1/2 day with some food at the original Tupelo Honey. What began in 2002 has now become a popular chain that continues to expand every year. Even though chain restaurants aren’t exactly the feel of downtown Asheville, there’s a reason it has grown so much- it’s delicious! Visit the place where it all began and nosh on some amazing southern cuisine.
12 College St, Asheville, NC 28801
Check website for updated hours
Now is the time to take in the epicenter of Asheville. With nary a chain store in sight (except for Urban Outfitters, which I don’t understand -what’s that about Asheville?), stroll through Lexington Avenue to see the clothing shops, cafes, book stores, vintage apparel, and enough art boutiques to take up an entire 1/2 day of exploring. If you want more structure to your stroll through downtown, you can opt to do the Urban Trail, a 1.7-mile walking trail with 30 landmarks to explain downtown Asheville’s history and architecture. You can get a map of the walk at Pack Place on Asheville’s Pack Square, or you can print up a map here.
Other highlights of downtown include:
- The French Broad Chocolate Company -A dessert cafe offering handcrafted chocolate. It’s a chocolate lovers paradise.
- Grove Arcade – A preserved art deco historic building that houses locally-owned shops and restaurants, including the perennial favorite, the Battery Park Book Exchange.
- Woolworth Walk – An art gallery housed in an old Woolworth building. A good choice if you aren’t able to visit the River Arts Center District.
- Asheville Pinball Museum – For the young at heart, this all you can play arcade features classic pinball machines and a full bar.
Explore West Asheville
Now it’s time to switch it up and take a short stroll around the hipster neighborhood of West Asheville. West Asheville’s central hub is on Hayword Street and includes quirky shops and dive bars like Fleetwoods, a bar-vintage shop-wedding chapel-music venue.
Dinner at Jargon
End the night at the highly-rated restaurant Jargon. Offering an eclectic mix including southern-inspired dishes, Jargon is housed in a cozy historic building.
715 Haywood Road, Asheville NC
Sunday – Thursday 5 pm – 9 pm, Friday – Saturday, 5 pm – 10 pm
Day 2: Explore Outside of Asheville
Now that you’ve seen downtown Asheville and West Asheville, it’s time to dive deeper into what this great city has to offer. Here’s where you can choose the foodie itinerary, a nature itinerary, or an arts and culture itinerary. You can follow it to the letter or mix and match as you like.
If you have chosen this itinerary, you are my people! I live to eat. I travel to eat. I wake up to eat. Asheville is one of the premier destinations for dining in the US. This is a town that prides itself on its fresh, farm to table, inventive cuisine.
Breakfast at Over Easy
A restaurant that only does breakfast? Yes. Over Easy serves breakfast only and creates dishes inspired by southern comfort staples and locally sourced Appalachian suppliers. Their menu changes regularly, but you can find the most up to date on their Instagram Page.
32 Broadway St., Asheville
Hours: Monday-Sunday 8 am-2 pm
Wild Foraging Tour (3 hours)
After breakfast, go on a wild foraging tour with No Taste Like Home. They offer forage to table tours that include an easy hike through the forest to forage for edibles that you then can take to partnered restaurants that will whip up a free appetizer with your findings. The guide will lead you around, helping you to learn how to identify and find wild edibles like greens, berries, mushrooms, flowers, roots, nuts, and more.
Local Food Outing (3 hours)
Since the Wild Foraging Tour isn’t offered every day, you might not be able to fit it in for your weekend getaway in Asheville.
Another great option is to visit a U-Pick farm in the surrounding areas around Asheville. We visited the family-run farm, Justus Orchard, in the Fall and LOVED spending a half-day picking apples and salivating over apple cider donuts. North Carolina is one of the biggest producers of apples in the country, so apple picking feels like a right of passage if you’re visiting in the autumn season.
You can also tour local artisanal chocolate company French Broad Chocolate Company, where you will learn about the process of making chocolate and, of course, delight in ample chocolate tastings. If chocolate isn’t your speed, visit Looking Glass Creamery to taste homemade cheese and caramel as well as tour the working farm.
