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Road Trip: Asheville, NC – All the best activities, restaurants and family activities
If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway that’s only a few hours’ drive from Atlanta, head north to Asheville and escape into the carefree, laid-back culture that’s come to define this unique Appalachian Mountain city. It boasts an eclectic and thriving artistic community and world-class culinary experiences that are uniquely delivered with genuine down-home southern hospitality. Whether you want to sightsee like tourists or blend in with the locals, here are some things you won’t want to miss!
1. Visit the Biltmore
Since it’s considered the crown jewel of Asheville architecture and America’s largest private home, the two-hour, self-guided tour of George W. Vanderbilt’s winter chateaux is high on the list of touristy to-dos. The four-acre, 250-room house is still filled with its original furnishings and will quickly deliver you back to 1895 when it first opened. Once you finish the complete two-floor tour, take time to stroll through the century-old gardens, horseback or bike along the beautiful trails, and enjoy the awe-inspiring views.
If you’re looking for a guided tour, opt for the rooftop tour, the behind-the-scenes tour, or a tour of the extended property.
Located right outside the entrance, Biltmore Village was formerly a neighborhood for estate workers. Now home to art galleries, boutiques, shops, stores, and fabulous restaurants, it’s the perfect complement to your Biltmore visit.
You might also consider visiting the Biltmore winery, which offers a tour of the cellars, a glimpse into the winemaking process, and a free wine tasting.
2. Shop ‘til you drop
Asheville is ideal for finding interesting and unique art, crafts, vintage-style clothing, and jewelry. Local designers fill the chic boutiques with their wares, each one more interesting than the last. Go find your style as you wander through the open-air market at Grove Arcade, Historic Lexington Park, Biltmore Park, or the West Asheville neighborhoods.
If you’re a book lover, be sure to check out Asheville’s local independent bookstores, like The Captain’s Bookshelf or Malaprop’s, where you’ll find rare editions, best sellers, and regional authors. You might even consider spending the afternoon relaxing with a fine wine and a good book at Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar.
3. Enjoy the street performers
In downtown Asheville, you’ll see some of the freshest talent performing in the streets. Buskers, or street performers, are part of Asheville’s everyday entertainment and what makes every visit more interesting.
From jug-style to jazz to rock band, you’ll see it all; just follow the sound. Performers are there most days from late morning until 9 p.m. If you’re looking for them specifically, try the Flat Iron statue on Battery Park, by the Grove Arcade, near Pack Square, or along Haywood Street. It’s always a great experience for the music-minded tourist. If you stop to listen, then leave a tip, per busking etiquette, and know that performers move locations at least every two hours in order to give others the opportunity to entertain.
4. Join the Friday night tradition
If you hear drumming, follow it to the downtown Drum Circle. It’s a long-standing Friday night tradition (April through October) that joins hundreds of people together to play the drums, dance, or just relax and listen to the show. Held in the outdoor amphitheater in Prichard Park, is a free event that promotes harmony in music — and with others. Everyone is welcome, so if you’re interested in playing, bring your own drum and arrive between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. The show will last until about 10 p.m.
5. Get ready for some history
If you’re a serious history buff, you might want to ride through Asheville on one of the hop-on-hop-off trolley tours. Guided by local storytellers, you’ll enjoy the fully narrated ride that highlights the history, churches, buildings, restaurants, and trendy hotspots of this great city.
If you prefer to take in the magic at your own pace, opt for the 2-hour, self-guided walking tour along the Urban Trail. There’s also Asheville by Foot, which features the history surrounding Asheville’s incredible Art Deco buildings, like the Basilica of St. Lawrence.
6. Explore the great outdoors
The beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains is breathtaking, and one of the simple and spectacular features of visiting Asheville. If you love the great outdoors, exploring the national forests and state parks, like Pisgah, Nantahala, Chimney Rock, and DuPont should be at the top of your list.
Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469-mile scenic drive is the road to your outdoor travels. You can hike the many well-worn trails, Bike the Blue Ridge, and, since hundreds of birds call Asheville home, stop to bird-see along the way. You might also happen upon some native wildlife in the forests—anything from foraging bears to herds of elk, so be cautious. Don’t forget your hiking shoes and binoculars because they’re a must to tackle this adventure.
