ASHEVILLE TRAVEL NEWS + WHAT A WARMER AUTUMN MEANS FOR FALL ROAD TRIPPERS
Travelers may be able to linger outside a little longer in fall 2020. Weather experts predict that fall color will develop later this year and temperatures will be warmer early in the season due to La Niña, an ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that impacts weather around the globe. Road trippers seeking open spaces, fresh air, scenic views and local culture with safety front-and-center can take advantage of this longer stretch of warm weather.
In the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina—known for one of the world’s longest fall color seasons—outdoor pursuits, new visitor experiences and local businesses with updated, space-conscious operations offer serenity, safety and variety, no matter when the fall color show begins.
Just a day’s drive (or less) for 50 percent of the nation’s population, Asheville meets the fall 2020 season with new openings, cultural news and ideas for fall road trips.
TRAVEL NEWS SECTION (fall color facts/resources at the bottom)
PARKLETS & STAY SAFE PLEDGE
In Asheville, the city has launched “Temporary Parklet” and “Shared Streets” programs to allow businesses, like restaurants and retail, to expand into on-street parking areas for outdoor seating and continued operations with extra fresh air and space. Downtown kiosks remind visitors that North Carolina requires masks indoors and outside, including sidewalks when social distance cannot be maintained. Information on the safety actions of local businesses and shared responsibility of visitors can be found via the “Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge.”
ON FOOT: WALKABLE DISTRICTS, NEW STREET ART & BIG NEWS ON THE RIVER
For those interested in local culture with a mountain backdrop, the Asheville area has a number of walkable neighborhoods and districts worth exploring. Bring your mask for sidewalk safety and explore these new neighborhood POIs on foot.
- Asheville’s colorful art and warehouse district along the French Broad River, the River Arts District, is coming into a new era as a walkable riverfront destination and entertainment district. This fall, a longer, improved greenway with art-infused pedestrian connectivity offers visitors a new way to experience this intensely creative area by foot or bike, or your floatation-device-of-choice via new river access points. Watch artists working in studios, wander to airy wine bars or sample famous barbecue in a street-art-filled courtyard.
- Downtown Asheville is known for open-air markets, tailgate farmers markets and independent shops and boutiques. Opening during a pandemic is no small feat, but the Noir Collective AVL has an important mission as a retail space for Black entrepreneurs, artists, makers and social activists. The shop is in the YMI Cultural Center, which has a rich history as one of the nation's oldest African American institutions dating back to 1893 and is located on The Block, the city's historic Black business district.
- While you’re there, walk a block north to Pack Square to see the vibrant, expansive Black Lives Matter street mural, a community and artist-driven effort, coordinated by the Asheville Area Arts Council and led by artists Joseph Pearson, Jenny Pickens and Marie T. Cochran of the Affrilachian Artist Project.
- Head for the charming and artsy main-street town of Black Mountain (just a short 20-minute drive from Asheville). A new, larger-then-life mural was recently created celebrating musical icon and Black Mountain native Roberta Flack, as part of the N.C. Musicians Mural Project. After basking in the glow of this inspiring outdoor mural, head into Black Mountain Brewing (where it resides) for a pint.
MUSIC: BLACK HISTORY, BLUEGRASS LEGACY & OUTDOOR LISTENING
- SoundSpace@Rabbit’s: A historic Black-owned tourist court and dining room from the segregation-era South is getting new life as a musician rehearsal space and soul food kitchen. Nationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, recording artist Claude Coleman Jr. (30-year drummer for the alternative rock band Ween) and lifelong musician and producer Brett Spivey are behind the effort to restore this former crown jewel of Black-owned Tourist Courts as a landmark, honoring the Black community of Southside in Asheville and the history of the motel, including famous guests like Richard Pryor and R&B legend Jackie Wilson.
- Vinyl Record Plant + Music Café: Opening this September, Citizen Vinyl will offer an immersive music experience with a record plant, independent record store and music café and bar. Powerhouses of Asheville’s maker scene have combined on this project and include Gar Ragland (music producer and president of NewSong Music), Susannah Gebhart (OWL Bakery) and Chef Graham House (formerly of Sovereign Remedies). Little-known bluegrass heritage: While making plans for the first-floor record plant and music café, it was recognized that the third floor of the building was once home to WWNC Radio and was the location where Bill Monroe (known as the “Father of Bluegrass”) and the Bluegrass Boys introduced the world to bluegrass music. Ragland’s studios are now located in the original WWNC Radio space, with original architectural details.
