Asheville, NC

A Wellness Weekend in Asheville, North Carolina

Amber Gibson

Asheville may be best known for its craft beer and local art scene, but the cool mountain air and lush forests have also made Asheville a destinations for wellbeing since the late 19th century, when doctors would prescribe some time in Asheville as the cure for fatigue, respiratory diaseaes and other chronic conditions during the Gilded Age. Here’s our guide to a restful and relaxing weekend.

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Wake Foot Sanctuary

After a hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains or a day shopping downtown, rest your feet with a foot soak and massage at one of Asheville’s favorite alternatives to a traditional day spa. Pick your foot soak, with options like grapefruit, rosemary and pink clay or sudsy lavender chamomile, then sit back and close your eyes while you slip your tired feet in the large copper tub. Sip hot prickly pear tea and munch on locally baked shortbread cookies from Swoon and strawberry balsamic bonbons from French Broad Chocolate. You’d be remiss not to add on the optional massage, and the hard part is choosing between a head, neck and shoulder massage, foot and lower leg massage or hand and arm massage. An hour at Wake is just as rejuvenating as a full body massage.

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Shoji Spa

You wouldn’t expect to find an authentic Japanese onsen experience in North Carolina, but Asheville is full of surprises. Shoji Spa is perched in the hills overlooking Pisgah National Forest in a residential neighborhood. A true hidden gem just 10 minutes from downtown. You don’t need to bring anything – you’re given a robe and slippers to change into after a quick shower and the suites are private, so you don’t even need to wear a swimsuit. Skinny-dipping is encouraged. Between soaking in the private salt mineral tub, you can also alternate with time in the wet cedar sauna and open air cold showers. This is a relaxing sanctuary year-round and a beautiful place to enjoy vibrant fall foliage. Massages with CBD salve are available as an add-on and you can even stay overnight in the House of Earth or House of Wind, two rustic lodging options adjacent to the spa.

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Sauna House

From Japan to Scandinavia, skip halfway around the world when you visit this Nordic hydrotherapy haven. Sauna House is a social bathhouse with three saunas, a cold plunge pool, heated furniture and cold showers for a contrasting hot and cold circuit. An infrared sauna is available for private bookings too and the massage therapists do excellent deep tissue work. Bring your bathing suit for a couple rounds of the recommended Sauna House cycle – 15 minutes in the sauna, a few minutes in the cold plunge, then 15 minutes lounging and rehydrating. This Nordic tradition is thought to help reduce inflammation and pain, relieve stress and boost circulation and immunity. Most of the facility is co-ed so you can come with a mixed group of friends for a communal experience.

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Alchemy Acupuncture + Tea Room

Traditional Chinese Medicine rules the day at Alchemy Acupuncture + Tea Room. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years in China to treat a wide range of physical ailments by opening the energetic meridians in your body. It can be especially helpful for chronic pain, sleep disorders and digestion. Be prepared to fill out a lengthy questionnaire in advance of your visit and arrive early to allow time to additional conversation so your therapist can best customize your treatment to how you’re feeling at the present moment. Don’t be surprised when your acupuncturist examines your tongue and pulse before treatment begins too – these both offer important clues as to how organs are functioning. The needles don’t hurt, they’re just barely perceptible pricks although you may feel an occasional deeper twinge in your nerve. After the treatment, which may also incorporate cupping or moxibustion, your acupuncturist will give you a subscription for herbs too, which you can fill in the tea room while getting a medicinal raw hot chocolate drink to go.

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Vegan + Vegetarian Eats

Nutrition and nourishment are a key dimension of wellness, and luckily Asheville has plenty of options for healthy eats. BimBeriBon is a gluten-free restaurant and bakery in West Asheville with a globally-inspired menu. Vegan cinnamon rolls, muffins and turmeric ginger power balls are virtuous ways to indulge your sweet tooth. Indian curry bowls, Vietnamese bahn mi and Chinese jian bing crepe pockets are all popular savory options too. Newly opened Session Cafe at Citizen Vinyl (right across the street from Wake Foot Sanctuary) has an incredible beet hummus sandwich and the best coffee in town. James Beard-nominated chef Katie Button has an excellent selection of vegetarian bites at her tapas bar, Cúrate as well. Try the tortilla española. piquillo peppers stuffed with Spanish goat cheese and escalivada – a sublime blend of roasted red bell peppers, onion, and eggplant in sherry vinaigrette served atop a toasted baguette. French Broad Chocolate even has a wide variety of vegan sipping chocolates, ice creams and chocolate bars for dessert. After all, dark chocolate, with its antioxidants and healthy fats, can be considered a health food.

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Amber Gibson specializes in luxury travel, food, wine and wellness. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Departures, Hemispheres, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Fodor's, NPR, NBC and more. Champagne, dark chocolate and gelato are her biggest weaknesses.

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