30 Reasons Why Asheville, North Carolina Should Be On Your Vacation Bucket List

Asheville is a beautiful and shining gem tucked away in the Smokey Mountains. I love Asheville, North Carolina. I have grown older and experienced the beauty that is in and around Asheville multiple times I took my first trip up to Asheville in 2005 when I was 12 years old. I have always loved the mountains, and we had taken many trips to the Smokey Mountains as a family before then.

But going to Asheville for the first time offered completely new experiences for me and my family. There are many reasons why Asheville keeps me entranced and coming back.

Here are 30 things to do while vacationing in Asheville, North Carolina.

birds-eye view of the Biltmore Estate
birds-eye view of the Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate and Asheville

Biltmore Estate and Asheville might as well have been another world away compared to the one I had known and grown up in. I have always adored the mountains, particularly the Smokey Mountains.

Due to my upbringing, I had always had a tendency to admire the finer trappings of life. Biltmore was the combination of those two favorite things into one. Up until that point in my life when I was 12, I thought that those two things (mountains and opulence) didn’t exist in the same space.

So for me to see that those aspects not only exist but thrive off of each other was wonderfully fulfilling me as a child with a very strong and overactive imagination. If you are a creative soul, no matter how many years your body has been on this earth, I cannot express enough how rich and rewarding a trip just to the Biltmore house alone would be to spark creative endeavors.

1. General Tour of the Baltimore House

Have you ever visited somewhere at a young age that left a profound impact on you? When I first visited Biltmore Estate, I was just in ah of the splendor of not only the estate itself but also the lands and the community that had come to surround it. The general tour of the Biltmore House takes you through the main and most beautifully articulated rooms that represent Biltmore's style and beauty.

The general tour offers audio packages for a small additional fee, for both children and adults, that you can listen to as you stroll through the home’s magnificent rooms and halls in awe.

front view of the baltimore house
image source: britannica

The general tour of the homes also offers multiple packages for you and your family to choose from. There is the Enhanced Experience, and then there is the Exclusive Experience. The Enhanced Experience is the more affordable option and an at-your-own pace tour. The Exclusive Experience gives visitors a more personal, 90 minute, tour, lead by a Biltmore expert and gives the visitor access to rarely-seen areas of the home.

I remember on my first visit to Asheville and the estate when we did the general tour of the home. To this day, I can see how a lot of my creative projects from that point onwards found their rooting at Biltmore and the surrounding area.

2. Behind The Scene Tours of the Baltimore home

Biltmore also offers several “behind the scenes” tours of the home as well. To this day, I have never taken the opportunity to go on one of these tours, but they sound positively riveting.

backstairs tour of baltimore
image by baltimore

One of the BTS (Behind The Scene) tours is the Biltmore House Backstairs Tour. This tour offers an exclusive look into the lives of people who lived and worked at Biltmore to keep it up and running back during the lives of the Vanderbilts who called it home.

baltimore estate rooftop view
image by pinterest

Another BTS tour that I sadly have not yet taken is the Rooftop Tour. If you are a shutterbug like me, this tour offers an opportunity to capture moments of full 360 views of the beauty that surrounds Biltmore from atop the roof and special balconies.

baltimore estate rooftop view
image by pinterest

3. Wine Tasting at the Baltimore winery

Biltmore Estate has isn’t very own winery on its massive grounds. Complimentary wine tasting is including in all admissions to the home.

baltimore estate winery
image by littleonline

In carrying on with Biltmore tradition, their winery gives each visiting guest the Vanderbilt treatment with exquisite samples of even their best wines. In addition to wine tasting, guests are even offered complimentary truffle tasting that is made locally.

4. Fine & Casual Dining at the Baltimore Inn

When dinners, the Vanderbilts believed that dining should be an experience. Biltmore offers over a dozen casual and fine dining restaurants and eateries on its grounds; ranging from small bites to expertly crafted gourmet options. There is something for even the most peculiar tastes.

casual dining at baltimore inn
casual dining at Baltimore inn

The last time I visited Biltmore, my grandmother and I had a delightful experience at Cedric’s Tavern; which offers not only pub food, but also classic American and global cuisines, as well as a fine selection of spirits, locally crafted beers, and wines from Biltmore and beyond.

fine dining at Baltimore
fine dining at Baltimore

Other dining options are - The Dining Room-four-star dining in the Biltmore Inn. The Bistro-changing varieties of estate-raised and regionally sourced delectables. The Library Lounge-small plates and snacks offered in the Biltmore Inn serve a casual yet elegant experience.

