Asheville, North Carolina, is a gorgeous small town nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although it currently has the twelfth biggest population in the state, Asheville is rapidly growing, making it a prime destination for your next getaway.
Whether you’re looking for a place to spend a long weekend of brewery hopping or a week of outdoor adventuring, Asheville is the perfect spot for your next romantic escape, girls’ trip, or family vacation.
15 of the Best Things to Do in Asheville, NC
We’ve performed exhaustive research on Asheville to offer you this definitive list of the 15 best things to do when visiting this beautiful city.
Regardless of how long you spend in Asheville, we’re confident that you’ll feel like you’ve really gotten to know the area after having the experiences listed here.
Consider adding one or more of these destinations to your itinerary as you think about your upcoming trip to Asheville, NC.
1. Take a Tour of the Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate is one of Asheville’s prime tourist attractions. It is appealing not only because of its incredible architecture and sprawling grounds but because of its historical significance as the largest private residence in the country.
The Biltmore Estate is an expansive 125,000 acres; the house was built in 1889 and features 250 rooms throughout its 135,000 square feet.
You can buy a ticket to the Biltmore if you wish to tour the sprawling home and gardens, picnic on the grounds, or just take in its beauty. Children nine and under have free admission in the summer when accompanied by a paying adult.
You can also appreciate special events on the property in the summertime, like immersive art exhibits and Biltmore Blooms, the annual garden celebration.
If you’re particularly drawn to this beautiful landmark, you can stay overnight at one of Biltmore’s three unique accommodations.
2. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
While you may already be familiar with the Blue Ridge Parkway if you’ve spent time in North Carolina’s surrounding states, the headquarters of the Parkway and the primary visitor’s center actually reside in Asheville.
The Blue Ridge Parkway spans a whopping 469 miles and spans from Western North Carolina to Virginia. If you’re planning to drive the entirety of the Parkway, make sure to mentally prepare for a slow trip, as the maximum speed on this winding stretch of road is 45 mph.
However, you’ll want to drive slowly to appreciate the full beauty of the landscape around you, especially if you drive during the Fall or Spring.
However, you can also choose to drive or mountain bike smaller portions of the Parkway during your stay in Asheville and hit classic outdoor destinations like Mount Mitchell and Craggy Gardens.
3. Take a Ride on the Gray Line Trolley
The Gray Line Trolley is the perfect way to explore Asheville and get to know the city a little better. The hop-on, hop-off tour is perfect for visitors to the area who want the flexibility of exploring the city as they see fit.
The Gray Line also offers themed tourist tours like a Christmas lights tour in Biltmore Village during the holiday season and a ghost tour, focusing on Asheville’s spooky and murderous past.
If you’re traveling with young children, be aware that the trolley does not offer seatbelts and is not air-conditioned in the summer months.
Furthermore, while most trolleys are wheelchair accessible, you should call ahead of time if you or someone in your group uses a wheelchair.
4. Go Brewery Hopping
While many people immediately think of Burlington, Vermont, when the topic of craft breweries gets brought up in relation to the Eastern United States, Asheville has a thriving beer scene.
Lovers of craft beer will have no problem finding ample casual spots to wet their whistles; some of the best breweries in town can be found downtown, within walking distance.
However, if you really want to get to know Asheville’s craft brewery scene, consider joining the Brews Cruise for a guided experience of Asheville’s top three breweries.
Or you could hop on your bikes rather than walk on Asheville’s 13-person brewery tour bicycle. However you decide to explore, you won’t want to miss Asheville’s thriving beer scene.
5. Take a Hike in the Pisgah National Forest
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, spending some time in Pisgah National Forest is an absolute must on your visit to Asheville. This dense forest comprises incredible viewpoints, rushing waterways, and spectacular waterfalls.
You can hike, horseback ride, bike, or camp, and with more than 500,000 acres to explore, you’ll barely scratch the surface during your visit to the area.
Less than an hour outside of the city, you can rent a car and take a day hike in Pisgah National Forest if your time in the area is limited.
