20 Best Things to Do in Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Asheville has been my home for many years.

Every day, it's as if the city is wrapped in a warm, welcoming blanket - the majestic peaks acting as a backdrop to our vibrant downtown.

You can feel the irresistible charm when you hit the city limits.

This is a place where creativity sings from every corner, the southern hospitality is as authentic as homemade biscuits, and the natural beauty leaves you in awe.

I've come to realize that the magic of Asheville can't be confined to a postcard; it's something that must be experienced firsthand.

So stick around as we explore the 20 best things to do in Asheville, North Carolina!

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Discover the Wonders of the Biltmore Estate

Exterior of the Biltmore Estate
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Walking through the Biltmore Estate is like escaping into another era.

From the grandeur of the architecture to the intricate details of the interior design, this majestic mansion is a true testament to the opulence of the past.

Every corner of the estate is replete with rich history and culture.

The immense beauty of this place often leaves me, a simple city dweller, awestruck.

It's easy to spend an entire day exploring the vast expanses of the estate.

Biltmore Estate has always been a gem in my city, attracting visitors from all over the world.

The mansion, with its 176k-square-foot expanse, is a marvel to behold.

The estate has managed to preserve every possible perfect touch you could think of, making it a vibrant chronicle of the bygone era.

The stroll through the gardens, despite being more hilly than anticipated, is always a refreshing experience.

The groundkeepers have done an exemplary job of maintaining the natural contour of the land, which adds to the place's charm.

Grand staircase in the Biltmore Estate
Dale Morrison / Shutterstock.com

The mansion is a treasure trove of history, art, and culture.

Every room is richly decorated with fine art pieces, furniture, and modern decorations from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

The 80-acre garden outside is equally mesmerizing. It's a joy to walk around and enjoy the tranquility of the place.

For those looking to dive deeper into the history of the estate, guided tours are an absolute must.

The narratives, filled with fascinating stories and anecdotes, add another layer of intrigue to the experience.

Unsurprisingly, many visitors long for further research into the property's past.

If you ever find yourself in our city, reserve a day for the Biltmore Estate.

Tulips garden at the Biltmore Estate
Joanne Dale / Shutterstock.com

Try the LaZoom Tours Experience

Exterior of the LaZoom Tours trolley
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A ride on the LaZoom Comedy Tour is like a breath of fresh mountain air mixed with belly-aching laughter.

These tours are my go-to suggestion whenever my out-of-city friends pay a visit.

Simply put, it's a must-do in Asheville, and even for us locals, it never gets old.

Not only does the tour take you through the nooks and crannies of Asheville, but it also serves you a hefty dose of our rich history.

The best part?

You'll be cackling throughout the tour, thanks to the troupe of hilarious characters that board the bus.

A special mention for Drew, an actor of immense talent, who single-handedly portrays all these characters and manages to hijack the comfortable ride into a rollercoaster of laughter.

My last tour was a riot, with a fantastic cast, a skilled driver, and a bus full of laughter, forming a perfect recipe for a memorable day.

The host on the bus was both endearing and hilarious, and the people joining him along the route were so committed to their characters.

I was handed a rubber chicken when I boarded, setting the tone for the hilarity to follow.

An unforgettable part of the tour was the pit stop at a local brewery. It was a much-needed breather in the middle of the fun chaos.

Step Back in Time at Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum

My Sunday ritual always includes a hearty brunch and a leisurely stroll through a hidden gem in Asheville - the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum.

This humble, rustic museum is a treasure trove of running-condition, rare vintage vehicles, and even features a moonshine still!

Every visit feels like I'm traveling back in time, surrounded by these charming reminders of the past.

I always look forward to the warm, enthusiastic welcome from the museum guide, who is genuinely passionate about the collection.

Their wealth of knowledge is impressive, making each visit a learning experience.

Walk Through the North Carolina Arboretum

Colorful flora at North Carolina Arboretum
Jill Lang / Shutterstock.com

When I moved to Asheville, I had no idea I would find such a gem in my backyard.

The North Carolina Arboretum, tucked away in the embrace of a lush forest and cradled by sweeping mountain views, is a sheer paradise for nature and outdoor lovers like me.

The first time I set foot in its bonsai exhibit, I couldn't believe my eyes.

Seeing such spectacular miniaturized trees was an absolute delight, each crafted with such precision and care that it left me astounded.

A typical weekend for me starts with packing a small picnic, loading up my bike, and driving to the arboretum.

Once there, I usually start my day with a biking session along the various paths that wind through the arboretum.

