The 35 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

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[Updated January 2, 2024

For a medium-sized North Carolina 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 are also countless critically-acclaimed restaurants, with lots of craft breweries and farm-to-table fare. There’s also 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 ecotourism attractions such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Linville Falls, and Pisgah National Forest.

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

READ MORE: The Top 10 Treehouse Rentals Near Asheville NC

Are you planning a trip to Asheville NC?

If you need recommendations for fun things to do in Asheville NC, check out our tips for some of the top hotels, guided tours, and more!

Top Places to Stay in Asheville NC

  1. Cambria Hotel (downtown hotel with fridge and on-site restaurant, highly recommended)
  2. Kimpton – Hotel Arras, IHG (downtown 4-star hotel w/very good breakfast & bikes)
  3. The Inn On Biltmore Estate (Biltmore hotel with on-site spa w/ casual & fine-dining restaurants)
  4. Hampton Inn & Suites Biltmore Village (pet-friendly, budget-friendly hotel w/ breakfast)
  5. GLō Best Western Asheville Tunnel Road (affordable chic hotel in West Asheville w/ breakfast)
  6. Black Walnut B&B Inn (romantic B&B in the Montford Historic District)
  7. Cumberland Falls Bed & Breakfast Inn (Montford B&B w/spa massages & foot bath services)

Popular tours and activities in Asheville NC:

  1. Asheville: 3-Hour City Electric Bike Tour with Views (top selling tour)

  2. Asheville: Scenic Helicopter Experience (Mountain & French Broad River views)

  3. Asheville Ghost Walking Tour with Mystery Museum Admission (2-hr history/ghost tour)
  4. Asheville: Terrors, Boos and Booze Haunted Pub Crawl (2-hr bar-to-bar walking tour)

  5. Downtown Asheville Guided Brewery Walking Tour (3+hr craft breweries tour w/ samples)

  6. French Broad Gorge Whitewater Rafting Trip (4-hr Class II and III rapids rafting tour)

  7. Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfalls Hiking Tour from Asheville (guided day trip to 3 waterfalls)

  8. 2.5-Hour Blue Ridge Parkway Guided Jeep Tour (Small-group tour on the best of the parkway)

  9. Guided Horseback Ride through Flame Azalea and Fern Forest (1.25-hr family-friendly ride)

  10. Mountain Mural Tour-River Arts and Downtown Asheville (1.5-hr street art, graffiti, murals)

Need a car rental for your Asheville NC trip? Find the best rental car options here!


  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
  26. Play at the Asheville Pinball Museum
  27. Explore the Montford Area Historic District
  28. Take a Day Trip to Weaverville NC
  29. Visit the Moog Museum
  30. Wine Tasting at Addison Farms Vineyard
  31. Family Fun at Grandad’s Apples
  32. Tour the Basilica of Saint Lawrence
  33. Go Horseback Riding
  34. Take a Waynesville Day Trip
  35. Celebrate Christmas in Asheville

READ MORE: 15 Festive Ways to Celebrate an Asheville NC Christmas

Biltmore Estates, Asheville NC
Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC, photo via 123rf


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


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, wildflowers, 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 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


The Red Wolf is one of the most critically endangered canid species in the world. But thanks to captive breeding programs, 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 birds. But the WNC Nature Center’s most unique offering is the chance to see 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” an educational behind the scenes tour.

READ MORE: The Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in North Carolina

Proper Asheville Restaurant
The kitchen at Asheville Proper, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


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 the award-winning Indian food 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 Appalachian 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, photo via


The French Broad River winds its way right through the heart of Asheville. The river is lined with lush, verdant parks that are 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 white water 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.

This is a great river for kayaking in the off-season, when the water is high and tourist traffic on the French Broad River is relatively low.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places to Go White Water Rafting in North Carolina

Curve Studios in Downtown Asheville's River Arts District
Curve Studios in Asheville’s River Arts District, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


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 CURVE Studios in the River Arts District in 1984, when Downtown Asheville was teetering on the brink of economic collapse. Now the 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


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 forest in the eastern United States.

