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A Guide to Moving to Asheville

In this guide, you’ll learn about Asheville shopping | Asheville restaurants | Asheville hiking

Making Downtown Asheville Shopping an Adventure

The hub of Asheville is its downtown district. It’s busy, vibrant and bustling with people shopping, watching street performances, checking out art galleries, dining in cafés and sightseeing. There’s no shortage of local, independent shops to explore, making downtown Asheville shopping a great way to find unique clothing, art, gifts, home decor, and more.

Out of town clients ask us for downtown Asheville shopping recommendations all the time, and what we’ve noticed is that despite a highly walkable downtown, many people will explore the Pack Square and Biltmore Avenue corridor, but never make their way over to the Grove Arcade or Lexington Avenue. That’s why when clients ask, we always recommend downloading the Asheville Urban Trail walking tour to learn about downtown while seeing everything the shops and galleries have to offer.

Downtown Asheville Shopping Made Easy

Since the trail is only a little over a mile and a half in length, you can spend a morning or an afternoon exploring downtown. With the map in hand or on your mobile device, we recommend picking a café like Old Europe for coffee and pastries or a popular lunch spot like Early Girl Eatery, which are located near trail stations, as your starting point. Then, follow the trail to the various areas that make up downtown to get the full downtown Asheville shopping experience.

Pack Square
Public arena in Pack Square, downtown Asheville, NCThe first trail station is in the heart of Pack Square, literally the high point of downtown Asheville. It’s home to the recently renovated Asheville Art Museum and French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The FBCL’s gift shop is a brilliant place to get locally made, divine chocolate treats to go as well as picking up tasty, unique gifts for loved ones. Now, follow the trail forward down Patton Avenue or backward down Biltmore Avenue to get the best downtown Asheville shopping experience.

Patton Avenue
Heading down Patton Avenue brings you to the Kress Emporium, which features local and regional artists’ wares. From jewelry to pottery to sculpture to wall art and so much more, you’ll find something to adorn your home or yourself in this store. Keep going to arrive at Pritchard Park, a triangle shaped park well known for its Friday night drum circle, which is a sight and sound to behold itself.

Pritchard Park
On the north side of Pritchard Park are a few clothing shops like Union and Spiritex to explore. Just around the corner is a sweet toy shop called Curio. The Miles Building is a throwback to an old school shopping mall. Turn down the quaint and cobbled Wall Street, marked by a huge iron. Here’s you’ll find an interesting Celtic shop full of authentic and historical Celtic art, clothing, and accessories. If you’re hungry, you’ll have several choices, including Laughing Seed Café, a long-time local favorite vegetarian restaurant.

Grove Arcade
Corner of historic Grove Arcade building, Asheville, NCContinuing along the trail will lead you to an architectural marvel – the Grove Arcade. It’s definitely worth exploring. Did you know the lion statues at the north entrances have names? And, every gargoyle face on the building is different. All hand carved, no two are alike.

Grove Arcade restaurants like Carmel’s spill out onto the sidewalks, offering shade and respite with good food and refreshing cocktails and cold beers. Be sure to check out the Battery Park Book Exchange. In fact, if you enjoy wine and books, you might get lost for hours in this incredible bookstore with aisles of books winding up and down two stories and seating areas tucked into inviting spaces where you can sit and stay a while.

Haywood Street
If you keep following the trail, you’ll soon arrive at Haywood Street, home to many art galleries and local shops, like The Spice and Tea Exchange. This one-of-a-kind shop in Asheville sells spices, spice mixes and tea varieties from around the world. A little further down Haywood is Malaprops, which is one of Asheville’s original independent booksellers, the tasty Chocolate Fetish chocolate and candy store, as well as Earth Guild and the ever-popular Woolworth Walk. A converted Woolworth store, the Woolworth Walk is another indoor artist market featuring local artists. Incredibly enough, the old lunch counter is still operational, and it’s like an inside secret for a tasty, quick lunch among locals who work downtown.

Keep Walking for the Full Downtown Asheville Shopping Experience

At this point, you’re about half-way through the walking tour, and if you’re following the trail stations you’ve learned a lot about downtown Asheville. Make your way down Walnut Street toward Lexington Avenue and notice that there are a few shops tucked behind a parking lot just past Zambra. There’s a fantastic day spa among those shops, too.

