The best things to do in Asheville, North Carolina: a mountainous city filled with breweries, hikes, historic buildings, and more!
I just recently visited Asheville, North Carolina for the first time, and I was blown away.
The scenery, the nightlife, the outdoor activities, the overall vibes, all of it was incredible.
Just flying into Asheville I was amazed at the seemingly never-ending layers of rich green mountains and valleys in this area of the Appalachians.
Once I arrived in Asheville and my local friends showed me around, I realized there is so much to see and do in this western North Carolina city.
So I’m writing this article about the best things to do in Asheville, North Carolina!
I spent three days in Asheville, so I’ll touch on all the fun things I did. I’ll also mention some activities and attractions that I didn’t get to in my time there.
Three days is a great amount of time to get a feel for the area.
But if you’re a hiking enthusiast, there are so many hikes and day trips around Asheville! To experience more of the nature, I’d recommend staying for a week or more.
The Best Things To Do In Asheville, North Carolina
From swimming in one of the planet’s oldest rivers to visiting a Pinball Museum, there are so many cool and unique things to do in Asheville!
If you love hiking and exploring nature, you’ll be in heaven. Even if you’re not that outdoorsy, Asheville has enough wineries, museums, breweries, and live music venues to entertain any traveler.
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1. See the Biltmore Estate
Known as “America’s Largest Home”, the Biltmore Estate is a gorgeous mansion and property built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s.
The entire estate takes up 8,000 acres of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
There are more attractions in addition to just the mansion, including Biltmore Village, Biltmore Winery, a small farm, and numerous landscaped gardens.
It’s a beautiful spot that is one of the top Asheville attractions.
Visit the website for more info about pricing and hours for the different attractions at Biltmore Estate. The entry fee is pretty steep, so if you’re trying to save money you can maybe skip this.
2. Hike Mount Mitchell
Asheville is a hiker’s paradise! There are so many incredible places to hike near Asheville, from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Blue Ridge Mountains, all of which are sub-branches of the Great Appalachian Mountain Range.
Ambitious hikers can take on Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains and the highest peak in the USA east of the Mississippi.
At 6,684 feet tall, hiking the Mount Mitchell Trail is no easy feat. It is 5.6 miles one way and is a strenuous hike.
There are other shorter and easier hikes on Mount Mitchell as well. The Commissary Trail is 2.2 miles one way and rated easy, and the Old Mitchell Trail is 2 miles one way and rated moderate.
There is also a free observation deck at the summit of Mount Mitchell that you can drive to for panoramic views, if you don’t want to hike.
3. Visit a Winery
Asheville is home to some amazing wineries where you can sip wine and enjoy the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Point Lookout Vineyards has beautiful views. Marked Tree Asheville is a local favorite in downtown Asheville, and the Biltmore Winery does free tastings.
A bit further out of the city are Burntshirt Vineyards near Chimney Rock and Linville Falls Winery near Linville Gorge. These two gorgeous wineries out in the countryside make a great stop after a day of hiking out in the wilderness.
4. Visit the Asheville Botanical Gardens
Another one of the best things to do in Asheville is visit the Botanical Gardens.
Located at 151 WT Weaver Boulevard, the gardens are also free to visit.
Head here to meander along the short, peaceful walking trail and learn about the plants of the Southern Appalachians.
There are over 600 species of native plants on display.
5. Go Hiking in Linville Gorge
Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is about an hour outside downtown Asheville. Full of dense forests, rugged cliffs, and glassy lakes, the natural beauty here is out of this world.
It’s easy to get to Linville Gorge on a day trip from the city and there are lots of great hiking trails here.
My friend took me on the Shortoff Mountain Trail, which had stunning views and was challenging but not too hard! Here are some of the most popular trails in the area:
- Linville Falls Trail: 2.2 miles
- Hawksbill Mountain Trail: 2.2 miles
- Shortoff Mountain Trail: 8 miles
- Table Rock Mountain Trail: 1.8 miles
- Linville Gorge Trail: 11.5 miles
This article and this article both have great summaries of some of the best trails in the area.
