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Great Smoky Mountains Outdoors, North Carolina
The Southern Appalachian mountains area is a paradise for hikers, boaters, anglers, and all other types of outdoor adventurers. See our top outdoor things to do, places, and adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina with trails, rivers, and some of the highest mountains in the East.
This hot spot is well-known for their cat-head biscuits and house-made jam and butter bar. Oh my! Add to that their gravy flights (usually seven to pick from), smoked chevre grits, coconut-stewed collards, and local sausage, bacon and fried chicken. Monday-Friday at 7 AM-2 PM and Saturday/Sunday 8 AM-3 PM. 733 Haywood Road (West Asheville) & 417 Biltmore Avenue.
WALK (West Asheville Lounge & Kitchen)
This causal local hang out serves everything from wings and burgers to salads, tacos and sandwiches, with regular vegan and vegetarian menu options available. Local craft beers on draft, cocktail specials and 2 billiard tables. Weekly specials include Taco Tuesday and Sunday Brunch. Open Mon-Thurs 11:30 AM-1 AM, Fri/Sat 11:30 AM-2 AM, Sunday 10:30 AM-12 AM. 401 Haywood Rd
Attic Salt Theatre Company
See high-quality productions of classical, contemporary and original works in venues all around Asheville. They create some of the best children's theater in the area.
Summer Food Festivals
There's seldom a weekend in the summer without a great outdoor festival in Asheville and the surrounding small towns that includes plenty of food.
Coffee, Tea & Sweets
Find a variety of coffee shops and tea houses in Asheville, including West Asheville and River Arts District brewing locally roasted and fair trade coffee beans. From pour-over coffee, espresso, and loose leaf tea to house-made pastries, baked goods, small bites and desserts, there are plenty of ways to fuel up!
Wicked Weed Brewery
(91 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville) This 15-barrel downtown brewhouse has a Tasting Room in the basement and another bar and restaurant upstairs with 20 beers on tap. They specialize in west coast-style hoppy ales, open fermented belgian beers and barrel-aged sours. Open daily.
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.
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
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.
Find the best food trucks that are going fender to fender to bring you delicious, unique comfort food on wheels. They are inspired by a variety of global influences with plates like gourmet grilled cheese, tacos & burritos, Thai, BBQ, hot dogs, Lebanese, Korean street food and even brunch.
Mountain Gateway Museum
The westernmost branch of the NC Museum of History. Tour historic buildings and learn about the lifestyle and history of the earliest inhabitants of the mountains to the those of the twentieth century. Located in Old Fort.
Picnic in Cataloochee Valley
Tailgate and watch elk graze nearby in meadows just after sunrise or just before sunset in this beautiful valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Don't feed the wildlife.
Eda Rhyne Distillery, Asheville
This Asheville distillery is located in historic Biltmore Village, near Biltmore. They specialize in small batch whiskeys, sourcing heirloom corn and grains, as well as local botanicals to create aromatic and earthy flavors. Their cocktail bar is open Wed/Thurs 3-9 PM, Fri/Sat 1-9 PM.
Bull & Beggar
Savor high-end, European inspired Appalachian cuisine with a raw bar and craft cocktails at this popular restaurant next to the Wedge Brewery. Or go casual with the popular “Burger Mondays” for a half-priced double cheeseburger and fries. Be sure to make a reservation, they fill up! Open daily 5 PM-10PM, with brunch on Sundays 10:30 AM-2:30 PM. 37 Paynes Way
Wine & Cocktails
Unwind after a busy day of sightseeing at one of the many wine and cocktail bars in downtown Asheville. Our favorite is the Battery Park Champagne Bar in Grove Arcade (pic). Social Lounge has a great rooftop!
Slick Rock Falls
This cascade near Cove Creek Falls flows across an overhanging cliff in Pisgah National Forest. It's a short walk from the road. You can walk behind it when water is not too high. Located near the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.
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.