- Opening soon in the South Slope district, Rabbit Rabbit is a new outdoor event venue from Asheville Brewing Company and The Orange Peel, Asheville’s nationally known rock club that has hosted acts such as Bob Dylan, Ben Harper, The Flaming Lips and The Beastie Boys. The space will offer live music, movie screenings, local beer and food trucks.
- Get a flavor-filled taste of Asheville’s music scene with the Lawn Concert Series at Isis Music Hall & Kitchen 743, held evenings, Thursday through Sunday. The West Asheville venue—once a single-screen movie theater in the 30s through 50s—is focusing on their outdoor stage. These limited-space live performances feature special dinner menus and table seating on the patio.
HOTEL NEWS + TRAVEL PACKAGES: WELL-BEING, WATERFALLS, PICNICS & PUPS
Asheville’s eclectic style and reverence for nature are apparent across its diverse accommodation options—travelers have their pick of mountainside resorts with Blue Ridge views, historic bed-and-breakfast inns with modern amenities, family-friendly resorts with attached adventure and luxurious downtown hotels with award-winning dining. Here are some new experiences this fall.
- Biltmore’s Mountain Oasis Weekend package offers activities to boost well-being including yoga, bike rentals and a guided nature stroll on the 8,000-acre estate. Experience expansive mountain views and lush grounds with a luxurious stay at the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate or a private getaway with butler service at the Cottage on Biltmore Estate.
- The Mountains are Calling package from Kimpton Hotel Arras includes a hiking map of DuPont State Forest, filming location for the original “Hunger Games” film, that highlights local trails and the area’s beautiful waterfalls, as well as a packed picnic lunch for two from Bargello, the hotel’s independently owned and operated Mediterranean-inspired restaurant.
- New hotel—Element Asheville Downtown—opens this fall offering an easy walk to downtown, views of the cityscape with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background and a rooftop event space that will also host guest activities such as yoga and stargazing. The hotel, part of the Starwood brand, is an extended-stay model with in-room kitchens.
- Pinecrest Bed and Breakfast, in Asheville’s historic Montford district, is offering two new packages this fall. Partnering with neighborhood Italian restaurant Chiesa, the Al Fresco Dining offering allows inn guests to order dinner and have the meal delivered, complete with an outdoor dining experience and real silverware and china. Sunset Kayak & Picnic offers a naturalist-guided sunset kayak ride at nearby Beaver Lake and a light picnic dinner of charcuterie, fruit, bread, chocolates and a bottle of wine.
- The innkeepers at The Lion and the Rose Bed and Breakfast have a passion for beer, so much so that they brew their own. They are extending their popular summer package, Hoppy Days are Here Again, through the fall, offering guests a welcome beer upon arrival, discounts to three local tours and beermosas on Sunday mornings.
- Bring your favorite furry friend for a VIPuppy experience at Aloft Asheville Downtown. In addition to suggestions for dog-friendly businesses and activities, the Pets in Paradise package also includes a pet bed, food and water bowls, treats, toys, a dog tag and fun swag from local pet stores.
CRAFT BEER AL FRESCO
Open Meadows, a Dog Park Bar and Rooftop Sips: With 50 breweries and counting in the Asheville area, there are plenty of opportunities to imbibe outdoors.
- Highland Brewing Company has reopened its meadow with picnic tables, designated seating circles (bring your blanket!) and volleyball courts. The brewery sits on a 40-acre property that includes nature trails.
- Farmhouse brewery Turgua Brewing Company has moved to a new Fairview location with lots of open space and a creek nearby.
- Whistle Hop Brewing Company, also in nearby Fairview and known for its antique train car taproom, has expanded its family-friendly outdoor options with a slide, putt-putt course, and a “puttcee” course that combines bocce and putt-putt.