6. Appreciate the Wildflowers at Craggy Gardens
If you’re looking for a truly spectacular place to view North Carolina’s most beautiful wildflowers, then Craggy Gardens is where you should go on your upcoming trip to Asheville.
Although a bit of a drive from the city, you can appreciate your drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway on your way to Craggy Gardens. If you want to reach the visitor center, stop at Milepost 364.4, or head straight to milepost 367.6 from the picnic and trail area.
This photo-worthy destination will be a favorite on your trip to Asheville, and you can appreciate more than just the wildflowers, as this spot is also home to beautiful rare plants.
7. Visit the Western North Carolina Nature Center
The Western North Carolina Nature Center is the perfect destination for animal lovers and kids. This expansive center is home to roughly 60 native species of animals and is a great place to learn about conservation and local wildlife.
With animals like cougars, black bears, gray and red foxes, and coyotes, you can explore the over 40-acre animal center.
The WNC Nature Center is also at the heart of a red wolf breeding initiative, which is essential to this critically endangered species, which only exists in the wild in North Carolina at this point.
8. Enjoy a River Float on the French Broad River
If you’ve been to Asheville before, you’re probably already familiar with the French Broad River, which is where locals can be seen cooling off all summer long without having to leave town.
Make your way to the west side of Asheville, and you’ll find yourself in a mellow portion of the French Broad River where you can kayak, swim, stand up paddleboard, and more.
A family favorite is tubing, which you can do with purchased innertubes or rent some and take a tour from local companies like French Broad Outfitters.
9. Tour the Galleries in the River Arts District
A trip to the River Arts District is a must for art lovers visiting Asheville. While this area of town is home to numerous art galleries, what makes the location unique is the artist hub which is home to street art exhibits and many private artist studios.
If you’re looking for the perfect souvenir to commemorate your trip to Asheville, a piece of art from this district is the perfect thing. The River Arts District comprises 22 buildings, primarily former warehouses, and sprawls along the French Broad River.
10. Play Some Games at the Asheville Pinball Museum
Whether you’re staying downtown or just kicking around for the afternoon, make sure you stop by the Asheville Pinball Museum.
The museum is not only located in a building registered with the National Register of Historic Places, but you get to play some of the pinball machines at the exhibit!
With more than 30 classic pinball machines and over 20 other classic games, you simply pay an entrance fee and then get to enjoy the playable games until you’re bored!
11. Take a LaZoom Bus Tour
If you spend enough time in Asheville, you’ll probably see a distinctive purple school bus driving around and hear roars of laughter coming from inside.
The LaZoom comedy tours are the perfect way to get around Asheville, learn about the history, and meet other travelers.
You can choose from multiple themed tours, including a standard comedy tour, a spooky, ghost-themed tour, or a children’s comedy tour. Whether you want to enjoy the city with your partner or your kids, LaZoom tours are perfect for passing an afternoon.
12. Watch the Sunset from the Omni Grove Park Inn
The Omni Grove Park Inn is a luxury resort located in a historic building in Asheville. But visitors to the area who aren’t guests of the hotel can still enjoy the unbeatable views from some of the hotel’s decadent restaurants.
The Sunset Terrace and Vue 1913 restaurants, in particular, promise spectacular views and are the perfect place to enjoy delicious food and catch one of the Blue Ridge Mountains’ famed sunsets. If you plan to stay at the resort, you’ll also love the subterranean spa.
13. Hike to the Top of Mount Mitchell
Mount Mitchell State Park is an absolute must for nature lovers visiting this region of North Carolina. Mount Mitchell boasts the highest peak east of the Mississippi River and reaches a peak of 6,684 feet.
If you’re looking for a spectacular viewpoint to take in the sunset, then Mount Mitchell is it. Less than an hour from downtown Asheville, this is the perfect day or overnight camping trip on your vacation.
Don’t let its height intimidate you if you’re not one for the outdoors! The observation deck is easily accessible for all visitors to the area and promises spectacular views.
14. Go on the Natural Water Slide at Sliding Rock
A fan favorite amongst tourists and locals alike, Sliding Rock is the perfect place to beat the North Carolina summer heat. This 60-foot natural water slide sends adults and kids careening into a 7-foot swimming pool at the end.
