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Nantahala Gorge Picnics
Picnic by the Nantahala River while watching whitewater rafters and kayakers negotiate the rapids. At NOC, Big Wesser cafe has street tacos and riverside outdoor tables. A few miles down the road is the Ferebee Memorial on the Mountain Waters National Scenic Byway with a picnic area featuring tables, charcoal grills, flush toilets, and river access.
Founded in 2002, this gear company creates high performing products for wilderness athletes, focusing on building them in the least toxic, lowest impact way. They create durable, high-quality footwear, life jackets, apparel and dog beds in the cleanest, most sustainable way.
Setrock Creek & Roaring Fork Falls
(2 miles roundtrip, easy) Take two one-mile roundtrip waterfall hikes, just a few miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway (exit onto NC 80) near Mt. Mitchell.
Tupelo Honey Cafe
Longtime favorite for both locals and visitors! This is where Tupelo began in 2000 as a destination for scratch-made Southern food rooted in the Carolina Mountains. Breakfast, lunch and dinner served every day. Enjoy craft cocktails, specialty beers and famous honey dusted fried chicken at their new lounge, adjacent to original space. 12 College Street.
KidSenses Hands-On Learning
This large, interactive space offers fun indoor and outdoor exhibits where kids can learn and stimulate imagination through hands-on playing. Their party packages include 20 guests, a party room for one hour, play time in museum, invitations, balloons, and T-shirt for birthday child. Add-ons include character parties, paper goods and favors. Base price: $135.
Nantahala Gorge Canopy Zip Line Tour
Take an exciting zipline tour in the Great Smoky Mountains. The 3-hour zip line flight is powered by gravity and a gradual 3 percent elevation change. The 1/2 mile air time canopy tour takes you through multiple ecosystems.
828 Family Pizzeria, Asheville
Formerly known as Marco’s Pizza, this 4th generation family pizzeria fires up New York style pizza that is crispy and full of flavor. They serve other Italian favorites like salads, pastas, sandwiches, calzones, and strombolis. 946 Merrimon Avenue
Mountain Play Lodge, Asheville
This large indoor play space, ideal for kids 10 and younger, offers two age-appropriate play floors with a variety of soft play equipment including a miniature village, toddler slides, and a large jungle gym with slides. Find a variety of food and beverage options for purchase, including snacks, coffee, and even beer and wine! Admission: $8-14. Don't forget to wear socks!
Dalton Distillery, Asheville
As downtown Asheville’s first legal distillery, Dalton Distillery features top-shelf rum and vodka. They also have fun specialty liquors like agave vodka, apple vodka, and coffee infused rums made from local roasters. Their full-service bar features a patio, billiards, arcade games and table tennis. Bar is open daily, 5 PM-2 AM.
Top 10 Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains Park NC
From world-renowned hiking trails like the AT to lesser-known gems, see our favorite 10 hikes from the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, nearest the Asheville area.
There are dozens of farmer's markets throughout the mountains. The biggest by far is the Western North Carolina Farmers Market that is open every day in Asheville. In downtown, the City Market on Market Street is every Saturday 8 AM-1 PM and the French Broad Co-op Market is Wednesdays 2-6 PM. Find more markets and pick up the Local Food Guide by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.
Cradle of Forestry
(2 miles loop, easy) Walk paved, accessible trails to see restored buildings from the early 1900s and learn about how forestry began in the United States. Perfect for strollers, wheelchairs and scooters.
Mt. LeConte Picnic, Great Smoky Mountains
For a challenging-yet-amazing full-day hike with a "catered" picnic, hike to the 6,593-ft. summit of Mount LeConte (third highest peak in the Smokies). You'll climb 2,853 ft. in elevation in 5.5 miles on the spectacular Alum Cave Trail. LeConte Lodge sits atop the mountain with lunch and snacks for day hikers. Myrtle Point lookout on the summit is a fabulous perch.
