Charlotte, NC to Asheville, NC
July 18, 2007 8:42 AM   Subscribe

What's it like driving between Charlotte, NC and Asheville, NC?

A friend and her daughter are planning to fly into Charlotte, NC and renting a car to drive to a conference (at the Blue Ridge Assembly Conference Center) which is near Asheville, NC. They could fly directly into Asheville and be picked up there, but it's quite a bit more expensive and as they've never been to that part of the country before, think the drive will give them an opportunity to see a bit more of it. What is the driving itself like (windy roads, mountainous?) and what interesting things are there to see along the way? Any great local places to eat? Bonus points for anyone having been to the BRA conference center before and commenting on it.
posted by jvilter to Travel & Transportation around North Carolina (12 answers total)
It's interstate pretty much the whole way. It can get a bit windy and hilly, but nothing anywhere close to treacherous. If it were me, I'd drive through Black Mountain and Montreat, but mainly because I spent a bunch of time there as a youth--not sure if it'd appeal to your friend, really.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:06 AM on July 18, 2007

Yup. Just highway. Easy drive. Two-ish hours. Not a whole lot to do on the way. Pretty scenery.
posted by greta simone at 9:12 AM on July 18, 2007

It's an annoying drive.

I'd take I-85 to US 74 (just west of Gastonia) right through to I-26, then north into Asheville. It's a quieter, pleasanter drive than taking US 321 to I-40, because I-40 between Hickory and Black Mountain is just plain dull and, while never busy, is classic interstate traffic and sights. Both run to about 2.5hrs, depending on how law-abiding a driver you are.

(There might be reasons to drive through Newton and Hickory. I've yet to learn them.)

The alternative, scenic route is to head west on US 74, but take the northern spur (US 64 / US 74) at Alexander Mills up through Lake Lure and Chimney Rock into Asheville, which is pretty, winding and perhaps an hour longer.
posted by holgate at 9:17 AM on July 18, 2007

(Google Maps of the southern route and the scenic route.)
posted by holgate at 9:25 AM on July 18, 2007

Either way you go is cool. (I live in Asheville). The best thing is that while it is flat for the first 75% of the trip, the last 25% is cool because the mountains rise in front of you as you get closer and the drive is beautiful.

It's all pretty much interstate though. -dm
posted by donmak at 9:31 AM on July 18, 2007

Seconding I-85 to US 74 to I-26 for a nice mix of convenience and scenery. I grew up in Gastonia with a lot of friends in Asheville, and this is the route I usually take. The previously mentioned scenic route is nice, too, if you've got the extra time to kill.

Asheville has tons of good restaurants, but if your friends want to stop on the way, there are some pretty good places in Gastonia. The following three are located on US 74 (called Franklin Blvd. in G-town), and won't require any deviation from the route.

Tony's Ice Cream in is a great place to do lunch if you want something cheap with plenty of southern options (like livermush sandwiches).

RO's barbecue is also delicious, and they have a unique take on BBQ. Be sure to get a Cherry Lemon SunDrop (the homemade kind, not the kind in a can).

Lotus is a good lunch option too if you want something a little fancier. They've got some cool "southern food meets Asian fusion" type fare.

Shoot me an email if you want some specifics.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:48 AM on July 18, 2007

Easy drive, take the scenic route it's worth it.
posted by bradbane at 9:52 AM on July 18, 2007

The only thing treacherous about the drive could be fog. I drove from Charlotte to East TN to visit my family last September, and ended up getting into really, really dense fog in Asheville on the way back. Like, 15 feet of visibility fog.
posted by kimdog at 10:31 AM on July 18, 2007

If they take the route suggested by holgate and solipsophistocracy, it wil take them right by the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock, NC.

If they have some free time in Asheville (like all day ideally), THE thing to see is the Biltmore Estate. Admission is pricey, but I would suggest it is a must see.
posted by daser at 11:10 AM on July 18, 2007

Response by poster: Lots of really helpful information here. Makes it hard not to mark all of them as best answers.
posted by jvilter at 12:22 PM on July 18, 2007

Late to the party, but I made this drive many, many times. I have to point out that if you are not used to driving in mountains, it might be better to take 321 north from Gastonia and then hit I-40 near Hickory and take that to Asheville. I'm a prairie gal and I-26 north from 74 was not very fun for me at night. Of course, I-40 can get a little hairy but I didn't think it was as bad. The locals showed me the 321 route and claimed it was faster. I think it is. And yes, fog is frequently an issue either way.

Also, 74 between I-26 and Shelby is pretty but there is absolutely nothing out there, as far as I could tell and that always made me somewhat uneasy. There are plenty of gas/food/bathroom stops along I-40.

Asheville and Charlotte are both awesome and I miss them terribly. If you do go the I-26 route, take a little time to stop off and see Pearson's Falls. It's a really short hike and a lovely lil' waterfall. Positively gorgeous area (semi-self link to my sxc photos...didn't have them on flickr, sorry).

My favorite place in Asheville (and Charlotte) to eat is Mellow Mushroom. Best calzones ever.
posted by bristolcat at 6:14 AM on July 19, 2007

Take the scenic route, listen to wncw.
posted by acehigh at 7:06 PM on July 20, 2007

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