We went to Asheville, North Carolina and it blew our minds. We had no idea there were so many awesome & unique things to do in Asheville, especially for adventure lovers.
With our love for international travel and our travels taking us out of the states more than keeping us within its borders, Asheville, NC wasn’t even on our radar.
An opportunity to visit was presented to us and it took only one Google search for us to realize that Asheville was a place we wouldn’t mind checking out. The main sell for us was immediate access to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway and National Forests as far as the eye can see.
Everything else we would come to experience was an overflowing consolation prize to the natural beauty and adventure on offer. It didn’t take long to understand why Lonely Planet put the city on the top of its list for the Best in the USA.
Asheville gives you the perfect marriage of city and nature.
Our days were spent adventuring around the area and experiencing the natural beauty on offer. Our evenings were spent downtown sampling unique to Asheville cuisine and taking in the street scene. Everything you could want in a destination is right at your fingertips.
Unique Things To Do in Asheville, NC
Table of Contents
We really wanted to dig into the adventure aspect, so we spent every day playing in Asheville’s nature playground. The Blue Ridge Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest and French Broad River can all be accessed within a 20-minute drive from the downtown.
It should be noted that there are many adventures available and this is a small sampling we have chosen to showcase based on our time in Asheville.
If you have more time to spend, do not hesitate to check out the other options that include whitewater rafting, mountain biking, rappelling, hiking to waterfalls, multi-day hiking trips, camping and more.
The outdoor section of the Explore Asheville website is loaded with information and recommendations about the outdoor adventure on offer.
1. Rivereering Waterfall Trek
People come from all over the world to play in the white water on the Green River but it doesn’t stop there. The Green River Adventures Waterfall Trek shows you the best of the Big Bradley Falls and Cove Creek Gorge.
The hike starts with a 1-mile hike towards Big Bradley Falls before sending you rappelling a 30-foot vertical wall to access the base of the falls and the Cove Creek Gorge.
Once you’re there, Cove Creek becomes your path as you navigate the river. We found ourselves bouldering, climbing, sliding, swimming and jumping our way down the river for 3 hours before heading back onto land and hiking through the fields of Walcott Bottoms in the Green River Game Lands.
This Waterfall Trek was plain fun and one of the best afternoons we’ve ever spent exploring a new place. It’s an adventure that will challenge you, inspire you and get you soaking wet. Without a doubt, this is one of the most adventurous things to do in Asheville.
2. Rock Climbing at Looking Glass Rock
The next day we headed into the Pisgah National Forest for a morning of rock climbing at Looking Glass Rock. Rising 4,000 feet from the ground and made of solid granite, people come from all over the country to climb the classic routes it has to offer.
Rock climbing is something we enjoy doing but we don’t have a lot of experience. We hooked up with Rick Wagner, instructor and head climbing guide at ClimbMax Mountain Guides, and had the most amazing day.
Not only did he refresh our existing skills but he offered us instruction to build on those skills while creating a safe and positive experience for us.
We didn’t make it to the top due to time constraints, but we ended up conquering 3 pitches. Even at that height, the views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains was incredible.
3. Bellyak on the French Broad River
I know what you’re thinking. What on earth is a Bellyak? Affectionately described as kayaking meets swimming meets surfing, the Bellyak is the most fun we have had on the water.
Designed and manufactured in Asheville, the Bellyak design was dreamed up and brought to life by Adam Masters who believes being on the water is about being close to the water.
Our experience on the French Broad River gave us an up-close look at the river and surroundings as we made a 4 mile trip from the Hominy Creek put in, near the Riverside Bar, to the Smoky Park Supper Club.
Let me tell you, bellyaching is all about being close to the water and it’s a sport that offers a whole new sensation that you can’t get elsewhere. You flow along like a kayak but your hands and arms submerge in the water to carry your pace.
It’s brilliant, so much fun and one of those can’t miss things to do in Asheville.
Try something new and go for a Bellyak: Plan your Bellyak adventure
4. Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains
With the Blue Ridge Mountains only 30 minutes outside of Downtown Asheville, we’d be remiss if we didn’t put our boots on a trail during our visit. Picking a trail is a real challenge as the options are endless, but we eventually settled on a day of hiking the Art Loeb Trail.
Joining up with our guide from the Blue Ridge Hiking Company, we headed off on the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike the double summit of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain.
This hike is an incredibly scenic 5-mile loop with established trails and views for days. Many locals adore and use the trails in this area on the weekends because it also makes for great camping.
We found the trails moderate with a great variety of landscapes. The bald tops of Black Balsam and Tennent Mountain afford you some pretty spectacular views of the surrounding area. We could even see Looking Glass rock way in the distance from the top.
The trail took us 3 hours, including our stop for a picnic lunch on the trail. Our guide, Sarah, was fantastic and spent her time chatting about hiking, the area, the flora & fauna and her experiences thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.
It was a day well spent and one we would recommend to anyone looking for a great hiking experience.
5. Craggy Gardens
This is probably the most photographed spot outside of downtown Asheville and with good reason, it’s stunning. Drive-up the Blue Ridge Parkway to milepost 364.6 and take the 1-mile loop hike through the Craggy Gardens up to the lookout for sunrise.
