Last Updated on September 20, 2023
Last Updated on September 20, 2023
Asheville usually tops our readers’ and social media followers’ lists of places to visit in NC, especially if they’ve never visited. Many folks know it’s packed with some of the most amazing food and some of the state’s best breweries, but we know there’s some well-preserved history, an amazing arts scene, and more that’ll keep you coming back.
If you’re wondering, “What’s there to do in Asheville, NC?” we’ve got you! Here’s how we’ve organized our guide, in case you’re looking for something specific:
- Where is Asheville?
- The History of Asheville
- Asheville Today (Neighborhoods and Districts)
- When to Visit
- Where to Stay in Asheville (and Nearby)
- Annual Events (January to December During a Typical Year)
- Seasonal Asheville Attractions
- Things to Do in Asheville This Weekend (and All Year!)
- Restaurants in Asheville
- Breweries in Asheville (South Slope and Beyond)
- More Things to Do Near Asheville NC (Day Trips)
- More Asheville NC Attractions (Travel Guides)
Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the Asheville area and wonder, “What are the best things to do near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you!
Where is Asheville?
Asheville is in Buncombe County in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. It is the Buncombe County seat and the county’s largest city.
According to the 2020 US Census, the population of Asheville is 94,589. Asheville’s average elevation is about 2,200 feet above sea level.
Asheville and Buncombe County border the following
- Madison County (North)
- Yancey County (Northeast)
- McDowell County (East)
- Rutherford County (Southeast)
- Henderson County (South)
- Transylvania County (Southwest)
- Haywood County (West)
You can visually plan a visit to these areas and all of the Asheville NC attractions mentioned below with the following maps:
The History of Asheville
Before you start exploring all the fun Asheville NC things to do this weekend or any other time, it’s important to understand the city’s rich history.
Here are 20 historical facts about Asheville:
- Before Asheville became Asheville, the land was within the bounds of the Cherokee Nation. After the Revolutionary War, lands that included present-day Asheville were officially seized from the Cherokee people through treaties. You can learn about these and other important stories at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee.
- After being known as Morristown, the town changed to Asheville in 1797. Like Asheboro and Ashe County, Asheville was named for NC Governor Samuel Ashe.
- Asheville was largely spared during the Civil War, except for a short skirmish known as the five-hour Battle of Asheville and thievery during Stoneman’s Raid in 1865.
- In 1878, author Francis Tiernan described Asheville as “The Land of the Sky.” Asheville’s reputation as a health retreat and summer resort town had long been gaining recognition, and “The Land of the Sky” served as a great marketing catchphrase to draw visitors.
- The historically African-American community of Shiloh was first settled in the 1880s.
- Asheville was incorporated as a city in 1883.
- On Christmas Eve, 1895, George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate opened. The project took six years and 1,000 craftspeople to complete. Christmas at Biltmore remains a tradition at Biltmore Asheville Estate.
- In 1913, the Grove Park Inn opened its doors to guests. Many famous guests have stayed here over the years, including 10 presidents.
- In July 1916, 22 inches of rain fell in Western North Carolina in just 24 hours. The Flood of 1916 resulted in 80 deaths, and mass devastation of buildings, roads, and railroads, and was one of the worst natural disasters in North Carolina.
- McCormick Field was built in 1924 and has hosted various teams, including the Asheville Blues of the Negro Southern League. Concrete has replaced the original wooden structure. Today, the Asheville Tourists of Minor League Baseball call it home.
- Buncombe County Junior College opened in 1927. It changed names several times before settling on UNC Asheville in 1969.
- Grove Arcade opened in 1929, two years after the passing of E.W. Grove. After years of ups, downs, and recent renovations, Asheville’s original mall remains a city landmark.
- The Great Depression took its toll on Asheville, forcing eight local banks to fail on November 20, 1930. As a result of decades-long debts, many of Asheville’s historic buildings have remained intact.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established nearby in 1934.
- Construction on the Blue Ridge Parkway began in 1935. The scenic road would connect Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. Many prominent Blue Ridge Parkway stops (including hikes and waterfalls) are in and around Asheville.
- A tragic fire occurred at the Highland Hospital on March 10, 1948. Among those who died was Zelda Fitzgerald, the novelist, painter, and wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald.
- The privately managed Thomas Wolfe Memorial opened to the public on July 19, 1949. Today, it is managed by the NC Department of Cultural Resources as a state historic site.
- In 1961, the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) near Fletcher began operations. The 1970s are believed to be when Asheville began its recent renaissance after paying off its Depression-era debts, attracting new residents, and increasing visitors.
- In the mid-1980s, Highwater Clays moved from its Biltmore Village location to a part of town previously abandoned after the Flood of 1916. This was the first arts-focused business to move into what would become the River Arts District. Today, more than 200 artists work here.
- In 1994, Oscar Wong moved to Asheville from Charlotte and opened Highland Brewing Company, the city’s original craft brewery. It has been joined by many more breweries in Asheville, both locally owned and conglomerate-managed. The city more than deserves the “Beer City USA” nickname.
For more Asheville history, the Buncombe County Special Collections Room at the Pack Memorial Library (67 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC) has an excellent bibliography.
I’m equally impressed and overwhelmed every time I visit!