You can also have afternoon tea at the Biltmore Inn in either the Dining Room or the Library Lounge. I would have so loved to have tea when I last visited, but sadly the offer was not availed even due to the pandemic. An honorable mention is Creamery, which is an ice cream shop right outside the Biltmore house that serves the best ice cream my grandmother and I have ever had!

5. Lodging at the Biltmore cottages

Biltmore accompanies its guests like no other in true Vanderbilt fashion. The estate grounds have several properties to stay at; which include the Inn on Biltmore, the Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, and Cottages on Biltmore Estate. 

In Inn offers four-star luxury accommodations that would make George Vanderbilt II proud, with staff that offer gracious hospitality that made being a guest of Vanderbilt an exquisite honor.

baltimore cottage
image source: Baltimore

The Village Hotel is more moderately economical but doesn’t offer any less hospitality. The Village Hotel is located near the shops, restaurants, and winery of Biltmore’s on-site village Antler Hill.

inside the baltimore cottage
inside the Baltimore cottage

The Cottages offer premium tranquility charms with off all hospitality worth of the Vanderbilt name. These cottages are the only accommodations on the Biltmore grounds that take guests back to the time of Vanderbilt’s era-with modern amenities of course.

6. Guided Horseback and Carriage Riding

If you have never been horseback riding or taken a stroll on a carriage ride, Biltmore is the place to have such a first-time experience.

carriage riding at baltimore
carriage riding

Biltmore carriage rides range from 30-minutes to an hour, as well as offer 90-minute private carriage rides. Horseback riding comes in two options, a 30-minute guided trail riding and a two-hour private trail riding experience.

7. Biking & Hiking in the trails of the Baltimore ground

The estate grounds are a whopping 8000 acres of gorgeous nature! Which gives visitors no shortage of options on how they would wish to explore such magnificent beauty.

Biltmore offers numerous hiking and bike riding tours through the trails of the area. If you would just like a simple stroll to take in the beauty from outside the estate, they offer a Rive Stroll Hike that should last even the most leisure hikers around 45-minutes to an hour.

baltimore trails for biking
biking at the Baltimore trails

However, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you are more than welcome to take on the Sensory Journey Hike. This adventure takes you around Antler Hill Village into the woods around the estate. This hike generally takes visitors around 60 to 70 minutes to complete.

Biltmore has five bike riding options for those who want to explore the grounds at a little bit faster pace than a brisk walk. Antler Village offers a quaint Farm Trail Guided bike ride as well as an “Intro to Mountain Biking” for the novice to the intermediate bike enthusiasts. They also offer two to four-hour bike rentals.

8. Canoeing and Kayaking at Baltimore watershed

If you don’t feel like exploring the land, you have the option of exploring the water around Biltmore.

Kayaking at Baltimore
image by townnews

Biltmore has two water tour options for you. They offer a self-guided kayak trip and a guided raft trip. Both of these experiences are roughly two hours long.

9. Explore the Italian Garden and the conservatory

Romantic Asheville

This was one of my especially favorite parts while visiting Biltmore as a child!

Even if you don’t care for flowers or gardens, the gardens at Biltmore are worth a gander. The gardens are comprised of acres upon acres of informal and formal arrangements that were designed by famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Two of the most beautiful attractions in the garden are the Italian Garden and the conservatory. 

I remember my mother and me walking through the conservatory and seeing roses with heads the size of diner plates!

10. Christmas is the best time to be at Biltmore!


The Christmas season is my most favorite time of all in Asheville, mainly because of Biltmore Estate. 

If you thought you saw splendor at Biltmore before the month of December, try not to trip over your jaw when it fits the polished floor. The estate offers a special candlelight package touring the estate during the Christmas season.

This means you are welcomed through the home with only the twinkling and glamouring lights to get an ethereal experience of the Biltmore home, as close to what it would have been when George Vanderbilt welcomed guests into his home.

baltimore estate during christmas
decorations at Baltimore estate during the Christmas season. image by pinterest

I cannot fully put into words the grandeur that Biltmore encapsulates during the Christmas season. No detail is too small to be overlooked. For about six weeks from the end of November to the first week in January, they pull out all of the stops.