The trails are well marked, ranging from easy to difficult hikes, making it suitable for all fitness levels.

A trail at North Carolina Arboretum
Jill Lang / Shutterstock.com

While biking, my binoculars are always at the ready. Spotting the red squirrels and birds that call the arboretum home has become a favorite pastime.

I still remember the day I watched a squirrel build a nest from a bench, a sight so captivating that it's etched in my memory.

But it's not just about the flora and fauna. The North Carolina Arboretum is also a hub of learning and engagement.

The main education center, accessible right from the parking lot, is a gateway to a 'red' nature trail which isn't too advanced but still offers an intimate experience with nature.

As a lover of all things green, this place has truly won over my heart.

And as someone who has seen it change and evolve with the seasons, I can confidently say there's always something new to discover.

Wooden gazebo at North Carolina Arboretum
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Explore the Grovewood Village Experience

Every now and then, I find myself inevitably drawn to Grovewood Village.

It's as much a part of my weekend routine as the Sunday crossword.

Picture this: historic buildings that have stood firm through time, manicured gardens punctuated with expressions of art, and some of the most extraordinary local talent showcasing their work - that's Grovewood Village for you.

This place is a living, breathing museum.

As you walk along the cobblestone lanes, you can't help but be enamored by the history that seeps from every corner.

The artist studios are a wonder, housing creators who spin magic with their hands.

The furniture they craft, with its delicate designs and intricate handiwork, is spectacular.

Speaking of spectaculars, Grovewood Village also has some rather unique museums.

My personal favorite? The vintage car museum.

Rows and rows of pristine, beautiful machines are a testament to the opulence of yore. They don't make them like that anymore.

And the best part? It's free to visit!

Even if history and art aren't your tea, Grovewood Village has something to offer.

Spend a Day at the Asheville Pinball Museum

Exterior of the Asheville Pinball Museum
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What's better than stepping into a time machine and getting lost in the world of vintage arcade games?

That's what a visit to the Asheville Pinball Museum feels like.

A whirl of flashing lights, the unmistakable pings and dings of pinball machines, and the nostalgic 8-bit music of classic arcade games.

As soon as I entered, I was transported to the arcades of my childhood.

With over 75 pinball machines and classic video games, it's like a playground for the young and the young at heart.

The $15 admission is a steal considering it's all-you-can-play. Plus, they give you a green wristband as a pass for unlimited re-entry throughout the day.

The place can get busy, especially on weekends, with an hour's wait not uncommon. But with plenty of quirky shops nearby, the wait isn't a bother.

In fact, it just adds to the anticipation of the fun of waiting inside.

The museum also offers a small but satisfying selection of beer and soda. So, between games, I grab a cold one, find a seat, and watch as others become engrossed in their games.

Seeing the younger generation engrossed in the same games that I used to play brings a smile to my face.

Discover the Timeless Charm of Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum

Exterior of Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum
Jane023, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When I first stepped into the Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum, it was like stepping into a time machine.

The museum is located inside a former wool-weaving factory, and it's filled with historical photos and machinery that take you back to the time when homespun textiles were at the forefront of our economy.

The museum is not very large but houses a wealth of beautifully preserved items.

I could walk through the museum at my own pace, taking the time to appreciate every piece of machinery and every photograph.

The serenity was quite comforting, as there was no rush or chaos typically associated with larger, more crowded museums.

The Homespun Museum is also located in proximity to other buildings, each with unique charm.

I remember being fascinated by the antique cars, which were in fantastic condition.

I could walk up to them, my hands itching to touch the hand crank motors.

It was a stark reminder of how far we've come regarding technology and safety - no seatbelts!

There's also another building where they used to perform the dye works.

Although entry is prohibited, you can still get a good view from an overlook or through the windows.

And if you're lucky like I was, you might catch a tour in progress during the busier times.

Before leaving, do not forget to check out the locally produced artisan shop.

It's a treasure trove of art creations that are available for purchase.

Every piece is unique and beautifully made, a testament to the craftsmanship of the artisans.

Stroll Through Woolworth Walk

A typical day in my city is not complete without a leisurely stroll through the Woolworth Walk.

Nestled in the heart of city, this gem is more than just an art gallery.

It's a piece of history, a fountain of inspiration, and an eclectic collection of creativity all rolled into one.

Just imagine stepping into a time capsule, back when the building housed the Woolworth Store.

Now, it's brimming with a diverse collection of works crafted by 175 local artists.

The location's old-time charm accentuates the contemporary and vintage pieces, making each visit a new experience.

My personal favorite part of the trip though has to be the restored soda fountain.

