Asheville is located in western North Carolina and is a city with an average altitude of 2,216 feet, protected from severe temperature changes by mountain chains. It was incorporated in 1797 and named for Governor Samuel Ashe.
Asheville became a mountain tobacco center in 1870 and a major tourist destination in the late 19th century. The city’s growth was facilitated by the Western North Carolina Railroad in 1880, leading to a cycle of economic booms and busts.
Asheville is situated in the French Broad River Valley and is encompassed by the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. It serves as the main center of the entire area.
Asheville, NC is a versatile city with a blend of different characteristics and personalities. It is famous for being a beautiful mountain town, a hub for hipsters, a city for beer lovers, a college town, and a culinary destination.
No matter your interests, there are plenty of best things to do and see in Asheville for everyone. History buffs can visit the Biltmore Estate, foodies can indulge in a variety of cuisine, and art lovers can stroll through the River Arts District.
Adventure lovers can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, zip lining or whitewater rafting in the surrounding parks & forests.
28 Best things to do in Asheville, NC
1. Biltmore Estate
George Vanderbilt fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1888 and created the iconic Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.
Visitors can explore Biltmore House, the largest home in America filled with beautiful architecture, valuable artwork, offering a glimpse into the life of the early 20th century.
Plus, you can find the 250-acre gardens boast stunning mountain views and a diverse collection of plants, both native and exotic.
To experience the estate’s agricultural heritage, visit Antler Hill Village, which offers exhibits, live entertainment, and family fun.
Wine lovers will enjoy the Biltmore Winery, offering complimentary tastings and a tour of the wine cellar.
There’s also great dining, shopping and luxury lodging options for your visit. Biltmore is open 365 days a year, so check out biltmore to get tickets and plan your visit.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best things to do and see in Asheville because it is one of America’s most picturesque drives. It is an incredible 469 mile long drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering stunning vistas and recreational opportunities.
It began as an idea by North Carolina geologist Joseph Hyde Pratt, and was endorsed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. Construction began in 1935, mostly completed by 1966, and was finally finished by 1987 with the completion of the Linn Cove Viaduct.
The Parkway has several entrances in Asheville, and popular overlooks include Cold Mountain, Looking Glass Rock, and Graveyard Fields. It is no wonder that the Blue Ridge Parkway is known as America’s Favorite Drive!
3. Gray Line Trolley
Gray Line Trolley Tours of Asheville has been providing unforgettable experiences to visitors and locals alike since 2007. As a family-owned business with a license from Gray Line Worldwide, they offer a variety of tours and transportation services for special events.
Their iconic red trolleys are a familiar sight, taking guests on their popular Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour filled with interesting commentary and the convenience of hopping on and off at various stops.
They also offer exciting tours like the Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley Tour and the Haunted History & Murder Mystery Ghost Tour.
Additionally, they have a fleet of white trolleys specifically used for weddings and other special occasions. Come and join the fun!
4. Asheville Brewery Tours
Did you know that Asheville is known as Beer City and the Beer Capital of America? It’s no surprise that there are many beloved Asheville breweries you can tour, some of them even offering free tours.
From Sierra Nevada’s 45 minute Brewhouse Tour for $9 to Highland Brewing’s 50 minute tour for $15, to Burial Beer’s hour tour for $35, and New Belgium and Wicked Weed’s free tours, there is something for everyone.
Whether you’re a beer enthusiast or an industrial tourist, there is an Asheville brewery tour for you. So make sure to wear closed toed shoes and book your tour today!
5. Pisgah National Forest
The Pisgah National Forest covers over 500,000 acres of rugged mountain landscapes in western North Carolina, offering some of the most beautiful hikes, waterfalls, and recreational opportunities in the Eastern United States.
Established in 1916, the forest was the first tract of land purchased under the Weeks Act and is home to the first school of forestry, the Cradle of Forestry in America Historic Site, and two of the first designated wilderness areas in the East.
It is also part of the NFF’s Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences conservation program and offers 50 activities, including mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, and camping.
Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or a peaceful afternoon of fishing, the Pisgah National Forest has something for everyone!
6. Craggy Gardens
If you’re looking for wildflowers and stunning views, you need to visit Craggy Gardens along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Situated at milepost 364, Craggy Gardens is an area popular for its plethora of wildflowers, specifically the rhododendron.
In June, the green foliage in Craggy Gardens is covered by beautiful pink and purple flowers, making it a breathtaking sight and a trip worth taking. Other flowers that bloom in this area include May-apple, blackberry, and Turk’s cap lily.
You can experience the blooms by hiking a mile long Craggy Gardens Trail, passess a lush forest and a viewpoint that overlooks the Black Mountain Range. Don’t forget to make a stop at the Craggy Pinnacle Trail for a 360-degree view of the surrounding area.