Lexington Avenue
Woolworth building front from street, downtown Asheville, NCAlthough Lexington Avenue was boarded up in the 1990s, it now bustles with eclectic shops and restaurants that boast an independent vibe. MTN Merch, at the corner of Walnut and Lexington offers an abundance of locally made items, from art, to clothing to gear and so much more. If shoes are your thing, do not miss T.O.P.S for Shoes. It’s huge, and you’ll find everything you can imagine for comfortable shoes, glamorous shoes, practical shoes, and work shoes. Make sure you check out the sales rack room. Serious bargains can be had.

Home good store Nest Organics is a cool shop to help reduce your carbon footprint in home goods, like dishes, bedding, baby accessories and more. Antique stores and gem shops also line Lexington Avenue. There’s a cool bead and yarn shop, Chevron Bead Company on the uphill side of Lexington Avenue that is worth a stop if you knit or make jewelry. Be sure to stop at Voltage Records for the record collector on your holiday gift list.

If you’re in the need for sustenance at lunchtime, check out Mela, featuring northern Indian cuisine. Mela is well known for its lunch buffet and lunch specials.

Thinking about dinner? Check out Bouchon, an authentic French brasserie, for a great spot to dine. Word of advice: get on their list early. They do not take reservations, and sometimes the wait can be two hours. It’s worth it, so get on the list early, finish your downtown Asheville shopping and walking tour adventure, and go back for a delicious dinner.

Walnut Street
Continue your walk up Walnut Street to Broadway, which features art galleries, antique shops and the ever cool, always interesting L.O.F.T gift shop. It’s jammed packed with awesomeness, and it’s a fun place to find memorable – and useful – gifts for everyone.

Follow the trail around to the Market Street area, home to the Asheville Community Theater. There’s also a sweet vintage clothing store worth checking out if you need some new, cool old threads. This area of town also serves the legal community, with a number of law offices and bond companies calling it home for its proximity to the county courthouse on the east side of Pack Square.

Eagle and South Market Streets
Yes, now you are back at Pack Square at McGuire Green. You can call it a day here, or you can keep going for a little bit longer to Eagle and South Market streets. Once the hub of Black owned businesses, the area is bustling with vibrate shops and restaurants. We recommend pausing for a while at the YMI Cultural Center to learn about the area’s history.

Still More to See as Part of Your Downtown Asheville Shopping Adventure

Now make your way to Biltmore Avenue, lined with some amazing art galleries, gift shops and restaurants. Head uphill to complete the tour, checking out the Ariel Gallery, Blue Spiral gallery and the Haen Gallery, as well as the much-loved Mast General Store. Olive This, a shop dedicated to olive oil, will open your palette to the wonders and flavors of olive oil.

So, you see, the urban trail walking tour is a great way to make a morning or afternoon adventure out of your downtown Asheville shopping ambitions, and you’ll probably have gotten in all of your steps for the day, too. Be sure to look up and look around. There’s so much to see in downtown Asheville.

Handy Guide links: Asheville shopping | Asheville restaurants | Asheville hiking

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Where to Eat in Asheville

People always ask us about where to eat in Asheville and which Asheville restaurants are local favorites. There’s something for everyone in Asheville, from bar-b-que to fine dining and from vegan to farm-to-table. From West Asheville restaurants to Biltmore Village restaurants and the best breweries in Asheville, check out where to eat in Asheville.

Asheville is well known for its vibrant, diverse culinary scene. It boasts extraordinary restaurants serving everything from down-home southern cooking and BBQ to farm-to-table, locally sourced cuisine to vegetarian and vegan delights. Our restaurant scene goes way beyond ordinary, so when people ask us where to eat in Asheville, we love sharing some of our local favorites.

Now, given the pandemic, in-person dining is limited, and some restaurants are still only offering takeout and delivery. Something else to keep in mind when deciding where to eat in Asheville is that at the time of writing this article, restaurants, breweries, wineries, and taprooms close at 10 p.m. and end alcohol service at 9 p.m. If offered, takeout and delivery services may continue after 10 p.m., and some establishments now offer to-go or delivery alcohol cocktails.

