Asheville, NC Travel Guide

USA  #2 in Best Places to Visit in the Carolinas
Credit

Courtesy of Fine Art Images by Rob Travis Photography/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in Asheville, NC

If you have extra time, Appalachian Trail is worthwhile.
  • #2
    Things to do in Asheville, NC
    View all Photos
    #2 in Asheville, NC
    0.1 miles to city center
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    0.1 miles to city center
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Weaving through downtown, the 1.7-mile-long Asheville Urban Trail walks visitors through the cultural and architectural history of the city. Created by the city of Asheville to showcase its unique past, each of the trail's 30 stops is marked with a public sculpture that captures an important person or moment in the area's history. 

    The self-guided tour is divided into five time periods – from the Gilded Age to the present Age of Diversity. The trail starts at Pack Square at the intersection of Biltmore Avenue and Patton Avenue and circles around the downtown area, arriving back at the square for the final bronze statue. Visitors who want to explore all 30 landmarks should set aside about two hours. Even if you choose not to explore the entire trail, you'll likely see one or two statues during your time downtown.

  • #3
    Pisgah National Forest
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    #3 in Asheville, NC
    21 miles to city center
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    21 miles to city center
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Offering more than 500,000 acres of land about 40 miles northeast of downtown Asheville, Pisgah National Park is jampacked with activities and breathtaking vistas. With hundreds of miles of trails and numerous waterfalls and swimming holes, the forest provides ample opportunities to appreciate the great outdoors.

    One of the first national forests in the country, created partially with land that once belonged to the Biltmore Estate, the park is home to the first forestry school in the United States as well as the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute and Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

  • #4
    Appalachian Trail
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    #4 in Asheville, NC
    25.6 miles to city center
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    25.6 miles to city center
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Winding its way from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail spans 2,190 miles through 14 states. About 320 of those miles are found in North Carolina (including 224 miles along the Tennessee border).

    The North Carolina section offers many of the Appalachian Trail's highest peaks, several above 6,000 feet. Hiking enthusiasts can set out on a multiday or weeklong journey (keep in mind that you'll need permits to camp and hike in some areas, especially inside the Great Smoky Mountains).

  • #8
    Folk Art Center
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    #8 in Asheville, NC
    4.1 miles to city center
    Museums, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    4.1 miles to city center
    Museums, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    At milepost 382 off the Blue Ridge Parkway, you'll find the Folk Art Center, home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild. The guild dates back to the 1890s and still represents the artists and craftsmen of Southern Appalachia.

    One of the most popular spots off the Blue Ridge Parkway, welcoming 250,000 visitors annually, the center displays traditional and contemporary crafts in three galleries, and is home to a bookstore, a parkway information desk, a library and the Allanstand Craft Shop – the oldest of its kind in the nation. From March to December, the center also features daily craft demonstrations, and hosts special events that highlight materials (such as glass, fiber and clay) used in Southern Appalachia crafts.

  • #9
    River Arts District
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    #9 in Asheville, NC
    1.1 miles to city center
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    1.1 miles to city center
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    When artists came to Asheville to soak up the natural beauty and free-spirited atmosphere, they had to find large spaces to work. Enter the River Arts District. Comprising 22 former industrial and historical buildings – including a former tannery and a cotton mill – near the French Broad River, the area keeps the art scene alive in Asheville. Guests can stroll around the district to meet artists and enjoy works from more than 200 artists in various mediums like textiles, ceramics and paintings, as well as photography and jewelry. It's also a great place to pick up a unique souvenir from your time in the city.

    Visitors to the district say local artists are always willing to chat, but the hotbed of creativity could use better signage as some galleries in old warehouses are difficult to distinguish.

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