Asheville, North Carolina, is a destination adored for its arts scene, world-class entertainment venues, and culinary excellence; you could jam-pack your itinerary from arrival to departure with city-based attractions and never be bored. But if you’d like to add a little bit of variety to your next vacation, one of these top-rated day trips from Asheville, NC, is sure to do the trick.
Whether you have a couple of hours to spare or all the time in the world to extend your Asheville holiday, there are plenty of destinations in close proximity that fit the bill. There are also road trips suited to every different traveler’s preferences and interests. Willing to cross state borders? Make the trek to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Need to schedule entertainment for little ones on your excursion? Check out Greenville, South Carolina.
Do these epic journeys sound like exactly the thing to take your itinerary up a notch? This list of Asheville side trips is sure to inspire you to venture a little further afield!
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Starting off strong, we’ve got a top American destination for an outdoor enthusiast: Just 52 minutes from Asheville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great natural beauty that attracts tourists from all over the state, country—and even the rest of the world!
The trails of Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be explored on foot, by bicycle, and even on horseback. That’s right: Dust off those cowboy boots; there are several stables located within the park’s bounds that offer leisurely paced trail rides through the mountains.
Not sure about climbing into the stable? Traverse the backcountry the way they did in the olden days with a carriage or wagon ride, also offered by a few of the outlets.
No matter which way you decide to explore the park, you’re going to need a starting point. Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, thanks to its multitude of trailheads and other activities.
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You can even camp at the site if you want a true home base for a whole weekend of outdoor fun. The Cades Cove area is particularly well-loved for its ample wildlife viewing opportunity, waterfalls, and a smattering of 18th and 19th-century buildings situated throughout the valley.
Black Mountain, NC
Black Mountain is a destination that comes alive in the summertime; if you’re planning an escape in the North Carolina sun, this mountain town is a quick trip you must consider adding to your Asheville itinerary. When we say quick, we mean it: This town is just 20 minutes away from Asheville; no road-trip fatigue here!
Lake Tomahawk Park is Black Mountain’s hub for outdoor recreation, with popular activities including fishing, hiking—and even tennis—if you’d really like to work up a sweat under the summer sun.
For a slower-paced day, you can simply hang out and enjoy the scenery or step inside and take a tour of Black Mountain’s past at the Swannanoa Valley Museum. A visit costs only a self-directed donation and will leave you with a deeper understanding of slavery, architecture, and development in the region that’s absolutely priceless.
Need a refreshment at the end of a great day of touring? The town has tons of options, with several pro-adult beverage crafters calling Black Mountain home. No matter your drink of choice, you’re sure to find a stellar pour at one of the mountain town’s most popular restaurants & bars.
To start your search, check out the Lookout Brewing Company for a great beer, Oak and Grist Distilling Company LLC for small-batch whiskey and gin, or Black Mountain Cider + Mead for other fermented tipples.
DuPont State Recreational Forest, NC
Not done fantasizing about a trek into the wilderness? Check out DuPont State Recreational Forest. Located 50 minutes south of Asheville, this mountainous nature preserve is an amateur naturalist’s dream.
The DuPont State Recreational Forest is a great spot for hiking, but it’s also home to several famous waterfalls. Choose from High Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Grassy Creek Falls, or go waterfall-hopping with an easy-peasy route pre-mapped on their website between all three. The High Falls Loop (and the path it takes to get to it) totals just 0.5 miles, making this a worthwhile endeavor, even for beginners.
If you need a bit more excitement, there are plenty of ways to take your visit to the DuPont State Recreational Forest to the next level. If you’d like to get some adrenaline pumping through your veins, why not fly through the sky with The Gorge Zipline?
Alternatively, you could rest your feet and exercise your mind with a trip to The Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County. Home to a vast collection of fossils, meteorites, and gems, this attraction is sure to inspire every future paleontologist. Plus, admission is free, so you can save the day’s petty cash budget for a snack on the way back to Asheville.
