Asheville & Buncombe County, North Carolina
The Mountains of Western North Carolina run through Asheville and its surroundings in Buncombe County. It’s a truly unique and quickly growing area, thanks to a diverse mix of locals and newcomers.
And since this is one of the most wonderful places to visit in North Carolina, we want to give you as much info as possible about Asheville and the rest of Buncombe County. Here, you’ll find background info and history, things to do in Asheville today, and why you’ll find many of these spots on our NC Bucket List.
Like much of Western North Carolina, this area was within the Cherokee Nation’s boundaries before Europeans came. Modern-day Asheville got its start (as Morristown) in 1784 and by 1790, census numbers counted 1,000 residents.
The town was renamed Asheville in 1797 after NC Governor Samuel Ashe, whose namesake is also found in Ashe County and Asheboro. Life here remained relatively quiet until the completion of the Western North Carolina Railroad’s line from Salisbury.
Vanderbilt and Biltmore
By 1900, only Wilmington and Charlotte had a larger population than Asheville. That’s a testament to Asheville’s mountainous surroundings and climate boosting it as a prominent health center in the 1880s.
The relatively mild weather attracted folks like George Vanderbilt, whose Biltmore Estate (completed in 1895) remains a testament to Asheville’s first boom.
The Great Depression hit Asheville pretty hard, as eight locally-owned banks failed in 1930. In a twist of fate, city officials didn’t have the money for urban renewal following the Great Depression, so that’s why many original Art Deco buildings are still standing in Asheville today.
The Smokies and Blue Ridge Parkway
Positive developments that would help the area came about during the Depression. In the 1930s Great Smoky Mountains National Park nearby was established (1934) and the Blue Ridge Parkway was completed (1936). Both are visited by millions every year, leading to a huge influx of tourists to Asheville and its surroundings.
Economic growth in the area did not get a chance to move forward until somewhere between the late 1970s and 1990 when the City of Asheville finally repaid its pre-Depression era debts. By the mid-’90s, Asheville’s reputation as a cultural mecca started to catch on throughout the US.
It’s since received further recognition for the collection of breweries, acclaimed chefs, musicians, and other cultural contributors who call Asheville “home.”
In typical Asheville style, Marla Hardee Milling’s Only in Asheville delivers a truly eclectic history, as described in the subtitle.
Many folks drive into Asheville via car. I-26 and I-40 cut through the area, making it convenient for both North-South and East-West travelers.
The 469 miles long Blue Ridge Parkway also runs through and is one of our favorite scenic drives in the state. Asheville is its most prominent stop on the North Carolina side. Stop by the nice BRP Visitors Center (MM 384) nearby, where you’ll find a theater, gift shop, and more inside. And just outside, a trail connected with the Mountains to Sea Trail gives you a nice chance to stretch your legs.
Of course, you can always fly into Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). Quite a few non-stop flights come here from Atlanta (ATL), Newark (EWR), Chicago (ORD), and more.
The Best Times to Visit Asheville NC
Thanks to that mild climate, Asheville is great to visit throughout most of the year. However, it’s possible to visit during most of the year, including around Christmas when you should absolutely go check out Biltmore Estate. Summertime is nice but the spring and fall are equally cool.
That’s mostly because of the blooms and foliage you’ll find when visiting Asheville during those times of the year.
Pro Tip: We think Asheville is pretty awesome, no matter when you decide to visit. One thing I’d mention is that the place can get a little busy on the weekend.
That’s why we think you should spring for a day or two from work and do a Sunday to Tuesday stay.
Things to Do in Asheville
You can easily spend all of your time in either Downtown, West Asheville, the River Arts District, or Biltmore Village. We’re still trying to decide on which one is our favorite.
And of course, many folks come to Asheville for the outdoors and there are plenty of ways to enjoy them. A couple of our favorite spots include Craggy Gardens and the WNC Nature Center. We included many more in our guide to day trips from Asheville.
For more in-depth looks at Asheville, take a look through our collection of guides. And in the meantime, we hope you enjoy your time in this awesome city.
Buncombe County Surrounding Towns near Asheville NC
We’ve mentioned Buncombe County quite a bit and thought we’d share a few towns, census-designated places (CDP), and unincorporated communities. Here are some noteworthy places within the county lines:
- Bent Creek: Mountain biking trails within Pisgah National Forest might be the first thing that comes to mind if you know about Bent Creek. The Bent Creek Experimental Forest is also here, nearly 6,000 acres of the oldest experimental forest east of the Mississippi River.
- Biltmore Forest: Situated between Asheville, Biltmore Estate, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Biltmore Forest is a lovely town. It’s home to Rosebank Park and Greenwood Park, and Biltmore Forest Country Club has been around since 1922.
- Black Mountain: Walks around Lake Tomahawk are what many people do after digging into the awesome food scene of Black Mountain. The town is also known for its shops, galleries, and crafts. Of course, the Sourwood Festival in August is a huge draw, too!
- Candler: Of all the small towns near Asheville, we found Candler to be the most convenient. If you’re staying at Engadine (like we did!), you’ll enjoy the ease of hopping on and off the interstate each morning and evening. Doc Brown’s BBQ is one of the best restaurants in Candler, with brisket that just melts in your mouth.
- Fairview: There is a town called “Fairview” in Union County (Central North Carolina), but this CDP is very much in Buncombe County and very close to Asheville. We’ve stayed here before at an awesome rental and really enjoyed its proximity to Asheville, and it’s tucked-away feeling.
- Montreat: Take “Mountain” and “Retreat,” put them together, and what do you get? Montreat! Lake Susan, Montreat College, and the Montreat Conference Center are a few prominent names in this mountain getaway. The five-mile Graybeard Trail will take you to the top of Graybeard Mountain, with epic views of the surrounding Craggies and other mountainous spots awaiting.
- Weaverville: The Zebulon B Vance Birthplace State Historic Site sits about five minutes from downtown Weaverville. Inside the latter, you’ll find a wonderful gathering of shops, restaurants, and more spots that highlight this awesome community.
Searching for Something Specific?
We look forward to sharing more fun things to do in Asheville, its awesome people, and more as we continue exploring the city. If you’re seeking something specific, check the search box above.
You can also visit our Facebook Group and ask a question there. Either way, we’ll be happy to help your search.