It's like stepping into a scene from an old movie, sitting on the round stools and sipping a frothy milkshake.

But don't just take my word for it. Legend has it that there's a wooden motorcycle on display too!

Wandering through the Woolworth Walk is like taking a mini tour of the local art scene, encapsulating the talent and passion poured into each piece.

With its small booth setup, reminiscent of antique malls, it's impossible not to be awed and inspired by the sheer creativity on display.

The next time you're in city, check out the Woolworth Walk.

Pay a Visit to Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center

Exterior of Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center
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Every time I drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, it's a ritual for me to stop at the Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center.

Nestled amidst lush trees and boasting a spacious parking lot, it's a tranquil spot for a relaxing break.

Sometimes, I even pack a quick lunch to enjoy at the picnic tables they've thoughtfully set up in the parking lot.

Inside, it's always a treat to explore the galleries full of traditional and modern Southern Appalachian crafts.

The countless unique handmade pieces have often inspired me - from small adornments like pins crafted cleverly from beer bottle caps, to larger items like decorative vases and intricate Christmas ornaments.

There's a pleasant surprise in every corner, with each item showcasing a high level of craftsmanship and creativity.

The highlight, however, is the library and gift shop.

Interior of Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

The museum exhibits are beautifully curated, with booklets near most items explaining the process or providing further details.

This transparency and educational aspect make the whole shopping experience even more enjoyable.

The exquisite quality of the crafts reflects in their price tags.

But owning a piece from the museum is like owning a slice of Southern Appalachian culture, making it absolutely worth it.

Next time you're driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, make sure you stop by.

And don't forget to ask the friendly cashier for a free parkway map!

Display in Southern Highland Craft Guild, Folk Art Center
EWY Media / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Western North Carolina Nature Center

Whenever I want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, I find myself heading to the Western North Carolina Nature Center.

This little haven, dedicated to the flora and fauna of the Southern Appalachian region, houses more than 60 animal species.

One of the reasons why I am in love with this place is its size.

With about 40 different species of animals, it's not too large to overwhelm and not too small to disappoint.

Perfect for a 2-3 hour visit, there's always something new to discover.

My last visit left me awestruck at the bear exhibit.

Imagine seeing a bear from just 15 feet away, safely separated by a sturdy fence, of course.

It was an exhilarating experience. I appreciate the effort that has gone into making the exhibits accessible.

Every enclosure is designed to allow easy viewing, either through fences or crystal clear glass.

I've been to many zoos where animals are often hidden or lethargic, but it's different here.

Every creature, from the farm animals at the start to the more exotic species deeper within, is active and visible.

The center is also a haven for kids, with farm animals like goats, sheep, and chickens right at the start.

These friendly critters are always a hit with the little ones.

Have Fun at The Orange Peel

Exterior of the Orange Peel
Jeffery Edwards / Shutterstock.com

Living in this vibrant city, catching a live show at The Orange Peel is always a thrill.

It's a smaller venue but packs a punch with a truly impressive vibe.

There's something about the energy in the room that elevates every performance, and it never feels overpacked, even when it's a sold-out show.

The place has a knack for attracting pretty decent bands, and even when the place is packed to the rafters, they have this neat setup called Pulp.

Singers performing in the Orange Peel
Rich Orris (rorris), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It's a great spot if you need to rest your legs but still want to enjoy the show via live streaming on the TV.

And if you're a smoker, there's a nice outdoor space too.

One thing to remember is that it isn't the best for the vertically challenged among us.

The sound quality here never disappoints. It's always on point, making every performance a delight to the ears.

Revisit Literary History at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial

Exterior of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial
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There's nothing like a lazy Saturday stroll through the heart of Asheville, North Carolina, and no trip is complete without a visit to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

It's a charming, old-world home-turned-museum that is a tribute to one of our most beloved local figures, writer Thomas Wolfe.

Whether you're a fan of his lyrical, larger-than-life prose, you can’t help but get swept up in the raw poetry of his life story.

Born in 1900, Wolfe's early years were spent in the boarding house that is now the museum.

His experiences there were the spark for his literary career, and his first novel, "Look Homeward Angel," quickly became a Depression-era bestseller.

Stepping inside the memorial feels like stepping back in time.

It's well-kept and filled with historical treasures, each offering a fascinating insight into Wolfe's life.

The house tour takes around 45 minutes, but I usually like to take my time, drinking in the history and imagining what life was like growing up in the bustling boarding house.

The museum also offers a free film about Thomas Wolfe's life, perfect for those wanting a more in-depth look at the man behind the books.

