What to do and where to go in and around Asheville, NC?
August 15, 2012 10:11 AM   Subscribe

What to do or where to go in and around Asheville, NC?

For the next week my girlfriend (Mefite hugandpint) and I will be in North Carolina. We're staying in Asheville until Sunday, at which point we'd like to drive somewhere interesting that's +/- 3 hours away. We'll have a rental car the entire time.

We will have sporadic bouts of free time while in Asheville. We already have an outing to the Biltmore planned - what else would you recommended that's in the area (i.e. within a 45 minute drive and preferably less)? Please note: we are not looking for restaurant suggestions - we have that covered.

The conference is only until Sunday, but we're not flying out of Asheville until Tuesday at around 3 p.m. We'd like to drive somewhere a few hours away but we really have nothing in particular in mind. Will the state/national parks be filled up at such a short notice - more to the point will cabins at parks be full as we have absolutely no camping equipment with us? Any suggestions for spots with beautiful scenery (in or not in a park) where we could stay for two nights at such a short notice? Price isn't really a constraint, though there's no arguing with cheap. Cheap is good.

Thanks for the input. While we won't be sending you a postcard, we will send you good thoughts worthwhile their weight in postcards.
posted by item to Travel & Transportation around North Carolina (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
There's the Highland Brewery if you like beer. And you can tour the River Arts District and if you're going to be downtown check out Malaprop's Bookstore. (And lots of other places. I'd just recommend walking around downtown for a while, really.) Chimney Rock is a nice daytrip, although I don't think they do camping.
posted by dortmunder at 10:21 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

For your exploration look no further than Cherokee and Gatlinburg. You can go to the casino in Cherokee, sit in the shallow river, check out the museum, see Unto These Hills and eat pancakes.

A 50 minute drive through the Smoky Mountains will take you from Cherokee to Gatlinburg, gateway to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood.

The drive through the Smokies is absolutely gorgeous. Breathtaking. Check out the hiking trails, or drive to Cade's Cove to see an old settlement.

Cheap is where it's at. Tons of good motels either in Cherokee or Gatlinburg, although I like the Holiday Inn Club Vacation villas. In fact I'll be there starting next Tuesday.

Seriously, you won't regret it. It's pretty, kitchy, sweet, cheap and fun. Putt-putt golf, here I come!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:49 AM on August 15, 2012

Take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway (there might be some cabins available here)...Craggy Gardens is amazing. There are some cabin rentals near cherokee/bryson city (near Great Smoky Mountain NP.)

I would also check out Black Mountain (about a 20 minute drive east on 40), there is a neat downtown with a fantastic view.

If you like Biltmore, check out the Grove Park Inn...it's free and there are a bunch of cool museums on the property.

If you are a huge fan of Dirty Dancing, you should go out to Lake Lure where they filmed it (Bonus points for driving through the Hickory Nut Gorge, IMO the prettiest area in the state.)

In terms of breweries, I would not miss Jack o' the Wood downtown or the Wedge in the River Arts District.

If you want any more ideas or anything more specific, memail me.
posted by schyler523 at 10:52 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, using AirBnb.com might help with the lodging no matter where you decide to go.
posted by schyler523 at 11:28 AM on August 15, 2012

My partner and I really like Bryson City, which is a cute little town about an hour and change west of Asheville (actually, we liked it so much that that's where we got engaged!). You can take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad from there - we found that to be really fun - and the Nantahala Brewing Company right across from the train station was both friendly and full of tasty craft beers. The Nantahala Outdoor Center is nearby, too, if you're feeling up for some white water rafting... Not sure what the camping situation is like around there but there's a visitor center as soon as you get into town that could probably help you out there, if you end up heading out that way.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:36 AM on August 15, 2012

Thanks for the answers everyone! Can't wait to check these out once we get to a real computer. Schyler523, we are actually staying at the Grove Park Inn for the first part of our trip, so we are even more excited to stay there now.
posted by hugandpint at 11:37 AM on August 15, 2012

DingoMutt: "My partner and I really like Bryson City..."

