I always loved the idea of visiting a destination during the season of Christmas to see the lights, seasonal attractions, and fill up on holiday spirit. So, when I found Asheville, I knew it was the perfect place to visit during this time of year! Even though this 5-day itinerary in Asheville includes Christmastime activities, it’s still great for any time of year.

What instantly drew me here was the eclectic food scene and proximity to the Appalachian trail, Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains, and Blue Ridge Parkway. These are all incredible hiking destinations for any level of outdoor enthusiast.

Asheville made it so easy to build a 5-day itinerary around “clean” food, being outdoors, active, and in nature.

Don’t miss my Clean Travel Guide to Asheville and Eating Clean in Asheville post!

There is also no shortage of quaint “Hallmark-Esque” towns surrounding the city that celebrate with Christmas lights, festivals, and markets. And don’t forget, Asheville is home to the famous Biltmore Estate! We couldn’t miss the opportunity in our 5-day itinerary in Asheville to visit The Biltmore.

Keep scrolling to discover my Christmas-time, adventure-filled, 5-day itinerary in Asheville, North Carolina!

Pisgah National Forest

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5-DAY ITINERARY IN ASHEVILLE

Day 1

Arrive & Settle into Accommodations

The first 2 evenings, we stayed in an Air BNB to keep costs lower. We were not wild about the location – so I thought it best not to share that one. Since we booked so close to our trip, the options available were slim.

Dinner Downtown @ Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a casual, but pricey, farm-to-table restaurant in the center of downtown that offers a seasonal menu with unique dishes from locally sourced meats and produce when available.

Grab dessert @ Double D’s Coffee & Desserts & Walk Broadway St.

Grab an after-dinner organic coffee at Double D’s! This is an awesome double-decker red bus – just like the ones in London!

*They ONLY take Cash!

Go for an evening walk after dinner & coffee to soak in the downtown area. There is a slew of local stores that tend to stay open later, and you may stumble upon some great street performers.

Day 2

Breakfast @ Early Girl Eatery

This is an amazing local restaurant (3 Asheville locations) that is open all day, with organic, seasonal, and local ingredients when possible. They offer a lot of gluten-free & vegan options, including local vegan bread.

Hike Pisgah National Forest

I’m a sucker for waterfalls, so visiting Pisgah was a no-brainer because it’s full of them!

Drive 45 minutes from Early Girl Eatery Downtown to a small town called Mills River, where you’ll find your turn-off into Pisgah National Forest.

Once you enter Pisgah National Forest, there is a visitor’s center and ranger station. Throughout, you will find campgrounds, picnic tables, and trails right off the road.

The road through the forest is beautifully paved and drives alongside the winding river. It is truly serene.

Moore Cove Falls Trail

6 miles into the national forest is a beautiful trail leading to Moore Cove Falls.

The trail is 1.5-mile RT that brings you to a waterfall you can walk behind and sit under the large overhang that the falls descend from. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the falls from the trailhead.

*There are restrooms on the side of the road about 2 miles before you get to Moore Cove Falls

Looking Glass Falls

You will find this next big beauty on the side of the main road as you are driving to or back from Moore Cove Falls.

This is more of a photo-op than a trail, but there are stairs down to the bottom of the falls, access to the falls pool, and there was even a guy swimming in December!

Looking Glass Falls

We ran out of time and nice weather so we headed back after some relaxing time spent at both falls.

Other hikes on my list for next time in Pisgah National Forest are: 

  • Slick Rock Falls
  • Daniel Ridge Falls 
  • Cove Creek Falls

Lunch @ Pulp + Sprout (Formerly Elements)

Pulp + Sprout was my top non-toxic food find for this trip!

This goldmine eatery boasts a 100% organic, no refined sugar, 100% vegan menu with grain-free & gluten-free options. *Try the Kitchari!

Take a 5-minute drive from Pulp + Sprout and find Grove Arcade on Battery Park Avenue.

Discover Battery Park & Grove Arcade

Grove Arcade Entrance

Grove Arcade is a historical icon in Asheville, opened in 1929 and reopened in 2002 with shopping, restaurants, and apartments. It’s currently a beautifully preserved building, home to local businesses and artisans.

Experience Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar

This was one of my stumbled-upon favorite finds of the trip! When we stopped by Grove Arcade and ran into this absolute gem.

When you walk inside, there is a small bar and café to enjoy treats and drinks, and to your other side is the beginning of the used book store. The bookshelves line the walls and wind through the store as you discover quaint sitting areas with cozy antique furniture.

As you are seated in one of these areas, you are surrounded by bookshelves to explore while you wait on your server. Their menu offers champagne, sparkling/white/red wine, beer, tea, charcuterie boards, salads, sandwiches, brunch items, and pastries. There is also a staff-guided champagne flight so you can taste several different selections and each bottle has a great story behind it!

