With so many things to do in Asheville and the surrounding areas, planning the most epic Asheville itinerary can get tricky.
As a native of Western North Carolina, I know the scene well and have the inside scoop on the coolest Asheville activities. The perfect trip should be a mix of things: outdoor adventure, relaxation, time spent downtown, good food and beer, and a little mountain magic. To help you out, I’ve put together this guide that covers all of these things and more.
Ready to meet your perfect Asheville itinerary? Let’s dive in!
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5 Day Asheville Itinerary
Day 1 – Explore the Biltmore Estate & Get a Taste of Downtown
For your first day in Asheville, you’re going to hit the ground running by visiting the historic Biltmore Estate. Start your morning with brunch at First Watch in Biltmore Village. This restaurant is conveniently located near the entrance to the estate.
After breakfast, drive over to the Biltmore Estate. I recommend starting off your estate visit with a Biltmore House tour. You’ll have to reserve a time slot to enter the house ahead of time, so give yourself ample time between breakfast and getting here. Assuming you reserve tickets online and ahead of time, getting in should be easy.
You can wander the Biltmore House on your own (with or without the included audio self-guided tour), or arrange for specific, guided tours. Some of my favorite rooms in the Biltmore House to visit include the pool room, bowling alley, and the George Vanderbilt library.
Once you’re finished touring the gilded age mansion, it’s time to explore the rest of the estate. The garden and greenhouse are located adjacent to the mansion, so head here next. This is a beautifully landscaped area with flowers and countless plant species inside the greenhouse. If you’re able (and don’t mind potential crowds) spring is a wonderful time to visit because of the garden’s blooming tulips.
If you’d rather head off the beaten path, then opt for a nature walk on one of the estate’s many hiking trails. There are options to walk by the river, through the forest, and in open meadows.
When you’re done touring the house and spending time outside, head back to your car and drive over to Antler Hill Village & Winery. Here, you can do a little recouping. Enjoy some light fare at one of the many restaurants and cafes, or try some homemade ice cream at The Creamery.
After a snack and some rest, get back to exploring Antler Hill Village since it has a little something for everyone. There is a playground and farmyard for kids to have some fun. But there’s also Biltmore Winery for the adults to sit back and enjoy a glass of Biltmore’s best. There are a number of shops to browse here as well.
After a long day at the Biltmore Estate, I recommend heading back to your accommodation to freshen up or just relax a bit. Then, when you’re ready, head into downtown Asheville for dinner.
Although there are tons of great Asheville restaurants, I have a few recommendations for downtown. For Southern cuisine, head to Tupelo Honey. For American fare, Twisted Laurel has great food. If you want something a little different, Chai Pani, Strada, and Curate are all fantastic.
Day 2 – Blue Ridge Parkway Attractions and the River Arts District
Today’s part of the itinerary includes a few stops throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains while leaving some room for you to explore.
Start your morning with breakfast at your accommodations, and then pack a picnic for the road. This day is all about the outdoors! Once you’ve packed your food and thrown on your outdoor gear, head over to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
There are five main entrances to access the parkway, and today you’ll be heading north. So, take Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 382.
Almost as soon as you enter the parkway, you’ll hit your first stop: the Folk Art Center. Here, spend some time browsing the traditional Appalachian folk art made by local artists. This is also a great place to pick up gifts.
After the Folk Art Center, hit the parkway once again and drive north until you hit Craggy Gardens. Along the way, you’ll pass tons of mountain overlooks and entrances for Asheville hiking trails. Feel free to take your time.
Eventually, you’ll reach Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. You can park your car and use the restroom here. Then, drive a little further to Craggy Dome Parking lot at Milepost 364.1. You’ll find the Craggy Gardens trailhead here. Do the short walk (1.4 miles roundtrip, easy/moderate) up to the pinnacle. You’ll be met with sweeping mountain views.
When you’re finished at Craggy Gardens, keep driving north for about 10 miles. You’ll hit the entrance to Mount Mitchell State Park at Milepost 355.4. Head into the state park for your final Blue Ridge Parkway stop. Inside the park, park your car and enjoy your packed picnic in the picnic area.
After this, the grand finale is the Mount Mitchell State Park summit, which is just a short walk from the park’s visitor center. This is the highest peak on the east coast, and in my opinion, one of the best things to do when you visit Asheville.
When all is said and done at Mount Mitchell, head back the way you came on the Blue Ridge Parkway until you’re back in Asheville.
