Just like any city, Asheville is made up of a series of smaller neighborhoods, each with its own character, charms, and features. To help you make the most of your stay in the area, Banjoe Vacations will be highlighting some of the neighborhoods of greatest interest to visitors. We start at the center of things: downtown.
Downtown Asheville is different from most other area neighborhoods in that it isn’t primarily residential. As a result, at any given moment there are notably more tourists downtown than there are locals. Of course, there’s a reason that tourists (and locals!) flock to downtown: there’s so much to do and see! This article will high-light some of our favorite places, but this only scratches the surface. We recommend you start by just walking around.
STROLLING AND OUTDOOR ENTERTAINMENT
Asheville is simply a beautiful mountain city. The hilly terrain makes for sweeping city vistas, and the vast number of art deco buildings are charming and gorgeous. To really take in everything Asheville has to offer, we highly recommend the Asheville Urban Trail. You’ll get to see and learn about the city in a fun, comprehensive way—and you’ll get your exercise.
EATING AND DRINKING
All that walking will work up an appetite—you should plan to grab a bite. Fortunately, downtown Asheville has you covered, no matter what your dining and drinking preferences are.
Asheville has become well known for its outstanding restaurant scene, and area chefs have the James Beard Award nominations to prove it. If you’re looking for something upscale and delicious, we recommend Curate, Table, Rhubarb, Posana, Benne on Eagle, Asheville Proper, Laughing Seed for outstanding vegetarian dining, Chestnut, Limones, Zambra, and The Market Place. Keep in mind that these restaurants are all quite popular, so be sure to make a reservation in advance (well in advance during the summer and fall).
Need a good meal but don’t want to get particularly fancy? No problem—downtown is packed with casual restaurants appealing to any taste. Some of our favorites include Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria, Blue Dream Curry House, Early Girl, Rosetta’s Kitchen for the tastiest vegan meal you’ve ever had, Pack’s Tavern, Foggy Mountain Brew Pub, Salsas, Buxton Hall BBQ, and Red Ginger Dim Sum.
COFFEE, SWEETS, AND SNACKS
Okay, so a sit down meal is too much for you. Really, you just want a cup of coffee and something sweet. To get your caffeine fix, try Izzy’s, High Five, PennyCup, Trade and Lore, or Bebettes. Prefer tea? Try Dobra. To satisfy your sweet tooth don’t miss French Broad Chocolate Lounge, The Chocolate Fetish, City Bakery, Old Europe Pastries, or Double D’s.
When most people think of Asheville, they think of beer, thanks to the thriving brewery scene in the area. With over 40 breweries in the greater Asheville area, you can always find spot to grab a pint, and downtown is no exception. Best known among the downtown breweries is Wicked Weed, a popular spot for extremely creative brews. Poke around a bit more and you’ll also find One World Brewing, DSSOLVR, Asheville Brewing, Thirsty Monk, and Bhramari. Most of these spots serve food (One World does not), so even non-beer drinkers can enjoy themselves.
No discussion of downtown breweries is complete, though, without a mention of South Slope, a sub-neighborhood on the south side of downtown. The area is a pub crawler’s dream, with a huge amount of breweries packed into a fairly small area. How many? Well, there’s Green Man, Burial, Catawba, the Funkatorium, Twin Leaf, Hi-Wire, and Eurisko, all within a few blocks of one another. Pace yourself!
READY TO BOOK YOUR VACATION?
Perhaps beer isn’t your adult beverage of choice. No problem—downtown has you covered. If your focus is just on wine, set your sights on 5 Walnut or District 42. If you’d like a selection of cocktails, wine, and spirits, try Top of the Monk, Capella on 9, and Sovereign Remedies.
GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS
Asheville is home to countless artists and craftspeople, and their works are easy to come by downtown. Two of the biggest local craft galleries are the Woolworth Walk and the Kress Emporium, both of which can keep you browsing for quite some time. For something a little funkier, try Horse and Hero (think more pop art and outsider art). If you’re looking for fine art, try Blue Spiral, Momentum, the Haen, Ariel, or Benjamin Walls.
Perhaps you prefer your art in a museum. Be sure to check out the Asheville Art Museum, but don’t overlook the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center.
There’s plenty to keep shoppers occupied downtown. Walking around the Grove Arcade or Mast General Store will give you your best all-around shopping experience, but if you really want to take home something uniquely Asheville and funky, we recommend that you don’t miss Loft, Instant Karma, and Hip Replacements. We are also home to Tops – one of the best shoe stores in the south east!
FOR THE KIDS
Looking to keep your kids amused? Your first stop should be the Asheville Museum of Science, but be sure to check out the Asheville Pinball Museum as well. For more active kids, try the climbing wall at Climbmax or Splashville during the summer months; for more creative/artistic kids be sure to make it to Fired Up Creative Lounge. If all else fails, perhaps some toy shopping at Curio will do the trick (or just head back to the dessert shops for a little more chocolate).
MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT
Asheville has one of the most robust music scenes in the Southeast. Perhaps the best known venue in town is the Orange Peel, which has hosted everyone from local musicians to national touring acts. The Peel recently opened an outdoor venue as well: Rabbit Rabbit. Other notable venues include the Asheville Music Hall and the One Stop, but lots of bars and restaurants will host smaller musical events as well. If you prefer your music a lot looser and rowdier, perhaps Off The Wagon Dueling Piano Bar is more your speed. Are you a bit more interested in how music is made? Perhaps the Moogseum or a tour of the Moog Factory will interest you (synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog called Asheville home, which explains the heavy Moog presence). Want to make a little music of your own? Join the Drum Circle every Friday evening.
Care to take in a movie instead? Head over to the Fine Arts Theater. If you’d rather just have a few laughs, don’t miss LaZoom, Asheville’s homegrown comedy tour.
There is, of course, even more to in downtown Asheville than we’ve listed, but we think this will keep you busy for quite a while! Contact us if you need any more info or guidance.