Ready to take a step back in time? Boone is the ultimate North Carolina destination for history buffs. It’ll take you just shy of two hours to get to Boone from Asheville, but it’s definitely worth the drive.
Start your day at Mast General Store Boone. You’ll want to take a selfie in front of its historic facade, then head inside and go on a mini shopping spree. The Mast General Store sells old-fashioned candies and confections alongside souvenirs, camping/outdoor gear, and just about anything else you could possibly need for an adventure through the top Boone tourist attractions.
Once you’re all stocked up on goodies, head over to Tweetsie Railroad. At first glance, it seems like a train-centric attraction thanks to its two historic steam trains, but it’s so much more than that. This seasonal theme park has several carnival rides, a mini zoo, and several other family-friendly activities with a general “wild west” vibe.
For a completely different approach to a day in Boone, NC, embrace your creative side at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. Owned and operated by Appalachian State University, this museum has innovative contemporary installations throughout six different galleries, culminating in a celebration of the different mediums and forms art can take.
Linville Falls, NC
If your idea of the perfect day includes some form of outdoor tourism, then Linville Falls is the ideal Asheville day trip destination for you. The journey will take just barely over an hour, and then you’ll be free to do all the hiking, biking, sightseeing, and adventuring you please.
Obviously, visiting the town’s namesake, Linville Falls, tops the list of things to do here. Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway scenic drive, this short, easy hike comes with a huge payoff.
Depending on which footpath you follow, you’ll have a different vantage point, but the Chimney View Trail is said to have the most spectacular view of the falls.
This mountain landmark will take you high up above the ground, but what about exploring underneath it? The Linville Caverns will take you into the subterranean darkness, with rock formations, underground waterways, and bat colonies.
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Visiting after a snowfall? Joans Ridge Snow Tubing is a staple of the winter experience in Linville Falls. Just book some left tickets and feel the thrill of zipping down the mountainside slopes, laughing alongside your closest family and friends.
Did you know one of Tennesee’s top travel destinations is within driving distance? Gatlinburg is situated an hour and 50 minutes from Asheville and is a hub for traditional tourism with a bit of Southern flare. If you have the time, Gatlinburg would make a great weekend addition to your itinerary; just bump that return flight for a couple of days and check into one of Gatlinburg’s best hotels.
Are you an ocean lover? Spend an afternoon under the sea at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. With Enchanting displays of colorful reefs and illuminated jellies, the gentle sway of kelp, and an immersive tunnel, you may never want to head back to dry land. You can even board a glass bottom boat that circles the shark lagoon.
Then, head way up towards the clouds with Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. This scenic ride is one of the top Gatlinburg attractions and promises some of the most spectacular views around. You’ll scale the side of the Smoky Mountains and then walk across the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America when you reach the top.
Ever found yourself curious about moonshine’s history and production and thought, “I wonder what that tastes like”? You’re in luck!
If you want to learn about this long-standing tradition from the guys who started it all, Ole Smoky was the first moonshine producer to become federally licensed in Tennesee—and they’re still churning out award-winning pours on a regular basis. On the other hand, Sugarlands Distilling Company is one of the trendiest, with free back-porch concerts and a modern atmosphere.
Little Switzerland, NC
Dreaming of traveling to the Swiss Alps? You might be in luck. Little Switzerland is a North Carolina mountain destination that brings this European delight to you. The drive to Little Switzerland takes just one hour from Asheville, but it feels an entire world away.
If you’d like to experience a natural wonder of the world—no, not one of the “big seven”—head to Crabtree Falls. There are two trail options to get to this impressive 70-foot cascade with varying difficulty levels. One is long but suitable to most ability levels; the other is just a slightly longer distance but a more challenging climb.
After a solid day of exploring Little Switzerland, chances are you’ll want to refuel before heading back to Asheville. Books and Beans is the perfect place to grab an energizing espresso shot and a new read to take home.
If you need something a little heartier to satisfy a worked-up appetite, check out the infamous Chalet Restaurant to enjoy some delicious food with views through panoramic windows overlooking the mountain range. (Their Swiss onion soup is definitely the way to go if you’d like to stay on theme.)
