36 of the BEST Things to do in Asheville: Foodtopia Finds, Hikes, and More

Last Updated on July 2, 2021

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We know this awesome mountain city tops many people’s lists of places to visit in North Carolina, and we’re going to share the best things to do in Asheville and in nearby spots.

Many folks know that it’s packed with some of the most amazing food and some of the state’s best breweries, but we know that there’s some well-preserved history, an amazing arts scene, and more that’ll keep you coming back. 

If you’re planning on spending a couple of days here (or more), we’ve created this guide that covers things to do in Asheville throughout the year, no matter when you decide to visit.

Asheville NC

Here’s how we’ve organized this guide, in case you’re looking for specific things to do in Asheville (Categories in Bold followed by Sub-categories):

  • Things to Do in Asheville
  • Downtown
  • River Arts District
  • West Asheville
  • Biltmore Estate
  • Restaurants in Asheville
  • Breweries in Asheville (South Slope and Beyond)
  • Things to Do in Asheville’s Surroundings
  • Surrounding Small Towns
  • Hikes Near Asheville
  • More Things to Do in Asheville (Related Posts)

This post is a part of our series on Asheville and more spots in Western North Carolina.

Where to Stay Downtown (and Close By)

Before exploring all the awesome things to do in Asheville, you must find a great place to stay and we have plenty of experience here.

There are tons of hotels in Asheville to choose from, yet which one should you pick for your time here? If you’re seeking a larger outfit with valet and all the perks, a place like Cambria will be what you want. 

For a cool-looking Bed and Breakfast within minutes of Downtown and Biltmore, check out Cedar Crest Inn.

For more rentals, check out our guide covering Airbnbs in Asheville, many of which rank highly among the coolest Airbnbs in North Carolina.

Things to Do in Asheville


Downtown Asheville NC Drum Circle Image

Downtown Asheville is filled with historic buildings, interesting shops, restaurants, and more along the way. Starting there is among the first things to do in Asheville.

Of all the days to be downtown, choose Friday at around 6:00 pm. That’s because the weekly Drum Circle begins then!

Grove Arcade

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 things to do in Asheville.

Take a Trolley Tour!

What to Do in Asheville NC Gray Line Trolley Tour Image

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. The guides are funny, though Uncle Ted’s enthusiasm and storytelling were hard to beat.

You can book tickets via their website or in person at the Asheville Visitor Center.

Join Hood Huggers International Tours

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 definitely worth remembering during one of Barton’s tours.

Pack Square Park

Pack Square Park is named for the person who donated the land that it was built upon. It’s got bronze pigs and turkeys, a ceramic-tiled stage setting, and hosts special events throughout the year to keep this place on your list of things to do in Asheville. 

Asheville’s first food festival, Chow Chow, held many of its events in Pack Square!

Wall Street

Wall Street is a nice little nook between Patton Ave and Battery Park that’s great for shopping and eating (see below), but also for checking out the bronze sculptures that make up the “Cat Walk.”

Thomas Wolfe Memorial

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. 

You can find Thomas Wolfe’s grave at Riverside Cemetery, where he and many other notable figures are buried and interred. 

Asheville Pinball Museum

You can easily spend a few hours at the Asheville Pinball Museum, home to dozens of games that you can learn about and, of course, play. Some of their machines are for sale, in case you want to take one home.

The museum gets busy fast, so show up early or prepare to wait a while before getting in. 

The Moog Factory and Moogseum

Asheville NC Attractions Moogseum Image

There are two places where you can learn about Robert Moog’s creation in Asheville. See where they’re built and take a tour at The Moog Factory

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. 

If you live in Durham or come to the area often, Moogfest is an annual celebration of Moog’s creation each April

Asheville Museum of Science

The Asheville Museum of Science is a great spot for all ages, especially kids. The French Broad River Water Table is a big hit, as are the Southern Appalachian Forest play space and Hurricane Simulator.

We included the Asheville Museum of Science among more awesome ones for kids that we featured here!

Downtown Asheville Art

While Downtown, you can start exploring stroll through the 20-plus shops that make up the Downtown Asheville Arts District. Highlights include the Asheville Gallery of Art, the Ariel Gallery (jewelry, ceramics, glass, and more), and Woolworth Walk (I’m a sucker for soda fountains). 

Between April and December, the districts hosts “First Fridays” with music, demos, gallery openings, and more. 

Things to Do Elsewhere in Asheville

Catch an Asheville Tourists Game

McCormick Field was one of the stadiums featured in the iconic Bull Durham and the Asheville Tourists continue to play there today. And if you’re in town from April to September, you might just be able to see them in action battling their South Atlantic League rivals. 

River Arts District

River Arts District Asheville NC Image

The Asheville River Arts District (RAD) is packed with more than 200 artists working in more than 20 former industrial buildings. We toured the area and learned about its history, meeting with some excellent artists who really make this area special. 

