Asheville, NC

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Overview

Asheville is our family’s “go to” for a weekend trip. It’s an architecturally appealing, fun, artsy town with great restaurants and what seems like a craft brewery on every block. There is almost always a festival or some kind of happening going on.  It’s also surrounded by the Blue Ridge mountains with great hiking trails and has a river perfect for floating. We like to stay downtown and walk to interesting shops, breweries, and restaurants. 

This itinerary includes afternoons exploring downtown Asheville and 1/2 day options for short hikes to amazing vistas in the Blue Ridge, floating the French Broad, or antiquing at the infamous Tobacco Barn.

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Where to Sleep

Stay as close to downtown as you can afford. If available, the College Street condos are perfect (51 College St.)  One and two bedroom condos in the heart of downtown. These condos are clean, quiet, and conveniently located across the street from the Rankin St. parking garage. The bedroom is located in the back of the condo so street noise isn’t a problem.  Most one bedrooms have a pull-out couch in the living room for the kids to sleep on. Keep in mind that you will pay $10 a day for the garage parking.

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VRBO Listings in Downtown Asheville

51 College Street Lofts

Downtown Asheville Loft--Great Location! VRBO 230487. 1 bedroom with Queen and sleeper sofa. We have stayed here many times, and it’s always a first choice. 51 College St.

Asheville Loft in the Heart of Historic Downtown-Views VRBO 243775ha. 1 bedroom with Queen and sleeper sofa. Same building as #1. Another great rental. 51 College St.
 
Very Special Downtown Asheville Loft. VRBO 218006. (sleeps 2-listed here for your next Mommy/Daddy weekend-have stayed here multiple times when it slept 4-before they got rid of the sleeper sofa!) 51 College St.

S&W Lofts Downtown
306 condo-asheville 1BR/1BA Loft * 1,000 sq.ft sleeps 4. VRBO 780203. 1 bedroom with king and pullout sofa.

Centrally located downtown duplex, 2 King BDRM/2.5 Bath, elevator bldg, outdoor deck .VRBO 506857. Need more room? 2 bedroom with king beds and each and a pullout sofa.

Downtown Hotels

Sometimes downtown hotel prices get crazy expensive, and it’s actually cheaper to rent a condo. We have stayed at all of these hotels throughout the years, and they are all good. Aloft Hotel is my first choice if the price is right and Renaissance Hotel is usually my “go to” for price point. Fair warning: Asheville seems to have acquired New York City hotel rates!

Expensive:
Aloft Hotel has a great rooftop pool but prices can be high and it can attract a party crowd. If the price is right, it can be worth it for the pool and rooftop seating areas.

Hotel Indigo is super nice but a bit further walk from the places we visit. You can sometimes snag a good deal here.

Haywood Park Hotel has a super central location and the rooms are large. We stayed here when we had the porta-crib and baby gear.

Moderate:
Renaissance Asheville is a good location and usually a good deal. This is probably the best price-point hotel downtown. We have stayed here several times and most of the rooms have been nicely remodeled.

Sheraton Four Points Asheville is a bit further away from central downtown but is walkable to everything.  This hotel is usually the least expensive of the bunch.

Camping

Lake Powhatan Campground in Pisgah National Forest is located 30 minutes from downtown Asheville. Campfire Lodgings, a privately run campground, is located just 10 minutes north of Asheville.
 

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Day 1 Itinerary

  • Lunch at White Duck Taco & the Wedge
  • Stroll downtown and visit Mast General Store
  • Afternoon snack at Wicked Weed
  • Relax at the condo or explore downtown more
  • Dinner at Asheville Brewing Company

Day 1-Lunch at White Duck Taco on Roberts Street

We always stop at White Duck Taco on the way into town. You can walk here from downtown if you’re up to an urban stroll.  It’s one mile to White Duck and from there it’s a half mile to the Wedge. White Duck Taco offers creative tacos and cheese quesadillas if your kids are picky eaters. I always get the Bangkok Shrimp taco and the Thai Peanut Chicken taco, but they are all good. Don’t let the line out the door deter you.  It moves fast. If you can, arrive before or after the noon lunch rush.  Order at the counter and they will deliver to your table inside or your picnic table outside. Note: This location is closed on Sundays.

