Ah, North Carolina. What a wonderful state! Loads of art, great food and fantastic music you can enjoy all over the place. However, if you’re particularly interested in that latter category, Asheville is a city you absolutely must visit. Music lovers in the U.S. (and beyond) already flock to it because of its great festivals and other fantastic music-oriented events. However, while music certainly is among the top reasons to visit this place, there are plenty of other things to do in Asheville, NC. Just read on and you will discover a very interesting array of sights that simply have to been seen when visiting. Check them out and you’ll have a great day in this city.
Plan your trip
1. What’s the best time to visit Asheville?
2. A few facts about Asheville
3. One Day in Asheville Itinerary
3.1. Explore everything Biltmore has to offer
3.2. Head downtown for lunch
3.3. Visit Basilica of St. Lawrence
3.4. Go to Asheville Pinball Museum
3.5. See Lexington Glassworks
3.6. Walk along the River Arts District
4. Where to stay in Asheville, NC?
5. Day trips from Asheville, NC
6. Extra tips for visiting Asheville
Given the fact that the city’s location is fairly high up, you can expect somewhat cooler temperatures on average here than in the rest of the state. Therefore, the period from May to the end of September should be perfect for an Asheville day trip. Simply, the summers are not that hot (the winters are fairly cold, though), so you will be able to enjoy, although expect some rain in that period.
But the festivals are what you should really consider when discussing what to do in Asheville. LAAFF, for example, is held every first weekend in September, while beer lovers MUST come to Brewgrass, a festival dedicated to microbrewers held in October. In summer, RiverFest is where you want to be and mingle with the locals, while an interesting event during the Christmas season is the National Gingerbread House Competition. You won’t believe the things people create here!
Asheville is not that big of a city – with about 90,000 people, it doesn’t even rank in the top ten in North Carolina. However, it really does have a lot to offer and there are plenty of interesting facts associated with it. Colonel Samuel Davidson was the first one to settle here, back in 1784, but he was soon killed by the Cherokee. That didn’t stop people from coming, though, and the city of Asheville was officially recognized in 1797.
Asheville is very well known in the movie industry. Films like Forrest Gump, Hannibal, Last of the Mohicans and Patch Adams were all filmed here. The town is also home to the biggest private house in the U.S.: the Biltmore has 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms!
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Asheville.
If you ask any local what to do in Asheville first, the answer is likely going to be that you go see Biltmore. You may want to come here first thing in the morning, though, to beat the crowds. Built by George Vanderbilt, this estate features a mesmerizingly beautiful mansion, accompanied by an excellent winery and surrounded by incredible greenery in the impressive gardens.
You can also go horseback riding here, just to get into the mood of the opulent luxury that surrounds you, and you can even spend the night at the estate if you so wish (more on that later).
Outside of the estate is the famous Biltmore Village, the place that once served to house everybody who worked on the estate. Today, it’s bustling with life and loads of quaint little cafes and galleries, so this is a great place to enjoy, maybe grab a cup of coffee and pick up a souvenir or two. As you can see, you may need a fair chunk of time to explore everything here, so plan accordingly. By the time you’re done, it may already be time for lunch.
There are plenty of things to do in downtown Asheville, so go there once you’re done with the estate. You will encounter many performers here, but what is possibly an even greater hallmark of this part of town are the independent bookstores that are scattered all over the place. Do go in and see what they have to offer, and after you’re done you can go souvenir shopping if you haven’t picked up anything already.
When it comes to lunch, there are some very interesting choices at your disposal. Curate is a fantastic Spanish restaurant with some excellent wines and tapas where you can sit down and properly enjoy your meal. On the other hand, if you’re looking to just grab something quickly, Chai Pani, an Indian restaurant, is a great choice. For some great southern food, Tupelo Honey is the place to be.
Another thing to do in downtown Asheville is to go and visit one of the city’s most beautiful landmarks – Basilica of St. Lawrence. It is a magnificent church from the beginning of the 20th century, and its architect is Rafael Guastavino, the man who also worked on the Biltmore Estate.
Brick walls give the church its characteristic color, but don’t miss on the chance to explore the interior of this edifice, too. Its statues and stained glass windows will amaze you.
Just across the street from the basilica is another place that deserves to be on any list of top things to do in Asheville – the pinball museum. There are loads of old machines here as well as many video games, and you can play everything on display. On top of that, the staff is careful that the place never gets too crowded to make sure every visitor gets a chance to play. So, if you have kids with you, or if your inner child is craving for a blast from the past, this is something you shouldn’t miss.