Prominent names that you should check out include John Almaguer (Glassblower and our tour guide), Stephen St. Claire (Dialuminist), Daniel McClendon (Fine Art Painter), and Andrea Kulish (Pysanky Artist).

We suggest you join one of John Almaguer’s Asheville Art Studio tours if you’d like a great rundown of the River Arts District. Have you ever been?

West Asheville

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.

Dolly Mural in Asheville NC

It’s a nice and walkable neighborhood where you’ll find familiar mainstays like Biscuit Head and Early Girl, which we mention when talking food in Asheville later on here and in this post. New Belgium is also in this part of town, and we’ll talk more about it when discussing Asheville breweries.

Biltmore Estate

Things to Do in Asheville NC Biltmore Estate Image

Known as “America’s Largest Home,” it’s nearly impossible to understand the scale of Biltmore Estate. It’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular things to do in Asheville. 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 that surround the house. 

We enjoyed Biltmore’s flowers so much, that we included them as part of our guides to spring and spring break in North Carolina.

Finally, you can top your day off with a tasting at Biltmore’s historic winery and take at least a bottle or two home. This is one of the best North Carolina wineries for good reason.

Biltmore Estate Gardens Asheville NC Image
Spring at Biltmore Estate is pretty nice, huh?

Visiting Biltmore for their Christmas celebration should make your list of winter things to do in North Carolina. And if you need further convincing, we came up with a dozen things we love about Biltmore Estate.

New Morning Gallery

Right across the street in Biltmore Village, New Morning Gallery is one of the finest and largest craft galleries in the US. Their collection includes hundreds of artists specializing in ceramics, wood, glass, and much more. 

The Cathedral of All Souls

The Cathedral of All Souls is also in Biltmore Village and a beautiful place to spend some of your time in Asheville. It’s open to visitors on Mondays (9:00 am to 4:00 pm) to Saturdays (11:00 am to 1:30 pm). 

WNC Farmers Market

The Western NC Farmers Market is open daily throughout the year, and you can spend a ton of time here. Peruse the retail area and open-air buildings for local fruits and veggies, preserves, and other farm-fresh items.

There’s a nursery center on-site that’s 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, which is an added bonus for visiting. 

WNC Nature Center

Things to Do in Asheville NC WNC Nature Center Image

The 42-acre Western North Carolina Nature Center is home to a variety of wildlife, indoor exhibits, and gardens. Popular exhibits include “Appalachian Station” and “Otter Falls,” not to be 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

Botanical Gardens at Asheville

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville houses a beautiful collection of plants and habitats with an emphasis on the southern Appalachian Mountains. It’s independently owned and operated, even though you’ll find the gardens after entering UNC-Asheville

Grovewood Gallery

Even if you’re not staying at the adjacent Omni Grove Park Inn, check out Historic Grovewood Village. Here, you can dig even deeper into the Vanderbilt’s backstory, check out local crafts at the Gallery of the Mountains, and shop art at Grovewood Gallery. 

NC Arboretum

Visit the NC Arboretum for a 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. 

Spend time here and you’ll see why this is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in North Carolina.

Restaurants in Asheville

I’m still reminiscing about the hummus and tasty creations found at Jerusalem Garden Cafe. Another amazing Asheville restaurant is Early Girl Eatery, 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 for some wood-smoked-melt-in-your-mouth pork!

Of course, we can’t forget places like Biscuit Head and White Duck Taco, but we’re going to stop at that for now. We also shared more restaurants in Asheville here!

Join an Asheville Food Tour

When someone asks about where to eat in Asheville, it’s hard to not name off dozens of spots. One way to get a nice sampling of the city’s eats is via a Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tour.

Breweries in Asheville (South Slope and Beyond)

I’m blown away by the sheer number of Asheville breweries to explore. Big names and smaller ones stand side by side throughout the city and on the outskirts. 

Wicked Weed Brewing is one of our favorites in town, especially if you walk around back and hang out outside the Funkatorium. 

Twin Leaf is across the street from the Funkatorium and a nice spot to chill inside with some music or outside at a picnic table. I know Catawba might’ve started in Morganton, but their two locations in Asheville deserve a mention, too.

One World Brewing is pumping out great stuff from their Downtown and West Asheville locations. Wedge Brewing Co. in West Asheville is another one you should check out. 

More breweries in South Slope and beyond in Asheville that we’ve enjoyed include the following:

New Belgium and Sierra Nevada

Of course, there are the huge names that call the area their second home—New Belgium Brewing and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Both have different setups but are great for hanging out alone or with friends. The latter is a bit of a journey away from town, but not too far away.

If you’ve had the chance to visit, what do you think are the best breweries in Asheville? We included a few of Asheville’s best among our favorite North Carolina breweries.

