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Biltmore Estate

Asheville, Part 3: What to See & Do

Sure seems like a little while since I covered Part 1: Where to Stay and Part 2: Where to Eat in Asheville, North Carolina, but I’m back on the topic of my favorite little mountain town! In this post, I’ll review the many great attractions in and around Asheville.

Icon Legend

Winter Best / OK in the Winter
Spring Best / OK in the Spring
Summer Best / OK in the Summer
Fall Best / OK in the Fall / Autumn
Sunny Best / OK when Sunny
Rainy Best / OK when Rainy
Kid Friendly Kid / Family-Friendly / Recommended
Dog Friendly Dog-Friendly

Other than grouped by type, these are in no particular order.

Shortcut Menu:

What to See & Do:


Homes and gardens to explore:

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly
#1
Biltmore Estate $$$$ – America’s largest home, built by George Vanderbilt, with over 8000-acres today to explore in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, NC.
Pros: If it’s your first time visiting the estate, I highly recommend the audio tour. Also check out their ongoing events list on their site.
Cons: The cost. It’s a pricey admission ticket. Plan on spending the full day there. Though the gate might be quite accessible to downtown, you’ll want a bike or a vehicle to transport you back to the house, gardens, and more.

28+ Favorite Asheville NC & Area Attractions … new on the blog.

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Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Rainy Kid Friendly
#2
The Omni Grove Park Inn $$-$$$$ – Luxurious guest rooms, a full-service spa, 18-hole golf course, delicious dining options, shopping, and home to the National Gingerbread Competition.
Pros: History, architecture, atmosphere, and the grand lobby.
Cons: Parking can be hard to find, if you’re going for a big event. There’s a parking fee. Most everything on site is for those with expensive tastes. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly
#3
The North Carolina Arboretum $ – Nestled in the Southern Appalachian Mountains just south of Asheville, The North Carolina Arboretum offers acres of cultivated gardens and groomed trails.
Pros: No “per person entrance fee,” only a “per vehicle fee.” So, load the family up! Also, a great line up of seasonal exhibits and events. Accessible.
Cons: After the holidays, once the light display is over, there’s a span of time where there’s not much to see until Spring kicks into full swing. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly
#4
Western North Carolina Nature Center $$ – Home to over 60 species of animals including river otters, black bear, red and gray wolves and cougars.
Pros: Conservation of species via collaboration with other nature centers across the country. Plenty of family and kid-friendly exhibits and exploratory things to do.
Cons: No ATM on the premises, which makes it harder to pay when their credit card machine is down. Some creatures are more nocturnal than others, so avoid peak heat times of day to see the most. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly
#5
 Botanical Gardens at Asheville $ – The Botanical Gardens at Asheville is a 10-acre independent, non-profit botanical gardens dedicated to the study and promotion of the native plants and habitats of the Southern Appalachians.
Pros: No admission fee, no parking fee. They have kid-specific activities available, for those aged 4-10. Due to the mostly shady trees, it may be a good spot to go even on a hot summer day. Great place to take a walk.
Cons: If you’re expecting manicured gardens, landscape design, architectural accents, this is not the place for you. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

 

Outdoor sports and activities:

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly Dog Friendly
#6
Numerous Hiking Trails $ – The Top 75 Hikes Near Asheville, according to RomanticAsheville.com; the Graveyard Fields Loop Trail, as reviewed by ExploreAsheville.com;  Pisgah National Forest and its many waterfalls, are closest to Asheville, but Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Nantahala National Forest, and Cherokee National Forest aren’t too terribly far away either.
Pros: Hiking trails are aplenty in the area surrounding Asheville.
Cons: Being on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, the terrain may not be the most suitable for all. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly Dog Friendly
#7
French Broad Kayaking & Tubing $$-$$$ – North Carolina’s French Broad River is the third oldest river in the world, older than the mountains it passes through.  It is so old, in fact, that it is practically devoid of fossils.
Pros: Family and kid-friendly, starting at 6 years of age. Children 13 and up can man their own craft. Extremely well-behaved dogs are welcome. In downtown.
Cons: It’s mountain water – it’s cold!

Summer Sunny Kid Friendly
#8
Sliding Rock $ – A 60’ natural rock slide with a 6-7’ deep pool. The slide is a Forest Service recreation area with lifeguards and staff on-duty from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Pros: Dirt-cheap activity.
Cons: It’s mountain water – it’s cold! There are crowds during the warmer months. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

 

Music and entertainment venues:

Summer Sunny Kid Friendly
#9
Unto These Hills $$-$$$ – A tale chronicling the tragedy of the Trail of Tears and the triumph of the Cherokee People, in Cherokee, NC.
Pros: Family-friendly, historical. Fairly positive reviews on TripAdvisor.
Cons: It being an open-air theater, it’s subject to the current weather conditions. All sales final. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly
#10
Montford Park Players $ – North Carolina’s longest-running Shakespeare Festival.
Pros: Tickets are on a donation basis, where you pay what you want. Slightly outside of downtown.
Cons: Taking place in open-air amphitheaters, the shows are subject to the current weather conditions.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Rainy
#11
Orange Peel $-$$$ – Live music venue in downtown Asheville.
Pros: Since capacity is only slightly north of 1,000 patrons, you know you’ll be relatively close to the show regardless of where you are inside. In downtown.
Cons: Standing room only, no seating.

