2021 Guide to Asheville

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Have a trip to Asheville planned and not sure what to do? I’ve got you covered with this local’s guide to Asheville!

A few years ago I put together a post covering where to eat and drink in Asheville, which you can find HERE! However, that was over four years ago, and a lot of things have changed in this little town since then! New restaurants have opened, old ones have closed, and well…there’s just a lot more to do in Asheville than eat or drink, so I felt it was due time for an updated and upgraded Guide to Asheville featuring some of my favorite places and recommendations. I’ve lived here for SIX years come this July, so while I don’t know EVERYTHING and while I don’t consider myself a *true* local — I have certainly found my favorite places and spaces around town that make it feel more like home than a tourist trap.

Below you will find some of my favorite spots for meals at all times of the day, hot spots for brews + bevs, must do hikes (of all intensities!), local shops and events, and more! Feel free to bookmark this to your internet browser if you’re wanting to plan a trip to Asheville anytime soon!

A special note in the midst of COVID at time of publication: I have tried my best to include options for takeout/outdoor seating as best as possible but if in doubt, always call to check.

Another note: the majority of Asheville restaurants proudly utilize local produce and meats as much as possible, so you can be sure pretty much wherever you go you are getting some of the freshest ingredients!

Thinking about bringing your pup along for the trip? Good news! The majority of places in Asheville are VERY dog friendly. Of course you’ll want to check beforehand just in case, but many breweries and shops will allow dogs.

Fore more food recommendations, you can reference my past guide HERE! The ones listed below are my current favs 🙂

Food

Breakfast/brunch

Biscuithead: one of the most popular breakfast/brunch places in Asheville, but with good reason. Biscuits as big as your head (GF and vegan options, too!), and they have a whole jam + jelly bar full of over 20 different options, all made in-house! The wait usually picks up around 9 on the weekends, so be prepared to wait outside, rain or shine. Location in West Asheville, Biltmore Ave, and South Asheville. GF, DF options. Take out. Outdoor seating.
Taco Billy: my favorite tacos in Asheville, hands down. The tacos are packed with not only flavor, but FOOD, making them probably the best taco deal in town. Choose from some of their own taco creations like the Support Group (cumin sweet potatoes, pecan and black bean hummus, roasted pepitas, avocado, spinach, and coconut crema on a plantain tortilla), or create your own. They serve both breakfast tacos and regular tacos, and are open until 8 PM! Located in West Asheville. GF, DF options. Take out. Outdoor seating.
Sunny Point: arguably the most popular breakfast/brunch place in town, but well worth the hype whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. My breakfast go-to is the Breakfast Salad, but if you’re in the mood for sweet, the Banana Pancakes are equally delicious! Just make sure you get a side of their bacon, because it is life-changing. We usually prefer to order for pickup/take out to skip the wait! Located in West Asheville. GF, DF options. Take out. Outdoor seating.
Bimberibon: I’ve had the chance to chat with the owner, and after hearing about the heart and passion behind why he opened this place, I have to restrain myself from going every day. While it isn’t heavily advertised, it’s actually a completely gluten-free facility, and they also refrain from using refined sugars and unhealthy oils. Just real, feel good food. There’s a heavy focus on vegetables and plants (as I feel it should be!), but even meat eaters can find something on the menu they’ll enjoy (like a grass fed lamb burger). The menu changes with the seasons, and they’ve done some innovative things to keep it fresh during covid but do have some limited hours. Located in West Asheville. GF, DF options. Take out. Outdoor seating.
Liberty House Cafe: situated just north of downtown and with ample outdoor space, this has been a new to me place. They have a limited menu during covid, but still full of meals for all palettes. Located in North Asheville. GF, DF options. Take out. Outdoor seating.

