2. Cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway: Enjoy a leisurely drive to see nature's beauty while riding the crest of the mountains. You'll find breathtaking overlooks, numerous hiking trails, and great spots for picnics. Drive north for panoramic views at Craggy Gardens and Mt. Mitchell. A drive south takes you through a dozen tunnels (we call them the tunnels of love!) by the time you stop for lunch at the Pisgah Inn on a 5,000-foot mountaintop. There is no entrance fee to the Parkway. Go to the Blue Ridge Parkway Guide.
3. Watch a sunset from a mountaintop: Hike to the top of the Pinnacle at Craggy Gardens to watch the sunset (about 3/4 mile one-way). A great spot to hold hands and kiss. Be sure to leave the top to make the 15-minute walk back to the car before dark! (Go to the Hikes & Walks Guide under "Best Pinnacle Hike.") West-facing overlooks on the parkway are perfect to watch a sunset from your car.
4. Strolling through gardens: Asheville is a garden city. Gardens with no admission fee include the Botanical Gardens of Asheville, by the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and Richmond Hill Inn. Tour the North Carolina Arboretum for a small per car fee (don't miss their bonsai collection). The Farms, Gardens and Countryside Trails book is a comprehensive guide for garden spots in West North Carolina.
5. Picnic by a waterfall: Take a picnic to Dupont State Forest (about 40 miles from downtown Asheville) and relax by one of three waterfalls. Our favorite spot is Triple Falls, where you can picnic on a large flat rock area between two waterfalls. See "Best Waterfall Hike" in the Hikes & Walks Guide for more details. Often, your inn or hotel will prepare a picnic for you to take. Or stop by Laurey's Gourmet-To-Go.
6. Explore downtown Asheville: A creative way to see downtown is the Urban Trail, a walking tour of 30 sculptures that depict tidbits of local history. Go to the Art Museum at Pack Place to rent audio headsets. The great architecture (with lots of art deco) and the quaint shops will fascinate you. See the Downtown Photo Tour.
7. Soak in the Hot Springs: Relax in natural hot mineral waters that flow from the Earth at a temperature of 100 to 104 degrees F. Reserve your private modern hot tub built into wooden decks along the French Broad River. Hot Springs is a quaint village nestled in a beautiful valley 35 miles north of Asheville. $25/couple per hour. Click here to visit their web site.
8. Sunset on the lake: Lake Lure is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. Enjoy a spectacular sunset with a one-hour cruise ($20/couple) departing between 6 and 7 pm (depending on the time of sunset). If you time your visit just right you can also take a moonlight two-hour tour during a full moon (bring a bottle of wine). Several times a year, you can take a Meteor Shower Cruise. Both of these cruises leave at 9 pm at $30/couple. Click here to visit their web site.
9. Movie date: See an independent or foreign film at the nostalgic Fine Arts Theatre downtown, followed by coffee in Old Europe coffee shop (see After Dinner Guide). An entire evening for less than $35, including two movie tickets, popcorn, sodas, and after movie coffee. Click here to go to the Fine Arts web site to see what's playing.
10. Mine for sapphires: Try your luck finding sapphires and other precious minerals at Old Pressley Sapphire Mine, an authentic mine about 20 miles west of downtown Asheville near Canton. For $45 a bucket, you both can sift through the soil and wash stones in their flume, and you are guaranteed to find a sapphire! Click here to visit their web site.
11. River romance: Our top three choices for couples' activities on the river are the Guided Fly Fishing half-day trips with Hunter Banks ($150/couple), half-day whitewater rafting trip ($60/couple), or sunset canoe trip with Southern Waterways through the Biltmore Estate ($60/couple). Read more about these in the Outdoors Section.
12. See a show: There are many choices for theater with Broadway musicals, comedies, modern dance, opera and more. Tickets for professional shows, which abound in the summer months, average $60/couple and community theater $30/couple. Go to the Performing Arts Guide and to the Calendar of Events to see your choices.
13. All aboard!: Take a nostalgic ride on a steam or diesel train through the Nantahala Gorge, surrounded by towering mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad has a variety of trips from $76/couple for full-day trip. Their four-course dinner train ride on weekends is $160/couple. Click here to visit their web site.
14. Saddle up for a trail ride: Ride to a 200 year-old garnet mine, either by horseback or buggy, the way pioneers did years ago. Go through wooded areas and high meadows with great views. Ask for a private guided trip for two, around $120/couple. A great place to take a picnic. Sandy Bottom Trail Rides is located 25 miles north of downtown Asheville. Click here to visit their web site.
15. Dinner with the best view: In pleasant weather, enjoy the great vistas and mountain breezes on the famous Sunset Terrace at Grove Park Inn. Enjoy steak and seafood with sunset views of downtown and the surrounding mountains. The average dinner check with wine is $150 per couple. Call early for reservations. Click here to visit their web site.
16. Most romantic dinner: For the most elegant evening of dining in Asheville, enjoy exquisite cuisine and fine wine at Gabrielle's inside the Victorian Mansion at Richmond Hill Inn. Intimate dining rooms, an accomplished pianist, and impeccable service sets the stage. Arrive early to stroll through the gardens. The average dinner check (with wine) is $180 per couple. Call early for reservations, especially weekends. Click here to visit their web site.
17. Up, up, and away!: Take a hot air balloon ride over the Blue Ridge Mountains. When you are flying low you might see deer or wild turkeys. Or fly just above the green mountaintops in spring and summer, or gaze at the beautiful leaf color show in October. Depart near Mt. Pisgah (about 15 miles from downtown Asheville). A one-hour trip is $280 per couple. Click here to visit their web site.
18. Private carriage ride: Travel back to the early 1900s at Biltmore Estate, when carriage rides provided a leisurely way for the Vanderbilts and their guests to admire the beauty of the landscape. See magnificent views of the Biltmore House via a private horse-drawn tour. General admission to the Estate is $72 per couple, and the carriage ride is an additional $275. Click here to visit their web site.
19. The ultimate spa visit: For the romantic spa experience, go to the Spa at Grove Park Inn. Their tandem, candle-lit spa massage is followed by an aromatic bath sprinkled with rose petals and surrounded by more candles. Sip chilled champagne while feeding each other chocolate-covered strawberries. This 120-minute indulgence is $375 and includes enjoyment of the other pools and common areas. You don't have to be a hotel guest to go, but call in advance for spa reservations. Click here to visit their web site.
20. Most extravagant overnight stay: For the best in spacious luxury and comfort, reserve the William A.V. Cecil Suite at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. Housed in the turret of the hotel, this 1,400- square-foot space offers sweeping vistas, a king-size bedroom, spacious living room, dining area, and wet bar. Their two-night Romantic Getaway Package (around $4,500) includes champagne, candlelit dinners, breakfast in your room and length-of-stay admission to the Biltmore House. Click here to visit their web site.
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