15 Fun Things to Do in Asheville NC in Winter

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In winter, Asheville NC is still a great place to be. It’s cold enough for some snow and snuggles by a cozy fire, but sheltered enough not to be an absolute Arctic blast.

Christmas in Asheville includes luxury venues like the Biltmore Estate and nearby NC mountain towns, with festive lights and garlands hanging on everything in between.

There are myriad ski resorts within an hour of Downtown Asheville.

So you could easily hit the ski slopes or go snow tubing during the day, and still have plenty of time to catch the Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum that night.

This bustling Blue Ridge Mountain town boasts an array of top-notch microbreweries, museums, and restaurants, all of which are perfect for inside entertainment on colder Asheville winter days.

Winter in Asheville NC warrants a place on any southerner’s list of top winter vacation spots. And for northerners considering January vacations, it’s arguably one of the best North Carolina winter getaways.

Read on for our list of the best things to do in Asheville NC in winter, from cool Christmas events and winter sports to art, music, museums, wineries, and more! 

READ MORE: The 35 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

Winter in NC, Fireside

Things to Do in Asheville NC in Winter Guide

  1. Catch a Show at the Theatre
  2. Celebrate Christmas at the Biltmore
  3. Check out Gingerbread Houses at Grove Park Inn
  4. Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
  5. Eat at Asheville Restaurants
  6. Get Some Pampering at Asheville Spas
  7. Go Skiing in Maggie Valley
  8. Hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains
  9. Hop Around River Arts District Galleries
  10. Hunker Down at Asheville Breweries
  11. See the Winter Lights at NC Arboretum
  12. Take the Kids to the Museum 
  13. Tour NC Wineries
  14. Try Snow Tubing at Tube World
  15. Walk on Asheville Ghost Tours

READ MORE: The 15 Best Romantic Getaways in NC (Cabins, Inns & Resorts)

Bluegrass First Class - North Carolina Music Festival
Photo courtesy BluegrassFirstClass.com

1. Catch a Show at the Theatre or Concert Hall

With nearly 100,000 residents, Asheville is large enough to have a thriving theatre and live music scene, with loads of resident talent to perform and cultural connoisseurs to attend.

The Asheville Symphony performs at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, while the Asheville Community Theatre does some fun holiday shows. The Fringe Arts Festival (March 23-26, 2023) is always a good time.

December’s Balsam Range Art of Music Festival at Lake Junaluska (near Waynesville NC) and February’s Bluegrass First Class are great for those who love music.

There are also lots of smaller concerts offered at local breweries and bars.

Known for being both progressive and steeped in local Appalachian Music, the town of Asheville is a wonderful spot for sampling music and performing arts in all sorts of flavors.

READ MORE: The 20 Best North Carolina Music Festivals

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

2. Celebrate Christmas at the Biltmore

If you visit Asheville for the first time, your itinerary should include a visit to the Biltmore Estate, the magical mansion (and largest privately-owned residence in America) that was once home to the Vanderbilts.

The estate can be explored in any season, but Christmas at the Biltmore Estate offers an upscale holiday atmosphere unlike any other you’ll ever experience.

Candlelit NC Christmas evenings at the Biltmore are amazing, with crackling fires ablaze in ornate fireplaces, live music, and candles and Christmas lights casting a warm glow throughout the house.

Daytime celebrations here are also grand, with all the home’s posh halls decked with Christmas Symbols such as garlands, ribbons, poinsettias, wreaths, and Christmas trees.

In short, a Christmas visit to the Biltmore and Antler Hill Village (which features shops, restaurants and the Biltmore Winery) should be high on your list of winter activities in Asheville NC.

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

The 2021 Winner of the National Gingerbread House Competition
2021 National Gingerbread Competition Winner, by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

3. Check out Gingerbread Houses at Grove Park Inn

The Grove Park Inn (now officially called The Omni Grove Park Inn) is one of the more upscale historic hotels in Asheville, so it’s worth visiting on its own merit at any time of year.

