Where to Stay in Asheville: 7 Best Areas

Where to stay in Asheville

If you’re considering your first trip to Asheville, you may well be wondering where to stay in Asheville. This guide will do a deep dive into the seven best areas to stay in Asheville and all the fun activities and places to see on your trip.

If you’re based in the United States (or even abroad), you may be looking for an incredible spot for your next vacation, honeymoon or weekend getaway. Perhaps you want a distinct cultural and craft scene derived from a unique bohemian community. 

Maybe you’re looking to get some use out of those new hiking shoes and experience breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountain views. Or, maybe you just want a low-key, slower-paced spot to recuperate, explore and breathe in some fresh air, try incredible food and craft beer and enjoy stellar local music. 

You can find all this and more in the small, artistic east coast city of Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville has received many accolades, including places on several “best of” lists including “Top Food Destinations,” “Best Beer Cities” and “Friendliest Cities.” Despite all its honors, Asheville is truly a hidden gem tucked in western North Carolina and is in a word, “cool.” 

The arts scene here is unlike anywhere else in the country, home to thousands of artisans displaying their craft in small shops, galleries, museums and exhibitions wherever you turn. 

You’ll find all walks of life here, including hip millennials, working professionals, artists, craft makers and locals who have called this city home for decades. 

There are no shortage of things to do, but you won’t find the suffocating tourist crowds of some of the other major cities in the U.S. Whether you’re coming for a weekend or a while, Asheville will certainly charm you into returning again and again.

If you’ve been thoroughly convinced to visit this incredible city, you’ll want to begin planning your trip to Asheville. Many say the optimal time to visit Asheville is either from March to May (when spring flowers are blooming) or in September to early November (when the fall foliage is at its peak). 

The temperatures are mildly cool and perfect for hiking, exploring and strolling around outside. Once you have your itinerary mapped out and all your bags packed, you may be wondering where’s the perfect place to stay in Asheville. 

Where to stay in Asheville: 7 Best Areas

1. Downtown, where to stay in Asheville for first timers

Artsy, vibrant and wholly its own, Downtown Asheville is Asheville’s central commercial hub and tourist home base. Eclectic and historic, Downtown Asheville is a distinct mix of past and present, with older buildings standing next to modern boutiques, galleries and specialty food stores.

If you’re a foodie, Downtown Asheville is a must-visit. With over 100 restaurants to choose from serving every type of cuisine, you’ll never be hungry for long. 

In addition, those looking to shop will go gaga over Downtown’s 200+ retail stores, selling everything from art, clothing, accessories, gifts and much more. 

For its spirited and diverse culture, as well as booming music and arts scene, many have called Downtown Asheville the “Paris of the South.” Downtown is the perfect place to stay in Asheville if you’re looking to get a healthy mix of everything.

If you’re in for a wild and fun way to see the area, hop on the LaZoom Comedy Bus Tour. You can’t miss the large purple bus shuttling around, taking guests to see the best sites as tour guides perform skits and tell jokes for around 90 minutes. 

Grove Arcade, a great stop, is practically an Asheville institution. This historic mall was built in the late 1920s and is now a registered landmark. 

Here you’ll find high-end retailers selling interesting goods and services, like fine art and jewelry, watches and even fossils and minerals from around the world. Grab a bite or a champagne by the bar and be sure to check out the daily Artists Market. 

Speaking of art, Downtown is another gem in Asheville’s artistry crown. The Downtown Asheville Art District (DAAD) has over 20 galleries and museums. 

Lexington Glassworks is an amazing place to see master glass blowers perform an ancient tradition in a real studio. The nearby Asheville Gallery of Art is Asheville’s longest established Fine Art Gallery, with incredible paintings from international artists.

When you’re ready to get some steps in, check out the amazing Asheville Urban Trail. The trail runs for just under two miles and ends in Pack Place. On your way you’ll get a feel for how Asheville came to be and get a glimpse of public artwork, including bronze animal statues. 

Be sure to check out the Asheville Pinball Museum, a great stop for kids. Visitors can play old-school pinball or modern video games on eighty, playable machines. 

The Asheville Museum of Science is another fascinating stop off of Patton Avenue, offering immersive and interactive exhibits like the Hurricane Stimulator. 

Once you get hungry, you don’t have to go far to find world-class cuisine. Pack’s Tavern is a popular spot in a vintage building, serving a diverse selection of craft beer and southern-inspired home cooking. 