Waterfall hunting is another way to enjoy the forests’ beauty. There are hundreds scattered about the region. You can also fly-fish for smallmouth bass or trout in the mountain streams, zip line across hundreds of feet of towering trees, or cruise down a 60-foot natural water slide. For a slightly less adrenaline rush, you might try floating, kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddle boarding.
7. Indulge in Foodtopia
Asheville’s culinary scene is full of amazing, artistically inspired restaurants and world-renowned chefs. From Mediterranean to vegetarian, you’ll find everything from four-star cuisine to good ol’ down home southern cooking.
Everyone has their favorites, but some of ours are Bouchon, the ultimate in French comfort food and Tupelo Honey for their divine sweet potato pancakes. Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack has the best Tennessee-style hot chicken and soul food outside of Tennessee, The Blackbird‘s world-class desserts are heavenly, and STORM Ruhm Bar and Bistro’s classic food is expertly and elegantly prepared with a new-world twist.
This culinary mecca attracts innovative chefs and food artisans from around the world, many of whom insist on sourcing their ingredients from local farmers. Surely your most difficult decision of the day will be where to dine.
If you’re an adventurous eater, you could sign up for a food tour and enjoy a taste of everything. What better way to find your favorite?
8. Check out the River Arts District
Once industrial warehouses, the now 200+ active artist studios make up the colorful neighborhood of the River Arts District (RAD). Along the one-mile stretch of the French Broad River and in 25 buildings, you can visit artists at work, stroll through galleries, purchase a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, take an impromptu class, or sign up for a week-long workshop. Whether you’re an artist, and art collector, or just an art lover, a day in the River Arts District can be a full day of treasure-hunting fun!
Many of the artists are open during the week, although more are open on Fridays and Saturdays. You’ll find additional events, like demos, openings, live music, and classes, on each Second Saturday of the month.
9. Feel the beat
When you think of Music City, Nashville is likely the first city that comes to mind, but Asheville’s live music scene is not far behind. Neighborhood bars, intimate music halls, and street corners host some of the most talented, innovative musicians and their sound is gaining more national attention. They keep the city alive with a beat that is undeniably unique to Asheville.
If it’s the music that speaks to you, check out one of Asheville’s music festivals, like Downtown After 5, LEAF Festival, Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, and Brewgrass. Shindig on the Green is also always a good time and a popular choice, too.
Asheville’s The Orange Peel is one of its many iconic music venues and hailed as one of the best by Rolling Stone Magazine. Grey Eagle, and ISIS Music Hallaren’t too shabby, either, and are great places to see and hear live music.
If you’re in a touring mood, head over to the Moog Music Factory. Catch a performance by the Asheville Symphony Orchestra or theAsheville Lyric Opera. During each season they perform a blend of timeless compositions and contemporary arrangements.
10. Dive into the Asheville beer scene
If you’re a craft-brew enthusiast, you’ve arrived in the Promised Land. The mountain-filtered water is what makes for some of the Southeasts’ most sought-after ales, stouts, and sour beers. Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other city so exploring the beer scene could take a while. Walking to the downtown breweries is your best choice, but for the more remote ones, there’s the Brews Cruise. Funny and knowledgeable guides explain the art and science of brewing, and the history of each brewery as they lead you on a behind-the-scenes tour. Included are generous samples of fresh, hand-crafted beers.
Asheville is an amazing city with so many things to do and places to explore. If your looking for even more ideas, be sure to visit the Asheville Visitor Center for more recommendations. Enjoy!
6 tips on how to travel cheap
Memorable vacations can come with a price tag you’d rather forget. But with proper planning, smart research and a flexible attitude, you can travel cheap and still have an experience worth remembering. Here’s how.
1. Cut transportation costs
Before planning your trip, have a rough budget in mind. A vacation calculator can help. If you know how much you’re willing to spend on airfare, this map can give you ideas for destinations that are within your budget.
