Asheville Must-Do Bucket List for 2023
Start the new year off right by planning an unforgettable mountain experience to Asheville, NC. 2023 is set to be a standout year in Asheville with the openings of several highly-anticipated restaurants, new design-centric boutique hotels and culturally-rich experiences that will leave you both re-energized and yearning for more.
Check out the top 20 reasons why Asheville, North Carolina should be your bucket list destination for 2023.
New Restaurants in Asheville
In 2023, Asheville chefs dive deeper into regional and international food traditions. Pictured: Chef Santiago Vargas of Mikasa Criolla, located in the historic S&W Market food hall in downtown. Credit: Mikasa Criolla.
1. Peruvian fusion restaurant eatery Mikasa Criolla is one of the latest establishments to enter Asheville’s culinary scene. The fast-casual concept opened on Dec. 1 inside The S&W Market, a food hall in the heart of downtown. Chef Santiago Vargas of Lima, Peru brings his passion for highlighting global influences on traditional Peruvian dishes. Menu items include hearty mains, sandwiches, empanadas, as well as Peru’s national cocktail, the pisco sour.
2. Asheville’s first Filipinx and crowd-funded restaurant, Neng Jr.’s is one of Asheville's most talked about dining experiences. Run by non-binary Chef Silver Iocovozzi (named Esquire’s Rising Star of the Year), the intimate 17-seat dining room opened in 2022 and has since garnered national acclaim for its uncompromising approach to food and expression. Iocovozzi keeps diners on their toes with remarkable dishes that blend traditional Filipinx fare and Southern ingredients, like deep-fried banana, lavishly crowned with seared foie gras.
3. James Beard-nominated chef Ashleigh Shanti’s forthcoming restaurant, Good Hot Fish, promises to be a continuation of her focus on the culinary traditions of Black Appalachia. This highly-anticipated spot is expected to open in Asheville in summer 2023. In the meantime, lookin for Shanti's pop-ups around town at venues like Cultura and Burial Beer Co.
4. Another decorated Southern chef, James Beard-nominated pitmaster Elliott Moss (formerly of Buxton Hall), plans to open a new restaurant in 2023. The West Asheville diner, Regina’s, will serve his renowned North Carolina barbecue and comfort classics.
5. Asheville’s legacy of communing artisanal bakers continues to expand, with several bakery openings and the return of the 16th Annual Asheville Bread Festival in April 2023. Follow your taste buds to Old World Levain (OWL) Bakery’s newly-opened secondary location in North Asheville. This eatery has garnered a loyal following for its naturally leavened loaves and sumptuous European-inspired pastries crafted by James Beard Award-nominated pastry chef Susannah Gebhart. Mother bread + wine, which unveiled its doors in 2022, is already preparing to open its second location in Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood in 2023. This new spot will focus on a “community café concept” that will offer a sandwich menu and small plates, along with artisanal breads and natural wine bottles to-go. Also joining the Asheville bread craze is Crust Never Sleeps, which opened in North Asheville in late 2022 and specializes in crunchy artisan loaves.
Trends on Tap: New Drinking Spots & Asheville Breweries
With nearly 60 breweries in the area, Asheville's beer scene is ever-evolving with a focus on culture, aesthetic and the fever for natural fermentation. Photo credit: @abarefootpreacher.
6. Don't miss the recently-opened 7 Clans Brewing taproom, a majority woman- and indigenous-owned brewery based in Western North Carolina. Owner Morgan Owle-Crisp is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the brewery's name, “Seven Clans,” refers to the clanship for her tribe, which is a matrilineal system based on kinship with the mother. Check out their Bended Tree Chestnut Brown – a delightfully malty brown ale with hints of chestnut aromas that honors Cherokee’s use of chestnut trees for navigation.
7. Head north to the small town of Weaverville and get a taste of the recently opened brewery Leveller Brewing, which specializes in farmhouse-style ales and lagers. Guests can pair their pints with a well-appointed charcuterie board or pimento cheese spread, served with Mother bakery’s sourdough focaccia.
8. Beyond beer, natural wine options continue to bubble up in the mountains. Pink Moon Bar opened its clandestine spot in West Asheville in 2022 – though patrons need a one-time access code for entry (they post it to Instagram Stories daily). The bar pours international and domestic varietals ranging from funky and almost beer-like skin-contact whites to subtle and sippable reds.
9. Also pulling into the Asheville bar scene: The Hound – a dog-friendly bar set to open in Asheville's former Greyhound Bus Lines station in 2023. The drink menu will feature beer, wine, mead, sake and mocktails, complemented by bar bites and a rotating food truck schedule. Guests will be invited to showcase their pups in photos around the bar to round out the décor, which includes original Greyhound signage left behind.
New Asheville Hotels & Unique Lodging
New design-forward accommodations set to open in Asheville in 2023 emphasizes natural and historic locations. Photo credit: The Restoration Hotel.
10. In the heart of downtown, The Restoration Asheville is slated to open for booking on March 1. The luxurious, all-suite hotel is inspired by Asheville’s free-spirited culture and creative community, featuring local art and craft. The hotel offers several dining and beverage options, including The Exchange, an Appalachian, farm-to-table restaurant, and The Observatory, a rooftop bar serving up botanical cocktails and unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’ve even heard there’s a bowling alley in the basement!