Best of all, Craggy Gardens is free to visit and open year-round. So head on over to Craggy Gardens for a wildflower adventure you’ll never forget!
7. Western North Carolina Nature Center
The WNC Nature Center is one of the best things to do in Asheville with kids. Just 10 minutes from downtown Asheville, the 42-acre wildlife park is home to 60 species of wild and domestic animals, including otters, black bears, wolves, a cougar and red pandas, as well as hundreds of species of plants.
While you visit, take a walk on the Trillium Nature Trail and appreciate the beautiful forested scenery, or explore the Appalachian Predators exhibit which is home to bobcats, coyotes, gray and red foxes.
The Nature Center also hosts family-friendly events throughout the year including the Brews & Bears happy hour and the annual Hey Day Fall Family Festival. With so much to see and do, the WNC Nature Center is a great place for a fun and educational family outing!
8. French Broad River
The French Broad River is an amazing natural wonder located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains near Asheville, NC. It is one of the oldest rivers in the world, with only the Nile and New River predating it.
The French Broad River flows for a distance of 210 miles and goes through Asheville, North Carolina. It then moves north towards Tennessee, where it merges with the Holston River near Knoxville. Finally, it joins the Mississippi River and eventually empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
French Broad Adventure offers whitewater rafting trips on section 9, which includes rapids ranging from Class II to IV, and a Calm Water trip on section 10.
The river has been subject to heavy pollution and environmental degradation in the past. However, with the help of local activists and environmentalists, attention has been drawn to the problems of pollution and the French Broad River is now being restored.
Check out this short video about Asheville:
9. The River Arts District
The River Arts District is one of the best things to do and see in Asheville. It’s a haven for artists looking for large spaces to create. Comprising 22 former industrial buildings near the French Broad River, it’s home to over 200 artists working in a variety of mediums.
You can visit the district to see the artists’ work and even chat with them, though some studios have limited hours or require appointments. Studio Strolls, an annual event where all studios are open, is a great time to visit.
The district is located 2 miles west of downtown Asheville and the website is a great resource for more information or to find individual artists. Note that some visitors find the district could benefit from better signage, as some galleries can be hard to spot.
10. Asheville Pinball Museum
The Asheville Pinball Museum is a unique place where you can not only admire, but also touch, play and have fun! With over 75 vintage pinball machines and video games, visitors can purchase unlimited access and play their heart out.
With snacks, soda, and even beer on offer, it’s the perfect place to relive the excitement of old-school arcade days. The museum also showcases classic games like PacMan, Donkey Kong, Star Wars and more.
Adults can enter for $15, kids for $12, with unlimited, all-day play included. It’s best to avoid holidays and weekends as it can get crowded.
11. LaZoom Bus Tour
LaZoom Tour is a unique bus tour in Asheville, North Carolina that combines city exploration with hilarious comedy performances.
The tour is led by street performers Jim and Jen Lauzon and offers a blend of comedic skits, spooky ghost stories, and information about Asheville’s history. Passengers can bring their own drinks and snacks, or purchase them on the bus.
The tour is open to anyone 17 years or older and is an opportunity to bond with friends or make new ones. Insider tips include arriving early, bringing warm clothing for open-air rides, and dressing up in funny costumes for a more immersive experience.
The tour is sure to leave riders feeling relaxed and entertained.
12. Omni Grove Park Inn
Omni Grove Park Inn, a resort in Asheville with a history of Southern hospitality, features traditional & modern rooms with mountain views.
Dine at Blue Ridge for farm-to-table Southern dishes, Vue 1913 for French-American fusion, or enjoy a chocolate & wine pairing at President’s Lounge.
Relax at the subterranean spa with mineral pools, saunas, and a Mountain Honey Wrap. Activities include golf, tennis, foraging, rafting, biking, hiking, and rock climbing.
13. Mount Mitchell
Mount Mitchell State Park, located in the Black Mountains of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina, is home to the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.
The summit, which stands at 6,684 feet, can be reached by car and features an observation deck, museum, shop and restroom.
The State Park also offers a variety of hiking trails winding through fragrant balsam forests, where visitors may spot wildlife and rare plants.
In addition, the Park is free to visit and open 7 days a week, year round.
14. Sliding Rock
Sliding Rock is a 60-foot natural water slide that leads into an 8-foot deep pool, managed by Adventure Pisgah. It is open all year round, depending on weather conditions and water levels, and has restrooms available April 30-October 9 (7 days a week) and weekends only from October 15-30.
Lifeguards are on duty from May 2-September 15. It is a popular recreational area and it’s best to visit early or avoid peak hours (noon-4 pm). The parking area may fill up and close if it becomes full. In case of heavy rainfall, the area may close.
No picnicking or alcohol is allowed. You can picnic at Pink Beds or find picnic tables along US 276.
