Don’t get overwhelmed or exhausted by trying to see it all. From locals, these are the best attractions and places to eat, sleep, and drink with only 36 hours in Asheville, NC, including blockbusters and local spots.
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Fun-Filled 36 Hours In Asheville Itinerary
When we first visited Western North Carolina, we barely had 2 days in Asheville (AVL) to see all the attractions, hike the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and tour historic Biltmore Estate. However, that short time also convinced us to move here. We’ve been AVL residents since – almost 5 years now!
If you find yourself with a similarly short time to explore the city, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This is our ideal Asheville itinerary to experience a bit of it all:
Of course, there is so much more to do in Asheville. Sign up for our newsletter (form below) to grab all of our free Asheville guides, including over 50 attractions, hiking trails, and nearby Western North Carolina towns that you can check off as you go. We also have an article showcasing the best indoor activities if the weather is icky during your visit.
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Day 1: Arriving In Asheville
Let’s start when your plane, bus, or car lands in North Carolina. You probably cannot enjoy a full day in Asheville, but maybe you have a few hours to spare. If you are anything like us, hit the ground running.
1. Tour the River Arts District
Each of Asheville’s unique neighborhoods has its own vibes. Reminiscent of Wynwood Walls in Miami, we most frequent the River Arts District (RAD), which is full of artist studios and shops. While we have an entire guide dedicated to RAD, add these memorable highlights to your Asheville itinerary:
- Walking, skating, and biking the RAD Riverwalk along the French Broad River
- Spying the most urban street art in Asheville
- Shopping for jewelry, sculptures, pottery, and paintings at artist studios: Marquee, Foundation Studios, The Asheville Cotton Mill, and Riverview Station
- Snapping a photo with the Asheville Silo
- Eating at delicious RAD restaurants like Baby Bull (burgers), RosaBees (Hawaiian), 12 Bones Smokehouse (Obamas ate here; BBQ), White Duck Taco Shop (tacos), and The Bull and Beggar (meats)
- Drinking at pleb urban winery, Bottle Riot (wine bar), Wedge Brewing, Ginger’s Revenge (GF ginger beer), Summit (coffee), or Anoche (tequila bar)
- Watching an indie or mainstream film at Grail Moviehouse
Our Top Suggested RAD Itinerary: Park in one of the free lots along Riverside Drive under the bridge. Stroll the RAD Riverwalk, dipping in and out of our favorite places like Hi-Wire’s RAD Beer Garden, pleb (order a wine flight), and Marquee. See urban art along Foundy Street, and grab a coffee at Summit or beer and burger from The Chop Shop Food Truck paired with Wedge Brewing at Foundation Studios.
2. Dine at Foodtopia’s best restaurants
With 36 hours in Asheville and a city nicknamed “Foodtopia” filled with absolutely unforgettable restaurants, you are going to have to make some hard restaurant decisions. Tom and I are both avid foodies and have eaten at hundreds of restaurants across the city.
For fine dining, romantic, and award-winning restaurants, head to:
- Cúrate – Spanish tapas and wine; Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey dined here; make advanced reservations ASAP; James Beard award-winning
- Chai Pani – Indian street snacks; budget-friendly; no reservations; Meherwan Irani is a James Beard award-winning and highly acclaimed chef
- Bouchon – French comfort food in a romantic setting perfect for date night
- Plant – Asheville’s dedicated vegan restaurant; I love that “cheese” plate
- Posana – Contemporary American cuisine with locally sourced ingredients; dedicated gluten-free kitchen (we have an entire guide to GF Asheville as a Celiac household)
- Neng Jr.’s – Intimate Filipinx, frequently changing menu; advanced reservations; highly unique
More casual and local dining options that we love:
- Nine Mile – Caribbean-influenced cuisine with the best food allergy and intolerance-friendly menu; multiple locations; no reservations
- ELDR – American cuisine with craft cocktails; across from The Omni Grove Park Inn; storybook cottage setting; make advanced reservations
- Haywood Common – Shared pet-friendly patio with The Whale (beer); healthy eats; casual counter service
- Bone & Broth – Elevated North Asheville tavern; local meats; advanced reservations
- Asheville Brewing – Local beer; multiple locations, pizza and pub cuisine; family-friendly restaurant
Romantic Date Idea: If you are planning a romantic Asheville getaway from May to October, we highly suggest dining at Nine Mile or Tall John’s before watching a free, under-the-stars Shakespeare in the Park performance in Historic Montford. Consider booking a Bed & Breakfast here too like The Lion And The Rose or Black Walnut.
