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Tucked into North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is surrounded by old-growth forests, tumbling waterfalls, and a handsome stretch of the Appalachian Trail. But beyond its world-class wilderness, the city is known for its enduring Gilded Age architecture and bluegrass musical traditions, as well as a thriving art scene. And if that’s not enough, have a beer: Asheville boasts a staggering number of craft breweries, many within walking distance of the music venues and art galleries of the up-and-coming South Slope and River Arts districts. These formerly industrial neighborhoods have breathed new life into the city, and are excellent places to hang out in between trips to the mountains.
Fly into Asheville Regional Airport (AVL), which is about 14 miles from downtown (approximately 20 to 30 minutes by car). You can take a taxi or a rideshare straight to your Asheville getaway, or rent a car at the airport. Popular areas like Downtown Asheville, the River Arts District, and Biltmore Village are all pedestrian-friendly and compact enough to explore on foot. (The city also provides a hop-on, hop-off trolley that passes among popular districts.) You’ll want to rent a car, however, to explore the numerous hiking trails outside the city and navigate at least a stretch of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, considered the nation’s most scenic highway.
Asheville has a subtropical climate, which means that the summer months are warm and humid while winters are comparatively mild. From June through August, temperatures peak in the mid-to-high 80s, while December through February they range from the high 20s to the high 40s, with occasional snowfall on the city’s surrounding peaks. From March to May and September through early November, Asheville’s temperatures typically hover between the high 50s and the mid-70s, ideal for exploring the area’s picturesque wildflower blooms in spring and foliage during fall. However, precipitation is regular throughout the year—so pack accordingly.
Among Asheville’s most prominent landmarks is this 250-room mansion built for George Washington Vanderbilt II during the height of the Gilded Age. The opulent 19th-century chateau (which is the largest privately owned home in the United States) sits on 8,000 acres and comprises sprawling grounds designed by a famous landscape architect. Visitors can tour the historic manor and massive estate, which includes a rose garden, farm, shop-filled village, and an award-winning winery.
This 1.7-mile walking trail pieces together 30 stops around downtown Asheville that celebrate an important person or moment in the city’s history—each marked with a public sculpture. The self-guided tour takes about two hours to complete, and begins at Pack Square Park. Printed maps are available at the information center.
Located about 20 minutes by car from downtown Asheville, these 434 acres of botanically diverse gardens pack in more than 10 miles of pet-friendly hiking trails. The outdoor attraction sits within the Pisgah National Forest, which includes more than half a million acres of wilderness, with forested mountains, whitewater rivers, and photo-worthy waterfalls.