After playing to your heart’s content, head south across Patton Avenue and find Lexington Glassworks. Now, this is another awesome museum, but it is also a place where you can watch glass objects being made. The craftsmen will use techniques that have been used for centuries and will be more than happy to engage the visitors and explain everything to them in the process. You can also buy hand-made glass here, which is a perfect souvenir to take from your one day in Asheville.
Once you’re done with glass, head west towards the French Broad River. You will soon reach the River Arts District, a part of the town full of artist studios of all shapes and sizes. Because of the vicinity of the river, this is a great place for a walk, and the vibe you get from all the studios around here is very cool. As a matter of fact, you can stop and talk to some of the artists around here if you’re interested in their work – they love to discuss art with passers-by here.
And since the day will be at its end by now, you can sit down for a drink and soak in the atmosphere of this place to end your Asheville day trip on a high note. You can even grab dinner here because the barbecue they serve in some of the places (12 Bones Smokehouse, for example) is amazing!
The Inn on Biltmore Estate
1 Antler Hill Rd, Asheville
If you want something luxurious and don’t mind staying a bit outside the city centre, you’ll adore everything The Inn on Biltmore Estate has to offer. The scenery around the hotel is absolutely spectacular, and you can enjoy a heated pool and a spa centre on the premises. The beautiful and luxurious rooms will provide you with plenty of rest, and the restaurants here are impeccable. It certainly doesn’t get much better than this.
AC Hotel by Marriott Asheville Downtown
10 Broadway Street, Asheville
If, on the other hand, you’re wondering where to stay in Asheville city centre, AC Hotel by Marriott Asheville Downtown is the answer. You literally can’t get closer to the city centre than this, and you will be able to enjoy two great on-site restaurants, a fitness centre and very well equipped, modern rooms. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the rooftop bar – the view from up there is just incredible!
Hampton Inn and Suites – Asheville Biltmore Village, NC
117 Hendersonville Road, Asheville
For those who want to know where they can stay in Asheville for a reasonable price, Hampton Inn and Suites is the solution. This cozy hotel has everything you need, and there is even an indoor pool nearby you can use. Everything is still fairly new with some VERY comfortable rooms and an excellent location, so you can really expect an excellent stay. In addition, the place is also pet-friendly!
Bon Paul & Sharky’s Hostel
816 Haywood Road, Asheville
And if you’re REALLY traveling on a budget, Bon Paul & Sharky’s Hostel provides excellent accommodation. Vibrant colors and excellent service are the main hallmarks of this place, everything is neat and clean, while the beds are extremely comfortable. The hostel is in an interesting neighborhood with plenty of cafes and restaurants, so you will be able to do quite a bit of exploring.
As mentioned at the very beginning of the article, North Carolina is a wonderful state. Therefore, if you want to get to know it and have the time, going on a day trip from Asheville is always a great idea. There are plenty of potential destinations, and you can’t go wrong no matter which one you choose.
Blue Ridge Parkway
When it comes to day trips from Asheville, this is without a doubt the most popular option. Blue Ridge Mountains are breathtakingly beautiful, and driving through them is an experience that will stay with you forever. This is also a great opportunity to go hiking because the mountains are not a very difficult climb. Be sure to check out loads of waterfalls that can be found around here for an incredible day out in the open.
Pisgah National Forest
Another way to get a breath of fresh air around here is to visit Pisgah National Forest. It is a fascinating place full of lush greenery, beautiful waterfalls and all kinds of trails. In fact, some parts of the area are actually classified as rainforests, which should give you an idea what to expect. You can camp pretty much anywhere on the forest’s premises, so coming here with your friends and family will allow you to enjoy your day to the fullest.
The nearby town of Black Mountain is just a short drive away and represents a great way to explore this part of the state a bit further. Another excuse to visit this lovely little place is the fact that they make some pretty fine craft beer there. So, you can enjoy a day out in a peaceful community with a cold tasty beer in your hand and let the mountains and woods just wash over you. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Wine tasting tours
But if you prefer wine over beer, this part of North Carolina can accommodate you, too! In fact, you can organize a day trip from Asheville to go and visit the wineries around here. There are more than a dozen of them very close to the city. Biltmore is one of the favorites, obviously, but you can also check out places like Saint Paul Mountains Vineyards, Overmountain Vineyards and many others. Tastings and tours should be available wherever you go.
– Asheville is a very pet-friendly place, as is the area around it, so if you don’t want to leave your pooch behind when you go on a trip come here and bring him/her along. They’ll love it!
– What to do in Asheville for transport? Well, a car is by far the best way to get around this relatively small town. Still, there are some other options, too – in the centre you will find the ART station from which depart buses that cover the wider area, plus there’s a hop-on trolley that takes you to all the sights.
– As for the tipping policies, around 15-20% is expected. If possible, go for the higher number.
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).