The 25 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

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[Updated July 27, 2021] For a relatively small Blue Ridge mountain town with a population of under 100,000, there is a surprising wealth of unique things to do in Asheville NC.

Thanks to an infusion of wealth brought in by the Biltmore Estate in the early 20th century, there’s historic art deco-influenced architecture.

There is also a critically-acclaimed restaurant scene, with lots of craft Asheville breweries and farm-to-table fare. There’s a vibrant cultural community, particularly in the River Arts District.

Thanks to sound city planning, many of the best Asheville hotels are within walking distance of its major attractions. 

But our favorite aspect of Asheville is the fact that it’s surrounded by wilderness, including nearby ecotourism attractions such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Linville Gorge, and Pisgah National Forest.

So here’s a look at some of the best things to do in Asheville NC for outdoor enthusiasts, from touring Biltmore Estate, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, and hiking Mount Mitchell State Park to rafting the French Broad River and seeing endangered Red Wolves.

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN ASHEVILLE NC

Black Walnut B&B Inn -Romantic 1899 B&B in Montford, 2 pet-friendly rooms.

GLō Best Western Asheville Tunnel Road -Affordable new chic hotel.

Hampton Inn & Suites-Biltmore Village -Affordable pet-friendly.

Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville -Mountain View, great location.

The Windsor – Asheville – Boutique hotel w/ full kitchen & washer/dryer.

 
Black Walnut B&B Inn
Black Walnut B&B Inn via booking.com

BEST THINGS TO DO IN ASHEVILLE NC

  1. Tour The Biltmore Estate
  2. Find Foraged Foods
  3. See North Carolina’ Red Wolves
  4. Explore Downtown Asheville’s Restaurant Scene
  5. Rafting The French Broad River
  6. Visit the River Arts District
  7. Rappel In Green River Gorge
  8. Slip Down Sliding Rock
  9. Take A Free Highland Brewing Tour
  10. Watch For Cataloochee Elk
  11. Ziplining In Asheville
  12. People Watching In Pack Square Park
  13. Fishing Linville Gorge
  14. Mountain Biking Pisgah
  15. Rock Climbing At Chimney Rock
  16. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
  17. Hike in Mount Mitchell State Park
  18. See Looking Glass Rock & Skinny Dip Falls
  19. Find Flora at the NC Arboretum
  20. Take a Day Trip to Hendersonville NC
  21. Get Cultured at the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center
  22. Explore the Asheville Botanical Garden 
  23. See the Thomas Wolfe House/Memorial
  24. Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center
  25. Watch the Sunset from Craggy Gardens

 

Biltmore Estates, Asheville NC
Biltmore Estates, Asheville NC by 123rf

1. TOUR THE BILTMORE ESTATE

Named after former North Carolina governor Samuel Ashe, Asheville was born in 1797. But it wasn’t until George Washington Vanderbilt II finished building his Biltmore Estate in 1895 that the city began to attract national attention. 

The family’s 125,000-acre estate became a popular retreat among early 20th century icons such as automaker Henry Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, and Presidents William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.

With 250 rooms encompassing over 135,000 square feet, the historic landmark’s Châteauesque-style architecture, lushly landscaped gardens, and forestry initiatives have made it the most popular Asheville attraction. 

There are numerous Biltmore tour options, included self-guided and audio tours of the house, gardens, winery, and rooftop, as well as tours just for kids.

There are also endless outdoor activities on the 8,000-acre estate, ranging from biking, hiking, and kayaking to falconry, fly-fishing, horseback riding, and sporting clays.

READ MORE: The History of Downtown Asheville, NC- From Biltmore to Boom

Things to do in Asheville N.C.  Foraged Foods Tour
Photo courtesy of No Taste Like Home

2. FIND FORAGED FOODS

Did you know that the nature-lover’s paradise around Asheville boasts over 300 wild edibles!

Founded in 1995, eco-tour operator No Taste Like Home offers “Wild Food Adventures” that teach travelers how to safely harvest edible wild plants for themselves.

Exploring local fields and forests with an expert, you’ll find a broad variety of edible berries, greens, flowers, nuts, seeds and North Carolina mushrooms. 

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Asheville with kids, check out their 90-minute Wild Food Stroll at the Omni Grove Park Inn.

Afterwards, you can either take your foraged foods home or visit one of six local restaurants whose chefs will whip up an appetizer with the ingredients you’ve foraged. It’s a great way to give kids a taste of what founder Alan Muskat calls, “find dining.”

