3 Must-Visit North Carolina Mountain Towns
These mountain towns offer budget-friendly family fun
The view across the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Craggy Pinnacle Trail at Craggy Gardens is majestic.
Photos by Simply Awesome Trips/Amy Ragsdale
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Need a change of scenery from the hustle and bustle of life? Want the kids to unplug from their devices so you can connect as a family this summer? Take a scenic hike, kayak down a river, pitch a tent or explore the local shops in these three inviting western North Carolina mountain towns.
Asheville is an artsy, architecturally appealing town with acclaimed restaurants and a craft brewery on nearly every block. It’s also surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, which offer family-friendly hiking trails and the French Broad River — perfect for a lazy day of tubing. Stay downtown within walking distance of everything, or stay closer to Biltmore Estate, just 5 miles south of downtown. You can also search for that perfect antique at the renowned Tobacco Barn, just a few miles south of the downtown area.
Where to Stay
If you’d like to be able to walk to restaurants, shops and other attractions downtown and not have to deal with the hassle of parking, most major hotel chains — Marriott, Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Omni — operate in the area, along with a few boutique hotels like the Aloft Asheville Downtown, Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville, Hotel Indigo and Haywood Park Hotel.
Just a little over a mile south of the downtown area, you can stay at one of Biltmore Estate’s renowned hotels: The Inn on Biltmore Estate, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate or the Cottage on Biltmore Estate. The Omni Grove Park Inn is 2.5 miles north of downtown and offers a memorable boutique experience as well.
If you’d rather rough it, check out Lake Powhatan Recreation Area and Campground in Pisgah National Forest, 12 miles southwest of downtown Asheville. Make reservations in advance on the U.S. Forest Service website at fs.fed.us.
Where to Play
Craggy Gardens is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 364. A less-than-1-mile hike puts you at the summit in no time and offers big rewards with 360-degree views. The trailhead is located 20 miles from downtown Asheville.
Enjoy a float trip down the gentle, slow-moving French Broad River while you’re in the area. Rent a kayak, pack snacks and enjoy a lazy day along a 7-mile river trip that passes by the shoreline of the Biltmore Estate. The Asheville Outdoor Center, located 5 miles southwest of downtown, provides everything you need for a self-guided trip and will send a staff member to pick you up at the end of your two- to three-hour adventure.
Before you go, purchase candy treats and a water toy for the kids at Mast General Store, located on Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville.
Where to Eat
Recently named one of the hottest food cities in America by restaurant review website Zagat, Asheville has no shortage of family-friendly, local restaurants and breweries. Satisfy your Southern cravings with barbecue and banana pudding at Buxton Hall, a converted roller-skating rink on Banks Avenue. Early Girl Eatery on Wall Street is great for breakfast bites and can accommodate food allergies. Wicked Weed Brewing Pub makes for a good afternoon stop and offers a full menu, a wide selection of beer on tap and patio seating for watching passersby on Biltmore Avenue. White Duck Taco Shop, also on Biltmore Avenue, offers more than just basic tacos. Choose from the Duck Taco With Molé, Thai Peanut Chicken and Crispy Chicken BLT, plus many other unique combinations.
Pizza lovers can get their fix at Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company's original location on Merrimon Avenue. Kids of all ages will love the dine-in movie theater ($3 per person) and arcade, which features classic games and pinball machines.