Traveling cheaply isn’t just about cutting costs — it’s also about getting the most out of what you spend. You may discover, for example, that the $400 you thought could pay only for a flight within the U.S. can actually take you to Paris and back.
If your travel dates are flexible, you may find an even bigger selection of places you can afford to visit. If you’ve already picked a destination, changing the departure dates could lower your airfare.
Setting up alerts for when prices drop should also be a part of your strategy. Try apps such as Yapta or Hopper, which will send you price notifications on flights you’re tracking. (Booking fees may apply.) You can also follow Twitter handles like @theflightdeal or @FareDealAlert for limited-time deals. If you find a price you like, scrutinize the airline’s baggage policy before booking. Some offer cheaper ticket prices, but have strict carry-on requirements or tack on sizable fees for overweight and oversized luggage.
If your destination is within driving distance, consider hopping in a car instead of on a plane. Use a trip calculator, like this one, to make sure it’s worth the tradeoff. Add in the cost of renting a car, if necessary.
2. Compare lodging options
Finding a cheap hotel room can be tricky and takes a bit of effort. Start by shopping around on sites like Expedia, Priceline.com and Kayak to find hotels in the area, and then search for hotel promotion codes online. Contact hotels directly to negotiate a lower price. Also consider staying in a hotel outside the center of the city and looking for last-minute deals.
If you’re open to alternatives, skip the hotel and book a room through a site like Airbnb, Homeaway and OneFineStay. Not only could those be more affordable, but often you’ll stay with a local resident who can point you to cheap restaurants and activities that aren’t in travel guides. Hostels can also be a money-saver if you’re OK with bare-bones accommodations and potentially sharing a room. Keep in mind that they may have age restrictions.
3. Eat wisely (and not just healthy)
Many travelers underestimate the costs of meals, snacks and tips, says guidebook author James Kaiser. He advises bringing your own food or buying it at a store when you arrive at your destination to save money.
That doesn’t mean you have to skip restaurants altogether and haul groceries around. Dining out is one of the most enjoyable parts of travel. The trick is knowing when to indulge and when to save.
Start by looking at your itinerary. Break down your meals each day and identify the times you want to splurge. Then look for ways to save money on the other meals. For example, you can avoid inflated prices at the airport by bringing food and an empty water bottle that you can fill once you’re past security (passengers are prohibited from bringing more than 3.4 ounces of liquids, per container, in carry-on bags at U.S. airports). For breakfast, pack energy bars so you can save time and money in the mornings.
Your spending will likely fluctuate from day to day, so remember to adjust your budget to avoid overspending.
4. Research your currency options
If you’re traveling abroad, find out if the country you’re visiting is plastic-friendly. If so, a debit or credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees could be your best bet. Otherwise, research your currency exchange options to avoid the poor rates and numerous fees common at airport kiosks. Those will shrink your vacation fund before you’ve even had the chance to unpack.
Visiting your bank or credit union to exchange money before you leave may be the best option. Assuming it has that currency, you’ll likely get better exchange rates and lower fees. And, just in case you end up needing more cash once you’re abroad, ask if your financial institution has international branches or a partnership with a bank overseas. If so, you may be able to withdraw cash from those ATMs with low or no fees.
5. Get a prepaid phone or SIM card
A cell phone can be useful for navigating new cities, as well as staying connected to travel companions and life back home. But for international travelers, it may also come with data roaming fees. You’d save the most money by ditching the phone during your trip, but that may not be realistic. Your best option will likely be buying a prepaid phone once you arrive or having your carrier unlock your phone, if possible, so you can use a foreign SIM card when you land.
6. Keep souvenir spending in check
Like everything else, set a budget for souvenirs. Also consider doing some research on the best souvenirs and shops, so you’ll have a sense of what you might buy and the prices to expect.
If you find yourself on the verge of an impulse purchase, try an abbreviated version of the 72-hour shopping rule, in which you put off buying something for three days to see if you still want it. That amount of time is probably impractical when you’re on vacation, but if your schedule allows you to return to the store the next day or even later that same day, you may find that you can easily live without that $150 wool sweater from Iceland. You were only going to wear it once, anyway.