Wrap up this nature and adventure-filled day by relaxing in one of Asheville’s coolest and laid-back spots: the River Arts District. This artsy neighborhood is located along the French Broad River, and I’ve got a best-of-both-worlds recommendation for you.
Pick up some tasty Carolina barbecue at 12 Bones Smokehouse and take it to go. Then, drive over to Hi-Wire Brewing, which is one of the most popular Asheville breweries.
This brewery and beer garden allows you to bring in outside food (not drinks), so you can enjoy a delicious dinner accompanied by Hi-Wire beer. This Asheville brewery is also family-friendly with tons of indoor and outdoor seating. They even serve local ice cream, too!
Even if you’re only spending 3 days in Asheville, this part of the itinerary is a great one to do. So, be sure to include this in your weekend in Asheville itinerary.
👉 Pro Tip: I recommend this part of the Asheville itinerary as a seasonal one, best done in the spring through fall months. This way, you can potentially enjoy Craggy Gardens wildflowers in the spring, and the parkway’s fall foliage in autumn.
Day 3 – Enjoy an Outdoor Excursion or Wellness Retreat
Start your day with brunch in Asheville. There are a number of tasty breakfast joints to choose from. A couple of personal favorites are Sunny Point Cafe and Biscuit Head. Tupelo Honey and Early Girl Eatery are also popular options.
After brunch, you can choose from one of two Asheville vacation options, depending on what you’re interested in. If you’re visiting for just a short Asheville weekend away, I’d recommend incorporating this day’s itinerary to make the most out of your trip.
Afternoon Option #1: Outdoor Excursion
Asheville, NC is FULL of opportunities for outdoor adventure. But one of the most memorable ways you can get your adventure on is through a guided tour or adventure excursion. If you’re traveling as a family, I highly recommend this option.
For things like zip lining and ropes courses, the Adventure Center of Asheville is where you’ll want to go. This is a great option for visitors of all ages and the center is close to downtown Asheville. I’ve seen everyone from small children to older adults be able to play here.
If you’re not afraid of heights and want to step things up, Navitat Canopy Adventures is a local and visitor favorite. This tour company has received nationwide recognition. It’s located 20 minutes north of Asheville on the edge of Pisgah National Forest. Navitat offers various treetop zipline tours that are sure to satisfy your craving for outdoor adventures.
The third outdoor excursion I’ll recommend is French Broad Adventures. This tour operator offers a variety of activities for outdoor adventures. This includes rafting, zip lining, canyoneering, and climbing. Their whitewater rafting tours on the French Broad River are the most popular and super memorable activity for visitors to take part in.
Afternoon Option #2: Wellness Retreat
There are countless Asheville wellness tours and retreats to take part in. Think everything from spas to spiritual experiences. Doing a wellness retreat is a great option for couples or a friend’s weekend in Asheville.
Spend your afternoon relaxing with a day pass to a spa. Asheville Salt Cave & Spa is near downtown Asheville and offers massages, a hammam bathhouse, and a therapeutic salt cave. Shoji Spa & Retreat is another great option that’s a little more secluded in nature. It’s Asheville’s premier Japanese-inspired spa retreat.
Another amazing spa to spend your day at is the Spa at Omni Grove Park Inn. This luxurious spa is part of the iconic and historic Omni Grove Park Inn in North Asheville. It’s currently only open for hotel guests, but depending on availability and demand, it’s open to non-guests (for example, in the off-season). I recommend calling ahead to double-check.
If your Asheville trip is pressed for time, there are shorter-length spa and wellness retreats available as well. A sound healing experience at Skinny Beats Sound Shop or a foot bath at Wake Foot Sanctuary & Spa are good alternatives.
After an afternoon of either outdoor adventure thrill or relaxing treatments, you’ll probably be tired out.
To rest up, have a laid-back evening at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Mills River. Here, you can enjoy a flight of beer and tasty, farm-to-table fare in their taproom or back garden. And don’t worry, Sierra Nevada may be a taproom, but it’s suitable for the whole family.
Day 4 – Take a Day Trip
This morning, you’ll hit the road and head to the town of Brevard, NC. This small, charming town is only 45 minutes south of Asheville. It’s filled with outdoor attractions and things for visitors of all ages to enjoy.
First on the agenda will be spending some time exploring downtown. Stop by Cup and Saucer for a cup of coffee, and Bracken Mountain Bakery for pastries. Next, browse the local shops—there are so many unique ones to stop in. Think everything from gift shops to stores with locally made goods and art galleries.
