Asheville is a city that is buzzing in the South, and for good reason. Not only is this small mountain city simply quirky and highly interesting, it also offers visitors tons to explore from its countless art galleries to its abundance of outdoor activities in the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Of course, we can’t forget the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home, or even the fact that Asheville has the 2nd largest number of breweries per capita in the United States.
There’s really so much to explore in Asheville, it can be difficult to know where to start. Of course, it’s easy to find the general tourist tips with a simple search in Google. But, what about those more off-the-beaten path activities? The ones the locals know about, but are much harder for tourists to stumble upon. Well, for this article, I teamed up with Asheville Detours, for some great insider tips on what to do in Asheville, NC. Of course, living close to Asheville myself, I added a few of my own favorite tips in the article as well.
Paddle Board Down the French Broad River
There’s a lot of nature to explore in Asheville, and a fun way to do it is by going down the French Broad River on a Paddle Board. Paddle boarding itself is easy enough to learn, and a super relaxing way to spend an afternoon in some beautiful scenery.
The paddle board company I used was Wai Mauna. They provided us with the paddle boards and helped organize our 2.5 hour trip down the river where we paddled through the River Arts District. They also have a longer tour where you can catch a glimpse of the Biltmore Estate, which I’ll be doing next time!
Drink Asheville's Best Bourbon
If you are looking for Asheville’s best bourbon, you’ll want to head to the Crow & Quill. They not only have Asheville’s biggest selection of Whiskey, but also offer the largest collection of whiskey in North Carolina. Additionally, Crow & Quill has over 1000 different spirits, ready to be mixed into creative cocktails by their skilled bartenders.
The atmosphere of Crow & Quill is also intriguing. As you walk through the door, you feel like you are entering the movie set for Casper. The room is dark, the antique furniture comes from more prominent times in the past, and you almost feel like a ghost could pop out of the corner at any moment. It’s interesting and cool.
Relax in the Hot Springs
There’s so much to do in and around Asheville, that you might not get an opportunity to truly relax while you are there. That’s why it may be worthwhile to plan a trip up to Hot Springs, NC, a small spa town located 50 minutes north of the city. While you are there, you can rent a hot tub in a small cabin right on the banks of the French Broad river and soak in some healing water from the springs (my skin looked good afterwards!).
There’s also a nice hike in Hot Springs called Lover’s Leap, which not only gives you a great view of the town, but also of the Blue Ridge Mountains as well.
Get to Know the Authentic Asheville on a Local Tour
One of the best ways to experience a city (without doing a lot of research!) is by going on a local tour. Not only will you have a great time, you are also guided to some of the best spots in the city. Asheville Detours is that tour in Asheville. Kasey, a local who runs the tours, has a huge passion for Asheville and helping people to experience the more authentic side of city. She also personalizes each tour based on the group’s goals and interests.
Brewery Hop in South Slope
This is a must for all beer fans. The South Slope is known as Asheville’s brewery district and is the perfect place to explore some of Asheville’s best breweries and sample local beer. A few of the favorites are Wicked Weed, Catawba Brewing, and Urban Orchard.
Go Disc Golf Hiking
You can’t go to Asheville without exploring the surrounding nature, and a unusual way to do that is by disc golf hiking. Just a short drive from Asheville is the disc golf course Richmond Hill, where you can combine a hike through the woods with a fun game of disc golf. Just be careful if you are not the best at throwing frisbees. I almost lost mine after I threw it into the woods!
Shop Local and Buy Some Unique Stuff
In order to truly understand Asheville’s culture, it’s important to hit the shops where you will find all kinds of unique artwork, pottery, jewelry, clothes, crystals, and alternative goodies. Not only will you get a better feeling of the true spirit of Asheville itself, but you’ll probably walk away with some pretty nifty purchases.
Head to the Vineyards for a Glass of Wine
Beer is not the only thing locals are drinking in Asheville. When I spoke with Kasey from Asheville Detours, she mentioned that Asheville also has an up-and-coming wine scene. People from Asheville like to go to the vineyards with friends where they can relax, have a glass of wine, eat some delicious snacks, and enjoy a beautiful view. A couple popular vineyards are Burntshirt Vineyards and Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards.
Visit the Wedge Studios in the River Arts District
If you are not familiar with it, the River Arts District can be hard to navigate. That’s why it’s a good idea to know where to go, and the Wedge is a great place to start. There are over 30 artists that showcase all kinds of art from pottery and paintings to glass blowing. The Wedge also has a restaurant and a brewery where you can grab a local beer, play cornhole, and relax in the beer garden.
