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Asheville, North Carolina
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The best things to do in Asheville, NC

From admiring artwork in a historic mansion to a great hiking trail, here are the best things to do in Asheville, NC

Written by
Valerie Siebert
Krista Diamond
Scott Snowden

Although you're going to enjoy this Blue Ridge Mountains destination regardless of your interests, art and history fiends are likely to fall head over heels in love with the best things to do in Asheville, North Carolina. 

A vibrant arts scene dominates the local culture: Biltmore, a historic mansion, is home to works by the likes of Renoir; the River Arts District, which used to be dominated by factory buildings, is now where most local artists set up shop; the Downtown Art District, on the other hand, is where most of the galleries and museums are located. 

And if art isn't your thing, opt to explore the endless hiking trail or indulge in the foods prepared at the best restaurants in town. Asheville might not be the biggest city—it's home to just over 91,000 residents—but it's clearly very big in personality, rich in history and delectable in all things food and drink. Ready to explore it?


Best things to do in Asheville, NC

Just two miles west of central Asheville, you are able to encounter the very best the local art scene has to offer, with creative types showing off their wares throughout the various historical buildings in the area. This is the best place to pick up a souvenir straight from the artistic mind who created it. Mingle with the artists and purchase works in a variety of mediums, styles and price points.

Biltmore Estate is a palatial mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II in the late 1800s—it boasts 250 rooms and is set on four acres of beautiful grounds. Every room in the French renaissance-style building is visually stunning and the basement sports a pool, a bowling alley and a huge kitchen. But the house isn’t the only thing worth seeing on this massive estate. There is biking, hiking, seven restaurants, fly-fishing, a winery and even guided raft trips.


Asheville is an antique-lover’s dream. Shops are plentiful and the space for large warehouses near the center of town means that they are accessible—and big. Whether you are junking, antiquing or collecting, you will be in knick-knack heaven at the Antique Tobacco Barn—conveniently located near other great shops on the Swannanoa River Rd.

More than 300 of the country’s rarest motorcycles are housed at the Maggie Valley museum, documenting nearly a century of the bikes’ history and culture. You need only a passing interest in motorcycles to be enthralled by this collection, which spans the decades and offers insight into America’s automotive history. So, if you are a bike aficionado, you’ll be in hog heaven.


From Kraftwerk to Roxy Music to Donna Summer, the Moog synthesizer has left an indelible mark on music since it first emerged in popular music in the 1960s. The company making the instruments is today based in Asheville and runs daily free tours. The factory and shop offer a unique look into the making of an instrument whose name still carries quite a bit of weight in the music community. You can see how they are assembled, how the sound is perfected, and even try a few yourself.

Asheville’s No Taste Like Home tours involve three hours of hunting for wild morsels with the help of a foraging expert and they run several times per week. Not only will you learn valuable skills about what you can and can’t eat in the wild, but you’ll then enjoy the literal fruits of your labor after the tour, when your spoils are taken to one of four city restaurants and incorporated into your chosen dishes.


Less than an hour from downtown Asheville, Lake Lure might be a man-made lake, but its beauty is so renowned that it has provided the setting for a number of Hollywood smash hit films—the most famous of which is Dirty DancingYes, you can re-enact the famous lift in the lake’s waters—muscle-bound partner willing—or bust a move down the steps, but you can also lounge on the lake’s sandy beaches or hike around its rocky cliffs.

Locals love the White Duck for its ambitious infusions of various global cuisines with Mexican taco dishes. Mexican food here comes via the cuisines of the Caribbean, Greece and more. White Duck’s jerk chicken, lamb gyro and Thai peanut tacos are all great choices—and then there’s the beef bulgogi taco with a side of house kimchi for a decidedly Korean vibe. 


9. Black Balsam Knob

The Blue Ridge Parkway, just minutes from downtown Asheville, is packed with wonderful hiking, but the views are particularly spectacular from nearby Black Balsam Knob. The Black Balsam Knob is one of the area’s mountain balds—peaks completely devoid of trees and therefore leaving the panoramic view of the surrounds unobstructed. And, at 6,000ft up, it’s one hell of a view.  

This mountain spa has been hailed as one of the best in the country, with an extensive menu of services, contrast pools, scent-infused steam rooms and fireside lounges. It’s worth a trip just to soak in the pools: there are two with waterfalls spilling in from above, and one has a ceiling embedded with 6,500 fiber-optic stars and underwater music. Not to mention the outdoor whirlpool with mountain views.


Every Friday evening around 6pm in downtown Asheville’s Pritchard Park, percussionists from all over the city convene to beat out every sort of rhythm you could conceive of. Aside from mingling with local musicians, observers can experience a genuine slice of Asheville culture while having a dance or perhaps bringing along something to whack as well. Best of all, it’s free!

Barack Obama’s favorite North Carolina rib joint, the 12 Bones Smokehouse is a lunch-only spot renowned for its mouthwatering BBQ sold by the pound. Obama famously stopped at the 12 Bones for brisket, ribs and pulled pork while on the campaign trail in 2008, but soon proved that the visit was more than a photo op by stopping by again every time he has been in the area since.


Lexington Glassworks was born out of the desire to create timeless and innovative hand-blown glass and custom lighting. Each piece is skillfully crafted using century old techniques and locally sourced material with the singular goal of creating top-notch work. They pride themselves on an open door culture and invite the public to view the glassblowing process from start to finish, hoping to grow an appreciation for and relationship with the artist making the glass and the pieces on display in the gallery. 

The Asheville version of a New York speakeasy, Top of the Monk boasts a menu of classic and unique craft cocktails and a rooftop patio with views of the mountains. The seasonal menu of cocktails made with a selection of house bitters are served in a laidback yet sophisticated atmosphere. An added bonus is the wall of lockers, each containing a mystery snack that can only be accessed with keys from the bar.


The Western North Carolina Nature Center, or WNC, connects people with wildlife of the area by inspiring appreciation, nurturing understanding and advancing conservation of the region’s rich biodiversity. Everyone is welcome and there are activities for school children and adult to enjoy alike, with opportunities to learn about and develop an understanding of everyone's responsibility for this area’s native wildlife and habitats. The WNC Nature Center is home to over 60 species of wild and domestic animals and hundreds of species of plants, all representative of the unique Southern Appalachian region.

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