You definitely will not want to miss this destination with your family because despite how hot it can get in the summer, the pool stays nice and chilly all year long.
However, prepare to stand in long lines in the busy summer months, as this is a very popular spot. If you’re determined, getting up early might allow you a few extra slides before the crowds start coming in!
15. Spend a Day at the Botanical Gardens at Asheville
If you’re looking for the perfect free activity to spend a day in Asheville, look no further than the Botanical Gardens at Asheville.
This incredible attraction features over 600 native Southern Appalachian plant species, and you can view them all in the 10-acre garden. Rare species that you can appreciate in the gardens include pale yellow trillium, swamp pink, and Oconee bells.
The botanical gardens are an independent non-profit, so while it’s recommended to offer a donation when you visit, admittance is entirely free for everyone to enjoy.
Things to Consider
As with any trip, you should do some basic planning before your upcoming trip to Asheville, NC, to avoid any unforeseen experiences and get an idea of what you’re interested in doing.
Although the area is not remote, and you can quickly get around the city, you should still mentally prepare yourself for coming to this area.
Consider the following information to ensure you’re fully prepared and enjoy your upcoming trip to Asheville:
- If you plan to rent a car and drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, make sure to observe the speed limit and practice safe driving on the windy road.
- Asheville gets less snow than some of the surrounding areas of the United States, but you should still factor in the potential for snowfall when traveling during the winter months. Be sure to pack appropriately warm clothing to stay safe and comfortable.
- Asheville is a quiet and safe city, but you should still practice basic safety when traveling. Take care to always keep your phone on you, travel with a buddy, and practice caution when moving around the city after dark.
- Make sure you bring appropriate footwear and clothing if you plan to spend time outdoors. Outdoor recreation is a huge part of the Asheville culture, and you should be prepared to enjoy it.
- Always use a map, GPS device, or smartphone to keep track of where you are if you plan to hike or camp and carry enough food, water, and shelter to survive if you get lost.
- Be respectful of the nature and wildlife in the area; stay on the trail, keep a respectful distance from wildlife, and carry any trash out with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the frequently asked questions people have when visiting Asheville, NC:
What is the best time of year to visit Asheville, NC?
Many people visit Asheville in the fall because it’s a perfect time to enjoy North Carolina’s famed fall foliage. The Blue Ridge Parkway is particularly popular at this time of the year, and it’s a great time to drive around and view the changing leaves. Spring is also a popular time to visit Asheville, as the weather starts to warm up and the wildflowers in the area are abundant.
Do I need a car when I visit Asheville, NC?
You do not need a car when visiting Asheville, NC. The downtown area is very walkable, and you can also use Asheville’s public transportation or a ride-sharing app to get around. However, many visitors opt to rent a car to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and have access to outdoor areas.
Why is Asheville, NC, so popular?
Asheville is famous because of its spectacular location in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The city is lively and has a vibrant food and art scene while maintaining a small-town feel close to endless nature. There are also numerous tourist destinations like the Biltmore Estate that draw visitors to the area.
Is downtown Asheville worth visiting?
Downtown Asheville may be worth visiting, depending on what you’re looking for out of your trip. While people who travel to the area for camping and backpacking opportunities may opt for more remote stays, downtown is well worth visiting for those who want to get a feel for Asheville. If you’re interested in the local food and beverage, art, and history scene, then visiting downtown Asheville is a must.
What is Asheville, NC, best known for?
Asheville is best known for the Biltmore Estate, which has drawn many famous visitors over the years. It’s also known for having the primary visitors center of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
So, What Are the Best Things to Do in Asheville, NC?
Asheville has ample activities for visitors to participate in when they come to town, and no matter what you choose to do, you’re sure to have a great time on your trip to Asheville.
Whether you feel like taking a long drive down a stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, going down the 60-foot natural waterslide at sliding rock, or taking a spooky bus tour with LaZoom tours, Asheville has something to offer everyone.
We hope you’ll consider at least one activity on this list for your upcoming trip to Asheville and appreciate all this up-and-coming city has to offer!