Eat at Some of Asheville's Best Restaurants
One of the best things you can do in Asheville is eat. There’s so many restaurants worth visiting that you wouldn’t be able to try them all on your short visit. A few of my personal favorites are Chai Pani, a not-so-typical Indian restaurant that is simply delicious, Over Easy Cafe which serves breakfast food, and Kilwins for chocolates and desserts. Some other local favorites are Sunny Point Cafe, Tupelo Honey, Curate, Table, Corner Kitchen, Biscuit Head, and many more!
Go Tubing Down the Green River
Experiencing Asheville is not just about food, beer, and the alternative scene. It’s also getting about exploring the beautiful nature that surrounds the city, and one of the most relaxing ways to do that is by tubing down the Green River. It’s a short 40 minute trip from Downtown Asheville, and a fun activity for anyone of any age.
If nature is not really your thing and you are looking more for that party scene, Zen Tubing, which is right in the heart of Asheville, may be a better tubing alternative. However, personally, I think that a trip down the Green River is prettier and more relaxing.
Go on a Free Brewery Tour at New Belgium
There are quite a few breweries in Asheville, but the most memorable brewery tour you can take is at New Belgium. The tour is free and the goal is to simply have fun. You’ll learn about the interesting history of New Belgium, sample some of their best beers, and even feel like a kid again as you zoom down a 3-story slide while your on the tour.
Experience the Drum Circle
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Asheville isn’t quite like other cities. It’s unique, and marches to the beat of its own drum. That is why, on those warm Friday nights in the summer, you are not going to stumble upon some band playing oldies in the main square, but rather an eclectic group of individuals forming a drum circle. The tradition began in 2001 with 10 drummers, and has grown in size and popularity ever since. If you attend this event today, you’ll find a decent-sized crowd of drummers, dancers, hula-hoopers, and onlookers who are having fun and soaking it all in.
Step Inside Another World at Dobra Tea
Dobra Tea is just cool. As you walk into the tearoom in Asheville you get the feeling that you have traveled across the world to a place where they drink tea in a more traditional way. You’ll see people sitting on cushions on the floor, chatting and drinking tea from beautiful looking teapots. It’s a fun experience, and if you are looking fo a cafe where you can relax a bit, this is a great place to do it.
Hike Some of Asheville's Best Trails
One of the best reasons to go to Asheville is to leave it. Of course, you don’t want to travel too far away! Surrounding the city of Asheville is the Blue Ridge Mountains, which happen to contain lots of hiking trails for you to explore. It’s the perfect day escape that provides you with the opportunity to see some rolling hills, waterfalls, and even a few animals. A couple favorite hiking trails are Max Patch and Graveyard Fields.
Drink Champagne at the Book Store
Nothing says Asheville to me like the combination of champagne and books. It’s intellectual, creative, and you also get to have a drink! So, if you are in need of a break after touring around the city, stop at the Battery Park Book Exchange where you can not only wander through a maze of interesting books, but can also enjoy a glass of champagne while doing so.
Taste Local Honeys at Bee Charmer
Most people don’t know this, but Asheville was America’s first Bee City. One benefit of this is that you can buy some good local honey right in Asheville, and Bee Charmer is the shop that sells it. They have various types of honeys and flavors, which you are able to try at their tasting bar in the shop. They also have skin care products, candles, books, and other accessories, which can make perfect gifts.
Learn About Asheville's Farm-to-Table Culture
It’s not just about the restaurants, it’s also about the farm to table culture in Asheville. Locals are happy to support restaurants that buy their food from regional farms. It’s not only good for the environment, but it helps the local economy as well.
Asheville has a long growing season, and this allows restaurants and local farms the opportunity to really work together. For instance, if a restaurant knows what type of menu it wants to have for an upcoming season, they can speak with the farms, and let them know what kind of food they are going to need in advance. If you are wanting to know where to go, here’s a list of 10 good farm-to-table restaurants.
Take a Yoga Class
This probably won’t surprise you, but yoga is a big thing in Asheville. If you’d like to get in on the experience and potentially meet some locals, you can take a free class at Asheville Community Yoga. They have classes all day, if you want, you can give a donation after your class.
Enjoy Asheville's Buskers
If you go to Asheville, you are going to see the Buskers. They form part of the soul of the city, and it’s hard to imagine Asheville without these impressive street performers. One thing to keep in mind as you stop to watch these talented artists in the street, is that they are part of a group called the Asheville Buskers Collective. This group is organized and they adhere to certain rules about busking, which is nice because you aren’t going to be overwhelmed with street performers. It also helps you to better appreciate these talented artists, some of whom come from all over the country just to perform in Asheville.
Natalie is the creator of this website, Tourist 2 Local, and has a huge passion for traveling and learning about other cultures. She enjoys diving deeper into the places she visits and is curious about the various foods people eat, languages they speak, and the different traditions and customs people partake in around the world. Apart from traveling, Natalie is a fierce board game player, an English teacher, and someone who is interested in just about every sport and activity.