If you have kids, a must-stop is O.P. Taylor’s toy store. This is like a kid’s dream come true. The toy store has tons of toys for kids of all ages. The kicker though is that many toys are out on display for kids to actually play with.
Another good place for the family is Crystal Mountain Gem Mine, where you and your kids can go gem mining right downtown.
Once you’ve had your fill of downtown activities, it’s time for lunch. If you want something a little different, Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop is an old-fashioned diner that’s great for families. The Falls Landing Restaurant is another downtown option that serves up tasty seafood and hearty fare.
After lunch, spend the rest of your afternoon at Pisgah National Forest, home to some of the best waterfalls near Asheville. Your first stop will be the roadside waterfall, Looking Glass Falls. Park (if you can find a spot) and admire the view from the deck or at the base of the falls.
Next, drive about 10 more minutes to reach the Cradle of Forestry. Here, you can visit the Forest Discovery Center and explore the historic grounds that were home to the first forestry school in America. You can also walk some easy, paved hiking trails.
The Cradle of Forestry is a great spot for visitors of all ages. There are fun things to do for families, and it’s a spot that shows off Pisgah National Forest and Appalachian history all in one place. If you’re up for even more hiking, Pink Beds Trail Loop is right next door.
After this, head back down Pisgah Highway the way you came.
As soon as you exit Pisgah National Forest, you’ll see Hawg Wild Barbeque to your right. Stop for dinner and enjoy some Carolina BBQ. Hawg Wild serves up great Western and Eastern BBQ, so you can have a taste of both.
After dinner, go across the street and get some ice cream from Dolly’s Dairy Bar. After dinner and dessert, you can easily hop on Highway 280 and head back to Asheville.
One of the best things to have on any Asheville itinerary is a day trip. This is because there are endless day trip destinations from Asheville since it’s located centrally within Western North Carolina. Brevard is a great option, but there are so many other great towns and places to choose from.
Day 5 – Immerse Yourself in the River Arts District & Downtown Scene
Wake up bright and early(ish) and head to either Biscuit Head or Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville for breakfast.
Then, cross back over the French Broad River and head to the River Arts District (RAD). This is by far one of my favorite areas in Asheville. Things here start to open around 10 am – 11 am. Grab a cup of coffee at Summit Coffee Co., one of the best coffee shops in Asheville, and spend the rest of your morning browsing local art galleries and checking out vintage shops.
After a morning enjoying RAD, drive into downtown Asheville. For the sake of this Asheville itinerary, park at Wall Street Garage. From here, just about everything you’ll want to see and do in Asheville is within walking distance.
Your first order of business will be dropping by the Grove Arcade—Asheville’s “Original Mall.” Here, you can browse some of the best of Asheville all in one place. This historic building is filled with local shops, cafes, and restaurants. If you’re interested, the Asheville Pinball Museum is practically next door.
Next, walk towards the center of Asheville on Haywood Street. Some of my favorite shops are here. Drop by places like Woolworth Walk and Malaprops Bookstore. Nearby Lexington Ave and Broadway Street are also home to unique shops worth checking out. You can easily spend a few hours browsing Asheville this way.
If you get hungry amidst all this shopping and exploring, White Duck Taco is a go-to downtown spot for tacos. If you’d rather grab a quick pick-me-up snack, French Broad Chocolate and Old Europe Pastries are personal favorites.
Asheville is home to a number of great museums. Spend the rest of your afternoon enjoying a museum. The Asheville Art Museum is a great one with exhibits of American and regional art. If you’re visiting as a family, the interactive Asheville Museum of Science is a fun and educational option.
To wrap up your last evening on this Asheville itinerary, enjoy happy hour drinks at a place like The Montford Rooftop Bar. Depending on what time of year you visit and general timing, you can catch sunset up here. For dinner, treat yourself to one of Asheville’s many amazing restaurants. Chai Pani, Strada, and Curate are some of my top personal recommendations.
👉 Pro Tip: Many restaurants in Asheville fill up fast. Some take reservations, some don’t. Call ahead to confirm. For the restaurants mentioned above, Chai Pani only takes walk-ins, but they fill up FAST. Strada and Curate take reservations.
Where to Stay in Asheville
This hotel shortlist includes a mix of tried-and-true Asheville favorites and accommodation options to suit different needs. Each of these options offers something ideal: convenience, location, amenities, and more.
