While Asheville makes a perfect weekend getaway, consider taking an extra day or two to explore the surrounding area. Within two hours or fewer, travelers will find themselves in quaint small towns, taking in stunning nature, visiting more craft breweries, or testing their outdoor adventure skills. These day trips give you a deeper look into the regional culture.
Greenville, South Carolina — A favorite day trip from Asheville for beer enthusiasts, Greenville, South Carolina, is just over an hour’s drive. With beer tours that run in both cities over the course of two days, it’s easy to see why and how the two foothills cities are a perfect match for sampling brews. With a diverse and flavorful food scene and rich arts culture, Greenville is the total package.
If you only have a day, spend some time along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, shop the downtown storefronts and, by all means, eat and drink well. Check the Peace Center’s calendar to catch a big-name concert or play. Road cyclists will find a plethora of routes to ride. Draw inspiration from one of the country’s only female-forward cycling shops or the hotel of former Tour de France cyclist and Lance Armstrong teammate George Hincapie.
Brevard, North Carolina — Roughly a 45-minute drive from downtown Asheville, Brevard, North Carolina, is an idyllic stop with small-town charm. From its single-screen movie theater and old-fashioned soda shop to its Brevard Music Festival, which has drawn acclaimed artists like Yo Yo Ma, this Asheville suburb is a perfect escape from the city.
From delectable pastries at Blue Ridge Bakery and sweet treats at Downtown Chocolates to freshly roasted coffee at The Brown Bean Coffee Roasters and new brews at the city’s Oskar Blues location, Brevard offers up more than enough ways to indulge. While the town is a fun stop any time of year, thanks to its shops and excellent dining, go during the music festival to catch world-class acts. Be sure to stop in Mills River when driving in from Asheville for the Creamery’s locally sourced ice cream and homemade cheeses.
Chimney Rock State Park — North Carolina has no shortage of amazing views and parks to preserve them, but Chimney Rock State Park is the newest park in the state. It has brand new facilities to welcome visitors and is just under an hour’s drive from Asheville, making it a must-stop for outdoor enthusiasts.
Hikers have many trails to choose from to reach the top of the “chimney rocks,” but for a more exhilarating ascent, try rock climbing instead. Animal discover programs and live music will please families, and the park and its activities are fun regardless of weather. Nonetheless, check the forecast before you go; on a clear day you can see all of the states neighboring North Carolina from the top of the chimney rocks.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park — Though a somewhat longer drive, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is worth the two-hour jaunt. A UNESCO World Heritage site and the most-visited national park in the United States (take that, Yellowstone), the lushly forested, seemingly endless Great Smoky Mountains are a stunning sight to see.
While fall draws a larger crowd, the autumnal leaves are vibrant. Orient yourself at the Sugarlands Visitors Center, where you can watch a 20-minute film, pick up a free map at the plant and animal museum, or purchase a guidebook at the bookstore. Come with questions as the ranger-staff facility provides a wealth of information to visitors. Though quite touristy, the town of Gatlinburg also offers tons of shopping, dining, and overnight options for travelers hoping to do more than take in views.
Cherokee, North Carolina — Just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and an hour’s drive from Asheville, the town of Cherokee works to preserve and remember the traditions and customs of the Cherokee Native Americans who once lived there. From the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the Oconaluftee Indian Center to the Cherokee “living museum” that is the Oconaluftee Indian Village, operated by the Cherokee Historical Association, there are plenty of ways to learn about Appalachian Native American heritage. The exhibits, which stretch back to the Paleo period (11,000 BC), are fascinating. You can also browse the museum’s calendar for any special events during your visit.
Lake Lure — While Lake Lure offers up more opportunities for outdoor activities during the summer months, visiting in winter is also enjoyable. It has a zip-line that runs alongside the mountains through the forest canopy, kayaks that you can rent to explore the lake’s shores from the water, and slow or fast-paced boat tours. Located only 45-minutes from Asheville, Lake Lure is an ideal summer escape although it can be quite busy. Southern summers can be brutally hot and humid, even in the mountains at lower elevations — so use this day trip as an opportunity to cool off with a swim or while enjoying water sports.