READ MORE: The Top 10 Treehouse Rentals near Asheville, NC

Unique things to do in asheville nc - Visit Red Wolves
Photo by Tim Ross, Public Domain

3. SEE NORTH CAROLINA RED WOLVES

The Red Wolf is one of the most critically endangered canid species in the world. But thanks to captive breeding programs at various zoos and wildlife refuges, they’ve slowly begun to recover. There are now around 130 in the wild, and 250 others in captivity.

One of our favorite things to do in Asheville is visit the 42-acre Western North Carolina Nature Center, which connects people with the native plants and animals of the Blue Ridge  Mountains. 

Their animal exhibits include Black Bears, Cougars, Coyotes, Red and Gray Foxes, Raccoons, River Otters, and many more. But the WNC Nature Center’s most unique offering is the chance to see around a dozen Red Wolves in North Carolina.  

The Nature Center’s breeding program is helping to save this beautiful species, which is endemic to North Carolina. Their beloved wolves have been known to howl in unison when the mood strikes. 

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Asheville, NC for kids, check out their “Junior Wild Walk: A Behind the Scenes” tour, or consider hosting a birthday party at the center.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Western North Carolina Mountains for Hiking

Hanger Steak at Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville NC
Dinner at Tupelo Honey

4. EXPLORE DOWNTOWN ASHEVILLE’S RESTAURANT SCENE

Downtown Asheville has an astounding array of critically acclaimed restaurants for a 45-square-mile mountain town with a population of less than 100,000 people.

Those seeking vegetarian, vegan, or just plain healthy food will have a wealth of options to choose from, from the Green Sage and Laughing Tree Cafes to Plant and Rosetta’s Kitchen & The Buchi Bar.

Looking for more exotic fare? Check out award-winning Indian fare at Chai Pani, the French fare of Bouchon, Korean restaurant Stone Bowl, and new-ish Ramen joint Futo Buta. 

If you’re looking for chef-driven dining, foodies fawn over hotspots such as Katie Button’s Cúrate (tapas), Peter Pollay’s Posana (farm-to-table), Linton Hopkins’ H&F Burger, John Fleer’s Rhubarb, and Elliott Moss’ Buxton Hall.

But for good old-fashioned Southern comfort food, check out rising star Ashleigh Shanti’s Benne on Eagle, 12 Bones Smokehouse (the Obamas’ favorite), and the Tupelo Honey Cafe, one of the oldest restaurants in Asheville. 

READ MORE: The Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants

Things to do in asheville with kids -Rafting the French Broad River
Rafting the French Broad River via noc.com

5. RAFTING THE FRENCH BROAD RIVER

The French Broad River winds its way right through the heart of Asheville. The river is lined with lush, verdant parks perfect for picnics and recreation.

Rafting the French Broad River is one of the most fun things to do in Asheville with kids, or a group of friends.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center has been offering guided rafting trips here longer than anyone else. They have half-day tours that are aimed at beginners (ages 8 and up). There are also full-day, 8-mile, intermediate tours that tackle more challenging Class IV rapids.

Hardy kayakers will especially love hitting the river in the off-season, when the water is high and tourist traffic on the French Broad River is relatively low.

READ MORE: Rafting the New River Gorge, West Virginia

Curve Studios in Downtown Asheville's River Arts District
Curve Studios in Asheville’s River Arts District

6. EXPLORE THE RIVER ARTS DISTRICT

Asheville has emerged over the past 10 to 15 years as a progressive cultural haven in the heart of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge region.

NYC-bred clothing designer Pattiy Torno (former chair of the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission) was one of the area’s artistic pioneers.

She set up her CURVE Studios in what became known as the River Arts District in 1984, when Downtown Asheville was teetering on the brink of economic collapse. Now the picturesque area is the creative home to more than 200 artists working in a broad variety of mediums.

Visitors looking for a weekend getaway immersed in culture will find excellent shopping opportunities in countless galleries occupying 22 former industrial buildings along a one-mile stretch of the tranquil French Broad River. 

From Curve and the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts to the 110,000-sq foot Riverview Station and the relatively new Pink Dog Creative, each building is a treasure trove of creativity. 

READ MORE: Asheville River Arts District: A Guide to Galleries & Restaurants

What to do in Asheville: Rappel Green River Gorge
Photo courtesy Green River Adventures

7. RAPPEL IN GREEN RIVER GORGE

A tributary of the Broad River, the Green River begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains and flows into the Piedmont region.

