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The Short Version: Asheville, North Carolina is an ideal getaway for couples who love both the outdoors and the city. In Asheville, you don’t have to choose. With expansive undeveloped wilderness in the Blue Ridge Mountains, couples can find plenty of opportunity for hiking, biking, and even zip lining. Only a few miles away, in downtown Asheville, are independent restaurants, a vibrant arts scene, and an uncommonly welcoming vibe. With a combination of breathtaking landscapes and a culture that rivals bigger cities, it’s no surprise that many Asheville visitors end up as Asheville residents.
Bringing that special someone to Asheville, North Carolina, means you won’t have to stick to any activity for long. The city, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a place for couples with diverse itineraries.
In fact, the city offers so many activities that you could use a travel guide. Sarah Lowery, Public Relations Specialist for Explore Asheville, laid out the dream date she envisions for visiting couples.
“I’d start with the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Sarah, referring to the 469-mile stretch of National Park Service-protected land in the Appalachian Highlands. “It’s so easy to get from downtown to out in the wilderness in 15 or 20 minutes.”
She particularly recommends Craggy Gardens, an easy hiking trail along a path surrounded by hundreds of flowers that leads to the Craggy Pinnacle, which provides 360-degree views of the mountains.
“When you get to the Pinnacle, you’ve got a beautiful view of the Parkway. People get married there sometimes,” Sarah said.
But its proximity to wilderness doesn’t mean that Asheville lacks culture. After a morning hike, guests can check out a few of the city’s one-of-a-kind spots. Bring your date back into town to spend an afternoon at The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. It’s part bar and part used bookstore, and browsers can spend hours flipping through books and getting to know one another.
“You can bring your dog as well,” Sarah said. “And the shop has lots of nooks and crannies where you can hole up and have wine.”
Round out the evening with a sophisticated vibe at the Biltmore Estate. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt in the late 1800s, the house is modeled after a European castle.
The estate is popular with locals because of its ever-changing focus.
“One of our coworkers just got engaged there over the weekend,” Sarah said. “Currently, they have Dale Chihuly’s glassworks on display throughout the gardens. And Biltmore has done a lot of costume exhibitions over the last few years.”
After a date with such an array of experiences, you’ll certainly understand the appeal of Asheville. It has a little bit of everything.
Asheville is well-loved by outdoor enthusiasts because of its situation in the highest peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. Though natural scenes are visible from many points in the city, it’s also easy to get outside of the city — and forget you’re near one.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are especially appealing because they offer many climate variations. The Parkway area, for example, transitions from wetlands to tall peaks and flowered lowlands.
If you’re an adventure seeker, you can find your niche experience in the Asheville outdoors. Navitat Canopy Adventures allows you to explore the woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains from — as its logo suggests — a squirrel’s perspective.
“You can do intense solo zip lines or tandem ones that would be good for a couple,” Sarah said.
Side-by-side zip lines let you fly over the trees with your partner, giving you a better sense of the expansiveness of these picturesque forests.
If you want to stay outside longer, Sarah recommends the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF), a music and arts festival, held each spring and fall in Black Mountain. The festival brings campers together for a weekend of live music and togetherness. Headliners for the 2018 spring festival included Snarky Puppy and Ani DiFranco.
Asheville is becoming increasingly famous for its creative dining scene.
Cúrate, rated one of Asheville’s top restaurants on Yelp, is a Spanish tapas-inspired eatery. It offers an upscale, casual vibe for daters, and serves original small plates, including lamb skewers, squid ink pasta, and its memorable flan.
Cúrate Head Chef and Owner Katie Button, also owns the more romantically-oriented Nightbell Restaurant. “When I think of a romantic spot, Nightbell comes to mind,” Sarah said. “It’s a little more of a nighttime vibe.”
Nightbell elevates Southern food through offerings like hush puppies with orange honey butter dipping sauce, and brown butter cornbread with chicken butter and seasonal jams.
As for places to have a drink, don’t worry, Asheville has plenty.
“We’re Beer City, USA. We’ve got 30-plus breweries in the area,” said Sarah. For sipping and scenery, she recommends sitting on the outdoor terrace at the Grove Park Inn, where you can have a glass of wine or a cocktail.
While other Southern cities are known as destinations for arts or music, Asheville offers its own unique taste of both.
“The River Arts District is a whole area of town that were old textile factory warehouses and industrial buildings,” Sarah said. “Now, more than 200 artists work in that area. You can watch people in their studios and buy their art.”
There are so many galleries, in fact, that first-time visitors may feel like they’re missing something. If that is the case for you and your partner, taking an Art Connections tour may be your best bet.
“You can customize the tour. If you or your partner want to see someone working with glass, you can. You can talk to the artists and get the rundown,” said Sarah. “And there are full- and half-day options.”
In addition to the visual arts, Asheville also has a robust music scene.
“We’ve got so many great venues and talented artists, not to mention recording studios with Grammy-winners making new music. We’re not too far from Nashville, and we’re trying to get our name out here, as well,” Sarah said.
To spread the word about the vibrant musical offerings in the city, the tourism website created Explore Asheville Radio, a playlist featuring some of the city’s most successful musicians.
With its unusual mix of sophistication and off-the-beaten-path businesses, it’s no surprise that Asheville attracts such a range of visitors and residents.
“It’s a melting pot of all kinds of people. Plus, we’ve got a history of the arts and crafts in this region. The city has a good mix of people,” Sarah said.
That harmonious blend of people is why so many Asheville visitors end up making the city home.
“People get inspired by the mountain setting, and they move here,” Sarah said. “It seems like people visit, relocate, and then they figure it out.”
A place you want to pick up and move to after your first visit would certainly make a memorable vacation for you and your date. Whether you end up making Asheville your new home or not.