This is a great suggestion! As mentioned the Nantahala Brewing Co is an excellent sit-down pub. You can also visit the Bryson City grave of Horace Kephart, author of Our Southern Highlanders and one of the movers and shakers behind the founding of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He has a mountain named after him and you can join in celebrating his 150th birthday.

Also happening in Bryson City is an excursion train that runs through the mountains: the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. This is a lovely way to experience the mountains and see some scenery while NOT being in your car.
posted by workerant at 12:04 PM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't miss the spa at the Grove Park Inn. Scheduling a treatment there (massage, facial, whatever) will get you access to the spa for the entire day. It is... incredible. There are several pools to relax and swim in. And they all have music playing UNDERWATER! There are saunas and steam rooms and patios for sunning yourself and contrast pools and massaging waterfalls and fireside lounges with snacks and drinks and and and and...

Oh god I need to go back there right now.
posted by jph at 12:57 PM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just back from Ashville and had a great time.
If you plan on visiting the Biltmore Estate, you should plan on spending most of a day there. You can buy tickets in advance for the house. http://www.biltmore.com/. There are several places to eat at various prices. There is a winery and a farm as well as the huge house.
We took a Segway tour (about 2 1/2 hours) around downtown, our guide was Wes. It starts and ends at the Asheville Visitor Information Center at 36 Montford Avenue, Asheville.
Downtown there is the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar if you like books (you don't have to visit the wine bar if you don't want to.
We also spent most of a day visiting Chimney Rock. Tickets were $15.00 each.
posted by lungtaworld at 1:05 PM on August 15, 2012

I loved Asheville... if you have any literary bent, visit the Thomas Wolfe museum (he wrote Look Homeward, Angel) and take a tour. It's quiet and not so busy, but I think it's a little gem and a fascinating part of the city's history. Nthing the Blue Ridge Parkway drive. So much gorgeousness. Particularly as it starts turning into the fall. Cherokee is interesting, though somewhat kitschy on the surface as others have mentioned... there were a lot of cool painted bears scattered around the city last year.
posted by iadacanavon at 7:25 PM on August 15, 2012

Seconding Biltmore. Don't miss the excellent towels and products that are Biltmore brand.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:31 AM on August 16, 2012

Hit the Mast General Store for some of that old Appalachian general store charm. (Disclaimer: I've been to the one in Valle Crucis a zillion times but never this particular branch; however, I have it on good authority that the only thing missing from this one that's in Valle Crucis is the Candy Barrel (a little store next to the Mast General Store Annex in Valle Crucis ).)

You could also go to the Linville Caverns (just about an hour away) to see some beautiful caves and water formations.
posted by tigerjade at 12:15 PM on August 16, 2012

Thanks, all. Looks like we'll be driving down to SC tomorrow morning, where I plan on meeting a retired showbiz orangutan that lives at a sanctuary hugandpint's family owns. From there we're driving up to Gatlinburg via a stop at Natural Bridge. I wish we had more time - the Smokies are goddamn stunning and while the Grove Park Inn's been lovely and relaxing, we haven't really had the chance to see much of the surrounding area thanks to the conference. We had a shitty group dinner at the Biltmore last night, though it wasn't menu items and probably more the fault of the organizers than the Estate. We're headed back there in an hour for the tour, though, and're hoping (and expecting) the food to be of a higher quality this afternoon.

As I said, we wish we had more time to explore. I've spent some time in the general area a few times in the past, but hugandpint hasn't. It's been a great reminder that there's some of the most magnificent natural beauty on the planet in the States, especially coming from the flat prairie that is North Texas.
posted by item at 8:51 AM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

And by Natural Bridge I of course meant Mountain Bridge. Of course.
posted by item at 6:17 AM on August 19, 2012

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