Some vacation and tourism destinations make you keenly and constantly aware of the fact that you are a tourist. Visitors go on guided tours where natives wouldn’t set foot, eat at restaurants where locals never dine, and amass for festivals denizens rarely attend.

But every time I go to Asheville, North Carolina, it feels like coming home. I feel almost certain that my cute, eclectic apartment must be only a few blocks away, within walking distance, of course, of my envy-inspiring funky job. People are friendly, and they really do enjoy all that this gem of the Carolinas has to offer. 

Asheville makes a perfect place to vacation, because whether you feel compelled to soak up every tour and attraction or spend the entire visit people watching downtown, you leave feeling satisfied that you really got your money’s worth.

Still, keeping to a budget is always important. The following itinerary is designed to provide a taste of the best of Asheville for two travelers without breaking the bank. I should note that all restaurant prices include a respectable tip, but that all prices, especially those concerning food and seasonal tourism, are subject to change.


Arrive in Asheville Friday afternoon and check into Sweet Peas Hostel downtown. Sweet Peas has beautiful, contemporary styling, with wood floors, exposed brick walls, and a fully equipped kitchen. Beds start at $28 per night. Like most hostels, there are always interesting people around to share a meal or a conversation with. Best of all, Sweat Peas’ location is right in the heart of downtown, so you’ll be within walking distance of amazing shops, restaurants, and bars.

After you have settled in, get started on Asheville’s Urban Trail, a 1.7 mile walking tour of downtown featuring thirty public arts sculptures. Podcasts, a map, and a brochure can be found through the city’s tourism website. The tour takes about two hours.

For book lovers, Malaprop’s bookstore is a must. This independently owned bookstore has been around since 1982 and has a fabulous selection, a knowledgeable staff and plentiful copies of signed books from their many author events. The café’s unique offerings, like the Fire Distinguisher mocha latte, made with chili, cayenne and cinnamon, will keep your senses alert as you browse the texts.

You’ll want to set aside some time just to stroll around the downtown area. You’re guaranteed to find interesting shops, restaurants and people on every corner.

For a light dinner, try crêpes from French restaurant Bouchon’s more casual venue, located in the Lexington Courtyard. The Paris Sidewalk, filled with smoked ham and Swiss cheese, and the Chiquita, oozing with yummy Nutella and bananas, will hit the spot after a day of travel and walking, and make a cheap dinner at $16.

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