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48 Hours | Southeast States
48 Hours in Asheville

TRAVELER’S TIPS ON WHAT TO VISIT ASHEVILLE—INCLUDING GREAT ASHEVILLE RESTAURANTS, BREWERIES, AND UNIQUE SHOPS

Tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies Asheville, North Carolina: a gastronomical mecca with award-winning bars, restaurants, and cafes. The foodie paradise is also so serene, so picturesque that even the late Bob Ross would have been in awe of its natural beauty.

 

But as a smaller town located two hours outside of the state’s most populated city of Charlotte, it often serves as a quick stop as part of a longer Southern road trip. And that’s entirely okay—a taste of Asheville is always better than no taste at all.

 

Here’s how to spend 48 hours in what’s been affectionately dubbed as the Land of the Sky for its seemingly endless views of the undisturbed terrain that surrounds it.
  

The Noodle Shop restaurant, Pack Square, Asheville. Photo by  J. Michael Jones/iStock.comThe Noodle Shop restaurant, Pack Square, Asheville. Photo by  J. Michael Jones/iStock.com
  

LET’S DISH

Though Asheville’s Southern locale gives visitors direct access to regional staples like barbecue, fried green tomatoes, and pimento cheese, there is no shortage of restaurants with cuisines for shortage of restaurants with cuisines from all over the world.
  

Start either one of your days with a more traditional breakfast like the spicy fried chicken and macaroni and cheese waffles from Tupelo Honey or a bacon and gravy-smothered biscuit from Biscuit Head, but pivot at lunch time to Chai Pani, which pays homage to Indian street food. The downtown hot spot offers a much buzzed-about butter chicken with a side of bhel puri: puffed rice with chickpea noodles, roasted chana daal, cilantro, and onions tossed with spicy and tangy tamarind, green, and garlic chutneys. Cúrate, located just around the corner, is also a safe mid-day bet with a robust assortment of Spanish tapas, including a craveworthy tomato bread topped with manchego cheese.

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But for the main event, look no further than Jargon and Neng Jr’s. The former boasts an always fresh and seasonal menu dictated by the locally foraged and farmed produce and proteins that the restaurant receives each day. Every course is a representation of the area’s diverse agricultural exports, though you’d be remiss to not try the smoked short rib pappardelle that has remained a constant since its inception.

 

The latter is a 17-seat Filipinx eatery with inspired dishes like a tantalizing Asian-style beef tartare and sweet Filipino spaghetti. Be sure to end with the signature cheddar cheese ice cream that may sound bizarre and almost a bit gimmicky, but wows tastebuds with its rich umami flavor and ultra-velvety texture.
  

New Belgium beer manufacture and tour entrance to factory located in Asheville, NC. Photo by Mphillips007/iStock.comNew Belgium beer manufacture and tour entrance to factory located in Asheville, NC. Photo by Mphillips007/iStock.com
  
BREWERIES, BARS, AND BRASSERIES, OH MY!

To complement a sprawling dining scene, Asheville relishes its abundance of beer, coffee, and craft cocktails to wash all the sustenance down.

 

Pollen, a garden and coffee shop hybrid, is a wonderful way to “wake up and smell the roses” quite literally with elaborate bouquets and floral-based pastries while Rowan Coffee is more of a no-frills haunt that places most of its emphasis on the bean and its intricate roasting process.

 

For a pre-supper libation, there is no shortage of breweries in town, from Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium for sours to tap-heavy New Belgium Brewing with direct views of the French Broad River.

 

But if liquor is more your speed, Capella on 9 presents one of the more innovative cocktail menus with concoctions like Pump Up the Jam, a mix of vodka, raspberry jam syrup, rose water, and sparkling rosé. The rooftop space is also lined with rows of fire installations to cozy up to during chillier evenings.
  

The Blue Ridge Mountains at Sunrise. Photo by jaredkay/iStock.comThe Blue Ridge Mountains at Sunrise. Photo by jaredkay/iStock.com
  

ONE WITH NATURE

The Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, showcases the mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands and goes directly through Asheville. A drive—preferably in the fall when foliage is jaw-droppingly vibrant and “on fire”—is a must-see to spot animals, go on hikes, or simply pull over to snap Instagram-worthy photos.

 

For a more curated experience, opt for a self-guided tour of the Biltmore Estate, which is the largest privately owned home in the United States. The 250-room chateau on 8,000 acres, once owned by American art collector George Vanderbilt, is a fantastic representation of the French Renaissance architecture, gardens, and greenhouses that influenced the area for quite some time.
  

Fountains and buildings at night, at Pack Square Park, in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by Jon Bilous/iStock.comFountains and buildings at night, at Pack Square Park, in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by Jon Bilous/iStock.com

DOWNTOWN TO GET DOWN

Once returning downtown, spend the rest of your day bopping from shop to shop. Asheville touts an exciting array of boutique stores from Abode for globally-sourced home goods to Noir Collective AVL for products from Black-owned businesses.

 

And of course, find a moment to appreciate the thriving art and music scenes that have attracted creatives from all over the world. Local contemporary works can be found in Mountain Made and Momentum, while live bands jam out at establishments like Salvage Station, The Orange Peel, and Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre for outdoor events.
  

Fountains and buildings at night, at Pack Square Park, in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by Jon Bilous/iStock.comGrand Bohemian Hotel in the Biltmore Village section of Asheville, NC. Photo by Brycia James/iStock.com

GIVE IT A REST

A day of eating, drinking, and exploring will inevitably lead to weary eyes and bellies in desperate need of rest and relaxation. Historical Grand Bohemian Hotel is more like an art gallery with statues and wood-paneled walls displaying paintings, photography, and taxidermy. But instead of feeling out of place, guests essentially become one with the inspiring pieces (many of which are for sale) and a part of Asheville’s culture and history. It’s an ideal home base for any whirlwind trip, though it will leave just as much of a lasting impression as the artistic, quirky, and food-forward town that surrounds it.