Embarking on the ultimate North Carolina road trip? Notch up the excitement with all the fun things to do in Asheville, NC! Although it doesn’t crack the state’s top 10 biggest cities, Asheville is North Carolina’s coolest place to visit. Hugging the French Broad River in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the city attracts visitors of every kind. It’s the perfect NC destination for both outdoor adventurers and arts & culture lovers.
Among the city’s top tourist attractions, you’ll find baronial manors, Art Deco buildings, leafy hiking trails, cool art galleries & art studios, and plenty of outdoor activities. And let’s not forget craft beer. In fact, Asheville has more craft breweries per capita than any city in the United States, earning it the nickname Beer City, USA!
Ready to nail down what to do and where to go in this North Carolina mountain town? Plan the ultimate trip with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Asheville, NC!
Must-see places to visit in Asheville, NC
If you’re visiting Asheville in one day, start your morning with a visit to the Biltmore Estate. Located just outside the city, the estate dates back to the late 19th century, built for American industrialist George Vanderbilt. The Biltmore Estate is one of Asheville’s must-see landmarks to marvel at the remarkable architecture and the stunning gardens with beautiful mountain views.
Start your Biltmore Estate visit at the Biltmore House. Built in Chateauesque style, the mansion is the largest house in the United States. It features an astounding 178,926 square feet of living spaces, divided into 250 rooms that teem with priceless historical artifacts and period artwork.
The Biltmore Estate is also famed for its forest trails and gardens. South of the home, you’ll spot a walled rose garden featuring over 250 species from around the world. The estate’s azalea collection is also impressive. During spring, the azaleas bloom into pinks, oranges, whites, and yellows. With over 20,000 plants, it’s one of the USA’s most complete azalea collections and offers tourists one of the coolest experiences in this mountain town.
Antler Hill Village
After exploring the Biltmore House and gardens, head northwest to Antler Hill Village. The small “village” is home to the Biltmore Winery, one of the most-visited wineries and vineyards in the entire country. Your admission to the Biltmore Estate includes a complimentary wine tasting.
Aside from the winery, Antler Hill Village features several restaurants, bistros, shops, and inns. To fuel up for more sightseeing, grab lunch at Cedric’s Tavern or Village Social.
On your way back to town from the estate, check out Biltmore Village. Sitting near the estate’s main entrance, Biltmore Village is another cool 19th-century throwback and one of the area’s highlights for history buffs. Among its quaint historic cottages, you’ll filter past antique shops, art galleries, restaurants, and brewpubs.
River Arts District
For art lovers & craft beer connoisseurs, visiting Asheville’s River Arts District is a must. The River Arts District (RAD) sits upon the banks of the French Broad River. Just five minutes from downtown by car, the eclectic neighborhood is one of the mountain city’s top points of interest.
Two decades ago, the River Arts District was a mere collection of decaying industrial buildings and warehouses. Of course, Asheville’s artists had a different idea. Today, the RAD teems with cool street art, art galleries, cafés, and, in true Asheville spirit, craft breweries.
Arts & culture vultures will have a blast sorting through hundreds of artist studios & galleries. A good place to start is at 310 Art. Located in Riverview Station, 310 Art features artwork from over a dozen local artists.
In the district’s south, the colorful Pink Dog Creative is also worth a look. Pink Dog Creative is home to 30 local artists, a coffee shop, and two restaurants.
Built up a thirst on your art adventure? Grab a pint of craft beer at the Wedge Brewing Company. At the main Wedge Studios location, several food trucks are also parked outside to help you demolish your hunger.
There are also plenty of great dining options around the River Arts District that give credence to Asheville’s nickname among foodies, Foodtopia. For a taste of Southern BBQ in North Carolina, pull up a chair at 12 Bones Smokehouse. The most famous smokehouse in the Asheville region, 12 Bones Smokehouse slow-smokes their meats on cherry and oak wood. Its drool-worthy BBQ is some of the city’s most mouth-watering. BBQ fans can’t miss it!
Need to add some more adventure to your getaway? The River Arts District is also a popular launching point for kayaking and tubing trips along the French Broad River. For the real deal, though, head about 10 minutes downriver to the Asheville Adventure Company to test your resolve with everything from kayaking and tubing to whitewater rafting and ziplining.
Asheville Urban Trail
Need a primer for your Asheville trip? Start by exploring its historic downtown along the Asheville Urban Trail. The 1.7-mile walking loop starts and ends at Pack Square Park in the center of downtown.
