You can’t buy love, but shouldn’t romance be affordable? Centrally located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has been ranked by Frommer’s as one of the world’s top must-see cities. Known as the "Paris of the South," this lively city offers metropolitan culture and intrigue without the high price tag. Lovebirds looking to pinch pennies can nest in this scenic mountain city and enjoy a romantic getaway without sacrificing style.
Start your day on foot, strolling hand-in-hand through downtown. Looking is free, so go gallery gazing and explore eclectic art galleries and boutiques. Blue Spiral 1 is located near the heart of the city and offers up to 30 annual exhibitions of sculpture and paintings each year. To delve into the regional art scene, check out 16 Patton, which presents original fine art by Southeastern artists.
Those interested in a raw, behind-the-scenes perspective should visit Asheville’s River Arts District. This unique neighborhood is filled with dozens of working art studios, providing a first-hand glimpse at the process and people that creates each painting, sculpture, and piece of pottery.
History buffs and Art Deco fans will fall in love with the city’s self-guided walking tour of downtown. The Asheville Visitors Center offers free walking tour maps filled with points of interest and historical tidbits. Discover why the Buncombe Turnpike was so important to the city in 1800s, see where famous author Thomas Wolfe grew up, and learn about the city’s influential African-American community.
A day spent exploring the city is bound to work up an appetite, which is a good thing in a city that’s the center of Foodtopia. Independently-owned restaurants, dessert cafés and brew pubs dot every street offering a taste of local flavors for the fraction of the cost of larger metro areas.
Stop into Early Girl Eatery for a hearty helping of Southern cuisine. The menu is crafted with budget-savvy diners in mind, yet everything is made from scratch with ingredients fresh from local farms. Those looking to walk on the wild side can take their taste buds on an adventure at Salsa. The restaurant serves up organic and vegetarian foods that blend Mexican and Caribbean flavors.
For a cheap thrill, plan on sharing a decedent treat at one of the many dessert cafés. Cuddle on leather couches and admire local art as you sip on liquid truffles from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Then enjoy a night cap at one of the city’s pubs that serve locally-brewed beer.
Many locations such as Barley’s Taproom, Hannah Flanagan’s Irish Pub, and Jack of the Wood feature live music when the sun goes down. Score some extra romance points by requesting a serenade from the band.
With your wallet still intact, end the evening on a sweet note by driving up Town Mountain Road, located just minutes from downtown. From this lofty perch, you can watch the sun set and tap into your inner teenager as you gaze into starry skies and starry eyes.
What and Where:
Blue Spiral 1 (38 Biltmore Ave; Phone: 828-251-0202)
16 Patton (16 Patton Ave; 828-236-2889)
River Arts District (riverdistrictartists.com)
Asheville’s Visitors Center (36 Montford Ave; 828-258-6129)
Early Girl Eatery (8 Wall St; 828-259-9292)
Salsa (6 Patton Ave; 828-252-9805)
French Broad Chocolate Lounge (10 South Lexington Ave; 828-252-4181)
Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria (42 Biltmore Ave; 828-255-0504)
Hannah Flanagan’s Irish Pub (27 Biltmore Ave; 828-252-1922)
Jack of the Wood (95 Patton Ave; 828-252-5445)
Budget tips, coupons, and travel deals (CoolAshevilleSavings.com)
I’m an Asheville, NC, native who considers herself lucky to have grown up in one of the Southeast’s most beautiful cities. I’m always up for a new adventure, but can never wander too far, since my hometown always pulls me back.