In all too many cities, fall seems to fly by in the blink of an eye. Then, there’s Asheville.
Given the wide range of elevations of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, the North Carolina city nicknamed “The Land of the Sky” rewards visitors with one of the most kaleidoscopic and longest-running leaf-peeping seasons in the world. (This year, fall colors are predicted to peak towards the end of October.)
There are other reasons to visit, too, from a thriving craft beer scene – Asheville boasts an incredibly high number of craft breweries per capita – to a diverse and progressive local community that embraces everyone. And though Asheville is a charming destination all year long, now is a particularly stellar time to visit. So beyond the spectacular natural scenery, below are 10 more reasons to plan a trip to Asheville in the upcoming weeks.
Kimpton Hotel Arras
If you’re seeking a stay that covers all the bases, and much more, book Kimpton Hotel Arras. Conveniently located downtown in the iconic BB&T Bank building, this relatively new property (it opened in late 2019) sports an original design merging natural materials such as wood and stone with locally-inspired elements like ironwork and striking art by area creatives. The thoughtful aesthetic extends to the airy 128 guest rooms and suites accented with floor-to-ceiling windows, a soul-soothing palette, and original metal pieces depicting the French Broad River – which hang above the beds – by Asheville artist Catherine Murphy.
In addition to the complimentary perks you’re treated to at all Kimpton properties (no pet fees, daily social hour with beer and wine, yoga mats in all rooms), the hotel has a 24-hour fitness center with Peloton bikes and stylish space just for massages called Urban Exhale Arras. On the ground floor at Bargello, chef Tyler Slade sends out crowd-pleasing pastas – don’t miss the Cacio E Pepe twirled with housemade bucatini – and creative pizzas finished in the open hearth, while adjacent District 42 is a lounge perfect for a daytime nibble or proper nightcap. (It’s also one of few spots in Asheville that pours champagne by the glass.)
La Bodega by Cúrate
Equal parts cafe, market, and wine bar, La Bodega by Cúrate is the lastest endeavor by beloved chef Katie Button and her husband Felix Meana. The concept celebrates Spain’s traditional wine bars (hence the name) in a convivial two-level space decked out with vintage posters and original paintings by Felix’s father. Upstairs suits all sorts of occasions, whether you want to sip Vermut and savor pintxos at the bar or hunker down at a table for a more substantial meal. And downstairs is where you can grab a bite to go like bikini croissant sandwiches and the irresistible Xuixos, fried, sugar-dusted pastries filled with crema catalana, along with well-curated bottled wines, tinned fish, and other Spanish pantry staples.
Spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn
While spas at luxury hotels are practically a given, the Spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn stands out for several reasons. First, no electronics of any kind are allowed on the premises. The strict request makes it much easier for guests to really unplug. Also, treatments are available only to overnight resort guests. Last but not least, the facilities feature an almost otherworldly design with rugged grottos, cascading waterfalls (perfect for neck and back massages), hot and cold pools, and plenty of discreet nooks to sink into a deeper state of relaxation. And when it’s time for a bite, keep your robe on and slip into The Spa Café.
Opened this summer by chef Silver Iocovozzi, Neng Jr.’s is hard to resist but easy to miss. But once you pinpoint the building’s back door, climb a narrow set of stairs, and spots the host’s stand, you’re at the right place. The space is intimate, and lovingly done up with an oversized painting by Silver’s friend and Brooklyn artist Drake Carr, cozy bar (the best seats in the house), and splashes of bold color. The food (imagine adobo oysters, pork lumpia, and smoked Pinoy spaghetti) is also a deeply personal affair, rooted in the homestyle Filipinx dishes Silver grew up with.
Leo’s House of Thirst
Founded by Drew Wallace, the brains behind city staples The Admiral and The Bull and Beggar, comes Leo’s House of Thirst. Opened during the throes of the pandemic, this impossibly charming wine bar and restaurant on Haywood offers lots of interesting and lesser-known wines by the glass with many on tap, alongside very pairable plates of chicken liver mousse, steak tartare, and spicy seafood campanelle.
The Wrong Way
For a stay like no other and to get off the beaten path, check out The Wrong Way. Just unveiled in the River Arts District along the water, this urban “campground” with a focus on sustainability by longtime pals Shelton Steele and Joe Balcken is home to 16 adorable A-frame cabins with contemporary comforts (but no televisions), communal lodge stocked with bites from Ashley Capps and Travis Schulz of Newstock Pantry, and of course, plenty of outdoor space to help you connect with your surroundings.
Everything you’re read about Meherwan Irani’s Chai Pani (Indian for “tea” and “water”), the 2022 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Restaurant, is true. The staff is knowledgeable and equally important, warm and friendly. The vibe is refreshingly laid-back, too, with no reservations accepted. (Because there’s almost always a line, your best bet is to arrive ahead of opening and wait.) As for the menu, it celebrates India’s diverse street food culture in the form of chaat, savory snacks melding textures (crunchy, creamy, soft) and flavors (sweet, spicy, tangy) for a deeply, deeply craveable effect.
If there’s one place that encapsulates Asheville’s rogue spirit, it’s Foundy Street. Situated in the city’s River Arts District, this quirky and graffiti-strewn 13-acre collective occupying formerly abandoned warehouses exudes energy and creativity. Set aside an afternoon to explore all the independent vendors, which include 12 Bones Smokehouse, one of the area’s most popular barbecue joints, Foundation Studios (a community art center), and even a public skatepark.
Buxton Chicken Palace
Another casual concept by Meherwan Irani, Buxton Chicken Palace – which is tucked away in The S&W Market, a food hall in a historic 1920s structure – specializes in fried chicken sandwiches, a surprising best seller at its sister restaurant Buxton Hall Barbecue. In addition to the beloved original featuring crispy buttermilk fried chicken breast, two types of cheese, and pickles on a squishy bun, you can also dig into nuggets, seasoned waffle fries, and Cheerwine Slushies.
There’s donuts, then there’s Hole Donuts. The tiny but highly lauded shop by the husband-wife team of Hallee Hirsh and Ryan Martin elevates the humble treat to new heights with a single yeasted dough blended with quality ingredients like Lindley Mills’s organic stone ground flour, organic cane sugar, and cage-free eggs. On top of that, each donut is lovingly hand-crafted and fried fresh to order in non-GMO rice bran oil so every bite is warm, tender, and mind-boggingly delicious.