Asheville Today (Neighborhoods and Districts)
Today, Asheville is a thriving and growing city. It can be overwhelming if you’re visiting or planning to move here, so here’s a quick breakdown of Asheville’s main neighborhoods and districts.
Downtown Asheville NC
As mentioned, the city took decades to pay off its Depression-era debts, which meant major construction efforts didn’t transform Asheville as it had other NC cities in the mid-20th century. That’s why the city still has many original historic buildings, especially downtown.
Inside those beautiful historic buildings, Downtown Asheville hosts a variety of interesting shops, restaurants, and more. Starting there is among the first things to do in Asheville.
As with most parts of Asheville, parking can be challenging. If you can’t find street parking, these garages should have space open:
- Biltmore Avenue Garage
- Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville Garage
- Rankin Avenue Garage
- Wall Street Garage
South Slope is a well-known neighborhood attached to the southern end of Downtown Asheville. It’s home to some of the city’s best breweries and is a big part of why Asheville has long been known as “Beer City USA.”
Due to limited parking spaces, finding a spot can be equally challenging, if not harder, than the rest of downtown.
If you’re traveling west toward Asheville on I-40 (eventually I-240), Biltmore Village is one of the first parts of town you’ll pass through. Before it was Biltmore VIllage, the now-district was known as Best, North Carolina.
George Washington Vanderbilt transformed it to house Biltmore Estate employees, and the name “Biltmore Village” has stuck ever since.
Historic buildings like the Cathedral of All Souls (9 Swan St, Asheville, NC) complement the collection of stuccoed buildings housing local businesses, craft breweries, restaurants, and more.
River Arts District (RAD)
Formerly an industrial hub abandoned, condemned, and demolished, the Asheville River Arts District (RAD) is a wonderful revival story.
After the first artists moved here in 1985, a steady influx has led to more than 200 artists residing in this collection of 20-plus former industrial buildings.
You can visit, tour, and speak with artists who work in various mediums. Just a walk through the Marquee is enough to fill an entire morning. Whether you are exploring Foundy Street or taking a glass-blowing class at the North Carolina Glass Center, take your time exploring this creative Asheville neighborhood.
West Asheville sits across the river from RAD, and Haywood Road will take you through it. There, you’ll see colorful buildings filled with restaurants, quirky shops, and more fun things to do in Asheville NC.
It’s a nice, walkable neighborhood with familiar mainstays like Biscuit Head and Early Girl.
Parking is also tight in West Asheville, but some restaurants and shops offer on-site parking.
Are there any other Asheville neighborhoods that we need to feature? Let us know in the comments or by email!
When to Visit Asheville
Thanks to the mild climate, Asheville is great to visit most of the year. However, here’s a quick breakdown of Asheville by the season:
- Spring: Visitors to Asheville during spring might encounter fewer crowds earlier, but things will pick up once temperatures warm up in preparation for summer.
- Summer: Everyone flocks to Asheville for milder summer temperatures than elsewhere in North Carolina. Peak travel for families is during the summer.
- Fall: Many people use Asheville as their base for seeing the fall colors throughout Western NC. We follow this map created by App State University in case you’d like to know the exact dates for the area. This is consistently the busiest time of year, as long as the weather cooperates. Eastern North Carolina might earn the headlines when hurricanes come, but Asheville and its neighbors get the still-strong remainder of those massive storms.
- Winter: Winter is usually quieter after Christmas, but holiday festivities draw visitors to Christmas at Biltmore and Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum, among other events. From January to March, you’ll find lower rates at places to stay in Asheville, and the weather will occasionally be as nice as spring or even summer. No promises, though!
Pro Tip: Weekends are especially busy, and wait times at restaurants and breweries can be frustrating. Try to visit on a weekday and during off-peak hours. Plan your meals before noon for lunch, before five for dinner, and as soon as you wake up for breakfast, and you won’t have to wait as long as the weekend.
Where to Stay
Before exploring all the awesome Asheville things to do, you must find a place to stay, and we have plenty of experience here.
- Hotels: There are many hotels in Asheville to choose from, yet which one should you pick for your time here? Go all out and stay at the Omni Grove Park Inn (290 Macon Ave) or one of Biltmore Estate’s lodging options. Christina has also enjoyed stays at the Aloft Downtown (51 Biltmore Ave), and will likely be back because of the location and great service!
- Bed and Breakfast: For a cool-looking Bed and Breakfast within minutes of Downtown and Biltmore, check out Cedar Crest Inn (674 Biltmore Ave). About 20 minutes away from downtown is the awesome Engadine Inn and Cabins in Candler (2630 Smokey Park Hwy). Stay here if you want one of the best breakfasts in North Carolina!
- Rentals: Numerous rentals and Airbnbs surround the city, but here are a few companies we’ve partnered with and trust.
Read More: The Coolest Airbnbs in North Carolina
Annual Events in Asheville
Here is what to do in Asheville NC, depending on the time of the year:
- Asheville Art in the Park (June and October): This event presents some of the finest artists in the area. Nationally known local artists exhibit at this event, which is one major reason why this is one of the best things to do in Asheville.
- Chow Chow Culinary Festival (September): Chow Chow Culinary Festival brings award-winning chefs from North Carolina and beyond to join the biggest and best of Asheville’s food scene.