The 2-hour Asheville Urban Trail walk focuses on the city’s striking Neo-Classical, Neo-Gothic, and Art Deco architecture. The handsome downtown historic buildings hide trendy boutiques, restaurants, cafes, brewpubs, and music venues.
If you need an afternoon bite on your walking tour, slide into the Tupelo Honey Cafe. One of the city’s most popular places to eat, Tupelo Honey Cafe delights with its delicious Southern comfort food. The restaurant sits on College Street near Pritchard Park, famed for its Friday evening public drum circle.
Got a little thirsty while exploring the streets of downtown? Enjoy cocktails to beautiful vistas at rooftop bars like The Montford Rooftop Bar or Capella on 9. Alternatively, take a short ride or walk south to the South Slope Brewing District for a quick drink. Watch Asheville earn its moniker Beer City USA by popping into the district’s coolest craft breweries. Popular options in the area include Wicked Weed Brewing Pub, Twin Leaf Brewery, and Green Man Brewery.
If you’ve built up an appetite on your journey, the South Slope Brewing District also teems with a variety of cool restaurants and cafes where foodies can grab a quick bite. Don’t miss the chance to chomp down on juicy East Carolina BBQ favorites and a mix of other Southern flavors at Buxton Hall Barbecue. Or wash down Japanese-American fusion cuisine with in-house sake at Ben’s Tune Up.
Thomas Wolfe Memorial
Fans of classic literature can’t miss a visit to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Located on North Market Street in Downtown Asheville, the popular attraction marks the childhood home of the famed American author. Affectionately nicknamed “Dixieland,” the house takes center stage in Wolfe’s classic autographical work Look Homeward, Angel.
Built in 1883, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial shows off a distinctive Queen Anne architecture style. Now a North Carolina State Historic Site and National Historic Landmark, the historic building remains intact with much of the original furnishings and artifacts.
To experience Thomas Wolfe House to its fullest, join in on a guided tour. The tours embark at half past the hour between 9 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Admission is $5.
Pisgah National Forest
Sprawling across much of Western North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest is one of the state’s finest outdoor retreats and a must-see for any nature lover’s getaway to this beautiful region. The hardwood forest sprawls out over 500,000 acres. And with its closest access point just 10 minutes from town, Pisgah National Forest is near the top of the list of what to see in Asheville.
For an easy trip to Pisgah National Forest, ply along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. Accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 15-mile stretch of US Highway 276 slides past some of the forest’s main attractions.
The highlight of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway is the famed Sliding Rock. One of the coolest outdoor activities in Asheville, the natural waterslide plunges you 60 feet below into a refreshing swimming hole. Sliding Rock is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day for sliding and all year round for sightseeing.
Other hotspots along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway include Moore Cove Falls, Looking Glass Falls, and Looking Glass Rock, one of the top rock climbing destinations in the Southeast. The first American forest school, Cradle of Forestry, also sits along the byway.
If you want to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Pisgah National Forest, expand your day trip into an overnight adventure at one of the park’s many camping areas. Enjoy a picnic under the trees with friends and family and spend the night stargazing and sharing stories by the campfire.
At the opposite end of the Pisgah National Forest, northeast of Asheville, carve out time to visit Linville Gorge. Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East” and “the river of many cliffs” by the Cherokee, Linville Gorge plunges 2,000 feet into the Linville River below. Spending time soaking up the views with a romp on the trail here is one of the loveliest things to do in Asheville, NC.
The almost 12,000-acre Linville Gorge Wilderness Area teems with miles of hiking trails, unleashing spectacular views. A word of warning for hikers, though: The trails at the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area are not for the faint-hearted. Although short, many of the treks around Linville Gorge require climbing skills and more technical gear.
Before heading back to town, stop off at the Linville Falls Visitor Center to catch a glimpse of one of the state’s most famous waterfalls. Flowing down from Grandfather Mountain to the north, the Linville River makes a dramatic 90-foot drop at Linville Falls, creating one of the most spectacular scenes along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
To see the falls, take the 1.6-mile round trip on Erwins View Trail from the visitor center. Even if you don’t want to tackle the entire moderate hike, the walk to the first Upper Falls viewpoint is just half a mile, with minimal elevation gain.
Omni Grove Park Inn
Built over a century ago, Omni Grove Park Inn is one of Asheville’s most impressive historic buildings. The luxurious mountain resort shows off a unique Arts and Crafts architectural style. The inn’s unique design was dreamt up by E.W. Grove, one of the city’s most important historical residents.
