From a 10-foot-tall mural of a rooster in Chicken Alley to a busker pounding out poems on a typewriter in Pack Square, I thought that I’d seen it all in
From a 10-foot-tall mural of a rooster in Chicken Alley to a busker pounding out poems on a typewriter in Pack Square, I thought that I’d seen it all in the six years since I moved to Asheville. As it turns out, I’ve only ticked off 47 of the quintessential experiences cataloged in 100 Things to Do in Asheville Before You Die. Author Kristy Tolley has been visiting the mountain town for almost three decades, and she’s witnessed its growth into a mecca for dining, art, beer, and nature. Her fast-paced guide, which devotes a page to each item on the carefully curated list, will help first-timers choose the best offerings in each of these categories and more.
100 Things is also a resource for locals like me, as well as repeat visitors who want to go deeper. I can’t wait to welcome my out-of-town pals back so I can treat them to the rooftop tour at Biltmore Estate or a brunch “beermosa” at The Lion and the Rose Bed and Breakfast. Whether you follow the itineraries or chart your own course, 100 Things is proof that there’s always more to discover in the city that’s committed, in the words of a beloved local mural, to “staying weird.”
OS: Do you have a favorite item on your Asheville bucket list?
Kristy: Well, it totally depends on the time of the year! In the summer, I like to kayak or paddle on the French Broad River. In the spring, I love attending Biltmore Blooms, which is a gorgeous way to usher in the season. In the fall, I like hiking and seeing the leaves, and I love walking around downtown in the cool air. In the winter and around the holidays, I enjoy going to the Omni Grove Park Inn when they have their gingerbread competition!
OS: If someone had a limited amount of time to spend in Asheville, what is a must-see spot?
Kristy: The S&W Market, for sure, because there’s so much to enjoy in one place! The last time I went [to the food hall], I ordered something from almost every stall. I didn’t want to miss out on Mexican food, so I got chips and guacamole from Peace Love Tacos, and then I got some delicious buns from Bun Intended. I topped the visit off with a delicious beer from Highland Brewing.
OS: What are some of your favorite local shops in Asheville?
Kristy: Oh, my, so many favorites! I love to visit shops with art and handmade goods. Woolworth Walk carries work from a variety of different artists and local makers. For instance, they sell beautiful handmade jewelry. Of course, I always try to make it to Mast General store — that’s an Asheville classic. I also love to thrift, so Reciprocity and Lost & Found are great if I’m looking for vintage and retro-inspired clothing. Instant Karma is also just iconic Asheville; they have tie-dye T-shirts, essential oils, and incense there. Oh, and the bookstores! There’s Battery Park Book Exchange in Grove Arcade, and, of course, the Maker’s Market outside of the bookstore is so much fun.
OS: What does your ideal weekend in Asheville look like?
Kristy: First, it will include food! A brunch at Isa’s French Bistro is a must. They have an amazing mimosa flight that’s just to-die for. And lunch outside at Laughing Seed Café is also on my list. While I’m there, I’d enjoy a fall stroll through downtown and stop in at some local shops. For a relaxing afternoon, I’d head to The Omni Grove Park Inn or The Salt Spa and treat myself to a massage. I also like spending time outside in the fall, so I enjoy hiking and spending time with animals. I love visiting the Animal Haven of Asheville, a farm animal rescue sanctuary — they have ducks, pot-belly pigs, chickens, cats, and dogs. As for evenings, I love going on rooftop bar tours! The guides in Asheville tend to incorporate a lot of history in their tours, so you not only get to see a lot of Asheville, but you also get to learn about it, too. And if I have another free evening, I like heading to Old Europe Pastries for a sweet nighttime treat to finish the day.