Mountain biking and camping are also fun things to do in Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
6. Tube, Kayak, Paddle, or Raft Down the Green River
Green River Gorge is another beautiful wilderness area near Asheville. It’s about 38 miles southeast of the city, near the town of Saluda.
Home to waterfalls, canyons, ravines, and old-growth forest, Green River Gorge is the perfect place for adventure sports.
The best way to enjoy Green River Gorge is getting out on the water! The Green River winds through the cliffs and creates the perfect place for tubing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, whitewater rafting, and more.
Green River Adventures is great for booking water sports as well as waterfall rappelling and ziplining.
Green River Cove Tubing is a family-run business that does inner tube rentals for floating leisurely down the river. They are only open during spring and summer.
7. Treat Yourself to a Spa Day
A relaxing spa day is one of the best things to do in Asheville, especially after long days of hiking and adventures.
Spa treatments and prices vary based on where you go, so do a bit of research to find the perfect spa day for you.
Here are some of the most popular places to relax and rejuvenate in Asheville:
- Asheville Salt Cave and Spa, known for salt therapy and hot stone massage
- The Spa at Omni Grove Park Inn, known for beautiful subterranean mineral pools
- Shoji Spa and Lodge, known for Japanese-style massage and therapies
- Still Point Wellness, known for massage and water float therapy
- Sauna House, known for hot and cold therapies like sauna and cold plunges
- The Spa at the Inn on Biltmore Estate, known for classic pampering and luxury experiences
Read next: How To Stay Healthy While Traveling
8. Drive Along the Blue Ridge Parkway
One of America’s most scenic drives is the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway covers 469 miles of road.
The Blue Ridge Parkway passes through Asheville, North Carolina. Driving along part of this gorgeous, winding, mountainous road is definitely one of the best things to do in Asheville!
Visit the official website for maps and visitor info about the famous Blue Ridge Parkway.
9. Visit the Museums
For those who love museums, Asheville has some amazing ones. This is a fun activity for a rainy day.
You can find classic museums options, such as the Asheville Art Museum and the Asheville Museum of Science.
The city is also home to other unique museums, such as the Asheville Pinball Museum, the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum, and the Asheville Radio Museum.
10. Tour the River Arts District
Located alongside the French Broad River, the River Arts District is a creative and artistic hub in the city of Asheville.
This quirky and lively neighborhood is packed with local artists’ galleries and workspaces. There are also breweries, cafes, and music venues.
The River Arts District is a great place to hang out while visiting Asheville. Browse through the art galleries, listen to live music, grab some food or drinks, and admire the colorful street art murals in the area.
11. Rent a Bike
Biking is a fun way to explore Asheville! It’s not a super busy city so the roads are generally safe and uncrowded.
Asheville Bike Company is the go-to local bike company for rentals.
The Flying Bike also has electric bike rentals and guided bike tours around the city.
Bike around the River Arts District, bike to some breweries or wineries, or bike alongside the French Broad River.
12. Visit Some Breweries
A fun fact about Asheville: this city has more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the USA.
So you can’t come here without visiting at least one or two breweries. And chances are you’ll visit more than that!
The city is crawling with breweries; you’re bound to find one on just about every street corner.
I’m not a beer drinker so I don’t frequent breweries often. But Asheville has so many cool ones where you can sip different drinks, enjoy the views, listen to music, and eat delicious food. The vibes are incredible!
My favorite brewery we visited was Fonta Flora Brewery at Whipporwhill Farm near Linville Gorge. We stopped here after our hike and had frozen daiquiris while lying in hammocks in the sun surrounded by greenery and fresh air.
Other popular Asheville Breweries include:
- Wicked Weed Brewing Pub
- Asheville Brewing Company
- Burial Beer Co.
- Catawba Brewing Company
- Wedge Brewing Co.
- New Belgium Brewing Company
13. Take a Day Trip to Pisgah National Forest
Those who love nature should definitely take a day trip out to Pisgah National Forest.
This massive, protected national forest is full of mountain peaks, waterfalls, picnic areas, mountain biking trails, camping spots, and more.
Some beautiful waterfalls you can visit here include Looking Glass Falls, Moore Cove Falls, and Douglas Falls.
