12 Amazing Things to Do in Downtown Asheville: Must-See Attractions

by Jen
Amazing Things to Do in Downtown Asheville
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Downtown Asheville is a quirky mix of bohemian vibes and southern charm, all set against the backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a place where the art scene is as rich as the mountain views are stunning. Here, you can spend your mornings sipping locally roasted coffee in a cozy café and your afternoons browsing through galleries and boutiques filled with the works of local artists.

Foodies will love the farm-to-table restaurants that dot the downtown area, each offering a taste of Asheville’s fresh, innovative cuisine. And if you’re into craft beer, you’re in luck—Asheville’s brewery scene is booming, with plenty of spots to enjoy a pint right in the heart of the city.

History enthusiasts can get their fix too, with the iconic art deco architecture and landmarks like the Grove Arcade and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial offering a glimpse into Asheville’s past. And when the sun sets, the city doesn’t slow down. Live music spills out of bars and venues, inviting you to end your day with a bit of Asheville’s lively nightlife.

In Downtown Asheville, there’s an authentic experience waiting around every corner, making it a must-visit for anyone looking for a blend of culture, adventure, and relaxation. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in Downtown Asheville.

The amazing places to visit in Downtown Asheville right now

Best Places to Visit in Downtown Asheville

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Downtown Asheville? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this eclectic vacation spot in North Carolina. So keep reading to discover all these unique Downtown Asheville places to visit.

Are you looking to explore eclectic shops, savor local cuisines, and immerse yourself in live music and artistic displays? Or would you prefer a tranquil getaway in nature? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Downtown Asheville can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Downtown Asheville that you should know about.

1. Biltmore Estate

When you’re in Downtown Asheville, a trip to the Biltmore Estate is non-negotiable. It’s a unique opportunity to walk through America’s largest home. The 250 rooms showcase the Vanderbilt family’s lavish lifestyle. On the self-guided tour, you can see the grand dining room, the library, and the indoor garden. You can explore these at your own pace, accompanied by historical stories on your audio guide. The self-guided tour lets you take in the grand dining room, the library stacked with ancient books, and the indoor garden at your own pace, with stories of the past piped through your audio guide.

The Biltmore is more than a mansion; it’s a full-day affair. The gardens are a sprawling outdoor escape, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a bike ride. And if you fancy a bit of sophistication, the winery on the estate offers tastings of estate-grown wines.

For those who like a bit of adventure, the estate’s outdoor activities are a draw. You can explore the grounds on horseback or hike the trails that crisscross the property. It’s a place where you can touch on history, indulge in a bit of luxury, and get active, all in one go. It’s a cornerstone of the best things to do in Downtown Asheville and a window into America’s Gilded Age luxury.

Visit Biltmore Estate is one of the amazing things to do in Downtown Asheville.
Visit Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home with 250 rooms, Vanderbilt opulence, self-guided tour with historical audio.

2. Asheville Urban Trail

The Asheville Urban Trail is a city walker’s delight and a crash course in the town’s history and culture. This 1.7-mile self-guided walking tour, marked by 30 stations with public sculptures, takes you through the heart of Downtown Asheville. Each sculpture along the way tells a story, from the city’s rich architectural heritage to its famous former residents.

Starting at Pack Square, you’ll meander through vibrant streets, past historic buildings, and into bustling plazas. The trail isn’t just a walk; it’s a journey through Asheville’s past and present. You’ll notice the echoes of the roaring twenties in the art deco details of the buildings. The beat of modern-day Asheville is alive in the street-side cafes and local boutiques.

The Urban Trail is perfect for those who like to explore at their own pace. You can start and stop whenever you like, maybe breaking for a coffee or popping into an art gallery. It’s a great way to get your bearings in the city and spot places you might want to return to later.

For a deeper dive, pick up an Urban Trail map at the Asheville Visitor Center. It’s a fantastic way to get to know Asheville, with stories and sights that lay the groundwork for understanding this dynamic city.

Discover Asheville's Urban Trail, showcases 30 sculptures, each telling the city's rich history and architectural legacy.
Discover Asheville’s Urban Trail, showcases 30 sculptures, each telling the city’s rich history and architectural legacy.

3. River Arts District

The River Arts District is where the city’s pulse beats strongest for art lovers. This once-industrial area now houses a thriving community of artists in studios that line the French Broad River. This is a place where art is not just displayed, but created before your eyes. Over 200 artists work here in various mediums, from paint to pottery, metal to fiber, and glass to wax.

As you stroll through the district, the colorful murals on old factory buildings tell you that this place is different. It’s a living gallery, and every studio door opens to a new sensory experience. You can chat with the artists, see them at work, and maybe even take home a piece of Asheville’s creativity.

