Tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Asheville has appeared on plenty of lists of the best small cities in the U.S. With a rich and varied food, music and beer scene as well as scenic experiences you won’t find anywhere else in the country, it’s the perfect place to visit for the weekend or even make your forever-home. Whether you’re exploring the city on a getaway or thinking of a unique gift for your Asheville-based friend, this guide covers the 12 best things to do in Asheville, according to our local field staff who’ve lived there for years.
- Rent a Treehouse
- Visit a Late-Night Music Venue
- Explore the City With a Comedy Tour
- Try Snow Tubing
- Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
- Enjoy a Private Turkish Steam Room
- Go Indoor Climbing
- Relax in a Salt Cave
- Tune Out in a Sensory Deprivation Tank
- Take the Kids to a Trampoline Park
- Zipline Across the City’s Treetops
- Experience the Iconic Biltmore
1. Rent a Treehouse
Located only minutes from Blue Ridge Parkway, this luxury Airbnb in Asheville — which happens to be the largest treehouse on the east coast — is nestled among hundred-year-old trees with breathtaking mountain views. With two beds and 2.5 bathrooms, a spacious deck outfitted with a gas grill, a fully equipped kitchen complete with chef’s knives and copper cookware, and unobstructed windows on every wall of the house, the Treehouse is an unforgettable way to retreat from the bustle of the city and experience Asheville’s natural beauty.
2. Visit a Late-Night Music Venue
Asheville’s year-round music scene offers an array of live shows for lovers of contemporary and traditional songs alike. With a rich history of bluegrass and folk as well as up-and-coming indie talent, the Blue Mountain Ridge city is home to festivals, drum circles and notable venues such as The Orange Peel and The Grey Eagle Tavern, which have earned recognition from “Rolling Stone” and “Garden & Gun.” A recent addition to the city’s music hubs is Salvage Station, located on the banks of the French Broad River a mere half-mile from downtown.
3. Explore the City With a Comedy Tour
City bus tours aren’t always the best way to experience a city, but LaZoom turns the ride into a theater piece that’s 100 percent worth it for newcomers and locals alike. Blending a historic overview of Asheville with outrageous comedy skits and special appearances, you’ll be whisked along roads that take you from downtown to Montford to the River Arts District and beyond, with plenty of laughs along the way. LaZoom also offers a few other special experiences on wheels, including Fender Bender (a brewery bus tour through Beer City U.S.A. set to live music), Ghosted (a hysterical voyage into Asheville’s spooky side) and Lil Boogers (a family-friendly ride geared toward the youngsters in your group).
4. Try Snow Tubing
Started in 1968 by Bud Edwards, Wolf Ridge is a skiing and snowboarding resort that gives visitors and locals plenty to do in the winter months. But don’t spend all your time on the slopes — half a mile away is Wolf Ridge’s popular tube run, with a 350-foot hill to slide down (and a “magic carpet” mechanical lift to ferry you back to the top for another round of fun). If you’re coming from out of town, consider staying the weekend at the cozy lodge, which overlooks the slopes and offers a cafeteria-style grill and gear rental shop to get you prepped for all the activities on the premises. Wolf Ridge is currently closed due to a lack of snow — be sure to check the Snow Report on its website for updates.
5. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Head just west of Asheville to hitch a hot air balloon ride with the Asheville Balloon Company. Offering breathtaking views of the wood-studded Western North Carolina mountains, the experience begins at sunrise and takes about three hours from start to finish. (The flight itself lasts an hour.) You can choose between public baskets (three-person minimum) and private baskets (two-person minimum). The most popular season to fly is fall, when the leaves of the 100+ species of deciduous trees in Asheville offer a vibrant, dramatic display of color change. Whether you’re booking for yourself or as a gift, book the flight at least two months in advance (and six for a fall trip).