3. Grab a drink from an unforgettable bar
End your first day in Asheville celebrating with a drink – OK, and clearly, we cannot resist charcuterie.
While Asheville has tons of great bars to choose from (we’ll get to breweries later), for the most unique experience, head to the Battery Park Book Exchange located inside the historic Grove Arcade. This is one of the city’s top used bookstores. Sip champagne, wine, and literary cocktails between the stacks. Catch live music or a poetry reading.
With gorgeous weather, we also love Asheville’s rooftop bars for breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our favorites include The Montford, Capella on 9, and The Social Lounge.
For bibliotourists: I am a huge literary traveler as a rogue, MLIS-degreed librarian. Be sure to read our Asheville Book Lovers Itinerary to find the best bookshops, libraries, literary and historical sites, and movie filming locations.
Day 2: Full Day In Asheville
Make the most out of your 1 to 2 days in Asheville. If you plan on staying in the city proper, we suggest half a day visiting Biltmore Estate followed by heading downtown for breweries and shopping before catching a sunset at The Omni Grove Park Inn. For breakfast try Sunny Point, 5 Points, Pulp & Sprout, or Liberty Cafe.
However, if Biltmore is not for you, we suggest hiking DuPont State Forest for those waterfalls followed by lunch in Hendersonville and wine tasting across Henderson County. Our Hendersonville attractions guide will get you started. Hendersonville is about 35 minutes from Asheville.
4. Tour Biltmore Estate
With only 36 hours in Asheville, visit Biltmore Estate, the area’s blockbuster tourist attraction. As America’s largest home, dreamed up by George and Edith Vanderbilt with the help of Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmstead, Biltmore is Asheville’s version of the Newport mansions.
We are Biltmore annual passholders (4.5+ years now). To get your money’s worth without exhausting yourself, we suggest:
- Self-guided or audio Biltmore House tour first thing in the morning; budget 1 to 1.5 hours; use the restrooms before entering
- Stroll the gardens; our favorite is the Walled Garden
- Lunch at Stable Cafe (next to the house) or Cedric’s Tavern (Antler Hill Village); make advanced reservations
- Wine taste at Biltmore Winery
- If time allows, walk the Lagoon Trail or catch a special exhibit
- With kids, enjoy the live demonstrations, barnyard, bike rentals, and wooden playground
History Lovers Tip: Read The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan before visiting Biltmore Estate. A local Asheville author, Kiernan explains the creation and history behind Biltmore but also the role the Vanderbilts played in Asheville’s economy. Edith participated in politics, quite the achievement for the time, and both Vanderbilts helped contribute to forestry education. I love this enlightening book, and it enhanced my perspective of WNC.
5. Try a local craft beer
If you need a palate cleanser after fancy Biltmore Estate, every 36-hour Asheville itinerary should include visiting a craft brewery. Asheville is famous for its hopping brewery scene with over 60+ to choose from.
For popular and famous breweries in Downtown Asheville, head to:
- Green Man (best ESB)
- Wicked Weed Brewing (with good food; Funkatorium nearby)
- Catawba Brewing Co.
- Burial Beer Co.
- Twin Leaf Brewery
- Hi-Wire Brewing (Downtown – tiki bar; RAD – beer garden)
Local favorites that we frequent include:
If you prefer guided tours, consider this Downtown Asheville brewery tour. And, for our spirit lovers, read more about AVL’s distilleries like Cultivated Cocktails. For non-alcoholic beverages, explore Asheville’s hipster coffee shop scene.
6. Explore and shop in Downtown Asheville
Downtown Asheville is always worth a visit. Walkable and easy to navigate, you don’t need a car. Before we moved to Asheville, we took an Uber downtown from our hotel (we stayed off Brevard Road). The main Downtown Asheville area and streets include Biltmore Ave., Lexington Ave., and Page Ave.
With only 36 hours in Asheville, a few points of interest to see downtown include:
- Taking a picture in front of the Flat Iron Sculpture
- Playing vintage arcade games at the Asheville Pinball Museum
- Admiring art at the Asheville Art Museum or a T-Rex at the Science Museum
- Shopping at Malaprops Bookstore or Woolworth Walk
- Touring the Thomas Wolfe Memorial
- Grabbing hot chocolate and dessert at French Broad Chocolate Lounge or Asheville Chocolate
- Shopping at the historic Grove Arcade
Explore more of Asheville’s top museums and historic sites, and shop at the best Asheville stores. For guided tours, people love this ghost tour and tip-based walking tour. You also cannot go wrong with LaZoom or Gray Line Trolley Tours either.
