Are you planning a vacation and looking for the best things to do in Asheville for a group trip, romantic getaway, or family vacation? Hiking trails, mountain scenery, historic attractions, and an award-winning culinary scene are all within easy access to the town deemed “Land of the Sky” (acquired, we’re sure, by the blue sky that hovers above the Blue Ridge Mountains and creates the perfect canvas for landscape and sunset photos).
Cool and quirky in nature, and sporting a unique boho vibe, the western North Carolina town of Asheville is a destination designed for arts, culture, history, and architecture enthusiasts. The River Arts District and the Downtown Art District offer museums, galleries, and former factories turned art studios. And then there’s that opulent castle that everyone seems to talk about when mentioning Asheville (that would be the Biltmore).
This isn’t to say that outdoor adventure and nature lovers can’t enjoy the area. Asheville is located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains along the French Broad River and the Swannanoa River. The Appalachian Trail even goes through downtown Asheville.
So, add kayaking, canoeing, fly fishing, and other fun things to that itinerary you should be starting right about now. Great Smoky Mountains National Park makes up the western part of the region. It’s about an hour from Asheville if you’re looking for a road trip.
Whether you’re in Asheville for two days or two weeks, we’ve collected a few ideas to get your trip started. Let’s get going!
Show Table of Contents
- Best Things to Do in Asheville, North Carolina
- 1. River Arts District
- 2. Go on a River Arts District and Mural Tour
- 3. Blue Ridge Parkway
- 4. Pisgah National Forest
- 5. Paddle Down the French Broad River
- 6. Go Whitewater Rafting on the French Broad River
- 7. North Carolina Arboretum
- 8. Biltmore Mansion
- 9. Asheville Pinball Museum
- 10. Thomas Wolfe Memorial
- 11. Chimney Rock State Park
- 12. Mount Mitchell State Park
- 13. Tour the area’s Breweries and Wineries
- 14. Asheville Art Museum
- 15. Harrah’s Cherokee Center
- 16. Adventure Center of Asheville
- 17. Lexington Glassworks
- 18. Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum
- 19. Explore Asheville’s Haunted History
- 20. DuPont State Forest
- 21. Western North Carolina Nature Center
- 22. French Broad Chocolate Lounge
- 23. Pack Square Park
- 24. Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary
- 25. Head to West Asheville for Shopping and Dining
- 26. The Folk Art Center
- What are the top attractions in Asheville?
- What are the most popular Asheville breweries to visit?
- What are some family-friendly activities in Asheville?
- Most significant landmark: Biltmore Mansion (aka Biltmore House)
- Best park: Chimney Rock State Park
- Best free activity: Pack Square Park (See it on this tour)
- Best activity for kids: Adventure Center of Asheville
- Best activity for adults: Asheville’s beer and wine scene
- Best food: Check out West Asheville
- Best nightlife: Asheville ghost tours
- Best all-around accommodation: The Foundry Hotel Asheville, Curio Collection by Hilton
Best Things to Do in Asheville, North Carolina
1. River Arts District
Address: Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Asheville’s River Arts District, or RAD, is located along the French Broad River. More than 280 working local artists have studios and galleries in former warehouses and mills (now colorfully decked out in murals, urban art, and outdoor sculptures). You’ll know you’re in the area when you see the Asheville Silo playfully painted with mottos like “Stay Weird” or “Good Vibes,” quintessential North Carolina stuff.
Artists originally moved into the area in 1985. It officially became the River Arts District in 2005. Approximately 23 buildings include glassblowing, pottery, jewelry, metal, wood, paintings, textiles, and more. You’ll also find restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, and breweries to grab a bite, beverage, or brew. Hang around for demonstrations, workshops, art classes, live music events, and wine tasting.
Other businesses in Asheville’s River Arts District include an indie movie theater, a riverwalk for foot and bicycle traffic, a skate park, pop-up outdoor markets, and a chocolate factory.
You might also want to check out the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center, another artsy area in east Asheville. Located at milepost 382 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Folk Art Center displays the crafts of more than 300 Southern Appalachian artists.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Burlington, North Carolina
2. Go on a River Arts District and Mural Tour
While you’re here, you should get immersed in the region’s arts scene by taking a River Arts District and mural tour! This 1.5-hour tour is a fun and family-friendly art experience that showcases the best of Asheville’s creative scene.