Cúrate is an eclectic Spanish eatery in a refurbished 1927 bus depot with tapas-style plates and specialty meats. For more international flavor, try Twisted Laurel for Mediterranean-inspired fare

Downtown has by far the best nightlife scene in the entire city. For live music, dancing and drinks, visit the Asheville Music Hall, a vibrant venue hosting top touring bands and DJs as well as local acts. 

The historic Off the Wagon Dueling Piano Bar hosts talented musicians and singing and dancing along is encouraged. The Montford Rooftop bar is another popular spot and is a great place to watch the sunset over the distant mountain ranges. 

You’ll find local Asheville craft beer and signature cocktails here, as well as light bites to keep you full. There’s also a couple of nightclubs here if you’re really looking for a fun night out.

Because this area is the central gathering point in Asheville you’re likely to find higher prices here for accommodation versus other places. There’s several major chains here as well as smaller boutique hotels, in addition to home rentals in and around the area.

2. Biltmore, Asheville’s iconic landmark

The Biltmore area of Asheville is best known for its namesake: the historic house and museum Biltmore Estate. 

This sprawling Châteauesque-style mansion, built for George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, is the largest privately owned home in the U.S. 

Spreading over 178,000 square feet, the home is listed on both the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and as a U.S. National Historic Landmark District. 

At the height of the Gilded Age, Vanderbilt made frequent visits to the Asheville area and fell fully in love with the incredible scenery and climate, so much so that he set out to build a grand summer house for him and his family. 

The home is now considered to be a crucial part of Asheville’s history, helping to shape this mountain city into an iconic tourist destination.

Start a trip to this area by merely exploring the Biltmore House, an endless source of wonderment that has entranced generations for decades. The home is filled with a priceless collection of arts, antiques and incredible feats of architectural design common to the Gilded Age. 

You can book a tour with an expert for a more intimate experience, or go self-guided. Be sure to stop by the master bedroom with its ornate furnishings and the beautiful Breakfast Room. 

You’ll also want to be sure to see the biggest (and most impressive) room in the house, the 70-foot high Banquet Hall with a 1916 Skinner pipe organ and triple fireplace. 

The Winter Garden is similarly awe-inspiring, but a true guest favorite is George Vanderbilt’s personal two-story library. The collection contains over 23,000 volumes and honors Vanderbilt’s veracious appetite for reading.

Beyond the estate itself, you can explore acres of lush, expertly maintained gardens and woodlands surrounding the home. The Italian Gardens include scenic reflecting ponds for quiet moments of peace. 

Next to the Walled Garden is the stunning glass conservatory, an oasis of tropical flowers and exotic plants, where you’ll also get a peek at the terraced butterfly garden. 

Antler Hill Village is where past meets present and is the perfect place to grab a bite, shop, listen to live music and explore many of the annual exhibits that Biltmore hosts. 

The village itself honors Vanderbilt’s extensive farming history and was named after Antler Hill, the ridge above the village. 

Now, you can visit the working Antler Hill Barn and Farmyard and catch traditional farming, blacksmithing and craft demonstrations, as well as meet some furry farm animals. 

Nearby is the famous Biltmore Winery and Vineyards, which offer tastings of handcrafted Biltmore wines and takes guests through the winemaking process. 

If you’re still not tired out, there are several great hiking trails in and around the area, as well as an expansive greenway to sit down and relax.

If you’re feeling fancy, there’s an option to stay overnight at the Inn on Biltmore Estate, imagining yourself as royalty for a night. It’s no surprise this comes at a high price, but if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, it’s an experience well-worth the cost.

3. Montford Area Historic District, richly historic and architecturally vibrant

Located just north of downtown, the historic and romantic neighborhood of Montford is an affluent, suburban dream, with leafy, tree-lined streets, architectural wonders and a testament to the history of Asheville. 

A portion of Montford is honored as a National Register Historic District, complete with over 600 buildings, many of which were built between 1890 and 1920. 

A visit here is like being transported to Asheville before the turn of the 20th century, as many of the sites here have been carefully preserved by the community to retain their neoclassic charm. 

Once a neighborhood home to the wealthiest of Asheville, Montford is now a popular area to explore, bike around or merely sit and admire a time gone by.

A favored pastime of many visiting Asheville is to simply stroll around this area and take in the grand homes, featured in more than half a dozen different architectural styles. 

These range from Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Arts and Crafts, Castle-style and Victorian, just to name a few. Renown Asheville architect and supervising architect of the Biltmore Estate Richard Sharp Smith designed and produced numerous residential homes here.

His distinct stylings, seen in the high-pitched roofs and heavy stone foundations of several homes, laid the framework for the architectural design of the entire area, giving Montford a cohesive, consistent design look. 

Now, several of these homes have been converted into modern bed and breakfasts, still keeping their quaint amenities and fixtures.

