If you’re looking for relaxed, bohemian vibes within a short distance of outdoor activities and topped with great dining and drinking establishments, you’ll find the best place for everything combined in Asheville, North Carolina.
What is Asheville NC known for, and what are the top things to do there? Asheville is a city on the East Coast of the United States, combining attractions for all tastes and ages. It offers a great setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains with excellent facilities to accommodate a broad range of interests, whether you’re looking to move there or just vacation.
Key Info About Asheville, NC
Before you visit, here are some essential facts about Asheville. It’s a small town with just under 100,000 residents, located in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Its scenic location in the Blue Ridge Mountains makes it an ideal holiday destination for hiking and mountain lovers. Additionally, it’s an excellent four-season stop, with gorgeous foliage to admire in the fall and cooling waterfalls to hike to in the heat of summer.
Asheville’s scenic surroundings have rendered it popular as a filming location, so it’s become a pilgrimage for fans of movies such as The Hunger Games. The Triple Falls at Du Pont is featured prominently in the trilogy. There are also additional locations such as Bridal Veil Falls that fans of more classic films like The Last of the Mohicans will be able to recognize.
Beyond the outdoor appeal, the city of Ashville has become popular for food lovers and drinking fans, too. Its breweries are well-known, while it’s not short of wineries and distilleries, either.
Finally, the great thing about Asheville is that it’s not just a contemporary city. Asheville’s historic connections run deep, including and not limited to its being the home of the Biltmore Estate, built by George Vanderbilt in 1889.
How Can You Get to Asheville, NC?
It’s easy to find the city of Asheville in Western North Carolina at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers. You can fly into Asheville Regional Airport in Fletcher, NC, or drive to the city via the I-40, I-240, and I-26.
Best Things That Asheville Is Known For
Below are some of the top attractions and activities you can enjoy in Asheville, NC. From food to live music to street art and drinks for all tastes, as well as incredible hospitality and excellent outdoor adventures, you’ll never be stuck looking for what to do in Asheville.
Top Historic Destinations
When in Asheville, most people visit the historic Biltmore Estate and walk in the footsteps of the major novelist, Thomas Wolfe. In addition to these top two items of interest, Asheville has a rich history as a popular mountain resort during its growth in the 19th century. Health retreats such as the Ottari Sanitarium, Brexton Boarding House, Highland Hospital, and the Oteen Veterans Administration Hospital can still be visited today. Most of these buildings are now notable for the period architecture as you take a stroll through town.
Downtown Asheville is also a fascinating walking destination for history buffs. The commercial buildings here saw their golden era up to the 1940s, and you can now admire some of them, representing styles such as Romanesque Revival, late Victorian, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Georgian, Classical Revival, and Art Deco. The area of Downtown Asheville is considered the finest collection of late 19th and early 20th-century urban architecture in North Carolina.
Asheville, NC, is known for its many talented buskers. You can find all types of musicians playing outdoors in Downtown Asheville, and they’ve even been the subject of award-winning documentaries such as Buskin’ Blues.
Additionally, the River Arts District along the riverbank of the French Broad is filled with old warehouses turned into working artist studios. Not only can you purchase art from a variety of talented creators, but you can get involved in live exhibits and performances, too.
Finally, Asheville is known to be one of the great music cities of America for its concert scene. It also hosts lots of music festivals, among which the most popular are: Downtown After 5, the LEAF Festival, and Brewgrass. Free concerts are put on at the Shindig on the Green festival and, for those interested in mountain and folk, there’s also the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. This is all without mentioning Asheville’s live music venues: the Orange Peel, Grey Eagle, and ISIS Music Hall.
Experience Food and Drink
Asheville’s gourmet food and drink scene are growing exponentially. It’s become known as “Beer City USA” thanks to the 26 craft breweries all located in the city, in addition to some 60 more nearby. Some of the most popular ones to visit include Wicked Weed, Lexington Avenue Brewery, and Green Man, but the list goes on.
As far as food is concerned, Asheville is well-known for embracing the farm-to-table trend, which means that local farmers’ produce is showcased in the city’s c. 250 restaurants. While Asheville is blessed with exceptional farming conditions, the city has transformed this into excellent food with creative dining options.
From apple orchards to open-air markets with a wide array of stalls, you can start the day with fresh produce before hitting some of the artisan coffee shops that also sell amazing chocolates (French Broad Chocolate Lounge) or donuts (Vortex). For an elevated dining experience, you have to try the Omni Grove Park Inn, home of the Sunset Terrace. The food here is fantastic, while the views of Mt Pisgah and Downtown Asheville are unmissable, too.
Looking for southern cuisine? A popular place in Asheville is Blackbird, and for good reason. Delicious food is prepared with local ingredients, showcasing award-winning recipes from the region. And, for a very innovative twist, head to Rhubarb, where you’ll be surprised by some exciting menu choices, like goat cheese burrata and pickled beetroots, cucumbers, and ramps.
The Great Outdoors
Whether you’re ready to hike into the Blue Ridge Mountains or want to experience the natural surroundings more casually, Asheville is famous for its natural tourist attractions.
Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway any time of year to wonder at the gorgeous foliage and impressive mountain views. The route is 469 miles long, from North Carolina to Virginia, so you can turn it into a road trip. You can stop and explore the mountains in some hikes along the many signposted, well-maintained trails in the area along the road. One of the most famous hikes available is on the Appalachian Trail, to the summit of Mt Pisgah.
Pisgah National Forest is another must-do attraction near Asheville. It’s located 30 minutes drive away and has several scenic waterfalls and beautiful hikes on offer. Looking Glass Falls is an easy-to-reach cooling-off spot, while Sliding Rock Falls is an excellent opportunity to glide down a 60-foot sloping boulder along with the water.
Staying true to the closeness to nature that most of Asheville’s food and drink scene exhibits, the city also offers unique activities such as foraging. Mushroom picking is very popular, although best engaged in with a knowledgeable guide to ensure safety. You can also collect stinging nettles and learn how to make them into a delicious meal.
Go to the Theater
Asheville is known for its vibrant theater scene, with numerous places to enjoy the dramatic arts. The Asheville Community Theatre is one of the most famous, along with the NC Stage, Magic Theatre, and the Wortham Center for Performing Arts. You can enjoy outdoor performances by the Montford Park Players, who put on free Shakespeare plays in the summer.
Conclusion – What Is Asheville NC Known For?
There is so much more to the city than this comprehensive list of attractions and notable sights. Beyond the historical buildings, fantastic food, craft breweries, and great outdoor destinations, Asheville is also known for unique street art, excellent museums, engaging walking and bus tours, cocktail and wine bars, the North Carolina Arboretum, and the list goes on!
Staying in Asheville will ensure not just that you have plenty to do but also that you receive a warm southern welcome and enjoy visiting some excellent B&Bs and hotels. Go at specific times throughout the year when music and arts festivals are taking place, or visit in the fall once the trees and mountains look their best thanks to the changing foliage. Whatever you’re visiting Asheville for, you’re bound to find something remarkable to enjoy and make you want to come back again very soon.