- Coming soon, Wagbar’s unique concept merges 25,000 square feet of off-leash dog park with a food and beverage bar. Wagbar also plans to host events throughout the year such as dog adoptions, themed holiday parties, dog-training sessions and live music.
- Archetype Brewing, known for its experimental and funky beers and its community events, has added lots of shaded outdoor seating to allow social distancing for its guests and plans to add a rooftop deck, a first in West Asheville, in the future.
INDIE FOOD SCENE FORGES AHEAD WITH OPENINGS & EVOLUTIONS
Despite the coronavirus' impact on the industry, some new Asheville restaurants and culinary offerings are still forging ahead.
- A food hall with history opens as Asheville’s iconic Art Deco masterpiece S&W Building, considered one of architect Douglas Ellington’s most refined projects, gets new life. Chef Meherwan Irani (Chai Pani Restaurant Group and James Beard-nominated chef) and Highland Brewing Company (Asheville’s oldest brewery run by Leah Wong Ashburn, a James Beard nominee for “Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional”) open S&W Market in late fall. Irani will select restaurants to fill the food stalls (Thai food truck Bun Intended is the first to sign on), and Highland will offer bars on both levels among the building’s Art Deco details.
- Chef Jacob Sessoms, Asheville’s original James Beard semifinalist (2010) and an innovator of Asheville’s modern take on Appalachian cuisine, has moved his restaurant Table to make way for El Gallo AVL, with tacos and sandwiches by day and market-driven Mexican plates at night by Chef Luis Martinez. Sessoms will soon open Table Right Here nearby with Right There Bar, a burger bar, opening in the same building.
- Asheville’s historic Grove Arcade building, with retail, dining and residential space, is welcoming three new food concepts. Asheville Proper is a fresh take on the classic steakhouse, centering around live-fire cooking and a locally sourced seasonal menu. James Beard-nominated Chef Meherwan Irani is also planning an Indian eatery in the building, and the new Bebette’s New Orleans Coffee House will serve a French Creole-style breakfast and lunch.
- Ashe Hole Doughnuts and Coffee started as a mobile doughnut truck and has now expanded to a brick-and-mortar shop. Founded by Chef Gene Ettison, who has worked in some of Asheville‘s top restaurants, the shop offers made-to-order doughnuts with flavors such as French toast, peanut butter cup and cookies n’ coffee.
- Jettie Rae’s Oyster House opened just north of downtown this summer, offering a raw bar with oysters, clams and daily ceviche; tin fish selections like mussels and sardines with house-made chips and chili sauce; and a variety of fresh fish plates.
- Newly opened in Asheville’s South Slope beer district, Wehrloom Taproom is a boutique honey shop with mead bar. The business originated in nearby Robbinsville where the Wehr family harvests honey and makes their own mead, soaps, lip balms and more.
SCENIC PICNIC TIPS, GOURMET TO-GO + COOLEST/NERDIEST NIGHT-IN UPGRADE IDEA
With picturesque overlooks, rolling mountain balds and trails leading to calming waterfalls, Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains are picnic country (check out this list of super scenic picnic spots). For those wanting a night in, Asheville businesses are also offering gourmet meal kits and quirky rental options. New to-go options perfect for travelers with safety and flexibility in mind:
- New venture Asheville Picnic Company creates locally made to-go meals for one to four people and also offers a fully catered picnic option for parties. “The Traditional” option includes a basket filled with artisan treats and a picnic blanket to keep for future outings.
- The Rhu, bakery and café by the award-winning Chef John Fleer, has expanded its menu of Appalachian-inspired picnic baskets. Basket options range from Brunch (yogurt, fruit and house-made baked goods like the Croixette, the bakery’s croissant/baguette mashup); to the Ploughman (local cheeses, meats, mustards and house-made pickles); and the Farmers Market (seasonal vegetable crudités, local lettuce, pimento cheese and seasonal jam).
