17+ Best Things To Do in Asheville NC

Asheville NC is literally a city surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, and as a result is a top destination for many visitors.  Asheville is eccentric, artsy, and is full of  places to stay, places to eat with awesome food, but also full of unique things to see and do as well.   

One huge benefit of visiting Asheville, is not only is the city itself full of things to do, you can use Asheville as a base to visit many awesome surrounding locations in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

Updated: 2/16/2023

Here are our top picks for the 17+ best things to do in Asheville NC:

1 - Check out the Awesome Street Art

Asheville is well known for being an "Artsy" town, and this is very visible as you explore the streets of downtown and the River Arts District.  All over town are fun, creative , and well done art murals, painted on various walls.   No, this is graffiti, but real art by very talent artists.

2 - Drink some local craft beer!

Asheville NC Craft Beer

Asheville is literally famous for its local craft beers.  With more than 26 different breweries inside the city limits, it's no wonder why.   If you're a beer fan, you'll definitely want to explore and try out the craft beer scene.  

The most popular Asheville Breweries are: Highland, Hi-Wire, Green Man, Catawba, and New Belgium.   The various breweries offer well over 100 different beers to taste, many of them small batch and seasonal.  You can even take beer tour busses around to the different breweries.

3 - Visit Biltmore

Biltmore Estate

The most popular tourist destination in Asheville, is Biltmore.  Well known as the largest privately owned home in the US, this mansion and estate, built by George Vanderbilt over 100 years ago is a sight to be seen, and is popular all year long.

Mr. Vanderbilt, fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains, and in particular the Asheville area, and decided to build a vacation home here. The house and estate was opened in 1889 on Christmas Eve.  This vacation home is more than 178,000 square foot mansion sits on 8000 acres.  

The house and estate is full of history, incredible views, and some of the most beautiful gardens you'll see anywhere.  

4 - Visit the River Arts District

Asheville NC River Arts District

Photo by: tyree

The River Arts Distract of Asheville NC began to take shape in the 1980s, as local artists began to convert old buildings along the French Broad River into art studios.  In more recent years, the area has become an official district named the River Arts District, or RAD as the locals call it. 

RAD is full of different types of art, and is open to locals and visitors.  When visiting, you can see art from more than 200 different local artists.   RAD also has live music, wine tastings and other events.   If you really want to explore the true essence of Asheville art, RAD is a place you'll want to visit.

5 - Get Outdoors and Go Hiking

Hiking Max Patch NC

Asheville is surrounded by thousands of acres of National Forest and Wilderness.   The area is full of awesome hiking trails to scenic views, waterfalls, wildflowers, swimming holes, and many other locations.   Even the famous Appalachian Trail is nearby (seen above at Max Patch NC).   Hiking is one the best ways to see the true beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  There are trails for everyone, including families, easy hikes, and strenuous hikes!

6 - Go Ziplining

Asheville NC Ziplining

There are few things more exciting than ziplining through the tree tops, or watching the bottom fall-out as you zipline from one peak to another.    

Asheville provides a number of zipline options, including Navitat, Asheville Treetops Adventure Park, Wildwater Zipline, and if you want to venture out a little further, there are  number of great options, including the Nantahala National Whitewater Center (NOC).

Our personal favorite is Navitat due to being environmentally friendly, very safe, and quality and knowledgable guides.

7 - Take a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall Colors just beginning to show on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway literally travels through the city of Asheville.  The Parkway offers a beautiful and peaceful drive through the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.    From the parkway, you can find a number of wonderful hiking trails, waterfalls, and incredible scenic views.

The Parkway travels 469 miles from Cherokee NC, through Asheville NC into Virginia.  Asheville makes for a great home location when visiting the Parkway, and a number of day trips along the Parkway are possible to many different locations.

8 - Experience awesome Street Performers in Downtown Asheville

Asheville NC Street Performers

Photo by K e v i n

Being an artsy town, Asheville, and in particular the down town area is full of unique street performers (or buskers).   All of them are fun, and some, well they're a little different, but still really interesting!   You'll find performers singing, playing blue grass, guitar, violins, drums and keyboards.    You'll often find full bands playing together as well.

These folks are fun to watch, and make Asheville the unique city that it is.  Don't forget, these folks play for tips, so be sure to support them so they can continue to entertain.

9 - Explore Pisgah National Forest

Looking Glass Falls

Located just a short drive from Asheville, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and near Brevard NC is the wonderful and amazing Pisgah National Forest.   This area of Pisgah National Forest was once part of Biltmore, but was sold to the State after George Vanderbilt's passing.    

Pisgah National Forest is full of picnic areas, hiking trails, waterfalls, mountain biking trails, and incredible scenic views.  The Cradle of Forestry is considered the birthplace of modern Forestry in America, and there are a number of old mountain exhibits to see, including an old train.    Be sure to drive along Highway 276, and visit Moore Cove Falls, the incredibly popular Sliding Rock, and Looking Glass Falls (pictured).

Here's a video of Sliding Rock NC - Please note, this was recorded during the off season.  It's generally far more busy!

