Meeting and event planners could be hard-pressed to find  a destination that offers as many arts and activitty options as Asheville, North Carolina, in such a tight package.

A center of arts and culture, the Blue Ridge Mountains town located a couple hours’ drive from Charlotte, N.C., also boasts a bounty of culinary and brewery options, all set in one of the most scenic areas in the U.S. with adventurous off-site activities such as ziplining, white-water rafting, stand-up paddleboarding and endless hiking opportunities.

“Asheville offers meeting planners an opportunity to incorporate the authentic culture of Asheville into meetings relatively easily,” said Carli Adams, group communications and services manager for Explore Asheville, the city’s CVB.

“We’re a foodie destination—we call it ‘Foodtopia,’” Adams continued. “Our chefs can easily incorporate local farm-to-table cuisine and we have over 250 independent restaurants in Asheville, so for a meeting planner wanting to offer a dine-around or incorporate local cuisine, it’s easy.”

With roughly 40 local craft breweries, many planners host off-site events featuring local liquors and beers.

Asheville Off-Site Event Venue Gathering
Asheville Off-Site Event Venue Gathering

Top brewing draws that also feature stages for live music include Pisgah Brewing, Highland Brewing, French Broad Brewery, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, UpCountry Brewing, Whistle Stop, Habitat Brewing, Archetype and Sierra Nevada Brewery. Beer and bluegrass aficionados should note September’s Brewgrass Festival.

Asheville’s music offering doesn’t disappoint, and is hard to pin down as the city stages a diverse collection of performers and genres.

Unique venues include the repurposed automotive repair shop, Ben’s Tune-Up; the Salvage Station, a former junkyard on the French Broad River that now boasts shipping containers; a car-dealership-turned-music venue, White Horse Black Mountain; The Odditorium, a dive bar choked with oddities and artifacts; and local musician jam spot the Asheville Guitar Bar, a new venue with music-themed art installations. Another standout for groups is the Orange Peel, which was named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top rock clubs in the U.S.

Asheville Arts Scene

An arts and culture draw, the city is set to reopen the Asheville Art Museum in spring 2019. Located downtown, the group-friendly venue will offer rooftop event space and guided group tours.

Founded in 1948, the museum is undergoing a major expansion and renovation project that will preserve the historic architecture of its North Wing, the former 1926 Pack Library Building.

The project will also renovate existing spaces and construct new areas with a mission to provide a more cohesive visitor experience and offer expanded spaces—the Permanent Collection space will increase by 70 percent—to display a fuller amount of art collections.

Other highlights include new exhibition galleries, classrooms and studios; the addition of a rooftop sculpture terrace and cafe; and a glass exterior that will illuminate Park Square Park and the city center in the evening.

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Besides the many galleries in the downtown arts district, with options such as Lexington Glassworks for glass-blowing demonstrations and beer in the back of the venue, the city also offers two arts-centric neighborhoods.

Lexington Glassworks in Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks in Asheville

“We’re the Portland of the South, or like the Austin of North Carolina,” Adams said, noting the city’s bohemian reputation. “There are a lot of arts neighborhoods, including River Arts District a few miles southwest of downtown, which is undergoing a lot of revitalization. There are close to 300 working artist studios and/or galleries, with several offering  guided tours through Asheville Art Studio tours and Art Connections.”

According to Adams, West Asheville is also emerging as a major arts district and culinary attraction.

The Painting with Beer tour, during which attendees mix beer, water and paint to create art—while also being provided the option to imbibe some brew, of course—is a popular group activity.

Asheville Meeting Space Options

Offering approximately 8,000 hotel rooms, major meetings properties include the 513-room Omni Grove Park Inn, the largest meeting space in the city, with 30 meeting rooms and 55,000 square feet of space; the 270-room Renaissance Asheville Hotel, with 13 meeting rooms and 21,000 square feet of space; and the 272-room Crowne Plaza Tennis and Golf Resort-Asheville, with 17 meeting rooms and 34,500 square feet of space.

Other properties of note include the stylish AC Hotel Asheville Downtown and Aloft Asheville Downtown. The U.S. Cellular Center Asheville, which can seat 7,654, offers an Exhibition Hall with more than 25,000 square feet of space that can accommodate up to 2,000, as well as nine meeting rooms.

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, Credit: Steven McBride Photography
Biltmore Estate in Asheville, Credit: Steven McBride Photography

One can’t discuss Asheville, of course, without mentioning one of the grande dames of U.S. hotels and resorts, the Biltmore.

The former mansion of the Vanderbilt family, built by George Vanderbilt in 1895 and with 250 rooms is America’s largest private home, is a popular off-site event option for groups that want to immerse themselves in its historic grandeur and expansive grounds and gardens.

The Biltmore debuted its new 11,000-square-foot Amherst Ballroom, with the capacity for 850 people, in late 2018. The estate’s newest exhibit, “A Vanderbilt House Party: The Gilded Age,” is an audio tour from the perspective of the Vanderbilt’s butler that features reproductions of the clothing worn by the Vanderbilts and their guests by Oscar-winning costume designer John Bright. The tour will be offered from February 8-March 27, 2019. The estate boasts a calendar of annual events, with its Biltmore Concert Series, held on select evenings in July through August, an elegant outdoor music option for groups and locals alike.

Group options at the Biltmore include tours of the mansion and Frederick Law Olmstead-designed gardens, the Antler Hill Village and Winery, outdoor activities and dining at the estate’s restaurants. The Biltmore also offers professional development and teambuilding programs.

Asheville Meeting Planner Packages

To promote the city as a meetings destination, Explore Asheville offers two programs targeting meeting planners, in addition to attraction discounts, staffing assistance and VIP amenity gifts for qualifying groups.

The Have More Fun on Us program offers an incentive of up to $2,500 that meeting planners can use to procure local experiences and services such as entertainment, tours, meeting venues or transportation.

The CVB’s annual Asheville 48-Hour Experience fam, which includes two full days of tours and site inspections of hotels and off-site venues, will be held March 29, July 23 and November 12, 2019. 

Asheville CVB Information

Explore Asheville CVB

Click over to page 2 for a look at The River Arts District and some new venue openings in Asheville.