The Top Things to See and Do in Asheville, NC

Planning on traveling to Asheville, North Carolina for a vacation destination? They promise not to disappoint. The natural beauty that is contained in and around Asheville is a sight to behold and a pleasure for the senses to experience. From the beautiful Appalachian Mountains featuring the highest peak of all at Mount Mitchell to the colorful, aromatic NC Arboretum, the scenery will both delight and astound. Don’t forget about the rich artistic heritage of the people and make sure you make time to take in some live performances at one of their many local theaters or at their annual music festival and check out some incredible folk art. Not being totally outdone by Mother Nature, Asheville also offers historical buildings worth your time and energy.

10. Learn on the WNC Cheese Trail

The WNC (Western North Carolina) Cheese Trail offers visitors an opportunity to see and sample freshly made cheeses. Because of the diversity of the cheese-makers and scenery, travelers can make it an afternoon trip or a weekend trip to soak it all in. You will have the chance to meet the cheese-makers personally and after sampling their wares, you can even purchase directly from those manufacturers. You can’t get fresher than that.

The different cheese-makers also demonstrate different cheese-making operations varying from pioneers in the artisan cheese movement, to cow and goat milk cheese-makers. The Trail itself is a cooperative effort by farmstead and artisan cheese producers to promote the purchase of artisan cheese and to educate and promote tourism in the area. Though not all cheese-makers on the map of the trail are open for visitations, all support the effort and benefits of the trail. Sunday, April 26, 2015 marks the date of the very first Annual Carolina Mountain Cheese Festival at Highland Brewing which will benefit the WNC Cheese Trail.


9. Have Fun at Splasheville

Splasheville is one of the newest free local attractions in Asheville offering people a fun, family-friendly place to cool off during a hot summer day. Located in Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville, Splasheville is an interactive water park made to be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Splasheville features random spraying arches of water that fly up and are specifically designed to soak you and cool you off in the heat of summer. Since it’s located within Pack Square Park, you can enjoy the fountain and then lay in the warming and drying summer sun on lush green grass on the rolling fields. There is also a pavilion with drinking fountains and restrooms available and the best feature of all is that it’s all free. The park is generally open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. but sometimes closes for special events, so be sure to check their calendar.

Pack Square Park Asheville

8. Enjoy the World Coffee Cafe

The World Coffee Cafe is housed in a 1920s nine-story skyscraper called the Flatiron Building with the completely restored building itself being something to behold. It is located on the corner of Battery Park and Wall Street in the heart of downtown Asheville. The World Coffee Cafe’s Sky Bar, located on the top of the building, provides heated balconies and a breathtaking view of the city.

While enjoying the scenery, you can enjoy your choice of a drink, appetizer or dessert to stimulate all your senses. The Flatiron Building which is home to the World Coffee Cafe and Sky Bar is also home to over 60 other businesses including a spa and salon, attorneys’ offices, church and youth ministries, engineers and all kinds of healers and therapists. A pleasure for all five senses lies at the World Coffee Cafe so it is a definite must stop and enjoy destination while visiting Asheville.

Photo by: Flatiron Building Organization
Photo by: Flatiron Building Organization

7. Discover the Asheville Urban Trail

The Asheville Urban Trail is 1.7 miles long and is a walking tour through the downtown area of the city. There are 30 stops along the trail with public sculptures that serve as landmarks along the trail. The trail was built by volunteers with donations from various business and private sources as a way to promote the display of public art and support the improvement of the quality of city life.

This self-guided tour offers a riches of historic information spanning five distinct time periods. There are granite markers defining the five time periods – a feather representing the Guilded Age, a horseshoe illustrating the Frontier period, an angel representative of the Thomas Wolfe period, a courthouse for the Civic Pride Era and an eagle meaning the Age of Diversity. Walking the Asheville Urban Trail is a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while learning about the rich heritage of the city and its people. Trail maps are available at many locations throughout the city.

Statue Asheville

6. Visit the Basilica of St. Lawrence

The Minor Basilica of St. Lawrence was built in 1905 and is a minor Basilica of the Roman Catholic Church. It was elevated to minor basilica status by Pope John Paul II in 1993. It has the largest free standing dome in North America measuring 58 x 82 feet.

The interior of the Basilica is graced by ornate statues of St. Lawrence, St. Cecilia, St. Rose of Lima, St. Patrick and St. Peter the Apostle. It also features a high marble altar with a fresco painting of The Last Supper predominately featured. Above the altar is a wood carving of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Beloved Disciple mourning the crucifixion. It is also well-known for its many elaborate stained-glass windows featuring important biblical events and people, casting a rainbow of beautiful colors throughout the building. The three largest windows feature Christ healing the afflicted on one, another featuring the Transfiguration of Christ and the third one located over the organ loft features the Resurrection.