Summer Sunny Kid Friendly Dog Friendly
#12
Downtown After Five Concerts $ – Brought to you by the Asheville Downtown Association, the DA5 Concert Series runs from May through September, the 3rd Friday of the month on North Lexington Avenue.
Pros: Free and open to the public. In downtown.
Cons: You’d have to be in town on the right date to attend, and even then…hope for great weather.

Summer Sunny Kid Friendly
#13
Shindig on the Green $ – Brought to you by The Folk Heritage Committee, SOTG takes place from July through early September, on Saturdays starting at sundown at Pack Square Park’s Roger McGuire Green. The stage shows take place on the Bascon Lamar Lunsford stage, named for the founder of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, the nation’s longest running folk festival.
Pros: Free and open to the public. In downtown.
Cons: You’d have to be in town on the right date to attend, and even then…hope for great weather.

Summer Sunny Kid Friendly
#14
Mountain Dance & Folk Festival $$-$$$$ – The nation’s longest running folk festival, held the first weekend in August, and brought to you by The Folk Heritage Committee. You’ll see and hear mountain fiddlers, banjo pickers, dulcimer sweepers, dancers, balladeers, and many others.
Pros: You’re at the mercy of the weather.
Cons: Outside of town, not within walking distance.

Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly Dog Friendly
#15
Sierra Nevada Brewery $$$ – While I’ll review places to kick back a cold, craft one in my fourth post in the series, it’s worth noting the larger breweries that feature live entertainment.
Pros: This brewery in particular, has a great outdoor space to watch a live performance.
Cons: Outside of town, not within walking distance.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Rainy Kid Friendly
#16
Highland Brewing Company $$ – While I’ll review places to kick back a cold, craft one in my fourth post in the series, it’s worth noting the larger breweries that feature live entertainment.
Pros: Indoor venue and entertainment stage – when the weather’s not suitable to be outdoors, this would be the place to be.
Cons: Outside of town, not within walking distance.

 

For the craft-brew lovers:

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny
#17 Asheville Brews Cruise $$$ – A variety of tours to get up and personal with Asheville’s brew scene.
Pros: You’ll get to experience some of the best breweries in Asheville in a relatively short span of time, without having to walk or drive between them all. In downtown.
Cons: Unless your short on time during your trip, naturally you’re going to wish you had more time to spend at each of the breweries on the stop — but nothing says you can’t return to one or them all!

Happy Monday, my friends! ☀️ Back to school, the kiddies go. 🚌 Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend! Us, we enjoyed the Smithsonian Magazine 13th Annual Museum Day Live, an Orioles ⚾️ win, and even fit in time to assemble our son’s crib, start DIY’ing my Halloween costume, and our weekly Sunday ritual: grocery store shopping. I have a couple of blog posts on the horizon, including some notes on our crib assembly and my Halloween costume (but that one’s a surprise, so it’s going to have to wait). My most popular content, to date, is my do-it-yourself posts…so I’ll be sure to focus there for a bit. 🔨 With baby less than two months out now, I’m hoping to keep with my regular evening and weekend blog schedule, but we’ll see how the adjustment goes. In the meantime, check out my post from Friday, “Asheville, Part 4: Where to Drink” and “Asheville, Part 3: What to See & Do” to learn more about the Asheville Brew Bus company, as you see pictured here … along with my daughter. 🍻 Link to blog in profile. . . Short URLs: Asheville, Part 1, Where to Stay: amysav.es/avlstay Asheville, Part 2, Where to Eat: amysav.es/avldine Asheville, Part 3: What to See & Do: amysav.es/avlattractions Asheville, Part 4: Where to Drink: amysav.es/avldrink

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Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly
#18 Beer Festivals: Brewgrass Festival, Beer City Festival, CiderFest NC $$-$$$ – Brew Festivals. Need I say more?
Pros: If you are an Asheville newbee, these festivals make for a great way to experience a multitude of breweries and cider all in one spot! Great, live music. Great, friendly crowd. Walking distance from downtown.
Cons: You’re at the mercy of the weather. These festivals can get crowded and tickets are subject to sell out, so buy early and show early. Check the individual event pages for details on kids in attendance.

