Where to Go On Open House Weekend: Advice from a Current College Student

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Students explore downtown Asheville

by Matt Dershowitz '20

If you’re like me, visiting UNC Asheville isn’t just a one-day excursion. To get a real sense of college life and the community here, you’re going to want to do some exploring—and what better way is there to experience the real feel of Asheville than to take recommendations from a real-life college student? So, here’s a list of my favorite 15 very affordable, and very “Asheville” places you should definitely check out during your Open House weekend.


  1. Farm Burger

Nestled in the heart of downtown, Farm Burger is the place to go for a burger that will leave you motionless for an hour or two. With affordable prices, fast service, and farm-to-table ingredients, this restaurant is the go-to spot for hungry college students.

  1. Rosetta’s Kitchen

Students hanging out in Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville. Rosetta’s is as Asheville as it gets. Offering exclusively vegan and vegetarian cuisine, this downtown spot boasts dread-headed cashiers and tie dye merch along with delicious locally sourced food. Plus, with a satellite restaurant on campus, this downtown restaurant gives potential students a taste of what they can look forward to in the fall.

  1. Homegrown

If I’m ever feeling homesick or just in need of some comfort food, I’ll do whatever it takes to get to Homegrown. I’m not kidding—I have walked to this place more times than I’d like to admit. Their locally sourced, farm-fresh southern food leaves me in a food coma that only my own mother could otherwise recreate. 

  1. Dobra Tea

Campus life gets a little hectic sometimes. Maybe I don’t want to go to the library for the hundred-millionth time. Maybe I want a nice cup of tea and a bean bag to sit on. If that’s the case, I’ll take the N2 ART bus downtown and unwind at Dobra Tea. Their huge assortment of tea compliments their modern earthy vibe and trendily-apathetic baristas.

  1. Biscuit Head

It’s what we all look forward to on a Saturday morning: the “Biscuit Head?” text from your friend. It’s hard to go a weekend without stopping at this nationally renowned breakfast spot offering fresh biscuits complete with a homemade jam bar.

  1. Hole

You know when you tell yourself “one more couldn’t hurt” and then suddenly you’re covered in a mixture of crumbs and saliva? Well that’s what Hole did to me. I DARE you to eat just one of their fresh, made-on-demand donuts—I DARE you. (Also, they were named Bon Appetite’s “Dessert of the Year” in 2016, so there’s that.)


  1. Well Played

Owned and operated by our very own UNC Asheville alums, Well Played is North Carolina's first board game café located in downtown Asheville. For just $5 you get access to their full gaming library of more than 500 games, from the classics to the cutting-edge. And if none of my other food recommendations suit you, do yourself a favor and get Well Played's mac n' cheese grilled cheese sandwich. Just be sure to wear your eatin' pants.

  1. Malaprop’s

Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café is any book-worm’s paradise. With wall-to-wall bookshelves and talks from all sorts of authors, writers, and poets, this downtown bookstore can easily occupy your entire afternoon if you let it.

  1. The Orange Peel

I won’t lie, the Orange Peel was a pretty big factor in my decision to come to UNC Asheville. As Asheville’s biggest live music venue, the Orange Peel has hosted everyone from Waka Flocka to Alabama Shakes to Ms. Lauryn Hill. 

   10. River Arts District

Asheville has an insane art scene, the heart of which is located in the River Arts District. Made up primarily of rows and rows of artists’ studios, the River Arts District is a great place to go for aspiring artists and lovers of art alike. 

   11. Haen Gallery of Modern Art

If you’re already downtown and get the itch to check out some art, the Haen Gallery of Modern Art is the place to be. A collection of primarily Asheville-based artists, this gallery gives art fans a chance to get a real sense of the city’s art scene. Some other downtown galleries you should definitely check out are the Woolworth Walk, Kress Emporium, Blue Spiral 1, and the Ariel Gallery.

Outdoor Activities

    12. NC Arboretum

Let’s face it, between all the driving, walking, mingling, and general hustle-and-bustle of the weekend, you’re going to want some peace and quiet for a while. If that’s the case, I have the perfect spot for you. The NC Arboretum, a UNC Asheville affiliate, is home to acres of sprawling gardens, miles of hiking trails, fascinating botany-related exhibits. Located at mile marker 393 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this local landmark serves as a perfect refuge from your busy weekend.

   13. Skinny Dip Falls

Yeah the drive is a bit far, about an hour from campus to be exact, but I’m telling you it’s worth it. Skinny Dip Falls is by far one of the prettiest waterfalls/swimming hole in Western View from the Blue Ridge ParkwayNorth Carolina. Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway (which in itself is one of Asheville’s main attractions), Skinny Dip Falls makes for a serene and beautiful day trip. However, unlike the name denotes, this is a clothes-on excursion.

   14. Linville Falls

Linville Falls is all the falls of Skinny Dip, minus all the hiking (and possible nudity). It’s a little far from campus but if you’re willing to drive about an hour, this attraction is definitely worth it.

    15. Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway, in itself, is a staple of Western North Carolina. How pretty could a road be? Honestly, I was skeptical too. However, within five minutes of driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway my apprehension faded, and within 10 minutes I was practically a dog with my head almost fully out the window trying to soak up as much of the view as I could. Throw on some Mac Demarco, some Led Zeppelin, maybe even some Young Thug and you’ve got yourself a serene experience.

This list doesn’t even scrape the surface of all there is to experience in this dynamic city, but it’s a start. Regardless of how you choose to spend you Open House Weekend, I’m sure your time spent here will be unforgettable and leave you planning your return as soon as you leave.

If you haven't yet, be sure to sign up for Open House