Local’s Guide to Asheville, NC
a town of History
With its roots in wellness and tourism, Asheville came to prominence in the early 1800s thanks to the purported healing powers of its clean mountain air, mild climate, and outdoor lifestyle. Tuberculosis patients and their families flocked into town seeking relief from debilitating symptoms, fell in love with the area, and stayed to make it their home. Some of these families brought great wealth with them and played a large role in shaping the culture and vibe of this up-and-coming town. (Think George Vanderbilt of Biltmore Estate fame and Edwin Grove who created the Grove Park Inn and the Grove Arcade downtown.)
When the railroad came through in 1880, it brought with it new goods and services but, perhaps more importantly, it also brought tourists escaping the mosquitoes and humidity of the South and harsh winters of the North. Boarding houses originally catering to tuberculosis patients became quaint B&Bs. The downtown area sprang to life, and hotels were constructed to satisfy lavish tastes. Artisans from out of town were hired for grand projects like the Biltmore Estate. Eventually, they stayed, and a dazzling art scene emerged.
This boom saw its peak in the 1920s. Then, the Great Depression hit. Families lost their homes, fortunes crumbled, and the city was suffocated by overwhelming debt. Unlike many others across the US, the City of Asheville decided not to file for bankruptcy. They would instead work for the next 50 years to pay off their debt, and, while construction and development virtually ceased, history was preserved.
You can witness this fascinating history of wellness, tourism, and culture in the wide porches of the historic Montford neighborhood, the architectural variety present in our eclectic downtown, and the up and coming River Arts District.
things to do in Asheville, nc
So…have a day or two to explore before your trek with Wildland begins? Here’s where to start:
historic Asheville tours
- Asheville Trolley Tours: a hop-on-hop-off narrated trolley ride and a great way to get your bearings around town. Plus, tickets are good for two days!
- Asheville Wellness Tours: a walking tour of downtown with a wellness focus. Experience a tea tasting, salt cave meditation, and yoga in the park with bits of history in between. Balance, Rejuvenate, Relax.
- LaZoom: bus tours with comedy, family-friendly, and haunted options.
- Hood Tours: The past, present, and future of African-Americans in Asheville is a story of resilience. Learn about this powerful story on Hood Tours: an intimate, interactive experience that is guaranteed to leave you looking at this mountain town with new eyes.
If you’re going on a day hike or multi-day excursion with us, you might already be taking care of your trekking needs, but don’t fret. Western North Carolina is full of other outdoor activities to round out your time. Here are some of our favorites.
- Whitewater Rafting: Class I-IV whitewater rafting & calm water float trips. Just 25 minutes from town!
- Mountain Bike Adventures: Private, customized mountain biking adventures in Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Recreational Forest
- Zip Lining: Navitat offers exhilarating adventures with an educational component for a well-rounded, unmatched experience that will thrill, educate, and inspire you. More than a zip line, this experience will leave you breathless.
- Gear Rental: For those of you who love to branch out on your own, GearU rents mountain bikes, paddleboards, and kayaks. They have 1-3 day passes for your convenience.
- Hiking: If you’re not trekking with us, or you just want to get some extra mileage in, check out our blog post about the best trails around Asheville! Check out hikes that include the Appalachian Trail!
Our recommendation? Explore and taste as many varieties of beer as possible by taking an educational brewery tour with a certified Cicerone! Or, hop on our Brews and Views four-day tour where we mix the best of both worlds with brewery-hopping and hiking.
At last count, over 100 local brews were flowing. Why don’t you sit a spell and have a sip!
The foodie culture here has attracted chefs from all over the world and the Farm-To-Table movement is in full swing. Have a craving? We’re sure you’ll find satisfaction here!
With fertile mountain soil surrounding us on all sides, locally-sourced ingredients and organic options are nearly limitless. We could spend hours trying to tell you where to go. Instead, consider a walking food tour that includes tastings at more than six of Asheville’s best restaurants with a local who will share some history along the way.
If you want to get out of the city, Asheville Farm to Table Tours takes you out to meet the farmers and stroll the grounds where the food you’re eating was grown. Talk about fresh!
Is your mouth watering yet?!
Remember those artists we talked about earlier who came to craft grand estates and ended up staying? Well, they’ve created quite a community since those days and have truly been woven into the fabric of Asheville’s culture. Where to find them? The River Arts District (RAD) along the French Broad River is the place to be. An old industrial district, RAD is now full of working studios for potters, glass blowers, and mixed media artists from all over the world. You can visit artists working in their studios and grab a bite or enjoy a brew along the way.
According to the city of Asheville, “More than 200 artists work in paint, pencil, pottery, metal, fiber, glass, wax, paper and more. As unique and individual as their art, so too are their schedules. There are no official “Open Hours” for the River Arts District, but at any given time throughout the year, you will find a plethora of open studios and galleries. If you are coming to see someone in particular, your best bet is to check in with them before your visit. Do it here, online via our search feature, or check the Studio Guide.”
If a connection to the arts inspires you, consider a workshop, live demonstration, and meet the artists. Check the RAD map and plan your route.
Whew! Well, there you have it, a light sampling of what Asheville has to offer. Have you been to town? What are some of your favorites? Let us know on social media!