See the outline of Downtown Asheville on a map, and its radical, irregular edged shape could be a piece from a jigsaw puzzle. But it doesn’t take long to work out, when it comes down to having a good time, this North Carolina city district is the perfect fit and has more going on than many downtown areas twice its size.
Make an inspiring visit to the home of one of America’s greatest writers, indulge in a salt cave spa or explore a fascinating urban trail. Zoom around Downtown Asheville on a purple bus, watch craftsmen blow glass or investigate the district’s culinary scene on a walking tour then watch the sunset on the mountains. It doesn’t get better than that. Or does it?
Do all of these best fifteen things to do in Downtown Asheville, and you’ll find your stay in the “Paris of the South” won’t just be better than good, it’ll be downright amazing.
1. LaZoom Tours
A wild and wacky way to see Downtown Asheville is on a LaZoom Comedy Bus Tour. Don’t expect normal. It’s just not going to happen.
Think more along the lines of men dressed as nuns and plenty of hilarious slapstick combined with sightseeing around Downtown, the River Arts district, and the Montford neighborhood.
The LaZoom Comedy Bus departs from Biltmore Avenue in Downtown Asheville. The jokes flow from the word go and continue for the entire trip which lasts around ninety minutes.
Prefer a walking tour with beer? Try out the BREW-ed Downtown Asheville Brewery Walking Tour
2. Thomas Wolfe Memorial
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial is a rambling 19th-century mansion on North Market Street in Downtown Asheville dedicated to honoring the famous American author whose writing was inspired by the city and its people.
The museum contains over eight hundred items pertinent to the writer and the era of his literary works. In a time-capsule fashion, the rooms of the house are furnished as they were during the period Thomas Wolfe was resident in the property and it was functioning as a boarding house.
It’s possible to explore the exhibits alone or to join a guided tour of the house with narration by a qualified historian.
Related tour: Asheville City Tour
3. Grove Arcade
The Grove Arcade is Downtown Asheville’s most popular mall for shopping and eating out. Built in the late 1920s, the historic building was one of the most elegant of its time and is a registered landmark.
The mall was renovated in 2002 and re-opened to continue trading in its original way with a diverse collection of select retailers offering unique services and products. Inside there are fine jewelers, specialist clock and watchmakers and even an outlet selling only fossils and minerals imported from around the globe.
The Grove Arcade also has a diverse selection of eateries serving everything from falafel, burgers, and pizza to a champagne bar with a book exchange and a wine bar with an outside patio. There is also a daily Artists Market for local crafters to sell their work.
4. Asheville Urban Trail
Walking the Asheville Urban Trail is a great way of getting to know Downtown Asheville, learning some of its history and seeing its plethora of public artworks all at the same time. The trail is just under two miles long, commences in Pack Place and makes almost a complete circuit around the Downtown area before culminating not far from where it started.
Trail maps are available from the information center in Pack Square Park or downloadable online. There are thirty individual artworks in total along the trail. Among them bronze turkeys and pigs, an enormous flat iron and life-size statues of a fiddler and dancers to name just a few.
Take a camera and snap shots of the sculptures. They’ll make a great addition to any souvenir collection of Downtown Asheville photographs.
Related tour: 2 hour Guided Segway Tour
5. French Broad Chocolate Lounge
Skip dinner and go straight for dessert at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The celestial blue building, on the corner of Pack Square in Downtown Asheville, houses every chocoholic’s idea of heaven.
In the Lounge’s bare brick and polished wood interior, indulge in handmade truffles, ice creams, cookies or any other of the multitude of sweet confections or chocolate orientated drinks.
All the desserts are created from chocolate made in the French Broad Chocolate Factory which, although outside of the Downtown district, is also well worth a visit
6. Asheville Community Theater
The Asheville Community Theater on East Walnut Street is where the local Downtown Asheville community go to show off their talent.
The community theater has been hosting top-class performances from local actors for over sixty years in productions as varied as Sweeney Todd, Young Frankenstein and Annie, Get Your Gun.
While the participants may not be full-time actors and actresses, expect a great show presented with professionalism.
