The romantic purple peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains have drawn generations of visitors to this western North Carolina city. A big fan is George Vanderbilt’s scion, who built America’s largest home here in the 1880s and filled it with priceless works of art. Biltmore House is still family owned and unmatched in its size and grandeur. There are 8,000 acres of the Blue Ridge Mountains on site for you to explore.
Downtown Asheville is like a time capsule, with early Art Deco architecture still intact and a framework for shopping, dining, and live entertainment.
In fact, from traditional Southern Appalachian crafts at the Folk Art Center to the River Arts District’s open studios to Puck Square’s fairs and performances at his parks, Asheville’s fascinating sense of creativity is evident everywhere.
1. Asheville Art Museum
The Asheville Museum of Art in downtown Pack Place reopened in 2019 after a $24 million expansion and renovation project.
These galleries host up to 20 large-scale exhibitions each year, but the beauty of this expansion is that the museums are now able to host major traveling exhibitions from the nation’s best institutions.
The permanent collection is dedicated to his 20th-century and his 21st-century American art but is also influenced by the traditions and eclectic cultures of western North Carolina and southern Appalachia.
Above Pack Square is a rooftop sculpture terrace with views of the Blue Mountains in the distance. The first thing you see when you arrive is Henry Richardson’s Reflections on Unity, a two-ton glass sphere at the entrance.
2. Gray Line Trolley Tours
Your first stop in Asheville is the visitor center. Here you’ll find an information desk, brochures, and a convenience store with goodies from all over western North Carolina.
This is also the starting point for the Gray Line hop-on hop-off trolley tour. These tours depart every 30 minutes and are 90 minutes in length, with many of Asheville’s highlights packed into his one great package, with plenty of exciting anecdotes along the way…
See the Art Deco marvels of downtown, the River Arts District, the famous Omni Grove Park Inn, and the stately residences of the Monford Area Historic District, home to over 600 turn-of-the-century buildings. In the city, he recommends buying a 2-day pass if you stay 2 days.
3. Grovewood Village
Adjacent to the Omni Grove Park Inn, this historic campus was once home to the Biltmore Industries woodworking and textile mills, producing top-quality handicrafts and textiles.
This tradition continues into the 21st century when the quaint complex was revived as an arts and crafts center. Grovewood Village is home to active artist studios that specialize in everything from pottery to metalworking.
Shop for fine handicrafts in the gallery, see techniques in action in the workshops, or learn about the village’s handicraft heritage on a guided history tour.
Also be sure to visit the Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum and the Estes Wynn Antique Car Museum, which houses an old textile mill and a range of gleaming vintage cars.
4. McCormick Field
If you like quirky old ballparks, the 4,000-seat home of MiLB’s Asheville Tourists is a real treat. His one of the oldest minor league stadiums still in use, McCormick Field is in a typical Asheville location, on a small plateau on a wooded hillside.
This stadium has been here since 1923 and was undergoing modernization at the time of writing this article. The history of the Tourist dates back to 1897 and has since progressed through a long list of classes and leagues. When we went to cover them, they were the Houston Astros High-A team. Here, as elsewhere, eating and drinking are part of the experience, with extensive vegetarian options, local craft beers, and specialty hot dogs on Fridays.
5. Fine Arts Theatre
Opened in 1946, the movie theater is housed in an elegant Art Deco building downtown. With a stepped gable and a subtle cream façade with two narrow blocks of glass, this venue opened in 1946 and was originally the Strand Theatre.
Since then, a second screen has been installed on the old balcony, and both halls went digital in 2012. The Fine Arts Theater is downtown’s only movie theater, specializing in independent, foreign, and classic films.
Both screens have curtains, which may shock young people, but it is one of those rare theaters where you can watch while sipping a glass of wine or beer.
6. Asheville Community Theatre (ACT)
we know what you are thinking But rest assured, the Asheville Community Theater is no ordinary community theater. Founded in 1946, it is one of the oldest operating companies in the United States.