Located just southeast of Asheville, the area surrounding the Green River Gorge boasts some of the most biodiverse forests in the eastern United States.

Green River tubing is always popular here due to the river’s controlled water flow. But for a change of pace, try canyoneering, one of the most adrenaline-pumping things to do in Asheville.

Green River Adventures offers two options for rappelling. At 70 feet tall, the Little Bradley Waterfall is perfect for youngsters (aged 12 and up) and first-timers.

Big Bradley Falls, at 200 feet, is more challenging, and recommended for thrill-seekers ages 15 and up. Both tours include expert instruction and plenty of practice time.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes for NC Day Trips

Fun things to do in NC: Asheville's Sliding Rock
Photo courtesy Explore Asheville

8. SLIP DOWN SLIDING ROCK

It may be a mountain town, but Asheville can still get extremely hot during the dog days of summer.

There’s nothing better at the end of a long day of outdoor adventures than cooling off in one of the area’s countless waterfalls.

If you’re still hungry for more action, head to Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest. This is considered “the king of swimming holes,” offering a 60-foot natural rock water slide that feeds into an 8-foot deep pool.

While this may be one of the most fun things to do in Asheville for kids, be aware that the Blue Ridge mountain waters can be chilly– usually around 55-60º!

But there are observation areas for folks who find those temps too “refreshing.” Just get there early, because this local hotspot is a popular place for families in the summertime.

READ MORE: The 20 Best NC Waterfalls for Hiking

Highland Brewing-Visiting the First Asheville Brewery
Highland Brewing Exterior

9. TAKE A FREE HIGHLAND BREWING TOUR

Arguably the best Beer City in America, the extensive Asheville breweries list ranges from nationally recognized companies such as Sierra Nevada and New Belgium to locally grown brands like Wicked Weed and Hi-Wire.

But the very first Asheville brewery, Highland Brewing Company, was founded back in 1994 and remains one of the best breweries in Asheville.

Their guided walking tours of the facilities– one of the best free things to do in Asheville– are available every day of the week.

The original Asheville beer tour if offered twice a day on Monday and Tuesday, and on four different occasions each afternoon for the rest of the week. Each lasts around 45 minutes, and include a beer tasting to celebrate the occasion.

Note that these tours have been temporarily suspended in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. To find out when they’ll resume, visit the brewery’s web page here.

READ MORE: Visiting Highland Brewing, the First Asheville Brewery

Elk in Cataloochee Valley at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Cataloochee Elk, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

10. WATCH FOR CATALOOCHEE ELK

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited of America’s National Parks, boasts a bevy of wildlife species.

It’s home to 200 species of birds, 50 species of fish, 39 species of reptiles, 43 species of amphibians, and mammals such as Black Bears, Raccoons, Bobcats, River Otters, Beavers, and two species of Fox.

Visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best free things to do near Asheville, especially if you’re going to see the ever-expanding Cataloochee Elk herd.

Elk once roamed these North Carolina hills by the thousands, but they were all killed off by hunters in the 1700s.

Thanks to a 2001 reintroduction program, there are now over 150 Cataloochee Elk in the park. The Cataloochee Valley (which is surrounded by picturesque 6000-foot peaks) is easily the best place to see them.

These massive megafauna can often be found grazing along the road into the park. But park volunteers can typically tell you where the herd was spotted last.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Western NC Small Towns to Visit (& Live In)

Asheville NC Attractions: Ziplining in Asheville NC
Photo courtesy Navitat Canopy Adventures

11. ZIPLINING IN ASHEVILLE

Putting an eco-friendly pin on typical zipline tours, Navitat Canopy Adventures speaks for the trees and encourages their guests to respect the beauty of nature.

The company’s Treetop Tour is perfect for first-timers, combining 6 ziplines (one 1250 feet), two bridges, two rappels and two hikes. Treetop Tour participants must weigh between 90 and 250 pounds.

The Mountaintop Tour is bigger, higher and faster. It boasts one zip measuring 3,600 feet long and 350 feet high, going at speeds up to 65 mph. Mountaintop Tour participants must weight between 70 and 250 pounds.

Adrenaline junkies will love The Ultimate Adventure Tour, which combines both packages for six hours of invigorating action and incredible Blue Ridge mountain views. 

READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Elkin NC (BRP Milepost 229)

Busking Musicians in Asheville, NC
Busking Musicians in Asheville, NC

12. PEOPLE WATCHING IN PACK SQUARE PARK

When it comes to free things to do in Asheville, NC, just sitting and watching the wonderfully eclectic array of people milling about in Pack Square Park was easily our favorite.

Located in the heart of downtown Asheville, the park was created in 1900 and named for lumber tycoon George Willis Pack (who died just six years later). 

Known as Asheville’s greatest philanthropist, he donated the land on which Pack Square was built, which is now surrounded by the historic art deco buildings for which the downtown area is known.

It’s a great place to get a feel for the mountain town’s remarkable diversity, where city slickers, grungy backpackers, young hipsters and aging hippies, tattooed cowboys, and young moms pushing their babies in strollers all commingle. 

If shopping is more your speed, you’ll also find Asheville’s best-known shops here along Biltmore Avenue. You can see everything from indie book and record stores to trendy clothing boutiques, an old-timey general store, lively brewpubs and more in a span of just a few blocks.

READ MORE: Exploring Asheville’s Sierra Nevada Brewery

Things to do in Asheville NC: Fishing Linville River
Photo by Ken Thomas, Public Domain

13. FISHING LINVILLE GORGE

Known as “the Grand Canyon of North Carolina,” the 11,876-acre Linville Gorge wilderness area is one of only two gorges in the Southern United States that was never clear-cut for logging.

The Linville River is situated approximately 1,400 feet below the ridge, so hiking Linville Gorge is most enjoyable for those who like a somewhat strenuous challenge.

In addition to bears, foxes, raccoons, hawks, and other wildlife, the area is also a haven for fly fishing in North Carolina. Anglers come here from all over the US, hoping to hook their limit of well-stocked brown, brook, and rainbow trout.

Hiking down into Linville Gorge is an intense, all-day affair. But there’s much easier access near the 45-foot drop of Linville Falls (located about 70 minutes outside Asheville), where the Linville River intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway.

READ MORE: The 27 Best Waterfalls Near Asheville NC

Things to Do near Asheville NC: Mountain Biking Pisgah
Photo courtesy Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures

14. MOUNTAIN BIKING PISGAH

One of the first national forests in the eastern United States, Pisgah National Forest encompasses more than 510,000 acres of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

This gorgeous haven offer lots of things to do near Asheville, NC for hiking, camping and mountain biking enthusiasts.

Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures offers half-day, full-day, multi-day, and even nighttime tours guided by locals who know the area like the back of their hand.

Best of all, they can customize your Pisgah mountain bike adventure to match your style and ability, whether you prefer climbing, downhill, or single-track riding!

READ MORE:The 15 Best Pisgah National Forest Hiking Trails

Things to do in Asheville: Climbing Chimney Rock
Photo courtesy Fox Mountain Guides

15. ROCK CLIMBING AT CHIMNEY ROCK

Made famous by the 1992 Daniel Day Lewis film, The Last of the Mohicans, Chimney Rock State Park is located 25 miles outside Asheville.

It’s become increasingly popular amongst rock climbers in recent years thanks to its challenging array of cliffs, rock walls, and boulders.

Fox Mountain Guides & Climbing School (the only school in the Southeast certified by the American Mountain Guide Association) offers 1-on-1 rock climbing instruction and guided trips for skill levels ranging from beginners to experts.

Check out Rumbling Bald Mountain, which features 1,100 acres of world class technical rock climbing and around 1,500 boulders to conquer. All are easily accessible by car.  

READ MORE:The 10 Best Places for Snow Skiing in North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway - Linn Viaduct
Linn Cove Viaduct, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

16. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway

Stretching 469 miles, the Blue Ridge Parkway attracts more than 15 million annual visitors a year.

The world-renowned scenic route passes through Asheville, making it easy to explore the remarkable array of majestic mountains, lush valleys, and fertile forests that surround the city.

You won’t find any billboards, neon signs, restaurants, shopping centers, or other signs of commerce along the way. But there are loads of breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks, not to mention many noteworthy landmarks. 

A few of our favorites include Mount Mitchell (the highest point in NC), Pisgah National Forest, the Linville Gorge Wilderness, the Linn Cove Viaduct, and Grandfather Mountain State Park.

There are also plenty of Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trails to explore, many of which lead to wondrous waterfalls. Looking Glass Falls, Crabtree Falls, and Soco Falls are especially worth visiting, as are areas like Craggy Gardens and Little Switzerland.