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


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 NC 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 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 50 Best North Carolina Waterfalls to Visit

Highland Brewing-Visiting the First Asheville Brewery
Highland Brewing Exterior


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.

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 is offered 3 times a day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Each lasts around 45 minutes, and include a beer tasting to celebrate the occasion.

They also offer private tours. Email [email protected] for more information.

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


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 North Carolina 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


Putting an eco-friendly spin 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 zip lining 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, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett


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: Camping in Asheville NC: The 15 Best Campgrounds to Visit

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


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 30 Best Waterfalls Near Asheville NC

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


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 offers 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


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 areCraggy 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 NC), 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.

It’s a lovely 0.9-mile hike through gentle inclines and gorgeous forest. Sadly, Skinny Dip Falls is still recovering from severe damage caused by Tropical Storm Fred back in 2021. 

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

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. 

It’s especially lovely at Christmas, when the entire garden is illuminated by millions of twinkling lights!

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 25 miles from Asheville, Hendersonville NC used to be one of many sleepy Blue Ridge mountain towns.

But as Asheville’s growth has exploded, 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 many parks

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 15 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, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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, the Center dates 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, she founded the Allanstand Craft Shop around 1900. 

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

With over 1000 artists and craftspeople representing 9 southeastern states, 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 15 Best VRBO Cabins in Asheville NC

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 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 another 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 1949. 

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: The 15 Best Fairs in North Carolina to Visit

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.

You can also get personal tips from park rangers 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 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 trail that begins at the far end of the visitor center parking lot. It ultimately connects to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which stretches 1,175 miles from the North Carolina mountains to its coast. 

READ MORE:The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in North Carolina

Sunset at Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Sunset from Craggy Gardens, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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 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.  

READ MORE:  The Best Hiking in Asheville NC Bucket List (Top 25 Hiking Trails)

Vintage Pinball Machines at the Asheville Pinball Museum
Photo courtesy Asheville Pinball Museum

26. Play at the Asheville Pinball Museum

Growing up as a child of the ’80s, I was an avid video game junkie (Atari 2600 was my jam). So this excellent Asheville attraction brought back loads of nostalgic arcade memories. 

Located across from the Grove Arcade in Downtown Asheville, the Asheville Pinball Museum offers an extensive collection of 70+ vintage pinball machines and classic video games you can play.

Since there’s a set price (Adults $15, Children 10 & under $13), you can stay as long as you want and not need to buy more tokens.

Several of their machines date way back to the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, but most of them are from the Golden Age of Video Games in the ’80s-’90s.

So you’ll find Star Trek, Evel Knievel, The Black Hole, and Creature From the Black Lagoon pinball machines, as well as classic video games such as Frogger, 1942, Q-Bert, etc. 

They also offer adult beverages such as beer (some from local breweries), as well as snacks and sodas. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Cherokee NC & the Qualla Boundary

Cumberland Falls B&B Inn in Asheville NC
Cumberland Falls B&B Inn, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

27. Explore the Montford Area Historic District

The Montford Area Historic District is one of Asheville’s’s oldest and most architecturally impressive neighborhoods, with many homes designed by iconic Biltmore architect Richard Sharp Smith. 
Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel called Montford Avenue “the most fashionable street in town.” Business executives, doctors, lawyers, and NC Governor Locke Craig all lived in the neighborhood in the early 20th century.
Today the area boasts 600+ houses that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, some of which are part of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association.
The neighborhood is home to some of our favorite Asheville B&Bs, including the Black Walnut B&B Inn (built in 1899), Pinecrest Bed & Breakfast (built in 1905), and Cumberland Falls Bed & Breakfast Inn (which offers an on-site spa and one of the best breakfasts in town). 
Even if you’re not staying there, a walking tour of the Montford area is a great way to see some fantastic architecture as well as Montford Park and the Riverside Cemetery (where Thomas Wolfe is buried). 
Waterfall in Weaverville NC
Waterfall in Weaverville NC, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

28. Take a Day Trip to Weaverville NC

As we search for a Blue Ridge Mountain town to call home, Weaverville NC would be at the top of our list if real estate prices were not a factor. It truly has everything we’re looking for in a community.