One of the coolest things to do in Downtown Asheville is to time your visit for the River Arts District’s Studio Stroll, which happens twice a year. Artists open their doors to the public, making it a festive weekend of art, demonstrations, and workshops. Even if you don’t buy anything, the experience of seeing artists in their element is priceless.

The River Arts District encapsulates the innovative spirit of Asheville. It’s a must-visit for anyone who wants to see the city’s artistic heart and meet the creators who keep it beating.

The River Arts District pulses with over 200 artists creating diverse works in former industrial spaces.
The River Arts District pulses with over 200 artists creating diverse works in former industrial spaces.

4. Asheville’s Thirsty Monk

Asheville’s Thirsty Monk is a top spot for beer lovers and those interested in the craft beer movement. It’s a highlight of Downtown Asheville’s attractions. The brewery and pub are known for their Belgian-style beers. They offer a rotating selection that features the finest local and international brews.

The Thirsty Monk has established itself as a cornerstone of Asheville’s beer culture. Here, the bartenders are like librarians of ale, ready to guide you through their extensive beer menu. The pub’s atmosphere is warm and welcoming, with a distinct Asheville vibe that’s both laid-back and lively.

For those looking to expand their beer knowledge, the Thirsty Monk often hosts beer education events and tasting sessions. It’s a place where you can learn about the nuances of hops and malts or discover the art of beer pairing.

You might choose a flight of handpicked samples or enjoy a pint with friends. Either way, the Thirsty Monk delivers an authentic slice of Asheville’s craft beer culture. Here, good beer and good company are always available. Enjoying a pint at the Thirsty Monk is more than just drinking; it’s an experience.

Thirsty Monk is the go-to for Belgian-style brews, spotlighting a rotating selection of top local and global beers.
Thirsty Monk is the go-to for Belgian-style brews, spotlighting a rotating selection of top local and global beers.

5. Moog Factory

The Moog Factory in Downtown Asheville is a pilgrimage site for music lovers and synth enthusiasts. It’s where the legendary Moog synthesizers are handcrafted, instruments that have shaped the sound of modern music. Visitors can take a free tour and see firsthand the intricate process of synthesizer assembly.

This factory is an interactive music haven. You’re welcome to try out the synths in the showroom. Experience the rich analog sounds that are essential in music from rock to electronica. The staff are as passionate about music as they are knowledgeable, ready to talk shop or just let you jam.

The Moog Factory also offers workshops where you can delve deeper into the world of sound synthesis. It’s a unique opportunity to learn about electronic music’s history and possibly spark your own musical creativity.

A visit to the Moog Factory connects you with Asheville’s musical heritage. It’s an opportunity to get hands-on with some of the coolest instruments available. It’s a must-do for anyone who’s ever tapped a beat or hummed a tune, and a testament to Asheville’s eclectic cultural scene.

The Moog Factory is a music pilgrimage, offering free tours of the legendary synthesizers shaping modern music.
The Moog Factory is a music pilgrimage, offering free tours of the legendary synthesizers shaping modern music.

6. Asheville Drum Circle

Every Friday night in Pritchard Park, the heart of Downtown Asheville beats to the rhythm of drums. The Asheville Drum Circle is a community tradition that transforms the park into a symphony of percussion. Locals and visitors alike gather, bringing drums, tambourines, and just their dancing feet to join in the spontaneous celebration of rhythm.

This isn’t your average musical event; it’s a community gathering that welcomes everyone. Whether you’re an experienced drummer or just want to enjoy the music, the drum circle is an experience of collective joy and creativity. It’s a chance to be part of something that’s a staple in Asheville’s cultural scene.

The drum circle starts as the sun begins to dip, and the beats go on well into the night. It’s a perfect way to kick off a weekend in Asheville, surrounded by the energy and spirit of the city. You can dance, drum, or just watch and soak in the vibe.

The Asheville Drum Circle is a testament to the city’s vibrant and inclusive community. It’s a free and fun experience that immerses you in the local culture. This is one of the most unique ways to spend an evening in Downtown Asheville.

Experiencing Drum Circle is one of the amazing things to do in Downtown Asheville.
Asheville Drum Circle showcases a lively, communal celebration of rhythm and dance.

7. Lexington Glassworks

Lexington Glassworks is the go-to spot in Asheville for a deep dive into the world of glassblowing. Here, art isn’t just displayed; it’s performed right before your eyes. The studio’s open layout brings you right to the heart of the glassblowing action. There, the heat, the glow of molten glass, and the artists’ skillful movements create a captivating display.

This place is all about the cool factor of art in creation. Watch in awe as simple blobs of glass become elegant vases or complex sculptures. This all takes place with the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. The gallery’s shelves are lined with one-of-a-kind pieces, each with a story shaped by fire and breath.

And it’s not just a look-don’t-touch kind of place. The artists are down-to-earth and ready to chat, giving you insights into their craft. If you’re feeling inspired, sign up for a class and blow your own glass piece to take home.