We were also given a fun champagne trivia game to play while we enjoyed our time there. This type of place is my bread and butter.

Spend your evening at a small-town Christmas market

Take about a 1-hour drive from Asheville and find several small Hallmark-Esque towns lit up with Christmas lights, putting on festivals and markets to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year!

First stop – Sylva’s Winter Market & Town

Go for a wine tasting @ The Wine Bar & Cellar or hit one of the many local breweries in town.

The most photographed courthouse in North Carolina is in Sylva and sits on a hill covered with Christmas trees during December. Sylva’s Main Street, in front of the courthouse, has several local breweries and places to shop and dine!

They celebrate “Christmas in Sylva” with a winter market, tree lighting, concert, and parade!

*Verify Christmas event schedules, as they change from year to year, but typically occur the first weekend of December. The tree lighting is typically on that first Friday evening and festivities last throughout the weekend.

Sylva has so much to offer throughout the year, including festivals and live concerts at Bridge Park during the summer. Scotts Creek runs through downtown and is well known for trout and fly fishing.

Sylva is also home to the Jackson County Farmers Market on Saturdays and Wednesdays. Their vendors feature herbal products, local meats, and organically grown produce. *Hours differ depending on the season

Next stop – Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries

Just a couple minutes down the road from Sylva is the small artist village, Dillsboro, home to many art galleries and shops.

Their Lights and Luminaries Festival happens during the first two weekends of December from 5 pm – 9 pm

All of the shops and streets are lit up with Christmas lights, doors are open for shopping, and there are often refreshments and Christmas treats offered throughout. There is typically a Santa sighting as well!

Foragers Canteen in Dillsboro promotes farm-to-table, organic food. This would be a good option for lunch or dinner while you are visiting! *The menu is full of dairy products, grains, and possible added sugars, so be mindful of these!

Alternative Small Town Christmas Lights

Hendersonville’s Home for Christmas

Forest City Christmas lights 

Day 3

Breakfast @ Green Sage Cafe

This café is local to Asheville, with several locations.

Their food philosophy promotes a harmful chemical-free, thoughtfully sourced, 95% organic menu. This provides a non-toxic food option no matter where you are in Asheville!

Drive to Beech Mountain Ski Resort

2 hours northeast of Asheville is Beech Mountain Ski Resort. We love to ski and live far from the mountains, so we couldn’t miss this opportunity to hit the slopes!

This was an incredibly beautiful drive and crosses paths with the Blue Ridge Parkway at certain points along the way.

  • On the journey to Beech Mountain, you will find the Linville Caverns. Tours last 30 minutes and leave every 15 minutes. See their website for hours as they are subject to change due to COVID. 
  • Linville Falls area is also a great stop along the way with trails overlooking the falls and also down to the falls, ranging from less than a mile to 1.4 miles RT. Stop at the Linville Falls Visitor Center for a map of the trails leading to the falls.

Ski Beech Mountain

Beech Mountain was an unexpected favorite part of our trip. This little ski resort is the highest ski area in the Eastern United States and has so much to offer.

There are 17 slopes of all levels, an outdoor ice skating rink, snow tubing & terrain park, Beech Mountain Tap House & Grill, a cafeteria, a ski shop to buy gear, and separate rental areas for snowboarders and skiers.

I was blown away by how nice and accommodating the ski resort was. The slopes were well-groomed and when there wasn’t enough snow in certain areas, they made snow.

5506 Sky Bar is the mountaintop bar located at the top of the tallest ski lift at Beech Mountain. It was unfortunately closed due to the pandemic while we were there, but it looked awesome! I hope we can visit again one day and enjoy the atmosphere and views.

*Be sure and reserve your lift ticket and rentals before you arrive to make for a smoother and faster rental process!

Visit Banner Elk

Just before Beech Mountain is the small basecamp town of Banner Elk.

We made a quick day trip and weren’t able to spend much time here. But, if you have the luxury, I would highly recommend spending a night or two in Banner Elk to experience the winter festivities and more ski time in the mountains!

The town was decked out for Christmas and had a cute little town center with local shops and restaurants.

There is great sledding & tubing around the Banner Elk area in the winter and a ton of places to stay with amenities for everyone to enjoy!

Banner Elk Town

Check out Elk River Falls in Pisgah National Forest while you are in town! This 50-foot waterfall is in the small town of Elk Park – about 7 miles from Banner Elk.

Eating in Banner Elk

The Chefs Table at Sorrento’s – locally sourced, gluten-free options, be mindful of hidden ingredients in sauces

Banner Elk Café & Lodge – salads, gluten-free options, (GF & Cauliflower pizza crust), a lot of grains, and dairy on the menu.

Painted Fish (at Sugar Mountain) – gluten-free options, paleo options, seasonal menu.