- LEAF Downtown Asheville (August): This is one of the best free things to do in Asheville NC. You can join this event every year in Pack Square Park. Over two days, there’s international music, art, workshops, food and drinks, and more!
- The North Carolina Ceramic Arts Festival (October): During the NC Ceramic Arts Festival, 40 national ceramic art vendors are joined by food trucks, raku demonstrations, and more.
- Christmas at Biltmore (November to January): Biltmore Estate hosts the state’s largest-scale home tour during the holidays. During Christmas at Biltmore, Christmas trees are decorated with thousands of ornaments, with luminaries joining lit candles and fireplaces.
- National Gingerbread Competition (November to January): One of the most exciting Asheville events is the Omni Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition. Judges assess the highly-skilled competitors’ work in November, and the official display is viewable through the beginning of January.
- Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum (November to January): This wonderful Christmas event helps Asheville shine even brighter! Enjoy this display of thousands of lights stretching for over a mile of the gardens campus.
Read More: Christmas in North Carolina
Seasonal Asheville Attractions
These seasonal activities keep us returning to the Asheville area throughout the year.
- Apple Picking (Late Summer and Early Fall)
- Asheville Tourists Baseball Games (April to September)
- Fall Colors (October)
- First Fridays (April to December)
- Friday Drum Circles (April to October)
- River Tubing (Summer)
- Skiing (Winter)
- Snow Tubing Parks (Winter)
- UNC Asheville Bulldogs Basketball (November to March)
Apple Picking (Late Summer and Early Fall)
During late summer and early fall, you can find apple picking spots throughout much of Western NC, especially in the Asheville area. The highest concentration of apple orchards is in Hendersonville, just south of the city.
Here’s a list of apple picking spots near Asheville:
- Apple Hill Orchard (2075 Pleasant Hill Ave, Morganton, NC)
- Coston Farm and Apple House (3748 Chimney Rock Rd, Hendersonville, NC)
- Creasman Farms (280 Arrow Lane, Hendersonville, NC)
- Grandad’s Apples N’ Such (2951 Chimney Rock Rd, Hendersonville, NC)
- Jeter Mountain Farm Apple Orchard (1126 Jeter Mountain Rd, Hendersonville, NC)
- Justus Orchard (187 Garren Rd, Hendersonville, NC)
- Mountain Fresh Orchards (2887 Chimney Rock Rd, Hendersonville, NC)
- The Orchard at Altapass (1025 Orchard Rd, Spruce Pine, NC)
- Owenby’s Apple House & Orchard (3807 Chimney Rock Rd, Hendersonville, NC)
- Sky Top Orchard (1193 Pinnacle Mountain Road, Zirconia, NC)
- Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard (170 Stepp Orchard Dr, Hendersonville, NC)
- Twisted Apple Orchard (4039 US-64, Hendersonville, NC)
Open The NC Tripping Map of Apple Orchards near Asheville (via Google Maps)
Asheville Tourists Baseball Games (April to September)
McCormick Field was one of the stadiums featured in the iconic Bull Durham, and the Asheville Tourists continue to play there today.
The Asheville Tourists have played Minor League Baseball since 1897. Since 2021, they’ve been a part of the Houston Astros farm leagues and one of a few NC teams affiliated with the ‘Stros.
Read More: 18 Unique Luxury Resorts in North Carolina
First Fridays (April to December)
The Downtown Arts District hosts “First Fridays” from April to December with music, demos, gallery openings, and more.
Friday Drum Circles (April to October)
Of all the days to be downtown, choose Friday at around 6:00 p.m. That’s because the weekly Drum Circle begins then!
River Tubing (Summer)
On hot summer days, a tube on the calm rivers in Asheville and nearby is perfect for kids.
Here are some businesses that offer tube rentals in Asheville and nearby:
- Asheville Adventure Company
- Beer City Tubing (Arden)
- Cherokee Rapids (Cherokee)
- Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground (Bryson City)
- French Broad Outfitters (Asheville)
- Smoky Mountain Tube & Raft (Cherokee)
- Zen Tubing (Asheville)
Bring your snow bibs and mittens during winter and get ready to hit the slopes at the best places to go skiing in NC. Most are nestled in the High Country near Boone and Blowing Rock (also, Banner Elk!) but also further west in the North Carolina Mounains around Asheville.
- Appalachian Ski Mountain (940 Ski Mountain Rd, Blowing Rock, NC) features 12 slopes for beginners to advanced skiers. There are three beginner, six intermediate, and three advanced trails with a peak elevation of 4,000 feet. Appalachian Ski Mountain also boasts an ice rink for more outdoor winter fun!
- Beech Mountain Resort (1007 Beech Mountain Pkwy, Beech Mountain, NC) is the second largest of our ski resorts, with 95 acres. It’s also the highest-elevation resort on the East Coast at 5,506 feet. There are 17 slopes here, and Beech Mountain is also the only ski resort in NC with a brewery.
- Cataloochee Ski Area (1080 Ski Lodge Rd, Maggie Valley, NC) in Maggie Valley is one of the best places for beginners to ski in North Carolina. The 18 slopes spanning 50 acres feature eight beginner, seven intermediate, and three advanced trails.
