Asheville is a quirky town nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This town offers anything from outdoor adventure to city fun so you won’t have to look far for something to do.
There are so many though that it can be hard to find the best things to do in Asheville. No one has time to do it all!
So here are a few of my favorite things to do in the city and the surrounding area. After many trips, I feel like this list showcases some of Asheville’s best activities.
Things to do in Asheville North Carolina
Guest Post by Anna Cook of Paddling Space
Visit the Biltmore
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, the Biltmore is expensive and very touristy. There is a reason for that.
This home is the largest privately-owned home in the United States and it will absolutely blow your mind that people ever lived here. The home is stunning, the grounds are gorgeous, plus your ticket includes a wine tasting if you are over 21.
Make sure you allocate plenty of time for your visit. Personally, I could spend almost a whole day at the Biltmore House. However, if houses aren’t your thing or you have people in your party with a short attention span then half of a day is fine.
Start your visit with a tour of the interior – the time on your ticket is the time your tour starts and you should be at the front doors of the house. If you get there early then meander around the grounds for a bit.
After you are done with the inside, check out the gardens and greenhouse. No matter what season it is they always have something interesting to see.
There are restaurants, an ice cream shop, and a gift store at the main house that you can check out. You can also head down to Antler Hill Village where there are other shops and the Biltmore Winery.
There are all kinds of additional activities that you can do like hiking, fishing, and even driving a Range Rover through the grounds. Most activities do cost extra other than hiking.
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Take a Food Tour: Things to do in Asheville North Carolina
Asheville has become known for its incredible food scene with multiple James Beard Award Winners and Finalists at restaurants in the city.
It can be hard to try all of the great restaurants during your trip so one thing I love to do is take a food tour in any city that I visit. It gives you great insight into the different types of restaurants and the overall vibe of the city.
If you’ve never been on a food tour, they are a combination of a walking city tour and food tastings at multiple different restaurants. It is literally heaven.
I’ve personally gone with Asheville Food Tours and can say that they do a fantastic job. The tour guide knows and loves Asheville and they showcase restaurants that you may not have found on your own.
They also give you more food than I’ve had on any other food tour so I felt good about the price that I paid. Be sure to pace yourself!
One thing to note is this is a city tour so you’ll be doing a lot of walking in addition to eating lots of yummy food. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.
Go Brewery Hopping
Here’s something else that has grown in Asheville over the past few years – their beer scene!
Asheville currently has more breweries per capita than any other US city according to their tourism site. You can even plan a “beercation” here.
There are plenty of breweries to visit downtown so if you are staying in a downtown hotel you’ll likely have a few in walking distance.
The most concentrated area of breweries downtown is in the South Slope where it feels like there is a new one each time you turn the corner. A few of my favorite downtown breweries are Wicked Weed, Catawba Brewing, Burial Beer Co., and Hi-Wire Brewing.
If you venture over to the River Arts District you’ll find New Belgium and Wedge Brewing. Probably one of the most impressive breweries is just outside of Asheville in Mills River – Sierra Nevada.
Here you can tour their brewing facility, eat at their restaurant (it’s incredible), and pick up some merchandise in their gift shop.
No matter which one you choose you’ll find good beer and a fun atmosphere.
Take a Day Trip to the Nantahala Outdoor Center
In Bryson City, about an hour and fifteen minutes from Asheville, you’ll find an adventure hub called the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
Here you can try your hand at whitewater kayaking, rafting, or you can even rent a single duckie which is basically an inflatable kayak.
This river has Class I and II rapids with the Class III Nantahala Falls at the end. If you don’t feel comfortable running the falls you can leave your boat at the take-out before the falls and just let an employee with the NOC know it’s there.
This is the perfect river for beginners and makes for a really fun day trip out of the city. If water isn’t your thing though, don’t worry.
They also have zip-lining, guided hikes, flat-water kayaking on Fontana Lake, and a Treetop Adventure Net for kids.
You’ll find an Outfitter’s Store with all the outdoor and whitewater equipment you can think of plus two restaurants – Big Wesser and River’s End.
At Big Wesser, there is no indoor dining but you walk up and order at the counter and then go sit at tables set up right beside the river. It’s one of my favorite parts of visiting and of course they have good beer.
River’s End is more upscale and has indoor seating. They have pizza and sandwiches plus some fancier entree options.
Book a morning trip to enjoy fewer crowds and afterward, you can head into Bryson City to explore it a bit.
Things to do in Asheville North Carolina: Hike One of Many Trails
There is no shortage of hiking trails near Asheville. The best part is you can find hikes for all skill levels and interests – some people love mountain views and some love waterfalls.