15. Botanical Gardens at Asheville
Asheville’s Botanical Gardens showcase the diverse ecosystem of the Southern Appalachians and educate visitors about native plants.
April and May is the best time to visit for wildflower blooms, and mid-summer to early fall brings a second bloom of Asters, Blazing Star, and Goldenrod.
The gardens feature unique attractions like the Moon Tree grown from a seed taken on the Apollo 14 lunar mission and the historic Hayes Cabin.
Children can also participate in an investigation passport, exploring the gardens and completing activities after their visit. No admission fee is charged, but donations are appreciated to support the garden’s mission.
Note that dogs are not allowed and a longer walk can be taken on the nearby Reed Creek Greenway.
16. Thomas Wolfe Memorial
Thomas Wolfe spent his formative years living in his mother’s Asheville boardinghouse known as Old Kentucky Home. Attracting tourists and health seekers, the house served as the inspiration and setting for Wolfe’s 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel.
Visitors today can tour the house and explore its history as well as Wolfe’s childhood through the adjacent visitor’s center, museum, self-guided exhibit hall, and 22-minute film presentation.
It’s a unique opportunity to learn more about the novelist’s life and writings as well as the city’s rise to prominence as a popular resort destination.
17. Grove Arcade
The Grove Arcade is a historical shopping center in Asheville, NC that offers a unique experience with its 1920s-style architecture and iconic glass ceiling.
It was one of the first indoor shopping malls in the world, built by E.W. Grove, the entrepreneur behind the Grove Park Inn.
Home to local boutiques, craft goods, art galleries, and lifestyle services, the arcade also has an outdoor Makers Market with rotating selection of artisans and artists as well as Restaurant Row with a variety of restaurants and live music on the weekends.
18. Asheville Urban Trail
The Asheville Urban Trail is the 1.7 mile self-guided tour including wide sidewalks to walk along and several busy street crossings.
The route starts off at Pack Place just off Patton Ave and highlights many interesting sculptures, antique hotels, plaques, and basilicas.
Additionally, you’ll find many interesting shops, bars, and music venues along the way. Follow the map and legend to uncover the sights and sounds of the city as you make your way through the trail.
19. French Broad Chocolate Lounge
French Broad Chocolate Lounge is a popular restaurant located in downtown Asheville. It offers an impressive menu that is perfect for sugar-lovers with items such as cakes, creams, handcrafted ice cream, and drinking chocolates.
The restaurant also serves locally sourced coffee, tea, beer, and wine. Some of the must-try items include the Chocolate Creme Brulee, Highland Mocha Stout Cake, Liquid Truffle, and Coconut Macaroon Brownie.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge is dedicated to using locally sourced ingredients and producing desserts sustainably. After dining, customers can visit the attached shop for some chocolates to take home.
Note that the restaurant does not carry milk substitutes for lactose intolerant customers, but there are vegan and gluten-free options available.
20. Asheville Community Theater
The Asheville Community Theatre provides quality theater entertainment to the city for more than 70 years. Their Mainstage features four different productions throughout the year, and 35Below hosts small, intimate performances created by local theater companies.
In addition, they also offer theater classes for both youths and adults. Tickets for their shows are available at the Box Office or online.
With its rich culture, Asheville is the perfect place to experience the arts and enjoy great performances, and The Esmeralda Inn & Restaurant is the perfect place to stay after a show and take in all the beauty the city has to offer.
21. Asheville Museum Of Science
The Asheville Museum of Science is a top-notch science facility located in the heart of downtown Asheville. It offers interactive exhibits, easy street access, and a range of educational programs making it a great destination for families.
Explore the world of geology in the Colburn Hall of Minerals, control topography in the Terra Box exhibit, unearth fossils, and check out the Teratophoneus dinosaur skeleton.
Experience the changes in the water flow of the French Broad River and unleash the ecologist within you. There’s so much to see and do at the Asheville Museum of Science.
22. Off The Wagon
Experience an unforgettable evening at Off the Wagon Dueling Piano Bar with a wild and entertaining show of popular songs from the last fifty years.
Sing along with your favorite songs as the two musicians battle it out on stage, while enjoying delicious drinks and friendly service. Watch as the servers and bartenders join in on the fun and sometimes even become part of the show.
Celebrate a special occasion and you might even find yourself as part of the entertainment! Get ready for a memorable night at Off the Wagon.
23. Asheville Salt Cave
The Asheville Salt Cave is a man-made cave located in Asheville, North Carolina, offering a peaceful retreat for therapeutic rest and healing. It’s the only salt therapy center in the US made of all-natural materials, including twenty tons of natural crystal salt from Poland.
Salt therapy, also known as halotherapy or speleotherapy, has been used to treat various ailments such as asthma, allergies, and stress.