The Riverside Cemetery is another cultural landmark here, stretching over 3.5 mile of road and complete with flowering gardens and grand mausoleums. 

Laid amongst 13,000 others are authors Thomas Wolfe and William Sydney Porter, as well as former North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance. 

Make sure to catch a Shakespeare performance by the famous Montford Park Players at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre during the summer months. As North Carolina’s longest running Shakespeare Festival, the players present six free plays under the stars all throughout the summer. 

Asheville’s main Visit Center is also located here off Montford Avenue and is a great place to orient yourself before starting your adventure.

The Montford Area Historic District is perfect for newlyweds and couples looking to enjoy a quiet, romantic experience in an elegant bed and breakfast. 

Due to the area’s historic nature, there aren’t many chain hotels or budget accommodations here, but there are several within close proximity. 

While Montford doesn’t capture the sheer amount of things to do as some of the other areas on this list, it is certainly worth visiting for its beauty and historic charm alone.

Read also: Best places to stay in Charleston, best places to stay in Savannah, best places to stay in Nashville, best places to stay in Atanta

4. River Arts District, where to stay in Asheville for art lovers

Lovingly referred to as the heart of Asheville’s creative and artistic spirit, The River Arts District (or RAD) has an inspiring history. 

Running north along the east side of the French Broad River (the 5th oldest river in the world) RAD was once home to factories and industrial buildings. 

Denim and flannel were once made in the two-story Cotton Mill building, now one of the oldest buildings in the district. While many of the buildings and railroad were destroyed in a historic 1916 flood, the 1970s saw a complete cultural renaissance in the area. 

Since, arts-based businesses and local studios have boomed in the area. Now, there is a long-term development plan to truly modernize the area in partnership with community leaders, residents and the artists who have called the area home for decades. 

If you’re interested in local art and a true capturing of the spirit of Asheville and the surrounding mountains, make sure to hit RAD for a day-trip or even a weekend stay.

There’s an endless amount of things to do in RAD in terms of art-trekking. You can visit artists in their studios and watch them perfect their craft, or even sign up for an artistry class yourself. 

First, grab an artisan coffee at Ultra Coffeebar, where you can catch beautifully-decorated ceramics donated by the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts. You can also take a drop-in lesson at the Odyssey and make your own clay creation. 

Roberts Street’s North Carolina Glass Center also offers free glassblowing demonstrations throughout the year. If photography is more your thing, check out the Studio 375 Depot for photography, pottery and basketry on Depot Street. 

You’ll be sure to want to hit RAD when the second Saturday of each month falls. On these “second Saturdays” RAD holds gallery walks, complete with live classes and demonstrations, live music and wine and food tastings along the mile-long walkway. 

For the beer aficionados, make sure to check out the Wedge Brewing company, a certified favorite amongst Asheville locals. Sitting atop the brewery itself is the Wedge Studios, three stories of art studios filled with paintings, sculpture, cartoons and more available for viewing. 

This is only a mere glimpse into all the jewelry, fine art and design studios RAD has to offer. If you’re yearning to see it all, give yourself at least a couple of days to explore.

The nearby New Belgium Brewery, housed within the Historic Cotton Mill Studios, also serves incredible ciders and small batch creations, perfect for tastings and tours. Within the Cotton Mill Studios are six artist studios and galleries, as well as the Asheville Guitar Bar, a great spot to catch acoustic music. 

For great eats, check out Vivian, a new American-European style restaurant or 12 Bones Smokehouse for some of the best southern BBQ. 

There’s not many hotels directly within RAD, so this may not be the best place to stay in Asheville, but is definitely worth a visit. There’s only a handful of bars and lounges nearby, so don’t expect any crazy, late-night partying. 

But, if you’re ready to experience some of the best artistry and craft-making in the country, as well as meet talented people passionate about their work, visiting RAD is an unforgettable experience.

5. West Asheville, best place to stay in Asheville for outdoor enthusiasts, artists and hippies

Taking a stroll in West Asheville is like being transported back to the 80’s, where retro and vintage fashion thrived, indie music was the name of the game and life was just a little bit slower than it is today. 

Often known as the smaller, sister neighborhood to the ever-popular Downtown, West Asheville is quickly becoming a tourist hotspot all its own for its cool atmosphere and popular activities. 

Travel just across the French Broad River from downtown and be immersed in originality, so much so you may question if you’re even still in Asheville. People have flocked here in the past decade, either to visit or to even start a small business, buy a home or make West Asheville their community.