6. Enjoy a Private Turkish Steam Room
Hammam at the Asheville Salt Cave is a unique spa experience inspired by centuries-old Turkish and Moroccan bathing traditions. Rather than using thermal waters (as in a thermal spa), hammam uses hot steam to provide a deeply relaxing and cleansing treatment that can help calm the mind, purify the skin and detoxify the organs. You can book a private steam session for up to five friends or loved ones that takes place in the facility’s newly constructed steam rooms, adorned with copper basins and handcrafted tile mosaics. Complimentary Turkish towels, water shoes, soap and a Kesse Mitt are provided.
7. Go Indoor Climbing
Climbmax’s 6,000-square-foot facility of indoor climbing walls is worth a visit, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced mountaineer. No reservations are necessary, either: you can drop into the gym solo or with a friend, though Climbmax does allow you to host a private birthday party or large group at a discounted per-person rate, with instructor guides and gear rental available as well for a one-stop, one-shop fitness experience. If you’re not an alpine person, there’s more to check out: Climbmax now offers a fleet of all-terrain bikes for exploration of Asheville’s River Parks District and parks.
8. Relax in a Salt Cave
For more than 10 years, Salt Spa Asheville has provided a special sanctuary for locals. Here, even the most chemical-sensitive individuals can enjoy a relaxing, stress-reducing session inside a beautifully lit Himalayan Salt Cave outfitted with more than five tons of pristine Himalayan Salt Crystals, EMF-free floor heat, an allergen-free custom ventilation system and a temperature-controlled environment. It uses a technique known as halotherapy (or dry salt therapy) to help people breathe more easily and find relief, particularly during seasons with lots of pollen. That said, anyone can benefit from this alternative wellness practice, with bookings available for couples and those interested in healing sound therapy, too.
9. Tune Out in a Sensory Deprivation Tank
Sensory deprivation tanks, also known as isolation tanks or float tanks, are a dark, soundproof environment filled with about a foot or less of Epsom-filled water. When heated to body temperature, resting in a float tank creates a silent, weightless experience that can help your brain and muscles relax. Still Point Wellness in Asheville offers its own float tanks and Esalen® Massages, a unique massage method formulated at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur that focuses on mind-body relaxation and awareness. When life feels extra busy and you’re itching for some “time away,” booking a one-hour float tank session may help ease your anxieties.
10. Take the Kids to a Trampoline Park
Launch Trampoline Park is the epitome of a trampoline arena — it has basketball and dodgeball courts, indoor climbing walls, obstacle courses, arcades and more for a full day of family-friendly fun. Though it’s a popular destination for birthday parties (check out the Asheville location’s birthday bundles that come with pizzas, unlimited drinks and private party amenities), Launch also offers an array of programs for busy parents who want a babysitter or after-school care alternative, kids with special needs, toddlers and more.
11. Zipline Across the City’s Treetops
Navitat’s renowned flagship treetop and mountaintop zipline experiences in Asheville are a must-visit for an unparalleled scenic adventure. Its world-famous Treetop Tour features almost three hours of ziplines up to 1,250 feet long and 200 feet high, sky bridges, timber stair climbs and rope descents. Its newer Mountaintop Tour offers an even more jaw-dropping option for the biggest thrill-seekers, with ziplines up to 3,600 feet long that allow for speeds of up to 65 miles per hour. The company’s mission to be a leader in environmental stewardship is icing on the cake — from passionate, trained staff to its detailed site management plans that care for local tree habitats, Navitat goes out of its way to make a bigger impact on the region’s ecosystems. Note: Navitat is closed for winter.
12. Experience the Iconic Biltmore
The Biltmore estate is George Vanderbilt’s 250-room chateau, a jewel of Asheville and an iconic national marvel of architecture and hospitality in its own right — even now, more than 120 years after its 1895 completion. For single-day visits, pop in for a self-guided tour of the house and gardens (designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted), visit the winery for a complimentary tasting or enjoy the recreational activities and dining options in Antler Hill Village. Weekenders can book overnight accommodations on the 8,000 acres of estate, with customized experiences, tours, exhibitions and more.
Interested in moving to Asheville? Check out The Ultimate Moving Guide to Asheville, NC.