How To Spend A Winter Weekend In Asheville, North Carolina

Experience “Paris of the South” in a new, chilly light.

<p>Courtesy Miriam McSpadden and PBSNC</p>

Courtesy Miriam McSpadden and PBSNC

Asheville, the “Paris of the South,” is known widely for its adventurous outdoors scene, next-to-none leaf peeping, and an all-around perfect mountain retreat to escape the Southern heat. Summer and fall are the key seasons, but visiting Asheville in winter and early spring equals fewer crowds. Plus, you get to experience all the city has to offer in a new light. So pack a down coat, a few base layers, and hit the road.

With the help of Emilie Kapp, owner of Chestnut Street Inn, and Shelton Steele, co-owner of Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins, check out our winterized guide to “The Land of the Sky.”

Experience the Outdoors… Indoors

Kids in tow? Wear them out and dabble in the fun yourself with Indoor climbing at Rivet. “It’s fun for all ages," Kapp notes. “Wrong Way is located next door to a climbing gym, so the go-to wintertime activity is a bouldering session at Cultivate Climbing,” says Steele. “It's big kid and little kid-friendly, so it's an awesome activity for the family on a cold winter day,” he says.

Two Cozy Lodging Options

The Chestnut Street Inn, a beautifully restored Grand Colonial Revival Home from 1905, is situated in the heart of the National Historic District of Asheville and within walking distance some of Ashevile’s most prized shops, breweries, and culinary gems.

Cozier than a traditional hotel room, the inn has eight distinct and spacious guest rooms to choose from. The Beaucatcher suite, however, screams wintertime, with its own fireplace—and is ideal for an in-suite massage.

For winter, there’s a “secret” hot chocolate service which entails Emilie’s French hot chocolate with an indulgent toppings selection. Plus, hot cocoa is available all day along with a rotating port that’s best sipped by the fireplace downstairs.

Cater to your adventurous side and check into Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins, a cluster of 16 tiny A-frame cabins that are the perfect amount of cozy and comfortable. Rooms are equipped with comfy beds (and sound machines), record players with an eclectic mix of vinyl, portable hammocks for use, and electric kettles with coffee and tea, best enjoyed on the deck with some sunshine. ”The French Broad Greenway is our ‘out the cabin door’ connector to Asheville,” says Steele.

<p>Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins</p>

Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins

Enjoy the Outdoors

While hiking might not be the first thought, it’s highly suggested as you’ll see the mountains differently this time of year. “Wear layers, and always check the Blue Ridge Parkway’s closures before heading up the mountain,” Kapp notes. "Find hikes that are shorter with big payoffs,” she adds. “The Craggy Pinnacle hike on a cold and clear day is my favorite winter hike,” says Kapp.

“I'll always recommend getting outside and into the forest—there's a certain magic walking through the forest in the winter,” says Steele. “Think of winter as 3D vision: The topography of the forest comes into focus since there are no leaves on the trees,” he adds. “More detailed long-range views, and also a better understanding of our Blue Ridge Mountains.”

Explore the French Broad River

The French Broad River is one of the oldest rivers in the world, dating back from 260-325 million years old. A stone’s throw from Wrong Way, start the a.m. with a coffee and pastry fireside at the spot’s communal Canteen—and get your steps in on a gorgeous walk en route to the River Arts District to check out shops like Marquee, a design-centric market with curated vendors from around the region. Grab a lunch reward at 12 Bones BBQ and a pitcher of beer at Wedge Brewery at Foundation and if the sun’s out, head to New Belgium Brewing. “Big chairs and an even bigger lawn make this one of the favorite neighborhood gathering spots on the river,” says Steele. And it wouldn’t be a proper  trip to Asheville without scoring a few vanilla glaze donuts from Hole Doughnuts.

Courtesy of New Belgium
Courtesy of New Belgium

Warm Up With…

“Take advantage of the Omni Grove Park Inn’s three-hour free parking, and cozy up by the huge fireplaces with a Manhattan,” says Kapp.

And there’s nothing more warming than a cup of hot sipping chocolate from French Broad Chocolate, one of Asheville’s prized delicacies. Kapp’s pro tip: “Pick up from the Chocolate Factory (on Riverside Dr.), where there is never a line, drive down Riverside, park the car, and walk along the river while you sip,” she adds.

Slurp down ramen from the Haywood Road Itto Ramen Bar location. The classic ramen is a winter go-to. A steak at Asheville Proper, Kapp notes, as “just the vibe of the open fire cooking is enough to warm you right up.”

There’s no better way to spend an evening than with the roaring fire pits outside at Leo’s House of Thirst accompanied by a few glasses of natural wine and innovative small plates. And don’t forget to check out Contrada, one of Asheville’s best-kept-secrets with negronis on tap, tapas, and mouth-watering pizzas . “It might be the coziest spot on earth,” says Kapp.

Winter (Wellness) Wonderland

Often overlooked, Asheville is home to a “wellness block,” plus many other hidden gems that are perfect to tuck into on a chilly winter day. Walk to Wake Foot Sanctuary from Chestnut Street Inn for the ultimate escape from the real world—and one of the best foot massages in these parts.

“The sauna and cold plunge [at Sauna House] are so rejuvenating, and the warm benches while you rest are lovely—but the hardest part is leaving,” Kapp says. The salt cave and hammam at Asheville Salt Cave is a solid way to unwind and everything is super close so you can make a whole day of wellness and even stop at Alchemy for a cleansing, warming bowl of kitchari.

Take Advantage of the Nightlife

Check out a few tequila cocktails as the newly opened Anoche, or catch a show at the Grey Eagle, which Steele notes is Asheville's oldest music venue.

"If it's a Friday night, head back to Wrong Way from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a campfire, cold beers, and s'mores boards,” he says. One World Brewing also has live music almost every day of the week and is always full of locals.

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