And, of course, there’s the new exhibit that shows how the house originally appeared and how it changed with each addition, which I found particularly informative.

Don’t forget to stop by the small gift shop before you leave.

Experience the Paranormal at Asheville Ghost Tours

Just another Saturday night in Asheville, I decided to go on a local adventure, and that's when I came across Asheville Ghost Tours – the city's oldest and most original tour.

It was nothing short of spine-chilling and entertaining!

Our guide for the night was Tad, an exceptional storyteller who did an amazing job creating a fascinating blend of history and paranormal encounters witnessed around the city.

I've been living in Asheville for a long time now, but this experience was something completely different.

The stories of ghost sightings and eerie incidents were hair-raising.

I thought I knew my city, but Tad introduced me to the other, eerie side of Asheville that I never knew existed.

By the end of the tour, I had added a whole new set of unusual and fun facts about Asheville to my knowledge base.

For those wanting to explore Asheville in a unique way, I recommend giving these ghost tours a try.

The best part? It's not just about the scare factor.

The tour also provided an interesting way to learn about the city's history and architecture.

Experience the Festive Vibes at Pack Square Park

Splash pad at Pack Square Park
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The magic of Asheville truly comes alive at Pack Square Park.

You've not really experienced our city until you've soaked in the vibrant atmosphere of our community's favorite green space.

The park buzzes with activity, especially during the festive seasons. Canopies of shade trees offer perfect picnic spots, and the stage is often home to local bands crooning away.

One of my personal highlights is the annual 4th of July celebration at the park.

Imagine a sea of people swaying to the music, enjoying food truck delicacies, and sipping local brews, all under the summer sky.

The air is thick with anticipation, everyone eagerly waiting for that magical moment when the first burst of fireworks cracks open the night.

Some say the fireworks are 'just okay,' but I've also seen smaller cities with less impressive displays.

It's about the collective experience, the excitement of the crowd as multicolored sparks rain down.

The grounds of Pack Square Park
Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Then there's the line-up of food trucks, each a culinary adventure.

And the drinks! Asheville's finest breweries and vineyards set up shop, offering a wide range of beers and wines.

The prices are always reasonable, making the whole experience all the more enjoyable.

Live music is a significant part of the atmosphere.

Local bands set up on the stage, their songs filling the park, adding that extra magic to the evening.

A fountain at Pack Square Park
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area

My backyard? That's the Blue Ridge Heritage Area. Yes, I'm lucky to wake up to its beauty daily.

It's a place where nature and culture blend seamlessly.

From the comfort of your own boots, you can traverse the countless trails, absorb the local history in the museums, or simply kick back and enjoy the view.

One of the standout features of the area is the visitors' center.

It's not just a parking lot with a couple of picnic tables; it's a launchpad for adventure.

You'll find all sorts of terrains on these routes, from gentle slopes to towering steps and even a short tunnel under the Parkway.

It's quite the journey, with remnants of the area's rich history and teeming with local wildlife.

If hiking's not your thing, the center is also a great place to learn about the region.

It's chock-full of information about the Parkway and the local sights.

You can even catch a glimpse of the NPS Headquarters building from here, albeit it's not open to the public.

The wider Heritage area has a wealth of culture to explore.

Music, crafts, festivals, agriculture, historical sites- you name it, we've got it.

Discover the Magic of the River Arts District

Buildings along River Arts District
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

Every day, I find myself drawn to the eclectic charm of the River Arts District.

Art is alive here. Step into any studio, and you'll find artists, both young and old, pouring their souls into their work.

The love they have for their craft is palpable. You can witness the magic unfurl as creativity takes form right before your eyes.

Each artist I've met takes pride in their work and is always eager to discuss their creations.

They'll walk you around their studios, proudly showcasing pieces at different stages of completion, sharing the inspiration behind each work, and even discussing the pricing.

But it's not just about the art.

The River Arts District is a place where you can unwind where you can stroll leisurely, taking in the sights and sounds at your own pace.

It's the place that reconnects you with your inner peace, a sanctuary amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.

Signage at River Arts District
Wendy Moore Photography / Shutterstock.com

The food scene is equally diverse, offering a range of options from cozy cafes to sophisticated dining.

Oh, and did I mention the record store? There's always something new to discover among the vinyl stacks.

The park near the river is another gem in this district, a green oasis where you can relax or indulge in many activities.

The park never disappoints, whether you're picnicking, sunbathing, reading, or even showcasing your artwork like I often do.

It's a melting pot where locals and visitors mingle, creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and shared experiences.

