It could be the gently sloped streets, the crisp Appalachian air, or the city’s history tucked among the cafés, studios and pastry shops. Or maybe it’s the urban 1920s cityscape set against the persistent backdrop of the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville feels like a city that was pieced together by artists, hippies and wealthy statesmen—in the best way possible. Whether you come for the food, a handcrafted treasure, or an adventure through nature, you’ll walk away a free spirit.

Don’t let the city’s artsy, relaxed vibe fool you. Asheville is a mountain town first and foremost. The best way to pay your respects is with a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This protected national highway provides 469 miles of opportunities to see the Appalachian Highlands in all their rounded blue-green glory. Numerous trails and scenic overlooks dot the parkway, rewarding the curious with stunning views and vistas, cultural sites of interests and glimpses of the lush plant and animal life.

A trip to Asheville isn’t complete without a visit to its crown jewel and national historic landmark, the Biltmore. Built as a summer home by George Vanderbilt in 1895, this 8,000-acre estate includes the impressive Biltmore House. Don’t let the name mislead you. With more than 250 rooms and four acres of floor space, this “house” is actually a mansion (a French Renaissance-style mansion to be exact) and ranks as America’s largest home. While you’re there, set aside a few hours for a stroll through the gardens. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of American landscape architecture, the gardens include magnificent trees part of America’s first managed forest, and the famed Rose Garden with more than 250 different varieties. Later, stop by the historic winery for complimentary samples of handcrafted red, whites, rosés and sparkling wines. You may want to plan a few days to explore the full estate, and if so, the Grand Bohemian Asheville’s stunning décor and accommodations provide the perfect home base, minutes away in the heart of Biltmore Village.

When you’ve had your fill of history and natural splendor, step over to the urban side of Asheville for the food, drinks, shopping and entertainment options. Along the French Broad River, wander through the River Arts District. The former factories and historic buildings in this area have been given new life by nearly 200 working artists, converted into studios, showrooms and galleries. The Grove Arcade is a must-see Asheville landmark—stunning architecture on the outside, local independently owned shops and restaurants on the inside. When it’s time for a refreshment, Wicked Weed and Hi-Wire Brewing both offer an impressive selection of local craft beer in nearly every style. Visit the popular French Broad Chocolate Lounge for a taste of handmade, sustainably sourced chocolates in every combination imaginable. Later, enjoy dinner and cocktails at The Admiral. This unassuming concrete block building-turned-restaurant serves up gourmet plates and an unforgettable experience (reservations highly recommended). Finally, cap off the night in West Asheville at Isis Music Hall. Grab a cocktail and head to the patio for live music al fresco. Hey—we won’t blame you if you never want to leave.