Bust Your Butt Falls
This popular swimming hole is on the Cullasaja River along US Highway 64 between Highlands and Franklin. It's roadside, so it's easy for all to enjoy the natural slide and pool for swimming.
Clingmans Dome Trail
(1 mile round-trip, moderate) At 6,643 ft., this is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An uphill, paved trail takes you to the top for panoramic views from the observation tower.
With so many farms surrounding Asheville, it’s no wonder we are a haven for farm-to-table restaurants. Find the best places to eat with award-winning chefs that seek out the best seasonal, local and organic ingredients.
Suwana's Thai Orchard
Located in the heart of downtown Asheville, this Thai restaurant utilizes authentic cooking styles and fresh ingredients to create the warm, smooth and savory flavors of Thailand in each dish. Enjoy abundant portions and try the Crab Rangoons to share! 11 Broadway St
Picnic at Mt. Pisgah
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 407: A large picnic area includes grills, tables and restroom facilities. All are ADA compliant and handicapped accessible. It is located near the Pisgah Inn (one mile south) where you can order picnic food (April-October). You can take a strenuous hike to the top of Mt. Pisgah, but there are no great picnic spots at the summit.
Point Lookout Trail
(7.2 miles round-trip, moderate) The best paved greenway near Asheville is a blast for biking or hiking. This paved path in Pisgah National Forest was formerly part of Old US Highway 70, winding through the woods with views of the mountains, railroad and forest. While the trail is only 3.6 miles one way, it climbs 900 ft. in elevation from Old Fort to Ridgecrest.
(5.4 miles round-trip, strenuous) Atop Mt. Sterling (5,842 ft. elevation) is the historic, 60-ft. tall steel fire lookout tower with nice views. You will climb 2,000 ft. in elevation.
Diamond Brand Gear, Asheville
This 138 year old company manufactures hand-crafted durable outdoor gear made from a wide range of materials,from heavy to high performance to ultra-lightweight. Products include tents, bags, packs and more.
High Five Coffee Bar
Formerly called the Dripolator, this local's favorite is on the other side of I-240 with their own parking area. Their barista's are Counter Culture Coffee-trained to craft only the finest beverages. 190 Broadway Street.
RAD Skatepark, Asheville
This large, indoor skate park in the River Arts District offers a safe, supervised environment for skaters and riders of all ages. Kids may bring skateboards, bikes, or scooters to ride. Parents may drop off and pick up kids or stay and observe in the lounge. RAD also offers lessons and skate camps. Admission starts at $10.
Jackson County Mountains Guide
Order a free 73-page visitors guide for the Sylva, Dillsboro, Lake Glenville, Cherokee and Cashiers areas, including info on fly fishing, hikes and waterfalls in Jackson County, NC.
Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway Picnics
There are plenty of roadside stops (many by a cascading river) on this Byway through the Pisgah National Forest. The section on U.S. Highway 276 between Brevard and the Blue Ridge Parkway passes by Looking Glass Rock, Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock and the Forest Discovery Center. Home to many waterfalls. Just four miles south of the Parkway is the Pink Beds Picnic area with an easy four-mile loop hike.
This casual cantina in downtown Asheville offers Mexican soul food in a friendly atmosphere. Taco menu includes shrimp, fish, steak, pork belly and avocado. In addition to your tacos, try the elote- grilled corn on the cob with lime aioli, chili seasoning, cilantro and queso cotija. 89 Patton Ave
Sky Lanes Bowling Alley
This West Asheville bowling alley offers a great place for kids to have fun, bowl and maybe even get a strike! (Bumpers available) Kids birthday packages are offered from 11 AM-4 PM and includes shoe rental, 1 hr of bowling, food and drink. $12/child.
This historic department store is now home to 160+ local artists offering jewelry, fine art, decorative art and crafts in its nearly 20,000 sq. ft. of space. Browse while sipping a milkshake from the Old Fashioned Soda Fountain. 25 Haywood Street.
