Are you looking for the best things to do in Asheville, NC? Well, you've come to the right place!
Asheville, located in western North Carolina, offers a refreshing change of pace from the bustling urban hubs of Raleigh and Charlotte. Asheville has garnered several nicknames over time, each with its significance. It's been dubbed the “Land of the Sky” for its breathtaking mountain views, the “Beer City USA” for its impressive collection of craft breweries, and the “Paris of the South” for its vibrant arts scene.
There are numerous interesting places to visit, including the well-known Biltmore Estate, a popular tourist destination in North Carolina.
The Blue Ridge Mountains, Pisgah National Forest, and Great Smoky Mountains are all at its doorstep, making it ideal for hiking, biking, camping, birdwatching, and other outdoor activities. The French Broad River offers kayaking, fishing, and canoeing, and the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway graces the city. In addition to natural wonders, Asheville is famous for its rich history, art, and entertainment.
With so many things to do, it might be challenging where to start. That is why we've compiled a list of the top things to do in Asheville for you. Just follow our fun-filled and unique Asheville bucket list, and you'll have a fantastic time in this beautiful region of the United States!
So, let's get started without any further ado!
1. Visit the Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate takes the top spot on our list of must-dos in Asheville! Built between 1889 and 1895 by George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned residence in the United States. Visitors can tour the mansion's beautiful interiors, packed with art, antiques, and stunning architecture. Beyond the mansion, the estate features meticulously maintained gardens, a winery, and a variety of outdoor activities such as Land Rover tours, painting, and rafting. Special seasonal events like Candlelight Christmas make it a must-see destination in the Southeastern United States.
The Biltmore Estate is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, with ticket prices ranging from $79 to $109 depending on the season. Furthermore, entry is free for children aged 16 and under.
Location: One Lodge Street, Asheville, NC, 28803
2. Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway
If you're traveling by car to Asheville or across the USA, don't forget to include the Blue Ridge Parkway in your itinerary. Spanning 459 miles through 29 North Carolina counties, the parkway is America's longest linear park. It stretches from the Great Smoky Mountains of NC to the Shenandoah National Park of Virginia.
Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, this All-American Road and National Parkway offers a visual feast of nature's wonders, from lush forests to magnificent mountain vistas. Some of its standout viewpoints include Beacon Heights, Mabry Mill, Rough Ridge, and Flat Rock. You can also visit waterfalls like Hickory Nut Falls and Crabtree Falls and caves like the Shenandoah Caverns, Lost Sea, and Grand Caverns.
Location: 3767 Blue Rdg Pkwy, Asheville, NC
3. Stroll through the Downtown Asheville
Explore downtown Asheville, an eclectic and artsy area with an inviting Bohemian vibe. The streets are brimming with local shops, boutiques, and a variety of restaurants. Street performers, including musicians and mimes, entertain visitors. Explore the historic Urban Trail, a 1.7-mile walking path marked by 30 stations with instructive plaques and sculptures.
You can even join the drum circles at Pritchard Park on Friday nights and sometimes during summer evenings. At night, catch a show at Asheville Symphony, Asheville Community Theatre, or Asheville Lyric Opera.
For a unique Asheville souvenir, visit the Grove Arcade, a wonderfully renovated 1929 building brimming with distinct shops. After a day of exploration, grab a seat on one of the many restaurant patios in the evening.
4. Experience the Vibrant Drum Circle at Pritchard Park
In Asheville, a city known for its distinct and free-spirited culture, you can experience something unique. Every Friday night from April to October, a vibrant community gathers in Pritchard Park to set up a vibrant drum circle.
This tradition, which began in 2001, provides free entertainment and aims to promote musical harmony within the community. Anyone can join in by bringing their own drum or percussion instrument. As the music fills the courtyard, you'll also see belly dancers and hula-hoopers put on a show.
The jam session runs from 6 to 10 pm in the center of downtown Asheville. Numerous restaurants, stores, and breweries are nearby, making it a fascinating and unique experience to add to your itinerary.