Since 1994, Salsa’s has been a favorite downtown destination, serving up Mexican-Caribbean cuisine with fresh, local ingredients. Sip on a Mezcal Margarita, bite into a savory burrito, or share signature salsas with corn tortilla chips. 6 Patton Ave
This small batch pottery studio and gallery is a must-stop to browse and shop unique, handmade pieces for your home. Collections include bowls, plates, vases, mugs, teapots, sugar bowls, and more!
Pigeon River Adventure Center
Enjoy outdoors exploration with whitewater rafting, zip line canopy tours or Jeep tours in the Great Smoky Mountains. Or do all three without moving your car with their "Triple Adventure!"
Gwynn Valley Camp, Brevard
This overnight summer camp for kids located on a working farm offers farm activities, nature lessons, hiking, sports, blacksmithing, climbing, archery, crafts, and more. Programs focus on sustainability, community, outdoors, wilderness, and leadership. 7-day to 3-week sessions, June-August 2022. Completed grades: K-10th. Cost: $2,050-$5,550/session
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!
Since 1999, they bake a wide variety of artisan tradition French breads daily. Choose from an array of house-made croissants, danishes, eclairs, cheddar-scallion biscuits, sticky buns, bagels and other pastries. And pair it up with locally-roasted organic coffee or espresso. Opens at 7 AM for early risers. Two locations in downtown Asheville: 60 Biltmore Avenue & 88 Charlotte Street.
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
Savor some of Carol's sweet creations while you sip your coffee. Located in the Grove Arcade, she features made from scratch soups, biscuits, cookies, cakes, pies and more. 1 Page Avenue.
(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.
Asheville Picnic Company
Asheville Picnic Company caters to your adventurous spirit! Order one of their specialty picnics while out enjoying the area’s beautiful offerings and they’ll deliver right to you. The souvenir food baskets are curated with you in mind and filled with local favorites, allowing you to truly experience the taste of Asheville while on the go! Explore more with Asheville Picnic in hand!
Nantahala River Rafting Guide
The most popular river for whitewater rafting and kayaking is about 12 miles west of Bryson City in the beautiful Nantahala River Gorge. The site of the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships, find class II and III rapids, along with calm sections perfect for a dip. Fun for ages 7 and up, with no experience necessary. Choose from nine outfitters, all offering a variety of options.
WNC Overnight Summer Camps Guide
Discover the best residential camps for older kids and teens near Asheville in Western North Carolina, with sessions ranging from 3 days up to 8 weeks that include a wide variety of activities including whitewater rafting, zipline tours, creative writing, painting or science and technology workshops.
Alexander's Ford Overmountain Trail
(1.5 miles, easy) Hike a section of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail that was used for by local militia heading to an important battle in the Revolutionary War.
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.
This skinny waterfall on Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 362 is visible from an overlook. Falling along a cliff across the valley, it's most visible after heavy rains and with leaves are off the trees.
This local hot spot offers handmade biscuit dishes, sides, a jam bar and even a gravy flight! They serve breakfast and brunch in a casual atmosphere with gluten-free biscuits and other options. They get busy, so plan ahead and arrive early! Downtown: 417 Biltmore Ave, Ste 4F
Penland School of Craft
Take a tour or sign up for a class at this internationally-known school for art and craft, tucked away in the mountains near Spruce Pine. Their multiple galleries are free to visit with amazing works created by students and teachers.
This favorite local hangout features creative American fare, local beer and craft cocktails.Their delectable Vault Burger features 100% grass-fed beef from local farms, taking home local awards year after year. Enjoy the patio or sit at the walnut bar inside. They’re open until 2 AM, perfect for a late night cravings. 7 Rankin Ave
Old Europe Pastries
This old world coffee shop has been serving European-style pastries and locally roasted coffee for 25 years in Asheville! Find an array of sweet offerings like tiramisu, cheesecake, pies, cupcakes and more to pair with coffee or one of their specialty espresso drinks. Their downtown location is convenient and great for people watching! 13 Broadway St
Adventure Center of Asheville, Birthday Parties
Five minutes from downtown, this adventure park has 4 birthday party packages (ages 4 +) and open year-round. Kids can climb the Asheville Treetops Adventure Park or zip our Kid Zip Park for an epic birthday party adventure. Choose from four different packages based on age and adventure preference. All parties include 10 participants, equipment, ground school, and a picnic area for your group. Outside food and drink are welcome.