Lexington Glassworks is a snapshot of Asheville’s creative spirit. It’s a place where you can appreciate the art, understand the process, and meet the artists. For anyone curious about the art scene in Asheville, this is a must-visit. And if you’re looking to stay overnight in Asheville, this is the area to be!

Lexington Glassworks is an immersive, live glassblowing experience in an open studio layout.
Lexington Glassworks is an immersive, live glassblowing experience in an open studio layout.

8. Asheville Pinball Museum

If you’re looking for a quirky and nostalgic twist to your Asheville adventure, the Asheville Pinball Museum is a jackpot. This spot is a gamer’s paradise, filled with vintage and modern pinball machines. You can flip, bump, and tilt your way through an impressive collection. It’s not just a museum; it’s an arcade where every exhibit is playable.

Among the unique things to do in Downtown Asheville, the Pinball Museum stands out. It’s a hands-on dive into gaming history, where the vintage machines are as much a work of art as they are entertainment. With one entry fee, you gain unlimited access to play. Enjoy any machine and explore decades of pinball history.

The museum isn’t just about pinball; it also features classic video games. It’s a sanctuary for anyone who loves the excitement of chasing a high score. It’s a place that’s sure to spark a bit of childhood joy, no matter your age.

The Asheville Pinball Museum offers a unique mix of history and nostalgia. It’s a fun destination for families or anyone wanting to relive a piece of their youth. It’s a playful escape into the days of arcades and a fun way to spend an afternoon in Asheville.

The Asheville Pinball Museum is a gamer's paradise merging nostalgia with interactive fun.
The Asheville Pinball Museum is a gamer’s paradise merging nostalgia with interactive fun.

9. Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar

Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar is a gem that combines the love for books and fine wine in a unique setting. Imagine sipping a glass of bubbly surrounded by towering shelves of books — this place makes it a reality. It’s a bookshop where you can trade, buy, or simply read books while enjoying a drink from their extensive selection.

The atmosphere is cozy and inviting. Comfortable chairs are scattered throughout, ideal for immersing in a book or engaging in conversation. The book selection is both vast and varied, appealing to all interests. Knowledgeable staff are ready to recommend everything from page-turners to rare finds.

For a more social vibe, the champagne bar offers a chance to mingle with locals and visitors alike. It’s a cultured hangout spot where the conversations are as rich as the wine list.

Battery Park Book Exchange transcends being just a bookstore or a bar. It’s a cultural hub that captures Asheville’s eclectic spirit. It’s ideal for anyone looking to unwind, whether that’s through the pages of a novel or the effervescence of a good champagne.

Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, sip champagne among books in a cozy setting.
Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, sip champagne among books in a cozy setting.

10. Grove Arcade

The Grove Arcade is a slice of Downtown Asheville’s history that’s been serving up local shopping and dining since the 1920s. This historic market building, with its vintage charm, is a hotspot for anyone looking to score unique Asheville crafts, art, and more. It’s a place where the community’s entrepreneurial spirit shines, with vendors who are passionate about their crafts.

Inside, you’ll find a mix of boutiques and galleries showcasing everything from handcrafted jewelry to fine art. The food scene here is just as diverse, with eateries serving up local flavors that’ll satisfy any appetite. It’s a great spot to grab lunch, pick up souvenirs, or just enjoy the atmosphere of a historic Asheville landmark.

On certain days, the arcade becomes even more lively with farmers’ markets and live music, turning a regular shopping trip into a local experience. It’s a place where you can get a real feel for Asheville’s community vibe.

The Grove Arcade is a must-visit for its blend of history, shopping, and local flair. It’s one of those places that captures the essence of Asheville, making it a perfect stop for travelers looking to dive into the city’s culture.

The Grove Arcade is a historic spot, brimming with unique crafts, and art.
The Grove Arcade is a historic spot, brimming with unique crafts, and art.

11. North Carolina Arboretum

Nestled in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, The North Carolina Arboretum is a short drive from Downtown Asheville and offers a refreshing escape into nature. Over 65 acres of gardens and 10 miles of trails make this a showcase of natural splendor. It’s a place where the beauty of nature is always on display.

The Arboretum isn’t just a collection of plants; it’s a living museum, a sanctuary for native and exotic flora alike. The landscapes, carefully crafted, offer visual delight in every season. You’ll see vibrant spring blooms and the rich hues of autumn.

Visitors can wander through the themed gardens, each with its own botanical narrative. Or, they can take to the trails for a peaceful forest retreat. The Arboretum is home to a comprehensive bonsai collection, one of the finest in the U.S. It provides an intriguing glimpse into the art of bonsai.

The North Carolina Arboretum celebrates the area’s natural beauty. It’s an ideal destination for those who wish to walk, take photos, or unwind in a tranquil environment. It’s a slice of paradise in the Appalachian Mountains that’s easily accessible and endlessly enchanting.