- Ski Sapphire Valley (127 Sapphire Valley Rd, Sapphire, NC): While there are only two trails, one beginner and one intermediate, at Ski Sapphire Valley, many still find it a great place for travelers from Asheville with kids! A short vertical drop of only 200 feet means it’s perfect for families to work on their forms!
- Sugar Mountain (1009 Sugar Mountain Dr, Sugar Mountain, NC): Of all the ski resorts in North Carolina, Sugar Mountain is the largest, with 125 acres of skiable area, and 21 slopes. All these features make this the ultimate winter getaway, but there’s even more.
- Wolf Ridge Ski Resort (578 Valley View Cir, Mars Hill, NC): Dropping 700 feet and with the longest run hitting 3,700 feet, Wolf Ridge Ski Resort in Mars Hill offers plenty of winter fun. Located just 30 minutes north of Asheville, Wolf Ridge has plenty of cabin rentals that are perfect before and after your day on the slopes. Speaking of which, you have 15 slopes and a snow tubing park for fun with the kids.
Snow Tubing Parks (Winter)
Snow tubing is one of our favorite winter activities throughout NC! Here are some places to expect thrills within a short drive from Asheville.
- Beech Mountain has a tubing area with multiple lanes that may be the fastest, based on our experiences.
- Hawksnest Snow Tubing and Ziplining (2058 Skyland Dr, Seven Devils, NC): Not far from Otter Falls, Hawksnest is one of our favorite places to spend a weekend in winter! It’s the largest snow tubing park on the East Coast, and they also have one of the longest zip lines in the nation!
- Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing Park (9472 NC-181, Newland, NC): Have you ever gone tubing at night? If not, then Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing Park has five lanes that are perfect for sliding down as the sun starts to set.
- Tube World (4821 Soco Rd, Maggie Valley, NC): Hit Tube World and Wee Bowl Snowplay Area for the kids or join a class at The Cataloochee Snow School. Their snow school also includes an adaptive ski program for adults and children.
- Sugar Mountain: Along with slopes, Sugar Mountain has a tubing park, an ice skating rink, and a public racing program.
- Wolf Ridge Ski Resort also has some fun snow tubing lanes with its exquisite amenities and ski slopes.
UNC Asheville Bulldogs Basketball (November to March)
Home games are played at Kimmel Arena, a 3,200-seat stadium on the UNC Asheville campus.
Things to Do in Asheville This Weekend (and All Year!)
Our monthly “things to do” posts and events calendar feature many of the above events. Now, let’s get to all the year-round fun in Asheville, no matter which weekend you decide to be here.
- Museums and Historic Sites
- Outdoor Activities
- Arcades and Indoor Games
- Art Scene
- River Arts District
- Music Venues
Museums in Asheville
Asheville Art Museum
Address: 2 S Pack Square, Asheville, NC
We think the Asheville Art Museum is one of the most underrated places to go, especially on rainy days. You’ll find an awesome contemporary art collection and thought-provoking special exhibits inside.
Asheville Museum of Science
Address: 43 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC
The Asheville Museum of Science is a great spot for all ages, especially kids. The French Broad River Water Table, as are the Southern Appalachian Forest play space and their awesome gem collection, is a big hit.
Read More: Children’s Museums in North Carolina
Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC
However, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular Asheville NC attractions. Start with a tour of the immaculate 250-room house.
After you’ve imagined how you’d utilize each room as your own, head outside for a walk around the beautiful gardens surrounding the house.
Address: 56 Broadway St, Front, Asheville, NC
And for a wonderfully curated timeline and interactive spot, spend some time at The Moogseum. It’s a fairly new museum in downtown Asheville and great for fans of synthesizers and the man behind them.
Thomas Wolfe Memorial
Address: 52 N Market St, Asheville, NC
Dubbed “Old Kentucky Home” by a former owner, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial was the setting in the famous author’s Look Homeward, Angel. It was his childhood home and today possesses many of the original furnishings from Wolfe’s life growing up there.
Thomas Wolfe’s grave is at Riverside Cemetery, where he and many other notable figures are buried and interred.
WNC Nature Center
Address: 75 Gashes Creek Rd, Asheville, NC
The 42-acre Western North Carolina Nature Center is home to various wildlife, indoor exhibits, and gardens. Popular exhibits include “Appalachian Station” and “Otter Falls,” not confused with this High Country waterfall hike.
Back to the WNC Nature Center, though, where there’s plenty more to explore, and you can learn about it here.
These outdoor activities in Asheville and nearby will take you to and through some of North Carolina’s most iconic attractions.
- Appalachian Trail Hikes
- Biking Trails
- Blue Ridge Parkway Stops
- Botanical Gardens
- DuPont State Recreational Forest
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- More Hikes Near Asheville
- State Parks Nearby
- The Urban Trail
Leave No Trace Reminder
Before enjoying these outdoor Asheville NC attractions, we want to remind you that leaving these places as you found them is important. Pack out what you pack in and leave no trace.
Appalachian Trail Hikes near Asheville
95.7 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) runs through Western NC‘s mountains. Visiting these highlights and trails is one of our favorite free things to do in Asheville.
