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As part of a new series, Travel + Leisure is exploring America one three-day weekend at a time. Here’s what to do on a short trip to Asheville, in western North Carolina. 

Leah Shapiro

No matter what time of year you choose to take a vacation in Asheville, you can always expect beautiful mountain views, friendly faces, and breweries for miles, among many other attractions. The secret is out that Asheville is a fun city for just about any activity you’d typically do on vacation, from hiking and kayaking to sightseeing and shopping. If you like to eat, drink, and be hairy (a nod to the hippie culture you’ll find here), look no further than this gem in western North Carolina.

We’ve compiled some tips on how to get the most out of your three days in Asheville:

Day One

Asheville is definitely a drivable city. In fact, it’s notorious for having unreliable public transportation, so plan to rent a car or budget for Uber if you’re not staying in a hotel downtown. Once you get downtown, however, you can park for fairly cheap in a garage and walk the entire district within a couple hours (and that includes time spent popping into shops).

For lunch and an afternoon of shopping, you can’t beat North Lexington Avenue. If you’re craving Indian food, enjoy Mela’s all-you-can-eat buffet lunch. Or if you prefer vegetarian fare, stop by Rosetta’s Kitchen (the cornbread and greens plate is inexpensive and delicious). Along Lexington Avenue, you’ll find many women’s clothing shops including Minx, Virtue, and Boutique LP, as well as TOPS for Shoes and Old North for men and women. For a truly local caffeine fix, stop at Izzy’s Coffee Den or Dobrá Tea.

To get a good look at the city, book a seat on the purple bus for the hilarious and educational LaZoom Comedy Tours (they have a kid-friendly option on Saturdays) and get ready to laugh ’til beer comes out of your nose (BYO beer and wine). You can also travel by Segway on Moving Sidewalk Tours.

For dinner, try Spanish tapas at Cúrate. Order a pitcher of sangria and be sure the sautéed spinach with apples and raisins is part of your meal. For a fancy cocktail, walk around the block to Nightbell, which has the same owners.

Day Two

Downtown can get pretty crowded, so consider spending some time in West Asheville, a hipster mecca where parking is free and there’s tons to do. For brunch, bring your group to King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffles (with a vegan and gluten-free waffle option) or try DeSoto Lounge, which opens at noon on weekends (menu staples are the biscuits with gravy and breakfast burrito).

There’s no better way to work off a good meal than with light exercise. Check out the Blue Ridge Parkway’s website for easy to strenuous hikes in the area. For entertainment, listen to live music at The Mothlight or Isis Restaurant and Music Hall.

For dinner, The Admiral is tops, although it’s easy to miss, as housed in an unassuming cinder block building. Be sure to make reservations, as it’s a popular spot. It turns into a dance club on Friday and Saturday nights. Double Crown is a funky dive bar just down the street that also offers weekend dancing and weekly karaoke.

Day Three

You may want to take it slow this morning. Head to Asheville’s River Arts District where more than 150 professional artists create beautiful works in their studios. Many studios are open to the public on select days. In the heart of the RAD, Clingman Café offers plentiful breakfast and lunch options. Park there and make your way to open studios within walking distance.

In the afternoon, stop by Wedge Brewing Company (known locally as simply the Wedge) where you’ll also find everything your heart desires: corn hole, a food truck, and local beer. For dinner, stroll 400 feet to The Bull & Beggar for New American fare and cocktails.

For more long-weekend itineraries in America's best vacation destinations, click here.

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