Since in-person dining is limited, waits may be longer, and a restaurant may require reservations. Our recommendation is to call the restaurant before you go. And, go with the flow. The local hospitality community is working hard to keep staff and customer safety front and center, so we can all dine out or get takeout safely and responsibly.

Where to eat in Asheville: Downtown

Asheville’s downtown culinary scene is full of fabulous restaurants that hit the spot from quick bites to decadent sit-down dining. Some of our favorites include:

  • White Duck Taco Shop: These yummy tacos aren’t just for Tuesdays. The menu includes a global take on ingredients served between two piping hot corn tortillas. Grab some chips and a salsa trio, and if a margarita is on your mind, their house made sour mix makes for a refreshing margi.
  • Curaté: Chef and co-owner Katie Button trained under José Andrés and Jean-Georges and Adrià at El Bulli. She’s earned her culinary chops, and this restaurant is a spectacular tribute to Spanish tapas, specialty cocktails and a thoughtful wine list.
  • Cucina 24: Farm-to-table Italian is showcased in this delightful spot that includes local ingredients, a daily menu and family style dining. Creative antipasti, pasta, pizza, main courses, and sweet treats are all on the menu.
  • Chai Pani: Indian street food with a hint (hint?) of spice and authenticity is front and center at this small downtown restaurant.
  • Baba Nahm: This grab-and-go middle eastern take-out joint hit the downtown scene with a falafel pita sandwich that vegetarians sing. Add a side of spicy fries with harrisa sauce, and your belly will be happy all day.
  • Red Ginger: Known for its dim sum, patrons can graze through flavortown with a menu of Chinese dim sum staples and modern takes on traditional entrees.
  • Little Bee Thai: Locals will tell you they serve the best Pad Thai in Asheville. The menu changes daily, and it includes starters, curries, noodles and a great selection of local beer.
  • Buxton Hall BBQ: True North Carolina BBQ and all the sides done well, every time. It’s busy, vibrant and always buzzing with patrons.
  • City Bakery: Fresh breads, bagels, biscuits, sandwiches and pastries – oh the pastries – are severed up all morning and throughout the afternoon. Swing by, grab breakfast and a coffee and set off on your AVL adventure.

Where to eat in Asheville: East Asheville

Quiet neighborhoods on the east side of town are home to a few fantastic spots that take comfort food to another level.

  • Rendezvous: Spun off from its sister restaurant downtown, this French comfort food joint embraces local ingredients and Lyonaise cookery and French staples. If you’re dining in, get the frites. Trust us.
  • Copper Crown: Modern takes on southern comfort food, great burgers and gastropub treats makes this restaurant a bright spot along the Tunnel Road corridor.
  • Creekside Taphouse: Located in the Haw Creek neighborhood, it’s a local favorite that features great food, local brews and a huge outside area that includes a volleyball court and a playground. Dogs are welcomed, too.
  • Filo Pastries and Coffee: Enjoy an outstanding selection of fresh breads, pastries, quiches and hand-made chocolates, as well as a variety of coffees and teas. Their chocolate cake is a local favorite, as well as their classic Greek treats.

Where to Eat in Asheville: North Asheville

North Asheville is the area of town north of the I-240 bridge that encompasses several historic neighborhoods and even reaches all the up to Weaverville.

  • Plant: Trust us on this one. This vegan restaurant will impress. You’ll never miss dairy after one taste of their cashew ricotta. And remember to order the ice cream for dessert. Even if you’re stuffed, it’s not to be missed.
  • Vinnie’s: A long-time, well-loved Italian spot that’s always hopping. Eating here is much like eating at your Italian grandmother’s table on a Sunday. Classic Italian fare, from Sunday gravy to pizza, lasagna to pasta and ever-changing house specials, is served family style and as individual entrees.
  • Asheville Pizza and Brewing: Inventive pizza, sandwiches and burgers with a movie house theme, APB is an Asheville staple. Oh, and they brew their own beer including long-time local favorites Ninja Porter, Rocket Girl and Perfect Day IPA.
  • Avenue M: Elevated, eclectic cuisine and an expansive cocktail and beer menu make this NAVL spot a perfect place to unwind with family and friends. The huge back patio is dog friendly, too.
  • Green Sage Café: Serving breakfast all day, cold pressed juices, whole fruit smoothies, plant-based rice bowls, grass-fed beef burgers, the menu crafted with local and organic ingredients also includes vegan and gluten free options.
  • Luella’s BBQ: Featuring Eastern Carolina BBQ and a mess of tasty sides, Luella’s is a fun local spot located near UNC Asheville.
  • The Hop Ice Cream Shop: Sure, you can make a meal out of ice cream. This local spot is an all-time favorite Asheville spot for a cold, sweet treat. Flavors change daily, and they offer dairy-free and sugar-free options.

