To say this quirky yet charming small town tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains is having “a moment” would be to imply that it might pass. But judging by the mushrooming food scene, a craft beer industry that seems to swell daily and the influx of travelers trying to keep it their best-kept secret, it’s actually far more accurate to say that Asheville is on the verge.
As you’ll see when you leave your car inside one of the garages on Biltmore Avenue or Broadway, the epicenter of this evolution is downtown. Downtown Asheville is anchored by Pack Square Park, a pretty green space down College Street and an ideal starting point. Not only does it have a handy little information center, but on warm days, you’ll see dozens of couples picnicking on the lawn while kids gleefully play in the free splash pad, dubbed Splashville, nearby.
Downtown Asheville's Pack Square Park — Photo courtesy of ExploreAsheville.com
During the summer, Pack Square hosts Shindig on the Green, which invites local folk and bluegrass musicians to play under the stars on Saturday nights from June through August.
Asheville Art Museum sits at the corner of Biltmore Avenue and Pack Square Park. It might not look like much from the outside, but inside more than 3,500 works are housed and more than a dozen exhibitions are presented annually for a nominal admission fee of $8.
Of course, admission is free to the more than 20 galleries that dot downtown, including The Bender Gallery on Lexington Avenue, ArtEtude Gallery on Patton Avenue and Ariel Gallery, which is just a stone’s throw from Asheville Art Museum on Biltmore Avenue.
Let the kitschy allure of Mast General Store take hold and follow the herd inside, where a potpourri of items from camping supplies and hiking boots to canning pots and cast iron skillets awaits.
Cúrate, one of Asheville’s most prized culinary haunts (and one of our best restaurants), is right next door, which makes it an ideal place to pause for lunch. Snag one of the 22 stools perched at the Carrara marble bar, and you’ll get to see first-hand why Chef Katie Button has created such a buzz since the 2011 opening of this family-run Spanish tapas restaurant.
Wicked Weed Brewing offers plenty of brews and outdoor seating — Photo courtesy of ExploreAsheville.com
With a full stomach, there’s nothing stopping you from diving into Asheville’s famed beer scene, which can be embarked on just a few doors down at Wicked Weed Brewing. Not only does this brewpub offer more than two dozen beers on tap, many of which are brewed onsite, but it also has one of the best and biggest outdoor patios in downtown Asheville.
Careful. It might just be where you spend the rest of the day.