The cave features 9-foot tall walls made of salt, water, and wood, and is kept at 70 degrees with 50-60% humidity. The cave accommodates 10 people per session and offers hot salt stone massage, reiki, and reflexology before or after.
The center also features a Hammam Steam Room and a Salt Market with Himalayan salt products. Book your session on their website.
24. Lexington Glassworks
The Lexington Glassworks is a leading glassblowing gallery and studio located at 81 South Lexington Avenue in Asheville.
It offers a unique experience where visitors can observe the artists in action 6 days a week. The gallery offers a wide range of glassware to cater to all styles and budgets.
Operating hours are from Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm.
25. The Flying Bike
The Flying Bike provides visitors with a unique way to explore Asheville by offering electric bike tours and rentals. The company, located in downtown Asheville, offers tours suitable for families, including options for children as young as one year old.
With their electric-assist bicycles, visitors can easily navigate the hills and see the must-see sights, greenways and beautiful views.
They can opt for a guided tour or rent a bike to go on their own. All tours and rentals come with necessary safety gear, including helmets, ponchos, gloves and scarves.
The tours last about three hours and cover several neighborhoods and historic sites in Asheville.
26. Taste Carolina Food Tour
The Asheville Downtown Tasting Tour is a fantastic way to see the city while sampling delicious offerings from some of the best restaurants and food stores around.
You’ll get a unique perspective on the history and culture of the city while tasting amazing treats. The Asheville Downtown Evening Tasting Tour takes it a step further, introducing you to speakeasies and bars with craft cocktails, beer and wine tastings, and savory bites from the city’s best chefs.
Your knowledgeable tour guide will also share how Asheville evolved into the foodie destination it is today.
27. Asheville Music Hall
Asheville Music Hall is a popular destination for music fans with numerous musical icons have performed at this venue. Situated in the bustling downtown area of Patton Avenue, it is a 1920’s era row building.
It is the leading mid-sized concert venue in Asheville that is known for showcasing various types of music.
28. Montford Rooftop Bar
The Montford Rooftop Bar, located at the DoubleTree by Hilton Asheville Downtown, offers an indoor and outdoor space with a contemporary and rustic atmosphere.
Enjoy stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and downtown Asheville through panoramic windows and an outdoor terrace. Indulge in craft cocktails, local beers, and Southern-inspired cuisine made with local ingredients.
Open in the evenings for drinks and bites, and on Saturdays for brunch, this popular spot requires reservations. Soak up the sun on the terrace during warm months or enjoy holiday decorations and seasonal drinks in the colder months.
Frequently Asked Question
What is Asheville best known for?
Asheville boasts a unique mix of historic architecture, cutting-edge art, technology and Appalachian culture, making it a perfect destination for an active, healthy getaway filled with funky, eclectic downtown shopping and dining, and outdoor adventures.
How do I spend a day in Asheville NC?
Spend a day discovering the sights of Asheville! Begin with an exploration of the Biltmore Estate, then head downtown for a tasty lunch. Visit the Basilica of St. Lawrence, Asheville Pinball Museum and Lexington Glassworks. Finally, take a stroll along the River Arts District.
Is Asheville NC worth visiting?
If you’re seeking a charming atmosphere with excellent cuisine, mesmerizing views and incredible natural attractions nearby, you must go to Asheville! This lovely town offers a pleasant downtown, award-winning restaurants, and a wealth of outdoor activities.
What is the best month to visit Asheville, North Carolina?
Visiting Asheville is best between March and May, and September to early November, when temperatures range from the 50s to the 70s. This makes it perfect to enjoy the flowers in spring and the changing leaves in autumn.
What are the best things to do in Asheville, NC for couples?
Couples can explore the Biltmore Estate, brewery hop downtown, enjoy a romantic dinner, catch a show, have a picnic at Chimney Rock, go horseback riding, or spend time on the Rocky Broad River at the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge. There’s truly something for everyone in Asheville!
What are the unique things to do in Asheville, NC?
Explore the North Carolina Arboretum, visit the Biltmore Estate, try exciting activities at the Asheville Adventure Center, curl up with a book at Battery Park Book Exchange, and dine at award-winning restaurants. Finish with a scoop of ice cream from The Biltmore Creamery!
What are the best things to do in Asheville with kids?
Visiting the Biltmore Estate, exploring the WNC Nature Center, riding the Ridge Rambler, tubing at Navitat, visiting the Asheville Pinball Museum, and taking a ride on the Asheville Trolley.
What are the free things to do in Asheville, NC?
Explore downtown, discover lots of art, cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway, find waterfalls, take a hike, visit the Smokies, attend festivals, explore architecture, stroll through gardens, and visit with farmers – all for free! Enjoy the beauty of Asheville and the surrounding area without spending a dime.
See more: Where to Stay in Asheville, NC First Time
So there you have it, the best things to do in Asheville, NC for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.