Asheville, North Carolina, is a small town in the Smoky Mountains that is quickly making its mark on the tourist circuit. Thanks to an active community of artists, architectural gems, a delicious food scene, and abundant outdoor activities, spending time in Asheville is the perfect weekend getaway.
Typically, the peak season for tourism in Asheville is during the summer and fall. It is when visitors descend for outdoor festivals or drive to enjoy the changing of the fall foliage.
Whether you are looking for something outdoors or indoors, artistic or adventurous, you will always find something/event that suits your taste in Asheville.
15. Lake Lure
Surrounded by lush forested mountains, Lake Lure is a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery. Lake Lure is home to a number of activities, including most famously zip-lining, which you can enjoy along with the forested areas of the mountainsides.
A recent surge in tourism has resulted in fantastic infrastructure improvements and there are now a good variety of more relaxed boat tours available for visitors to enjoy during a day trip to the lake.
There are also golf courses, hiking trails, and kayak rental facilities to delight many different visitors.
14. Go Mushroom Hunting
(image via No Taste Like Home)
If a nature walk seems a bit boring, try joining a foraging tour to enjoy the great outdoors while finding nutritious plants and mushrooms. At No Taste Like Home, expert guides lead the way on a 3-hour excursion through the woods surrounding Asheville to curate supplies that are then prepared as appetizers by a local restaurant for guests after the tour ends.
The guides recommend wearing long pants and bringing insect repellent; the hike is easy enough for all athletic levels.
13. Float a River
(image via French Broad Outfitters)
During warm weather, there is nothing more relaxing than a leisurely raft ride on the water. An ideal setting for such a trip is the nearby French Broad River. Blue Heron Whitewater offers a three-hour trip through 5 miles of beautiful wooded waters for a fee. Thrill-seekers who want a higher-paced option can opt for the rafting tour through 9 miles of class I-IV whitewater for a higher fee and lunch is included.
12. See The Animals At The Western North Carolina Nature Center
(image via WNC Nature Center)
While the forests around Asheville are teeming with a variety of wildlife, it will be much more enjoyable to find them all in one place at the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Since 1974, the organization has preserved and cared for more than sixty types of animals and hundreds of species of plants in the Southern Appalachian region.
From wolves to owls to sheep and otters, the Nature Center offers visitors an up-close look at the habitats and habits of the animals. Regular events include activities such as a behind-the-scenes tour, Critter Time for Tykes and Tots, and a Brews & Bear after-hours party.
11. Gone Fishing
In an area with more than 3,500 miles of public trout streams, those who like to fish will have a wealth of options to cast them. Streams full of multiple types of trout and bass are within walking distance of town, and several local shops in the town center are ready to supply any required gear or a guide for a day by the water.
For families, a trip to Sun Trout Farms is a perfect excursion to experience life-raising sustainable fish, tour the facility, and then stop by the on-site Sunburst Market in search of a fresh catch to take home for dinner.
10. Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina. According to local tradition, “Looking Glass” is named after a rock: when water freezes on this rock, it looks like a mirror in the sunlight. Looking Glass Falls is a beautiful natural attraction about an hour’s drive from Asheville or a perfect stop to make when coming from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
9. Explore the Basilica of St. Lawrence
(image via Wikipedia)
The Basilica of San Lorenzo is the largest church in Asheville and one of the main attractions of the city. The basilica was completed in 1909 and is described as one of the “architectural treasures of Asheville” by the city.
The church offers free guided tours, and you can choose to take a self-guided tour or a scheduled tour. There is also a small library and gift shop. All visitors can attend Sunday Mass, which takes place at 9:00 am, 12 pm, and 5 pm, with the final service of the day in Spanish.
8. The Asheville Pinball Museum
(image via Asheville Pinball Museum)
If you’re interested in a quirky aspect of Asheville, look no further than the Asheville Pinball Museum. The museum has over 80 classic pinball machines and video games to bring out your inner child. Admission for adults is not free and includes unlimited games, no chips or quarters required. If you are a fan of pinball, the museum also buys and sells machines.
Unfortunately for parents who might expect to drop off their children and go exploring other parts of the city, children under the age of 12 must have an adult with them at all times.
7. Lexington Glassworks
(image via Lexington Glassworks)
Lexington Glassworks is both a studio and store in Asheville, where everything for sale is handcrafted on-site. The store boasts of its ‘open house culture,’ which means that it invites visitors to see the glass blowing process from start to finish. So, feel free to stop by to look behind the scenes. While in the studio, you can watch the artists work, walk through the gallery, and find a unique souvenir to take home.
6. Sample Craft Beers
(image via Magic Springs Theme and Water Park)
Asheville residents take pride in the local beer scene. The city has more breweries per capita than any other city in the US, and there are new types of beers available every year. Since you really can’t go wrong with any brewery in Asheville, pick one that’s convenient and suits your tastes. One of the most popular and famous breweries is Highland Brewery Company, which offers free tours every day.
5. Hike in the North Carolina Arboretum
(image via The North Carolina Arboretum)
The North Carolina Arboretum, a patchwork of gardens and trails located in the southern Appalachian Mountains, is a popular free destination in Asheville (they only charge for parking). Hours vary from winter to summer, and there are changing exhibitions throughout the year. If you’re looking to get some exercise on your trip, take a look at their hiking and biking trails. For a more relaxed trip, wander through the exhibits of the garden and explore the beautiful flowers and plants.
4. Tour the Biltmore Estate
(image via Cody Dueitt)
Several days can be spent exploring the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately-owned home built by the wealthy Vanderbilts in the late 1800s at the height of the Gilded Age. To start your day, follow the self-guided tour of the farm on your marked route. The tour lasts 1.5 to 2 hours, and there is a sign providing information about the rich history of the estate along the way.
After the general tour, a specialized tour is another option for a deeper dive. The house tour, the rooftop tour, the land legacy tour, and the winery tours are fascinating aspects of the earlier era.
3. Visit The Thomas Wolfe Museum
(image via Thomas Wolfe Museum)
The Thomas Wolfe Museum is a huge part of Asheville’s history. The novelist, who died in 1938 at age 37, was one of Asheville’s most famous residents and his monument is a popular destination in the city. His home was the inspiration for “Dixieland” in Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward, Angel. Tours are offered daily.
2. Stroll Through the River Arts District
(image via Kyle Glenn)
Asheville’s River Arts District is a fine arts fan’s paradise. The district is made up of 22 old industrial and historical buildings that have been transformed into study spaces. Visitors will find more than 200 artists working in various disciplines, including painting, ceramics, wood, glass, metal, and jewelry. Walking around the area gives visitors a unique opportunity to observe the artists at work and buy original pieces as souvenirs from the trip.
1. Drive Down the Blue Ridge Parkway
(image via Blue Ridge Parkway NPS)
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most famous drives in the United States. It spans 469 miles in Virginia and North Carolina, from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway is not within the Asheville city limits; however, the ride runs through the city and is convenient for travelers staying in Asheville.
The Blue Ridge Parkway Association has compiled a handy interactive travel planning map that will allow you to filter your route by access points, restaurants, and accommodations along the way.
Interested in More Suggestions?
As you can see, Asheville has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Asheville.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.