Last Updated on October 21, 2021
Last Updated on October 21, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
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.
Here’s how we’ve organized this guide, in case you’re looking for something specific:
- Where to Stay
- Annual Events (During a Typical Year)
- Year-Round Things to Do in Asheville (Downtown)
- More Things to Do in Asheville Beyond Downtown (River Arts District, West Asheville, Biltmore, and More!)
- Restaurants in Asheville
- Breweries in Asheville (South Slope and Beyond)
- Blue Ridge Parkway Stops near Asheville
- Nearby Hiking Trails and Waterfalls
- Things to Do in Asheville’s Surroundings (Day Trips)
- More Things to Do in Asheville (Related Posts)
Where to Stay (and Close By)
Before exploring all the awesome things to do in Asheville, you must find a place to stay, and we have plenty of experience here.
There are many hotels in Asheville to choose from, yet which one should you pick for your time here? If you’re seeking a larger outfit with a 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.
Things to Do in Asheville (Annual Events)
Before we share year-round things to do in Asheville, here are some of the best annual events to keep you busy:
- Asheville Art in the Park (June and October): Asheville Art in the Park (June 12, 19, 26 and October 2, 9, 16, 2021) 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.
- Asheville Tourists 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.
- Christmas at Biltmore (November 5, 2021 to January 9, 2022): 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.
- Fall Foliage (Early October): Fall is the best time to visit Asheville, mainly because of fall foliage. We follow this map created by App State University, in case you’d like to know exact dates for the area.
- Friday Drum Circles (April to October): Of all the days to be downtown, choose Friday at around 6:00 pm. That’s because the weekly Drum Circle begins then!
- First Fridays (April to December): The Downtown Arts District hosts “First Fridays” from April to December with music, demos, gallery openings, and more.
- LEAF Downtown Asheville (August 27-28, 2021): is a free event that comes to Pack Square each year. Over two days, there’s international music, art, workshops, food and drinks, and more!
- The North Carolina Ceramic Arts Festival (October 23, 2021): During the NC Ceramic Arts Festival, 40 national ceramic art vendors are joined by food trucks, raku demonstrations, and more.
Year-Round Things to Do in Asheville (Downtown)
Downtown Asheville is filled with historic buildings, interesting shops, restaurants, and more along the way. So starting there is among the first things to do in Asheville.
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!
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.
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 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
There are two places where you can learn about Robert Moog’s creation in Asheville. First, see where they’re built and take a tour of 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.
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.
Read More: Children’s Museums in North Carolina
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).
More Things to Do in Asheville (Beyond Downtown)
River Arts District
The Asheville River Arts District (RAD) is packed with 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.
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.
It’s a nice and walkable neighborhood where you’ll find familiar mainstays like Biscuit Head and Early Girl
New Belgium is also in this part of town, and we’ll talk more about it when discussing Asheville breweries.
Read More: Restaurants in Asheville
Known as “America’s Largest Home,” it’s nearly impossible to understand the scale of Biltmore Estate. However, 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.
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 a good reason.
New Morning Gallery
Right across the street in Biltmore Village, New Morning Gallery 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.
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 from 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, a bonus for visiting.
WNC Nature Center
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.
Botanical Gardens at Asheville
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville 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.
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 Vanderbilt’s backstory, check out local crafts at the Gallery of the Mountains, and shop art at Grovewood Gallery.
The North Carolina Arboretum
Visit the North Carolina Arboretum 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.
Read More: 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.
Read More: Restaurants in Asheville
Join an Asheville Food Tour
When someone asks about where to eat in Asheville, it’s hard not to 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.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Wicked Weed Brewing
- Twin Leaf
- One World Brewing
- Wedge Brewing Co.
- Green Man
- Catawba (might’ve started in Morganton, but their two locations in Asheville deserve mention, too.)
New Belgium and Sierra Nevada
Of course, the huge names 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.
Read More: North Carolina Breweries
Distilleries (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.”
Read More: Distilleries in North Carolina
Things to Do Nearby (Blue Ridge Parkway Stops)
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of our favorite things to do in Asheville. You can drive it and admire the beauty that surrounds you when stopping at this scenic road‘s many overlooks and viewpoints.
Here are some of our favorite stops near Asheville:
- Linville Falls (MP 316)
- Crabtree Falls near Burnsville in Yancey County (MP 339)
- Mount Mitchell State Park (355), the tallest mountain peak east of the Rocks and the tallest of our Black Mountains
- Glassmine Falls (MP 361)
- Craggy Gardens (MP 364-367)
- The Folk Art Center (Mile Post 382)
- Skinny Dip Falls (MP 417)
- Graveyard Fields (MP 418)
- Black Balsam Knob along the Art Loeb Trail (MP 420)
Read More: Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes
Nearby Hikes and Waterfalls
- Bearwallow Mountain Trail
- Clingmans Dome Observation Tower and Deep Creek Trail inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Catawba Falls Trail
- High Falls Loop and the Bridal Veil Falls hike in DuPont State Forest
- Lovers Leap and Wayah Bald on the Appalachian Trail
- Panthertown Valley Trail (leads to Schoolhouse Falls and other highlights)
- Upper Whitewater Falls. (Fun Fact: it is the highest in the eastern US, falling more than 800 feet.)
Read More: Hiking Trails in North Carolina
More Things to Do in Asheville’s Surroundings (Nearby Towns)
If the weather is especially awesome, there are more than a few small towns near Asheville.
Read More: Day Trips from Asheville
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
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.
To the west, Black Mountain is always worthy of a stop, especially for visits to Lake Tomahawk. This fun small town also features quaint shops, impressive restaurants (including Phil’s Bar-B-Que Pit!), and one of our favorite North Carolina distilleries (Oak & Grist).
Read More: North Carolina Mountain Towns
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.
What are your things to do in Asheville? We’d love to read about them in the comments section or in our inbox.