Surrounded by Smoky Mountain views and beautiful southern scenery, Asheville has long been a top place to visit, as well as to live. Asheville is the 11th largest city in the state of North Carolina, and this historic area has much to offer.
From unique tourist attractions to iconic historic buildings, Asheville is an ideal destination for any time of year. Whether you prefer to hike through the winding trails in the warmer seasons or explore when it becomes a winter wonderland, there are many things to love about Asheville.
Pisgah National Forest
Pisgah National Forest isn’t just one of the most beautiful places in the state, but it plays a huge part in American Conservation’s history. In fact, Pisgah was one of the original national forests, founded in 1911, giving rise to the U.S. Forest Service.
This stunning park stretches more than 500,000 acres! Across all of this preserved natural land, guests can find hiking trails, white water, old growth forests, and more. Besides the surrounding wilderness, fall colors, and numerous recreational activities, Pisgah has one of the best-kept secrets for a family adventure.
The Cradle of Forestry was the very first forestry school in the nation, and today it is still operating to bring conservationism and education to the public.The separate facility that has one-part museum and one-part family fun center surrounded by forests is one experience you don’t want to miss.
Asheville Pinball Museum
When you need a break from hiking the outdoors, the Pinball wizard in your group will love this next popular destination. The Asheville Pinball Museum is one the best places to find old school gaming and those who still love to play them.
In addition to explaining the history of pinball, the $15 admission price also scores you unlimited gaming. There’s no need to juggle quarters or break the bank; just hours of fun pulling the plunger and lighting up the board.
Summer is the museum’s busiest season, as this is a great way to find an indoor activity. They do take reservations, but they must be made in person.
Asheville Urban Trail
Located in the city’s downtown, you can find the popular “museum without walls”. As you walk through the Urban Trail, you will be delighted to find a large collection of outdoor public artwork. In addition to unique art installations, the trail contains five distinct sections. These sections represent the five historical eras of Asheville.
In total, there are 30 spots along the trail. Each section has the corresponding architecture to enjoy along the way. It will probably take a few hours, but what better way to learn about a city than walking through it? Best of all, this attraction is free to enjoy.
Maps can be picked up at the visitor’s center. Also, a virtual tour podcast and map can be downloaded. Other map centers include Pack Place Pavilion, the Asheville Art Museum, and the Thomas Wolfe House, allowing you to join the trail from just about anywhere.
North Carolina Arboretum
If the idea of Pisgah National Forest seems a little too rustic, but you still want to see lush plants, the North Carolina Arboretum is a perfect medium. Located just south of the city, this is one of the best gardens to visit around.
This 65-acre outdoor park features many permanent and seasonal exhibit. Also, hiking and bike trails, specialty events, educational programs, and more. The Bonsai exhibit features 50 plants at a time. On the contrary, the Forest Meadow offers a quiet spot to sit back and enjoy the scenery.
If you’re worried that plants aren’t going to be enough to hold everyone’s attention, the arboretum is also home to over 200 works of art. The onsite Art Walk showcases their permanent pieces while rotating art exhibits can also be found.
Without a doubt, Biltmore Estates is among the most beloved landmarks of the Asheville area. Featured in the 1994 family comedy Richie Rich starring Macaulay Culkin of Home Alone fame.
Walking through this estate is impressive, and there is enough to see to warrant several trips to this famous residence of George Washington Vanderbilt II. This sprawling chateau-style mansion featured amenities that were unheard of for their time. Including a private bowling lane, and an indoor pool that takes up an entire room. In addition, an onsite winery, and even an onsite village for the help!
The estates transform with the seasons, making this an incredible stop on any trip. Seasonal events take place as well, including outdoor concerts and Christmas-themed specials in the winter.
Tours & Accommodations
Because the grounds and the home are large, there are many available tours to take part in. Although some areas of the home are off limits, there are more than enough public spaces to whet your appetite for history, architecture, art, wine, and more.
Finally, if touring these grounds isn’t enough, you can live like a king (or at least sleep like one). There are three onsite choices for accommodations, although these are most definitely in the “luxury” category. Even still, the magic of Biltmore Estates is popular for weddings, as well as for tourists.
You can start planning your getaway to the charming small town of Asheville here.