10 - Relax at one of the Asheville Spas

Spas in Asheville NC

One of our most favorite things to do in Asheville is to enjoy the different spa options.  Asheville is well known as one of the top areas spas, massages, and wellness.  People travel from overseas just to experience Asheville Spas and wellness options.    The mountain air, high elevations, scenic and peaceful views combined with a relaxing Spa treatment is just the ticket to melt that stress away and enjoy a more healthy lifestyle.

Some of the top options include: Omni Grovepark Inn underground spa (or favorite and pictured above), Shoji Japanese Spa, Asheville Salt Cave and Spa, and the The Spa at the Inn on Biltmore Estate.

11 - Go Fly Fishing

The surrounding Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains offer some of the most pristine trout waters in the world!   The area provides some of the best and most beautiful fly fishing you'll experience anywhere.  

Popular areas include Pisgah National Forest, the Nantahala River, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  At any of these places you can hook your legal limit of well-stocked brown, brook, and rainbow trout.   

If you love trout, but prefer not to fish, you'll find local fresh trout available at many local Asheville and surrounding restaurants as well.

12 - Take one of the unique Asheville Bus Tours

Asheville NC Bus Tour

Photo by: Clark Mackey

If you spend just a short amount of time near Downtown Asheville, you're very quickly discover one of the unique and fun bus tours available.    LaZoom is probably one of the most popular, due to its "party bus" atmosphere.    This bus tour company will take you all around Asheville, sharing the rich history in a fun and entertaining manner.  This will be one bus tour you will not forgot.

Other fun and unique tours are also available, including: Grayline Trolly Tours, AVL Beer Bus, Asheville Ghost Tours, Asheville Beer Tours.

13 - Take a haunted Asheville or Downtown tour

Take two exciting walking and self guided tours of Asheville.  These fun tours allow you to explore Asheville at your own pace using an App.  You can tour when you want, and with who you want.  Not more feeling rushed or getting ditched by the tour guide. 

The Haunted Tour will guiding you through Asheville's haunted streets, telling you the history. You’ll hear about murder, haunted churches and haunted buildings.  You'll even learn about the famous ghost of Chicken Alley!  The tour is about 60-80 minutes, and less than a mile.

Asheville's Historic Downtown Walking Tour begins at Pack Square, and your tour guide is none other than George Pack.  You'll learn about the interesting history of downtown Asheville and how it grew.  Along the way you can pause the tour and explore all of the cool stores, shops and restaurants along the way!

14 - Climb to the top of Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock NC

Located about 45 minutes south of Asheville, in Chimney Rock NC (near the famous Lake Lure), is Chimney Rock State Park.    The feature of Chimney Rock is the tall rock formation that looks like a Chimney.   You can either hike to the top (lots of stairs), or take an elevator inside to the mountain to the top.   

Standing on the top of the Chimney offers break-taking views of the surrounding mountains and of Lake Lure.

Chimney Rock offers scenic views, hiking trails, a stunning waterfall, nature exhibits, a gift shop, and rock climbing.    This is one place you won't want to miss!   

15 - Visit the North Carolina Arboretum

NC Arboretum Asheville NC

Photo by: M Fletcher

A real hidden gem located near the Parkway in Asheville NC is the North Carolina Arboretum.   The NC Arboretum contains acres of cultivated gardens and well maintained hiking trails.    Also included are a Bonsai Garden, water features, and an outdoor model garden train.

If you love gardens, you'll want to put the NC Arboretum on your short list!

16 - Go Shopping at the historic Grove Arcade

Grove Arcade Asheville NC

The Grove Arcade is Asheville's original shopping mall.  The historic Grove Arcade opened in 1929.  The buildings rich history and ornate architecture is truly unique and beautiful, taking you back in time yet providing modern stores, restaurants nd features.  Grove Arcade as an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants that really highlight Ashevilles unique lifestyle and culture.

When visiting, you'll find lots of fun and local shops, restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and a brewery!

17 - Go back to the 70s an 80s at the Pinball Museum

Pinball Museum Asheville NC

Pinball Museum Asheville NC

Located in Downtown Asheville, and across the street from the historic Grove Arcade, the Asheville Pinball Museum will transport you back to the arcades of the 70s and 80s.   The museum features numerous historic and restored pinball machines, some from the early 1900s, along the a number of 80s arcade games as well, including Missile Command, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Defender, Mrs. Pacman, Centipede, and more!

You can visit and just walk around for free, or you can pay a daily fee per person, and get to play unlimited all day long.   The walls and museum around the game systems are full of 80s memorabilia and of course 80s music and videos are playing to set the ambience.

When we have visited, it was literally like stepping back in time to the malls of the 80s, and walking into the classic arcade.   This should definitely be on your list of must places to visit!

18 - Visit the Elk in Cataloochee Valley

About an hours drive from Asheville, in a remote area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will not only allow you go back to simpler times, but it will also allow you to see the Elk, reintroduced into the National Park.

Cataloochee Valley is a trip back in time, full of beautiful scenery, creeks, historic buildings, hiking trails, and of course Elk.  A visit to Cataloochee Valley makes for a wonderful day trip from Asheville NC.  

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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