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From Arts and Crafts to Brews and Views, Experiencing Asheville’s Creative Community
A burgeoning capital for the arts, cuisine, and just a good ol’ time, Asheville hospitality is everywhere, in every genuine, “howdy y’all” and smile. It’s more than simply being welcomed to a restaurant or hotel. The Asheville spirit is truly inclusive, and people are happy you’re here. They’re happy to welcome you home. That open-armed attitude helped attract an influx of artists, artisans, and other creative types in recent decades, drawn to how this laid-back, beautiful place is also home to rich culture and history. What was once a simple and quiet farming community in the mountains is now a world-renowned destination for galleries, shops, cuisine, and culture. 

Engage with the city’s infinitely creative spirit on this five-day trip, touring public art sites, architecture, and a range of galleries. (See more enriching tours you can take here.) You’ll also visit low-key yet inventive microbreweries, gorgeous natural sites that served as settings for Hollywood films, the great outdoors, and one of the most breathtakingly scenic drives on planet earth.
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    The LEAF Global Arts Center
    Day 1
    Welcome to Asheville
    Fly into Asheville Regional Airport or drive. Make your way downtown to the Foundry Hotel. This property, opened in 2018, repurposed the old steel forge originally used to provide materials for the Biltmore Estate. Now, the historic hotel features 87 guestrooms and 12 suites, each highlighting the building’s rich past as well as the cosmopolitan spirit of present-day Asheville. Head around the corner to the LEAF Global Arts Center where you can experience immersive art and music exhibits, from virtual reality to a touchscreen map of musical culture around the world. 

    Then, discover downtown on foot via the Asheville Architecture Trail. The walking tour features 14 stations, each a noteworthy example of 1920s architecture. Because you’ll be starting from LEAF, you’ll want to begin at station four, the Jackson Building, and work your way to some shopping at stop seven, the Kress Emporium. Keep an eye out for buskers (aka street musicians) and make time to check out the plethora of galleries downtown. If you need a little pit stop between stop six and seven, go to Old Europe Pastries, a classic bakery offering tasty sweets and delicious coffee. Or wait until you get to The Public Service Building, stop 12, and go for a late lunch at the nearby Citizen Vinyl, a new spot that’s equal parts record shop, café, and recording studio.  

    Finish your day taking in the exhibits featuring American art of the 20th and 21st centuries at the Asheville Art Museum and the Center for Craft, an institution dedicated to advancing the field of craft, if you have time. Enjoy an evening meal at Posana, located directly across the street from  the Asheville Art Museum. The contemporary American menu features dishes like the chicken with harissa sweet potatoes or trout with rutabaga fondant and mustard green Florentine, which can be enjoyed on a lovely outdoor patio. Top it off with inventive suds from the creative breweries Funkatorium and Bhramari, both located in the South Slope area of downtown.
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    Day 2
    A totally R.A.D. day
    It’s time to dive into this city’s incredible art scene. Grab breakfast at The Foundry or go for Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours’ sunrise stand-up paddleboarding tour. The four-mile trip floats through the River Arts District, or what some refer to as the R.A.D., and ends within walking distance of its attractions. 

    Dedicate the day to wandering among the R.A.D.’s 200+ active artist studios and galleries, shops, breweries, restaurants, and murals. Go in and around Foundy Street to see a plethora of the area’s murals. Hit Odyssey ClayWorks, Hofman Studios, Philip Deangelo’s Broken Road Studio, and The Asheville Darkroom, along with any discoveries along the way. For an immersive experience, stop by The N.C. Glass Center, which offers glass-blowing classes from 30 minutes to three hours, and a two-day weekend course.

    After you get your fill of art, head over for an early dinner at The Smoky Park Supper Club, a casual Southern-influenced restaurant with cocktails and an expansive outdoor space on the riverfront. Executive Chef Michelle Bailey’s menu includes crab hush puppies, smoked sunburst trout dip, and a fried oyster po boy sandwich with smoked remoulade. Alternatively, try out Vivian, which has fantastic fried chicken, roast pork belly, and fresh North Carolina flounder.
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    Grovewood Village / Courtesy of Ashley Van Matre
    Day 3
    A public art joyride
    Today, you’ll check into new lodging to see a different part of the city at the Beaufort House Inn, a Queen Anne-style Victorian Home circa 1894. This historic B&B offers five accommodations with private entrances, including three freestanding cottages. A little bit of history: Charlton Heston stayed in Beaufort’s Rose Room for six months in 1947, saving up money for his move to Hollywood while working at the Asheville Community Theatre.  

    Hop in the car to explore the Asheville stops along the Appalachian Mural Trail. The trail dots the 469-mile scenic Blue Ridge Parkway with about 100 murals on the route and six of them within city limits. Check out the view from overlooks like the Buck Creek Gap at mile marker 344.1, where you can also make your way into Old Fort and see the 10 historic murals there. Consider procuring a pop-up picnic from Parkway Picnics, who will set up and tear down blankets, pillows, place settings, locally sourced food, and more. Stop at the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Folk Art Center to see what’s on view in the galleries and craft demonstrations, and to shop the nation’s first craft shop. On the way back into town, go to Grovewood Village. The historic home to weaving and woodworking operations now houses working artist studios that you can visit and a shop dedicated to artisan-made crafts, all nearby the Beaufort. 

    For dinner tonight, you’ll enjoy Plant. The plant-based menu, representing quintessential naturalist Asheville culture, and the inventiveness of the dishes and plating is a prime example of the city’s creative spirit. Plus, it’s delicious! How can anyone pass up dishes like applewood smoked mushroom with black currant steak sauce, or tempeh chile con queso?
  • Day 4
    Daytrip to Appalachian cinematic history
    Before heading out of Asheville for the day, hop in the car and drive toward Biltmore to enjoy an early breakfast at Biscuit Head, one of the best spots in town. (Pro tip: Biscuit Head also offers catering packages to go, including their famous fried chicken and biscuits, for a delicious picnic for the road.)  

    Continue on to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock. Tour the famous Chimney Rock, where Daniel Day Lewis filmed Last of the Mohicans, and take in some of the most surreal views you’ll ever see, including from picnic areas overlooking waterfalls. Back closer to reality, visit the charming town of Lake Lure, the filming location for Patrick Swayze’s and Jennifer Gray’s Dirty Dancing. You may also wish to take in the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, a 2013 landscaping project which turned a former highway bridge into a beautiful public garden.

    Then, head back toward Asheville and stop on the way in Fairview at the Whistle Hop Brewing Company, housed in a building that’s fashioned from old train cars. One of the area’s many microbreweries, it uses locally sourced ingredients and has a three-acre outdoor area with food trucks that make for a quick and casual dinner.
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    Day 5
    A comfort-food-filled last day
    Before leaving town, drop by for a southern homestyle breakfast at Sunny Point Café. The comforting cuisine of this popular West Asheville spot includes biscuits and gravy or carrot hotcakes that you can enjoy alfresco if you’d like. Get one more taste of the Asheville creative spirit with the nearby spa and salon Beauty Parade’s outdoor mural of Rupaul and the reigning queen of Appalachian memories, Dolly Parton. And, if you have time, check out the vinyl and cassettes at Harvest Records and the queer feminist Firestorm Books & Coffee.  

    It’s time to say goodbye for now to this artistic community in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it’s a bittersweet departure, because leaving is the first step toward coming back again. And you’ll definitely be back again.