- Fontana Dam
- Lovers Leap Trail in Hot Springs
- Max Patch Trail
- Roan Mountain near Bakersville and Burnsville
- Wayah Bald Lookout Tower
- Wesser Bald Fire Tower
Biking Trails in Asheville (and Nearby)
Asheville is an amazing place to ride a bike. With so many trails in the city and nearby, choosing one for the day is always hard.
Here are a few options in and around the city:
- Bent Creek Experimental Forest (mountain bike)
- The Blue Ridge Parkway (roadside)
- Carrier Park (paved loop)
- Point Lookout Greenway Bike Trail (paved greenway)
Blue Ridge Parkway Stops in Asheville (and Nearby)
Downtown Asheville from the Blue Ridge Parkway can be accessed at Milepost 382.5. These two stops are among the most iconic Blue Ridge Parkway attractions and the best things to do in Asheville.
- The Folk Art Center (382 Blue Rdg Pkwy, Asheville, NC) is a unique BRP stop at Milepost 382. It was established by the Southern Highland Craft Guild in 1930. The Folk Art Center is the oldest operating craft shop in the United States. With 30,000 square feet and an ADA-accessible trail, this stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a must!
- Visit the North Carolina Arboretum (100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC) to look at beautiful bonsais, hollies, and a massive collection of every US-native azalea species. There are also multiple hiking and biking trails to enjoy here.
Here are some other prominent Blue Ridge Parkway stops near Asheville. All are within 2 hours’ drive from the city and make a great day trip!
- Linville Falls (Milepost 316)
- Crabtree Falls near Burnsville in Yancey County (MP 339)
- Mount Mitchell State Park (MP 355), the tallest mountain peak east of the Rockies and the tallest of our Black Mountains
- Glassmine Falls (MP 361) – part of Pisgah National Forest
- Craggy Gardens (MP 364-367)
- Graveyard Fields (MP 418)
- Black Balsam Knob along the Art Loeb Trail (MP 420)
Read More: Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes
- We mentioned Biltmore Gardens already but want to remind you about this amazing space. The gardens at Biltmore Estate are one of our favorite places to visit during spring. Each section is filled with aesthetic beauty, making for a nice nature walk that serves as an excellent getaway during busy days at Biltmore.
- The Botanical Gardens at Asheville (151 WT Weaver Blvd, Asheville, NC) houses a beautiful collection of plants and habitats, emphasizing the southern Appalachian Mountains. It’s independently owned and operated, even though you’ll find the gardens after entering UNC-Asheville. No admission is required, making this another great free thing to do in Asheville.
Read More: Botanical Gardens in North Carolina
DuPont State Recreational Forest
If DuPont State Recreational Forest doesn’t immediately bring familiar images to mind, watch the first Hunger Games film or The Last of the Mohicans and return to me. These are two of many movies filmed in North Carolina, by the way!
This park’s waterfalls (including High Falls, Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls) bring in tons of people, though Lake Dense and Lake Julia (part of the Three Lakes Trail), and Wintergreen Falls are worth exploring, too!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This section’ll include GSMNP day trips from Asheville, a few attractions, and prominent gateway towns to America’s most popular national park.
- Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls: To reach the Big Creek Trailhead, cross over into Tennessee on I-40 and come back to North Carolina via the first exit. The hike to Mouse Creek Falls is a moderate 2-mile climb (4 miles roundtrip). On the way to the falls, and you’ll pass the beautiful Midnight Hole along the way.
- Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is one of the shortest GSMNP hikes but definitely worth it for the views. It’s open year-round but the road that leads to it closes from December 1 to March 31. You can reach it via both the Mountains to Sea Trail and Appalachian Trail.
- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance for the Deep Creek Trail is just three miles from downtown Bryson City. From this entrance, you can follow a 2.4-mile loop that leads to three spectacular waterfalls. Deep Creek Trail is a very easy hike and has plenty of spots for picnics, fishing, and even tubing!
Note: Dogs are not allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
More Hikes near Asheville
Beyond the Blue Ridge Parkway, there are additional amazing hikes near Asheville. Other than Chimney Rock State Park (which requires admission), you could say that these are some of the best free things to do in Asheville NC’s surroundings.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Bearwallow Mountain Trail
- Catawba Falls Trail
- Hawksbill Mountain Trail
- Panthertown Valley Trail (leads to Schoolhouse Falls and other highlights)
- Pink Beds Hike
- Table Rock Mountain Trail
Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina
Lakes Near Asheville NC
NC’s lakes are perfect for visiting throughout the year, with tons of space to cool off in the hot summer, hiking trails in surrounding forests, and fishing opportunities from your boat or a pier. Many of them are within a reasonable drive, we consider these lakes among the best things to do near Asheville.
- Fontana Lake is the largest lake in Western North Carolina. Fontana Lake is a reservoir dammed by Fontana Dam, the highest dam east of the Rockies at 480 feet tall.
- Lake James is part of Lake James State Park, established in 1987. The state park encompasses 3,743 acres surrounding the lake and offers miles of hiking and biking trails.
- Lake Lure is a mountain town and a lake in the Hickory Nut Gorge. It’s about 27 miles east of Asheville and a popular tourist spot. The 720-acre lake is encased within the town, making it the local community and culture center. Check out the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge while you’re there. You and the kids will love it!