7. Catch an Omni Grove Park Inn sunset
The Omni Grove Park Inn is the adult Disney World of the NC mountains. While you can stay overnight at this luxury resort with a world-class spa and golf course, we recommend stopping by for a sunset dinner at Edison or Sunset Terrace. Or, just grab drinks at The Great Hall Bar.
Those vibrant pink, orange, and purple sunsets will rival Santorini (we honeymooned in Greece). This is the perfect way to end your last night in Asheville. And, if you happen to land in Asheville around Christmas, you’ll also love their holiday decor and annual gingerbread house display with hot cocoa.
Day 3: Heading Out
If you have half a day in Asheville before heading out, these are a few of our final suggestions. However, if you skip Biltmore altogether, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway is another great way to spend 36 hours in Asheville for Day 2.
8. Drive down the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) is a 469-mile, 2-lane, scenic road managed by The National Park Service (NPS). Free to access, the Parkway runs from Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
A must for any Asheville itinerary, find endless scenic overlooks and cascading waterfalls. The Blue Ridge Parkway hikes have some of the best mountain views. If you have a few hours in the morning, you can easily walk to the top of Craggy Pinnacle in under an hour. Or, have a snack or picnic at Craggy Gardens.
We have an entire hiking guide for Asheville if you wish to swap out any of the above activities to get outside. Head to Black Balsam via the Art Loeb Trail, climb Mount Pisgah, or trek to Crabtree Falls. In the fall, the BRP is a must for leaf chasers.
9. Eat lunch at Sierra Nevada Brewing (for airport travelers)
Sierra Nevada is a massive brewing facility with a restaurant; you can even tour their amazing facility. If you are ending your 36-hour Asheville visit, have lunch in their taproom before heading to the Asheville airport (under 10 minutes away). We also take guests here if they are arriving in Asheville and ready to eat. Nearby, Mills River Brewing and Bold Rock also have food trucks.
Best Hotels For A Short Visit
Asheville has plenty of nice places to stay. However, with one to two nights in Asheville, these are our top picks for location and comfort.
- Aloft – Downtown Asheville – If you are looking to stay in the heart of Downtown Asheville, the updated Aloft Hotel has murals, hipster rooms, and sprawling public areas, including a rooftop pool and ledge.
- Hampton Inn And Suites Asheville Biltmore Area – Although this hotel sits on busy Brevard Road – NC-191 – across from the Asheville Outlets, it was one of our favorites before moving here. Clean, updated, and in the middle of everything, access Downtown Asheville, Biltmore, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s family and budget-friendly.
- Blind Tiger Asheville – We staycationed at this beautiful boutique hotel in the historic Chestnut Street area. Walk to Bone & Broth, find Little Free Libraries, and even walk to downtown.
- Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate – Tom and I stay here for fun during Passholder Appreciation Months (and our out-of-town family stays here too). See Biltmore, enjoy the trails, and have access to great on-property restaurants. Plus, Biltmore Village is right outside those gates.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Asheville so popular?
Along with large attractions like Biltmore Estate, Asheville is famous for the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. Hike and chase waterfalls, drive the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, and dine at award-winning restaurants.
Is Downtown Asheville worth visiting?
Yes, Downtown Asheville is a great place to eat at famous restaurants, see historic buildings, shop, and enjoy the city’s craft breweries. Plus, it’s walkable; no car is needed.
How many days do you need for Asheville, NC?
To experience both the tourist attractions and local haunts, spend 3 to 4 days in Asheville. This will give you time for nearby day trips too.
Before You Go…
We love living in Asheville and taking our out-of-town guests around. Everyone is friendly, happy, and well-hydrated. There are plenty of activities, and you can enjoy both the North Carolina mountains and eclectic culture.
Please let us know how your vacation went in the comments. We’d love to hear your personal Asheville itinerary. Or, drop me (Christine) an email if you have any questions about planning your upcoming trip to Asheville.
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Christine (pronouns: she/her) is the owner and lead writer of Uncorked Asheville. After falling in love with those gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, Christine and her husband Tom decided to call Asheville, North Carolina home. When her pointy Italian nose isn’t stuck in a book, Christine is adopting all of the kitties, getting lost in the forest, and drinking an ESB. She has a BA in English and History from Smith College, her MLIS from USF-Tampa, and is a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar - Indonesia. Christine also owns The Uncorked Librarian LLC with books and movies to inspire travel.