Christmas is very special at Biltmore and for the descendants of George Vanderbilt. Biltmore Estate’s grand opening to family and friends was on Christmas Eve 1895.

To put into words the yuletide cheer at Biltmore would be an understatement. The staff of the estate articulate 60 Christmas trees throughout the estate, including the emasculate grand tree in the banquet hall.

Christmas celebrations inside the Baltimore estate
image by romanticasheville

Christmas was a little extra special this past, 2020, as Christmas Eve marked the 125th Christmas celebrated at Biltmore Estate. Although because of the pandemic, staff had to take extra precautions and measures for the safety of both staff and guests. However, they still tried their best to make the Christmas season of 2020 extra meaningful by recreating Biltmore’s first Christmas.

I have always wanted to attend a Biltmore candlelight tour, and I was deeply disappointed when the pandemic stopped that from happening this past year. Maybe they’ll do a 125th Anniversary pt. 2 for 2021. I can only hope.

Natural Attractions at Asheville

Asheville is surrounded by some of the most beautiful lands that this country has to offer. If you don’t want to be stuck indoors, Asheville has no shortage of exciting fun to explore outdoors. 

11. Visit Sliding Rock Natural Waterslide

Romantic Asheville

Sliding Rock is located in the Pisgah National Forest. It is a 60-foot long natural waterslide that ends in an eight-foot-deep pool of water. The waterslide is open 7 days a week. The waterslide is family-friendly, however, all parties must be able to swim to be able to go down the waterslide. Children under the age of seven must be accompanied by an adult. 

The waterslide may be closed at random times due to high water or severe weather. Please check accordingly before your visit.

12. 10-acre independent Botanical Gardens of Asheville

To quote their website, the Botanical Gardens is, “a 10-acre independent, non-profit botanical garden dedicated to the study and promotion of the native plants and habitats of the Southern Appalachians.”

Botanical gardens of the Asheville
Botanical Gardens of Asheville

The gardens are open seven days a week from 7 am to 7:30 pm. Admission is free. The garden has trails and a creek leading all through the natural exhibits. 

13. Explore the Chimney Rock State Park

Romantic Asheville

I have been to Chimney Rock State Park many times throughout my life, and I never get tired of seeing it. Their website isn’t kidding when it refers to the park as “a nature lover’s paradise”.

The park is both kid-friendly and wheelchair-accessible. 

There are multiple things to do at the park. The main attraction. Chimney Rock, is a 535 million-year-old monolith that offers 75-mile panoramic views at the top of the rock.

Aside from the Chimney Rock, there are multiple trails to explore; including Exclamation Point Trail, Four Seasons Trail, Great Woodland Adventure Trail, Hickory Nut Falls Trail, Outcroppings Trail, and Skyline Trail.

The park also offers family fun, music, and rock climbing.

14. Family-friendly activities at Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah national forest
Pisgah National Forest

Pisgah National Forest is over 500,000 acres of just sheer beauty perched in heart of the Smokey Mountains. There is no shortage of excitement that can be found at Pisgah National Forest. Family-friendly activities include bicycling, camping and cabin renting, mountain climbing, rock climbing, fishing, hiking, scenic driving, and much more.

15. Zip Lining through the Blue Ridge Mountains

Explore Asheville

Doesn’t standing on the side of a mountain, overlooking the view make you wish that you could just glide through the valley? While you might not sprout wings, Asheville does have a ton of places to zip line that does give you the feeling of flying.

Navitat Canopy Adventures and Asheville Treetops Adventure Park are both top-rated places zip lining as one of their many fun adventures that are family-friendly. 

16. River Rafting at the Asheville Outdoor Center

Like zip-lining, Asheville has no shortage of places to river raft in the area. Some favorite places to river raft are French Board Outfitters-Hominey Creek, and Asheville Outdoor Center.

river rafting at asheville
image by romanticasheville

There are also more than a few places outside of Asheville that offer river rafting as well. Places outside of Asheville include Appalachian Riverboard Company in Woodfin, NC, which is not even five miles outside of the Asheville city limits.

17. Checkout America’s largest suspension bridge at Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain

One of the main attractions at Grandfather Mountain is the Mile High Swinging Bridge. Don’t be fooled by the name, The Mile High Swinging Bridge is much safer than the name makes it out to be.

It is America’s largest suspension bridge, giving visitors a full 360 view of panoramic views from the mountain. The bridge isn’t actually a mile high into the air, mile-high just comes from the fact that the bridge is suspended 5280 (one mile) feet above sea level.

