Known for its small-town charm and welcoming feel, Asheville has stepped into the national spotlight in recent years, becoming a top destination for North Carolinians and world travelers alike. Just last year, Lonely Planet ranked it the No. 1 place to visit in the U.S. And it’s easy to see why: The “Land of the Sky” is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just over two hours from Charlotte, offering up dreamy views alongside standout culinary destinations, an extensive brewery landscape, and a funky arts scene that has stayed true to its colorful roots, no matter the acclaim.
Whether you’ve been before or are visiting for the first time, there’s no better place to start your Asheville adventure than at the AC Hotel Asheville Downtown. The trendy spot—which Marriott opened in August 2017—is located on Broadway Street in the heart of Pack Square, Asheville’s front yard, “where the historic meets the future.” It’s an easy walk to some of the city’s top attractions, and guests will discover something new every time they walk outside.
Inside the AC Hotel’s elegant space, the European-inspired interior—dripping in sleek, silver accents—isn’t intimidating at all; there’s still a vibe of Southern hospitality, thanks to the appreciative and friendly staff attending to every detail. And it’s the perfect fit for a city known for its vibrant arts scene and historic architecture. The hotel even features a collection of custom paintings, sculptures, and hand-blown glass pieces created by 10 local and regional artists.
The lifestyle hotel offers 132 upscale guest rooms, starting in the $200s per night. The rooms have modern-day interior touches, with neutral accents, such as taupe-colored seating and drapes, silver decorative sculptures, and carefully selected books for light reading. You can’t go wrong with any of the rooms, but we advise booking one that includes a balcony, so you can take in the incredible city-meets-mountain views morning, noon, and night.
Asheville is a foodie’s paradise, but there’s no need to look far when it comes to dinner and drinks, as Capella on 9, the hotel’s ninth-floor rooftop bar and tapas eatery, serves up dishes with locally sourced ingredients and handcrafted cocktails. We suggest starting with the life-changing Coles De Bruselas (fried Brussels sprouts with a smoky pimento aioli and lemon) and washing it down with the El Matador (Del Maguey Mezcal, Luxuardo, lime, maple, and black walnut bitters).
Start your day with some iconic Southern staples at the popular Over Easy Café, right next door to the hotel. Although the menu is constantly changing, try their Eggs Benedict special (think: a biscuit with fried thick-cut bologna, poached eggs, hollandaise, and pickled sunchokes), plus a fluffy hotcake for good measure.
For an afternoon pick-me-up, head to one of the city’s top breweries, such as The Funkatorium, Bhramari Brewing Co., or Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. If you stop by Wicked Weed Brewing, choose a beer that gives back to one of the local nonprofits they support, and then stroll to lunch at Bartaco, a stylish Mexican spot serving up items like the cauliflower taco (a must), fried plantains, and some killer margaritas.
Of course, a trip to Asheville isn’t complete without dining at the critically acclaimed Spanish tapas restaurant Cúrate, located in a former 1927 bus depot. Chef Katie Button, a 2018 James Beard nominee, can do no wrong when it comes to brunch (served Saturday and Sunday), lunch, and dinner. You can thank us later.
Your Asheville Bucket List
Take it all in at the Biltmore Estate: Even if you’ve been to what once was the largest privately owned estate in the U.S., get out of your comfort zone and try other activities. Go horseback riding through the grounds, float down the French Broad River around the estate, or even try stand-up paddle boarding. 1 Lodge St.
Eat your weight in biscuits at Biscuit Head: Be prepared to wait in line for a monster-size biscuit, and then make time for a catnap afterward. Order their most requested menu item, the Mimosa Chicken Biscuit, and you won’t be disappointed. 417 Biltmore Ave., #4F and 733 Haywood Road.
Switch up your view at Double D’s Coffee & Desserts: Inside a double-decker red bus, this spot is definitely one of the coolest venues in the heart of downtown. Grab a cup of gourmet organic coffee and a locally made muffin or brownie. 41 Biltmore Ave.
Spend a day in the River Arts District: This will be one of the most colorful highlights of your trip. Literally. Watch live art demonstrations, shop, and meet local artists working inside 22 studios alongside the French Broad. Riverside Drive.
Celebrate Eastern-Carolina style barbecue at Buxton Hall Barbecue: Dive head first into a pulled-pork plate with waffle fries, and finish it off with a slice of banana pudding pie. Bring tissues; you’ll cry tears of joy. 32 Banks Ave.
Cool down with Sunshine Sammies: If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try this artisanal ice cream shop best known for their homemade cookies, ice cream sandwiches, and cookie cakes. Very Instagram-worthy. 99 S. Lexington Ave.
Imbibe at Sovereign Remedies: Inside this speakeasy-like multilevel bar, sip on delicious cocktails, such as the seasonal gin & tonic or the Dry & Mighty. Each drink was created and named by one of the bar staff members. 29 N. Market St, #105.
Jam out at the Orange Peel: Even with a capacity for of just 1,000 people, the music venue hosts some big-time acts, including The Black Keys, 311, and Lauryn Hill. 101 Biltmore Ave.
Get cozy at Top of the Monk: While enjoying an enchanting cocktail on the rooftop patio, use the small key the staff gives you to unlock the locker-like storage holding delicate snacks including spicy peanuts, cured meat and cheese, brownie bites, and ranch popcorn. 92 Patton Ave.
Experience the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway: No matter what time of year, this 469-mile stretch is always “America’s Favorite Drive.” Put your phone down, and experience it in real time with the ones you love most.