READ MORE: The Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes for NC Day Trips

View from the Summit of Mount Mitchell NC
View from the Summit of Mount Mitchell, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

17. Hike in Mount Mitchell National Park 

Located in Burnsville NC, just 30 miles north of Asheville at BRP milepost 355, massive Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet.

Mount Mitchell State Park is one of North Carolina’s most popular outdoor attractions (especially in summer), offering 7 different hiking trails encompassing around 15 miles.

The shortest is of them all is also the most rewarding. The trek to the summit from the parking lot is moderately strenuous due to the sharp incline. But it’s just .4 miles, and rewards you with spectacular 360º scenic views (particularly when fall colors reach their peak).

The park also offers loads of camping options, a restaurant and concession stand, and an exceptional picnic area that includes 40 tables and two shelters with fireplaces.

READ MORE: Fall in North Carolina (The Best Places to See Fall Color)

Looking Glass Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
Looking Glass Rock, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

18. See Looking Glass Rock & Skinny Dip Falls

Located less than 40 miles from Asheville (near Brevard), Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 417 offers a chance to see two excellent attractions in one stop.

Looking Glass Rock is named for the fact that it often ices over in winter, reflecting sunlight from its stony summit. 

It’s possible to climb the massive monolith, if you’re inclined. The Looking Glass Rock Trail gains 1,700 feet of elevation in 3.2 miles (6.5 miles round-trip), with lots of switchbacks along the way.

So you could reach the summit and be back to your car in 4-5 hours. Or you could just view it from the overlook and take the MUCH easier Skinny Dip Falls hike, leading to one of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls.

That one’s just .9 miles of gentle inclines and gorgeous forest, with a beautiful waterfall and swimming holes waiting for you at the end. 

READ MORE: The Best Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfalls in North Carolina

Couple walking in Botanical Gardens at NC Arboretum in Asheville
NC Arboretum, photo courtesy ExploreAsheville.com

19. Find Flora at the NC Arboretum

The largest of the Asheville botanical gardens, the NC Arboretum encompasses 434 acres in the Pisgah National Forest. 

Devoted to education, research, conservation, and garden demonstrations, the Arboretum offers an array of activities, including various educational programs, tours, and events.

There are 7 main garden areas. The Blue Ridge Court is central to the Promenade, and features a garden pool, while the Stream Garden features mostly native North Carolina plants. 

The Heritage Garden features plants used in medicinal herbs and crafts; the Quilt Garden features Appalachian-style floral designs; and the Plants of Promise Garden demonstrates landscaping design with flora and stone. 

Along with the Holly Garden and National Native Azalea Repository (featuring 16 species that bloom in April), these features make the North Carolina Arboretum one of the best botanical gardens in the Eastern United States. 

READ MORE: The Best Christmas Tree Farms in Boone, Asheville & Beyond

Main St in Downtown Hendersonville NC
Downtown Hendersonville, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

20. Take a Day Trip to Hendersonville NC

Located just 25 miles from the heart of Downtown Asheville, Hendersonville NC used to be one of  many sleepy little Blue Ridge mountain towns.

But as Asheville’s growth has exploded over the past decade, Hendersonville has emerged as an impressive alternative to the bustling metropolis. The town of 14,254 people is beloved for its climate, gorgeous scenery, rich history, and abundance of parks and other attractions. 

A day trip to Hendersonville can include laid-back activities, such as strolling the charming downtown area’s lovely art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants. There are cool attractions like the Appalachian Pinball Museum, Mineral Lapidary Museum, and Pisgah Forest Gem Mine.

For active pursuits, there’s Holmes Educational State Forest and DuPont State Forest, which is full of waterfalls and 80+ miles of roads and hiking trails.

Don’t miss Jump Off Rock, which offers those spectacular misty mountain views the Blue Ridge region is known for.  

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Hendersonville NC

Interior of Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Inside the Folk Art Center

21. Get Cultured at the Folk Art Center

Located at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 382, just 11 miles from Downtown Asheville, the Folk Art Center is arguably the finest collection of Appalachian arts and crafts in the USA. 

The most popular attraction on the BRP (250,000 visitors a year), the Center traces its roots back to 1890, when Yale grad Frances Goodrich came to Asheville to do missionary work. In an effort to help Appalachian women who wove traditional quilts and coverlets, she founded the Allanstand Craft Shop around the turn of the century. 