 The Wedge Brewery

The Wedge Brewery

Insider Tip: Consider takeout at White Duck and go to the Wedge Brewery down the street in the River Arts District. The kids can play corn hole while you enjoy an Iron Rail IPA with your yummy taco. The Wedge is an outdoor venue, so don’t go if it’s raining and check to see when they open.

 Walking times: White Duck to the Wedge: 15 minutes; White Duck to New Belgium: 10 minutes Map courtesy of openstreetmap.org

Walking times: White Duck to the Wedge: 15 minutes; White Duck to New Belgium: 10 minutes
Map courtesy of openstreetmap.org

Day 1 Afternoon-Stroll downtown along Biltmore Ave. 

There is so much to see.  Just walk and explore any place of interest--a plethora of antique stores, bookstores, and art galleries.  It’s a visually appealing town and showcases lots of local businesses.  The street performers are fun to watch too. We always stop at Mast General Store to browse and let the kids pick out candy from their endless candy barrels. (I have to admit it’s a good bargaining tool for the weekend.) 

We also like a peaceful stroll down Church Street to view the beautiful churches and large trees. If you’d rather have a guided stroll, check out the easy 1.7 mile Asheville Urban Trail that leads you to 30 sculptures scattered throughout downtown with historical info. Allow about 2 hours for its entirety.

Day 1 Afternoon-Snack at Wicked Weed

 Outside Patio at Wicked Weed

Outside Patio at Wicked Weed

My husband and I love this family friendly brewery. The food is really good and the beer is super.  Note that it can be very crowded.  You can eat outside on the patio, inside if it’s hot, or downstairs in the bier garden.  A great lunch or dinner option too. Tip: You can buy a six-pack of their beer to bring home. We are fans of IPA and Pale Ale beers but our favorite is their “Freak IPA.”
 

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Day 1 Afternoon-More downtown exploration or relax at the condo

Tip: If you really like beer, you have to check out the selection of cans and bottles at Bruisin’ Ales.  They have it all. Located at 66 Broadway Street, it’s downtown within walking distance of your lodging.

Day 1 Dinner-Asheville Brewing Company

Pizza is an easy sell for our family, so we often go to Asheville Brewing Company for dinner. It’s an easy walk and just a few blocks from downtown.  You can dine under their huge covered patio and play corn hole.  They have 3 locations in town, but they brew their beer here at their downtown 77 Coxe Ave. location. The pizza is fantastic, and we always enjoy a pint of their Shiva IPA. Other downtown pizza options include Barley’s Pizzeria and Mellow Mushroom. Takeout pizza and an evening at the condo after a long day has been the perfect choice for our family on many occasions.

Day 2 Itinerary

  • Breakfast
  • Option 1: Hike to Craggy Gardens (allow 2.5 hours with the drive or longer or a full 1/2 day if you add Mount Mitchell)
  • Option 2: Float the French Broad (2-3 hours)Option 3: Antiquing at the Tobacco Barn
  • Option 3: Antiques at the Antique Tobacco Barn
  • Lunch
  • Malaprop’s Bookstore
  • Dinner at Wicked Weed or Bhramiri

Day 2 Breakfast

There are so many great options for a terrific breakfast and all within walking distance when staying downtown. If you want a quick breakfast with a good cup of coffee, consider City Bakery located at 60 Biltmore Ave. It’s located across the street from the Aloft Hotel. My husband will often walk there to bring the goodies back to the condo for the family to enjoy.  Love it!