On the tour, you’ll learn more about the River Arts District and the street art, sculptures, and murals in downtown Asheville. Pick up some history on local businesses and the stories behind the artists and creators.
Tours meet behind Summit House Coffee in the River Arts District. They take place rain or shine, so be prepared.
3. Blue Ridge Parkway
If you’re looking for a scenic drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a terrific way to check two National Parks off your list and see the gorgeous mountain scenery of the Southern Appalachians. The Parkway is the longest linear parkway in the U.S. and extends for 429 miles through North Carolina and Virginia. It’s always recommended to check with the National Park Service for parkway road and facility closures.
Head north on the parkway and you’ll end up at Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive (near Waynesboro, Virginia). Head south and you’ll end up at Great Smoky Mountains National Park (near Cherokee, North Carolina). The 6,643-foot-tall Clingmans Dome, within the Great Smoky Mountains, is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail.
I’ve driven the northern route along Virginia’s Skyline Drive, so I need to get on that southbound route. I recommend the fall for the best views of golden yellow and blaze orange leaves. Spring is also popular for wildflower viewing.
See Related: Best National Parks in the U.S.A to Visit
4. Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest consists of more than 510,000 acres of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. One of the first designated national forests in the U.S., it has day-use areas for swimming as well as boat ramps, walking trails, mountain biking trails, and camping areas.
Here you can go horseback riding, fishing, or rock climbing. Or you can take a guided hiking tour through hardwood forests filled with waterfalls, whitewater rivers, and native wildlife like peregrine falcons, raccoons, river otters, and black bears.
If you wanna lose yourself here for a while, Mount Mitchell Eco Retreat is an excellent choice for adventure-minded families, groups, and couples. With knotty pine walls and wide-plank wood floors, the lodge is the perfect mountain retreat. While rustic in décor, the lodge has free Wi-Fi and modern amenities. Enjoy front porch rocking chairs and pine, spruce, and soak in oak forest views.
5. Paddle Down the French Broad River
If you love the great outdoors, you might wanna take a 1.5-hour kayak tour on the French Broad River. An expert naturalist leads this semi-private tour. With a maximum of five guests, you’ll have unlimited attention and the ability to ask as many questions as you like! Paddle through town while gliding across the water and passing attractions such as the Biltmore Estate.
Meet your instructor and fellow kayakers at Hominy Creek River Park. Kayaks, paddles, and life vests are provided, so there’s no need to worry about bringing gear. The park has picnic areas with grills, which makes a nice spot for lunch after a kayak trip.
If you’re seeking a place to stay nearby, TownePlace Suites by Marriott Asheville West has a pool, a picnic area, outdoor seating areas, free parking, a fitness area, and free Wi-fi. This is an excellent location to enjoy outdoor activities and other fun attractions in Asheville.
6. Go Whitewater Rafting on the French Broad River
Address: 521 Amboy Road, Asheville, North Carolina 28806
So you did the kayaking, took in the sights, thought it was great, and now you wonder if there’s more to it… In which case, gather the whole family and book a wild whitewater rafting excursion on the French Broad River! You’ll raft through four miles of Class II and III rapids on the French Broad Gorge. The rapids start at Barnard River Park at the entry to Pisgah National Forest.
Along the journey, you’ll experience exhilarating dips, swim stops, refreshing splashes, and views of the National Forest. At the end of this adventure, enjoy a complimentary local craft brew. Tours are limited to a maximum of 12 rafters, so this is an excellent way to get tips and technique advice from the pros.
See Related: Best Whitewater Rafting in the U.S.
7. North Carolina Arboretum
Address: 100 Frederick Law Olmstead Way, Asheville, North Carolina 28806
Speaking of fun attractions in Asheville this one is one of my favorites! Located within Bent Creek Experimental Forest (which sounds like something out of Stranger Things) at Pisgah National Forest, you’ll find the North Carolina Arboretum (often just referred to as the NC Arboretum).
It’s near the Blue Ridge Parkway (at milepost 393), so you could easily make a quick stop while on a leisurely drive. The park has 65 acres of groomed walking/biking trails and botanical gardens filled with beautiful native plants, trees, and shrubs as well as a stunning bonsai collection.