This 150-ft. waterfall cascades down a mountainside beside the road, so you enjoy it from your car as you drive by! It's located near Columbus, about 10 miles from Pearson's Falls.
Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking
There are many hikes hidden along the Blue Ridge Parkway that takes you through lush forests, by waterfalls and to mountaintops with sweeping views. See our Top 15 Parkway Quick Hikes with big rewards.
This healing clinic draws from ancient teachings, practices, and modern research to offer comprehensive healing for each patient. Practices include body and energy work, herbal remedies, dietary counseling, stress management, and meditation instruction.
Swim or float in a pool below the 12-foot waterfall in DuPont State Forest. Jump from a rope swing and walk behind the falls.
This locally owned downtown taqueria serves a variety of taco favorites like California-style fish tacos, pulled pork, steak, and adobe chicken. Enjoy fresh taco toppings like pico de gallo, avocados, pickled onions, pineapple salsa, baja sauce and more. Corn tortillas ground onsite daily. Weekly specials include Margarita Mondays and Taco Tuesdays. 77 Biltmore Ave
The Chemist, Asheville
Located in Asheville’s South Slope, this women-owned craft distillery produces vapor-infused, small batch gin by way of prohibition-era chemist techniques. They also feature unique brandy collaborations with local artisans. Book a public or private tour and/or enjoy craft cocktails in their 1920’s inspired bar, Antidote. Bar hours: Mon-Fri 4 PM-12 AM, Sat/Sun 2 PM-12 AM.
West Asheville Restaurants
With a reputation for being cool and hip, West Asheville has fantastic local restaurants and pubs - especially along the main drag of Haywood Road. See our favorites.
India Garden Restaurant
Curries, tandoori items, and other classic Indian fare are featured in a clean and comfy environment in East Asheville. Locals love their bountiful lunch buffet offered from 11 AM-3 PM daily. Enjoy a nice selection of imported Indian beer. 80 S. Tunnel Rd
The Bull and Beggar, River Arts District
Classic European cuisine, cocktail bar and raw bar set in a warm warehouse revamp in the River Arts District. Menu highlights include a two tier raw seafood platter with fresh oysters, clams, shrimp or go big with their 34 oz dry-aged, bone-in ribeye. Reservations recommended. 37 Paynes Way, #007
Picnic at Mt. Mitchell
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 355: Picnic atop the highest summit in eastern North America. The large picnic area has 40 tables adjacent to the parking area at the summit. Two picnic shelters with fireplaces are perfect for groups of up to 16 people. The picnic area is open year-round, but is snow covered much of the winter. Even in the summer, take a sweater or jacket since it can be 10-20 degrees cooler than in the city of Asheville. Use of the shelters is free of charge unless reservations are requested.
Oskar Blues Brewery
(342 Mountain Industrial Drive, Brevard) Oskar Blues' east coast brewery opened in 2012. The Tasty Weasel taproom is open daily with free tours of the brewery. Sample specialty draft ales, enjoy live music and gather with friends.
(5-mile loop, moderate) Hike 30 miles in this wilderness area with waterfalls and dramatic cliffs. A great half day hike is a five-mile loop to Schoolhouse Falls, Greenland Creek Falls and Little Green Mountain. It's easy to extend the hike in the network of trails.
This favorite downtown Italian restaurant is filled with the aromas of house baked artisan bread and mouth watering cuisine. Focuses on fresh ingredients, biodynamic and organically-produced wine selections. Offers traditional recipes from Italy, featuring hand-tossed pizzas, savory pastas, housemade desserts, gluten-free and vegetarian options. 27 Broadway.
(92 Patton Avenue, downtown Asheville) Recognized as one of the best beer bars in the world, they tap 1,000+ different beers a year. The upstairs bar features American Craft Beers with 20 rotating tap lines. Take the stairs down to the basement level to the Belgian Bar (50 Commerce St.) with 16 Belgian, European and rare beers on draught. An extensive bottle list will impress beer-snobs and novices alike.
