It’s no secret that Asheville is a top-notch vacation destination, but there’s more to a visit to Appalachia’s sweetheart than meets the eye. An easy 15-45 minute drive in any direction – north, south, east or west, will land you in an artsy and walkable downtown with a small-town vibe.
Weaverville – it’s life at a slower pace. This inviting mountain town is only about 10 miles north of Asheville, but it has a whole different energy. It’s a bit like taking a step back in time. It’s not unusual to see folks stopping each other on the sidewalk to exchange neighborhood stories, while sipping a hot coffee or tea from its beloved Well-Bred Bakery. Locals and visitors, alike, can be found strolling its picturesque Main Street while exploring its impressive selection of high-end art galleries such as Magnum Pottery and Miya Gallery. Nature lovers can also enjoy the Main Street Nature Park right in the heart of town or visit Lake Louise Park. Chances are they’ll get a glimpse of some ducklings splashing around by the small waterfall and big red waterwheel.
Photo credit: Weaverville Business Association
For many years, Hendersonville – about a 30-minute drive from downtown Asheville – was overshadowed by its northern sister, but as it’s been discovered by retirees and tourists, it’s really started to shine on its own. There are many reasons to visit this western NC region. A big one is that it’s an apple lover’s dream. It’s home to nearly 20 apple orchards – many where you can pick your own – as well as its annual Apple Festival, held over Labor Day weekend. People can meet the growers, sample different varieties, listen to some of the regions’ top-notch entertainment and a whole lot more. Now, if apples ain’t your thing, there’s wine too – and a lot of it. There are at least seven vineyards that we know of and each has a personality all its own. Burntshirt Vineyards is one of the oldest family-run vineyards and Stone Ashe is one of the newest. If you play your cards right you can do a little of both – pick and sip.
Photo credit: Visit Hendersonville
EXPLORE THE EAST
In recent years, Trip Advisor readers have named Black Mountain, “The prettiest small town in America.” Snuggled in the heart of the Blue Ridge mountains, it’s about a 20-minute drive from Asheville and it’s a wonderful place to spend the day. Visitors can sip on an organic brew at Pisgah Brewing and then put their singing to the test at open mic night at the White Horse. If shopping is your bag, there’s no shortage of eclectic shops to explore in its very walkable downtown. And, nearby Montreat is home to Ten Thousand Villages, a retailer that sells fair-trade crafts and housewares from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. This area also gives hikers easy access to some of the most beautiful hikes around. The Graybeard Trail is an 8-mile challenge but pays off with incredible views.
Photo credit: Visit Black Mountain
WANDER TOWARDS THE WEST
Located in Haywood County, Waynesville is the furthest destination from Asheville – about a 45-minute drive. It’s one of the region’s top agritourism destinations and boasts a healthy selection of farm-to-table restaurants, U-pick Farms (i.e., flowers, vegetables) and farmer’s markets. Its historic farmer’s market is a great place to pick up some local treats. And while Waynesville is very proud of its Appalachian heritage, it embraces many cultures in one community each year at its Folk Moot Festival. There are live storytellers, music, artist workshops and so much more. The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre is also a cool spot to take in a live play or performance.
Photo credit: Nina Bauer (@hiking.nina) and Visit NC Smokies
And all of these vibrant towns are just minutes away from the splendor of the Blue Ridge Parkway – America’s favorite drive. An interactive map makes planning this mountain escape fun and easy. There’s just so much to explore.