Located 8 miles from downtown Asheville, Weaverville (population 4,000) feels far removed from the hustle and bustle of the burgeoning metropolis. Its ample green space earned a “Tree City USA” designation from the Arbor Day Foundation.

There are lots of fun things to do in Weaverville NC, including an array of downtown parks, great restaurants, historical museums, and cultural attractions. 

And while the fine hotels of the former resort town’s 1930s heyday have long since closed down, charming bed-and-breakfasts and cute cabins are commonplace (including some right along Reems Creek).

The town of Weaverville also boasts a great arts and live music scene, and there’s a weekly tailgate market offered from April through October.

READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Weaverville NC

Moog Museum in Asheville NC
The Moog Factory & Store, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

29. Visit the Moog Store & Moogseum

From weekly drum circles in Pritchard Park to decades of killer concerts at the Orange Peel, Asheville is known as one of the hippest music towns in the Blue Ridge region

But engineering physicist Robert Moog, the electronic music pioneer who invented the first commercial synthesizer (and moved to Western NC in 1978), was an Asheville resident long before the city’s 21st century boom. He even taught at UNC Asheville back in the early ’90s! 

The Moog Store and Moogseum both offer great opportunities to learn more about this iconic inventor and his enduring influence on the evolution of popular music. 

The Moog Store is offering small group sessions (by appt only) that include a brief history of Moog Music, demos of historically significant instruments, and more. 

The Moogseum, the hallmark project of the Bob Moog Foundation, is an impressively immersive and interactive museum where Moog’s influential legacy and the science of sound truly come alive. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best North Carolina Music Festivals in 2022

Addison Farms Vineyard near Asheville NC
Addison Farms Vineyard, photo via Facebook

30. Wine Tasting at Addison Farms Vineyard

Located on a picturesque 55-acre plot of land in Leicester NC (about 17 miles from Downtown Asheville), this fourth-generation family farm started focusing on growing grapes back in 2009.

They have more than 6 acres of grapes planted now, and plan to gradually expand it 10 acres. They make numerous tasty wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, and Montepulciano.

Addison Farms has also formed a partnership with several other local wineries, including Moon Lake Vineyard, Spring Branch Vineyard, and Two Moons Vineyard.

Collectively, these small farms produce more than 800 cases of North Carolina wine each year.

If you want to visit Addison Farms for a tour and/or wine tasting, please make reservations in advance. You can also purchase their small-batch wines online.

READ MORE: The 15 Best NC Wineries to Visit

Grandads Apples
Photo courtesy of Grandad’s Apples ‘N Such

31. Family Fun at Grandad’s Apples ‘N Such

Although there are no apple orchards in Asheville proper, there are quite a few options in Hendersonville NC, which is just 25 miles south of the city. 

Grandad’s Apples is one of the most popular places to get fresh apples in NC. Founded in 1994, it’s led by a 4th generation farmer and his family, who grow apples, pumpkins, peaches, and more. 

Their U-pick apple season begins in August and runs through late October, with 40+ varieties of apples (including Ginger Gold, Gala, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Shuzuka, Red Rome, Arkansas Black, Braeburn, Nittany, Evercrisp, and more).

Starting on Labor Day weekend, the farm also features family-friendly activities such as an apple cannon, cow train, and a corn maze you can try to navigate. 

While you’re there, check out Grandad’s Barn and Country Store & Bakery, where you can shop for apple-themed gifts and apple-based goodies, including pies, hot cider, and apple cider slushies!

READ MORE: Apple Picking in North Carolina: The 15 Best NC Apple Orchards

Flowering Dogwood in Downtown Asheville NC
Basilica of St Lawrence, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

32. Tour the Basilica of Saint Lawrence

Formally known as the Basilica of St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr, this minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church is a major architectural highlight of downtown Asheville.

Included on the National Register of Historic Places, the elaborate church was designed and built by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino and local legend Richard Sharp Smith (lead architect of the Biltmore Estate). 