Early Girl Eatery is a local favorite, located at 8 Wall St. Tip: Arrive early before the line out the door. On weekends, they open at 9am. They serve breakfast all day and is also a great stop for lunch or dinner.

Sagetree Cafe located at 5 Broadway has great coffee and breakfast.  It has saved us many times with early rising kids with its unique distinction of opening at 7am.  It’s really close to the condos at 51 College St. We often bring the food back to the condo to enjoy.

Day 2 Option 1: Hike to Craggy Gardens (less than 1 mile walk)

This easy hike located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 364 is incredibly scenic for a short hike.  It is one of the most accessible mountain balds to hike.  It’s less than a mile to the bald and the views are amazing. The first part of the hike is a nature trail.  You can follow the trail to the picnic area or just explore the bald and then retrace your steps to the parking lot.

The trailhead is located 20 miles (about 35 minutes) from downtown Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway traveling north to milepost 364.  Enjoy the short drive on the parkway and park at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. Access the trailhead at the southern end of the parking lot.  Restrooms are available at the Visitor Center.
 

 Craggy Pinnacle

Craggy Pinnacle

Tip: The Craggy Pinnacle Trail is another popular and easy hike less than 5 minutes north of Craggy Gardens. Leave the parking lot, drive through the tunnel, and take your first left into the parking area. The Pinnacle Trail offers another 360 degree view at the summit after only 20 minutes of walking.

If you have the time, continue north on the Blue Ridge Parkway an additional 30 minutes to Mount Mitchell State Park, the highest point east of the Mississippi.  Take the 3/4 mile nature trail to the Observation Platform. Smell the fir trees and enjoy this gorgeous trail.

 Driving times: Asheville to Craggy Gardens Visitor Center: 35 min; Craggy Gardens to Craggy Pinnacle: 5 min; Craggy Pinnacle to Mount Mitchell State Park: 30 minutes   

Driving times: Asheville to Craggy Gardens Visitor Center: 35 min; Craggy Gardens to Craggy Pinnacle: 5 min; Craggy Pinnacle to Mount Mitchell State Park: 30 minutes

 

Day 2 Option 2: Float the French Broad

Our family really enjoyed our float trip down the gentle, slow moving French Broad River.  We rented two tandem kayaks, packed snacks, and enjoyed our lazy day on the river.  You can see part of the Biltmore Estate and the house from the river.  It’s a 7 mile river trip through the shoreline of the Biltmore Estate and takes 2-3 hours. Tip: Mast General Store candies and a water shooting toy for the kiddos come in handy for this activity.

The Asheville Outdoor Center, located a 10 minute drive from downtown, provides everything you need to take this self-guided trip.  Kids must be 4 years old and weigh at least 35 pounds.  After floating the French Broad, you could have lunch at the New Belgium Brewery on the river.  Great patio and food trucks all day. Or enjoy the BBQ at 12 Bones Smokehouse (also on the river).  Note that they are only open for lunch Monday through Friday.

Day 2 Option 3: Antiques at the Antique Tobacco Barn

The Antique Tobacco Barn has consistently been voted the best antique store in Western North Carolina.  I could spend hours here.  It features 77,000 square feet of furniture and collectibles.  Hop in the car and drive just 2.5 miles from downtown.  It is a really interesting place with good prices.  Rezo’s (Mediterranean) or Corner Kitchen (southern) in Biltmore Village are good options for lunch if you spend the morning here.

Day 2 Lunch

Return downtown for lunch at Doc Chey’s Noodle House, Farm Burger, Buxton Hall BBQ, Early Girl Eatery, or restaurant of choice.

Day 2 Afternoon-Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe

Malaprop’s Bookstore is my daughter Ava’s favorite stop in Asheville. It’s the kind of cozy bookstore that makes you want to linger. The staff is top notch. Tell them what you like and ask them for recommendations and they will be spot on. Tip: the Chocolate Fetish is across the street if you need your chocolate fix for the day. 55 Haywood St.

