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Open-Air Asheville: Things to Do, Activities and Dining in the Land of the Sky

Back to: Blog Vacation Tips
26 Jun 2020

As a centrally-located city nestled within Blue Ridge Appalachia, Asheville is surrounded by the highest mountain peaks along the east coast and is well-positioned for road-trippers looking to ease into travel with safety in mind. Veiled by national parks and state forests that converge on the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway, widely-known as America’s Favorite Scenic Drive, Western North Carolina offers fresh mountain air, wide-open spaces, and deep cultural roots, making it the ideal place for respite and rejuvenation. 

Relax + Play

Holistic health and wellness are staples of Western North Carolina, especially within the Asheville community. The crisp mountain air, refreshing creeks, lovely flora, and natural hot springs make this area one that is well-known for rehabilitation, relaxation, and retreat. Historically speaking, this city was a beacon of hope to many because the clean mountain air and natural beauty aided their physical and mental well-being. Home to the oldest herbalism school in the southeast, salt caves, massaging waterfalls, and spas with mountain views, it’s no wonder Asheville is a draw for anyone looking to travel with self-care in mind. While visiting, you can walk beneath hidden waterfalls, journey to peaceful spots in nature for yoga, or book a private afternoon at the Natural Hot Springs where “Mother Nature waved her magic wand.” Whether you’re slowly getting back into travel or seeking wellness inspiration, Asheville has everything from outdoor recreation to Reiki energy healing to sound therapy. Take the time to treat yourself and focus on your holistic health during your vacation so you can feel even more rejuvenated at its conclusion.

If you’re looking for a way to relax in open nature comfortably, hammocking is the ideal solution. Due to their natural swaying motion, hammocks help you relax by lowering blood pressure, consequently reducing stress levels in the body. Being suspended in your hammock midair, looking up at the beautiful sky and the great outdoors around you is just what the doctor ordered. You can bring along your journal or a great book and lounge for hours in total solace. In many ways, hammocks are the best traveling companions to any hike. They’re lightweight, incredibly easy to set up, great for keeping out pests, and give you the best views while relaxing in a variety of landscapes. You can set up beside a waterfall, on top of a mountain, or in a shaded evergreen forest—you just need two trees. 

Hiking is as therapeutic as it is enjoyable, and Asheville invites you to step into nature and quiet your mind. The Asheville area boasts well over 3000+ miles of trails suiting every level of hiker from beginner to expert. No matter your scenic preference, the biodiversity, and expansiveness of this land make it possible to enjoy over 1,400 varieties of flowering plants, more species of salamanders than any other place in the world, and panoramic views of forests, gorges, and foothills from the highest peaks in mainland eastern North America. There’s truly a hike for everyone, and in the new normal, it’s a great activity since trails are often spread out and remote, making social-distancing very accessible. During the summer, waterfall hikes come highly recommended. Catawba Falls in Old Fort, Triple Falls in Dupont State Forest, and Linville Falls in Linville Gorge Wilderness are some of our personal favorites, but there’s so many more to enjoy. Once you’ve made the trek, be sure to take some time hopping along the rocks at the foot of the waterfalls, noticing the rocks and trees blanketed in vibrant green moss and lichens, and wading in the soothing shallow pools for total tranquility.

Foraging honors the area’s Appalachian roots and combines wandering through fields and forests with the ancient art of gathering. At No Taste Like Home, expert herbalists act as guides on an epic edible treasure hunt. With over 300 wild edibles, our area is the second richest temperate ecosystem on Earth, making it an ideal place to explore regional fare in the open air. At the conclusion of your wandering, the “moveable feast,” of mushrooms, fruits, and plants you’ve collected along the way are crafted into a delicious meal that can be enjoyed at one of five local fine dining restaurants. These foraging tours give participants a chance to create their own farm to table concoctions while giving a whole different meaning to “off the eaten path.”

