With warm summers and snowy winters, North Carolina is one of the most stunning states all year long. From the mountainous, artsy city of Asheville to the historic town of Boone this three-day itinerary is filled with indoor and outdoor adventure, ending in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. The trip’s final leg will include stunning waterfalls and the chance to explore more than 500 miles of hiking trails. Let’s get going!
DAY 1 – ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Asheville is nestled in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, which run from Georgia to South Carolina and end in Pennsylvania. This is where we’ll be spending the first day of our trip.
River Arts District
You can’t explore Asheville without visiting the River Arts District. This community features historic buildings that were once tanneries, cotton mills, and more. Now, they’re repurposed as galleries and workspaces for various artists. You’ll find different mediums, from paintings to jewelry to browse. You can easily spend a few hours exploring the River Arts District, as there are over 200 artists featured in this area. It’s also a great spot to purchase a souvenir or two while supporting local artisans.
Next on the docket is viewing the incredible architecture that Asheville offers. The Biltmore Estate is a prime example of the incredible buildings found in Asheville. This estate is the biggest in the country and covers more than 125,000 acres. There’s quite a lot to do at this massive estate, including viewing an immersive art exhibit, spending the night, strolling through the gardens, viewing the French Broad River, and taking a horse-drawn carriage ride on the property. This is another attraction that you’ll want to section off a few hours of your day for, potentially longer. We suggest picking one or two activities at the Biltmore Estate so you have time to view other Asheville attractions.
Asheville is a foodie haven, featuring unique restaurants where you can forage for your food and some of the best BBQ around. For lunch, try Buxton Hall BBQ. Two James Beard Award-winning chefs created this restaurant; Elliott Moss and Meheran Irani. The meat is locally sourced from a friend’s farm and turned into some of the most delicious updated North Carolina BBQ dishes around.
Hopefully, you’ve saved room after enjoying a meal at Buxton Hall BBQ because a food tour is on the itinerary after. Since Asheville is so well-known for its food, it’s a must to sign up for one of the Asheville Food Tours. You’ll be able to try about seven different restaurants within walking distance of each other, sampling some of the city’s best spots for appetizers, wine, and more. Various options are available, including a downtown tour and a night tour.
After exploring Asheville all day, you can head to Pritchard Park to watch the drum circle if you still have energy left. This free event occurs every Friday throughout the seasons, apart from winter. It’s a great way to end the evening with music playing from various instruments and dancing.
Where to Stay Near Asheville
Afterward, head to your accommodations and get an early night’s sleep to prepare for the next day’s activities in Boone. We recommend staying at The Lion and the Rose Bed & Breakfast. Each stay includes a two-course breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, outdoor seating areas, a backyard fire pit, and more cozy amenities.
DAY 2 – BOONE, NORTH CAROLINA
Boone is a charming town, about two hours away from Asheville. It’s the perfect place to spend your second day, as it offers an array of outdoor activities. After arriving in Boone early in the morning, you can grab breakfast at Stick Boy Kitchen. This small café has delicious breakfast sandwiches, bagels, egg plates, and a long list of espresso drinks that will keep you energized for the activities in Boone.
Daniel Boone Native Gardens
Since Boone is famous for its nature and green spaces, the first stop after breakfast is the Daniel Boone Native Gardens. These gardens have a large collection of flora and fauna that are native to North Carolina. This location doubles as a conservation area and as an educational location. This conservation area is incredibly picturesque, making it challenging to leave after only a few hours. Depending on when you arrive in Boone, this may be the only morning activity you have time to enjoy.
Spend the afternoon doing thrill-seeking activities like whitewater rafting down the Nolichucky and Watauga Rivers. These stunning spots offer whitewater rafting for every skill level. Multiple companies, such as High Mountain Expeditions, offer guided tours. For those that want a more relaxed way of enjoying nature in Boone, kayaking, canoeing, and standup paddleboarding can be done on the New River or nearby Price Lake.
Boone is well-known for its craft breweries, so visiting at least one or two while spending the day here is a must. Head to Booneshine Brewing Company for an ideal way to relax after spending the day immersed in nature. You can hang out in the beer garden or visit the onsite food truck for a quick bite to eat at this brewery.
For dinner, head to Vidalia. They offer a delicious menu of Southern cuisine paired with an extensive wine list. Dine on decadent dishes such as fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, or the indulgent house smoked pork belly with a heaping side of mac and cheese.
Where to Stay Near Boone
Check in at The Mast Farm Inn. This historic inn offers rooms, cottages, and cabins with a variety of amenities such as massages, horseback riding, and access to the river. Before heading to bed, grab some dinner at The Valle Tavern Restaurant – the menu rotates nightly.
DAY 3: SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
Blue Ridge Parkway
The last day of this road trip takes us along the Blue Ridge Parkway, also known as America’s favorite drive. This scenic drive starts in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and continues through Asheville to Shenandoah National Park—our final destination. It will take about three hours to travel this route, so you’ll want to leave as early as possible on this day to include this drive and Shenandoah Park in your plans.
There will be plenty of spots to stop at and enjoy along the parkway. You’ll be able to see historic mills, peer out into valleys with lush forests from overlooks, and sit next to powerful cascading waterfalls. If you have some extra time, stop at Peaks Bar & Lounge inside the Peaks of Otter Lodge for lunch and take in the gorgeous views of Sharp Top Mountain and Abbott Lake just outside.
Those looking to spend more time in Shenandoah National Park may want to forego stopping along Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll still see mountain views, thick forests, and craggy overlooks from the road.
Once you arrive in Shenandoah National Park, you’ll be rewarded with views of lush rolling mountains and incredible hiking trails. Choose from more than 500 miles to trails, suitable for all ages and skill levels. If you want to learn a new skill or two, check out the course schedules for Basic Outdoor Survival Skills or Map & Compass Navigation.
Rock climbing in Shenandoah National Park is another top activity. Rock climbing opportunities are available throughout the park for all skill levels. Sign up for a guided class with Shenandoah Mountain Guides.
If you choose one of the courses or rock climbing classes, you’ll need to adjust your plans to arrive in time.
Where to Stay Near Shenandoah National Park
Along the park’s scenic Skyline Drive, there are multiple accommodation options available. Skyland is located at mile 41.7 and mile 42.5. This overnight stay provides some of the best views, as it’s found at the highest elevation point on Skyline Drive. You can choose from cabins, rooms, or suites. There are even dog-friendly rooms for those who want to bring a furry friend along.
Traveling through Asheville, Boone, and Shenandoah National Park is an unforgettable experience. These areas have the perfect combination of outdoor and indoor activities, making it a trip everyone can enjoy.