(2.4 miles round-trip, strenuous) Hike to the summit (6,292 ft.) of the 16th highest mountain in the eastern United States. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 451.
Go to these spots for authentic Thai staples like pad Thai, tom yum, drunken noodles, red curry, and other creative Asian fusion dishes.
Asheville Pizza Company
This local pizza joint is a family-friendly hang out with dine-in $3 movie theatre and gameroom with arcade games, giant connect four, and big screen. Reserve the game room at no charge, cake and ice cream welcome.
Located in Pack Square, this restaurant with an award-winning James Beard chef, serves farm-to-table New American fare. The menu is inspired by seasonal ingredients and pays homage to the bounty of regional and American cooking. A wood-fired oven and grill complement the rustic creations. Check out Sunday Suppers, offered weekly at 6:30 PM. 7 Pack Square.
This roadside waterfall can be viewed from the top on a walkway along US Highway 64 at Lake Toxaway, located between Brevard and Cashiers.
Cradle of Forestry for Kids
Located in Pisgah National Forest near Sliding Rock, learn all about our forests and environment at the location of the nation's first forestry school. Watch a movie, explore 15 hands-on exhibits, ride the fire fighting helicopter simulator and go underground to see animals. Paved hiking trails take you by a locomotive and historic buildings. The Adventure Zone is especially designed for children and adults with autism.
Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians
Through exhibits and videos, learn about past fly fishing legends, the evolution of rods and reels, basic knots, fly-tying, types of gear, types of gamefish, regional fishing waters and the history of fly fishing in the Southeast. Open Mon-Sat, 9 AM-6 PM. Free admission. 210 Main Street (Chamber of Commerce) in Bryson City.
Sky Lanes, West Asheville
Make it a family date at this West Asheville bowling alley, open daily with lots of options for kid-friendly bowling, including bumpers and assist ramp. In-house Bar & Grill menu has a wide variety of bowling alley munchies like nachos and fries, and items like salads, sandwiches, burgers and more. Games: $4, shoe rentals start at $3.
Fork Lore, Biltmore Park
This locally-owned independent restaurant features a made-from-scratch American menu, sourcing from local purveyors whenever possible. The indoor dining space includes a private dining room and a full bar, known for its bourbon selection. Or enjoy cocktails or brunch on the outdoor patio. Located in the Hilton Asheville in Biltmore Park, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. 43 Town Square Blvd, Asheville.
WNC Nature Center
Children can share their birthday with wolves, cougars, otters, and other native animals at the Nature Center. Party includes a 2 hour room rental, 20 guests, table/chairs, fridge/freezer use, self guided tour of the Nature Center. Parties are $225.
Picnic at Beacon Heights
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 305.2: Talk about a picnic with a view! Take a short 1/2-mile hike to a large rock summit with plenty of room for a picnic while taking in wonderful views from several vantage points. This hidden jewel on the Parkway is accessed from a small parking area, so most folks miss it.
Bear's Smokehouse Asheville
This smokehouse in Asheville’s South Slope offers award-winning K.C. Style BBQ with signature items like brisket burnt ends, smoked sausage, loaded baked potatoes, and more. They also offer vegan options like tempeh and Impossible Meatloaf and a variety of craft beer to enjoy! Open 7 days a week with online ordering and delivery available. 135 Coxe Ave
Find easy drinking, clean Belgian and American-inspired ales in a taproom with games, community tables, live music, and a range of food options nearby in hip West Asheville. On Sunday in the warmer months, check out their Sunday Sessions from 3-6 PM with live local music. (265 Haywood Road, Asheville)
A popular taco spot in West Asheville, Taco Billy serves tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Build your own taco or choose from their creative menu with fun ingredients like plantain tortillas, chili-stewed pork and potatoes, goat cheese, pecan and black bean hummus and more. Many gluten-free and vegan options available. 201 Haywood Rd
Fine Arts Theatre
Downtown's only cinema is dedicated to first-run and independent films. See fine films not necessarily shown in the larger commercial theaters in the wonderfully-renovated, older movie house. Located in downtown Asheville at 36 Biltmore.