LUNCH at 9 Mile
We tried as many restaurants as we could while we were there, and 9 Mile’s Caribbean inspired cuisine with a modern twist stands out as one of our top meals in Asheville. There are three locations, with the original location residing in the Historic Montford District. They don’t take reservations, and it gets very crowded at night, so your best bet is to visit during lunch hours.
233 Montford Ave, Asheville, NC
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11:30am-10:00pm
BREWERY TOUR (3 hours)
Asheville has more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in the US. It’s safe to say that Asheville is the reigning champion of the US’s craft brewery scene. So if you’re coming to Asheville, you have to try some beer. Since you’re short on time in Asheville, you can choose to do a tour with a company like Asheville Brewing Tour and sample a few different breweries, or you can park yourself at one brewery and chill for a few hours. If you’re opting for the chill option (that’s what I would be doing), some great options are Wedge Brewing Company and New Belgium Brewing Company.
For more info on great breweries in Asheville, check out this guide from Visit North Carolina.
If you did the foraging tour, end your day at one of the partnered restaurants and feast on your free appetizer. If you opted out of the foraging tour, check out one of these top-rated restaurants in downtown Asheville.
Farm Burger Asheville – Hip locally sourced grass-fed burgers.
Nature Lovers Itinerary
This is a jam-packed itinerary of nature activities centered around one area, the scenic Pisgah National Forest. I have included two hikes to suit two preferences, a longer one (Looking Glass Rock) and a short one (Moore Cove Falls). It’s probably best you choose one of the hikes based on how much you want to do. If traveling with young kids, I would cut out Looking Glass Rock Hike.
**All of these activities in Pisgah Forest are about 50 minutes to an hour away, so you will need a car to get there.
Breakfast at Early Girl Eatery
Start your day out early with a hearty breakfast at Early Girl Eatery in downtown Asheville. Fuel up for a long day out in nature and afterward take a five-minute walk to The Gourmet Chip Company to pick up sandwiches and chips to go so you’re adequately prepared for your day of hiking and nature activities.
Early Girl Eatery
8 Wall Street, Asheville NC
Monday – Sunday 8am-9pm
Gourmet Chip Company
43 1/2 Broadway St, Asheville
Sunday-Thursday 11 am-6 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-7 pm
Looking Glass Rock Hike (4-5 hours)
Start with a moderately difficult 6.5-mile hike that rewards you with small waterfalls, rhododendrons, and stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Looking Glass Falls (30 minutes to 1 hour)
Western North Carolina is jam-packed with waterfalls. You could spend an entire month trying to visit all the known and unknown waterfalls that pepper their way through the mountains of North Carolina. An accessible waterfall to check out is the 60-foot tall Looking Glass Falls. You can park and see it from the road or take the 3-minute walk down the steps for a closer look. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, swimming or wading is allowed near the waterfall.
Moore Cove Falls (1 -2 hours)
Close to Looking Glass is Moore Cove, another spectacular waterfall that is particularly fun because you can walk behind the fall. A relatively easy 1.5-miles, this hike is an excellent option for families or people who don’t want an arduous climb. There are a few steep steps during the walk. After passing the falls, the trail continues up to reach another small waterfall. Due to it being quite slippery and steep, it is highly advised that only experienced hikers continue along that path.
Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest (1-2 hours)
Afterward, take a short drive to visit the 60-foot natural water slide called Sliding Rock. It’s easily accessible (there are stairs to get there) from the parking lot and is a popular activity for locals and tourists. Be forewarned…the water is chilly, 50-60 degrees chilly. We visited in October when it was even colder, but it was so worth it! One of my favorite memories of our time in Asheville. We summoned up the courage, and once we did, the rest of the onlookers decided to go for it as well. We even saw very young children (by their parents’ side) taking a plunge into the frigid water.