Even if staying at the Omni Grove Park Inn is out of your travel budget, set aside an evening to check it out. Watch the sunset over the hills and grab dinner and a cocktail on its Sunset Terrace for the perfect end to the day.
Not far from the inn, you’ll stumble upon the quaint Grovewood Village. The small “campus” was built in 1917 as the home of Biltmore Industries. Today, it teems with museums, artist studios, galleries, and an 11-acre sculpture garden.
Art lovers visiting Grovewood Village can’t miss Grovewood Gallery. The two-floor shop is one of North Carolina’s finest arts & craft galleries. At Grovewood Gallery, you’ll sort through artwork and handmade furniture crafted by over 400 artists from around the US.
Not into art? Rev up your engine at the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum. The museum hosts a handful of early 19th-century cars and horse-drawn carriages. Admission to the antique car museum is free.
Asheville Pinball Museum
Need a break from historical sightseeing? Spend an hour or two spinnin’ balls at the Asheville Pinball Museum. Sitting on the edge of Battle Square, this “museum” is one of the city’s coolest places to go for families, couples, and solo travelers alike.
Retro gamers and next-gen kids alike will love the family-friendly fun at the Asheville Pinball Museum. The attraction is home to about 50 classic arcade games and pinball machines. For just $15, you’ll enjoy unlimited plays on all its games.
No, you won’t find retro gaming classics at the Grove Arcade. Nonetheless, this historic shopping arcade is one of downtown’s most interesting things to see and is one of the must-see Asheville attractions for any trip to the North Carolina mountain city.
Rising from the mind of E.W. Grove in the roaring 1920s, Grove Arcade was one of the world’s first indoor malls. And at almost a century old, the mall still buzzes with cool boutiques, arts & craft shops, jewelry stores, galleries, and restaurants.
After browsing the eclectic shops of Grove Arcade, book lovers should check out the Battery Park Book Exchange. The used bookstore takes shopping for books to the next level with its cool wine & champagne bar. Grab a novel and a glass of bubbly to soak up the charming atmosphere and unwind before exploring more of Asheville.
Sierra Nevada Brewery
Ready to test Asheville’s penchant for craft beer? Sip on pints at the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Mills River. Located on the French Broad River, the popular craft brewery is a fantastic place to celebrate Western North Carolina’s love of suds.
Aside from its 23 taps, Sierra Nevada’s Mills River taphouse serves delicious Southern-inspired pub fare. Carve out time to walk off your beer and meal in the brewery’s leafy grounds.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Much of Asheville’s popularity with travelers comes from its location on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Scraping along the Blue Ridge Mountains ridgeline, the 469-mile roadway is one of America’s most scenic drives. The parkway is particularly spectacular in the fall season, when the leaves explode into a cavalcade of autumn colors.
The route begins at Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. From here, the Blue Ridge Parkway drifts southward to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
Whether you drive north or south of Asheville, there’s plenty to see & do along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Heading north, opt for a hike up Craggy Pinnacle or a drive up Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, to soak up all the natural beauty.
To the south, tackle Black Balsam Knob. The tree-free Appalachian peak is the perfect family-friendly nature escape in Asheville. Black Balsam Knob is an easy to moderate loop hike, clocking in at just two hours return. The views of the mountain peaks from the top of its 6,214-foot summit are spectacular.
Prefer to keep your feet on more level ground? Stop off at the Folk Art Center at mile marker 382. One of the most popular stops on the parkway for art lovers, the center features a variety of exhibits dedicated to Appalachian arts & crafts spread through three art galleries.
Looking for some prime hiking in Asheville? Strap on your boots and hit the trails at Craggy Gardens. Fondly nicknamed “Craggy” by locals, this hilly hiking area in the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most popular day trips from Asheville. It’s a scenic 45-minute drive from town on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
For a first-time visit to Craggy Gardens, start with the Craggy Gardens Trail. The 0.3-mile trail is accessible from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Finishing the short trek, you’ll reach a hut where you’ll marvel at beautiful views over the mountains.
Need a bigger challenge? Opt for the Craggy Pinnacle Trail. Launching from Craggy Dome, the 1.4-mile loop treks to the 5,892-foot summit. At the top, you’ll delight in breathtaking 360-degree views over the area.
Mount Mitchell State Park
Home to the highest mountain east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell State Park is one of Asheville’s favorite outdoor attractions. The beautiful nature area sprawls 1,946 acres, rising 6,684 feet to the summit of its namesake mountain.