Like Chimney Rock, I have been to Grandfather Mountain more times than I can recall with my family growing up. And also like Chimney Rock, there isn't any shortage of activities for the whole family. 

If heights aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other things to see and do, like hiking, visiting the nature museum, and observing the wildlife and bird watching.

18. Beautiful waterfalls at DuPont State Forest

Romantic Asheville

If you’re looking for a beautiful waterfall, DuPont State Forest has got you covered. Although the park is located roughly 40 miles outside of Asheville, between Brevard and Hendersonville, NC, it is well worth the drive to see the park’s 7 waterfalls, and maybe hike a mile or two of their 86 miles worth of trails around the park. With over 10,000 acres of pure glorious nature, there’s no shortage of things to see at DuPont State Forest.

19. Hike the smokey mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway

It goes without saying that I have spent many hours here with my family also. Blue Ridge Parkway has some of the most beautiful scenes of the Smokey Mountains. If you want to see the most see one of the most beautiful parts of the country, look no further than Blue Ridge Parkway.

Hike the smokey mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway
image by romanticasheville

The Blue Ridge Parkway has some unique areas that are worth the trip to the area alone. Graveyard Fields, Milepost 417, is a unique piece of landscape that has easy hiking trails to view two waterfalls. The Devil’s Courthouse, Milepost 422.4, is another unique landscape that is a must-see for any serious hiker.

If you choose to take this hike on, be sure to wear really good shoes! The hike is roughly 42 miles long; but once you reach the top, it gives you a full 360 panoramic view.

20. Engage in the indoor and outdoor exhibits of the North Carolina Arboretum

The North Carolina Arboretum is a 434-acre public garden located in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. The Arboretum was created by an affiliate of the University of North Carolina and modeled after what Frederick Law Olmsted envisioned for his research for an arboretum when working with George Vanderbilt II on Biltmore Estate. If you see any similarities between the gardens at Biltmore and the Arboretum, it is not a coincidence.

exhibits of the North Carolina Arboretum
image by romanticasheville

The arboretum offers much more to see than just pretty gardens on manicured paths. According to their website, the North Carolina Arboretum offers, “engaging indoor and outdoor exhibits focused around science, education, arts, and culture”. The arboretum offers great experiences for families of all ages, but especially for young children as the arboretum offers exciting learning experiences.

The North Carolina Arboretum can best be located adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393.

Man-Made Attractions at Asheville

21. Find local crafts at the Biltmore Village

As I grew up and began to visit Asheville more frequently, I began to fall in love with the city of Asheville almost as much as I have loved Biltmore Estate.

The area in Asheville closest to Biltmore Estate is called “Biltmore Village”. Historically, Biltmore Village was the little nook of town that mainly houses the workers of Biltmore Estate.

local crafts at biltmore village
image by romanticasheville

In our modern-day, Biltmore Village is home to a variety of unique and wonderful over 50 shops and restaurants, including craft breweries, antique stores, local crafts, a Christmas shop, and many other shops and eateries to fit any taste. Biltmore Village also plays host to a couple of festivals throughout the year.

Summertime brings the Biltmore Village Art and Craft Fair to the city of Asheville, with over 100 local artists showcasing their finest at the beautiful Cathedral of All Souls in the village. You can also stay in Biltmore Village at one of the many hotels that dot the area. Many of the buildings in Biltmore Village are historic and original to the era of the turn of the 20th century.

22. Family-oriented activities at Asheville Art Museum

Established in 1948, the museum’s mission is as stated, “to engage, enlighten, and inspire individuals and enrich the community through dynamic experiences in American art of the 20th and 21st centuries”.

Asheville art museum
image by romanticasheville

The Asheville Art Museum has family-oriented activities that suites every member of your family. They ply a host of events throughout the whole year, especially during the Summer. For instance, they host a Summer Art Camp for grades for kindergarten through the 12th grade. 

In addition to the Summer Art Camp, they also have an ongoing space for children and families to make art called “MarkerSpace”. All ages and abilities are welcome to join. There aren’t any reservations required. So this will be the perfect place to spend an impromptu artful afternoon with your kids.

23. Crystal salt therapy at the Asheville Salt Cave

Asheville Salt Cave

This place took me by surprise. I have never heard of this place before researching for this list. But I will definitely be stopping by on my next trip to Asheville!