Popular hiking spots include Black Balsam Knob, Graveyard Fields, John Rock, and Mount Pisgah.
Bent Creek Experimental Forest has the best mountain biking trails in the area.
Check the official US Forest Service website for more info about hiking, fishing, camping, climbing, cycling, and more in Pisgah National Forest.
14. Head to the North Carolina Arboretum
Located within Pisgah National Forest, the North Carolina Arboretum is another great place to visit. It’s especially fun for visitors with kids or for those who are interested in plants and botany.
Th NC Arboretum is filled with unique gardens that showcase the native plant life of the Appalachians.
There is a Holly Garden, a historic Heritage Garden, an Azalea Garden, a Quilt Garden where the flowers are planted to look like a giant quilt, and more.
There are also hiking and biking trails here, as well as plenty of informational exhibits.
The NC Arboretum is free to visit!
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15. Head up to Craggy Gardens for Sunrise
Just a 30 minute drive outside Asheville city center is Craggy Gardens.
This forest area full of twisted trees and dense bushes is located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
There is a short but steep hike up to a viewing platform where you can overlook the majestic rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It’s a beautiful spot, and it’s even better at sunrise or sunset! It can get cold and windy up there though so pack warm clothes.
Coming to Craggy Gardens with some tea and a blanket for sunrise was one of my favorite things we did in Asheville.
16. Go on a Natural Waterslide at Sliding Rock
Another one of the best things to do in Asheville, North Carolina is taking a day trip out to Sliding Rock.
Located in Pisgah National Forest on Looking Glass Creek, Sliding Rock is a long, wide waterfall that rushes over a smooth rock slope.
So it’s like a natural waterslide! You can slide down the rock into a deep pool at the bottom.
On hot summer days, Sliding Rock is super popular. There are lifeguards on duty and it costs $4 to enter.
17. Visit Lake Lure
If you need another day trip out into nature, consider visiting Lake Lure.
Just under an hour from Asheville, Lake Lure is known for being the setting in the movie Dirty Dancing.
This man made lake surrounded by the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains is near Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock.
There is a nice sandy beach where you can swim or sunbathe near Lake Lure. You can also have a picnic, stroll across the Flowering Bridge, or walk along the many lakeside trails.
18. See Live Music
Another one of the best things to do in Asheville is see live music. There is a huge community of young people and artists here, so all types of art and music are common.
In downtown Asheville, there is live music on almost every corner, especially on the weekends.
Here are some top spots to check out:
- The Grey Eagle: A small music venue that also serves great tacos
- Jack of the Wood: Great for Bluegrass Music
- Asheville Music Hall: Often has touring artists and local musicians
- Ben’s Tune Up: Has a DJ on Fri/Satand Reggae music on Sundays
- Isis Music Hall: A restored, historic theater with amazing brunch
- Orange Peel: A popular live music venue with a full bar downstairs
- Thomas Wolfe Auditorium: A more classical conert venue, home of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra
- Salvage Station: Outdoor venue with good Southern food
19. Take A Yoga Class
To offset some of the beer drinking and partying you may be doing in Asheville, you can take a yoga class to re-center yourself.
Asheville Yoga Center, West Asheville Yoga, and Hot Yoga Asheville are some of the most reputable yoga center in the area.
You can also book a mountaintop yoga class with Asheville Wellness Tours.
Your local guide will take you on a quick hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains, followed by a yoga class at the summit.
20. Get a Drink at a Rooftop Bar
Because Asheville is surrounded by mountains, you can get some incredible views at rooftop bars.
For a fun evening activity in Asheville, head to a rooftop bar! Grab a cocktail or some snacks and enjoy the views. Here are some of Asheville’s most popular rooftop bars:
- Hemingway’s Cuba
- The Montford
- The Social Lounge
- Pillar Rooftop Bar
- Capella on 9
- Top of the Monk
21. Go Rock Climbing
You may have noticed already that Asheville is heaven for active, adventerous travelers.
In addition to hiking, biking, and yoga, this area of North Carolina is also great for rock climbing.