Lunch

Bimberibon: we’ve already discussed my infatuation with this place for breakfast, but it also makes a great lunch stop, or casual dinner (no reservations needed), so I figured I’d add it in again. Located in West Asheville. GF, DF options. Take out. Outdoor seating.
Laughing Seed Cafe: This place is strictly vegetarian/vegan, but don’t knock it just yet – it’s a perfect downtown spot for a light and refreshing lunch loaded with all the veggies. I almost always get the Dragon Bowl (arugula, cauliflower “rice,” seasonal raw veggies, house made purple kraut and kimchi, avocado, and sunflower-beet pâté, topped with pumpkin and sunflower seeds). Located downtown. GF, DF options. Vegan/vegetarian. Take out. Outdoor seating.
Haywood Common: just your good ol’ neighborhood joint, but with a slight flare and nods to local flavors and farms. Whether you’re craving a salad, big hearty burger, or something like chicken a waffles — this is a great spot. They also have a great drink selection and are attached to The Whale, with a wide variety of beers and ciders. Open for lunch and dinner, weekend brunch. Located in West Asheville. GF, DF options. Take out. Ample outdoor seating.
Hillman: similar in vibes to Haywood Common, but slightly less choices — more of a brewery than a restaurant. Located in Biltmore Village. GF, DF options. Outdoor seating.
WALK: another great local joint with a menu ranging from salads (love their dressing) to burgers to tacos. Full bar and in a funky garage-type building. Located in West Asheville. GF, DF options. Takeout.
Magpie Meat & Three (technically in Brevard): if you find yourself in Brevard and craving some good old fashioned BBQ, this is such a fun spot! Great and ample outdoor seating and a very relaxed/casual environment. GF, DF options. Takeout. Outdoor seating.
Quixote Fine Cuisine (technically in Brevard): …or if you are more in the mood for some Mexican fare, this is our FAVORITE place!! The staff are personable and friendly, and the food is simply amazing. LOVE all the veggies that are incorporated, but if you’re with people that turn their nose up at veggies, don’t worry — they’ve got plenty without! While you’re here, treat yourself to one of their many margaritas and enjoy it on their patio seating! Located in Brevard. GF, DF options. Takeout. Outdoor seating.

Dinner

Limones: if you know you’ll be making a trip to Asheville, go ahead and book a reservation to Limones, months in advance. Thank me later. However, even if you don’t manage to get reservations, you can walk in and sit at the bar if seats are open. The food is what I describe as Mexican American, and it’s without a doubt one of the best meals in AVL. They have a full list of housemade margs, and not to mention you get a complimentary truffle at the end of the meal. I’m sold!! Great spot for a special occasion. Located downtown. GF, DF options (but would need to specify/ask). $$$
Nine Mile: hands down, one of my top 3 favorite places here. Caribbean inspired cuisine, packed with flavor – I’ve never gotten a dish I didn’t like. My favorite is the Mayfield Falls (grilled wild-caught mahi mahi with mango jicama mint salsa, sautéed bell peppers, & carrots in a creamy, dairy-free, ginger, coconut sauce. Tossed with linguine & spring onions or with basmati rice.) And bonus!! You can sub in zucchini noodles in place of the usual pasta!! Even the side salads and dressings are to die for. And if you’re a bread fan, you’ll LOVE their complimentary bread. Located in West Asheville, North Asheville and South Asheville. GF, DF options. Takeout. $$
Wicked Weed: pretty much as tourist-y as you can get in my opinion, but gosh I just love it so. Located downtown. GF, DF options. Outdoor seating. $$
Thai Pearl: this place opened in the heart of 2020 and I think Tyler and I played a large part in keeping them afloat with all of our takeout orders! Located in West Asheville. GF, DF options. Takeout. $$
Bimberibon: OK OK yes, I’m mentioning them AGAIN because they also serve dinner! No reservations needed, and a great casual dinner environment. $
Pizzamind: we LOVE this place for some good ol’ brick oven pizza. Get one for the table or have your own personal size. They also offer gluten free, vegan crust, and have dairy-free cheese alternatives. Located in West Asheville. GF, DF options. Takeout. Outdoor seating. $
Buxton Hall BBQ: was voted 9th best new restaurant in America by Bon Appetit, if that says anything. I’m not too picky when it comes to BBQ, but am a sucker for the atmosphere and sides. No reservations, but you can put your name down and grab a beer at Catawba right beside it while you wait. Located downtown. GF, DF options. Takeout. $$

Sweets

Sunshine Sammies: local handmade ice cream sandwiches, made right in front of your face. Trust me when I say it’s worth the trip. Located downtown. GF, DF, vegan options. Takeout. Outdoor seating.
Vortex Doughnuts: unfortunately Vortex doesn’t have GF options, but they do sling a variety of vegan options with some crazy good flavors. And what’s a donut without coffee? Located downtown. Vegan options. Takeout.
Hole Doughnuts: another spot to grab some doughnuts! Located in West Asheville. Takeout.
The Hop: a cute local ice cream shop with your classic flavors and some non-traditional ones thrown in as well. Even have vegan/dairy free options! GF, DF options. Located in West Asheville and North Asheville.
Bimberibon: hahah okay, LAST TIME I’m mentioning them, but they’re pastries and sweets are the best! All are gluten free and many are dairy free, and made without refined sugar. Great to grab at the end of your meal for a sweet treat. Located in West Asheville.