Arbor Evenings is a fun event where you can stroll among the botanical gardens while listening to live music from local and regional musicians. Events at the NC Arboretum include plant shows, lectures, and exhibits like seasonal light shows and Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance.
See Related: Best Museums in the US to Visit
8. Biltmore Mansion
Address: 1 Lodge Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28803
You don’t have to trapse all the way to Europe to enjoy fine, historical architecture! Known as America’s Largest Home, the Biltmore Mansion (aka Biltmore House) is a stunning example of revived-French Renaissance architecture. Turrets, trefoils, gargoyles, an open loggia, carved statues of St. Louis and Joan of Arc, and other Victorian-era design elements make up the incredible structure.
Built in 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt (a member of the prominent steamboat, railroad, and business family) the Biltmore is the largest privately owned house in the U.S. and a National Historic Landmark. It’s easy to spend a few hours exploring and ooohing and ahhing over everything from the architecture and furnishings to the gardens and landscaping.
George Vanderbilt purchased 700 parcels of land that included at least 50 farms and part of a community named Shiloh. Most of this land was in poor condition, and farmers were happy to sell.
A woodworking factory and a kiln were built on the site to accommodate such an undertaking. Tapestries, carpets, furniture, and other décor were purchased overseas and sent back to fill the interior of the luxurious estate.
The mansion itself sits on four acres and boasts 250 rooms (199 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms). It was built to the tune of a cool $5 million ($180 million by today’s standards).
Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, England was a major source of inspiration. Regarding the name, Vanderbilt combined the name De Bilt (his family’s origins in the Netherlands) with “more”, for “moor” (as in open and rolling land).
The Biltmore Estate property has extensive gardens, a winery, and the self-sufficient Vanderbilt Village, which includes shops, a church, a hotel (Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate), a winery, and some of the best restaurants in Asheville. The Biltmore has hosted immersive Italian Renaissance art exhibits, seasonal events, and a Downton Abbey costume exhibit (as the popular period piece is from round-about the same era as the Biltmore). A popular year-round travel destination, the Biltmore is particularly stunning during the holiday and spring blooming seasons.
See Related: Best Castles in London You Need to See
9. Asheville Pinball Museum
Address: 1 Battle Square, Suite 1B, Asheville, North Carolina
Release your inner child by playing pinball games and classic video games – or, better yet, teach your actual child to play and show the Fortnight generation what you’re made of! The Asheville Pinball Museum has more than 45 vintage pinball machines that you can not only touch but also play (most of them, anyway).
There’s currently a flat admission fee of $15 a person, so feel free to stay a while and relive those carefree days of youth. There’s no fee if you don’t plan to play.
It’s suggested that you arrive early as the museum allows 65 people in at a time. This process allows everyone to have a machine to play while inside, as there are a total of 70 machines available to play, including the vintage ones.
The museum, located in an old hotel that’s on the National Register of Historic Places, is near the Basilica of Saint Lawrence and the dining and shopping complex of the Grove Arcade. Opened in 1929, the complex features Restaurant Row at Grove Arcade.
You’ll find a wide variety of dining options, such as Babette’s: A New Orleans Coffeehouse, Asheville Proper, Carmel’s Kitchen + Bar, Wedge Brewing, and Modesto.
One end of the Grove is home to the Maker’s Market, an outdoor bazaar where you’ll find handmade jewelry, musical instruments, soap, local honey, and other artisan products. I, personally, am a sucker for local honey and handwoven baskets, so I’m thinking this would be a dangerous area for my wallet.
If you just can’t get enough of the pinball machines, check out the Appalachian Pinball Museum. It’s about 40 minutes away in Hendersonville.
10. Thomas Wolfe Memorial
Address: 52 N. Market Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
If you’re a fan of the 20th century famous novelist Thomas Wolfe, head on over to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Known for penning novels, short stories, and novellas, Wolfe lived in downtown Asheville as a child.
The memorial is in his Victorian-style home, which was the inspiration for Look Homeward, Angel (referred to as “Dixieland” in the novel). He portrayed his family and hometown, fictionalized as “Altamont” (for Asheville).
The house was also known as “Old Kentucky Home,” which was named by a previous owner who operated it as a boarding house before Wolfe and his mother lived there.
Built in 1883, the house is a National Historic Landmark. Wolfe’s mother bought the house in 1906 and added additional rooms to the structure.