Riveter is an awesome local fitness center that has indoor rock climbing walls as well as yoga classes. If you need things to do in Asheville when it’s cold or raining, indoor rock climbing is a great way to spend a few hours.
If you’re into outdoor rock climbing or bouldering, John Rock and Looking Glass in Pisgah National Forest are popular spots for that. Linville Gorge also has great rock climbing!
Check out my Budget Traveler’s Guide to Travel Insurance before planning your trip!
22. Visit a Local Market
Shopping at a local market is a great way to explore any new city.
See handmade crafts, taste local foods, chat to vendors and artists, listen to live music, and just enjoy the laid-back, friendly vibes.
Asheville City Market is a farmer’s market with lots of great food. It runs every Saturday from 9am – 12pm and is on 52 N Market Street.
North Asheville Tailgate Market is the city’s oldest market! It runs Saturdays from 8am – 12pm at the UNC Asheville campus.
West Asheville Tailgate Market runs on Tuesdays from 3:30pm – 6:30pm at 718 Haywood Road.
Most markets are only open from April to November.
23. Swim in the French Broad River
The French Broad River flows for just over 200 miles through North Carolina and Tennessee.
What makes this river so special is its speculated age. It is believed to be anywhere between 260 and 325 million years old, making it one of the planet’s oldest rivers.
There are lots of riverside parks, trails, and green spaces where you can find a spot to go for a dip. The water is so clean and refreshing!
Carrier Park and French Broad River Park are two quaint green spaces not too far from the River Arts District. This is a great place to go for a bike ride.
You can also kayak, canoe, or paddle down the river as well.
24. Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains are a subrange of the Appalachians that straddle the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.
These ancient mountains are called “The Smokies” because of the fog that rests over the peaks every morning.
There are five entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains that are within a 1.5 hour drive from Asheville. Head out here for a day of hiking and exploring!
Some of the top day hikes in the area include:
- Deep Creek Loop Hike, passes three waterfalls
- Little Cataloochee Trail, a historic trail which passes numerous old homesteads
- Oconaluftee River Trail, great for wildflowers in Spring
- Alum Cave Trail, a strenuous and stunning 11-mile hike
- Chimney Tops, some of the best views
- Clingman’s Dome Trail, highest point in the park
25. Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
An alternative way to experience the Great Smoky Mountains other than hiking is by train.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a historic train ride that travels through the best sights in the mountains.
The railroad station is based in Bryson City, North Carolina, which is about an hour drive from Asheville. Head out here for a day, book a train ride on the railroad’s website, and sit back and enjoy the stunning views.
26. Admire the Scenery in Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock State Park is just 40 minutes southeast of Asheville.
Full of jagged cliffs, long rivers, flourishing forests, vast valleys, tumbling waterfalls, and more, the dramatic natural scenery here is impressive.
Travelers head here to hike, rock climb, and attend family friendly events. The Chimney Rock State Park website has a full list of all the hiking trails, rock climbing spots, and events available.
An alternative idea for those who want a spectacular treat is booking a helicopter tour of the area. You can view Chimney Rock, Lake Lure, Hickory Nut Gorge, and more highlights of the Appalachians from a new perspective.
27. Stroll Through Grove Arcade
One of the best things to see in Asheville is Grove Arcade.
This historic market hall is a highlight of downtown. It was built in 1929 and has beautiful architecture, both inside and outside.
Various shops, cafes, and residences make up the inside of Grove Arcade. I recommend stopping through here during your Asheville sightseeing and admiring the architecture and doing some window-shopping.
Thanks for reading my list of the best things to do in Asheville, NC!
I truly had an amazing time here! My three days here was a great introduction to the area, and my research for this article has opened my eyes to how much there is to do here.
If you can stay for a week and take lots of day trips into nature, definitely do it!
Where to Stay in Asheville, NC on a Budget
I was lucky to have local friends to stay with during my visit to Asheville. But if I didn’t, I would have checked Hostelworld for any budget accommodation.
There is one hostel in Asheville, NC!
Bon Paul & Sharky’s Hostel has over 500 positive reviews on Hostelworld and has an 8 out of 10 rating.
That is where I would have stayed if I visited Asheville alone.
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