- 💵 Budget – Holiday Inn Express & Suites Asheville Downtown
- 🏆 Mid-Range – Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville
- ✨ Luxury – The Inn on Biltmore Estate
- 🛎️ Boutique – Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville
- 🛏️ Historic – Omni Grove Park Inn
- 🛣️ Near Blue Ridge Parkway – Black Walnut B&B Inn
Best Neighborhoods & Areas
There are some unique neighborhoods in Asheville. Each one offers a little something different, depending on the atmosphere you’re after. Here are some top picks for visitors looking to stay outside of downtown Asheville:
- Montford (Search apartments in Montford) – A historic, residential neighborhood that’s quiet and secluded. It’s the ideal place to stay for local bed and breakfasts not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway. This neighborhood is walkable.
- River Arts District (Search apartments in River Arts District) – The River Arts District is Asheville’s go-to art destination. This district pulses with a local, laid-back, creative energy. There are a variety of vacation rentals here.
- Biltmore Village (Search apartments in Biltmore Village) – This is the best area to stay near the Biltmore Estate. It’s great for families and couples and has good restaurants and local shops. It’s also conveniently located outside of downtown Asheville and accessible to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Read our guide to learn more about where to stay in Asheville.
Asheville Itinerary Map
Here is a Google Map with all the stop, attractions, and hotels mentioned in this post.
How to Get Around in Asheville
Here’s the bottom line: you’re going to need a car to get around Asheville. So, if you’re flying into Asheville Airport, be sure to get a rental car. Unlike large, well-connected cities like say, Chicago or New York City, many of the top Asheville attractions are spread out or only accessible by car. This includes things like the Biltmore Estate and Blue Ridge Parkway.
As far as parking goes, it just depends. Some places will have designated lots. Other places like downtown Asheville or outdoor attractions may be hit or miss.
Walkability is also something to note in Asheville, NC. Places like downtown Asheville and neighborhoods like Montford, River Arts District, and West Asheville are pretty walkable.
Asheville Itinerary Planning Tips
Tip #1 – Book Ahead
For places like the Biltmore Estate and things like outdoor excursions and wellness retreats, book in advance. This is especially so during the summer, fall, and holidays. I also recommend making reservations for downtown restaurants.
Tip #2 – Be Mindful of the Time of Year That You Visit
An Asheville itinerary might vary or need to be adjusted if you visit during any of the high seasons. This includes summer, fall, and the holidays. There are more visitors during these times of the year, so you’ll need to plan ahead and adjust your itinerary accordingly.
Tip #3 – Some Attractions May Be Seasonal
Similar to the tip above, the time of year you visit may dictate what attractions are open. Many attractions like Mount Mitchell State Park, the Cradle of Forestry, and whitewater rafting may not be available in the winter months.
Tip #4 – Pack Layers
North Carolina weather can be unpredictable. You’ll get unexpected warm days, but some cooler ones too. When you’re putting together your North Carolina packing list, include pieces you can easily layer.
Tip #5 – Downtown is Walkable
Because Asheville is a relatively small city, downtown is really walkable. Once you find somewhere to park, you should be able to walk anywhere you want within the main part of the city. This includes tons of restaurants, shops, and a number of attractions like museums.
👉 Read Next: How to Do Asheville on a Budget
Tip #6 – Asheville is Vegan and Vegetarian Friendly
Not only is Asheville a city with amazing food, but it’s a great destination for vegan and vegetarian foodies, too. Asheville has a number of vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants. This includes places like Laughing Seed Cafe, Rosetta’s Kitchen, and Plant.
FAQs About Asheville Itinerary
How many days do you need in Asheville, NC?
You’ll need at least 3 days in Asheville. However, a week is much more ideal, so you can hit the top sights and explore a good amount of nature attractions.
What is there to do in Asheville, NC for 3 days?
For 3 days in Asheville, check off all the top attractions, including hiking, visiting the Biltmore Estate, visiting downtown, and stopping at some breweries.
Can you spend a week in Asheville, NC?
You can easily spend a week in Asheville, NC. There are a variety of things to do and places to explore close to the city. It’s also an amazing place to take nearby day trips.
What’s the difference between the Blue Ridge Parkway and Blue Ridge Mountains?
The Blue Ridge Parkway is the famous road that goes through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Driving this road and exploring these mountains are one of the best things to include in your Asheville itinerary.
Is the Biltmore Estate free?
You cannot walk around Biltmore for free. Whether you’re interested in touring the house or not, you must have a ticket (or annual pass) to enter the estate.
That’s a wrap on this ultimate Asheville itinerary! No matter what drew you to Asheville, this guide should include something you’re interested in. And if you fall in love with the state while you’re here (which is easy to do), there are more amazing places in North Carolina worth visiting.
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