A gallery at River Arts District
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Visit the Asheville Art Museum

Exterior of Asheville Art Museum
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Every weekend, I am drawn to the Asheville Art Museum, an incredible collection of 20th and 21st-century American art.

Whether it's the fascinating exhibits or the diverse art-related programs offered, there's always something new to explore.

I'll never forget my first time stepping into the museum.

The architecture itself caught my eye - both modern and inviting.

The building layout is easy to navigate, making the exploration of the diverse American art even more enjoyable.

The rooftop cafe, and its overlook to the sculpture garden on one side and the picturesque mountain view on the other, provides a serene place for a break.

But of course, it's the art that keeps me coming back.

The museum is home to thought-provoking works that never fail to inspire.

The descriptions and short bios of the artists are as intriguing as their masterpieces.

Every artwork, no matter how small or large, manages to tell its unique story.

The museum also takes significant steps to be inclusive, regularly showcasing artwork from African American and Native American artists.

I particularly remember being moved by the Tawny Chatman painting on exhibit.

It was a poignant experience that stuck with me long after I left the museum.

And then there's the rooftop view from the fourth floor.

Overlooking downtown Asheville and the surrounding mountains, it's a sight to behold.

The museum staff are always alert and ready to share their knowledge about the art and the artists.

Experience the Serenity at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville

Often when the weekend rolls around, I find myself drawn to the peaceful embrace of the Botanical Gardens at Asheville.

It's one of those local spots that's become my sanctuary, where I can simply enjoy the outdoors without the constant bustle of city life.

Imagine a half-mile trail that lovingly meanders through a garden of over 600 species of Appalachian plants, each with their distinct colors, shapes, and fragrances.

The beautiful creek alongside the trail serves as the garden's highlight, inviting adults and children alike to dip their toes in its cool, clear waters and soak in its tranquil sounds.

But tread carefully - the rocks inside the creek can be slippery due to the algae that thrive there.

It's a small price to pay for the exhilarating experience of exploring the creek.

Kids, particularly, are taken with the thrill of running along the rocky trail and splashing in the creek's waters.

The garden also offers generous picnic spots, a perfect setting for a leisurely weekend afternoon - whether you want to chat, read a book, or just lie back to appreciate the nature around you.

And if you're lucky, you might spot some cardinals, hummingbird moths, or stream trout amidst the beautiful flora.

Discover the Wonders at Asheville Museum of Science

Exterior of the Asheville Museum of Science
Nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock.com

One of the hidden gems in our city is the Asheville Museum of Science.

I'm telling you, this place is an absolute blast, especially if you have young ones.

You might be thinking, "It's just a small museum," but let me assure you, they've somehow managed to pack a whole universe of knowledge and fun into this place!

I have been there multiple times with my kids, and each time, the most cheerful and helpful staff greeted us.

These guys genuinely love their job!

They've got interactive and playful exhibits that make learning fun for the kids, and to top it all off, they have these amazing scavenger hunts.

My kids absolutely adore those! After each completed hunt, the kids get to choose a small stone or sticker as a prize.

One of the things that really stood out to me was how the museum caters to all ages.

Wander Around Biltmore Waterfall

While living here, I've found myself repeatedly drawn to the charm of Biltmore Waterfall.

I'm a frequent visitor to this oasis, in the heart of the Biltmore estate, especially during those sweltering North Carolina summers.

The waterfall, albeit man-made, offers a cooling respite with its refreshing spray.

The trail leading to the waterfall can be a bit challenging to navigate, with its surprising length and occasional lack of gravel.

But the first glimpse of the cascading water against the rustic stone spillway makes the journey worthwhile.

It's not quite like a natural waterfall, and yet, it possesses a charm all its own.

During the hot months of July, the place becomes a fantastic spot to unwind and escape the heat.

Despite being from the same region, the heat here tends to sneak up on you.

Yet, find this waterfall, tucked away past the bass pond in Biltmore Estate's immaculate gardens, and you're treated to a serene, cool hideaway.

But the Biltmore Waterfall is not just an escape from summer.

It feels like a romantic secret, a hidden gem within the bounds of the flamboyant gardens.

I've seen many couples strolling hand-in-hand, whispering sweet nothings and stealing kisses in the shadow of the cascading water.

It's easy to see why this place is a favorite for weddings and honeymoons.

Final Thoughts

Having lived in Asheville, North Carolina for years, I've developed a deep appreciation for every corner of this idyllic town.

Asheville is not just a city, but a living, breathing entity filled with history, culture, and natural wonder - a place that has so much more to surprise me, even after all these years.

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