Eat + Drink

While restaurants slowly open with guest safety at the forefront, one trend that has quickly become a favorite of locals and tourists alike is the epicurean take-out offerings. Local chefs from some of the area’s premier restaurants (Forestry Camp, Cucina 24, Cúrate, Rhubarb, The Rhu, Benne on Eagle, All Day Darling, and Table to name a few) have opened pop-up provisions to serve patrons a range of savory supplies in the form of gourmet meal kits and curated beverage kits designed for multicourse picnics or cook-it-yourself meals at home. In addition to these emerging bodegas, there are many Asheville area restaurants offering traditional take-out, delivery, and dine-in

With the latter, outdoor seating is available at most places which provides a great way to maintain social distancing in an open-air environment. From sun-soaked patios to breezy covered porches, when it comes to people-watching and eating the best southern cuisine, it doesn’t get much better than Tupelo Honey Cafe. Fried green tomatoes and eccentric Asheville natives? Yes, please. Just a hop skip and a jump away is the Cajun-inspired Mayfel’s, and if you go around the corner and keep going down the alley with the iconic iron (stop by for a quick souvenir picture), you’ll find the vegan-friendly Laughing Seed Cafe. For fine French cuisine that includes menu items like Escargots Bourguignon and Le Canard a l'Orange Chocolate, try Bouchon. In the heart of downtown Asheville near Pack Square, you’ll find contemporary American food at Posana, homestyle Chinese food at the Noodle Shop, and Mexican and Caribbean style food at Salsa’s. In that same area of downtown, you’ll spot the French Broad Chocolate Lounge in a signature blue building reminiscent of a vintage patisserie. It’s the perfect post-dinner spot to enjoy rich truffles and a glass of wine. 

In the ever-hip and artsy West Asheville, you’ll find an artistic landmark in the form of a large-scale mural of the Queen herself, Dolly Parton, along with innovative eateries like Zia Taqueria that serves drool-worthy Southwestern cuisine, and Oyster House Brewing Company that serves delectable seafood. For the warmest customer service and best brunch in town, visit Sunny Point Cafe (their grapefruit mimosas and huevos rancheros are a must). 

Outside of Asheville in the Town of Black Mountain, most restaurants are open solely for takeout (with a few exceptions), but a majority will allow you to enjoy your “to-go” food on the porch or patio. When it comes to outdoor dining, Louise’s Kitchen, Trailhead Restaurant and Bar, Open Oven Bakery, Fresh Wood-fired Pizza, Black Mountain Ale House, and Ole Guacamole’s are a few of our favorite spots.

If you’re looking for a more casual dining experience where you can enjoy delicious food and craft libations simultaneously, Asheville’s got you covered there, too. Food Trucks and Breweries go together like burgers and fries (speaking of, have you tried Foothills?), which is why there’s nothing quite like grabbing a quick bite and cold pint with friends while you all watch the sun go down on a great day. Breweries like New Belgium, Highland Brewing Company, and Wedge Brewing Company have a rotating schedule of visiting food trucks, some favorites being Melt Your Heart (Gourmet Grilled Cheese) and El Kimchi (Korean/Mexican Street Food). 

The Taqueria Muñoz food truck (outstanding tamales) can almost always be found at Zillicoah Beer Company which sits on 4 acres of riverfront land. Foothills Meats, mentioned above, has a permanent food truck that serves house-cured hotdogs, hamburgers, deli sandwiches, and tallow fries at Hi-Wire’s Big Top facility. Some other notable breweries that serve delicious beer-infused and fermented foods that also have the best outdoor spaces are White Labs Kitchen and Tap, Funkatorium, Wicked Weed, and Sierra Nevada

Stay 

If you’re looking for seclusion and privacy coupled with stunning panoramic views, Greybeard has the perfect accommodations for you. Our secluded cabins provide a safe and comfortable place to get away from it all, and the amenities and features within them can offer even more solace and entertainment during your stay. You can make the most of your stay by choosing a home with a grill, fire pit, or hot tub so you can enjoy the stunning views and warm summer season. Another benefit to our secluded properties is the location. Most homes are nestled against some of the most gorgeous natural settings—from waterfalls to babbling brooks to lush forests—just right outside your window or a short walk away. Whether you’re in search of a larger home designed for families or friend groups or a smaller cabin for a romantic getaway, our homes offer incredible features along with the feeling of having an entire mountaintop all to yourself. Stay with Greybeard to trade in everyday hustle and bustle for total leisure and relaxation.

 Asheville Cares Pledge and Greybeard’s Smart Vacations 

Greybeard Rentals has been diligent in keeping up with state mandates to ensure the safety of our communities and guests during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to frequent hand-washing, physical distancing, and regular employee wellness screenings, Greybeard Rentals has proudly joined many other Asheville-area businesses that have stepped up to protect workers and guests with safety measures that go beyond state guidelines in the Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge

A Greybeard Smart Vacation keeps style and safety in mind. The health and well-being of our guests, owners, and staff remain our highest priority, and you can rest assured that Greybeard will continue to adapt to ensure guest comfort and safety as new information inevitably emerges.