- W. Kerr Scott Reservoir in Wilkes County is a 1,500-acre lake run by the Army Corps of Engineers. The lake features 6 boat launches and 3 campgrounds with over 200 campsites. The park’s 1,000-seat amphitheater often sees theatrical performances by Bleu Moon Productions of Tom Dooley and Junior Johnson plays. The Environmental Education Center‘s interactive kid-friendly (and all ages-friendly) exhibits await to educate you on the area’s ecology.
State Parks Near Asheville
All the state parks we’ll mention in this section are within a two-hour drive from Asheville.
- Chimney Rock State Park
- Crowders Mountain State Park
- Gorges State Park
- Grandfather Mountain State Park
- Lake James State Park
- Mount Mitchell State Park
- South Mountains State Park
Waterfalls Near Asheville
Asheville is also surrounded by beautiful waterfalls, with a few already mentioned in the above hiking section.
Before you visit, remember to leave no trace. Pack in and out, and please do not litter in our beloved public spaces.
Also, practice proper safety when visiting these outdoor spaces.
- Crabtree Falls (1.6 miles from the trailhead): We have a lot of favorite Blue Ridge Parkway sections and the area around Crabtree Falls (MP 339) is one of them. Seeing the gorgeous 70-foot waterfall requires a 2.5-mile round trip hike through hardwoods and rhododendron-covered paths.
- Deep Creek Trail: Deep Creek Trail inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park will take you to three waterfalls near Bryson City—Indian Creek Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Juney Whank Falls).
- Dry Falls (0.2 miles from the trailhead): Dry Falls is a quarter-mile kid-friendly trail that is truly one of a kind! It’s also one of the few waterfalls in North Carolina that you can walk behind!
- French Broad Falls (Mill Shoals) and Bird Rock Falls: French Broad Falls is a set of twin waterfalls near Asheville, closest to Brevard and off the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. A second waterfall (Bird Rock Falls or Cathedral Falls) is reachable within a half-mile roundtrip hike.
- Looking Glass Falls: Looking Glass Falls offers easily accessible and incredible views. You can take a short walk down some stairs from the parking lot to reach an even closer view of this 60-foot waterfall near Brevard.
- Rainbow Falls Trail to Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls (1.75 miles from the trailhead): The Rainbow Falls Trail takes you outside Gorges State Park‘s boundaries into Pisgah National Forest. Rainbow Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina.
- Upper Whitewater Falls: Not far from Gorges State Park and Brevard, this is the highest in the eastern US, falling more than 800 feet.)
Ziplining at the Adventure Center of Asheville
Address: 85 Expo Drive, Asheville, NC
Asheville might be a bustling city, but it’s still nestled in the forests and mountains that characterize Western North Carolina. As such, there’s no better way to enjoy the wilderness feel of Asheville than ziplining through the forest.
The Adventure Center of Asheville offers ziplining for all ages, especially kids from ages 4-10. The Adventure Center offers other fun as well, including a treetops adventure course, a bike park, and more.
Arcades and Indoor Games
While we always cross our fingers for great Asheville weather, some days aren’t meant for outdoor adventures. Thankfully, there are plenty of rainy-day things to do in Asheville.
Asheville Pinball Museum
Address: 1 Battle Square Ste 1b, Asheville, NC
You can easily spend a few hours at the Asheville Pinball Museum, home to dozens of games you can learn about and play. Some of their machines are for sale if you want to take one home.
The museum gets busy fast, so show up early or prepare to wait a while before getting in.
More AVL Indoor Games
That includes these arcades, bowling alleys, and indoor game centers:
- A-Escape (12 Balance Lane, Asheville, NC)
- Asheville Retrocade (800 Haywood Road, Asheville, NC)
- Better Than Unicorns VR Arena (821 Riverside Drive, Asheville, NC)
- Breakout (60 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Fox-N-Otter Adventure Escapes (3 Locations)
- 3 S Tunnel Rd Suite K14, Asheville, NC
- 3749 Sweeten Creek Rd Unit 2, Arden, NC
- 1800 4 Seasons Blvd D21, Hendersonville, NC
- Level 256 Classic Arcade Bar (79 Coxe Avenue, Asheville, NC)
- Well Played Board Game Cafe (162 Coxe Ave #101, Asheville, NC)
Asheville Art Scene
Exploring the area’s art scene is an overwhelming thing to do in Asheville. That’s because of the numerous studios and galleries to visit.
River Arts District Asheville NC
The Asheville River Arts District (RAD) has 200 artists working in over 20 former industrial buildings. We’ve experienced the area many times and learned about its history, meeting with some excellent artists who make this area special.
Prominent names and businesses that you should check out include:
- John Almaguer (Glassblower)
- NC Glass Center
- Stephen St. Claire (Dialuminist)
- Daniel McClendon (Fine Art Painter)
- Andrea Kulish (Pysanky Artist)
- Sunnyside Trading Co (Imported Antique and Furniture)
Asheville Art Galleries
- While Downtown, you can start exploring the 20-plus shops that make up the Downtown Asheville Arts District. Highlights include the Asheville Gallery of Art (82 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC), the Ariel Gallery (19 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC), and Woolworth Walk (I’m a sucker for soda fountains).