The North Carolina Arboretum offers a serene immersion into natural beauty.
The North Carolina Arboretum offers a serene immersion into natural beauty.

12. Top of the Monk

Top of the Monk stands out as a pinnacle of Downtown Asheville’s nightlife, offering a rooftop experience that’s as refined as it is relaxed. This bar offers a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It complements the scenery with a carefully chosen array of cocktails.

Top of the Monk is charming due to its meticulous attention to detail. The handcrafted drinks and the inviting outdoor space encourage conversation and contemplation. It’s a place where the sunset acts as the perfect backdrop to an evening of sophistication.

Inside, the bar continues to impress with its prohibition-era decor and a speakeasy vibe that transports you back in time. The cocktail menu is a testament to the bartenders’ expertise, featuring classic mixes alongside inventive new creations that utilize local ingredients.

Top of the Monk is more than just a bar; it’s a destination. Here, locals and visitors come together. It’s a place for sharing stories over the clink of glasses, where Asheville’s historic allure is as strong as the drinks served. For those looking to savor the essence of Asheville’s urban life, a visit here is a must.

Experiencing Top of the Monk is one of the amazing things to do in Downtown Asheville.
Top of the Monk is a refined rooftop bar with panoramic mountain views and carefully crafted cocktails.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Downtown Asheville

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Downtown Asheville? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Downtown Asheville:

What are the must-visit spots in Downtown Asheville?

In Downtown Asheville, don’t miss the iconic Biltmore Estate, the historic Grove Arcade for eclectic shopping, and the Asheville Art Museum for a dose of culture. The city’s downtown is a vibrant tapestry of art deco architecture, local boutiques, and farm-to-table eateries, all set against the backdrop of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains.

Can I find local art in Downtown Asheville?

Downtown Asheville is a canvas for local artists, with the River Arts District offering a peek into artists’ studios and galleries. Monthly art walks, street murals, and craft markets like the Asheville Art Market highlight the city’s creative spirit. It’s a place where art is not just observed but experienced in the community’s heartbeat.

Diverse local artwork displayed, showcasing creativity and cultural richness.
Diverse local artwork displayed, showcasing creativity and cultural richness.

Is Downtown Asheville walkable?

Downtown Asheville is a pedestrian’s dream, with a compact, walkable downtown area. Stroll through the streets lined with historic buildings, stop by the many shops, and enjoy the local cuisine. Walking tours bring the city’s history and culture to life, making it easy to soak in Asheville’s charm on foot.

What culinary experiences should I try in Downtown Asheville?

Asheville’s culinary scene is a feast for foodies, with a strong emphasis on farm-to-table dining. Try the innovative vegetarian dishes, sample craft beers at a local brewery, or indulge in artisanal chocolates. Food tours offer a taste of the best local flavors, from savory to sweet, reflecting Asheville’s diverse gastronomic landscape.

Are there any unique shopping experiences in Downtown Asheville?

Shopping in Downtown Asheville is an adventure in itself, with unique stores offering everything from handcrafted jewelry to vintage clothes. Explore the Woolworth Walk for local arts and crafts, and don’t miss the specialty shops that reflect Asheville’s quirky, artistic vibe. It’s a treasure hunt for one-of-a-kind finds and souvenirs.

What nightlife options are available in Downtown Asheville?

Asheville’s nightlife buzzes with options for every taste. Enjoy live music ranging from bluegrass to indie at the Orange Peel, sip craft cocktails at a rooftop bar, or join the locals at the Friday night Drum Circle. The city’s theaters and comedy clubs also offer plenty of evening entertainment.

Is Downtown Asheville worth a visit?

Absolutely, Downtown Asheville is well worth a visit. It’s a vibrant cultural hub where historic architecture meets a thriving arts scene. With its renowned culinary landscape, bustling craft breweries, and eclectic shopping, there’s an infectious energy that captivates visitors. Add in the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and you have a destination that’s as scenic as it is exciting. All you have to do is stay in an Asheville cabin with a view of the mountains, and you’ll see why this city is worth visiting.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Downtown Asheville

Exploring Downtown Asheville offers an array of experiences that cater to all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re here for the food, the art, or the mountain vibes, this city doesn’t disappoint. Each corner of the downtown area presents something new, from the buzzing patio cafes to the tranquil spots by the French Broad River.

It’s a place where every visit can be different, depending on whether you dive into the music scene, sample the local brews, or simply enjoy the street performances. Asheville’s blend of Southern hospitality and bohemian energy makes it a unique destination, one that invites you to return, time and again, for another taste of its diverse offerings.

In short, Asheville is a small city with a big heart, and its downtown is the beating pulse you’ll love to explore.

The amazing things to do in Downtown Asheville for all types of travelers
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