This is the only basilica in Western NC, and it’s 52 X 82-foot dome is reportedly the largest free-standing elliptical dome on the North American continent. 

Inside, the basilica features elaborate stained glass windows (made in Munich), statues of saints (made in Italy), a marble altar (from Tennessee), and a wood carving of the Virgin Mary and John the Apostle (made in Spain).

Walk-in visits are permitted during the hours posted on their website, and self-guided tours of the basilica are free (though donations are always appreciated). 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Maggie Valley NC

Horseback riding in Asheville NC - Biltmore Estates
Photo courtesy Biltmore Equestrian Center

33. Go Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is a great way to immerse yourself in natural beauty Asheville has to offer, and the Biltmore Equestrian Center offers private two-hour tours.

Theirs are the only Asheville horseback riding tours within the city limits, exploring the trails of the historic property.

Expert guides lead up to four guests at a time through the world-renowned estate, which is surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest.

Note that all participants will need a Biltmore day pass or annual pass, or an overnight room at the estate.

It’s highly recommended that visitors book their horseback riding tour reservations several days in advance in order to ensure availability.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places for Horseback Riding In/Near Asheville NC

Bluegrass Statues on the Waynesville Public Art Trail
Bluegrass Statues on the Waynesville Public Art Trail

34. Waynesville Day Trip

There are a lot of reasons to love the small town of Waynesville NC, and I’d say that even if I weren’t related to the town’s founder, Revolutionary War hero Colonel Robert Love. 

The area is home to two beautiful lakes (Junaluska and Logan), surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in NC, and offers awesome outdoor recreation in the Shining Rock Wilderness.

Downtown Waynesville is very walkable, with the best shops in a 5-block area on Main Street. This is also where you’ll find the best restaurants in Waynesville, including the Chef’s Table, Suwana Asian Cuisine, and Wild Flour Bakery.

If history and culture are your thing, check out the Folkmoot Friendship Center (famous for their cultural festivals), Haywood Arts Regional Theater, and the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts. 

Haywood County is also a hotbed of Appalachian culture: The area gave birth to bluegrass music icons like Don Reno and Raymond Fairchild (both banjo virtuosos), as well as “Square Dance King” Sam Love Queen.  

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Waynesville NC & Haywood County

Christmas at Biltmore Estate
Christmas at Biltmore Estate, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

35. Celebrate Christmas in Asheville

From the myriad Boone Christmas tree farms and Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock to the Polar Express Train in Bryson City, there are many Western NC Christmas events that have become popular holiday traditions.

But for our money, it’s difficult to beat the diversity of attractions you can find during Christmas in Asheville. 

Christmas at the Biltmore is easily the largest celebration, with a tree-raising event, daytime and candlelit nighttime tours of the festively decorated rooms of the Biltmore House, and holiday happenings in both the Antler Hill and Historic Biltmore Village areas. 

But the largest privately owned home in America is far from the only Asheville Christmas game in town. 

There’s also the National Gingerbread House Competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn, Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum, and numerous other Christmas light displays that make Asheville a great place to spend the holidays! –by Bret Love; lead image via Canva

READ MORE: 30 Fun Facts About Appalachian Scots-Irish History & Culture


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. Born and raised in North Georgia, Editor-In-Chief Bret Love grew up hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his family. A professional writer/editor since 1995, he's covered travel and culture for 100+ publications, including American Way, Destination Marriott, Georgia Travel Guide, National Geographic, and Southbound. In 2010 he co-founded the award-winning website, Green Global Travel, which is ranked among the world's top travel blogs. Since launching BRMTG in 2020, he and Mary Gabbett have visited 50+ Blue Ridge Mountain towns together. Though she lived in NYC for 14 years, photographer/Business Manager Mary Gabbett's family has Georgia roots dating back 200+ years. Her great-grandfather was President of the Western Railroad of Alabama. Before moving to Atlanta in 1989, she fell in love with the North GA mountains, where her aunt owned a cabin. In 2010 she co-founded Green Global Travel, and has since traveled to more than 40 countries on six continents. Her photos have appeared in numerous travel publications (including National Geographic and Southbound) and various textbooks.

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