 

For the craftspeople:

Summer Sunny Kid Friendly
#19 Firefly Gathering $$ – A primitive skills event in late June / early July that teaches people how to become self-sufficient and live off the land.
Pros: Educational classes, storytelling, community.
Cons: It’s just once per year, so your timing would have to be right on this one. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Rainy Kid Friendly
#20 Kayne & Son’s Blacksmiths Depot $$ – Blacksmith tools warehouse.
Pros: Take your goods with you without paying shipping (however, that would be a con if you’re flying to/from Asheville, of course). Talk to the owners in person to get your questions answered and geared up properly. Warehouse is well organized.
Cons: There are some shop / property dogs that may bark at your approaching vehicle. If you’re not at all a fan of dogs, this would not go over well. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

 

For the kids:

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Rainy Kid Friendly
#21 The Hop Ice Cream Cafe $ – This ice cream parlor that I mentioned in Part 2: Where to Eat.
Pros: Ongoing, family-friendly events calendar maintained on their Facebook page, embedded on the home page of their site. Good indoor place to go when the weather’s not so great.
Cons: Events can get packed, so arrive early. Outside of town, not within walking distance.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Rainy Kid Friendly
#22 Mountain Play Lodge $ – our absolute favorite-favorite indoor kid play space we’ve stumbled upon on the East Coast.
Pros: The variety of equipment for children of all ages. Workspace for parents. Admission is good for re-entry all day. They recently opened a snack bar that serves local craft beer.
Cons: The only real con that I can think of is that this is sooo far away from where we live in Maryland. We need one of these in Central Maryland! Outside of town, not within walking distance.

 

A little further:

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly Dog Friendly
#23 Bryson City $-$$$$ – From a scenic mountain railroad, to river sports, ziplining, mountain biking, and so much more, Bryson City is at the center of an outdoor lovers paradise. If you’re looking for an unusual overnight experience, check out the nearby Nantahala Falling Waters Yurts – we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in one!
Pros: So much to do for the outdoor enthusiast. The possibilities are endless if you like exploring mountains and their cold water streams.
Cons: You’re at the mercy of the weather.

Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly Dog Friendly
#24 Tsali Recreation Area $ – Enjoy mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, motorized boating, kayaking or camping at Tsali Recreation Area, all located within steps of Fontana Lake.
Pros: Tsali features four singletrack loops that hug the banks of Fontana Lake. The trails are super fast and flowy singletrack with mostly moderate climbs and amazing scenery. Bring your own bike to keep it cheap or rent one from the nearby Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC).
Cons: Difficult terrain. You’re at the mercy of the weather.

Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly Dog Friendly
#25 Fontana Lake $-$$$$ – Gorgeous Lake Fontana is the largest lake in Western North Carolina, surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains.
Pros: Boating, swimming, fishing opportunities abound.
Cons: You’re at the mercy of the weather.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Kid Friendly
#26 Great Smoky Mountain Railroad $$$-$$$$ – Based in Bryson City, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad operates scenic rail excursions through a remote corner of North Carolina, traveling through tunnels, across rivers and lakes, through mountain valleys and into a deep river gorge.
Pros: Year-round, family-friendly events.
Cons: Depending on the time of the year you are visiting, the times may not be suitable to your schedule. It could also be pricey for a family.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny
#27 Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) $-$$$$ – Rafting, tubing, kayaking, mountain biking, ziplining, instruction, dining, outdoor gear and more, all at the NOC.
Pros: A one-stop-shop for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those seeking instruction or gear.
Cons: You’re at the mercy of the weather.

Winter Spring Summer Fall Sunny Rainy Kid Friendly Dog Friendly
#28 Nantahala Brewing Company $-$$ – While I’ll review places to kick back a cold, craft one in/near Asheville in my fourth post in the series, it’s worth noting this brewery that’s a little further out.
Pros: Great tasting brews and atmosphere. Live music events. You can bring in food from wherever you would like. Indoor & outdoor space makes it a great place to pit stop, even when the weather’s not so great.
Cons: They’re not open ultra-late, so plan ahead to work it into your schedule. They do not serve food.

Good Vibes ✌🏻 coming your way this gorgeous Friday morning! Just wrapped up a trip to one of my absolute favorite East Coast cities: Asheville, NC. Perhaps it’s because we got engaged and married here, or because of the plethora of good eats and microbreweries. But, it’s more likely the mountains and the people. This means I’ll be wrapping up my four part Asheville blog series real soon! Part four is all about the breweries and places to grab a tasty drink. Where to stay, where to eat, and what to do is already on the blog under “Travel.” Link to blog in profile. I will be spamming you with Asheville gems the next few days…be forewarned! 🏘💎 . . This old silo (perhaps it contains beer now?) is adjacent to one of my favorite good eats that you’ll read about on the blog: @whiteducktacoavl. . . #asheville #ashevillenc #avl #eastcoast #mountaintown #visitasheville #visitavl #mytinyatlas #828isgreat #open828 #wnc #blueridgemountains #ncmountains #appalacia #westernnc #visitnc #avlblogs #goodvibes #nearthetracks #avlrad #riverartsdistrict #westasheville #westavl #whiteducktaco #graffitiart #normalisweird #ashevillians #weirdasheville #adventureasheville #exploreasheville

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I took this blog post’s Featured Image in 2013 at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Please do not use my photos without my permission.

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