Asheville, North Carolina is a small city nestled in the Smoky Mountains that's making its mark on the tourist circuit, thanks to an active artist community, architectural gems, a delicious foodie scene, and bountiful outdoor activities. Whether you're looking for something outdoors or inside, artistic or adventurous, you'll find the spot for you. Here are Asheville's top 10.
Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America's most famous drives. It spans 469 miles in Virginia and North Carolina, stretching all the way from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway doesn't run within Asheville's city limits, but the drive goes around the city and is convenient for travelers staying in Asheville.
Look at this interactive map to plan your drive. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers beautiful views for a leisurely drive.
Walk Through the River Arts District
Asheville's River Arts District is heaven for fans of the fine arts. The district is a stretch that includes 22 former industrial and historic buildings that have been transformed into studios. More than 200 artists work here. Walking through this area gives visitors the unique opportunity to watch artists at work and purchase unique artwork.
Visit the Thomas Wolfe Memorial
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial is a big part of Asheville's history. The novelist, who passed away in 1938 at age 37, was one of Asheville's most famous residents and his memorial is a popular destination in the city. The home was the inspiration for "Dixieland" in Wolfe's novel Look Homeward, Angel. Tours are offered daily and are $5 for adults.
Take a Tour of the Biltmore Estate
Several days can be spent exploring the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately-owned house built by the wealthy Vanderbilts in the late 1800s at the height of the Gilded Age. An entire trip could easily be planned around this visit. To start your day, follow the estate's self-guided tour on their marked route. According to their site, this tour takes 1.5 to 2 hours and gives information about the estate's rich history. After your self-guided tour, specialized tours are another option. The House Tour, Rooftop Tour, Legacy of the Land Tour, and Winery tours are all things to explore during your visit.
Explore the North Carolina Arboretum
The North Carolina Arboretum, a patchwork of gardens and trails set in the in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, is a popular free destination in Asheville (they charge only for parking). Their hours vary from winter to summer and they have varying exhibitions throughout the year. If you're looking to get some exercise on your trip, check out their hiking and biking trails. For a more leisurely trip, stroll through the garden exhibits and explore the beautiful flowers and plants.
Sample Craft Beers at a Tasting
Asheville residents pride themselves on their beer scene. Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city and their local beers are not to be missed. You can't go wrong with any brewery in Asheville so pick one that is convenient and suits your tastes. One of the most popular and famous breweries is Highland Brewery Company, which offers free tours every day.
Go to Lexington Glassworks
Lexington Glassworks is a studio and shop in Asheville. Everything sold and made at the studio is unique and handmade. Their website brags of their "open door culture," meaning they invite visitors to "view the glassblowing process from start to finish." While at the studio you can watch the artists work, walk through the gallery, and find a unique souvenir to take home.
Visit the Asheville Pinball Museum
If you're looking for a quirky aspect of Asheville, look no further than the Asheville Pinball Museum. The museum has over 75 pinball machines and classic video games to bring out the child in you. If you're a pinball fanatic, the museum also buys and sells some machines. Admission for adults is $15 and includes access to all of their machines.
Explore the Basilica of Saint Lawrence
The Basilica of Saint Lawrence is Asheville's largest church and a major attraction in the city. The Basilica was completed in 1909 and is described as one of "Asheville's architectural treasures." The church offers free tours, and you can choose to do a self-guided tour or a scheduled guided tour. There is also a small library and a gift shop.
View the Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina. According to one of Asheville's tourism sites,"Looking Glass" comes from the name of a rock. When water freezes on this rock, it then looks like a looking glass in the sunlight. Looking Glass Falls is a beautiful natural attraction near Asheville and a perfect stop to make when coming from the Blue Ridge Parkway!