Drinks

Beer
Note that I am NOT a beer fanatic, so I know next to nothing about *types* of beer. Asheville is FULL of local breweries, which I’m sure you are probably aware of 🙂 Thankfully, many also serve at least once cider or non-beer/gluten-free option. Some might also have food served, or have local food trucks for service.

Wicked Weed. Downtown
Burial. Downtown
Green Man. Downtown
Hillman. Biltmore Village
Funkatorium. Downtown
Wedge. RAD
New Belgium; note that they haven’t been open during COVID except for pick up. RAD/West Asheville
Sierra Nevada; note that this is about 30 minutes from downtown, and hasn’t been open during COVID at all except for pick up. Arden
Urban Orchard Cidery (ok this is ACTUALLY cider, not beer haha). West Asheville
The Whale. West Asheville
Ginger’s Revenge (ginger beer). North Asheville/RAD

Wine and/or Cocktails

Bottle Riot (my personal fav). Located in West Asheville
5 Walnut Wine Bar. Located downtown
pleb. Located in River Arts District
Sovereign Remedies. Downtown
The Montford. Downtown
Capella on 9. Downtown
Haywood Common. West Asheville

Coffee
Now, obviously there are NUMEROUS coffee shops around town, but I’m sticking to my personal favs here 🙂

Odd’s Cafe. West Asheville
Summit Coffee. RAD

Hiking

Recommending hikes is tricky, because different people are looking for different types of hikes. Strenuous and long, or short and leisurely? Waterfalls or mountain top views? How far do you want to drive? Etc…. Most hikes in Asheville are actually more AROUND Asheville in surrounding counties or towns and require you to drive anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get to the trailhead, so keep that in mind! Also, several are located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is closed during winter months due to snow and ice. I always suggest downloading the free All Trails app for more a more detailed search of local hikes, based on location, intensity, length, attractions, etc… You can also visit romanticasheville.com for more local hikes! Please, please, please be courteous of your time outdoors: stay on the trail (don’t wander off into the woods — not just for your safety, but for the health and wellbeing of the environment + wildlife), “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”, don’t carve into trees, and obviously, PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF AND DON’T LITTER!!!!!

Black Balsam: 1-10 miles depending on how far you want to go; moderate
Devil’s Courthouse: 1 mile; intense, great sunset!
Graveyard Fields:
Rainbow Falls: 3 miles; moderate
Mt. Leconte: 11 miles; strenuous
Crabtree Falls: 3 miles; moderate
Looking Glass Rock: 6.5 miles; strenuous with a gradual climb over 1700 ft the whole way up!
Wintergreen Falls: 3 miles; easy and flat, in and out to a waterfall
John Rock: 5 miles; strenuous, similar to Looking Glass
Pink Beds: 5 mile loop; easy and flat
– Montreat College has several different trails along campus

Things to do

Sauna House: if you follow me on IG you know my love for this place runs deep. Treat yourself to a day at a sauna that is actually relaxing and not creepy…or possibly riddled with bacteria. Sauna House is such an escape from the hustle and bustle of life, making it the perfect vacation stop! Alternate between their sauna and cold plunge, or do whatever you want! No phones are allowed, so bring a book or be prepared to zen out. They also serve teas and CBD beverages. You’ll leave feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Located downtown.

River Arts District: if you are into art, you’ll love spending time in the RAD perusing through the many art galleries in the area. Most are walkable from place to place, and you’ll also find some spots for coffee, food and brews in the mix as well. RAD is located between West Asheville and downtown.

Greenway: while you in RAD, hop on the newest section of the greenway for a walk or jog. This connects all the way to a local park (Carrier Park and French Broad) if you’re feeling adventurous!