He lived there until 1916 when he attended the University of North Carolina. He’s buried at Riverside Cemetery (established in 1885) in downtown Asheville’s Montford Area Historic District.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Fayetteville, North Carolina
11. Chimney Rock State Park
Address: 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock, North Carolina 28720
Chimney Rock State Park is about an hour’s drive southeast of downtown Asheville. It’s one of the best state parks in North Carolina.
Popular hiking and bicycling trails, and rock-climbing access, include Rumbling Bald and Eagle Rock. For sightseeing, head off on the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, which takes you to the base of a 404-foot waterfall (Hickory Nut Falls).
The highlight of Chimney Rock is a 315-foot granite spire…resembling (duh), a chimney. It sits on a hill with a total height of 2,280 feet. There’s an elevator inside the rock, so no worries about making that climb.
Keep the kiddos entertained and tuned in by checking out the Great Woodland Adventure Trail and the Animal Discovery Den. There’s also a climbing tower and scavenger hunts.
Boaters can check out Lake Lure, which was the famous backdrop for Dirty Dancing, and a great place for some outdoor fun. Go kayaking, fishing, or just relax and enjoy the mountain scenery.
You may be tempted to recreate the famous “lake lift” scene. Even though that scene was filmed at Mountain Lake (which has since gone dry) in Virginia, we say go for it, since you can’t do it at the Virginia location anyway. And be sure to carry a watermelon!
Further fun facts: Cabins, a gym, and a dining hall at Camp Chimney Rock filled in as Kellerman’s staff quarters and the “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” scene in the movie. Mountain Lake Lodge in southwest Virginia was the film site for the Kellerman’s resort.
Alright, I promise I’ll get back to Asheville now.
12. Mount Mitchell State Park
Address: 2388 NC-128, Burnsville, North Carolina 28714
About 30 miles northeast of Asheville sits the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. That would be at the 1,946-acre Mount Mitchell State Park and its 6,684-foot-tall peak.
Established in 1915, it’s part of the Black Mountains and was North Carolina’s first state park. It’s home to Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute and the first forestry school in the U.S.
The park is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and you can drive most of the way to the top. At the top, there’s a restaurant, a gift shop, restrooms, and a museum as well as an observation deck to enjoy views of the park’s Fraser fir forests.
If you do choose to hike to the top, it’s not too difficult of a trail. A friend of mine recently hiked it with a 5-year-old. If a 5-year-old can hike to the top, I have faith that you can too.
One thing to remember is that the summit can sometimes be as much as 15-20 degrees cooler than the bottom of the mountain. It’s advised that you dress accordingly or bring extra layers.
Nature lovers should consider this park as a place to stay the night. Go camping (there are tent sites for backpacking in only), look for birds and other wildlife,take in fall foliage, or head out on easy and challenging hiking trails.
The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (a series of trails, roads, and paddle trails that run for 1175 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks of North Carolina) extends into Pisgah National Forest.
13. Tour the area’s Breweries and Wineries
Asheville is big on beer. The city has the most craft beer breweries per capita than any U.S. city.
From IPA, lager, and stout, you’ll find it here. Highland Brewing Company, the New Belgium Brewing Company, 12 Bones Brewing, Hi-Wire Brewing, Asheville Brewing and Pizza Company, or Sierra Nevada Brewing Company are just a couple to choose from.
If you’re more into apples than hops, head to Bold Rock Hard Cider (my personal favorite brewed beverage), Black Mountain Cider + Mead (Yum, mead!), DSSOLVR, or Urban Orchard Cider Co.
A guided craft beer brewery tour is an excellent way to learn about local history and the brewing process, and you might discover a few favorites. You’ll visit three breweries with a fun and knowledgeable local guide. Breweries that could be included in this four-hour tour include Green Man Brewery, One World Brewing, DSSOLVR, or Archetype Brewing.
This walking tour meets in front of the Renaissance Asheville (which, come to think of it, is a gorgeous hotel). Tours take place rain or shine – not that you’ll care because you’ll be walking with a skin full of beer.
14. Asheville Art Museum
Address: 2 South Pack Square, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Explore the artsy aesthetic of western North Carolina at the Asheville Art Museum. Showcasing American art from the 20th and 21st centuries, the museum features exhibits on subjects such as The Art of Food, Altruistic Genius, Intersections in American Art, and American Perspectives.