Where to Eat in Asheville: West Asheville

West Asheville is a hip, thriving area of town with quirky eateries, dive bars and lots of local flare.

  • The Admiral: Do not let the cinder block building fool you. Four-star dining awaits inside. The inventive, creative cuisine adheres to no convention, and in truth, years ago it set the direction for outstanding dining experiences in AVL.
  • Foothills Butcher Bar: It’s a combination of a neighborhood butcher shop, delicious casual dining and friendly, local bar. They’re known for their focus on local foods and handmade meats, including smokehouse delights. Some locals will tell you they serve up the best burger in town.
  • BimBeriBon: An all-day café, this restaurant serves globally inspired, locally sourced menu that is gluten- and refined sugar-free menu. The menu changes frequently. And yes, the owner and chef really did beat Bobby Flay in a cooking throwdown.
  • Gan Shan Station: A sweet little casual, counter service spot that serves East Asian cuisines. Their specialty? Ramen. Freshly made noodles in a heavenly broth.
  • Sunny Point Café: A bright restaurant in the heart of WAVL well known for Sunday brunch and fantastic breakfast, lunch and dinner fare. Do not skip the angel biscuit. You’ll thank us.
  • Biscuit Head: Serving up classic cathead biscuits with a billion twists. Turn your biscuit into a sandwich and pick from jams and hot sauces to enjoy this southern canvas for any flavor.
  • Universal Joint: Affectionately known as the UJ, it’s a neighborhood bar and gastropub that offers up an ever-changing draft beer list, solid cocktails and really good bar food. We might be partial to the Steinbeck burger with tots.
  • Jargon: Upscale Americana with a modern, delightful southern twist. It’s creative and artistic, even down to the tables, which were once bowling alley lanes.
  • Nine Mile: Jamaican meets Caribbean in Asheville. All the spices and flavors of Jamaica inspire a menu full of generous entrees that can accommodate nearly all dietary preferences. This location, and its original location in Montford, are local hotspots.

Where to eat in Asheville: South

South AVL stretches all the way down to Skyland, maybe even Arden in some circles. And the area boasts some great restaurants well worth the drive. And here’s a tip about dining in South Asheville. A number of restaurants with central locations have opened second locations south of town, and you can usually get in either without reservations or a long line.

  • 12 Bones: This joint and its sister restaurant in the River Arts District, put AVL on the map for BBQ and smoked meats. Pick your meat and your sides. Order it as a plate or as a sandwich. Or, just order a plate of veggies.
  • Stonebowl: Serving authentic Korean cuisine, from classic soups to noodles to is namesake dish, a rice dish served in a searing hot stone bowl.
  • Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack: Next level hot chicken. People who think Nashville has the market cornered on hot chicken have clearly never melted their face at Rocky’s here in Asheville.
  • Tupelo Honey Café: THC opened this location to help alleviate the extremely long waits at the downtown location. Sweet potato pancakes, shrimp and grits and homestyle meatloaf are just a few items that show up regularly on this sweet and savory southern menu.

There are so many more restaurants in Asheville to try than we can list here, so we hope you enjoy this brief round-up of some of our favorites. And please remember to call ahead to ensure you can get in or take out.

Handy Guide links: Asheville shopping | Asheville restaurants | Asheville hiking

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The Best Hiking in Asheville and Surrounding Areas

Nature is a defining characteristic of living in these mountains. For most locals, the best hiking in Asheville is within a short ten-minute drive. And have you discovered the Blue Ridge Parkway? Here are some of the best hiking in Asheville, as well as loads of other fun things to do in the area.

Asheville is known for its proximity to great trails and hiking adventures. This handy guide will share with you some of the best hiking in Asheville and the surrounding areas, in our opinion.