11. Architecture-enthusiasts will swoon over Mirror Hotel, expected to open in spring 2023. The 55-acre site features 18 luxury "invisible cabins" that blend into their natural environment. These incredible structures don't just reflect nature, they work in harmony with it. Each stand-alone cabin is covered in mirrored architectural panels that are coated with a film that reduces UV glare and lets wildlife know there is a solid surface to avoid.
12. For those seeking accommodations that feel closer to nature, AutoCamp plans to open a luxury airstream campground in summer 2023 along the French Broad River. The design-forward, year-round accommodations make spending time outdoors fun and accessible for everyone. AutoCamp’s Asheville site will feature 16 luxury Airstream campers, six suites, along with a bar and lounge.
13. Three new adaptive reuse boutique hotels set to open next year hearken back to Asheville’s ritzy Jazz Age. The Flat Iron Hotel, slated to open in 2023, is housed in Asheville’s historic Flatiron Building. The 71-room, Prohibition-themed hotel will feature a rooftop bar, and fitting with the era, a hidden speakeasy. Zelda Dearest, an ode to Asheville’s ties to Zelda Fitzgerald, is a boutique hotel located in Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood and preserve three of Asheville’s historic Victorian-style homes. Plans for Zelda Dearest include outdoor spaces such as a wedding and event patio, a game lawn, gardens, and fire pits. The interior will be inspired by the Fitzgerald’s lives and literary works. The Radical is also expected to breathe new life into a historic building in the River Arts District, an area that once connected the city’s manufacturing to the river and rail. The 70-room luxury hotel, originally a 1920s-era warehouse, focuses on sustainable design by embracing the character of the brick building, including the existing graffiti inside.
Celebrate "The Year of the Trail" with New Trails + Outdoor Experiences
2023 marks a significant milestone with the largest celebration of outdoor recreation in North Carolina's history through its "Year of the Trail" campaign.
14. From hiking and biking to paddling and horseback riding, there are hundreds of trails to explore near Asheville. With 2023 officially designated the Year of the Trail in North Carolina, visitors can pick their path to recharge in nature, including new and lesser-known trails, and waterfall hikes. Noted for its scenic beauty, the famed Blue Ridge Parkway also offers ADA accessible trails and attractions for all mobility levels.
15. Hikers will be able to see the multi-tiered cascades of Catawba Falls, which is slated to re-open in spring 2023 with new boardwalks, staircases and overlooks. In addition, nonprofit land conservation group Conserving Carolina recently added The Strawberry Gap Trail, which winds three miles through boulder strewn forests and connects to more than 16 miles of existing outdoor networks. At the top, hikers can take in sweeping views of Blue Ridge Pastures, the Hickory Nut Gorge, Bearwallow Mountain, Little Pisgah Mountain, and in the distance, some of the highest mountains in the eastern United States.
16. For those looking for an outdoor experience closer to town, Asheville Wellness Tours now offers its widely-popular guided forest bathing experience at the North Carolina Arboretum, just 15 minutes outside of downtown. Also check out the their glowing seasonal firefly and sunset walks.
New Arts & Cultural Experiences in Asheville
Cultural experiences in Asheville offer chance for contemplation, connection and history. Photo credit: Sarah Hoski/Indigenous Walls Project.
17. In 2022, Jared Wheatley launched the Indigenous Walls Project (IWP), a city-wide mural painting initiative that is focused on making Indigenous tribes more visible in Asheville – situated on the ancestral land of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Tribal representatives from across the U.S. descended on Asheville during the fall to paint murals depicting their stories, language and symbology. The effort has since grown into a weekly market in the South Slope neighborhood, where tribal members from the Qualla Boundary sell their crafts, jewelry, and baked goods. In addition, local Asheville ice creamery The Hop is set to expand its IWP collaboration flavors in 2023 with the addition of four new flavors.
18. The Center for Craft is also amplifying indigenous voices with its new and highly visual public art installation that emulates a Cherokee basket weaving by artist ᎺᎵ ᏔᎻᏏᏂ Mary Thompson. Exhibitions at the Center aim to highlight how craft traditions have been central to human history – and have a critical place in the future. From woven computer displays and robot-felted sculptures, to thermal-printed textile structures and bone china formulations, the works currently on view showcase the immense potential of collaboration between craft artists and practitioners in STEM fields.
19. Honoring the long and meaningful contributions of Asheville’s Black community, the Asheville Black Heritage Trail is slated to launch in late summer 2023 in a walkable trail in and around downtown. 2023 will also celebrate significant anniversaries for two of Black Asheville's historical sites. The YMI Cultural Center, one of the United State's oldest Black cultural institutions, will celebrate its 130th anniversary in February. Later in the year, YMI will re-open its doors following a multi-million dollar building renovation, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Historic Stephens-Lee High School, Western North Carolina's only Black High School during segregation, will commemorate its 100-year anniversary in March. Visitors can visit and learn more about the significance of school to Asheville’s Black history and other points of interest with a Hood Tour by Hood Huggers International.
20. Visitors and locals can also enjoy immersive events and festivals every season, including the popular culinary festival, Chow Chow, which will return to its original, one-week format on Sept. 6-10. The fourth Asheville Amadeus Festival is a 10-day celebration of Americana music in May, featuring luminaries like Bela Fleck and Kishi Bashi. Innovative thinkers and inspiring speakers descend on UNC Asheville in June for the second-annual Asheville Ideas Fest.