Breweries: pretty self explanatory

Biltmore / Biltmore Village: chances are if you’ve heard of Asheville or plan to visit Asheville, then you have heard of the Biltmore House. It’s definitely one of the more expensive “attractions” in town, but well worth it if it’s something you really want to experience!! They have loads of trails and paths, you can go through the house, see the gardens, and even grab food and drinks at their many restaurants.

Hiking: as recommended above!

Grove Park Inn: even if you don’t plan to stay here during your visit, you can absolutely spend some time here whether to grab a drink and catch the sunset or to sit down for a nice dinner, great for a special occasion. Buy a day pass to their spa to truly pamper yourself. And if you come around Christmas time, you can’t miss the gingerbread house competition!!

Live music: in the times of COVID there obviously haven’t been concerts and live music, but usually the town is bustling with live music most nights of the week all across town. The Orangepeel, Grey Eagle, ISIS and Rabbit Rabbit are some of the local music venue spots, but you can find live music at some breweries as well.

Shoji: coming up for a special occasion and really want to pamper yourself? Shoji is the place to go. Nestled on what feels like the top of a mountain, this spa is a nice escape. Rent a private outdoor hot tub with access to a sauna, or schedule a massage for one or two. Prepare to leave feeling like a million bucks!

Farmers Market: there are several around town, though most are shut down during winter months. Find them downtown (on Saturday), on the campus of UNCA (on Saturday) or in West Asheville on Tuesday afternoons to buy fresh, local produce, proteins, cheese, flowers, baked goods, pottery and more!

Retrocade: a fun arcade and bar in West Asheville to bring you back to childhood with games like air hockey, Pac-man, pinball and skeeball!!

Brevard / Hendo: wanting to explore around Asheville? Can’t recommend Brevard or Hendersonville enough! Both are just 20-30 minutes outside of Asheville with cute downtowns full of local restaurants, coffee shops and stores.

Shopping

Truthfully, I don’t love the shopping scene in Asheville, at least when it comes to clothes. But, we do have some great local shops and boutiques that I try to support!

Provisions Mercantile is located in West Asheville and is the cutest gift and homegoods store where you absolutely will find stuff for you and for others! Many of the products are fair trade or from local companies, and you’ll likely be welcomed by their big, fluffy and friendly pup.
NEST: located in Biltmore Village and downtown, this is the clothing store if you consider yourself a modern fashionista (can’t believe I just typed that haha).
Duncan and York: another great little store with gifts for ALL occasions. Find it downtown!

And then of course we have the outlets which is always a great attraction, ha! The Asheville Mall isn’t much to write home about personally. You’ll also find some great shops in Biltmore Village or Biltmore Park.

Where to Stay

Living in Asheville, I don’t have the best insight/personal experience to give recommendations on where to stay aside from Pinecrest B&B, which I stayed at with my mom for a little mother daugther staycation. It was my first B&B experience, and the owners Diane and Dan made the bests hosts!! We’re talking fresh baked cookies every afternoon, complimentary beverages in the sun room, and a made from scratch 3 course breakfast in the morning. If you’re coming with your significant other, this is one of the best places to stay for a more personal touch.

However, you could also go the hotel route, as Asheville has a number of more higher end hotels like The Foundry, Hotel Arras, AC Hotel, and Hotel Indigo — all of which are located directly downtown.

Airbnbs are another alternative that’s ideal for bigger groups!! Most of the friends that come to visit in bigger groups tend to go this route. Most larger airbnbs are farther out from Asheville anywhere from 15-20 min, but are an easy Uber or Lyft ride into town, and make for a fun mountain weekend!

….and that’s all I’ve got….at least for now! I will continue coming back to this to update and add to as time goes on (and as I remember more places and/or remember to snap some pics at said places, ha!). And if you missed my first Asheville post from a few years ago, you can visit it HERE — it has many similar recs, but some not mentioned in this post.

While I’m posting this in the midst of COVID, there is still plenty to do in Asheville to make it a safe getaway trip! Use it as an excuse to get outside and explore nature — it’s arguably the best part of Asheville! 🙂 Hope you’ve enjoyed this local’s guide to Asheville!!

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HEY THERE I'M CLARA

My biggest passion lies in helping people like you detach their worth from their wellness and learn how to steward their health in a way that is sustainable, enjoyable, and meaningful to them, so they can feel their best and run the race set before them.

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