Over the last decade, Asheville, North Carolina, situated along the Smoky Mountains, has become home to hundreds of artists, musicians, chefs, and other creative souls who have transformed the small city into a prime destination for foodies, art and music enthusiasts, and nature lovers. Fall is the perfect time to visit this vibrant city, whether to experience its wondrous colors, take advantage of the seasonal bounty, or partake in some of the city's latest additions.
EAT BEAN-TO-BAR CHOCOLATE IN NEW DIGS
In November, local-favorite French Broad Chocolates' Chocolate Lounge is moving to a brand new space in Pack Square. The popular dessert lounge was an instant favorite when it opened in 2008 and the new location will come with more space (plus an outdoor patio!) and lots of new treats, including homemade ice cream featuring housemade caramel and brownie bites. There will also be a separate chocolate boutique selling edible gifts, like the bean-to-bar truffles and chocolate bars made in the nearby factory.
DRIVE YOUR TROUBLES AWAY
Autumn is the perfect time to take a leisurely drive along the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, which becomes even more magical with the changing colors. The 469-mile scenic road offers stunning vistas of split-rail fences, old farmsteads, and mountain meadows. The Parkway is also home to numerous campgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking and biking trails. Be sure to stop off at Looking Glass Rock overlook at milepost 417, named for the way the water reflects off the mountain's granite surface.
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Want to get a closer look at the trees? Go above the red and yellow leaves on a ziplining expedition with Navitat Canopy Adventures. Try the new Blue Ridge Experience, where you'll fly 350 feet above the ground on ziplines that stretch as long as 3,600 feet.
EXPERIENCE HISTORY AND BEAUTY
Biltmore, the famous Vanderbilt mansion and estate, is an Asheville must-see in any season, but in the fall, the changing leaves make the property shine with gold and orange hues. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the grounds and magnificent gardens, and be sure to see the chrysanthemums and salvias in the Walled Garden.
Take the Guided Biltmore House Tour ($17/person, advance reservations required) to hear interesting stories about the personalities that visited and the fascinating artifacts throughout the house. Then, stroll through the Antler Hill Village & Winery, where you can enjoy a complimentary wine tasting.
Plus, every Friday in September hosts a wine-themed dinner at the estate in honor of North Carolina Wine Month.
FOLLOW YOUR STOMACH TO THE WNC CHEESE TRAIL
Western North Carolina is home to dozens of creameries, and the WNC Cheese Trail was created in 2013 so visitors could experience cheesemaking up-close. Take an afternoon (or a few days!) to follow the self-guided cheese trail—one of just a handful in the U.S.—to area's creameries, but make sure to check what times they're open to visitors.
Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview, NC, about 30 minutes from Asheville, is a must-stop, thanks to its idyllic setting and charming shop and café. New on the menu for fall is the Americana Cheese Plate, offering slices of heirloom apple (from just down the road at Hickory Nut Gap Farm), a serving of Looking Glass Creamery's Carmelita (a delicious goat milk caramel sauce), and a wedge of their Old Drovers Road, a raw milk cow cheddar that's just starting to come out of the aging cave.
Looking Glass Creamery will also be hosting Baked Brie Nights this fall, firing up their newly built cob oven to bake their popular brie-style cheese, Pack Square. Served hot out of the oven with chutney and crackers, the gooey, flavorful cheese makes for the perfect autumn snack.
FORAGE YOUR DINNER
Fall is wild mushroom season! No Taste Like Home leads foraging expeditions around the region through mid-October. You'll forage the area for mushrooms, greens, and other ingredients and learn what's edible—and what actually tastes good. Some of our favorites fall finds include hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, persimmons, chestnuts, lambsquarter, and quince. Take your findings home with you and cook up a feast.
Not a chef? Bring your ingredients to either Market Place or Zambra Tapas restaurants (advance reservations required) and they'll cook them up as an appetizer for you, free of charge.
Finally, if you don't feel like working for you dinner, Market Place always has seasonal and local offerings on the menu. This fall, you can look forward to dishes like foraged mushroom gratin and crispy sweetbreads, Western Carolina BBQ sauce, turnips, celery salad, and blue cheese dressing to help you celebrate the season.