Budget Romance Travel Guide: Asheville, North Carolina

Nestled among the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains, Asheville attracts visitors with gorgeous scenery and Art Deco architecture. The metropolis is renowned for its thriving arts community and hippie culture, but there is also plenty for the adventurer-at-heart to do, from skiing & hiking to horseback riding through the trails in summer. Whatever you and your special someone plan on doing during your stay, a stay at one of these affordable bed and breakfasts will help you stick to your budget :

Hill House Bed & Breakfast

 Hill House Bed & Breakfast

For inexpensive accommodations right in the heart of the city, head to A Hill House Bed & Breakfast. It's located less than a mile from downtown Asheville, which means you're in short walking distance from all the restaurants, galleries, and boutiques. Near the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can explore the hiking trails and waterfalls. Hill House offers special deals throughout the year, including discounts for January and February visitors and romance packages just for couples. Hill House offers luxurious modern amenities, such as whirlpool tubs, fireplaces, plush robes, and private baths, but retains a unique antique charm. The building dates back to 1885, with a wraparound front porch, delightful Appalachian garden, and tranquil backyard ideal for sleepy afternoons in the sun. The inn also serves up full breakfasts with fresh orange juice and coffee, egg dishes, and home baked goods.

Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast

Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast

Situated in a historic home, the Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast provides a romantic experience for couples that won't break the bank. The building was erected in 1910 and has since been renovated and divided into private, spacious suites—choose from two or one room options, all of which come with private baths. Each morning, you'll wake to the smells of a warm, buffet-style breakfast. When dinnertime rolls around, you can cook up a romantic dinner for two in the guest kitchenette, or treat your guest to a night out on the town. The Oakland Cottage is about two miles from downtown Asheville, which is lined with casual eateries and fine dining spots, including Barley's Taproom, The Imperial Life, and Mayfel's. Then, walk around the heart of the city to find an array of attractions—top spots include the Asheville Art Museum, Grove Arcade, and Basilica of St. Lawrence. You can even explore the beautiful Riverside Cemetery, which is the resting place for renowned writers Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry.

Asheville Green Cottage

Asheville Green Cottage

Environmentally-friendly couples can show a little love for Mother Earth with a stay at Asheville Green Cottage. It's located in the historic Asheville neighborhood in a granite block house that was built in the 1920s. It has a strong focus on sustainable living, and some of the highlight "green" features you'll encounter include bamboo flooring, eco-friendly paints, hemp and cotton fabrics, renewable-resource furniture, and energy-efficient appliances. While the cottage is earth-friendly, there's no lack of luxury here. The four rooms come with queen-size beds, private baths, and showcase international themes, such as the Romantic India, Zen Garden, and Mediterranean. For a truly unique experience, rent the Out Of Africa guest room, which has vibrant, safari colors, a hemp-tented canopy bed, and blazing fire. There's also unique African decor including a batik featuring exotic animals and actual photos of safari experiences. This inn is especially ideal for vegetarians, since breakfasts are meat-free.

Romantic Restaurants on a Budget in Asheville

Restaurants in Asheville

Asheville is home to a multitude of fine dining as well as casual restaurants. During your romantic couple's getaway, you may be inclined to treat your sweetheart to an upscale dining experience at one of the more expensive restaurants in town, such as Limones or Sunset Terrace. However, there are also plenty of more budget-friendly places to eat, such as these:

Sante Wine Bar and Tap Room Situated in the heart of the city, Sante Wine Bar and Tap Room offers an intimate atmosphere for an international dining experience. Start off with bruschetta or the warm goat cheese appetizer, then try the chipotle hummus wrap or Sunburst Farm trout melt. You can share a pizza and couple your meal with a bottle off the award-winning wine menu that features more than 200 labels, and end with a dessert - the Southern bread pudding is made with pinot noir cherry compote.

Roux For comfort food that won't break the budget, make your way to Roux. They offer weekly lunch specials, but the dinner menu is also affordable. Executive chef Randy Dunn adds a creative spin to old Southern favorites that rely on locally produced ingredients. After you're seated in the charming dining room, you'll find an impressive amount of choice. Starters include crab cakes, crispy calamari, and a homemade daily soup, while the list of entrees features Scottish salmon and bistro meatloaf. You can also keep it quick and simple with a sandwich - try the crab cake BLT or ahi tuna burger.