If you time your visit right in the early summer, the rhododendrons will be in full bloom lining the trail with bright pink flowers.
6. Whitewater Rafting
The Green River has some of the best whitewater in the country, offering one of the steepest commercially rafted sections of whitewater in the southeast. The Upper Green portion of the river consists of Class II-III rapids with two Class IV rapids.
7. Go to the Drum Circle
Taking place every Friday night at Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville, the Drum Circle invites both locals and visitors to make music together. This tradition has been going on in Asheville for 20 years and you shouldn’t miss it.
8. Visit the Biltmore Estate
Dubbed America’s largest home, this estate resembles a castle and has 8,000 acres that will make you feel like you’re the only person in the world.
The 250 room home was completed in 1895 and specially built for George Vanderbilt. Purchasing a day pass gives you all-day access to the house and grounds.
9. Take a Brewery Tour
Grab a brewery guide from the Visitors Center and head to the South Slope on a self-guided brewery tour. This area is home to 9 of Asheville’s 28 breweries. We personally recommend Catawba Brewing, Burial Beer Co. and the Funkatorium.
Foodie Unique Things to do in Asheville, NC
While we’re not foodies, we do like to adventure and to do that, we need fuel. Plus it’s a great way to get to know an area and experience some of the local cultures on offer. We didn’t have enough time to eat everywhere but every place we did had fantastic food.
10. Buxton Hall Barbeque
This place is a celebration of the time-honored tradition of pit-cooked, whole-hog, slow-cooked barbeque and it’s fantastic. Most of their sides are cooked under the slow roast pork giving it that perfect flare. Of course, don’t forget to try a couple of appetizers, we loved the smoked mussels and pimento cheese.
11. All Souls Pizza
The place you go when you’ve had a busy day. This restaurant is small, quiet and offers up unique pizza options on whole-grain crusts. Don’t forget to try the fried chic peas; we loved them.
12. Smoky Park Supper Club
Crazy unique, this supper club is made out of 19 shipping containers serving an entirely wood-grilled menu with southern charm. The club is located on the banks of the French Broad River with a secluded feel to it.
13. Sunny Point Café
An Asheville institution and a place that is worth the wait, we recommend heading here for breakfast. They operate a farm to table concept using many ingredients straight from their garden outback. You can’t go wrong, no matter what you order, just make sure you go hungry.
More Restaurants You Should Check Out:
- The Rhu: This café serves up a ‘fit for Europe’ take away picnic basket, in an actual picnic basket. It’s a great idea if you plan to spend the day in the National Forest.
- Isa’s Bistro: Serving popular American dishes with a Mediterranean influence, this downtown icon prints daily menus to highlight the best available local produce. We found the food to be creative, beautiful and tasty.
- French Broad Chocolate Shop: Located downtown and insanely popular with locals and visitors alike. There always seems to be a line but the wait is worth it. It’s the place you go for bean-to-bar chocolates, truffles, cakes, sweets, and hot chocolate.
Places to Stay in Asheville, North Carolina
While you can imagine there are endless options, we had the pleasure of staying in two very unique, yet different properties and we loved them both. By staying in two different properties, we were able to experience two very different sides of Asheville.
One property was 2 blocks outside the main downtown area, meaning we could leave our car there and walk to explore the streets. The other was located on the Biltmore Estate side and also close to the main highway giving us super easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Arriving at the driveway we pulled up to the gate and leaned out the window to enter our code into the keypad. The entire system at the Bunn House is keyless and operates on a code system that is communicated ahead of your arrival.
It was absolutely brilliant. We pulled into the parking lot that sits behind the late 1905 house speaking to each other in our best British accents.
This house has been restored in boutique luxury at it’s best while maintaining the charm of its heritage. The amenities are unreal with complimentary snacks, soda, wine and beer in your room and the lobby. Every product you will find here is made in Asheville and we loved that about it.
From the perfectly pressed white sheets, comfy bed and spa shower to the balconies, rooftop terrace, and perfectly manicured garden, the Bunn House is the perfect oasis in downtown Asheville.
Grand Bohemian Hotel
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is lavish, Tudor inspired Grand Bohemian hotel. This one is located on the opposite side of town right at the entrance to the Biltmore Estate.
The buildings are era designed and when you walk into the lobby it is like being transported straight into one of Tudor king’s castles.
This hotel is all about luxury with valet parking, fine dining, spa treatments, and opulent rooms. We found the place to be very comfortable and a great place to rest after adventuring all day.
Our Final Thoughts on Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville was a pleasant surprise for us and has inspired a new passion to explore more of our home country, the beautiful USA. It’s a place that takes the best aspects of travel and combines them in a fun, unique way in an incredibly beautiful part of the world.
Without a doubt, we’ll find ourselves in Asheville again and other parts of North Carolina in the not so distant future.
Planning your own trip to Asheville? The Explore Asheville site is an incredible resource for all things Asheville with loads of hints, tips, and secrets for you to check out during your visit.
Disclosure: Our awesome adventure in Asheville was hosted by Explore Asheville. All opinions, as always, are 100% our own.
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