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Asheville: Outdoor Festivals, Restaurant Openings, and the Year of the Trail

From floating dance parties to rooftop bars, the al-fresco season brings exciting new ways to savor the great outdoors in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

As warmer temperatures bring wildflower blooms and vivid greens to the Blue Ridge Mountains, the arrival of spring weather in Asheville, North Carolina means it’s time to get out and explore. The spring season breathes new life into the expansive meadows and lush mountainsides, as well as the city, welcoming a fresh lineup of upbeat festivals and events from spring break through the summer.

Outdoor Adventures

North Carolina is the Great Trails State, and 2023 has been officially designated the Year of the TrailThere’s no better place to embrace the outdoors than in Asheville, home to hundreds of colorful trails that inspire awe and get the heart pumping.

  • April 1 through May 25, thousands of Dutch tulips flaunt their radiant hues for the annual Biltmore Blooms springtime celebration. Later in the season, native azaleas steal the show, along with vibrant rhododendrons and mountain laurel.
  • Paddleboarding just got a playlist – River Raves organizes floating dance parties on the French Broad River, complete with a DJ booth and dance floor. DJs spin a custom mix for groups while two river hosts steer the floating fiesta upstream.
  • Asheville Outdoor Experiences offers guided activities for all ages and levels from its signature Mountaintop Sunset Hike to outdoor skills classes like campsite cooking and knot craft. Founder Dan Chase is a naturalist, educator and Asheville native who’s passionate about connecting people to the region’s land, water and wildlife.
  • The Skyview Golf Tournament, the longest running Black-owned golf tournament in the United States takes place July 11-13. Professionals and amateurs compete for a chance to make their mark in Skyview history.

Exploring Foodtopia: Farms & Foraging

The collaboration between local, sustainable farms and independent Asheville restaurants creates the unique culinary ecosystem called Foodtopia. The ecosystem of sustainable farms and food purveyors in the region are the essential ingredient in Asheville’s celebrated dining scene. As the growing season picks up, so does the opportunities visitors have to connect with the land.

  • Seasoned foragers Luke Gilbert and Natalie Dechiara of Wild Goods offer guided hikes in search of edible mushrooms and plants every third Friday and Saturday of the month. It’s a rare opportunity to explore, adventure and learn about local flora and fungi.
  • Third-generation family farm Mount Gilead Farm is home to a herd of friendly goats raised for fresh and aged artisan cheese. Visitors can tour the farm, sample cheese and even bottle feed baby goats.
  • Visitors to Never Ending Flower Farm in Barnardsville can harvest their own blooms for a stunning arrangement. The u-pick season starts in May with poppies, larkspur and nigella. The half-acre field of flowers surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains also makes it a stunning backdrop for photos and weddings. In Leicester, Flourish Flower Farm stocks a roadside stand with vase-ready stems.
  • After several years of teaching, baking for local markets and operating a retail bakery, Amanda Plyler opened Dogwood Cottage Baking in Weaverville. Dogwood Cottage’s classes are designed for the home baker wanting to learn professional techniques including sourdough bread and lamination.
  • For those wanting to get closer to their meat without leaving the city limits, check out Chop Shop Butcherywhich sources heritage breed hogs from local farms andoffers regular butchering classes. Attendees are invited to enjoy house-made charcuterie, local beer or wine.

What’s New in Food

  • James Beard Award-winning restaurant group Chai Pani plans to debut its fast-casual concept Botiwalla in West Asheville this June. Botiwalla is owner and chef Meherwan Irani’s homage to the lively cafés of his youth and celebrates the savory grills and kabobs of the late-night Indian food scene.
  • Famed pitmaster Elliott Moss surprised followers with the opening of Little Louie’s Hoagies & Perogies, housed in a storied neighborhood gastropub, this month. It serves sandwiches stacked high with offerings like the brisket and cheese, smoked eggplant parmesan and grilled chicken cheesesteak. Moss’ highly anticipated diner, Regina’s Westside, is slated to debut in April.
  • The S&W Market, a historic Art Deco food hall downtown, just added Gourmand to its impressive roster of elevated, counter-service eateries. The charcuterie and wine shop serves house-made cheese and a rotating menu of baguette sandwiches and salads.
  • North Asheville welcomed Little D’s to the neighborhood last month. The casual American bistro, from the chef-owners of the live-fire steakhouse Asheville Proper, focuses on shareable plates and seasonal fare. Mains this season include mustard crusted grouper, citrus-miso glazed duck breast and NY Strip topped with chimichurri.
  • Celebrated cocktail lounge, Sovereign Remedies opened a second concept this month. Sovereign Remedies Exchange, or SRX, focuses primarily on daytime offerings, featuring a variety of pastries, coffee, wine and beer. Far from the hustle and bustle of its downtown sister, SRX is in Leicester, a quiet country town 10 miles from downtown Asheville.