Additionally, legendary actor Charlton Heston and his wife Lydia Clarke helmed one season in 1947. It was here that Clark decided to continue acting full-time, and Heston’s Broadway career took off quickly. These shows are so impeccable, from the performances to the costumes to the production, to the sets, that it’s easy to get carried away. Downtown’s Main Stage Auditorium, named after Heston, offers shows for all tastes throughout the season, all staffed by volunteers.
7. Appalachian Trail
All trails end near Asheville along the North Carolina-Tennessee border. On a 3,200-mile route from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine, the trail passes through the quaint town of Hot Springs, about 30 miles north of Asheville.
This is a climb suitable for a day hike, perfect for short round-trip adventures to get a taste of what these hardy thru-hikers have to endure.
Less than a mile away is the stunning Lover’s Leap Lookout. Another great spot near Asheville is Max Patch, a bare peak dotted with wildflowers and offering sweeping views in all directions.
8. Barley’s Taproom
If you love craft beer, I highly recommend a visit to Barley’s Taproom. Asheville has a solid Craft His Beer His scene, led by this local icon on Downtown’s Biltmore His Avenue.
Barley’s Taproom was opened by him in 1994 in a converted 1920s home appliance store. Highland Brewing came along with the taproom. Highland Brewing was the first underground brewery to operate in Asheville since Prohibition, before moving to larger grounds.
Sample Highland specialties such as Oatmeal Porter and Gaelic Ale, along with dozens of other local and regional craft beers. There are 28 taps in the main bar, an additional 28 taps upstairs, and a billiards room, with a menu centered around Barley’s famous sourdough pizza.
9. Botanical Gardens at Asheville
You don’t have to set foot on the Appalachian Trail to see the region’s rich flora. The Asheville campus, about a mile north of downtown, has a more manageable University of North Carolina storefront.
The Asheville Botanical Garden is open to the public and showcases the plants and habitats of southern Appalachia. Built-in the early 1960s on 10 hectares of abandoned forest.
More than 650 species of trees, grasses, herbs, ferns, and wildflowers grow here, some of which are rarely seen in the wild. Every season has its colors, but the gardens are a delight during the spring wildflower season.
If there’s one city that knows how to have fun, it’s Asheville. There is often something happening here year-round with an artistic twist.
For example, the South Highlands Craft Fair in July brings about 200 local artists and artisans to Asheville. During the month of July, enjoy free mountain music from Shindig on the Green every week at Pack Square Park.
And in August, his four-day AVL Fest, a fusion of music and art, will fill dozens of venues around the city. Speaking of autumn, Blue Ridge Pride and Asheville Art in the Park transform Puck Square Park into a massive art fair on consecutive Saturdays in October. The Biltmore Estate is thrilled with activities such as heartwarming exhibitions during the holiday season and more than 130,000 blooming flowers at the Biltmore Blooms in the spring.
11. Biltmore Estate
Captivated by the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862-1914) built this modest mansion on the French Broad River south of Asheville in 1889.
Biltmore House is officially the largest private residence in the United States, with 250 rooms and 4 acres of grounds.
Every corner of this stately mansion is lavishly decorated with tapestries, family portraits, European masterpieces, original furnishings, and intricate architectural details.
The most important rooms include a 10,000-volume library and a ballroom with 70-foot ceilings.
This home is crowning glory, but it’s only part of an 8,000-acre lot. See gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a greenhouse with a model train, natural landscapes with 35 miles of hiking trails, and a winery with complimentary wine tastings.
12. The North Carolina Arboretum
The Southern Appalachian Mountains have extraordinary biodiversity, and Asheville has always been the perfect candidate for a grand arboretum.
A century after an argument by Frederick Law Olmsted, he was finally planted in the late 1980s on 434 acres off Mile Post 393.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The North Carolina Arboretum is relatively new in terms of these facilities, and after nearly 40 years it’s still evolving.
Still, some specimens will surprise you, especially the sheer size of the Metasequoia stand, which stands over 100 feet tall and is the tallest in the South.
