The awesomeness of Asheville, North Carolina surprised me. I wasn’t expecting such a haven for artists, foodies, and hippies (yes, tie dye and everything) located in the South. Boy, was I wrong! If you love art, delicious food, creative cafes, and more, you should definitely add Asheville to your next US trip, as it is a simple 2-hour drive from Charlotte, NC or a (non-direct) flight from both the West Coast or Tri State Area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut).
1. The delectable food in Asheville
Get ready to undo the top button of your pants; on this trip you’ll be eating well! Because of the culinary arts programs at area colleges and institutions, downtown Asheville boasts numerous great restaurants. Choose from Chai Pani, an Indian street food spot, Tupelo Honey Cafe, for Southern cooking with a twist, or White Duck Taco Shop, for delectable tacos that come in really unique flavors, such as Korean beef bulgogi, a tasty marinated beef dish. A delicious spot to enjoy a hearty breakfast or brunch is Early Girl Eatery, which has a farm to table philosophy. Keep in mind that the Early Girl Eatery is very popular, so arrive early or expect a wait.
2. An artist’s haven
One of the biggest things that surprised me about Asheville was the number of great art galleries around the city. If you are looking for original pieces or prints to take home as souvenirs, Asheville really is the perfect place to look. I really loved the creative prints and originals at ZaPow Gallery, but also check out Woolworth Walk, Mountain Made Art Gallery, and River Arts District. If you don’t want to miss any of the over 25 galleries located in downtown Asheville, be sure to organize your visit to this artsy city during one of their First Friday Art Walks that take place the first Friday of every month from April to December, or obtain a map and do the walk yourself (find more information at the link below). If you were to stop in each gallery to browse and stop to eat at one of the many delicious restaurants along the way, this walk could take you the full day!
3. Gorgeous architecture
Another fun thing to do in Asheville during your visit is to walk through the downtown and appreciate the architecture. The Basilica of Saint Lawrence on Haywood St was built in 1905 by Rafael Guastavino and RS Smith. Designed in the Spanish Renaissance style, the brick exterior is incredibly beautiful. Another great spot to see is the Grove Arcade on Page Ave, which is a historic building built in 1929. The Grove Arcade is a small shopping mall full of restaurants and small, higher priced shops.
4. Creative coffee spots
While visiting the Grove Arcade, be sure to pop into the Battery Park Book Exchange. This is the coolest bookshop / cafe / bar I’ve ever seen. Battery Park Book Exchange is a dog-friendly mecca of used books that serves cocktails and coffee. It is a surprisingly awesome spot to rest your feet after checking out the great art galleries in the area. Another great spot for coffee is Double D’s Cafe, located inside of an old, bright red, double decker bus. Double D’s Cafe really shouldn’t be missed, not only for its funky ‘building’ but also for its cool seasonal latte flavors. At the time of my visit, I had a coconut latte, which was refreshing as it gave a sweet, tropical flavor to the strong coffee!
5. Street art
Keeping in mind the huge number of art galleries in downtown Asheville, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is also a great street art scene in the city. Be sure to check out the following streets for the highest concentration of street art: Walnut St., College St., N. Market St., Lexington Ave., and Battery Park Ave. It would honestly be really hard to miss the street art in Asheville, as there are incredible pieces everywhere you look. Also, keep an eye out for street performers, who frequently come out when the weather is nice.
More about Asheville
In Asheville, I’d also suggest you check out the cool craft beer scene, the famous Malaprop’s Bookstore, and the Biltmore Estate. Expect to see beautiful tiles on some buildings, historic statues, commemorative plaques, and folks dressed in some kooky outfits (for street performances). Asheville is such a surprising city, and I’m sure you’ll love it!
If you are arriving to Asheville by plane, keep in mind that from the Asheville Airport is about a 30 minute drive into the Asheville city center. There are a few cabs at the Asheville Airport and they are very expensive. If you decide not to rent a car, exploring the downtown Asheville area is easy on foot, but keep in mind that there are things to do around Asheville that may be difficult to reach without a car (for example, the Biltmore Estate). A less expensive option to get from the Airport to the Asheville city center is taking bus S3 (the bus depot is on Asheland Ave.), but do note that buses do not run on Sunday and the bus schedule isn’t the greatest.
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