Updated: May 26, 2022
Asheville is a city in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s known for its vibrant arts scene and historic architecture. It’s also affordable, and to my excitement, there are dozens of waterfalls all within an hour of each other. The perfect spot for hiking and nature. That also means there are a ton of fun and cheap things to do in Asheville!
This summer my family took a vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains outside Asheville, the next winter, I went with my boyfriend. Below are some things I suggest after two visits to the city.
Things you should know…
It rains here in the summer almost daily. It’s classified as a rainforest and that’s part of why it’s so smoky. Be prepared with rain gear.
The weather is also fairly cold at times, even in the summer. The water is extremely cold because you’re in mountains so be ready on hikes and swims to be a bit cold.
Many hikes are wet or damp and include close encounters with waterfalls. I suggest wearing shoes you don’t mind getting wet like Chacos or Tevas while hiking.
Everything is really spread out. All within a few hours, but you’re driving windy roads the entire time. Be prepared to spend time in the car and for fairly treacherous roadways.
There are tons of affordable options for your stay around Asheville. I recommend a house on AirBnB if you want something affordable and fun. Having an AirBnB was nice after long days of hiking and driving! You can check out a code for $40 off here.
If you are looking for more info, this Smoky Mountains guide will help you plan beyond Asheville.
Now that you’ve got some tips… here’s the fun!
1. Walk the Streets of Asheville and eat a biscuit at Early Girl Eatery
$12 a meal
We spent an afternoon in Asheville walking around and seeing the city. Our first stop was at this awesome place Early Girl Eatery, known for its biscuits. It has got to be one of the best I’ve ever had! Asheville is known for it’s barbecue and biscuits. This is the perfect stop! The area around here is also super cute and walkable. Take some time to walk the streets and stop in cute shops.
2. River Arts District
Ashville has some awesome murals all throughout the city. Check out the River Arts District for some of the coolest ones as well as awesome food, local art, beer, and artist studios! There’s also an awesome taco shop (White Duck Tacos) right along the river which is the perfect stop for some awesome food. There’s also tons of breweries right here too!
The Wedge Brewing Company, a local’s favorite hangout, has two locations in the River Arts District, 37 Paynes Way and 5 Foundy Street. New Belgium Brewery is just across the river. Daidala Ciders (122 Riverside Drive) is a nomadic cider company focusing on small batch creations, located in The Historic Cotton Mill Studios.
3. Check out the Basilica of Saint Lawrence
This basilica in downtown Asheville really stands out because of its unique architecture! It’s a Spanish-style basilica and beautiful inside. It’s free to visit, but a donation is encouraged when you walk in.
4. Head to Grove Arcade
Grove Arcade is a really cool historic building located close to the basilica and Early Girl Eatery. It’s unique architecture makes it a beautiful stop on your trip. While we were there over the weekend, local merchants were set up outside selling all types of unique things from art to jewelry to candles. There’s also lots of local spots to eat and drink with awesome outdoor spaces. Definitely worth a stop on your visit!
Because of all the cool stuff downtown and cute spots to check out, this would be a great girls trip! My good friends actually just did a girls trip to Asheville and I had serious fomo.
5. Omni Grove Park Inn
The Biltmore Hotel is the big famous hotel/estate in Asheville, but if you’ve done any research, you know it’s $70 to visit for the day. That’s not budget friendly by any means! Instead, try visiting the historic Omni Grove Park Inn. It’s got great views of Asheville, is free to visit, and has some pretty interesting architecture.
It’s a great spot to grab dinner or a drink too if you want to dress up and do something a little more fancy without breaking the bank. Staying at this spot is about $400 a night though and it’s a beautiful building.
free to $30
Cherokee is home to the Eastern band of Cherokee Indians. I’m actually part Cherokee myself so this was really special for my family. There are lots of free things to do in Cherokee like an interactive museum ($12), native stores, and a theater with a nightly live show sharing the history of the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears called Unto These Hills.
Tickets are about $20-$30 and shows run through summer into early fall. If you love history and want to know more about US and Native American History, this is a stop for you.
9. Looking Glass Falls
This waterfall is quite large and is another short hike. It’s a popular stop along the side of the road so you’ll easily find it. There’s a large pool at the bottom of the falls where people bring floaties and go swimming. We felt like it was too cold (even in July!) to get all the way in but took in some awesome views.
10. Sliding Rock
Sliding Rock is a nature area with a giant natural rock slide. That’s right – a rockslide! It’s a very popular spot and you must pay a small fee to get in. It’s completely worth it! The slide is huge and the water is freezing. There’s no real swimming area here so you slide, get out, and go right back down after your climb.
Be sure to hold onto your belongings or leave them behind! It’s really easy to lose things as you go under at the bottom of the rock slide. Life jackets are available to rent (in cash) here as well.
11. Deep Creek
Deep Creek was one of my favorite spots we went on the trip! It’s a medium difficulty hike that leads you to three different waterfalls. The first half is very uphill while the second part is straight on the way back along the river. The trail is clearly marked and although it’s technically part of the national park, you don’t pay to get in.
There’s also tubing, fishing, and camping in this area. The parking here does fill up early though so come in the morning to get a good spot!
Tubing is just $5 a tube and you can start/stop anywhere you want along the river. A warning about this though. There is an area for white water tubing. It was the most dangerous tubing I’ve ever done (I’ve gone quite a lot in different places). There were spots where 70% of people were falling out of their tube because it was dangerous. A woman actually made her children get out and walk after the first few minutes being so dangerous. Be careful if you decide to do the rapids portion.
So there’s my list of fun and cheap things to do in Ashville! You won’t get bored in this gorgeous. mountainous area. Let me know what other ideas you’ve got in the comments below.