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Nashville to Asheville: Two Urban Beacons with Elevated Twists on Southern Hospitality

Nashville to Asheville
Illustration: Emma Dibben

320 miles of weaving on and off Interstate 40. 

Two urban beacons are glowing red haute with their elevated twists on Southern hospitality. Weave your way on and off of Interstate 40 between Nashville and Asheville, stringing together an eclectic assortment of must-sees including an upscale farmstead retreat, misty Appalachian forests, and the capital of country-music kitsch.

Start: Nashville, Tennessee
End: Asheville, North Carolina
Total distance: 320 miles
Suggested length: 5-8 days

NYX Cosmetics for Pride

Courtesy of 21c Museum Hotels

1. 21c, Nashville, Tennessee

Newly opened this month, the "hotel meets modern art museum" concept turns the city's historic Gray & Dudley building into its seventh iteration of accessible, mod design with more than 10,000 square feet of exhibition space and 124 rooms. No two of them are exactly the same, but each one is filled with chic accent lamps, potted plants, and side tables that feel like gallery-worthy objets d'art on their own.

2. Adele's, Nashville, Tennessee

You may come to Nashville for the barbecue, but these days the city's culinary offerings go far beyond its Southern flavors. After trying the requisite Hattie B's and Arnold's Country Kitchen, your next stop is Adele's, chef Jonathan Waxman's contribution to Nashville's lightning-hot scene, which pulls heavily from his N.Y.C. powerhouse Barbuto with its garage setup. Try the kale (think Caesar salad confetti) and the roast chicken -- warm, juicy, and slathered in salsa verde. Don't be surprised if you spot the Kings of Leon or Taylor Swift lurking about.

3. Knoxville, Tennessee

While big brother Nashville is busy taking all the credit as Tennessee's cosmopolitan nexus, Knoxville quietly peddles a certain rarefied charm to those who seek it out. Do breakfast at OliBea, sourced from regional farms, dinner at J.C. Holdway for dynamic eats inspired by rural Appalachian recipes, and spend the night at The Oliver Hotel, a clean boutique dream set in an old dance hall.

Fashion Designer Gosha Rubchinskiy

Courtesy of Blackberry Farm (Lake and Barn)

4. Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee

A refuge of impossibly good taste at the foothills of the Great Smokies, the Relais & Chateaux property is a food-forward experience where guests are encouraged to take part in the planting and harvesting process before enjoying their upscale repasts in the on-site dining room. Archery, clay shooting, and fly-fishing round out the luxe summer-camp feel. Visit the farm stand before you depart and take home some of its signature bacon jam.

5. Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Elvis may have Graceland, but country music's gay icon has roller coasters, a water park, and a Dizzy Disk. Dollywood boasts all the lovable prosthetic charm you'd imagine a theme park dedicated to Dolly Parton would have, including a bevy of live performances featuring local singers, visiting international acts, and even a showcase of swooshing birds of prey known as the "Wings of America."

6. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

The low-slung clouds earned the area its moniker long ago -- the old-growth forests were once the hunting grounds of the Cherokee, and today they still teem with wild deer and bear. The drivable Cades Cove Loop (11 miles) is the preserve's most popular circuit, taking in shaded knolls of hardwood and broad, sweeping valleys.

Take a Stab At It

Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee (Buxton Hall Bar-B-Cue)

7. Buxton Hall Bar-b-cue, Asheville, North Carolina

Two James Beard nominees have transformed an old roller-skating rink into whole-hog heaven for barbecue buffs. Slow-roasted over 18 hours and greased in a vinegar enamel, the pulled pork platter pairs perfectly with any of the in-house pastries. Wash it down with one of the 50-plus beers on offer at the Wicked Weed Brewing Funkatorium, under the watchful eye of King Henry VIII (you'll see), just two blocks away.


Courtesy of (Biltmore Estate)

8. Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

One could easily while away an entire weekend in Asheville's painfully cool cafes and eateries, but it's well worth carving out some time to check out the city's original tourist attraction: America's largest home, a French chateau of Versaillesque proportions built by the Vanderbilts. Open to the public for almost a hundred years, the mega-complex now features a winery and an equestrian center in addition to mansion tours.

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