The Ultimate Asheville Winter Vacation Itinerary
By Andrew Evans
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 make the most of our secret season with a getaway like this:
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.
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 or punk at The Odditorium.
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.
10 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 Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Craven Gap with its fun up-and-down sections. If you’d rather not leave your car, check out these drive-by waterfalls you can view from your vehicle. 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.
6 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 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, The Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, 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.
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.
1 p.m. -- It’s time for the spa! 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 (*check website for availability for non-overnight guests). 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 on top of a mountain or at one of Asheville's many rooftop bars. In the winter, these scenic surprises are often more vibrant versus other times of the year due to how the light travels through the atmosphere.
Add an Extra Day!
Need more time to explore? With so much to do in Asheville during the winter, you can easily add an extra day of adventure to your vacation.
9 a.m. -- Round out your trip by exploring nearby Black Mountain, voted "America's Prettiest Small Town." Dig in at Louise’s Kitchen, a quaint eatery that is located in an old house in downtown Black Mountain. Treat yourself to some Louise’s Cakes with house-made vanilla bean syrup or try the Big Boy Burrito, stuffed with eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese, potatoes and pico de gallo.
11 a.m. -- Head across the street and get geared up for a winter hike at the WNC Outdoor Collective. This new retail store features locally-made outdoor gear and apparel. Plus, it serves some of the best brews and coffee in the area.
12 p.m. -- Stretch your legs by taking a stroll on the greenway around Lake Tomahawk and view the peaks of Seven Sisters mountain. If you're seeking a harder hike, try the Lookout Mountain trail in nearby Montreat. While this trail is quite popular during the summer months, it is less frequented during the winter -- giving you more room to enjoy the sweeping views at the top.
3 p.m. -- Head back down the mountain and toast to your hard earned hike at Lookout Brewing. The staff are super friendly and the beers are brewed fresh. Warm up by their outdoor fire pit or cozy up inside at the bar. BONUS: Bring your pup as this local brewery is dog-friendly, too.
6 p.m. -- Black Mountain is also full of delicious places to eat dinner. Enjoy the perfect blend of French and Latin cuisine at La Guinguette Crêperie or warm up with a cup of homemade soup and mouthwatering Blackberry Pork Chops at Black Mountain Bistro. Keep the good vibes going by heading over to White Horse Black Mountain and listen to live music well into the evening..