Rated by Lonely Planet as the to US destination, Asheville in North Carolina is filled with wonderful surprises.
For one, it is known for its chill, laidback charm and yet being situated by the Blue Mountains, it is also a destination that brings out your adventurous spirit.
From cool coffee shops to award-winning restaurants, scenic drive along the Blue Ridge to gardens in the Southern Appalachians, here are some of the best things to do in Asheville.
10 Things To Do in Asheville, North Carolina
1. Wander Through the Biltmore Estate
One of the best attractions in Asheville as well as being the most recommended is the magnificent Biltmore Estate. A great place to visit any time of the year, this palatial property is a hundred years old and is the biggest home in America.
Nestled in 8000 acres of land, this 178,926 square foot mansion has 250 rooms. This property is owned by George Vanderbilt, heir to the railroad fortune who visited and fell in love with North Carolina.
The property was constructed starting in 1889, intended as a dream home surrounded by busy farms and lush forests.
When you visit, be sure to check out his library that has 22,000 books that include 3,000 that Vanderbilt actually read. Looking at the wall of books is quite mesmerizing. It is also one of the best castles in the USA.
2. Admire Asheville’s Street Art
Asheville is immensely proud of and is known for its art scene, as evidenced in the street art that fills the city with colorful depictions of local history.
Definitely among the best things to see in Asheville, a stroll through its streets takes you through various works of art in walks, sides of buildings and even under the bridge. Bright and colorful, it’s like walking among outdoor galleries while you also get to know the city through its art.
Some of those murals and street paintings you need to check out are the ‘Chicken Alley’ were two huge chickens seem to watch over the alley, the tiny houses ‘built’ into a brick wall and the flat iron sculpture done by local artist ReedTodd.
3. Stroll Along The River Arts District
Speaking of immersing yourself in local art while in Asheville, the city also has an art district aptly nicknamed RAD, or the River Area district. This is where you’ll find former industrial buildings called studios lining the streets.
Home to the diverse works of around 200 local artists, this is one of Asheville’s best attractions. The works featured range from painting to photography to jewelry design.
If you happen to be in Asheville on the second Saturday of the month, the RAD hosts various events such as art workshops, wine tastings, live music gigs and more.
4. Feast on Southern Food
Asheville may be located in a state called North Carolina, but it is still in the South so there’s no escaping the call of hearty Southern food. Home to a variety of restaurants, there are many opportunities for you to experience the region’s cuisine.
Easily among the best activities to do in Asheville, some of the best food to try are biscuits with a variety of flavors served with different jams and butter as well as pot pies and buttermilk fried chicken.
5. Drink Local Craft Beer
With more than 40 breweries and beer pubs in the city, Asheville has been nicknamed ‘Beer City USA’. Tasting Asheville’s craft beer is definitely a must when you’re in the city. Finding a brewery or pub won’t be a problem as there’s always one nearby.
Among the best places in Asheville are the Asheville Brewing Company, Burial, and Green Man. If you have no idea about which brew to order, you may ask for a flight that consists of 4 to 5 different types.
If you’re looking for breweries that offer tours, the most recommended are the Asheville locations of New Belgium, which has a scenic setting by the French Broad River, and the Sierra Nevada which is close to the airport.
6. Party with the Friday Drum Circle
A drum circle is a gathering where people bring any kind of drum they can play with other people, with lots of singing and dancing from those who don’t have an instrument. It’s great fun and an amazing way to know and interact either with locals or other tourists.
The drum circle is held on Friday nights in Asheville at Pritchard Park downtown. If you happen to be in town on a Friday, head into the park, drum or no drum and take part in one of the coolest things to do in Asheville at night.
Lose yourself in the music, the pulsing beats, the lively atmosphere where people from all ages and backgrounds get together for the drum circle This is a fun and free event where everyone is welcome and a must experience when in Asheville.
7. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches all the way to the state of Virginia but you can still experience driving this scenic route via its Asheville segment.
There are lots of attractions and sights you can still enjoy even if you’re only driving a small portion of this route. There are stops along the way that offers stunning views such as the Craggy Gardens Trail, Linville Falls, Skinny Dip Falls Trail, and Mount Mitchell.
If you’re up for more outdoor activities other than hiking, such as fly fishing, mountain biking, birding and waterfall tours.
8. Float Through the French Broad River
If you’re up for some water action, then trying out some watersports at the French Broad River is one of the best activities to do in Asheville for you. The river winds its way through the city, making it an ideal place to spend a few hours or an entire day at.
Ack your gears and get ready to maybe do the usual inner tube floating and white water rafting. Or you can try something different such as ‘bellyaking’ and white water SUP. A water activity that’s unique to Asheville, ‘bellyaking’ is a type of kayak where you go face-first into the water, wearing special padded gloves to move and paddle through the rapids.
White water SUP meanwhile is basically stand-up paddleboarding which may seem difficult and you’ll probably fall a few times before you get it right, but it’s a lot of fun and definitely a must when in Asheville.
9. Hike at the North Carolina Arboretum
A hike up the Southern Appalachians takes you to a wonderful surprise: a hodgepodge of pretty gardens and trails. One of the best free attractions in Asheville, these gardens feature rotating exhibitions throughout each year.
Stroll through the various garden exhibits of a diverse type of flowers and plants, a great respite after your hike. The North Carolina Arboretum also has well-maintained trails for cycling and hiking if you’re up for more exercise.
10. Visit the Basilica of Saint Lawrence
Keeping up with Asheville’s beauty and art is the stunning Basilica of Saint Lawrence, which is the largest church in Asheville. Its construction was completed in 1909, regarded as among ‘Asheville’s architectural treasures’ and it’s easy to see why.
This was designed by the same team responsible for the equally magnificent Biltmore House — renowned architects Rafael Gustavino and Richard Sharpe Smith.
One of Asheville’s best attractions, the Basilica of Saint Lawrence boasts of the country’s largest freestanding elliptical dome. Located in downtown Asheville, it is open daily for visitors and you can either take a self-guided tour or schedule one with a guide at their website.
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