Location: 67 Patton Ave. Asheville, NC 28801
5. Visit the Asheville Botanical Gardens
Enjoy a stroll around the Asheville Botanical Gardens, which are conveniently located near downtown at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. These gardens display over 600 plant species that are native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Asheville Botanical Gardens, which spans over 10 acres (4 hectares), has a vast network of scenic trails to explore.
This nonprofit garden is open to the public and free of charge from sunrise to sunset every day. For those seeking a more in-depth botanical experience, the on-site Cole Library has over 1,000 books on botany, ecology, ornithology, and horticulture.
Location: 151 W T Weaver Blvd, Asheville, NC
6. Explore Biltmore Village
Biltmore Village, originally built as a community for Biltmore Estate workers, is now a famous tourist destination known for its historic charm, European-style ambiance, and shopping opportunities. This Asheville hamlet features an eclectic mix of independent boutiques, major brands, and a variety of top-notch restaurants.
The Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum is also located nearby Grovewood Village, once the hub of Biltmore's weaving and woodworking industries. Grovewood Village also has an antique car museum, a sculpture garden, and an art gallery.
Location: Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803.
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday; 10 am – 6 pm
7. Visit the River Arts District
The River Arts District, sometimes called the “RAD,” is a vibrant Asheville district brimming with local artists and their creative work. This unique area consists of 23 historic industrial buildings along the French Broad River near the railroad tracks. Here, you'll find many art galleries displaying the work of skilled local artists. Some popular art galleries and studios in the Rivers Arts District include Philip DeAngelo Studio, St. Claire Art Studio, and ArtPlay. Don't hesitate to step inside; you could even meet the artists behind the work.
The RAD hosts Studio Stroll Weekends and a free trolley on select Saturdays. The district is always buzzing with activity, so check their website for updates.
Location: Asheville, NC 28801
8. Visit the North Carolina Arboretum
The North Carolina Arboretum is a 65-acre beautiful garden with a diverse plant collection. The Arboretum displays the National Native Azalea Collection, a model train show, and an amazing Bonsai Exhibition Garden. The Heritage Garden exhibits traditional plant uses, including medicinal and functional applications. There's also a Quilt Garden honoring Appalachian quilting traditions. The Arboretum offers guided trail walks, geocaching opportunities, and mobile device tours. Even in the colder months, from late November to the end of the year, they have a Winter Lights display that transforms the area into a winter wonderland.
The Arboretum is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the fall and winter and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the spring and summer.
Location: 20 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC
9. Visit the WNC Nature Center
The Western North Carolina Nature Center, a 42-acre wildlife park, is a perfect spot for families. The center is home to over 60 native animals, including bears, wolves, bobcats, foxes, river otters, and cougars. Also, don't forget to see the Red Panda Exhibit! Visitors of all ages can participate in a variety of activities at the Nature Center, including interactive nature play areas, animal programs, and educational presentations. The outdoor areas provide a variety of enjoyable activities for children of all ages.
The park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and admission for adults is $13.95 per day.
Location: 75 Gashes Creek Road, Asheville, NC
10. Explore Pisgah National Forest
Exploring Pisgah National Forest is one of the best things to do in Asheville, NC. It covers nearly 500,000 acres of natural wilderness in western North Carolina. It was one of the earliest national forests in the United States and is known as the Cradle of Forestry.
Originally part of the Biltmore Estate, it became state-owned after the death of George Vanderbilt. It boasts various recreational opportunities. You can hike through lush forests, explore numerous waterfalls, and enjoy activities like fishing, mountain biking, and camping. Visitors are attracted to famous geological features such as Linville Gorge, Table Rock, and the Chimneys.
The forest is also home to the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway and well-known attractions, including Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Rock.
Location: 160 Zillicoa St., Suite A, Asheville, NC 28801
11. Visit the Asheville Pinball Museum
The Asheville Pinball Museum is a place where you can relive your childhood memories. It houses over 75 vintage pinball machines and other classic arcade games. What's the best part? You can play most of them! Pay a flat entry fee, and you can get to enjoy unlimited play on these nostalgic machines. The museum can get crowded, but they have a waiting list service. While you wait, you can tour downtown Asheville or go shopping and dining at the Grove Arcade across the street.