Stoney Knob Cafe Just ten minutes outside of downtown Asheville is Stoney Knob. It's been a local favorite for more than five decades, providing a romantic ambiance coupled with international cuisine. The fare is a mixture of Greek and American flavors and techniques. They're open for brunch and lunch, but if you're coming in the evening, the menu is more extensive. Try the Southern oysters or magical crab macaroni and cheese, then move on to a main course of plum-glazed tuna steak, Mediterranean pork shish kabobs, or another unique plate. The bartender also crafts up exquisite cocktails and pours vinos from a lengthy wine list. Keep in mind that tables can fill up fast, so you may want to make reservations in advance.

French Broad Chocolates This establishment is a lovely stop for couples with a sweet tooth. It's run by loving husband-and-wife duo Dan and Jael Rattigan, who initially ran a café and dessert shop in Costa Rica but transplanted to this delightful North Carolina city and opened French Broad Chocolates. The bean-to-bar chocolatiers host factory tours and tastings where you can order up brownies, truffles and other treats. You can also take a seat at the enchanting lounge for ice cream, shortbread, pecan tart, and a variety of other delicious sweets.

Old Europe Another affordable bakery in Asheville with an Old World flair is Old Europe, located on Broadway Street. Owner Melinda Vetro is a trained pastry chef from Hungary who brings her international cooking skills and family recipes to the kitchen. Take a seat and enjoy a slice of carrot cake, a flaky eclair or a pair of rum balls. Sit back and watch the bakers hard at work crafting these delectables as you sip a creamy espresso or chocolate latte.

Romantic Things to Do Outdoors in Asheville

Asheville waterfall

After you've settled into your Asheville bed and breakfast and gotten bite to eat at one of the city's affordable restaurants, head out to explore all the intriguing attractions in town. Some activities, like a day at the spa or a private carriage ride through the Biltmore Estate, can cost an arm and a leg. But you can save some dough on your visit by preparing an affordable itinerary in advance:

Hike through Craggy Gardens One of the city's most gorgeous sites is Craggy Gardens, which is situated off Blue Ridge Parkway and filled with displays of colorful wildflowers. Bike or hike your way through the sprawling system of trails, or head straight to the Pinnacle. This trek requires a moderate-difficulty hike of about 1.5 miles and, if you get tired, stop at the picnic area to eat your packed lunch along the way. Once you reach the Pinnacle, you'll see why it's the most popular spot for couples in the Craggy Gardens—the breathtaking view is perfect for photos and watching the sunset.

Stroll through the Botanical Gardens of Asheville The Botanical Gardens at Asheville located along Weaver Boulevard is free to the public. You can explore more than 700 types of plants; wildflowers, exotic trees, native shrubs, and sprawling vines. Check out the ponds for signs of life under the mossy water—they're brimming with aquatic plants. The trail, is perfect for beginners, takes you along a half-mile circle through lush meadows and a wildflower cove. Keep in mind that the peak blooming season runs from April through May; however, there are colorful displays all year-round. For instance, autumn delivers aster flowers and other vibrant flora, while winter is the time for witch hazel.

Embrace the Beauty of Dupont State Forest Pack a picnic before you head out for this trip, because there are plenty of delightful little spots to enjoy a relaxing meal with your date. It's about a 40-minute drive outside of the city, but it is well worth the excursion. Dupont State Forest spans more than 10,000 acres upon which you will find six waterfalls and a system of trails ideal for hiking or horseback riding. At Triple Falls you can take a seat on the wide flat-rock area nestled between two splashing falls. You can even take a dip in the waters below the falls. There are also lots of opportunities for fishing and, if you have a permit, hunting.

Visit the Carl Sandburg Home On your way back to Asheville from the Dupont State Forest, stop in Flat Rock for a visit to the historic home of renowned American writer Carl Sandburg. The site commemorates the Pulitzer Prize winner, whose collection of prose, poetry, and biographies reveal the failures and successes of the American Dream. Access to the grounds, including the barns and trails, is absolutely free. Sandburg was a goat dairy owner for 30 years, so the site contains some interesting production machinery as well as friendly goats and other creatures. If you want to take a guided tour of the home, it will cost you $5 per adult.

Explore the Art Scene

Asheville museum

One of Asheville's greatest highlights is its vibrant art scene, which you and your guest can explore through the many galleries and museums found throughout the city—many are concentrated downtown and in Biltmore Village. In the heart of the city alone you will find more than 20 galleries (many of which are open to the public) that showcase photos, folk art, paintings, sculptures and jewelry by artists from the area and all around the globe. Stop by Ariel Gallery for a look at an intriguing contemporary craft collection, then head to Mountain Nest for a peek into the works of the city's top bird-themed artist. Arrive on the first Friday of the month from April through December to take part in the First Friday Gallery Walks, which give patrons free access to a huge selection of the area's top galleries.