The 65 acres of manicured gardens are home to over 100 bonsai collections and delight in cheerful spring colors thanks to the National Native Azalea Collection and dozens of native wildflowers that dot the grounds. increase. If you’re visiting Asheville around Christmas time, be sure to visit for the “Winter Lights” walk-through exhibit, which features a 50-foot tall illuminated tree.
13. River Arts District (RAD)
From the mid-19th century, the vacant lot east of the French Broad River became an industrial area.
This growth was accelerated by his introduction of the railroad in 1879, and soon there were many factories, mills, and warehouses along the river.
These massive buildings were gradually abandoned in the 20th century, and the area was ripe for change as artists came in search of cheap rent and enough space to bring their ideas to life…
The River Arts District is now a veritable community of hundreds of artists who want to showcase their skills to the world.
Travel from studio to studio and gallery to gallery with an enticing selection of food and drink. Come here on the second Saturday and you’ll find plenty of performances, workshops, live performances, and fresh dining experiences in the district.
14. The Folk Art Center
Eight miles from downtown Asheville, at Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Folk Arts Center specializes in the traditional and contemporary crafts and culture of the Southern Appalachians.
This is the home of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild. Three galleries display examples of craftsmanship passed down from generation to generation that continues to this day.
To see these skills in action, attend the daily crafting demonstrations in the lobby from March through December.
And if you want to pick a piece to call your own, Alan Stand his craft shop downtown is the place to go. Founded in 1895, the shop is officially America’s oldest craft store and showcases the work of more than 400 members of his Southern Highlands Craft Guild.
The center has its own nature trails, and Mile Post 382 is also the access point to his 1,200-mile mountain-to-sea trail in North Carolina.
15. Biltmore Village
Near the main entrance to the Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt built this quaint village in the 1890s as a corporate town for the estate’s small group of workers.
The Tudor-style half-timbered Biltmore He Village was designed to resemble an English country village, complete with the parish church, Allhe Souls Cathedral.
Today, village cottages and leafy cobbled streets form a quaint commercial district with a mix of small businesses and national brands.
Hunt for antiques, browse galleries, sample local craft beers, and choose from a variety of food menus.
16. Downtown Asheville
It’s a strange twist of fate that after years of hardship, downtown Asheville has become such an exciting city. The Great Depression was brutal for cities that chose to pay off their debts for more than half a century.
The advantage is that very little development has been done. That means one of America’s finest and largest Art Deco buildings has survived the 21st century intact.
With downtown Asheville topping the list today, this exquisite architecture is combined with upscale shopping at more than 200 local shops and boutiques.
With gastronomy to suit all tastes, contemporary art and culture, and plenty of events, there’s always something going on in this city. Pack Square Park is at the base of several Art Deco wonders and hosts many free festivals and events.
17. Thomas Wolfe Memorial
Author Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), one of the great American writers of the 20th century, was born and raised in Asheville.
His downtown childhood home was the setting for his first novel, Look Homeward Angel (1929), entitled Dixieland, and is preserved as a historic residential museum.
This two-story Queen Anne home was his 1883-built home, then known as “Old Her Kentucky Home”, where Woolf grew up, where rotating tenants spent the summer. The appearance of the time is left as it is.
Interspersed with excerpts from Woolf’s writings, rooms provide a glimpse of Asheville as a summer resort in the early 20th century.
18. Water Adventures on the French Broad River
The French Broad River flows slowly through Asheville from south to north and is considered by some to be the third oldest river in the world.
Nearly half the length of the river is an official paddle trail, and Asheville and its surroundings have a variety of access points for kayaking, paddle boarding, or tubing.
With the support of local adventure companies such as French Broad Outfitters, The Outpost, Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours, and Asheville Adventure Company, you can immediately embark on your own self-guided trip.
For a combination of wilderness and sightseeing, start just south of the Biltmore Estate to see the magnificent homes perched above the river’s forest line.
If you like adventure, check out this rafting experience down the French Broad Whitewater River.
19. Grove Arcade
One of America’s first indoor shopping malls was built across Asheville’s city block in the late 1920s. The Grove is seen from the streets of Battery Hill. Here’s a skyscraper base that wasn’t really built, if the weird outlines of the arcade bother you.