Basilica of St. Lawrence Asheville

5. Play at Sliding Rock Waterfall

Sliding Rock Waterfall on Looking Glass Creek is quite aptly named since the main aspect of the waterfall is an all-natural water slide providing the ability to slide on the rocks into the pool below. It is a beautiful natural phenomenon not to be experienced anywhere else. The gentle slope is about 60 feet long leading down into a 6-7 foot deep pool below.

The waterfall is a popular place for adventuresome visitors to slide down (in a seated position only) and cool off in the very cold water in the summer. It also features 2 viewing platforms, a parking lot at the top of the falls, stairs down to pool, and railings to help with the climb. There are restrooms and change rooms provided and occasionally, there is a lifeguard on duty (mostly on summer weekends). Otherwise, the natural slide is used at your own risk and it is advised that small children should only go down the slide on an adult’s lap for safety reasons. There is a $2.00 per person charge for this once in a lifetime experience…a small price to pay for such a great attraction.

Photo by: Adam Rice
Photo by: Adam Rice

4. Enjoy Live Music and Theater

Asheville, NC’s passion for the arts does not end with arts and crafts. Being a very vibrant people, Asheville residents and visitors have the pleasure of enjoying live music and theater as well with several acting companies and theaters to visit. There is an abundance of riches in live music and theater in this lovely city and no lack of something to enjoy. It covers all kinds of music and theater. Below are just a couple of examples. Be sure to explore to get your tickets for MUST NOT MISS shows.

The Brevard Music Center is a 45 minute drive from downtown Asheville and hosts the Brevard Music Festival which features an abundance of musicians to enjoy.  Over 400 students aged 14 through post-college age are anxious to eat, sleep and breathe music for seven weeks over the summer performing in over 80 shows. Many shows are free of charge, so be sure to check it out when you are in Asheville. Asheville Community Theater, one of many located in Asheville, offers a plethora of theater performances. It is one of the oldest theaters in the nation and the oldest in Asheville, with their performance lifetime spanning over 60 years. Featuring comedies, musicals and dramas, your theater experience will be second to none.

Fotoluminate LLC /
Fotoluminate LLC /

3. Visit the Folk Art Center

The Folk Art Center located just outside of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a museum that features Appalachian arts and crafts. It’s home to the offices of Southern Highland Craft Guild, the National Park Service and Eastern National (EN). The Southern Highland Craft Guild, the National Park Service, and the Appalachian Regional Commission cooperatively run the center which is the most popular attraction on the Parkway.

The center contains three art galleries, a library, auditorium, bookstore and information center. The Allanstand Craft Shop is one of the main features of the center and showcases more than 3,500 pieces of craft objects dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Frances Goodrich, a Yale student was instrumental in the development of the Allanstand Craft Shop which was originally known as Allanstand Cottage Industries. During the arts and crafts movement in the late 1920s, Southern Highland Craft Guild was formed and then chartered in 1930 growing to one of the largest craft organizations in the country. The Guild later partnered with the National Park Service and permanently located their headquarters to Asheville in 1980.

Photo by: Folk Art Center
Photo by: Folk Art Center

2. Climb Mount Mitchell

The most prevalent feature in North Carolina are the Appalachian Mountains with the highest peak belonging to Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet. Located about 32 miles northeast of Asheville, it’s an adventure just waiting to be experienced. Elisha Mitchell named the mountain after measuring its height and later fell to his death when he returned to verify his earlier measurements.

There is a 4.6 mile road off the Blue Ridge Parkway and a 980 foot trail ascending the mountain now, making it a much easier task to reach the summit than it was in the time of Elisha Mitchell. At the summit, you will find the tomb of Dr. Mitchell as well as an observation deck to peer down at all the breathtaking landscape around you. The mountain is coated in fir and spruce forest creating an exquisite lush green covering in the summer. Wild flowers, blackberries and blueberries provide an abundant food source for birds in the area making this a natural paradise to visit.

Mount Mitchell NC

1. Experience the North Carolina Arboretum

Spanning 434 acres, the North Carolina Arboretum is located within the boundaries of Bent Creek Experimental Forest just southwest of Asheville and is both an arboretum and botanical garden. Admission to the arboretum is free but there is a charge for parking. The arboretum is still being developed and features hiking and biking trails as well as a bonsai collection, stream garden and holly garden to name a few.

Some of the gardens featured in the arboretum are: Blue Ridge Quilt Garden which is really self-explanatory in its name…quilt designs of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Cliff Dickinson Holly Garden featuring American and non-native hollies, Heritage Garden which is actually a demonstration garden for crafts, Plant Professional Landscape Garden which is used to study, train and test for the Certified Plant Professional exam, National Native Azalea Repository featuring numerous azalea species native to the United States, Plants of Promise Garden demonstrating residential gardens, Stream Garden which consists of trees, shrubs and perennials in a formal setting and the Support Facility Perennial Border consisting only of perennial flowers.

North Carolina Arboretum

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