Asheville’s leaf-lined downtown streets, neighborhoods and an encircling ring of colorful summits would make the city an autumn destination even if it weren’t a national hotspot of hip. Explore Asheville’s downtown on the city’s landmark – and shopping-dotted Urban Trail (http://bit.ly/1tD8KLv).
Asheville’s outdoors beckon at many events, including the N.C. Arboretum’s Bonsai Expo, Oct. 10-11 (www.ncarboretum.org). This is a great chance to buy and marvel at these miniature works of horticultural art surrounded by the arboretum’s gardens and easy trails.
The foliage fiesta should be underway for the Oct. 15-18 Biannual Craft Fair of the Southern Appalachians – a historic twice-annual gathering of the very best traditional and contemporary craftspeople from nine states (www.southernhighlandguild.org) at the U.S. Cellular Center (Asheville Civic Center).
Biltmore Estate (www.biltmore.com) may be relentlessly famous, but America’s Downton Abby keeps evolving as a memorably multifaceted destination. Check in to the Inn on Biltmore Estate (www.biltmore.com/stay/inn) for access to 8,000 acres of options (tours of the house and guided recreation costs more). A trail winds down to the most-visited winery in America (don’t miss the subterranean tunnel into the 100-year-old edifice), then amble beyond to Antler Hill Village.
Antler Hill is also home to the Outdoor Adventure Center, a hub for the estate’s trails and outdoor options. Bring or rent a bike, or just hike.
If you haven’t seen the house, pedal up to the “porch” while everybody else parks a car. Or shake up your previous look at the country’s increasingly accessible largest private home by taking a butler or architect’s tour. Or revel in the foliage of Frederick Law Olmsted’s masterpiece grounds by gliding along the French Broad on raft and kayak trips.
The gravity-defying Land Rover Experience Driving School is another way to immerse in autumn.
The River Arts District Studio Stroll (www.romanticasheville.com) Nov. 14-15 explores artist-adopted historic structures beside the still leaf-colored corridor of the French Broad River (www.riverartsdistrict.com).
If you’re thirsty
▪ Soak up local beer culture and live music at the Tasting Room in Asheville’s popular local brewpub, the Highland Brewery Co. Details: www.highlandbrewing.com.
▪ Jack of the Wood is a cozy downtown dive featuring English-style ales by Green Man Brewery, formerly brewed in the bar’s atmospheric Patton Avenue location. There’s music most nights of the week, including a singer-songwriter session the first and third Tuesdays, traditional mountain music on Wednesdays and bluegrass on Thursdays (and special weekend gigs). Details: www.jackofthewood.com.
If you’re hungry
▪ Steps from Wall Street parking in downtown, Early Girl Eatery is a tasty introduction to Asheville’s passion for healthy, hearty and locally grown foods. Luckily, for the sleep-in set, the awesome list of breakfast dishes is served all day. Details: www.earlygirleatery.com.
▪ Cedric’s Tavern in Biltmore’s Antler Hill Village is an easy stroll from the inn’s more formal dining room. The draw is moderately priced, locally sourced sandwiches, entrees, small bites (such as three styles of Kitchen Garden eggs) and late-night dining and entertainment. (Requires entry to the estate if you’re not staying at the inn.) Details: http://bit.ly/VQGI1A.