7. Asheville Museum Of Science
Make a fascinating visit to the Asheville Museum Of Science on Downtown Asheville’s Patton Avenue. The museum may be small, but it has some powerful interactive exhibits which will blow any visitor away.
Step inside the Hurricane Simulator and feel the full force of a storm or create rain in the French Broad River Water table display before getting up close to the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex or a robot used to explore Mars.
The museum also houses an extensive collection of minerals in the Colburn Hall of Minerals as well as multiple displays on the geology of North Carolina.
8. Off The Wagon
The Off The Wagon is a lively dueling piano bar on North Market Street in Downtown Asheville.
Grab a seat in the 1920s speakeasy-style bar and wait for the party to start. Be prepared to join in with either choosing songs for the piano players to perform or sing along when the words are familiar.
It’s cool, it’s casual, and it’s a fun night out in Downtown Asheville.
9. Asheville Salt Cave
Experience the therapeutic qualities of rock salt at the Asheville Salt Cave on Eagle Street in Downtown Asheville.
Meditate among the negative ions in a cave constructed of twenty tons of pink salt blocks to recharge your spiritual and physical batteries, take a detoxifying hot salt stone massage or an aromatherapeutic salt glow treatment.
Sound healing concerts, Yoga Nidra sessions and new moon meditation are also practiced at the Asheville Salt Cave.
10. Lexington Glassworks
Visit the Lexington Glassworks on Downtown Asheville’s South Lexington Avenue to watch master glass blowers at work in their studio.
View the entire process as the blowers transform an innate blob of glass into an incredible and unique work of art with their breath and a few twists of the rod.
If the heat of the furnace brings on a thirst, the studio has an in-house tap room selling Asheville craft beers served in hand-blown glasses.
11. The Flying Bike
Take the hard work out of pedaling and tour around Downtown Asheville on a Flying Bike. Join the tour just outside of Downtown on Coxe Avenue, mount one of the Pedego Boomerang Plus cycles and whizz back to the district for a morning of electric-powered exploring.
Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, take in the main Downtown Asheville sights during the two and a half hour tour which covers around nine miles of the district’s streets.
Don’t want a tour? Then hire a Flying Bike and cycle around Downtown at your own pace. Both ways are great fun.
12. Asheville Pinball Museum
Take a trip back in time and into the historic world of gaming at the Asheville Pinball Museum at Battle Square in Downtown Asheville.
The museum has eighty machines ranging from antique pinball to classic video games such as Pac-man which are all playable.
Entrance is restricted to a maximum of eighty people at a time to ensure every visitor has a machine to test their skills on. Get there early; pinball is a popular activity in Downtown Asheville.
13. Taste Carolina Food Tour
One way to delve deep into the cuisine and sample what’s on offer in more than one Downtown Asheville restaurant at a time is to join a Taste Carolina Food Tour.
Enjoy a Downtown Asheville Tasting Tour early in the day visiting farm-to-table restaurants, gourmet food stores and hidden culinary gems which are hard to find or take a Downtown Asheville Evening Eats and Drinks Tour for some sophisticated sampling.
You’ll soon discover why DT Asheville has become a preferred destination for foodies in North Carolina.
Related tour: Hidden Gems! Walking Eats & Drinks Tour of Downtown Asheville
14. Asheville Music Hall
There is nothing old-fashioned or vaudeville about the Asheville Music Hall on Downtown Asheville’s College Street.
The Asheville Music Hall is an up to date concert venue which features top bands and DJ’s as well as hosting trivia nights plus talent and songwriting competitions.
The venue has a standing capacity for over three hundred and fifty spectators plus an additional bar, the One Stop, for showcasing local musical talent.
15. Montford Rooftop Bar
The Montford Rooftop Bar in Hyatt Place on Haywood Street is the place to watch the sun go down on Downtown Asheville.
The sky-high bar has a west-facing, glass-walled terrace with uninterrupted views over the mountain ranges surrounding the city
Sipping on an Asheville craft beer or a cocktail and nibbling on some baked Carolina bison meatballs or house tater tots while enjoying sensational sunset vistas is the perfect way to end a day in Downtown Asheville.