Asheville's Undiscovered Season: A Winter Vacation Itinerary

Omni Grove Park Inn Fireplace

Asheville shines in winter, when calmer never means boring. Sharpen your creative skills with a craft or cooking class, jam to live music, take in some top-notch theater, or hike through the pine-scented woodlands in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Shop for one-of-a-kind treasures, relax your body and soul at one of the unique area spas, and jump into Asheville’s outstanding restaurant scene, with chefs who treat every plate like a blank canvas. Cozy coffee spots and laid-back bars make the perfect escape from any lingering stress in your life, while nature fosters true wellness.

Winter makes a fantastic time to experience Asheville at your own pace, so why not make the most of our secret season with a last-minute getaway?

Day 1

9 a.m. -- Capture the historic grandeur of Asheville by touring the incomparable Biltmore Estate. After admiring the elaborate architecture, antique furnishings and world-class art collection, explore the immense grounds (over 10 square miles) with so many lovely trails -- all of them pet-friendly!

Noon -- Enjoy lunch at any of the hearty nearby restaurants such as the fresh-Mex Cantina Biltmore, or the French bistro Fig. Afterwards, stroll around the shops at Biltmore Village in search of the perfect piece of wearable art.

Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center2 p.m. -- Get lost in the bigger art scene that defines Asheville. Over two dozen art galleries line the streets of Asheville, or browse some of the city’s excellent museums.

4 p.m. -- Revive with coffee at any of Asheville’s quirky caffeine stops: Pennycup Coffee, Double D’s (inside a double-decker bus), or my personal favorite, Dripolator in the nearby town of Black Mountain.

7 p.m. -- Tie on your apron and whip up your own 4-course dinner with a cooking class at The Farm. For a longer, fuller experience, book an extended 2-day “Culinary Escape”

9 p.m. -- Every night is a night on the town in Asheville.  Enjoy the live music line-ups at The Grey Eagle, The Orange Peel, The Guitar Bar, or head to hip West Asheville for some bluegrass at ISIS Music Hall, punk at The Odditorium, or some great indie bands at The Mothlight.

Day 2

8 a.m. -- Asheville serves breakfast any way you like. For sunny side-up diner fare (along with plenty of healthy, gluten-free and vegan options), go to Early Girl Eatery. Check out Hole for hand-crafted doughnuts and do not miss the splendid pastries at OWL Bakery.

Winter Mountains - Serenity10 a.m. -- Head out into the infinite outdoors that surround Asheville. Take a shorter hike up to romantic Looking Glass Falls, or soak up the full panorama of the French Broad Valley from the pinnacle of the Bearwallow Mountain Trail. For a more rigorous, pet-friendly trek, hike the Craven Gap Trail with its fun up-and-down sections. If you’d rather not leave your car, drive a scenic stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Pack a picnic hamper from The Rhu and eat outside, or explore the late lunch options in the town of Black Mountain. On your way back into Asheville, stop by the Folk Art Center to see the very best in Appalachian crafts.

4 p.m. -- You deserve a beer! Head down to South Slope, epicenter to Asheville’s big-time beer scene. Sample up to 100 different beers, all brewed right here in Buncombe County.

Musician outside of Curate6 p.m. -- Pre-theatre dinner downtown, with dozens of options: Get fine French bistro meals at Bouchon, fresh farm-to-table favorites at Chestnut and Rhubarb, chic small plates at  Nightbell and Curate, or Limones, for a fun twist on classic Mexican.

7:30 p.m. -- Catch an excellent show, musical or stage drama at the Asheville Community Theatre ,The Magnetic Theatre, Diana Wortham Theatre, North Carolina Stage Company, or the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre

10 p.m. -- Sip a soothing nightcap at the ultra-cool, understated Crow & Quill, or be mesmerized by the colorful craft cocktails at Sovereign Remedies.

Day 3

8 a.m. -- Another chance to do breakfast right in Asheville. This time, tap into the southern charm of Sunny Point Café, do not miss the fall-apart biscuits at the Corner Kitchen, or bring the dogs along to the super pet-friendly Edna’s of Asheville.

10 a.m. -- Get elbow deep into some clay at the Village Potters, where a 2-hour introductory class teaches you all the basics of throwing pots by hand. Or, take a class in glass-making, painting, fiber arts, or photography in one of the studios in the River Arts District.

Shoji Spa1 p.m. -- It’s a spa day! Rejuvenate and detox by tapping into Asheville’s century-old spa traditions. Steam-clean your pores and sweat all your cares away at the Omni Grove Park Inn Spa, with its amazing hydrotherapy waterfalls and mineral pools. For shorter, day-spa treatments, rest your weary feet at Wake Foot Sanctuary, energize in the pink glow of the Salt Cave, or check out Alchemy for tea and acupuncture (their turmeric chai is a great anti-inflammatory). Save yourself the trip to Japan by checking into Shoji, the ultimate private Japanese spa set on the scenic edge of the mountains (say yes to their signature massage with yuzu essential oil). In addition to the intimate, natural outdoor hot tubs, guests can opt to enjoy a comfy night in the lodge or the even-more secluded studio.

5 p.m. -- Soak up the rosy winter sunset. Feeling better now? Come back next year! Make your Asheville winter getaway an annual tradition, because honestly, you’ll never run out of things to do here.

Top photo by Jared Kay. Gallery photo by Jared Kay. Mountain vista photo by Dave Allen. Musician outside of Curate photo by Emily Chaplin. Spa photo courtesy of Shoji.