Discover Asheville Arts and Culture with a Local’s Three-Day Itinerary

From galleries and food to fashion and the outdoors, we tapped ceramic artist Akira Satake for inspiration to help you plan a trip to Asheville.

Akira Satake inside his ceramics gallery, Gallery Mugen in Asheville, North Carolina

Akira Satake inside his ceramics gallery, Gallery Mugen.

Photo by Tim Robison

Akira Satake, known the world over for ceramics that combine the beauty of nature with essential function, makes an apt guide to Asheville, North Carolina’s rich cultural offerings. An accomplished banjo player, bluegrass musician, and award-winning artist, he found a home in the city (which also boasts a legacy of ceramic arts) in 2003 after a career as a hip-hop producer and record label owner. The ceramicist and his wife, Cynthia Pierce, a pastry chef, are champions of the destination’s local food, music, majestic scenery, and outdoor lifestyle. In this three-day itinerary, Satake brings the eye of an international artist, spotlighting places to enjoy Asheville’s diverse and creative spirit through art, dining, and experiences in nature.

The circus-like exterior of Marquee, a market in the River Arts District in Asheville, North Carolina

Trip Highlight


Located in the River Arts District, Marquee is one of Asheville’s premier markets. Inside an area of over 50,000 square feet, you'll find one-of-a-kind artist displays, vintage items, and market vendors. Plus, you can sample some of the city’s famous local beer, wine, cider, and mead at the onsite bar.
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Trip Designer

Explore Asheville

With so much to see and do in this eclectic city and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, Explore Asheville has you covered with in-depth information for every interest and angle. Whether you’re drawn to the city’s architecture, thriving restaurant scene, lively art galleries, or serene natural beauty, this welcoming destination offers all the elements of a rewarding getaway.
The brick exterior of Rite of Passage, a clothing store in the River Arts District of Asheville, North Carolina

The fashion boutique Rite of Passage makes many of its garments in its adjoining Sew Co. Studio.

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

Day 1:Explore and Shop the River Arts District

Start by checking in to your accommodations for the coming two nights. For a boutique hotel-like experience with the warmth of a bed-and-breakfast, AFAR recommends Blind Tiger, with a location just outside of the city center. If you prefer somewhere more central, the new Moxy Hotel, opening late summer in 2024, brings a playful vibe to downtown Asheville. The location is where you’ll find many of the city’s best restaurants and boutiques. A few blocks away, the AC Hotel Asheville Downtown offers clean, modern rooms and local art near Pack Square Park.

To experience the true spirit of Asheville, visit the River Arts District (RAD). “You can easily spend an entire day in this part of town,” the artist says. Start at Riverview Station, home to nearly 60 artists and shops, including Satake’s Gallery Mugen for over a decade. Awash with natural light and filled with the elegant pieces he describes as collaborations of clay and fire that bridge the traditions of his native Japan and Asheville, his gallery is an ideal spot to find a distinctive, museum-quality souvenir.

A few steps away is Marquee, a market for art, antiques, home goods, vintage clothes, and much more. “There’s always something new there,” Satake says of the vast space, its many treasures to purchase, and its superb artwork.

Another highlight of the RAD is Rite of Passage, a fashion boutique on Clingman Avenue and the brainchild of two of Asheville’s leading designers, Libby O’Bryan and Giovanni Daina-Palermo. The clothing is “unusually hip and not just for young people,” says Satake. Tour the adjoining Sew Co. Studio, where many of the garments are made, to learn more about one of the top businesses in Asheville’s historic fabric craft scene.
A man mountain biking along a path in Kitsuma in the Montreat area outside of Asheville, North Carolina

Kitsuma is one of many excellent options for getting outdoors in Montreat.

Photo by Andre Daugherty

Day 2:Asheville Farmers’ Markets and Hikes

The city’s farmers’ markets (often called tailgate markets here) are a great way to start the day and taste the next emerging stars of Asheville’s flourishing food scene. Plan your trip to include a Wednesday and go to the River Arts District Farmers Market, open in the late afternoon year-round. Satake is especially fond of the mushrooms from Black Trumpet Farm, including oyster and shiitake varieties, coveted by top chefs and home cooks alike.

One of the highlights of any Asheville tailgate market is the plethora of baked goods. Satake and Pierce are connoisseurs of the many exquisite pastries available at the markets and local bakeries. The area has also developed a burgeoning bread-baking scene that culminates in the Asheville Bread Festival every two years in spring (the next one will take place in 2025).

Complete your day by exploring one of the stunning Appalachian trails nearby, a must-do for any visitor to the region. There’s no wrong place to hike, but Satake likes trails in the Montreat area about 25 minutes outside of the city, which is home to Greybeard Trail, one of the more challenging day hikes close to town.

Top it all off by sampling some of the high-quality, late-night beverages available in the city. Like the celebrated restaurant scene here, many stylish bars take cocktails to the next level. Head to the bartender-owned-and-operated Golden Pineapple for tiki lounge aesthetics or try one of the many other bars on Haywood Street in West Asheville to relax after your hike.
A pizza being pit into a woodfired oven at All Souls restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina

All Souls turns out delicious woodfired pizzas.

Photo by Tim Robison

Day 3:Experience Asheville Restaurants and Music Culture

Enjoy getting to know the musical side of Asheville today through its fantastic collection of record shops, such as Harvest Records in West Asheville, which played a leading role in the recent vinyl revival. You’ll find musical delights no matter what night of the week or time of year you visit. If you’re here during summer, choose from the many outdoor music events.

Many of Asheville’s award-winning restaurants draw on flavors from around the world. For a lesser-known gem, try one of Satake’s favorites, Tamaleria y Tortilleria Molina. Located on Patton Avenue in West Asheville, it’s a highly rated, no-frills spot known for fresh, delicious tamales and tacos. Looking for a place where you can sit and linger over a meal? Check out Chai Pani, Neng Jr.’s, or Cúrate, which all have won or been finalists for James Beard awards.

For dinner, revisit the RAD to experience it at night and feast at the Satake-recommended All Souls Pizza, where everything is fresh and locally sourced. While its pizzas and salads are staples, he suggests checking out the specials, too.

For more of Asheville’s highlights, go to and download the Explore Asheville App to help shape your trip.
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