If you’re planning to visit Asheville to dream about relocating or to scope out the pace of life as a seasonal downtown dweller, this is your blueprint! The key to understanding what it’s really like to live in downtown Asheville: do as the locals do.
Trust us: skip Saturday morning crowds at the Biltmore and save that worthwhile destination for a less busy afternoon when you live here. Follow our insider’s guide for a weekend lived like an Asheville local instead, and discover a taste of what downtown life the city has to offer.
Friday Night: Southern Food & Live Music At Tressa’s Downtown Jazz & Blues
If you’re feeling adventurous, set out for a walk around 6 pm to stumble upon your dinner destination. Downtown Asheville is walkable, centrally-located, and bustling with history, arts and culture. Take in the historic, art-deco style architecture of the town dubbed “Paris of the South” in the 1920’s. With a great restaurant around every corner of downtown, you’re bound to find something incredible. If this lack of structure is already making you anxious, never fear: make a reservation at Tupelo Honey Cafe for scratch-made Southern food.
After dinner, catch a live show at Tressa’s Downtown Jazz and Blues. The small venue has embodied Old New Orleans elegance since 1997, and is a great spot to sip a cocktail and enjoy local music. Asheville is also home to a host of eclectic venues- so if jazz and blues aren’t for you, check out shows at The Orange Peel, The Grey Eagle, The Mothlight, Isis Music Hall.
Hit the Saturday Farmer’s Market
The North Asheville Tailgate Market is held every Saturday from 8 am to 12 pm. Even if you don’t want to buy vegetables to cook at home, grab hot coffee and a pastry from one of the local vendors and walk around to observe some local vendors and shoppers.
With local restaurants, bars, venues, markets, and galleries all walkable, downtown residents have access to a huge array of events, experiences and nights out. Asheville is a hub for small business and independent entrepreneurship, and has something unique to offer around every corner.
The Tailgate Market has been around since 1980, and is well-attended throughout much of the year. Going to the market will give you a better sense of Asheville’s robust local farming, food and craft scenes. The market is also host to a wide array of local musicians, and a great opportunity to get a taste of the local music scene in a relaxed setting.
Sunday Morning: A Biscuit and A Beautiful Walk, Close to Town
For Sunday breakfast, we recommend a trip to West Asheville’s Biscuit Head. Get there early, as people turn up in throngs to get their biscuit fix at this popular local establishment. It’s worth a visit to walk around West Asheville, another unique section of the city with plenty of shops, restaurants, and venues to explore.
For a beautiful in-town walk, the North Carolina Arboretum is our go-to. Visitors can pay $14 to park and walk winding trails through a lush, biodiverse forest. Visitors can hike through the National Native Azalea Collection, a natural mountain wetland and part of a Rhododendron thicket to gain perspective Asheville’s natural landscape in an accessible hike.
Visitors can also check out educational events, galleries, and exhibits or walk the gardens dotted with benches facing views of the gardens or mountains. If there’s a misty rain, even better- a walk in the rain through a cool understory offers a glimpse of life in this temperate rainforest.
The Arboretum is now home to Savory Thyme cafe, and if you stay after lunch you can walk the Carolina Mountain Trail, a slightly more challenging hike which winds through hardwood pine to a lovely creekside rest area. For those who are scoping out Asheville as a potential home or second home, the Arboretum is worth checking out, as they offer memberships to locals for $50/individual or $70/household per year.
Got extra time?
Good, that’s what we intended! Packing your itinerary with must-see items unfortunately leads visitors to overlook the lovely pace of life in downtown Asheville.
The best way to get to know Asheville like a local is to leave a little flexibility so you can be ready to stumble upon a festival or cultural event, the food truck of your dreams, or traditional old-time music you just have to stay and watch.
Leave a little room for whimsy as you explore the Paris of the South- and let us know how you enjoyed your trip.