Unlike other peaks in the area, the trek up to the top of Mt. Mitchell isn’t so strenuous. Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway will get you most of the way there. From the parking area, you’ll only need to hike a quarter-mile to Mount Mitchell’s observation deck. Once atop, you’ll admire spellbinding panoramic views over the mountain range.
Mount Mitchell State Park is just 35 miles northeast of Downtown Asheville. Be sure to bring along outerwear. The temperatures at the peak are 10 to 30 degrees cooler than in town.
Chimney Rock State Park
Located just 25 miles outside Asheville, Chimney Rock State Park unleashes all the nature Western NC is famous for. From the top of the park’s namesake rock, you’ll marvel at dramatic views over deep forests, Hickory Nut Gorge, and Lake Lure.
Chimney Rock State Park is also home to several excellent hiking trails. Beginners will want to start with the easy Hickory Nut Falls Trail. The 1.5-mile loop drifts through the woods with only a couple of small uphill climbs. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled to spot lovely wildflowers and native birdlife.
For a more advanced hike, follow the route to Exclamation Point. From its 2,480-foot perch, you’ll delight in spectacular views over Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. The trailhead is located near the staircase up to the rock.
DuPont State Forest
A 40-mile drive from the city, DuPont State Forest is another top destination for outdoor adventurers. The 10,000-acre nature reserve teems with waterfalls, accessible via 86 miles of hiking trails.
To squeeze the most out of your DuPont State Recreational Forest adventures, tackle the Waterfall Hike. The moderate 3-mile trail meanders past three waterfalls, each more spectacular than the last. Your effort will be rewarded with a view of the 150-foot High Falls at the trail’s end.
On your hikes, keep your eyes peeled for the wide diversity of wildlife living within the DuPont State Forest. Bird watchers will find plenty to spot here, from birds of prey like hawks and eagles to water birds splashing around the lakes. You may even spot bigger animals like black bears, foxes, deer—and even more elusive bobcats or cougars!
North Carolina Arboretum
One of the finest natural gardens in the USA, the North Carolina Arboretum makes for a wonderful escape from the city. Within its 434-acre campus lies about half a dozen manicured gardens. Featuring azaleas, hollies, and stonework, the gardens meld perfectly with the natural landscape.
Besides admiring its gardens, North Carolina Arboretum teems with hiking trails and biking trails. For a relaxing cycling adventure, hit up the 1.3-mile Bent Creek Road or the 1.2-mile Carolina Mountain Trail.
Botanical Gardens at Asheville
Located in North Asheville, Botanical Gardens at Asheville is the perfect place to ditch the urban buzz. The 10-acre garden bursts with thousands of native South Appalachian plant species.
Wander the garden’s nature trails, including the main 0.5-mile Crayton Trail loop, to admire its wildflowers and evergreens.
When you’re done with the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, slip down to the Montford Area Historic District. Located just south of the gardens, the neighborhood teems with beautiful historic homes. Its Arts and Crafts and Colonial Revival buildings are among the city’s most distinctive.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Looking to stretch your Western North Carolina trip to its max? Save time to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 800-square-mile national park straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. And while most travelers visit from Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, visiting from Asheville is possible, too.
If you’re tight on time on your Great Smoky Mountains National Park visit, set your sights on Clingmans Dome. Located across the state border in Tennessee, the famed Great Smoky Mountains viewpoint is the highest point in the national park and along the entire Appalachian Trail. About 75 miles driving distance from Asheville, the scenic drive to the 6,643-foot panorama point is accessible between April and November.
Keep in mind that weather conditions at Clingmans Dome are unpredictable. Temperatures are often 10 to 25 degrees colder than in the “lowlands.” As precipitation is possible year-round, bring waterproof outerwear and extra layers to deal with the chill.
Recommended places to stay in Asheville for sightseeing
For most travelers, the best place to stay in Asheville is downtown. The city center is home to most of the city’s top-rated hotels and top points of interest. Here are a couple of lodgings ideas to get your accommodation search started.
As chilled out as the city itself, the Hotel Indigo is the perfect choice for a colorful stay in the city. The rooms are funky and offer blissful views over the area. Guests will enjoy a swath of excellent amenities at this property, including a fitness center and on-site bar & restaurant.
Located minutes from Pack Square, the stylish AC Hotel sits in the very heart of the downtown. The highlight is enjoying sweeping city views from its hip rooftop bar & tapas joint, Capella on 9.
Set in a 1920s-era building, the historic Haywood Park Hotel is one of Asheville’s loveliest luxury hotels. The suites at this 4-star hotel are spacious and modern. Start your day with a complimentary breakfast and end your evening with a dose of physical activity in the fitness center.