Choose from 3 Fun Things to Do in Asheville
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The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most scenic road trips—a slow-paced drive through connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the south to Shenandoah National Park in the north. Along the way lie stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the parkway’s namesake: the rugged Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a peaceful escape from hectic urban life. Get off the grid by heading out on a road trip, or take a day trip from Asheville, North Carolina, on which you can hike through the Appalachian wilderness and visit scenic waterfalls. Artistically inclined visitors can hone their photography skills on a small-group photo tour of the parkway and capture wild landscapes under the guidance of a local Asheville photographer. If you travel to the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, make sure to stop off at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a guided nature and history tour, rafting trip, or scenic helicopter flight.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The parkway’s speed limit never exceeds 45 mph (72 kph). Due to steep roads and occasional wildlife crossings, careful driving is essential.
- There are plenty of stops along the way to sightsee, hike, or picnic—many travelers take four or five days to complete the whole route.
- The weather along the parkway can vary greatly due to changes in elevation, so dress in layers.
How to Get There
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles (755 kilometers) through the Appalachian Highlands between North Carolina and Virginia. You’ll find markers along every mile of the parkway, and it’s best to carry a map to determine where you want to go, as GPS directions often do not understand the milepost system.
When to Get There
While the parkway is open 24 hours a day, visitor services (picnic areas, visitor centers, and restrooms) may be limited during evening and night, and are closed from November through April. The road closes only due to inclement weather, which occurs most often in winter. Summer brings balmy temperatures in the lower elevations; temperatures can remain cool higher up. Autumn weather can vary, but by mid-October the landscape is drenched in red, orange, and yellow, making this a superb time for leaf-peeping.
Exploring Asheville, North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center near Asheville is a popular place to start an Appalachian road trip. Nestled away in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the city of Asheville is known for its vibrant arts scene and historic architecture, including the 19th-century Biltmore Estate, a massive historical mansion built by George Vanderbilt. Don’t miss the downtown Art District, which is filled with galleries and museums, and the nearby River Arts District, where former factory buildings house artists’ studios. There are also numerous hiking trails in the area, along with a cheery nightlife scene of hip craft breweries.
The speed limit on the Blue Ridge Parkway is only 45 mph at most, and there are many points along the way to stop and sightsee, hike, or picnic – so taking 4 to 5 days to travel the whole thing isn't unheard of. Careful driving is essential, especially with the steep roads and occasional wildlife crossings.
Address: Blue Ridge Parkway, USA
From $ 75
There was once a time, not too long ago, where the River Arts District was one of Asheville’s least desirable areas. Abandoned warehouses lined a riverfront that was frequently laden with trash, and the only sign of economic life was the train pulling into the station. Today, after a massive artistic and creative resurgence, new life has been breathed into the district on the banks of the French Broad River, and where empty warehouses and buildings once stood, there are now spectacular studios full of sculptors, glass blowers, woodworkers, and painters. When visiting Asheville’s River Arts District, peruse the 180 studios that line the narrow streets, or stop for a drink at the ferociously popular microbrewery, The Wedge. At the city’s best restaurant for barbecue—12 Bones—enjoy your meal by the banks of the river that flows through the center of town, and watch as tubers, kayakers, and paddleboards all navigate the gently flowing waters. You can stop by a local farmers’ market by day and enjoy live music by night, and the River Arts District is the funkiest district in the funkiest town in the South.
Clingman Avenue is the main thoroughfare in the River Arts District, which is about one mile from downtown and accessible by vehicle or foot. Parking can sometimes be challenging in summer, and nearly all the business are open by day—whereas evenings are virtually deserted.
Address: Asheville, North Carolina, USA
From $ 20
Built by American magnate George Washington Vanderbilt II, the Biltmore Estate was modeled after the mansions of Europe when it was constructed in the late 19th century. The Biltmore House is the largest home in the United States—a staggering 178,926 square feet (16,623 square meters) sitting on more than 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares)—and a prominent example of America’s Gilded Age.
Lovers of history, architecture, and gardens will all enjoy touring the Biltmore Estate. With a copper-lined rooftop, limestone walls, and an ornately decorated interior full of antiques and artifacts, the Biltmore House is the highlight of the estate and provides for hours of exploration and enjoyment. Its 250 rooms include 36 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, and a 10,000-volume library. The impressive house is surrounded by a manicured park landscape, including a timber forest, formal gardens, and quiet ponds.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The number of visitors allowed inside the Biltmore House is controlled, so it is best to buy tickets in advance to guarantee entry. Advance reservations are required on certain days.
- The self-guided tour along a marked route through the home takes at least two hours. Guided, 90-minute tours are available for an additional fee.
- You need a car to travel between locations on the Biltmore Estate. A shuttle is available between the Biltmore House parking lot and the front door.
- Only the first and second floors of the Biltmore House are wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
Located in the countryside near Asheville, North Carolina, the estate lies off exit 50 on Highway 25, four miles north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Free parking is available with a shuttle from the lot to the estate entrance. If you’re staying in Charlotte, consider booking a full-day group tour to the estate.
When to Get There
The estate admissions gate is open daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm. The best time to visit the Biltmore Estate is first thing in the morning on a weekday, as it can get very crowded on the weekends. Crowds are sparse in winter, but you miss out on the blooming gardens and all the outdoor activities available. On the other hand, it’s a treat to see the mansion decked out in Christmas decorations in November and December.
Activities at the Biltmore Estate
A variety of outdoor activities are available at the Biltmore Estate, making it a great place to spend an entire day. Take a stand-up paddleboard trip down the French Broad River, or rent a bike and take a ride along the river or through the surrounding woodlands. Enjoy the scenery on a carriage ride through the estate, go fly-fishing, or tour the grounds on horseback. Wine aficionados may also want to visit the winery in Antler Hill Village and enjoy a complimentary wine tasting.
Address: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, North Carolina 28803, USA
Hours: Open daily from 9am - 5pm
From $ 109