Artisanal – expensive, farm-to-table, only open seasonally in the summer/early fall

Bella’s Breakfast & Lunch – locally sourced with select organic produce when available

Check into new accommodations – North Lodge on Oakland Bed and Breakfast

Sometimes we like to split up our stay at different places to experience different areas or to save costs. In this case, we wished that we would have just spent our entire stay at our second lodging, North Lodge on Oakland Bed and Breakfast.

We were greeted by the innkeeper, given a tour of the house, offered refreshments, and shown to our room. We instantly felt at home and dove into each comfort, from the fireplace in our guest room, the plush bedding, homemade custom breakfasts, and the Christmas decorations.

It was the cozy, winter cottage experience we were dreaming of when we planned this trip.

Go for a drink at 5 Walnut Wine Bar

5 Walnut Wine Bar is what I would call a “hole in the wall” wine bar. Although very easy to find, it is a bit obscure, located on a side street off of Broadway downtown.

This place has a great atmosphere with exposed brick walls, rough-aged hardwood floors, and a semicircle live edge wooden bar. This is my favorite kind of place to find.

There is a small stage for live music and a great menu with wine, beer, non-alcoholic options, bar snacks, and meat and cheese boards (with gluten-free options).

*Make sure to check out their chalkboard with seasonal menu options – I almost missed their spiced mulled wine!

Dinner @ Posana

Posana is an upscale restaurant downtown with a locally sourced menu and unique dishes. Be mindful of the hidden dairy and sugars in sauces and sides.  

Day 4

Breakfast @ B&B 

We had veggie and Mediterranean omelets with local goat cheese, a sweet potato hash, and a fresh fruit cup with a honey drizzle. Heaven.

Tour The Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate was built for George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s and is currently an 8000-acre estate and the largest privately-owned house in the United States.

It is a huge attraction that brings tons of tourism to Asheville. *Make sure and visit their website before you visit to get updates on tour re-openings!

The Candlelight Christmas Evening at the Biltmore was the perfect Christmas treat. These happen in the evening because all of the lights are on, the fireplaces are lit, and it brings such a cozy Christmas feel to everything.

The house takes you in and transports you to a different time. It takes about an hour and a half to go through the house on the audio-guided tour. Throughout, there are massive decorated Christmas trees and garlands, and musicians playing Christmas hymns.

This is an Asheville must and I highly recommended the Audio Guide for the House Tour!

*Check out my post A Day at The Biltmore Estate for more details about our visit!

Dinner @ Curaté – Trip Highlight!

Curaté is a Spanish tapas restaurant downtown on Broadway. This was one of my favorite places we ate because of the atmosphere, I love tapas, and they have a great menu for those with gluten, dairy, or nut restrictions.

Day 5

Breakfast @ B&B

Explore West Asheville

Visit artists & galleries in the River Arts District.

Grab a tea and treat at Dobra Tea Room – the entire menu is gluten-free.

Lunch @ Green Sage Cafe 

I tried breakfast and now it’s time to try lunch. Remember, their menu is 95% organic and they have grass-fed beef burgers!

Say “Bye” (for now) to Asheville and Travel Home

<ALTERNATE DAY OPTIONS>

Drive Blue Ridge Parkway, Take Photos, & Hike

OR

Hike Lovers Leap Loop Trail in Hot Springs & Take a Mineral Soak

Take a 45-minute drive from Asheville to Hot Springs, NC to hike Lovers Leap Loop. After you hike the Lovers Leap Loop, stay and soak in the natural hot spring mineral baths at Hot Springs Resort and Spa!

*Note: Make a reservation to soak before you go!

Wellness Options

Many of the Spas and Yoga studios were closed or limited during our visit, but there are some of the options that I found and are interested in trying the next time we visit!

Asheville Salt Cave

Salt Caves are becoming well known for their healing properties, therapeutic negative ions and trace minerals that purify the air and help in treating skin conditions, allergies, and other common ailments.

Asheville Sauna House

This Nordic style sauna house offers an infrared sauna and a cold plunge pool for a deep detox to remove toxins from your body through your skin. There are also lounge area with heated benches for relaxation and rehydration.

Namaste in Nature

This company is an awesome – they offer guided tours that combine hiking, yoga, and meditation. Their tours often lead you to amazing views and/or waterfalls.

Still Point Wellness

Still Point has a sensory deprivation salt water float pool. These help you reach a state of deep relaxation.

My Top Clean Eats & Activities in Asheville

  • Pulp + Sprout (Formerly Elements) – 100% organic, vegan, no refined sugar with tons of paleo and gluten free options.  
  • Green Sage Café – 95% organic, harmful chemical-free and labeled for organic, gluten-free and vegan.
  • Hike Pisgah National Forest – get out in the fresh air and move your body! This peaceful haven with winding rivers, majestic waterfalls and shaded trails is a perfect place to rest your soul and feed your adventurous spirit. Being outdoors helps clean up our dirty genes and also detoxifies our body through movement and breathing.

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