Asheville’s food scene continues to earn accolades with its current roster of restaurants. The James Beard Foundation named Filipinx restaurant Neng Jr.’s a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant less than a year after opening and Josiah McGaughey of Vivian a semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast.

Al-Fresco Drink Trends

Take in the warm weather with prime views and a drink in hand, at one of a handful of new patios and rooftop bars:

  • The Observatory is a rooftop bar and lounge in the newly-opened luxury hotel, The Restoration Asheville. It specializes in botanical cocktails derived from local flowers and herbs, accentuated by sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • In the historic Montford neighborhood, relax and dine in the terraced brick patio outside of Tall John’s. Its lush garden surroundings and bistro furniture exude Parisian vibes.
  • For a sultry summer evening, Anoche‘s patio is a discreet oasis on Mystery Street in the River Arts District. The bar specializes in agave spirits and hard-to-find mezcals from small distillers in Oaxaca.
  • Families will delight in Foothills Grange‘s expansive outdoor space in Black Mountain, complete with Tonka trucks and a dirt pile for little ones to excavate. The Grange’s bar pours local brews from 16 taps and its food truck serves Foothills Meat’s classic menu of house ground hamburgers, secret recipe hot dogs, specialty sandwiches and tallow fries.
  • Along with the latest additions to Asheville’s bar scene, essential sunny day spots for a cold beverage include Forestry Camp by Burial Brewing, Eldr by the Grove Park Inn and Leo’s House of Thirst in West Asheville.

Icy drinks and frozen booze are hot this summer in Asheville’s cocktail culture, with the season’s most sippable concoctions including:

Festivals & Seasonal Events

After a successful inaugural year, Asheville Ideas Festival returns June 13-17 with award-winning speakers, artists and musicians at the University of North Carolina Asheville. Headliners include: Emmy award-winning medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander and Emmy award-winning co-anchor of ABC News’ Nightline, Juju Chang.

Other new and popular events this season include:

  • Asheville Hemp Fest (April 20-22): The three-day music and art festival in honor of the hemp plant and its benefits sets downtown ablaze with live music, cannabis activists, local hemp farmers, glassblowing, educational speakers and food trucks.
  • Asheville Bread Festival (April 22-23): Asheville Bread Festival is a gathering of local artisan bakers, millers and grain producers for a weekend of workshops, lectures and a fair where attendees can stock up on breads, pastries and flour.
  • Asheville Herb Festival (May 5-7): The largest herb festival in the United States and Canada offers visitors the opportunity to learn about natural gardening and landscaping from herb growers and expert herbalists.
  • Get In Gear Festival (May 6): The ultimate, single-day event for outdoor adventurers of all ages and experience levels, Get In Gear Fest brings together the companies that collectively make Asheville the outdoor industry hub of the east. The 8th annual event along the French Broad River offers gear demos, outdoor adventure activities, live music and clinics for those interested in trying out a new outdoor skill.
  • Asheville Beer Week (May 19-27): This week-long festival hosted by the Asheville Brewers Alliance highlights the ever-expanding and innovative world of craft beer in Western North Carolina. The multi-day, multi-venue series of events features collaboration releases, film screenings, beer dinners, educational seminars, brewer meet-and-greets and friendly brewery competitions.
  • Asheville Amadeus (May 11-20): This 10-day festival, orchestrated by the Asheville Symphony, brings together the region’s most talented musicians, artists and brewers for a multi-dimensional series of performances, collaborations and events. This year’s headlining performer is 15-time Grammy award-winning virtuoso, Béla Fleck.
  • Grindfest (May 26-28): Black Wall Street is bringing back its annual three-day block party celebrating Black entrepreneurs and business owners in Asheville. The free event in the River Arts District includes a weekend of live music, carnival rides, food trucks, poetry slams and opportunities to connect with Asheville’s Black-owned businesses.
  • Music On Main (June 10): This annual, single-day concert is one of Weaverville’s signature summer events. Held outside City Hall, three bands take center stage while attendees dance, sip local brews and browse sidewalk vendors on Weaverville’s Main Street.
  • AVL Fest (Aug 3-6): New to Asheville’s music festival scene, AVL Fest is a full weekend of performances at more than 20 venues across town. The lineup features local and national acts including River Whyless, Tall Tall Trees and Toubab Krewe.
  • Chow Chow Food & Culture Festival (Sept. 7-10): Asheville’s annual culinary event returns to its original, weekend-long format with numerous free and ticketed events. The dynamic festival, named after a traditional Appalachian condiment, highlights the region’s chefs, growers and heritage food traditions, including panel discussions and thematic dinners hosted by award-winning chefs.

For the most up-to-date insights and happenings, visit

March 24, 2023

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