Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a charming, historic city that has become popular among trendiest of hipsters, old-moneyed families and outdoors enthusiasts alike. This North Carolina city is one of the most beloved destinations in the Appalachians, as it truly does have something for everyone, which is why I was so excited when I finally got the chance to experience Asheville for myself.
After a quick business trip in Charlotte, I realized that I had a couple of free days. Instead of heading back home, I decided to make the most of my uncharacteristically clear schedule and explore more of North Carolina. Since I’ve always heard such great things about Asheville, I decided to make the drive from Charlotte to Asheville to get a taste of this beloved mountain town. To book my last-minute hotel in Asheville, I simply checked out HotelTonight’s website. Within minutes, I had booked a great hotel in one of Asheville’s most popular neighborhoods, and I was ready to hit the ground running and start exploring the charming town of Asheville.
I knew I couldn’t come all the way to Asheville without visiting the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest private home. George Vanderbilt started building this massive, French Renaissance-style estate back in 1889, and today visitors can tour this opulent 250-room mansion and wander through the grounds. The Biltmore has a storied history, and the breathtaking grounds and expansive estate are well worth the visit if you like history or architecture. While I could have easily spent the entire day exploring the Biltmore and its beautiful grounds, I had limited time to see as much of Asheville as I could, so I headed into the city.
Located in downtown Asheville, which is a very compact, walkable area, the Asheville Urban Trail winds past some of the city’s most important historical and architectural sights. There are 30 marked spots on the trail, which makes it easy to take your very own walking tour of this historic 1.7-mile trail. Along the way, I saw statues that showcased important people and moments from Gilded Age to the present, and it almost felt like I was on a mini scavenger hunt throughout the streets of downtown. Walking the Asheville Urban Trail was one of my favorite parts of visiting Asheville – not only is it a fun, unique way to see the city, but it’s also interesting and informative.
This unique arts district is located about two miles west of downtown Asheville, but it has a completely different feel from the rest of the city. The River Arts District is the heart and soul of the art scene in Asheville, and you can see many working artists during your stroll through this district. Composed of 22 historic buildings, such as old cotton mills and tanneries, which have been transformed into modern art spaces, the River Arts District is a must-see for art lovers. I popped into several studios during my time in the River Arts District, and I found that it’s the perfect place to pick up a unique, memorable souvenir from Asheville.
The next morning, I decided to take a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This famous drive stretches for 469 miles, and while I certainly didn’t want to drive the entire stretch, I did want to see what the hype was all about. Both locals and tourists that I met in Asheville said that I had to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway before I left North Carolina, and I was certainly glad I listened to their advice. This road winds through picturesque mountains and passes great hiking trails, historic towns, and a number of popular attractions. For those who want to see breathtaking views and experience the beautiful natural surroundings of North Carolina, you definitely won’t want to miss a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Sticking to my theme of the day of exploring Asheville’s natural surroundings, I decided to go on a hike through the Appalachians. While the Appalachian Trail spans more than 2,000 miles from Maine to Georgia, many of its best hikes are located in North Carolina. So I drove about 35 miles northwest of Asheville to hop on one of the best segments of the trail. I started at the Silvermine trailhead and hiked along the Lover’s Leap Ridge, where I witnessed some of the most jaw-dropping views I’ve ever seen.
North Carolina is full of charm, beauty and history, and you can find it all in Asheville. Even in two days, I was able to get a great sense of this unique North Carolina town, and I was able to make this impromptu trip possible thanks to HotelTonight. Since I didn’t have to worry about scouring the internet for a good last-minute hotel in Asheville, I was able to spend more time actually exploring Asheville, which is how every great trip should be.