48 Hours in Asheville, North Carolina
This mountain-nestled city offers art, farm-to-table food, and plenty of fitness opportunities.
Known as “the Paris of the South,” Asheville, tucked between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, is a favorite hideaway for both artists and politicians alike (the Obamas reportedly love it here, as does Jennifer Lawrence). The perfect mix of mountain vistas and southern hospitality, it is home to award-winning restaurants, craft breweries, and a thriving artisan community.
For the fitness-focused, it's the perfect destination for a workout. In addition to hiking, mountain biking, and stand-up paddle boarding, yogis will find a refreshing offering of unconventional classes. (Think: yoga in a salt cave.)
Where to Stay
The historic Omni Grove Park Inn was known as a wellness retreat in the 1920s and 1930s for distinguished guests in need of the clean mountain air while recovering from tuberculosis; it was also a hush hush "drying out" haven for F. Scott Fitzgerald. Built into the side of Sunset Mountain, the stately property boasts a 43,000-square-foot subterranean spa with treatment rooms overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a 50,000-square-foot sports complex with tennis and racquetball courts, swimming pools, and fitness classes.
Alternatively, sleep surrounded by priceless artwork at Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville, a Bavarian-style luxury hotel in the heart of Biltmore Village. The 104-room property has dark leather paneled walls and thick velvet curtains in the lobby, intricately carved columns sourced from India, and antique Black Forest wood furniture. The on-site art gallery features both regional and international artists, and hotel restaurant Red Stag Grill dishes European comfort food made with local ingredients from nearby farms.
Head out early to explore Asheville’s beautiful natural surroundings with a mid-morning stand up paddle board class with Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours. After a zen morning, fuel up for an active afternoon with lunch at Laughing Seed Cafe, where organic vegetarian dishes are boosted by international flavors like in the Asian Fantasian: thin rice noodles with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers, carrot, broccoli, cilantro and pumpkin seeds tossed with sweet chili-peanut dressing.
In the afternoon, hop on two wheels for a relaxing bike ride on the French Broad River Greenway in West Asheville. The 2.8-mile trail extends from French Broad River Park and follows the river through a wooded area, parks, and residential sites. If you need a rental, stop by Beer City Bicycles for bikes, helmets, jerseys, spandex, and of course, craft beer on tap post-ride. Refuel at Rhubarb, a contemporary American bistro with a focus on southern fare. Although the menu rotates frequently, recent items included a brick oven-roasted oysters starter, and a persimmon-glazed duck confit entree with sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, and celery salad.
Ease tired muscles with a morning soak at Shoji Spa & Lodge, the only Japanese-style bathhouse on the East Coast. It's a secluded oasis in the heart of Pisgah National Forest, boasting a cedar sauna, Japanese tea service, and mountain views from your private outdoor hot tub. Continue the Internationally-themed day with a light lunch of Spanish tapas like tortilla española (potato and onion omelet) and gambas al ajillo (sautéed shrimp in garlic) at Cúrate, from James Beard-nominated Chef Katie Button.
Deepen the health benefits of yesterday’s physical activity with a halotherapy session or yoga class at The Salt Spa of Asheville & Himalayan Salt Cave Sanctuary, where the dry, salty air cleanses airways and eliminates harmful bacteria in the lungs. If time permits, stroll the art galleries and studios in the River Arts District. Dinner is at Gan Shan Station, a former gas station turned cozy East Asian eatery. Korean style chicken wings, house made dumplings and rich, pork belly ramen are the perfect cap to your active weekend.