Why Asheville should be at the top of your travel list right now

Sep 18, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Getting back into travel in our new COVID-19 world can be uncomfortable. The constantly changing guidelines make it difficult to plan far in advance, and hard to know what will feel safe. But after lengthy lockdowns and a year of isolation, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling eager to take a weekend away.

The key is picking a location that is conducive to lots of time spent outdoors, and a destination where you won’t feel the need to double-check the availability of outdoor seating at every single restaurant you think you might want to visit.

New to The Points Guy? Want to learn more about credit card points and miles? Sign up for our daily newsletter.

Which is why Asheville, North Carolina, was my pick when it came time to finally hit the road again. Asheville is known for two things: its proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and its high concentration of breweries. In other words: space!

I spent a recent weekend in Asheville and came away plenty of thoughts about how to make the most of a vacation there, whatever your level of comfort may be around COVID-19.

Breweries are a spacious haven for non-pre planners

Breweries across the country are known for one thing (other than their beer, that is) – their size. Asheville’s breweries take advantage of their stunning natural surroundings by offering spacious indoor and outdoor areas, fully tricked out with fans and umbrellas in the summer and heaters in the winter — the perfect option for travelers who want a loose itinerary that doesn’t require reservations.

The New Belgium Brewery is a must-visit when in Asheville. (Photo by Jacob Biba for The Washington Post/Getty Images)

All of the cult favorites in Asheville, like Wicked Weed, Burial, and Green Man, have plenty of outdoor tables, and many of them allows kids, making them perfect for families. I spent a lovely couple of hours at New Belgium Brewery, which has one of the largest properties in Asheville, with a deck overlooking the French Broad River and a large field for romping children and dogs. Another favorite is Wedge Brewing Company, which has two locations in Asheville, both of which have ample outdoor seating.

If you’re looking to make a weekend of beer sampling, you’ll have no problem doing so without ever having to make reservations ahead of time or compromising on space.

There are plenty of restaurants to go around

Asheville has tons of amazing restaurants, but many of them have relatively limited outdoor seating if that’s what you’re after, and book up quickly — especially in comparison to the number of visitors that descend on the city every weekend.

For critically acclaimed restaurants like Katie Button’s Spanish tapas restaurant Curate, or New American favorite Rhubarb, you’ll definitely need to make a reservation in advance. The same applies to Benne on Eagle, a restaurant celebrating Appalachian foodways that has gotten tons of press over the last few years.

(Photo courtesy of Cúrate/Facebook)

If you’re too late to snag one of these hot reservations, looks to places like Chai Pani, a small space serving Indian street food dishes in the Battery Park neighborhood with several outdoor tables, or Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, a relative newcomer with tons of outdoor space and a menu that ranges from oyster shooters to fish and chips.

local lodging comes with perks

For optimum social distancing, Airbnb is, of course, a good idea. But if you’re looking for a little more luxury, consider one of the boutique hotels in Asheville and the surrounding areas.

Related: Coronavirus tourism done right: a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC

The 1900 Inn on Montford has fewer rooms than some of the hotel chains downtown, and the wraparound porch is perfect for enjoying breakfast or a nightcap in a lovely outdoor space. A little further outside the city, the Old Marshall Jail offers spacious rooms on the banks of the French Broad River. Their outdoor deck and back patio, which happens to be right next to the train tracks – a huge hit with kids — are great for kicking back before heading into the mountains for an adventure.

(Photo courtesy of The 1900 Inn on Montford)

outdoor activities abound

Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway is always incredible. The North Carolina Arboretum is just off the parkway, at mile-marker 393, so it’s easy to combine the two into a full day of outdoor activities. The Arboretum, which has more than 400 acres, is large enough to feel spacious even on the most crowded weekends.

The North Carolina Arboretum Quilt Garden in Asheville. (Photo by JillLang/Getty Images)

Beyond the arboretum is Pisgah National Forest, which has hundreds of miles of trails marked for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. The options are so many that it can be overwhelming. (Pro tip: I always use the AllTrails app, which lets you sort by length, elevation, and location.)

If the weather is nice, kayaking, paddle boarding, or tubing down the French Board River is a great way to see the city. The French Broad Outfitters offers a handful of different trips, included self-guided tubing trips (with cooler floats available for all the local beer you bought). Whether you’d like to spend a half-day paddle boarding or a full day kayaking (with a break for lunch, don’t worry), French Broad Outfitters has something for everyone.

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Wu / EyeEm / Getty Images

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.