We love the outdoors. And we’re lucky to call this amazing mountain town home, where it seems like right out the backdoor – or just a short drive away – is great mountain biking, great kayaking and rafting, great climbing and yes, great hiking.

Best Hiking in Asheville: Mountains to Sea Trail (MTS)

For many of us, we have easy access to some of the best hiking in Asheville along the Mountains to Sea trail that follows the Blue Ridge Parkway. The MTS offers easy sections with gentle climbs and some tough, challenging sections, and the trail can be accessed from numerous trailheads right along the in-town section of the parkway.

Unless you’re hiking from Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Manteo on the coast, you’ll be doing an out-and-back hike. And the beautiful thing about the MTS trail is that it is accessible year-round and offers something interesting to see in each season. Some of our favorite in-town sections of the MTS include:

  • Rattlesnake Ridge
  • Lane Pinnacle
  • Craven Gap
  • Biltmore Forest
  • Folk Art Center
  • Shut-In Ridge

Best Hiking in Asheville: All Four Seasons on the MTS

In the spring when the fiddlehead ferns unfurl and the trees’ leaf canopy fills in, wildflowers line the trail’s edges, and it’s easy to see why the MTS trail is some of the best hiking in Asheville. In some areas, hikers will find an abundance of wild iris, show orchids, violets galore, and on the north-facing slopes, trillium. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the endangered Lady Slippers. There are areas along the trail where pink and yellow Lady Slippers grow. When in bloom, the trails may be a bit crowded as hikers trek to see these rare plants. Trail etiquette is always important, but even more so during times of heavy use.
Fall foliage in the Western Carolina - Asheville area
In the summertime, the forest offers shade from the sun and summertime heat. Early morning hikes offer a respite from the heat of the day, and if you’re lucky (and careful), you might spot a bear grazing for food. Cooling afternoon rain showers are common, yet they can be heavy at times, so be prepared. Springs and creeks cross the trail in many places, offering a welcomed spot to cool off on a hot summer day. And, since heat and humidity reign in July, some of the flora will sag and look a bit tired.

Asheville in the fall is glorious. Leaves change, and the temperatures fall. Spectacular fall colors blanket the mountains, making overlooks and rock outcrops a welcome break from the hike to marvel at nature’s beauty. The understory begins to fall back; wildlife is actively preparing for winter. And leaves fall. Trails can be crowded, especially trails near overlooks and parking areas.

Winter hiking typically offers the most solitude on the trials, which can be muddy from winter rain and snow. Expansive views are abundant in many areas because there are no leaves on the trees. And, if trail hiking isn’t your thing in the winter, many locals will stroll on the Blue Ridge Parkway when it’s closed to cars.

Best Hiking in Asheville: Surrounding Areas

While there’s great hiking in Asheville, there are some spectacular trails within an hour’s drive of town.

  • Bent Creek Experimental Forest is located about 20 minutes south of Asheville, and it offers a large system of trails and fire roads for hikers and mountain bikers.
  • The Appalachian Trail stretches north of town and can be accessed from Hot Springs, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Sam’s Gap, and the incredible Roan Mountain.
  • The Roan Mountain State Park is located at the North Carolina/Tennessee state line and features a beautiful, easy hike through rhododendron gardens. It’s a popular trail when the rhodos are blooming in June.
  • Shining Rock Wilderness features rugged trails, hidden swimming holes and breathtaking views. The trails are primitive, and in many areas, the trails have been overused. It’s a beautiful area to explore and even plan a short backpacking trip. Be sure to get a map; wilderness areas are generally unmarked and require some navigation skills.
  • Graveyard Fields is a popular area with locals and tourists, and sometimes it can get crowded in the summer because of the swimming holes. If you hike a short way past the crowds (most people don’t go that far from the parking area to explore), you’ll find some less crowded areas. The area also attracts crowds when the blackberries ripen in late July and blueberries ripen in August. Again, hike past the crowds and take the MTS up the flank of the mountain to find berry patches and great hiking. Just be watchful of bears. They like berry snacks, too.

Wherever you decide to explore trails, make sure you have plenty of water and snacks. The weather can change at any time in the mountains, so be prepared for sudden storms and temperature drops. Most trails require your dog to be leashed. Wear sturdy shoes and appropriate clothes. Bring a camera, enjoy the fresh air and have fun.

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