Eastern Tennessee has plenty of things to do for a romantic getaway, even if you and make return visits to this beautiful country. But if you are looking for somewhere new to explore to make lasting memories, you may want to drive over the Smoky Mountains on the incomparable Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville, on the North Carolina side. You can also take US 321 to I40, for a drive just under two hours.
With the arrival of railroad transportation in the late 19th century, Asheville became a major commerce and cultural hub of the South. You’ll find grand buildings that wouldn’t be out of place in New York, Rome or London, built by tycoons and enterprising businessmen. Artists of all kinds also have flocked to the area and have established a respected community for fine arts. We have a list of seven favorite things to do in Asheville for your day trip, and not in any particular order.
Here are our 7 favorite things to do in Asheville NC
Spread over 8,000 acres, the stunning mansion and landscaped grounds of industrialist and philanthropist George Vanderbilt stands as an impressive testament to American upper class society. Tours are self-guided, and admission ($60 for adults, $30 for youth ages 10-16, under 10 free) and include access to the gardens, Antler Hill Village and the Vanderbilt family exhibition. Adults can also enjoy a free wine tasting after the guided winery tour.
This is one of the few arboretums in the country that offers an extensive network – ten miles’ worth – of designated hiking and biking trails on its grounds. As a result, you can tour the 65 acres of lush cultivated flower and plant gardens, special exhibits and the popular Bonsai garden, and get some exercise to boot. You can either wander around the grounds, or can take a guided, season-tailored tour on early afternoon Tuesday and Saturday.
Even if you are not Catholic, you will find this specially designated mortar and tile church worthy of a visit. The Pope designates certain houses of worship as basilicas based on their antiquity, historical significance and dignity. St. Lawrence is only one of 33 in the country with that classification. Raphael Guastavin, a Spanish architect who first worked on the Biltmore Estate, designed this church that resembles any of those found in the great cities of Europe.
If you go on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and before you arrive in Asheville, take a short detour to the Craggy Picnic Area. You can alternatively stop at the Gardens Visitor Center a few miles down the highway. Either way, you’ll have many scenic trails to choose from with refreshing mountain air to invigorate you. Most of the wild flowers and rhododendrons will likely be sparse or gone during the fall, but you can still enjoy seeing the spectacular views from the rocky crags and red berry clusters.
The childhood home of American novelist Thomas Wolfe houses this historical center, which served as boardinghouse and as the setting for his most famous work, “Look Homeward Angel.” The small two-story home was first a private residence and then became a place for people to stay and renamed the Old Kentucky Home. You can take a guided tour of the property every half-hour.
Fine arts are arguably Asheville’s greatest draw for visitors to the area, so there’s no shortage of places to appreciate it. In particular, outstanding visual art exhibits are everywhere. The Southern Highland Craft Guild features local folk art that demonstrates finely honed craftsmanship. Grovewood and New Morning Gallery highlight functional and lifestyle art, essentially furniture and decor that also makes a strong artistic statement. There are also many fantastic galleries around town to explore.
Food and Beer Tours
Lately, Asheville has become known for its culinary accomplishments as well as a craft brew center. Several walking tours take visitors through the town to savor some irresistible offerings from both fine dining establishments and shops. The most popular of these is Asheville Food Toursbre. If you’re just thirsty for some locally made microbrews, check out the Brew-ED of Asheville tour.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do in Asheville NC. We can share more of our favorites as part of a romantic getaway to Christopher Place, your Smoky Mountains bed and breakfast resort.
Beautiful photo by Blake Lewis.