Location: 1 Battle Square, Suite 1B, Asheville, NC
Operating Hours: Monday (1 pm – 6 pm), Wednesday to Friday (2 pm – 9 pm), Saturday (12 pm – 9 pm), and Sunday (1 pm – 6 pm)
12. Visit Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park, located 25 miles southeast of Asheville, is home to an iconic 315-foot granite spire that soars over 2,280 feet above sea level. You don't need to be a seasoned climber to get to the top. There's a 26-story elevator carved inside the mountain for tourists of all physical abilities.
The park offers a range of kid-friendly activities for families, including the Animal Discovery Den, the Great Woodland Adventure Trail, scavenger hunts, and a children's climbing tower.
One of the park's highlights is the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, a moderate, generally level trail that leads to the base of the spectacular 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls. For those interested in boating, Lake Lure is a famous destination nearby.
For an extraordinary experience, book a helicopter tour to enjoy the aerial views of Chimney Rock State Park.
Location: 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock, NC
13. Try Craft Beer
A trip to Beer City, USA, would be incomplete without savoring the local brews. Asheville takes pride in its craft beer industry, with over 40 breweries and beer pubs sprinkled around the city. Some must-visit places for bee lovers include Asheville Brewing Company, Burial, Wicked Weed, the Funkatorium, and Green Man. These breweries provide a diverse assortment of over 100 beers to try, including many unique small-batch and seasonal brews. You can also explore the breweries by taking beer tour buses.
14. Go Tubing or Kayaking on the French Broad River
The French Broad River, which flows through Asheville and into Tennessee, is famous for its historical significance, which dates back hundreds of millions of years.
Fishing on the French Broad River is very popular among trout lovers. You can also go tubing, kayaking, or canoeing on this river if you are looking for an exciting way to spend a sunny day in North Carolina.
You can either book a guided kayak tour or inquire at a local tourism office about renting inner tubes for a relaxing float down the river. It's a great way to enjoy the outdoors and cool off during summer.
Location: 1080 Old Marshall Hwy, Alexander, NC 28804
15. Take a Scenic Drive to Mount Mitchell
Camp and trek to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern United States and Appalachian Mountains. This outdoor adventure near Asheville offers breathtaking vistas and several hiking trails, one of which leads to the summit. Mount Mitchell State Park offers camping as well as charming log cabin accommodations. If hiking isn't your thing, then drive to the top and sit on the observation deck to take in the stunning 360-degree views.
Location: 24 Radio Station Rd Wmit, Burnsville, NC.
16. Treat Yourself at One of the Asheville's Spas
After exploring the city and enjoying outdoor adventures, it's time to pamper yourself. Here are some of the best spas in Asheville to help you unwind: The Omni Grove Park Inn's underground spa, the serene Shoji Japanese Spa, and the Asheville Salt Cave and Spa.
The luxury Omni Grove Park Inn Spa, nestled into a hillside and surrounded by unusual rock formations, is visually appealing and extremely refreshing. Relax in style with a mountain-view hot tub, steam rooms, soothing waterfalls, and rejuvenating mineral pools. Visit Salt Cave and Spa, where you can relax in a Himalayan salt cave and enjoy treatments, including massages and salt and sound therapy.
Additionally, the Wake Foot Sanctuary and Spa is conveniently located inside the Grove Arcade and provides a relaxing place for foot soak after a day of trekking.
Well, that's a wrap for the best things to do in Asheville, NC! I hope you've found this Asheville guide enjoyable and informative.
Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast, an art lover, a foodie, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, Asheville has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and get ready to explore the enchanting Beer City!
When is the Best Time to Visit Asheville, NC?
The best times to visit Asheville, NC, are from March to May, when you can enjoy the vibrant spring blossoms, and from September to November, when you can see the mesmerizing fall foliage. Summer is ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, river paddling, exploring waterfalls, attending concerts, and sipping delicious cold beverages.
Where is the best area to go hiking in Asheville, NC?
If you're a mountain lover, Asheville offers an abundance of hiking options in the neighboring Blue Ridge Mountains. Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the east of the Mississippi River, is an absolute must-see. The state park boasts various trails, from casual nature walks on historic logging roads to challenging 6-mile hikes to the top.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.