Family Road Trip Guide: Asheville, North Carolina

Families will especially love embracing the beauty, nature and elegance of this beautiful mountain getaway.

Asheville, North Carolina, is a beautiful blend of urban and outdoors. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is artsy and funky, a foodie haven and an excellent locale for outdoor escapades. Weather is mild in this mountain town, with spring welcoming beautiful blooms. Summer isn’t super humid and fall is a favorite for colorful foliage. The Biltmore, known as America’s Largest Private Home, is a big draw to Asheville, especially during the Christmas season.

Getting to Asheville, North Carolina

Head southeast from metro Detroit for about 10 hours. Toledo, Dayton, Lexington and Knoxville are on the way, if you want to make stops to break up the road trip. Enjoy the drive through the mountains and reward yourself with a local brew in the city with the most breweries per capita when you reach your destination.

What Families Love about Asheville, North Carolina

The highest peaks of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains stand tall in Asheville. Part of the Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge truly does appear blue, a haze caused by the trees releasing isoprene into the atmosphere. The color dances from indigo to cyan to sapphire throughout the day. The mountains provide playgrounds for peaceful to exhilarating explorations. Thousands of hiking trails, refreshing waterfalls and scenic drives invigorate the soul.

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Blue Ridge Mountain views from Angie’s Mountain Overlook. Photo credit: Cortney Fries

My family’s favorite hike was to Catawba Falls. A short drive east of Asheville, it’s a moderate hike through the verdant Pisgah National Forest. Walk alongside a stream with spots to splash and be rewarded with a spectacular, multi-tier waterfall at the end. The best part is that you can actually climb into the cascading, cool pools and lounge the afternoon away (at your own risk, of course).

If you’re up for excitement, you’ll definitely want to try Navitat Canopy Tours’ Mountaintop Tour, one of the nation’s fastest and longest zipline courses. Race tandem-style from mountain peak to mountain peak over the lush forest. You go so fast it feels slow! We saw deer batting their big doe eyes at us as we glided overhead.

The Biltmore is the stunning estate of George and Edith Vanderbilt. With an audio tour through the bowling alley, swimming pool, library, dining rooms and kitchens, you’ll get a sense of what it was like to be a guest in the Gilded Age. Admission for kids ages 9 and under is free. The children’s audio tour is narrated by the family dog. Our children enjoyed the Pisgah Playground and chocolates sold at the shops.

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The Biltmore. Photo credit: ExploreAsheville.com

“From April 1 through May 26, visitors can take in a stunning display of color across Biltmore Estate,” says Kristy Tolley, author of 100 Things to Do in Asheville Before You Die. “Spring unfolds vibrantly thanks to 100,000 blooms, 14,000 daffodils, 1,000 hyacinths and other flowers.”

Tolley also recommends enjoying outdoor theater with Montford Park Players. “A production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It performed in a city park in 1973 launched a legacy of theatric proportions,” says Tolley. “Montford Park Players is one of just 15 theaters in the world to have staged every one of Shakespeare’s plays. The group also boasts North Carolina’s longest-running Shakespeare festival. They kick off this year’s season on May 6 with a performance of the show that started it all — As You Like It.”

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Catawba Falls. Photo credit: Cortney Fries

The Appalachian Mountains are one of the most biodiverse places on earth, making Asheville a great place to forage for food. No Taste Like Home experts guide groups through field and forest to collect mushrooms, berries, greens and more. My picky daughter thoroughly enjoyed chatting with our knowledgeable guides, smelling the cherry cola scent of a millipede and munching on sweet birch branches. You can also take your findings to local participating restaurants to have the chef make an appetizer out of your collection.

Kayaking and tubing are fun ways to spend the afternoon in the sun on the French Broad River. Rent tubes or kayaks from French Broad Outfitters. Bring drinks and snacks and float your cares away as you sail past sites such as the River Arts District. A unique Asheville activity you should definitely try is the Friday night drum circle. Evenings April through October, you can drum, dance or simply take it all in at Pritchard Park downtown. The park comes alive for exceptional people watching at this free event.

Where to Stay in Asheville, North Carolina

My family enjoyed every moment of our stay at Angie’s Mountain Overlook, a vacation home rental from Greybeard Rentals. On top of being a lovely property with a deck, hot tub and fire pit, there’s a pool table, dartboard, basketball hoop, bunk beds and Peloton bike. Watch the sun dip behind the periwinkle mountains in an orange and pink evening sky. Morning views are also unforgettable.

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View from Angie’s Mountain Overlook. Photo credit: Cortney Fries

For a hotel option, Crowne Plaza Resort Asheville is a family-friendly stay with a heated outdoor pool, complimentary childcare and zipline canopy tours. Located four miles from the Biltmore Estate Trail, the lush grounds offer room to roam. Shuttle service is provided to downtown.

Places to Eat in Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is a food utopia, brimming with funky, casual eats to James Beard-renowned establishments. “A local food tour is an ideal way to explore the delicious side of Asheville,” says Tolley. “Eating Asheville Tours, Asheville Food Tours and Taste Carolina are a few to check out.”

I don’t know about your family, but my brood loves brunch. Sunny Point Café and Open Oven Brunch & Bakery were two of our favorite mid-day options around Asheville. Shrimp & grits, biscuits and gravy, pimento cheese, carrot hotcakes, chicken and waffles — all aim to please at Sunny Point Café, where you can dine on the covered patio. Open Oven offers heavenly brunch and baked goods. Indulge in homemade breads, served in benedicts or sandwiches, on the outdoor patio. The numerous gluten-free options made this family super happy.

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Whistle Hop drinks and soccer. Photo credit: Courtney Fries.

Later in the day, my whole family recommends visiting Whistle Hop Brewing Company. Order beers or sodas from the red caboose, then play lawn games like disc golf and putt putt. There are soccer nets and a slide for the kids to socialize with new friends. Live music and food trucks also make appearances.

The S&W Market is a food hall with several local, independent restaurants, perfect for family members who each have a craving for something different. It’s casual, affordable and full of flavor. Afterwards, visit the French Broad Chocolate Lounge for your sugar fix.

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