Asheville, North Carolina, is the sort of place that you never tire of visiting. At least I never do. No matter your age, interests or style, there is always something cool and new to do in this funky, walkable, artsy, good-eating, brewery-rich, city nestled in the mountains just a 3.5-hour drive north of Atlanta. The cool mountain air is an added bonus.

On a recent visit, we appreciated the COVID-19 protocols, including the statewide requirement that masks be worn at all inside public places and outdoors where social distancing isn’t possible; the restrictions minimally affected our favorite activities.

restaurantBattery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar

The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, located in The Grove Arcade, is always one of our first destinations after checking in to a B&B or Airbnb within walking distance of downtown. Used books (in excellent condition, including first editions), fine wine or beer, and bistro-style bites are available in the comfortable space. On the dog-friendly patio, you can order larger meals. Information:

Blue Ridge Parkway

If the weather is nice, head to the Blue Ridge Parkway, a popular unit of the national park system; the visitor center is a 12-minute drive from downtown Asheville (Milepost 384). From there, it’s a half an hour drive to a 360-degree mountain view at Craggy Pinnacle (Milepost 364). The 1.4-mile, round-trip hike to the top of the 5,892-foot peak can be crowded, so try to go early. Additional hiking opportunities are available on nearby Craggy Gardens Trail with its mile-high bald and panoramic views. Sections of the parkway typically close in the winter. Information:

Plate of oystersJettie Rae’s Oyster House

Locally known as “Foodtopia,” Asheville has more than 100 full-service restaurants in a five-square-mile area. Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, a sustainable seafood restaurant with tented, outdoor seating, is just a five-minute walk from our North Asheville B&B. We’ll definitely be back. My Jumbo Lump Crab Louie Salad was delicious, and my companion thoroughly enjoyed his Oyster Po Boy. Information:

Green Man Brewery

Second only to Portland, Maine on the breweries-per-capita list, Asheville is considered one of the 15 best beer cities in the world. The city’s walkability makes brewery touring easier and safer. Our favorite is The Green Man Brewery, located in the South Slope District near interesting art galleries and restaurants; it’s one of several dozen breweries with socially distanced, outdoor seating. As an IPA lover, my draft pick is always the Wayfarer. Information:

arboretumNorth Carolina Arboretum

On our way out of town, we visited the 434-acre North Carolina Arboretum on the Blue Ridge Parkway to walk the forested hiking (and biking) trails along Bent Creek, a tributary to the French Broad River, and tour the cultivated gardens and extraordinary bonsai exhibit. Information:

Sally Bethea is the retired executive director of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and an environmental and sustainability advocate. Her award-winning Above the Waterline column appears monthly in Atlanta Intown.