The main street here is the famous Haywood Road, a central point of West Asheville for more than a century that curves over two miles. This street has seen older industrial buildings turn into modern businesses and homes while still retaining its antiquated charm. 

Family businesses and second- and third-generation stores still thrive against the changing atmosphere, giving West Asheville a unique, home-town feel. 

Grab breakfast at any one of the small cafes along the street, including the local favorite West End Bakery or Odds Cafe, where you’ll see students studying and professionals grabbing a smoothie or baked goods. 

If you enjoy consignment and vintage shopping, West Asheville is your place. Star Shine Station is a popular thrift clothing store with hand-picked retro-inspired pieces, as well as curated accessories and home goods. 

Nearby Villagers, an artistic garden and home store, has everything you’d need to prep and primp your home and DIY projects. 

West Asheville is also home to several great record and vinyl shops for the music buff who keeps it old-school. Check out Harvest Records for hundreds of releases both classic and new and then stop by Firestorm, a unique bookstore famous for featuring radical literature of history.

The nearby Hominy Creek Park is a great place to take an after-breakfast stroll. You can bike or walk to the connected Carrier Park, where you’ll find a spacious playground, roller hockey rink, basketball and volleyball courts and picnic tables for resting. 

The nearby French River Broad Park is perfect for travelers with dogs, with a fenced dog park and ample grassy space to walk along. Once you’re hungry for lunch or dinner, West Asheville has no shortage of amazing options ranging in various cuisines and formalness, many which are located on Haywood Road. 

Asheville’s diverse population has led to any kind of food option available, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and all-around incredible southern cooking. 

WALK (West Asheville Lounge & Kitchen) has incredible casual fare like tacos and sandwiches and stays open late into the night with draft beer and eclectic cocktails. 

Universal Joint is another full-service, dog-friendly restaurant with the famous West Asheville build-your-own-burger. Make sure you grab a delicious, locally-made ice cream at The Hop West on Haywood before embarking on into the night.

In terms of nightlife, West Asheville has some of the best in the entire area. Cider and beer in lowkey pubs, beer gardens and wine bars is the name of the game here. 

DeSoto Lounge, once voted Asheville’s best dive bar, has a running jukebox with great indie music and is a great place to kick back and relax. The Double Crown is another great spot and you’ll often catch live soul and jazz musicians rocking out into the wee hours. 

If you want to see live music, Isis Restaurant & Music Hall truly kicks off after 10pm with two floors of music in the renovated Isis theater. You’re likely to hear everything from bluegrass to rock to R&B in a cool, swanky setting. 

Westville Pub or The Anchor Bar are two great places to catch a sports game or play a game of pool before heading out for a show.

West Asheville has grown in popularity in the past year, so finding accommodation directly within the area isn’t always easy, as hotels book up fast. But there are some great chain hotels in and around West Asheville, as well as cheaper motels and homestays.

6. Black Mountain, an artistic haven with great views

Looking for small town charm, rolling mountains, walkable sites and some of the friendliest locals on the east coast? Black Mountain, a small mountain town located 15 miles from Asheville on the eastern edge of Buncombe County, is your spot. 

Planted at 2,405 feet in elevation, Black Mountain is your gateway to incredible, scenic outdoor adventure and relaxed shopping and dining. This spot has a fairly interesting history and earns its name from the mountain range soaring above the town. 

During the mid-twentieth century, Black Mountain drew in artists from all walks of life, so much so that the avant-garde Black Mountain College, an innovative experimental art college, was founded here in 1933. 

Poets, musicians and painters thrived at the college, creating a distinct arts and crafts scene that can still be felt within multiple galleries and showcases throughout the town.

Fondly known as the “front porch of the Blue Ridge,” the Black Mountain is exactly that. Once earning the moniker of the “prettiest small town in America”, Black Mountain living is like watching the world go by in a relaxed, open-air atmosphere. 

Start a day here by walking around beautiful Lake Tomahawk, especially vibrant with orange, red and green foliage in the fall months. You’ll see the famous “Seven Sisters” mountain peaks in the distance and completely fall in love with the scenery. 

This area is full of great hiking trails as well. As you move to the downtown area, take a rest on one of several rocking chairs scattered near the shop fronts, hand-painted by local artists in homage to the nature and animals of the area. 

Downtown is full of small, locally-owned stores, trading companies and even a general store dating back to the 1920’s. Make sure to grab an artisan coffee, which Black Mountain is famous for.

Famous for being an east coast art hub, you can’t miss the studios and galleries in the town, showcasing local art, hand-made jewelry, crafts and home goods. 

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts, formerly known as the area’s City Hall, regularly hosts exhibits, theater performances and classes, and is the perfect place to explore the history of Black Mountain. 