Blowing Rock, NC
One hour and 40 minutes from Asheville lies Blowing Rock. This is a bit of a mixed-bag travel destination. If you’re a traveler who prefers not to plan ahead and just go with the flow once you get there, this city will not disappoint; there’s always something going on in Blowing Rock that’s suited to every different age and passion.
Need some advice on what to do in Blowing Rock with kids? A visit to Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine is always a hoot. Here, you’ll sift through the ore to find your own take-home treasure.
Fossil and tumble bags are curated to guarantee a great discovery, but you can also buy an unseeded bucket of premium local ore for a more genuine experience. You can also tack on a dino-themed game at Paleo Putt Putt mini golf for a discounted fee.
Think it can’t get any more fun? Mystery Hill is a wacky “natural gravitational anomaly” site full of quirky scientific experiments and play zones. You can take on a bull riding challenge, try your hand at axe throwing, stand inside a giant bubble you blow yourself or costume up and take an old-timey souvenir photo.
For an educational spin, you can learn about the weird and wonderful ways of the world at the Hall of Mystery Museum.
Craggy Gardens, NC
Catch a breath of fresh air at Craggy Gardens. Another gem along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll want to target MP 364 as your stop. The best part is it’s only 39 minutes from Asheville along this scenic route, making it an easy stop as part of a longer road trip or the perfect hiking trip for those on a tighter timeline.
In Craggy Gardens, harsh rockface meets unkempt natural beauty. The area is known particularly for its lush and beautiful blooms.
June is the best time to catch the rhododendron display when the trails are bursting with hues of purple and pink. Of course, several other species bloom throughout the spring and summer around Craggy Gardens if you happen to miss the main event.
Just because the hike is the main attraction it doesn’t mean it’s the only thing to do at this natural landmark. You can pop into the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center for a quick natural history lesson or choose the Craggy Pinnacle Trail to take advantage of a picnic area with incredible snow-capped summit views.
Looking for a destination that’s equally as beautiful as it is fun? Look no further than Cherokee, NC. This reserve is just one hour and five minutes from Asheville, and it’s teeming with both lush mountain scenery and touristy things to do.
Oconaluftee Islands Park is a natural escape that offers a little bit of everything. With trails lined with indigenous sculpture. With fantastic spots for swimming in the river and idyllic picnic locations, you could easily spend all day here. Many past visitors suggest that the highlight of their visit was the bonfire storytelling session hosted each evening by the region’s true first inhabitants.
If you want to continue learning about the history of the Cherokee tribes, especially in a local context, visit the Cherokee Heritage Museum and Gallery, filled to the brim with artifacts and narrative-driven exhibits.
Do your kids count down to Christmas all year round? Check out Santa’s Land, a holiday-themed amusement park that’s sure to lift their spirits. Aside from a personal visit with Santa, you can expect to zoom about on a Rudolph-led coaster, make new friends in the petting zoo, and make a splash cruising around in a paddle boat.
If you’re looking for a truly family-friendly destination, Greenville, SC, presents the perfect road trip opportunity for you and your crew. The drive from Asheville is a reasonable one hour and 13 minutes long, leaving you plenty of time to explore its various entertainment options.
One of the top tourist attractions in Greenville, SC, The Children’s Museum of the Upstate has tons of play-based exhibits. Your kids will love turning their drawings into live animations, joining a garage band, and trying to walk through a funhouse-style upside-down room.
The Greenville Zoo is also a wonderful option for keeping the kids busy. Watch orangutans swinging on vines or participate in Zookeeper chats every Tuesday. You can also join the Long Neck Club to support the zoo’s conservation efforts, which comes with an exclusive giraffe feeding pass where you can pass some tasty treats over to these gentle giants.
Some more adult-focused entertainment? The Peace Center is the region’s leading venue for a night out on the town. From concert series hosted by your favorite cooler brand, White Claw, to ”Peace Broadway” performances, this is the destination for all the hottest live events in Greenville, SC.