The Asheville is a man-made salt cave and spa. About 20 tons of crystal salt was imported to create this secluded retreat. The cave is designed to make all five senses engage for the healing power of nature.

Salt therapy has been used for treatments for allergies, asthma, congestion, arthritis, and even migraines. Individuals and couples can get messages or just relax in this man-made marvel. 

24. Visit the Western North Carolina Nature Center

The Western North Carolina Nature Center is a wealth of Southern Appalachian Mountain beauty all conveniently placed in one place in the city of Asheville.

The people of Asheville consider the WNCNC to be such a vital part of the community that 85% of residents say that they felt the nature center was very important to their community, and 73% felt that it was very important for the center to continue to improve and/or expand.

western North Carolina nature center
Western North Carolina Nature Center

The Center is one of the primary facilities in the area that offers both school children and adults opportunities to learn about and understand how they play a responsibility to the area’s native wildlife and habitats well-being.

The Center is open 7 days a week, from 10 am to 4:30 pm. The last admissions to the park are at 3:30 pm.

25. Browse and shop from 200 local shops and boutiques

If shopping is your game, then downtown Asheville is where you go to play, with over 200 local shops and boutiques to browse. I particularly love shopping in downtown Asheville because of the unique finds that always seem to find me.

shops and boutiques in asheville

On any given weekend of the year, you will find the streets of downtown Asheville beaming with artists and street performers. Downtown is also home to several unique craft breweries, museums, art galleries, outdoor markets, and festivals, and live music happening year around.

26. Get some Antiques for your home for the fancy historical attractions

There is a major difference between shopping and antique shopping. If you know, you know.

Here’s a tip from someone who loves antique shopping: shop for antiques where there’s a major fancy historical attraction. Being that Asheville has Biltmore Estate, you will find some amazing antiques to join your home!

27. Show respect to the heritage of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is a place to honor and show respect for the heritage of the area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A lot of Native Americans work with the center to share their culture with locals and natives from the area.

blue ridge heritage area
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area

One way that Native Americans who work with the museum honor the area is by sharing stories of their ancestors with visitors. Sharing stories is a way that many Native Americans share their culture and keep the stories and memories of their ancestors and culture alive.

blue ridge national heritage area
image by rdcpix

There are many things to do at the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area that are, like many things in Asheville, family-friendly that are both tame and exciting. Aside from the usual park recreational activities like hiking, camping, and sightseeing, you can also river raft, gold and gem mine, watch theater, and go to the farmer’s market, just to name a few things.

28. Re-live your childhood and find arcade games at the Asheville Pinball Museum

Our State Magazine

If you were a child before the age of internet games, the Asheville Pinball Museum will hit you right in nostalgia. The Asheville Pinball Museum is an arcade museum filled with all of your childhood happiness, except you, can now have a beer while you try to beat your old score on the OG Mortal Kombat. 

You don’t have to worry about running out of quarters here; once you the admission fee ($15 for adults/$13 for children 10 & under), all 75 games are free to play. 

If your visit to Asheville falls on a rainy day, this would be a great place to beat the blues!

29. Bar Hopping & Dining at the Downtown Asheville

downtown asheville
downtown Asheville

Downtown Asheville is home to a plethora of modern dining and bars hopping options. Asheville plays host to nearly countless craft breweries and establishments to eat, drink, and be merry. I’m not one for going out and drinking, but Asheville has no shortage of whatever you’re in the mood for and has an antidote for your poison!

30. Connect with the city's art, culture, and history at the Asheville Urban Trail

Explore Asheville

If you want to stay to the more urban side of Asheville, you will definitely not be disappointed. Right in the middle of downtown Asheville, you can go on the Asheville Urban Trail to take in the city’s art, culture, and history.

Gaze upon the trails 30 stations that takes you through the pieces of art and culture that have helped turn Asheville into the Asheville is today. Each station connects a piece of history, art, culture, or person to the area of Asheville.

Asheville urban trail
Asheville Urban Trail

If you want to take a stroll down the Urban Trail, start on Station #1 called “Walk Through History” in front of Pack Place on Pack Square.

In all seriousness, Asheville is one of my most favorite cities I have ever been to. Asheville has everything; beautiful attractions, beautiful nature, beautiful people! If you are looking for a vacation destination to spend some good time with your friends and family, then look no further!

Hi! My name is Kathlyn and I love travel, history, foodies, and all things paranormal.

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