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Day 2 Dinner- Dinner at Wicked Weed or Bhramari

 Giant Jenga!

Giant Jenga!

When Wicked Weed (91 Biltmore Ave) is too crowded, go to Bhramari Brew House which is located almost directly behind Wicked Weed at 101 South Lexington.  At Bhramari, don’t miss their burger.  It’s the best item on the menu.  They also offer a kid’s menu.  Again, the burger is the way to go here. We had a great time here eating on the nice deck and playing giant Jenga.
 

Day 3 Itinerary

Breakfast at Biscuit Head and Hit the Road!

Pack up and load the car. On the way out of town, stop by Biscuit Head in West Asheville. 733 Haywood Rd. The biscuits are yummy and they offer very creative options.  My family orders a plain biscuit and visits their amazing jam bar to customize each bite. Lots of fun.

Other Asheville Highlights

Free Entertainment

Asheville is famous for its Friday night Drum Circle.  It starts around 5 or 6pm in Pritchard Square Park during warm months. You have to see it to believe it. Pack Square Park hosts “Shindig on the Green”, a free evening of outdoor music on Saturday nights.  Take a picnic blanket and enjoy. Kids love cooling off in the fountains at Pack Square Park. Check out Asheville's event calendar before your trip.

Apple Picking

If you are visiting in September or October, take the family apple picking at a local orchard.  There are many to choose from, but here are a few that we have liked. All are within a 40 minute drive from downtown Asheville and are well worth it.
http://www.steppapples.com
http://www.justusorchard.com
http://www.skytoporchard.com

Playground

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One of our favorite urban hikes is strolling down Church Street with its beautiful trees to Aston Park located at 336 Hilliard. The kids love this playground.  We often stop here and then continue to the River Arts District with a short stop at the Wedge Brewery.

Best Rainy Day Activities

Pizza, beer, and movie at Asheville Brewing Company on 675 Merrimon Ave (not the Coxe Ave location).  They usually have an afternoon child-friendly film. Can’t walk here from downtown but it is super close. Drive, bus, or uber it. It’s a 7 minute drive without traffic.

The Asheville Pinball Museum is located downtown near the Grove Arcade. For $15 adult and $13 children’s admission, you have unlimited play on dozens of machines.

 

Biltmore Estate

Some people immediately think “Biltmore Estate” when you mention Asheville.  Definitely a huge attraction here. The Biltmore House and Gardens is another option for the family. Their family itinerary looks pretty fun. You could spend a full day here exploring the house, the trails, the gardens, the farm animals.....You get the idea.  It’s a 10 minute drive from downtown. It’s not cheap though, and keep in mind there is no air conditioning in the summer. $75 adult peak season and 1/2 that for children. Tip: They offer a discount if you book 7 days ahead.

Best Restaurants for a Date Night When You Return Sans Kiddos

Curate-This open-kitchen Spanish tapas bar is amazing. Our favorite plates include jamón ibérico fermín, lamb skewers and piquillo peppers stuffed w/ spanish goat cheese served together, sauteed shrimp and garlic, and the fried eggplant with honey to top it all off.  It is all crazy good and you can’t go wrong.  Make reservations ahead of time. You can do this online on their website. After dinner, walk across the street to watch a film at the Fine Arts Theater. Limones Restaurant is a second great option.

Best Can't Miss Downtown Store

Tops Shoe Store
Tops is one of the largest shoe stores I’ve ever visited and it’s right across the street from 51 College St. condos.

Best Sugar Fix

Grocery Store


Harris Teeter located at 136 Merrimon Ave and Greenlife Grocery at 70 Merrimon Avenue are within a 5 minute drive from downtown.

Additional Information

Romantic Asheville's website is a fantastic resource for all things Asheville.

Good Read for Children:

Seraphina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty: A New York Times best-selling fantasy novel set in the Biltmore House and Gardens.  My 9 year-old daughter loved it!

The End. Happy Trails!

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