To get in a bit more culture, check out Black Mountain’s historic Train Depot, a landmark over 100 years old. In the depot, you’ll find master crafts, fine art and old photographs celebrating the area’s history. 

The Depot also hosts a biannual art show, Art by the Tracks, to support local school art projects. Equally fascinating is the historic fire station, now converted to a museum.

Black Mountain has more than 40 local restaurants serving everything from traditional southern fare to international eats. When you’re ready to have a drink, explore one of Black Mountain’s craft breweries or distilleries, which offer tours and tastings throughout the year. 

The live music and nightlife scene here is growing and vibrant, regularly hosting both touring acts and local musicians in music halls as well as in smaller parks and bars. 

While you won’t find any major clubs, you’re bound to have a good time kicking your heels up and listening to the acoustic sounds of Black Mountain. 

For places to stay, Black Mountain offers a wide variety fit for all tastes and budgets. You’ll find preserved Victorian inns, smaller BnB’s, AirBnB’s scattered throughout the area, budget-style motels and even cabins near the hiking trails.

Black Mountain is the perfect place to stay in Asheville for charming, family-friendly activities and relaxation.

7. Lake Lure, true lake-side living

Located just 27 miles from Downtown Asheville, romantic and scenic Lake Lure is the perfect atmosphere to immerse yourself in nature and get the most out of your Asheville vacation. 

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the man-made Lake Lure sits at the bottom of Hickory Nut Gorge, a 20,000-acre, 14-mile-long canyon. This area is filled with lush, undisturbed natural forests, rushing waterfalls and towering granite cliffs.

It’s no surprise this beautiful area has been chosen as a filming site for several major blockbusters, including Thunder Road and Dirty Dancing

If you’re looking to get in some natural activity including biking, boating, hiking and swimming or simply want a peaceful, quiet forest retreat, Lake Lure is an amazing place to stay in Asheville.

If you’re looking up, you can’t miss the famous Chimney Rock. This natural wonder is over 500 million years old and is an incredible spot to take in breathtaking views of all of Lake Lure and the wide gorge. 

To get here, you can drive up the mountain for 3 miles and then either climb the rest of the way or take an elevator. From Chimney Rock, you can choose from three trails to get in some incredible North Carolina hiking

The Hickory Nut Falls Trail is a fairly easy, 1.5-mile round-trip amazing for bird-watching and shady pull-over stops. The Four Seasons trail is a bit more demanding, with a 400-ft elevation gain over 6-10 miles. 

You will be rewarded with amazing views and rare wildflowers not found elsewhere within the park. If you’re a rock climber, be sure to bring your equipment and check out Rumbling Bald Trail for its daunting boulders and cliffs. 

Birdwatchers will also love this diverse site, where you may catch a glimpse of Peregrine Falcons and smaller birds diving through the air. 

When you’re all hiked out for the day, hit the Village of Chimney Rock, located at the base of the rock. You’ll find souvenirs at Cliff Dwellers Gifts and great picnic fixings at Old Rock Cafe.

Closer to the lake itself, you can take a relaxing stroll along the boardwalk and cross the Flowering Bridge, a former highway bridge-transformed -flowering garden. Volunteers work hard to keep the garden luscious and blooming, attracting vibrant butterflies and tourists. 

Keep walking on the Town Center Walkway along the lake. You’ll see soaring mountains within the distance and the beach below. Once you hit the beach, be prepared to have the perfect summer lake day. 

There’s a waterslide and water park for the kids, as well as amenities including restrooms, changing rooms and a snack bar. If you want to see the lake up close, Lake Lure Tours offers guided boat tours and boat rental from April to October, where you’ll see local landmarks and attractions popular in the area. 

The Lake Lure Adventure Company also offers watersport gear rentals for wakeboarding, wake surfing, tubing, fishing and more, providing the perfect fun and safe lake experience for you and your family.

There are several arts festivals throughout the year around the lake, as well as great spots for live music, freshly-grilled food and casual drinks.

In terms of accommodation, there is one major, 3,000+ acre resort directly on the north shore of Lake Lure with private beach access and a variety of attached lake activities. 

For more rustic, lake-inspired living, you can rent out cabins, cottages or lodges all within close proximity to the lake. There are also several campgrounds scattered through the area, including a spacious family campground at Hickory Nut Falls, perfect for an outdoor adventure.

You can’t go wrong by booking accomodation in any one of these amazing areas. Make sure to book any tours and activities as soon as you figure out your ideal itinerary, as the secret of Asheville’s beauty, cultural diversity and excitement may be well and truly out.

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