But in the lead-up to winter, the hotel plays host to the National Gingerbread House Competition, which attracts creative submissions from artful bakers all around the country.

The competition is 30+ years old now, and has become one of the most popular NC Christmas events.

All of the gingerbread houses submitted are on display to the public from mid-November through New Year’s Day.

Winter in Asheville wouldn’t be complete without making the most of its holiday celebrations, and they don’t get much more festive than the National Gingerbread Competition!

READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in North Carolina

Tanbark Ridge Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Weaverville NC by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett
Tanbark Ridge Overlook at BRP Milepost 376.7, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

4. Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the many interesting facts about the Blue Ridge Parkway is that it runs right into the Asheville city limits, and the National Park’s headquarters are in Asheville as well.

The Blue Ridge Parkway gets a lot of press for North Carolina wildflowers in the spring and fall colors in autumn. But the best time for getting expansive scenic views is in the Winter, after the leaves have dropped.

Taking a drive to admire the view from incredible Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks is one of our favorite things to do during the winter in Asheville.

To the southwest, Pisgah Mountain and Pisgah Inn are both great stops. Heading northeast leads to great spots like Craggy Gardens, Craggy Pinnacle, and the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center. 

In the winter, be sure to check for Blue Ridge Parkway road closures before heading out. Snow and ice often create issues, especially as you get closer to NC High Country towns like Blowing Rock and Boone

Leave the driving to an expert guide and try the Winter Blue Ridge Parkway Jeep Tour to access scenic mountain roads through Pisgah National Forest on your way to the Parkway (includes a cup of hot chocolate) or enjoy a private boutique driving tour (includes hotel pickups).

READ MORE: The 25 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfalls in North Carolina

The Filthy Animal Biscuit at Biscuit Head Restaurant in Asheville NC
The Filthy Animal Biscuit at Biscuit Head, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

5. Eat at Asheville Restaurants

Asheville NC has an eclectic collection of exceptional restaurants.

Many of the best restaurants in Asheville celebrate local cuisine and ingredients, while others (including James Beard Award nominees like Chai Pani and Curaté) incorporate more exotic culinary influences.

Breakfast in Asheville should include classic Southern dishes, especially homemade biscuits. Biscuit Head and the Green Sage Coffeehouse & Café are two great options.

Getting into some famous NC barbecue is a must, with Buxton Hall BBQ and 12 Bones Smokehouse among our favorites. Other beloved local hotspots include Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack and Tupelo Honey Café.

For specialty cuisines, Plant serves top-notch vegan/vegetarian food, Posana is grown-up fine dining, Haywood Common has farm-to-table fare, and Asheville Proper is an upscale steakhouse.

If caffeine is fuel, then check out Asheville’s Coffee Tour

READ MORE: The 20 Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants for Foodies

NC weekend getaways- Hot Springs Resort & Spa
Photo courtesy Hot Springs NC Resort & Spa

6. Get Some Pampering at Asheville Spas

When the weather is disagreeably cold or your muscles are sore from that snowboarding lesson, nothing feels quite as right as getting spoiled at a spa.

Asheville has a great collection of spas to choose from.

Classic luxury resorts like The Inn on Biltmore Estate and The Omni Grove Park Inn are great for high-quality, high-dollar pampering.

The city also has a unique spa experience at the Asheville Salt Cave & Spa, which offers treatments such as herbal foot soaks, exfoliations in a hammam (a.k.a. Turkish bath), and sitting in a salt cave.

Sauna House focuses on hot and cold contrasts (including traditional saunas, cold showers, heated furniture, and cold plunges), while Shoji Spa & Retreat is a Japanese-inspired place that has a lot of outdoor therapies.

READ MORE: The Top 15 Treehouse Rentals near Asheville NC

Wolf Ridge Ski Resort, North Carolina
Photo courtesy Wolf Ridge Ski Resort 

7. Go Skiing in Maggie Valley

There are two North Carolina ski resorts within an hour’s drive from Downtown Asheville, and both these spots are full-on destinations for snow-based winter recreation. 

The Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley had the first ski slopes south of Virginia. It offers 50+ acres, 18 snow skiing runs, and 700+ feet of vertical drop, with 100% coverage from snow-making machines. 

To the north of Asheville, the Wolf Ridge Ski Resort in Mars Hill has been open for more than 50 years now. The mountain resort has 15 ski runs, 700 feet of vertical drop, and 130 snow guns to keep the slopes coated in fresh powder.

At the foot of the slopes, there’s also a large lodge with 3 stone fireplaces and large windows perfect for watching folks come down the mountain while you stay warm and dry.

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

View from the summit of the Blue Ridge Pinnacle Trail
Blue Ridge Pinnacle Trail, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

8. Hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains

One of the great reasons to visit Asheville at any time of year is the chance to hike the Appalachian Trail and explore the rugged mountains sprawling throughout Western North Carolina.

Due to the cold weather, Winter is often overlooked as a great time to hike.

But in terms of wide-angle panoramas and fewer crowds, it is arguably the best season for hiking! Asheville offers dozens of excellent trails nearby, including some fantastic North Carolina waterfalls.

Some of our favorite trails in the area include various Blue Ridge Parkway day hikes, hiking in Pisgah National Forest, and the 3-waterfall trail in Dupont State Recreational Forest.

Other great hiking trails in and near Asheville include the Max Patch Loop, the Graveyard Fields Trail, the Devils Courthouse Trail, and the Blue Ridge Pinnacle Trail near Mt Mitchell State Park.

To get the most out of your outdoor adventure, consider going with an expert naturalist on a Blue Ridge Hiking Tour.

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

Cotton Mill Studios in Asheville River Arts District
Photo courtesy Asheville River Arts District

9. Hop Around River Arts District Galleries

In terms of a visual arts scene, Asheville has a true urban feel (especially for a town in the Blue Ridge Mountains), with many galleries and museums in a thriving cultural district.

Asheville’s River Arts District has a hip, progressive vibe that celebrates farm-to-table food, microbreweries, and lots of art galleries in old industrial buildings. 

The district runs about a mile along the French Broad River and makes great use of both the historic buildings and the natural beauty of the setting.

Asheville Cotton Mill Studios, Curve Studios & Garden, The Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts, and Riverview Station are just a few great stops on a River Arts District tour.

If you prefer to go with a local guide, check out the River Arts District Tip-Based Sightseeing Walking Tour.

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

Highland Brewery
Photo courtesy Highland Brewing Company

10. Hunker Down at Asheville Breweries

The city of Asheville is positively resplendent with good beer.

In fact, the town has earned the nickname “Beer City” and drawn nationally-known craft brewers like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues (which is located in nearby Brevard).

Some of the heavy hitters that originated in Beer City include the Highland Brewing Company (the first Asheville brewery), Wicked Weed, Green Man Brewery, and Hi-Wire Brewing.

There are another dozen unique breweries to discover in Asheville, not to mention a good selection of cideries and even a ginger beer specialist!

All of these breweries have cozy tasting rooms, and some offer tours of their facilities. There are also great electric bike brewery crawl tours and guided walking brewery tours aimed at serious beer lovers, such as the Asheville Brews Cruise.

READ MORE: Exploring The 17 Best Asheville NC Breweries

NC Arboretum Winter Lights
NC Arboretum Winter Lights, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

11. See the Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum

There are lots of great places to see Christmas lights outside of Asheville, with Forest City, Dillsboro, and Black Mountain among the favorites.

But several of the best Christmas light displays in North Carolina are right in the heart of Asheville.

Aside from the Biltmore’s Christmas light display, Asheville also has Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum from mid-November through the end of December.

This is a beautiful walk-through light show that consists of over a million lights, a 50-foot Christmas tree, live musical performances, storytelling, the Rocky Cove Railroad, roasting s’mores at the fire pit, and more.