- The Kress Emporium (19 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC) is a wonderful art collection in Asheville. Showcasing the work of more than 80 regional artists and craftspeople, you’ll also find a wide selection of fine antiques and collectibles here
- In Biltmore Village, New Morning Gallery (7 Boston Way, Asheville, NC) is one of the US’s finest and largest craft galleries. Their collection includes hundreds of artists specializing in ceramics, wood, glass, and much more.
- Even if you’re not staying at the adjacent Omni Grove Park Inn, check out Historic Grovewood Village (111 Grovewood Rd, Asheville, NC). Here, you can dig deeper into Vanderbilt’s backstory, check out local crafts at the Gallery of the Mountains, and shop art at Grovewood Gallery.
Live Music Venues
Asheville has long been a haven for live music and venues are scattered throughout the city. Some are among the best and most iconic in North Carolina, and they include the following places:
- Asheville Music Hall (31 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC)
- The Grey Eagle (185 Clingman Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Harrah’s Cherokee Center (87 Haywood St, Asheville, NC)
- Off the Wagon Dueling Piano Bar (22 N Market St, Asheville, NC)
- The Orange Peel (101 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Rabbit Rabbit (75 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Salvage Station (468 Riverside Dr, Asheville, NC)
- Scandals Nightclub (11 Grove St, Asheville, NC)
Shopping in Asheville
Dozens of local businesses in Asheville are waiting for you to visit. Over the years, we and our wallets have fallen in love with these places.
Address: 1 Page Ave, Asheville, NC
Grove Arcade has everything boiled into one spot, with local artists and galleries mixed in. This historic building was one of America’s first indoor shopping malls and has stuck around for nearly 100 years, like many places in Asheville.
Whether you shop inside or grab a bite out on the street, stopping by the Arcade is definitely one of the best Asheville NC things to do.
55 Haywood St, Asheville, NC
Their café offers locally roasted coffee and bakery items.
Malaprops hosts book clubs, partners regularly with local and area nonprofits, and does everything they can to give back. They also host almost daily events.
WNC Farmers Market
Address: 570 Brevard Rd, Asheville, NC
The Western NC Farmers Market is open daily throughout the year, and you can spend a lot of time here. Peruse the retail area and open-air buildings for local fruits, veggies, preserves, and other farm-fresh items.
A nursery center on-site is very nice to walk through, especially for a glance at the 40-foot waterfall. The WNC Farmers Market also hosts special events throughout the year, a bonus for visiting.
Spas and Massage
Asheville has always been known as a health retreat, and these wonderful spas help the city live up to its reputation:
- Asheville Salt Cave (16 N Liberty St, Asheville, NC): This is a truly unique thing to do in Asheville. Reserve your spot for a public salt cave session, a traditional massage, or a self-guided Turkish Hammam session.
- Omni Grove Park Inn Spa (290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC): The Omni Grove Park Inn Spa is something everyone should experience (we loved it!), but you should plan for it. Please book a day pass, a massage, or both in advance.
- Sauna House (230 Short Coxe Avenue, Asheville, NC): At Sauna House, you can enjoy a private session in the hot and cold rooms or book a public session in the bathhouse. Either way, your body will thank you for it.
- Shoji Spa & Retreat (96 Avondale Heights Rd, Asheville, NC): Japanese-inspired Shoji Spa is a mountainside retreat. Its equipment and the yukata you’ll don are reminiscent of saunas across the Pacific.
We mentioned river tubing operators in our Seasonal Attractions section. These tour operators will show you around Asheville from a variety of perspectives.
When someone asks about where to eat in Asheville, it’s hard not to name dozens of spots. One way to get a nice sampling of the city’s eats is via a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour.
They also offer the knowledge necessary to go out and seek out spirits on your own.
Gray Line Tours
Address: 36 Montford Ave, Asheville, NC
A Gray Line Trolley Tour will take you all over the city and is a convenient and entertaining way to get a handle on Asheville. It’s one of the best things to do in Asheville with kids, too. The guides are funny, though Uncle Ted’s enthusiasm and storytelling were hard to beat.
Hood Huggers International Tours
Address: 47 Bryant St, Asheville, NC
Dig into Black history in Asheville via DeWayne Barton and his Hood Huggers International Tours. You’ll walk (or even drive) through neighborhoods known for their arts, music, and other grassroots initiatives.
Above all, the theme in this community is resilience. It’s worth remembering during one of Barton’s tours.
LaZoom Comedy Bus Tours
Address: 76 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC
LaZoom Comedy Bus Tours are the perfect way to learn about Asheville while also laughing uncontrollably. Tours range from 60 minutes to 3 hours, with an option for kids to enjoy, too!
The Moog Factory
Address: 160 Broadway St, Asheville, NC
You can learn about Robert Moog’s creation in Asheville in two places. First, see where they’re built and tour The Moog Factory.
Restaurants in Asheville
- I’m still reminiscing about the hummus and tasty creations found at Jerusalem Garden Cafe (78 Patton Ave).
- Another amazing Asheville restaurant is Early Girl Eatery (multiple locations), whose delicious shrimp and grits remain on my mind. It’s also one of our favorite breakfast restaurants in North Carolina.
- And another must-eat North Carolina barbecue stop is right here in Asheville! Head over to Buxton Hall (32 Banks Ave) for some wood-smoked melt-in-your-mouth pork! They also make a great take-home Thanksgiving Dinner if you’re in the area then and don’t want to prepare everything from scratch!
