Asheville, NC, is an amazing Southern destination any time of year, but in the fall, it’s particularly magical. From leaf peeping and hiking to great local shopping and an unmatched culinary scene, Asheville is ideal for a weekend getaway anytime, but now, in particular, because of so many new businesses and entertainment options that are opening up — yes, even during a pandemic! Plus, there are plenty of wide-open spaces to explore, and local businesses have made thoughtful adjustments so guests can feel safe on their visit. In fact, the city has launched two initiatives — the “Temporary Parklet” and “Shared Streets” programs — that allow restaurants and retail businesses to expand into on-street parking areas for outdoor seating and continued operations with extra fresh air and space. (You can learn more about the steps taken to ensure safety via the “Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge” website.)
Ready to head to Asheville? Here are just a few of the fun new things to explore when you arrive.
EXPLORE BY FOOT
To experience the local culture by foot, map out your path to explore any of Asheville’s walkable neighborhoods. We suggest you start with the River Arts District, an arts and entertainment district located along the riverfront of the French Broad River. There you’ll find 23 historic buildings and structures that house artists’ studios, shops and galleries, many of which are still open to the public during the pandemic. New this fall, a longer, improved greenway with art-infused pedestrian connectivity offers visitors a new way to experience this creative area by foot, bike, or flotation-device-of-your-choice via new river access points. Watch artists working in studios, wander to airy wine bars or sample famous barbecue in a street-art-filled courtyard. Find a map of the River Arts District HERE and start mapping out your route.
RELATED: 48 Hours in Asheville
Downtown Asheville is known for its open-air markets, tailgate farmers’ markets and independent shops and boutiques. It’s also where you’ll find Noir Collective AVL, a new retail space for Black entrepreneurs, artists, makers and social activists, and it’s located in the YMI Cultural Center, one of the nation’s oldest African American institutions dating back to 1893. Also while downtown, go on a self-guided tour along the Urban Trail — a 1.7-mile route that educates visitors on Asheville’s amazing history. Learn more about the Urban Trail HERE.
If you prefer your by-foot activities in the form of hikes, then you’ll definitely want to check out the new Asheville Hike Finder, available on the Alexa app. Ask Alexa to search “Asheville Hike Finder” and find your next adventure — filter by views, waterfalls and skill level.
NEW & SOON-TO-OPEN VENUES
When you’re downtown, make a point to stop into the Vinyl Record Plant + Music Café, slated to open on October 8 in the historic Citizen-Times building. This soon-to-open local business is home to a vinyl record press as well as a café, independent record store and music studio. Learn more about the fascinating history of this space HERE and then make plans to help celebrate the grand opening!
Another new Asheville entertainment destination is Rabbit Rabbit, an outdoor event venue that features live music, films and food trucks — oh, and local beer, of course. Located in the South Slope District, Rabbit Rabbit has a creative lineup planned for the fall — from morning yoga to screenings of The Princess Bride. Check out the calendar of events HERE.
GOURMET TO GO
With cooler temps and changing leaves, fall is the perfect time for a picnic, and there are several new opportunities to grab a meal to go in Asheville. New venture Asheville Picnic Company curates amazing meals exclusively from local businesses. Order up a “Traditional” basket for up to four people, and you’ll get to enjoy a delightful selection of treats stashed in a gingham-lined wooden basket. For a more rugged lunch to go, opt for the “Mountaineer” picnic, which comes in an insulated bag for easy transport on your outdoor expeditions. One of the coolest facets of this new startup is that it donates 10% of its profits to Outdoor Heritage North Carolina Advisory Council, which is dedicated to getting kids off electronics and into the great outdoors. (SB TIP: If you need ideas for where to picnic in Asheville, click HERE.)
Another new to-go meal option in Asheville is New Stock, helmed by 2019 James Beard Award semifinalist Ashley Capps. This weekly curated box-meal service offers pickups on Thursdays and Fridays, so order before you head to Asheville and you’ll be set when you arrive for the weekend. For a quicker pickup, check out Bodega on Broadway, an elevated convenience store of sorts launched by local restaurateur Charlie Hodge. At Bodega on Broadway, you’ll find everything from charcuterie items to vegan burritos along with bodega staples and sundry items.
COMING SOON: WAGBAR
Wagbar, a locally owned “dog park bar,” is slated to open anytime. The off-leash dog park provides ample space for your pooch to get out the zoomies while you enjoy a cold beer ordered from the walk-up bar. Stay tuned to the Wagbar website for the latest details.
To learn more about everything going on in Asheville, start at ExploreAsheville.com — where you can find a fall leaf watchers’ report, find a place to stay, check out the calendar of events and more. Enjoy your travels!
Find more amazing Southern travel destinations in our archives.