- Ashley Capps, a 2019 James Beard semifinalist for “Outstanding Pastry Chef,” has started New Stock, a weekly, curated box-meal pickup and delivery service, perfect for an extended rental stay. For a quicker pickup, check out Bodega on Broadway, a pandemic-pivot for bar and restaurant owner Charlie Hodge of Sovereign Remedies. Shifting gears on his latest bar venture, Hodge and Sovereign chef Bert Sheffield are offering charcuterie, sandwiches and vegetarian and vegan burritos alongside bodega staples and sundries. The former stage will soon be a Disco Deli with a portion of sales going to a local nonprofit supporting independent businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Well Played Board Game Café is now offering its 600-game inventory to travelers wanting to spend the night in. Game rental is available online, and snacks and beverages (including beer and wine) are also available for pickup. The café is following strict safety guidelines and all games are sanitized using a commercial ozone generator (used by hospitals). May we suggest Asheville-opoly?
WELLNESS & OUTDOOR: YOGA HIKES FOR KIDS + PEAK SEASON FOR MUSHROOMS
- Leading yoga, meditation and hiking experiences in the mountains surrounding Asheville, Namaste in Nature is known for their (public and private) tours designed for folks wanting a deeper connection with the nature around them. Offerings include mountaintop yoga, waterfall hikes, a “Sunset and Full Moon Yoga Hike” and the NEW “Family / Beginner / Warmup Waterfall Yoga Hike,” perfect for newer yogis or hikers and for younger kids. This shorter, 75-minute experience includes an easy, less-than-a-mile round-trip hike and 30 minutes of yoga near a waterfall. Guests also receive a custom map with their booking confirmation that reveals where to find more waterfalls in the area, and a portion of the proceeds goes to support maintenance and conservation efforts and tree donations.
- Foraging traditions were long held by Native Americans and early settlers of the biodiverse Blue Ridge Mountains around Asheville. And, though wild edibles can be collected any time of year, fall is peak season for mushrooms. No Taste Like Home takes tour goers on expert-guided gathering expeditions with connections to Asheville’s best restaurants for dining on foraged finds. Recently added restaurant partner, Benne on Eagle, is particularly exciting as chef de cuisine Ashleigh Shanti remains in the running for the 2020 James Beard “Rising Star Chef of the Year,” leading the kitchen as it explores African American and West African influences on food in Southern Appalachia.
FALL COLOR INSIGHTS & FACTS
TRACK LEAF COLOR PROGRESSION (+ NEW ASHEVILLE HIKE FINDER ALEXA SKILL)
Visit ExploreAsheville.com/fall for weekly color reports utilizing up-to-date information from area parks, leaf experts and attractions, as well as an animated color-progression map of peaking fall leaves that pinpoints when and where the best color is occurring. New this year, the Asheville Hike Finder is now available on Alexa. Simply search “Asheville Hike Finder” in your Alexa app and enable for insider guidance as you select trails for views, waterfalls and skill level.
FALL FRESH-AIR ADVENTURES (LINKS)
Surrounded by 1 million acres of forest, extreme biodiversity and some of the oldest mountains on the planet, the Asheville area is full of autumnal adventures with nature front and center.
- See the “Sea of Clouds”—How to Catch Thermal Inversion Near Asheville
- Scenic Drives for Early, Mid, Late Fall
- Fresh Fall Adventures with an Expert Guide
FALL COLOR FACTS
The Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina are fortunate to have one of the longest and most colorful displays of autumn foliage in the world due to:
- Extreme Elevations: In a region that ranges from 1,500 feet in the valleys to 6,684 feet at Mount Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Mississippi River), the colors descend the mountains for a transition that can span multiple months.
- Unmatched Biodiversity: There are more than 100 species of deciduous (leaf-shedding) trees in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Micro-climates, geology and the long evolutionary history of some of the oldest mountains on earth contribute to the extended fall season, wealth of wildlife and colorful range of fall leaves.
- Long Season: Starting late September in the higher elevations and extending through early or mid-November in the lower regions of the Asheville area, peaking fall color is accessible throughout the fall season.
- Surrounded by the highest peaks in the eastern U.S., Asheville is steeped in natural history, fall adventure and cultural legacies—including America’s Largest Home, Biltmore, and America’s favorite scenic drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway (which intersects Asheville at several points).
- Tucked away in the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is located in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard (though about as far from salt water as you can get and still meet that definition) and is roughly a day’s drive or less for 50 percent of the nation.
- Travel and safety information: ExploreAsheville.com