The architecture fits in well with the downtown area, featuring late Gothic brickwork and a Parisian feel along the skylight-lit corridors.
Since 2002, the building has evolved into a classy lifestyle destination with galleries, specialty shops, and many charming restaurants with outdoor sidewalk seating.
At the outdoor Maker’s Market at the edge of Battery Park, you’ll find something to catch your eye. There are about a dozen of his artisanal stalls selling art, jewelry, local produce, and more.
20. Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center
Asheville shines in its own right, but there are plenty of reminders that the city can be a staple in long-distance adventures.
And it’s not much longer than the Blue Ridge Parkway, the longest straight park in the United States at 769 miles long.
No part of the park welcomes more visitors, but that’s not all that surprising given the breathtaking scenery at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where waterfalls and towering peaks await.
Parkway’s headquarters and visitor center are on the eastern edge of town. Here you can plan every detail of your trip and look forward to what to see and do along the way.
21. Craggy Gardens
Another place you have to visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway is this set of natural summit meadows about 14 miles northeast of downtown.
Much higher than Asheville, Craggy Gardens are posted more than a mile above sea level, and the absence of tree cover at the highest points gives you epic panoramas like something from a fantasy movie.
The scenery is jaw-dropping at any time of year but takes on an ethereal quality in June when the sea of pink and purple Catawba rhododendrons are in flower.
The hike of choice here is the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, leading through a wind-sculpted hardwood forest with rare or endangered species up to a high overlook, with the peaks of Pisgah National Forest zigzagging for miles.
Temperatures here are up to 20° cooler than in downtown Asheville, so this is a great place to come for a little respite in summer.
22. Basilica of Saint Lawrence
Spanish civil engineer Rafael Guastavino (1842–1908) spent the latter part of his career in Asheville, working on the Vanderbilt House and this stately downtown cathedral.
Spain His Lawrence Cathedral, built in his Renaissance style, was completed in 1909 and is one of his great landmarks in Asheville.
The most famous feature and the reason why you must go inside is the dome. At 58 feet by 82 feet, it is the largest free-standing oval dome in the country.
The elaborate stained glass is also a highlight, and there are plenty of Italian sculptures.
23. The Orange Peel
Opened in 2002 during a transformative period in downtown Asheville, the Orange Peel remains the number-one choice for live music venues in the city.
Dating back to 1950, the building was originally a roller rink and later a bar and nightclub hosted by the likes of Kay’s and The Commodores. After a long hiatus, Orange Peel is back as a favorite live-act venue.
Artists over the last 20 years include Bob Dylan, Lauryn Hill, Sonic Youth, Flaming Lips, Smashing Pumpkins, Queens of the Stone Age, and Kings of Leon.
The venue seats 1,100 and has been named one of the “top five rock clubs in the country” by Rolling Stone magazine.
24. Woolworth Walk
What could Asheville be more than art galleries in Art Deco department stores?
Woolworth Walk is housed in the former Woolworths store, built in 1938 and operating until 1989. During that time, a lot has happened here, including a sit-in at the lunch counter during the Civil Rights Movement.
The gallery’s origins date back to his early 2000s downtown revitalization, and meticulous restoration work from that era earned the owner two of his Griffin Awards.
It’s officially the city’s largest gallery, but what makes it a destination is its focus on local artists. You’ll find photography, paintings, woodwork, ceramics, glass, digital art, metalwork, and even a fully functional old-fashioned drinking fountain.
25. Western North Carolina Nature Center
The Western North Carolina Nature Center is a grounds-based zoo showcasing the wildlife of the southern Appalachian region.
This attraction has been around for decades but has undergone some major changes since the late 1990s, focusing on local species and expanding its range of award-winning habitats as part of a long-term master plan. created the ground.
Native species include American otters, turkey vultures, eagle owls, gray foxes, cougars, eastern mud turtles, red wolves, and black bears.
These are just some of the more than 60 species in the center, along with interesting natural history facts and winding forest trails along the Swannanoa River. Throughout the park, restless kids can stretch out on the many Play Stations.