The city’s beer scene makes up a big part of our collection of Bucket List Things to Do in North Carolina

Chemist and Antidote

Chemist is another South Slope Brewing District place to visit and you’ll see why after stopping by their prohibition-era tasting room. There’s a “New Western” style of vapor infusion at Chemist, which highlights citrus, rose, and mint instead of juniper.

Antidote, Their adjoining cocktail bar, promises “the cure for the common cocktail.” 

We included Chemist in our guide to distilleries in North Carolina, too!

Things to Do in Asheville’s Surroundings

If the weather is especially awesome, there are more than a few day trip-worthy spots around. We definitely think you’ll enjoy these fun things to do near Asheville.

Surrounding Small Towns

Downtown Brevard NC Image
Downtown Brevard.

You’ll find some pretty awesome mountain towns are within a short drive of Asheville if you venture out. We’ve loved exploring Brevard and all the awesome waterfalls nearby.

Some of them are among the best in North Carolina and our favorites include Looking Glass Falls and Moore Cove Falls, with the always popular Sliding Rock just down the road!

Hendersonville is also south of Asheville and worth exploring, especially for their Apple Festival around Labor Day.

You can also head out to Flat Rock, south of Hendersonville, and explore the Carl Sandburg Home. This is where the Pulitzer Prize-winning author lived for the final 22 years of his life, seeking solitude and a place to continue writing.

Black Mountain NC

To the west, Black Mountain is always worthy of a stop, especially for visits to Lake Tomahawk. 

Some of these places were featured in our roundup of North Carolina’s amazing small towns. Got a favorite near Asheville that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section! 

Hikes Near Asheville

catawba falls north carolina
Catawba Falls.

There are some amazing hikes near Asheville. Some really cool ones include Graveyard Fields (and Skinny Dip Falls nearby), Looking Glass Rock, and Craggy Gardens. We’re also huge fans of the Catawba Falls hike, about 30 minutes away from Asheville.

While many hiking trails near Asheville will take you through wood-covered mountains, we also think you should explore the mountain balds like Black Balsam Knob or the shorter Bearwallow Mountain.

Crabtree Falls near Asheville Blowing Rock Boone NC

You can also venture a bit further and find yourself exploring Black Mountains hikes like those found inside Mount Mitchell State Park. Crabtree Falls is the most popular waterfall in that area, and there’s plenty more to explore in Burnsville and Yancey County.

We’ve featured these paths and more among our favorite hiking trails in North Carolina.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Many hikes are found via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Of course, you can just drive it and admire the beauty that surrounds you when stopping at its many overlooks and viewpoints.

Of course, it’s a shoo-in for our guide to scenic road trips in North Carolina, along with some other nearby byways!

The Folk Art Center

While driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stop by the Folk Art Center (Mile Marker 382), which is about five miles from Downtown Asheville. Inside, you’ll find three galleries and a craft shop, which is the oldest of the Southern Highland Craft Guild

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Many folks love to bounce from Asheville to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that North Carolina shares with Tennessee. It’s America’s most visit national park for a reason, as you can easily see when there. 

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

The Blue Ridge Parkway ends at New Found Gap, which runs into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Keep following that and eventually, you can turn off to Clingmans Dome Road. At the end of that, you’ll reach the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower parking lot.

Take a half-mile walk up and you’ll reach the tower, leading to amazing 360-degree views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

Pisgah National Forest

No matter which direction you’re coming from to reach Asheville, there’s a good chance you’ll pass through Pisgah National Forest. At over 500,000 acres, this massive patch of land is filled with plenty of beautiful places to explore.

One of our favorites, Linville Falls, is an hour-plus drive away from Asheville. 

Nantahala National Forest

Upper Whitewater Falls from the Upper Observatory
Upper Whitewater Falls.

And then there’s Nantahala, which is North Carolina’s largest national forest. It’s known for beautiful waterfalls, trails, and Cherohala Skyway that cuts through it. We’re particularly fond of Upper Whitewater Falls in Jackson County, just over the border from Transylvania County and South Carolina.

Fun Fact: it is the highest in the eastern US, falling more than 800 feet.

Ready for These Things to Do in Asheville?

Thanks to all these fun things to do in Asheville, we are definitely ready to go back right now! What about you? Are you ready for an awesome weekend in Asheville, NC? 

If you’ve recently stayed, we’d love to know how you enjoyed this special town because it’s always nice to keep tabs on one of our favorite cities in North Carolina.

More Things to Do in Asheville

4 thoughts on “36 of the BEST Things to do in Asheville: Foodtopia Finds, Hikes, and More”

  1. I lived in Asheville for three years. It wasn’t nearly enough time to see and experience all the wonders of the area. I fully intend to return! I just wanted to say, this article made me home sick BUT it’s an excellent cross section of what Asheville has to offer.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Angela! Asheville most definitely is something special. We hope that you get to come back for a visit soon!


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