The slide is officially open from April to October and costs $3 per person. If visiting in the offseason, the slide will be open during daylight hours; however, there will be no staff, lifeguards, or accessible restrooms.
**If you want a more low key nature-based itinerary or it’s too cold to do a full hiking day, another option is to start your day at the North Carolina Arboretum, a short 20 minutes drive from Downtown Asheville. The NC arboretum offers beautiful gardens and lush hiking paths that more than satisfy the desire to connect with nature. The arboretum is located right next to the entrance to the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway, so afterward, you can jump on and take a scenic drive, stopping as you like to take in the views or to take a short walk. Stop at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center for tips and suggestions on what to do. If you’re visiting in the fall, The Blue Ridge Parkway is a must-do activity for the technicolor display of autumn colors.
Art and History Itinerary
Asheville is dubbed the “Paris of the south” no doubt in part for it’s fierce commitment to staying true to what makes it Asheville, but also because of its longstanding history of being a haven for the creatively inclined. This itinerary will satisfy anyone looking to dive deeper into the rich culture of Asheville.
Breakfast at Ultra Coffeebar
Grab a simple breakfast and lavender honey latte at Ultra Coffeebar, a hip cafe and coffee bar in the River Arts District of Asheville.
242 Clingman Ave, Asheville NC
Monday-Friday 7am–5pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am–5pm
River Arts District (RAD)(2 HOURS)
Spend a couple of hours strolling through the world-class River Arts District of Asheville. What once housed industrial buildings and empty warehouses along the French Broad River is now home to over 200 artists in 22 buildings. While Downtown Asheville offers a lot in the way of restaurants and tours, the River Arts District exposes you to the heart and soul of Asheville and what makes it so unique – its high value and esteem for the creative life.
While visiting the River Arts District, you can see artists at work, take a class, buy some unique art (almost all galleries offer to ship) and enjoy a day spent taking in the local arts. Check out their website to find maps, the calendar of events, and to see if your trip coincides with the monthly second Saturday where there is a free trolley and special demonstrations.
Tip: Bring comfortable shoes! You will be walking a lot.
Lunch at White Duck Taco
Located within the RAD is Asheville fan favorite, White Duck Taco Shop. Serving affordable creative tacos like Thai Peanut Chicken and Jerk Chicken, a visit to Asheville isn’t complete without a stop here.
White Duck Taco
388 Riverside Drive, Asheville NC
Monday-Sunday 11:30 am – 9 pm
Biltmore Estate (3-4 hours) The Biltmore Estate is located within Asheville and is the largest privately-owned home in the US. Built-in the 1800s for George Vanderbilt, the son of esteemed railroad and shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, the entire estate sits on 8000 acres, and the home is a massive 178,926 square feet. It’s basically a castle. The house is a spectacular display of a gilded age mansion with an impressive array of 16th-century tapestries and artwork from Vanderbilt’s many travels.
Most people who visit the Biltmore Estate spend all day there to make the most use of the steep ticket costs ($50-$80 depending on the time of year) and because there are enough activities to spend an entire day there. However, since this itinerary is only for 36 hours in Asheville, I customized the itinerary to include the highlights of the Estate, which are walking through the home and touring the gardens. I also put the Biltmore Estate in the afternoon rather than the morning to avoid the Biltmore Estate’s big crowds. The Biltmore is the number one tourist activity in Asheville, and depending on what time of the year you go, you may not be able to avoid crowds. Your best bet is to go early in the morning or in the late afternoon.
For Dinner, you can check out Antler Village, which is included with your ticket fee and is within the Biltmore Estate. It’s a small quaint village with a winery, jungle gym set, petting zoo, ice cream shop, artisanal shops, and a handful of high-quality restaurants.
Or you can leave the Biltmore Estate and visit the super cute and delicious Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village just outside of the estate. Corner Kitchen is located in a Victorian home that once housed employees of the Biltmore Estate. They serve farm to table southern-inspired fare and craft drinks.
3 Boston Way, Asheville NC
Check website for accurate hours
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