- Of course, we can’t forget places like Biscuit Head (multiple locations) and White Duck Taco (12 Biltmore Ave), and French Broad Chocolate Lounge (10 S Pack Square), but we’re going to stop at that for now.
Read More: Restaurants in Asheville
Breweries in Asheville (South Slope and Beyond)
The sheer number of Asheville breweries blows me away. Big names and smaller ones stand side by side throughout the city and on the outskirts.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Burial Beer Co
- South Slope (40 Collier Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Forestry Camp (10 Shady Oak Dr, Asheville, NC)
- Catawba: They might’ve started in Morganton (and sadly left), but their two locations in Asheville deserve mention, too.
- South Slope (32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Biltmore Village (63 Brook St, Asheville, NC)
- Green Man
- Dirty Jack’s (23 Buxton Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Green Mansion (27 Buxton Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Highland Brewing
- Original Location (12 Old Charlotte Highway #200, Asheville, NC)
- S&W Market (56 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC)
- New Belgium Brewing (21 Craven St, Asheville, NC)
- One World Brewing
- Downtown (10 Patton Ave #002, Asheville, NC)
- West Asheville (520 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC)
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (100 Sierra Nevada Way, Fletcher, NC)
- Twin Leaf (144 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Wicked Weed Brewing
- Brewpub (91 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Funkatorium (147 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC)
- Wedge Brewing Co.
- Foundation (5 Foundy St, Asheville, NC)
- Wedge Studios (37 Paynes Way, Asheville, NC)
Distilleries (Chemist and Antidote)
Chemist (151 Coxe Ave) is another South Slope Brewing District place to visit, and you’ll see why after stopping by their prohibition-era tasting room. Antidote, Their adjoining cocktail bar, promises “the cure for the common cocktail.”
Read More: Distilleries in North Carolina
More Things to Do Near Asheville NC
Beyond everything we’ve already mentioned, there are plenty of things to do in Asheville’s surroundings. If the weather is especially awesome or you’ve run out of things to do (how?), there are more these small towns are the perfect getaway.
- Black Mountain
- Flat Rock
Read More: Day Trips from Asheville
Distance from Asheville: 10 miles (15 minutes)
The Zebulon B Vance Birthplace State Historic Site sits about five minutes from downtown Weaverville. Inside the town, you’ll find a wonderful gathering of shops, restaurants, and more spots that highlight this awesome community.
We also love the scenic Lake Louise Park, nice for a stroll any day!
Distance from Asheville: 16 miles (19 minutes)
You don’t even have to leave Buncombe County when searching for things to do around Asheville. We think you could start with Black Mountain.
This fun small town also features quaint shops, impressive restaurants, great breweries, Black Mountain College, and the always beautiful Lake Tomahawk.
Read More: North Carolina Mountain Towns
Distance from Asheville: 36 miles (40 minutes)
Burnsville is the gateway to Mount Mitchell and elsewhere in the Black Mountains. You’ll find a variety of historic buildings and great local businesses (including shops and restaurants) around Town Square.
Nu-Wray Inn and the Parkway Playhouse are two wonderful examples. Toe River Arts serves many artists in the area, and each August, the Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair draws creators from all over NC, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Distance from Asheville: 34 miles (45 minutes)
Distance from Asheville: 26 miles (31 minutes)
Hendersonville is also south of Asheville and worth exploring, especially for their wonderful downtown and great restaurant scene! One of the best things to do in Asheville is to take late summer and early fall day trips to apple orchards and the NC Apple Festival around Labor Day.
Read More: Hiking Tails near Hendersonville
Distance from Asheville: 31 miles (36 minutes)
You can also head out to Flat Rock, south of Hendersonville, and explore the Carl Sandburg Home. This National Parks site is where the Pulitzer Prize-winning author lived for the final 22 years of his life, seeking solitude and a place to continue writing.
Flat Rock is also home to some great restaurants, including Hubba Hubba Smokehouse and the Flat Rock Wood Room. Being in Henderson County, you should know about the awesome Sky Top Orchard and other great places to go apple picking.
Things to Do in Asheville FAQ
What are the Best Things to Do in Asheville?
We made some tough decisions when picking our favorite things to do in Asheville. Nevertheless, here’s what we think are the best of the best:
South Slope Breweries
River Arts District Art Studios
Omni Grove Park Inn
Is Asheville NC safe?
Yes, Asheville has a homeless population and crime. However, if you check official FBI crime statistics, you’ll find that Asheville has a lower crime rate per capita than many small towns in North Carolina and in the US.
Ready for These Things to Do in Asheville NC and Nearby?
Thanks to all these fun things to do in Asheville, we are ready to go back right now! What about you? Are you ready for an awesome Asheville, NC trip?
If you’ve recently stayed, we’d love to know how you enjoyed this special town because keeping tabs on one of our favorite cities in North Carolina is always nice.
What do you think are the best things to do in Asheville? We’re all ears! We’d love to read about them in the comments section.
Don’t forget to share your Asheville adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!
More Asheville NC Things to Do (Travel Guides)
We’ve created many more travel guides that cover these Asheville NC attractions and places nearby. Here are a few of them.