Some of the closest trails to Asheville are Catawba Falls, Lookout Mountain, and Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Like I mentioned before, there are also hiking trails on the grounds of the Biltmore. If you want a unique hike there is the Asheville Urban Trail located downtown. There are plaques along the walk explaining local history, architecture, and highlighting important residents.
Mt. Mitchell State Park is also nearby and there are plenty of hiking options here. If you’re okay with a little drive then head out to DuPont State Forest where you can see three waterfalls on one loop hike.
Graveyard Fields is also a popular hike with a waterfall. Closer to Brevard there are some easy hikes to waterfalls like Looking Glass Falls and Moores Cove Falls.
You really shouldn’t miss the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains as it’s one of the things that makes Asheville so special.
Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway
If you would rather enjoy mountain views from the comfort of your car then this one’s for you. The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as one of America’s Most Scenic Drives and for good reason.
No matter what season you visit in there is beautiful scenery though be sure to check for road closures in the winter. The road closes anytime there is snow or ice in the area or if trees or other debris have fallen in the road. This is most common in winter.
There are multiple overlooks along the Parkway that you can stop at and jump out to stretch your legs. These overlooks provide gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains.
You can either head north toward Linville Falls and Grandfather Mountain or make your way south to Cherokee.
The best way to enjoy the drive is by bringing a picnic and setting up at one of the overlooks or meadows that you stop by.
Visit the North Carolina Arboretum
The North Carolina Arboretum is a wonderful place to visit for anyone who loves nature. They have beautifully manicured permanent garden exhibits as well as a Bonsai Exhibit that is world-renowned.
There are plenty of hiking trails here if you would like some flat, easy hikes where you can enjoy blooming wildflowers from spring to fall.. Otherwise, you can wander through the gardens and greenhouses.
Be sure to check their event calendar for special events that they put on. There is a parking fee to access the arboretum but it’s reasonable. On the first Tuesday of every month, the parking fee is half price!
Visiting the arboretum will likely take around 2 – 3 hours unless you plan on taking a few hikes. There is also a Bistro here (open seasonally) if you’d like to pick up some food.
Float Down the French Broad: Things to do in Asheville North Carolina
There are many different ways that you can enjoy the French Broad River. You can float via innertube, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard.
If you are doing a self-guided float then you can put-in at Bent Creek River Park and take-out at Hominy Creek. You’ll need a vehicle at the put-in so someone can drive back to get the other one once you are done.
If you take this section then you’ll see the Biltmore House peek out over the trees on river right so be on the lookout!
There are also companies that will provide the equipment and the shuttle service for you. Make sure to reserve these ahead of time especially in the summer when floating the river is very popular.
Zen Tubing is one that you can tube with and if you are looking for kayaks or SUP then check out French Broad Outfitters or Wai Mauna Paddleboard Rentals.
Make sure to bring plenty of snacks and water so you can stay hydrated. If you’re doing a full day float then you’ll want to pack sandwiches or something for lunch.
Use a dry bag because Ziploc bags or containers are not waterproof!
Put on plenty of sunscreen and bug spray for mosquitos. This is a fun way to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Browse the Various Art Galleries Downtown
Asheville is bursting at the seams with independent art galleries to explore. Take a morning and meander through the downtown streets just to see what you can find.
While many of the art galleries are expensive there are some that have more accessible items. I love supporting local and anytime you buy one of these pieces you are directly supporting that artist and their family.
Even if you aren’t an artist or don’t typically like art galleries, this is something interesting to do. It’s cool to see what different people create and these places aren’t stuffy like the old school galleries you’re used to.
To get started, make sure you visit the old Woolworths. This has been transformed into a gallery to showcase many different local artists but the soda fountain is still there.
Other fun ones to stop at are Momentum Art Gallery and Blue Spiral 1. My favorite part about buying pieces of art on my travels and putting them in my home is that it’s a constant reminder of my travels each time I look at it.
If you venture out to the River Arts District you’ll find even more galleries plus you can see many artists at work in their workshops.
Take a LaZoom Bus Tour
LaZoom is known for its comedy bus tours through the city. You’ll see all the city highlights while crying from laughing so hard.
They even have a band on board for entertainment on one of the tours. They offer a few different ones so you can choose the one that best fits your group.
The five different tours that they offer are the city comedy tour and then one specifically for kids. Then two different ghost tours and finally a beer & bus tour!
Each one is between an hour to two and a half hours long. I would try to do this during the first few days of your trip since it’s a great introduction to the city.
About the Author
Anna is a content creator for PaddlingSpace.com where you can find information on all things kayaking. She spends every possible moment in the outdoors with her husband and hiking buddy, Barley, her German Shepherd pup.