On the surface, there is a lot to like about Asheville, North Carolina. Start with the temperate climate, then mix in the undeniable beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Now pour that folky Asheville vibe all over it, like the soundtrack to a documentary about garage sales hosted by tambourine player and functional addict Jethro Starshine.
There are a tremendous amount of things to do in Asheville, North Carolina, some of which are a little unusual, (and saying that means something coming from Seattle folk). As with so many other towns, take a moment away from the buildings to see what the region is all about.
We spent four days here and would like to spend many more. Here are five amazing things to do in Asheville.
The Biltmore is the largest single-family dwelling in the USA. Construction began in 1889 and finished by 1895. The house spans 175,000 square feet and has 250 rooms – including 43 bathrooms. Ironically, if you need the bathroom on the tour you’ll have to wait until the end.
Entrance costs about $60 and is worth it. Everything is exquisite, from the furniture to the ceilings to the artwork to the views. The horse stables have been transformed into a restaurant, which we strongly recommend.
The formal and informal gardens cover many acres themselves, and guests are encouraged to stroll the beautiful pathways and take in the genius of the lush landscaping. Be sure to visit the conservatory and the bass pond. We hear Christmas time is an excellent time to visit.
“America’s favorite drive”, the marketers call it. It begins in Cherokee, NC, southeast of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and runs northeast 469 miles to Afton, Virginia. If you want to troll the the parkway, any number of days to weeks can be spent sighing at one vista after another.
Along the parkway northward is the incredibly beautiful Grandfather Mountain. There you will find Mile-High Swinging Bridge, the highest suspension footbridge in the US, and matchless views around Blowing Rock.
Near Brevard in the Pisgah National Forest is Sliding Rock, a natural, rock waterslide. There are also a plethora of waterfalls and swimming holes in the general area.
And 70 miles to the west is Great Smokey Mountain National Park, the most visited national park in the US. The blue ridge mountain region has more than its share of beautiful sights.
The Pinball Museum is an all-you-can-play pinball and video game Mecca. We covered 8,000 miles on the road last summer, and this may have been our kids’ favorite stop. As far as our children were concerned, this is the single most amazing thing to do in Asheville, North Carolina.
The front room is lined with pinball machines of all ages. Down the hall is another room with arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Missile Command, Tempest, Karate Champ, Punch-Out, etc.
These two rooms alone would be worth the $15 admission, but down yet another hall we discovered something very special. We cannot tell you all that we saw, as there were too many wonderful games to mention.
We will tell you this much, though: Our family had a fully functional Dragon’s Lair to ourselves — for hours — with no quarters required.
About 25 miles east of Asheville, Chimney Rock is a 315’ monolith that lends 75-mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. It’s 500 steps to the top, but there is an elevator that cuts out all but the final 44 steps. The view is stunning, and the march up isn’t so bad, even for surly children. They have a gift shop with ice cream at the top if you need to bribe anyone.
People from all over the globe wind up in Asheville. It is a splendid, funky town with a self-proclaimed “world-wide mindset” and colorful arts community. For those of us who cut our hair, the town is on the strange side, like Seattle and Portland had a baby and let Appalachian wolves raise it.
There is something alluring about bohemian neighborhoods. Running through the shops in Asheville is solid gold. The Asheville Urban Trail is very cool, as is the River Arts District. Tupelo Honey is a sought-after restaurant smack in the middle of downtown. We tried to get a table, but it was always too long of a wait. Biscuit Head is amazing for breakfast.
The Asheville drum circle goes off on Friday nights in the warmer months and you can’t miss it if you’re in downtown. “Not gonna lie, it was weird,” said the clean-cut guy in a polo shirt. Our children had trouble making sense of it – which is all part of the education.
Best for Children: Pinball Museum
Time to Visit: April through October. Depends on what you want, really. Spring blooms April/May. Summer warmth June-August. Fall foliage Sep/Oct.
Best Family Adventure: Sliding Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Chimney Rock
Most Romantic: Biltmore
Best for Photos: Biltmore, Blue Ridge Parkway
Best for Hiking: Pisgah National Forest, Great Smokey Mountain National Park
Our Favorites: Biltmore, Pinball Museum
Map of Asheville: Click Here
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