This Asheville museum has a concentration on artists related to western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia, artists who studied or taught at Black Mountain College (1933 – 1957), and handmade objects created in the region, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian artists, historic regional craftspeople, and contemporary studio crafts embodied by the Penland School of Craft.
It possesses an eclectic collection of pieces, including 7,500 works of art ranging from paintings, drawings, and prints to photography and sculpture, as well as studio objects such as glass, ceramics, textiles, and woodwork.
If you’re thinking of staying nearby, check into my favorite hotel in Asheville, The Foundry Hotel, just a few minutes from the Asheville Art Museum. It’s the ideal base from which to explore the rest of Asheville.
Part of Hilton’s Curio Collection brand, the trendy and upscale hotel offers comfort, convenience, and modern amenities. The restored steel factory (a foundry) shows off its industrial history while seamlessly blending in with Asheville’s local charm. My stays at Curio Collection properties have been nothing short of fantastic.
Part of the reason I like it is because it’s a pet-friendly option, and it’s also a top choice for a fun family or couples’ getaway. Hotel amenities include a business center, a fitness room, a terrific on-site restaurant, a bar, and a terrace with outdoor seating where you can enjoy sumptuous views.
The guest rooms are pretty gorgeous, another draw for me. They feature exposed brick walls, unique lighting fixtures, leather headboards, and wall art. Best of all, the hotel has a free local shuttle to get to and from Asheville attractions.
15. Harrah’s Cherokee Center
Address: 87 Haywood Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Formerly known as the Asheville Civic Center, Harrah’s Cherokee Center features the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, a banquet hall, the ExploreAsheville.com Arena, and meeting rooms. Head here for concerts from national acts such as Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Straight No Chaser, and Kevin James, as well as seasonal performances of The Nutcracker and events like Beer City Comic Con, vinyl record fairs, college basketball tournaments, and craft fairs.
Peckish yet? For modern Southern comfort food, check out Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen + Bar. It’s near Harrah’s and offers an amazing selection of scratch-made Appalachian-inspired menu items. Arrive hungry for classic chicken and waffles, big salads, a pimento grilled cheese sandwich, sweet and spicy chicken, cast iron pork, farm-fresh sides, and brunch items like fried chicken and biscuits, bacon and sausage cast iron scramble, and Tupelo shrimp and grits, mmm!
16. Adventure Center of Asheville
Address: 85 Expo Drive, Asheville, North Carolina 28806
If you’ve got a rush of adrenaline you just can’t shake, head right on over to the Adventure Center of Asheville. The company offers several different ways to face your fears or show off your athletic aptitude.
Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures delivers a bird’s eye view of the city skyline as you soar above 124 acres among 150-year-old red and white oak trees. The elevated obstacle course at Asheville Treetops Adventure Course allows you to walk, swing, climb, and rappel through more than 30 trees and seven aerial trails.
Try out the Kolo Bike Park and its four miles of mountain bike trails. Located on rolling terrain, it’s designed for beginners to expert bikers. There’s also a zipline adventure, KidZip, that’s designed exclusively for kids under age 10.
See Related: Best Summer Vacations in the U.S.
17. Lexington Glassworks
Address: 81 S. Lexington Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Lexington Glassworks, a premier glassblowing studio and gallery, is one of the best things to do in Asheville for couples or a girls’ getaway. Expert glass artists use ancient techniques and local materials to create exquisite works of glass art. With a goal of cultivating the arts community in North Carolina, the studio artists welcome visitors to watch the glassblowing process.
After watching molten blobs of glass form into gorgeous creations, take time for a shopping spree. stunning vases, drinkware, ornaments, lighting, plant terrariums, accessories, and more. The studio has recently expanded its lighting design studio to be able to greater assist customers with the incorporation of custom hand-blown glass into renovations, new designs, and redesign of interior spaces.
18. Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum
Address: 111 Grovewood Road, Asheville, North Carolina 28804
Located in Grovewood Village in north Asheville, next to the Omni Grove Park Inn, Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum is one of the best things to do in Asheville. Established in 1966, it’s an homage to the brass headlights, wooden steering wheels, and other remnants of days gone by.