The Southern Highland Craft Guild collective was founded in 1930, making it the second oldest craft organization in the US. They opened the Folk Art Center to the public at its current location in 1980, with three galleries, a library, an auditorium, and the historic Allanstand Craft Shop.

With over 1000 artists and craftspeople representing 9 southeastern state, the Guild’s permanent collection of 3,500+ pieces dating back to the dawn of the 20th century is second to none. 

From stunning quilts, woven baskets, and pottery to turned wood, furniture, and stained glass, it’s an extraordinary testament to the creativity of the Blue Ridge region.

READ MORE: The Appalachian Culture & History of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Bridge above the creek at Asheville Botanical Garden
Asheville Botanical Gardens, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

22. Explore the Asheville Botanical Gardens 

Though it’s not nearly as large or popular as the more famous gardens at the Biltmore and the NC Arboretum, the 10-acre Asheville Botanical Gardens is a lovely place to explore the native plants of Western North Carolina. 

Properly known as the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, the tranquil nature sanctuary is located on the grounds of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, but operates as an independent non-profit.

It was established in 1961 on abandoned timberland that had been badly eroded. Noted landscape architect Doan Ogden (who also planned the Daniel Boone Native Gardens in Boone NC) created the design, and some 5,000+ plants were brought in from private lands and national forests. 

Today there are more than 650 species of native plants found in the garden, which has a gurgling creek running through it as well as some great spots for a picnic. 

We saw tons of North Carolina wildflowers and flowering trees during our visit, including trillium, flame azaleas, and Eastern redbuds. It was one of our favorite free things to do in Asheville NC.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Boone NC Hiking Trails to Explore

Thomas Wolfe House/Memorial in Asheville NC
Thomas Wolfe House/Memorial, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

23. See the Thomas Wolfe House

Located in the Downtown Asheville Historic District, the Thomas Wolfe House (a.k.a. Thomas Wolfe Memorial) is the  boyhood home of the legendary author.

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971, the two-story yellow house was famously used as the setting for Wolfe’s classic novel, Look Homeward, Angel.

Called “Dixieland” in the book, the big boarding house was actually named “Old Kentucky Home.” Built in 1883, it was purchased by Julia Wolfe in 1906.

Tom, who lived there for 10 years before enrolling at UNC, adapted colorful stories of his family, friends, and boarders into the fictionalized novel. The house became a memorial to the author after his mother’s death, and has been open to visitors since the 1950s. 

The Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site is open from 9AM to 5PM Tuesday through Saturdays, with guided tours offered daily at half past each hour. 

READ MORE: Top 15 NC State Parks in the North Carolina Mountains

Exterior of Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center near Asheille NC
Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

24. Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center

Located at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 384, less than 7 miles from Downtown Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center is a great place to learn more about the history of the route and get personal tips on things to see and do on your epic road trip. 

There are themed exhibits on everything from Blue Ridge flora and fauna to Cherokee history, traditional Appalachian culture, and the construction of the Parkway (which lasted from 1935 to 1987). 

The Visitor Center also features a 22-foot, interactive digital map of the Parkway, as well as an award-winning 24-minute film that offers an excellent overview of the history and nature that make the BRP so special.

There’s also a 1.4-mile loop hiking trail that begins at the far end of the visitor center parking lot. It ultimately connects to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which stretches 1175 miles from the North Carolina mountains to its coast. 

READ MORE: 40 Fascinating Facts About the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sunset at Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Sunset from Craggy Gardens

25. Watch the Sunset from Craggy Gardens

One of our favorite memories from our latest trip to Asheville was a magnificent picnic we shared while watching the sunset at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center

Located at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 364.4, it’s about a 40-minute drive from Downtown Asheville. But if you’re looking for an epic sunset above those trademark rolling hills, this spot atop Black Mountain is the place to be.

Note that it can get quite windy and cold up there, with an elevation of approximately 5,497 feet. So you’ll definitely want to dress in layers, and bring hats and gloves just in case. 

But picking up a “Tapas For 2” from Cúrate and spending a few hours watching the sky evolve into the glorious vision depicted above was truly a trip highlight we will never forget.  –by Bret Love; lead image via Canva

 
Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Bret grew up camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia and North Carolina with his parents, and the couple both spent childhood summers on the water with their grandparents. After becoming empty nesters, they yearned for a pristine place where they could escape the hustle and bustle of the city, commune with nature and family, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle that leaves time to appreciate the simpler things in life. Join them and their team as they explore the region, offering expert insights on Blue Ridge travel as they search for the perfect mountain home.

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