Asheville is a mountain city in western North Carolina, famous for its Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore Estate, which is the largest privately-owned residence in the United States, and its craft beer scene.
Asheville also has a rich African American heritage and community, with many Black-owned restaurants, retail shops, and entertainment worthy of a trip on its own.
We’ve curated a 3-day guide to Asheville, as the perfect roadmap to visiting attractions throughout the city. Each business featured in our guide is a Black-owned or operated establishment, offering a unique way to explore and experience this historic town:
Morning: Start your morning with a delicious breakfast at the cozy Tiger Bay Cafe, located inside BattleCat Coffee Bar. Their menu includes local and fresh items like crunchy avocado toast, everything breakfast bagels, paninis, breakfast tacos and a favorite called the Big Waffle, which is a Belgian waffle topped with fresh berries and a side of maple syrup.
Afternoon: One of the best ways to get to know a new place is to check out the local shopping. After breakfast head on over to the More to Love Consignment shop. This size inclusive store carries new, used, and upcycled items. The store was inspired by the frustration owner Jazmin Whitmore experienced while trying to find beautiful and affordable clothing options that fit. If consignment isn’t your thing, cruise on over to New York Fashions to browse casual and sporty options to add to your wardrobe.
All that shopping can work up anyone’s appetite and Haywood Lounge is a low-key cocktail bar that’s great for grabbing a midday drink and lunch. Some menu favorites include their garlic parm wings and mac cheese bites.
Evening: Asheville is known for its brewery scene, and there’s no better way to wrap up your first day in town than sipping local ciders from Black Mountain Cider and Mead. Each cider and mead is crafted from local apples and honey, fermented in small batches in a historic furniture factory outfitted to produce these unique brews.
Morning - Afternoon: Spend the day with Hood Huggers, an intimate, interactive walking or driving tour led by artist, poet, and visionary DeWayne Barton. There’s a variety of tour options, from a walking tour of Eagle Street, Downtown that includes shops and galleries featuring African American artisans, the YMI Cultural Center, Stephens Lee Community Center, The Block, and significant African American architecture, to a tour of Burton Street, one of Asheville’s oldest African American neighborhoods founded by E.W. Pearson in 1912. Testimonials of the tour describe the experience as an incredible way to absorb the rich Black history Asheville holds, “The Hood Tour should be called Wonderhood! Hoodaganza! Black Hoodstory! Just calling it a tour is not enough. The history of Black Asheville is rich with tragedy, sadness, triumph, and inspiration, and DeWayne Barton brought it all alive for us. We could have gone on for a few hours more – the story of Affrilachian people, their extraordinary achievements and their everyday courage, is so compelling.”
Evening End your day with dinner at the Benne on Eagle, located on Eagle Street in Asheville’s historic Black neighborhood called The Block. The restaurant’s theme is based on the Ghanaian Adinkra symbol Sankofa, which translates as “go back and get it.” This ethos informs the décor, the art, the menu and the kitchen staff, which is comprised of many family members of people who ran thriving businesses on The Block in the 1960s and 1970s. Enjoy the soul food and Caribbean fusion dishes, with favorites like Jamaican Bun and Cheese, Lamb Dibi, and Fried Green Tomatoes.
Morning: Sometimes you need a little dessert for breakfast and Small Cakes offers a delightful variety of mini and regular sized cupcakes to fulfill any sweet tooth craving. Located in the shopping and entertainment center of Biltmore Park Town Square, their cupcakes come in flavors like cookies and cream, peanut butter cup, lemon drop, red velvet, and pink chocolate. Each item is made lovingly right in the store, including their homemade ice cream.
Afternoon: Explore Spice and Tea Merchants, an amazing retail store providing fresh and high quality herbs, spices, and teas from around the world. The store is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, nestled in the colorful Blue Ridge mountains. Abbey Hairston, the owner, and her team encourage both local and tourist shoppers to explore new ways to spice up food and expand their horizons to obtain the best tastes and health benefits herbs, spices, and teas can offer. The range of spices on display are incredible, from ghost pepper powder to saffron. Culinary lovers and chef hobbyists, get ready to discover that coveted spice you’ve been curious to try.
Evening: Round off your trip with a relaxing evening at Fusion Day Spa. Enjoy body treatments like a Cinnamon Vanilla Brown Sugar Scrub or wrap your body in a Hydrating mineral mask, and a luxurious Hydration after bath for maximum relaxation and moisturization. They also offer a variety of massages and facial treatments to soothe any aches, leave you and your skin refreshed, and to rejuvenate your system.
Asheville oozes charm and has something to offer for every type of traveler looking for a local and intriguing trip full of Black culture and history.
Christina Blacken is a writer, performer, and public speaker on the topics of inclusive leadership and culture change, and is the founder of TheNewQuo.com, a leadership development and inclusion consultancy.