The museum holds Harry D. Blomberg’s (Asheville’s Pontiac Cadillac dealer for more than 50 years) collection of vintage and antique cars, including a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham and a 1922 American LaFrance fire truck. There’s also a 1940 Packard Coupe, a 1927 LaSalle Phaeton, a 1923 REO Touring, and an antique moonshine still.
Don’t forget to look up. There are two gorgeous metal Roycroft chandeliers (circa 1918) designed by Karl Kipp, creator of the Arts and Crafts metalwork movement. The building was originally a weaving shop where constantly spinning looms produced some of the finest handwoven wool fabric in the country.
See Related: Best Unusual Museums in the US
19. Explore Asheville’s Haunted History
Address: Jackson Building at 22 S. Pack Square, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Paranormal enthusiasts take note; Asheville is one of the most haunted cities in North Carolina! The Asheville Terrors: Ghosts of the Blue Ridge is a guided 1.5-hour tour through the haunted side of Asheville’s history. From war, disease, and murder to coverups and other disgruntled mysteries, you’ll learn all about the dark side of town.
The Flatiron building has ties to tuberculosis, see if you can catch a glimpse of Zelda Fitzgerald’s ghost, or feel the eerie energy of the Battery Park Hotel and Pack Square. Apparently, there’s a poltergeist at St. Lawrence Basilica, so watch out for that. Haunted Asheville tours start and end at the Jackson Building.
An interesting note about the aforementioned Fitzgerald connection to Asheville: Fitzgerald spent two summers in Asheville (1935 and 1936). He stayed at the Grove Park Inn and used the time to rest and recuperate from tuberculosis.
Zelda was hospitalized at Highland Hospital, a psychiatric facility nearby. In 1948, a fire destroyed the hospital, killing Zelda along with eight other patients.
See Related: Most Haunted Places in the U.S.
20. DuPont State Forest
Address: Staton Road, Cedar Mountain, North Carolina 28718
If you’re a fan of Katniss Everdeen and The Hunger Games series, you’ll want to spend some time exploring DuPont State Forest. The forest and its waterfalls were the backgrounds for arena scenes in the movie. Triple Falls is where Katniss finds a wounded Peeta Mellark along the rocks. Bridal Veil Falls is where she splashes, on fire, into a pool at the bottom after fleeing a firestorm.
The 12,500-acre DuPont State Forest was named for the DuPont company that arranged for the sale of the original tract of land. It’s just under an hour south of Asheville and makes an excellent day trip.
Wondering where to stay in Asheville within easy reach of DuPont State Forest? The Courtyard by Marriott Asheville Airport is conveniently located near DuPont Forest, downtown Asheville, and Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). Hotel amenities include an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a business center, and free parking.
21. Western North Carolina Nature Center
Address: 75 Gashes Creek Road, Asheville, North Carolina 28805
So by now, you’ve probably got some idea of how much nature means to North Carolina. The 42-acre Western North Carolina Nature Center educates the public about the area’s wildlife and its conservation efforts.
Enjoy WNC Nature Center exhibits, such as small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as an underground world where you’ll learn about all the creatures that live beneath our feet. Have fun getting to know otters, raccoons, turtles, and more cute critters.
There’s also an Appalachian habitat with bobcats, red wolves, gray wolves, and coyotes. Kids will love the outdoor play areas, which include a gem and mining sluice – of all things.
Need a place to crash? Located east of Asheville, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Asheville Downtown is near the WNC Nature Center. It’s a terrific option if you want to be within easy access to downtown but don’t want to be right in the middle of everything.
There’s an indoor and outdoor pool, a fitness room, and a business center. Spacious guest rooms offer a mini fridge, a microwave, and a coffee maker.
22. French Broad Chocolate Lounge
Address: 10 S. Pack Square, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Did someone say chocolate? You don’t have to ask us twice! If you’re looking for deliciously sweet and fun things to do in Asheville, head straight to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge in downtown Asheville.
Using locally sourced beans and other sustainable ingredients, this chocolate factory creates chocolate bars, truffles, bonbons, and other sweet treats inspired by the Asheville and Blue Ridge Mountains region. There are vegan and gluten-free choices as well as homemade ice cream, cookies, cakes, brownies, and an extensive list of drinking chocolates.
Take a tour to watch the chocolate-making process, learn about the company’s history, and get an overview of cacao farming. You’ll get to see the whole process, from the roasting of the cacao bean to the finished chocolate bar. Along the way, be sure to enjoy a sample or two!