Other fine Christmas light displays in the Asheville area can be found at Antler Hill Village and the Lake Julian Park Festival of Lights.

READ MORE: The 12 Best Places to See Christmas Lights in North Carolina

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

12. Take the Kids to the Museum

Asheville has a host of nice art galleries, history museums, and the like for adults. But it also has some seriously fun museums that will dazzle the kids. 

The Asheville Museum of Science has educational exhibits connecting geology, climate, ecology, and paleontology, including daily interactive STEM activities.

For more all-out fun, the Asheville Pinball Museum has 35 classic pinball machines and 35 arcade games, all of which can be played for a single-entry price.

If they like native NC birds and wildlife, the Western North Carolina Nature Center rescues wild animals and entertains families with activity sheets, gem mining, play areas, and more.

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

Burntshirt Vineyards in Hendersonville NC
Burntshirt Vineyards, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

13. Tour NC Wineries

Thanks to its unique terroir, the state of North Carolina has gained a great reputation for producing impressive wines on the East Coast.

The Asheville area has several notable wineries, starting with the award-winning Biltmore Estate Winery in Antler Hill Village and Plēb Urban Winery.

Addison Farms Vineyard is located just northwest of Asheville, while Hendersonville (about 20 minutes south) is home to Stone Ashe Vineyards, Point Lookout Vineyard, Burntshirt Vineyards, and more.

Other fine wineries near Asheville include B&C Winery in Maggie Valley and the Linville Falls Winery, which is close to some of the best Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls, including Linville Falls.

READ MORE: The 15 Best NC Wineries to Visit

Moonshine Mountain Snow Tubing in Hendersonville NC
Moonshine Mountain Snow Tubing via moonshinemountain.com

14. Try Snow Tubing on Special Slopes

Snow tubing has quickly become one of the most popular activities during winter in North Carolina. Almost all the major NC ski resorts have separate slopes just for tubing.

There are two ski resorts around 30 minutes from Downtown Asheville, including the Wolf Ridge Snow Tubing Park in Mars Hill and the Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley.

Other nearby options for snow tubing include Moonshine Mountain and Black Bear Snow Tubing in Hendersonville, Zip N Slip Snow Tubing Park in Mars Hill, and Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing Park is in Newland NC.

For younger visitors, snow tubing is often the highlight of their winter vacation in North Carolina, and #1 on their list of things to do on winter break!

READ MORE: The 11 Best Places for Snow Tubing in North Carolina

NC Haunted - The Grove Inn
The Grove Inn via Facebook

15. Walk the Night on a Ghost Tour

Asheville NC winter weather is usually agreeable enough for strolls around town and enjoying outdoor recreation activities. For a unique option, try a haunting Asheville Ghost Tour!

These engaging tours explore Downtown Asheville, with special stops at some of the most haunted places in town. Guides tell the history of Asheville and stories of haunted places in North Carolina.

Some noteworthy sites on the tour include the Grove Park Inn, Helen’s Bridge, the Basilica of St. Lawrence, the Battery Park Hotel, and Pritchard Park.

Ghost tours in the city include Asheville Night Time Ghost Walking Tour the Asheville Mountain Spirits Haunted Walking Tour, Asheville Terrors Dark Night Haunted Ghost Tour, and Haunted History & Murder Mystery Tour.

The Asheville Boos & Booze Haunted Pub Crawl is more about having some laughs with a mysterious and spooky twist. –by Jonathon Engels, featured 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!

After visiting North Carolina for the first time, Senior Writer Jonathon Engels and wife Emma spent 2 years exploring Western NC in search of a homestead property. They first lived in Brevard, where Jonathon taught writing at Blue Ridge Community College and extensively explored the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. For the last several years they have lived just off the BRP near Elkin, Southwest Virginia, and the NC High Country. The couple also volunteers with the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, the Elkin Valley Trail Association, and Reeves Downtown School of Music.