Asheville Pinball Museum
Featuring many diverse underground treasures like raw minerals, meteorite, gemstones and fossils the museum is a great place to take kids to see the many exhibits and especially highlights like a tyrannosaurus rex skull, a mastodon tusk and teeth, and a wooly mammoth leg bone.
Emerald Village & Mining Museum
A fascinating collection of gem, mining and historical exhibits, including an underground mine tour. Pan for gold and minerals. Located near Little Switzerland, a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
All Sevens Brewing / Westville Pub
(777 Haywood Road, West Asheville) This local's favorite neighborhood bar has more than a dozen taps pouring a frequently-changing variety of local and regional craft beers including those from their brewhouse known as All Sevens Brewing.
Lazoom Kids Comedy Tour
All aboard the big purple bus for this kid-centric comedy tour featuring a blend of Asheville’s history and humor. Geared for kids 5–12, the tour includes magic, jokes, and more with outlandish tour guides leading the way. Tour is 1 hour, kids 3 and under are free. Kid tickets are $17.
Farm Visits & Tours
Visit farms and learn about their local food. See buffalo and alpacas, sample local cheeses, watch bees make honey, visit wineries, pick apples and more. Plus, tour historic farms at Biltmore and in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Wedge Brewing Co
(37 Paynes Way, West Asheville) Located in a warehouse turned art studios in the River Arts District, this local's favorite neighborhood brewery serves classic styles paired with a big variety of food trucks. Open every day.
See the top places to eat if you have celiac disease, are gluten-sensitive, or just prefer to eat gluten-free food. Even find certified gluten-free kitchens where you don’t have to worry about any cross-contamination.
Aquarium & Shark Lab, Hendersonville
This inland aquarium is home to 275 fish, invertebrates, reptiles, and salamanders with 2 dozen exhibits, including a shark study tank. With focuses on education, enrichment and exploration, there are many programs for students of all ages to learn about aquatic life. Kids can observe reptile, shark, and stingray feedings and even see pufferfish training! Admission is $4-5, children 2 and under are free. (511 N Main St)
Kids can explore the universe and beyond at this 200-acre historic campus in Pisgah Forest. Offering campers an out-of-the-world experience, the camp will focus on astronomy and planetary subjects like astrobiology. See a radio telescope and have fun with activities like building and launching model rockets. 6th-12th graders. 2-3 week sessions June-August 2022.
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
See art exhibits at this downtown Asheville gallery and learn about the fascinating history of Black Mountain College. 56 Broadway
Double Decker Coffee House
You may do a double-take walking along Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville. Yes, it's a authentic double decker bus from London. Enjoy gourmet coffee and teas, along with some great hot chocolate! 41 Biltmore Avenue.
Nantahala River Jump Off Rock
Enjoy riverside sunning and splashing at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Just a few miles up river is Jump Off Rock. There is a small parking area along U.S. Highway 74. If you are rafting, you can park your raft, climb and jump!
This casual Thai restaurant has served up classic dishes with big flavor for over 10 years in Asheville. Enjoy flavorful classics like Green Curry, Pad Thai, and Mango Sticky Rice, along with a diverse sushi bar. Enjoy lunch specials and outdoor dining! 535 Merrimon Ave
Fork Lore, Biltmore Park
Located inside the Hilton in Biltmore Park Town Square, they fuse southern comfort with modern sophistication, inspired by the chef’s grandmother’s kitchen. How about bananas foster French toast, eggs benedict many ways, and a variety of egg dishes from a nearby organic farm? Don't forget a mimosa or Bloody Mary. Serves breakfast 7:30-10 AM Monday-Friday and 7:30 AM-2 PM on Saturday/Sunday. 43 Town Square Blvd.