23. Pack Square Park
Address: 80 Court Plaza, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Surrounded by the art deco City Hall and other historic structures, the 6.5-acre Pack Square Park is a relaxing green space with sculptures, theater performances, Goombay festivals, and other cultural happenings. The park was named after George Pack in 1901. He had donated the land for use as a public park.
There’s a Veterans Memorial, a Civil War monument, bronze animal sculptures, fountains (including a splash fountain), and an on-site restaurant. Events include arts in the park, movies, dancing, bands, festivals, 5Ks, and other family fun. It’s also a key spot along many guided tours of Asheville. Be sure to enjoy native trees and plants as well as art by local artists on the tour.
For nearby accommodations, the Hilton Garden Inn Asheville Downtown is a superb choice for convenience to Pack Square Park and the boutique shops, restaurants, and cafés at Pack Square. It has a pool, a restaurant, a bar, an art gallery, and free Wi-Fi. The University of North Carolina at Asheville, the Biltmore Estate, and Harrah’s Cherokee Center are also pretty close to this pet-friendly hotel.
24. Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary
Address: 1056 Merrimon Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28804
Do we have any bird nerds in the crowd? If so, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary. This 8-acre wetland in north Asheville has a boardwalk and lake overlooks. The boardwalk makes a loop and is disability accessible.
Check out your favorite feathered friends as well as butterflies, dragonflies, and other wildlife. You might see swans, geese, ducks, swallows, swifts (sadly no, not Taylor), jays, falcons, hummingbirds, and more. Managed by Blue Ridge Audubon, a chapter of the National Audubon Society, the park holds Bird Outings on the first Saturday of the month, April through October.
See Related: Outer Banks vs Myrtle Beach: Which is Better?
25. Head to West Asheville for Shopping and Dining
Address: Haywood Road, Asheville, NC 28806
Cross the French Broad River and head over to the quirky and creative side. West Asheville’s Haywood Road, the area’s main drag, is filled with renovated historic buildings, colorful murals, live music, pubs, restaurants, craft beer breweries, vintage clothing shops, bookstores, and vintage record shops.
Restaurants on Haywood Road include the Asheville Sandwich Company, Biscuit Head, Oyster House Brewing, Early Girl Eatery, and Taco Billy.
Bon Paul & Sharkey’s Hostel is a cool low-budget option to enjoy the Bohemian vibe of West Asheville. There’s a shared lounge, free Wi-Fi, and private parking. Choose from bunkbed rooms and double rooms (with shared bathrooms) as well as a cottage (with a private bathroom).
26. The Folk Art Center
Address: 382 Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Part of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Folk Art Center preserves, promotes, and displays the crafts and artists/makers of the Southern Highlands and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Guild originated in 1890 after the Industrial Revolution disrupted farming in the Appalachians.
Francis Goodrich, a missionary, used sewing, mending, and weaving to engage the community. This grew into a business, and more crafters came in over the years. Official Guild craft mediums include clay, glass, wood, fiber, jewelry, leather, mixed media, and more.
The Folk Art Center is the Guild’s headquarters. Explore the center to view traditional, modern, and contemporary crafts such as quilts, furniture, wooden sculptures, interior design, dolls, woven baskets, and other Southern Appalachian crafts. There are galleries, a museum, a library, and a craft shop (the Guild has other shops around the region). Live craft demonstrations are sometimes held.
What are the top attractions in Asheville?
The Biltmore Estate and the Blue Ridge Parkway are the top attractions in Asheville.
What are the most popular Asheville breweries to visit?
Asheville breweries include Highland Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada, the New Belgium Brewing Company, and Hi-Wire Brewing.
What are some family-friendly activities in Asheville?
Chimney Rock State Park and Pisgah National Forest are excellent spots for families who enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, and other adventurous outdoor activities. The Western North Carolina Nature Center is perfect for the animal lovers in your crew.
- Best States to Visit in the USA
- Best Weekend Getaways in the USA
- ViaTravelers Staff Picks: Best Places For Travel In 2023
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, dining, beaches, and yacht charters to theme parks, urban settings, mountain getaways, and other fun spots. In addition to Via Travelers, her work appears at AFAR, PierShare, Cozymeal, and more.