See the best places for an Italian feast paired with good wine. Enjoy favorite dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, chicken parmesan, at these authentic Italian restaurants offering Old World cuisine.
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!
Newfound Road Picnics, Great Smoky Mountains
Along Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) through the middle of the Park, there are two large picnic areas in addition to overlooks. The Chimneys picnic area is on the Tennessee side (near the Chimney Tops hike). The Collins Creek picnic area is on the North Carolina side, about six miles from Cherokee. They both have tables, grills, restrooms and a nature trail.
This locally loved food truck offers a variety of Korean & Mexican street food. They serve up rice and noodle bowls, tacos, tortas, burgers, dumplings and more. Their Kimchi Dog, Tacos, and Bibimbap are popular. They also sell jars of their homemade kimchi to take home! They are parked at New Belgium on Fridays and Wedge at Foundation on Saturdays. See their full weekly schedule on Facebook.
Located in a 125+ year old Richard Sharpe Smith Victorian House, “Asheville’s most surprising restaurant” handcrafts food using as much local produce and proteins as possible. They touch on many of the cuisines found throughout this country. Open 7 days a week for brunch Brunch from 9 AM - 2 PM and for dinner from 5 PM on. To make a reservation, click on their website or call 828-274-2439. 3 Boston Way.
Mandala Springs Eco Retreat, Blue Ridge Parkway
This 30-acre eco-retreat surrounded by national forest is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway with some of the best fall color views in the Blue Ridge Mountains! Enjoy camping, glamping, tiny home rentals, trout stream, hiking, and more! They also have onsite yoga classes and bodywork treatments.
Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
They assist the National Park Service to preserve and protect the Great Smoky Mountains by raising funds and public awareness, and by providing volunteers for needed projects. Total disbursements to the Park surpass $50 million.
Twin Leaf Brewery
(144 Coxe Avenue, Asheville, South Slope) Twin Leaf has a dozen beers on tap, classic Belgian, English and American-style ales and a rotating line up of lagers and other adventurous styles. Open every day.
Adventure Center of Asheville
Open all year and just minutes from Downtown! This center for adventure offers something for everyone, whether you're 4 or 94! Zip on the Canopy Zipline Tour with two 1,200 foot lines, or make it a family adventure on the KidZip, America's first zipline adventure designed for kids under 10. Climb the Treetops Adventure Park with over 70 challenge elements, or ride through the Kolo Bike Park (bike rentals available). Great for individuals, families or groups! See our feature.
Tryon International Equestrian Center
Watch horse jumping competitions with the best riders in the country at this amazing new world-class equestrian resort south of Asheville. Free admission to many events.
Mountain Play Lodge
This large indoor play space for kids 10 and under offers two age-appropriate play floors with miniature village, toddler slides, large jungle gym, large slides and more. For parties, they offer themed party rooms with host and cleaning services included. You may bring your own food, drinks and cake, or use in-house beverage service. Room rentals start at $139 + admission for party guests.
Linn Cove Viaduct
(1 to 8 miles roundtrip, moderate) Hike under and above the Viaduct from the visitor center. Hike south to Beacon Heights or continue north on the Tanawha Trail to Rough Ridge. Blue Ridge Parkway Milespost 304.
Mela Indian Restaurant
This popular, award-winning Indian hub in downtown Asheville stands out for their authentic tandoori dishes, offered in an airy, modern setting. Locals love their lunch buffet and favorite dishes include their chicken masala and tandoori chicken with a mango lassi. 70 N. Lexington Avenue
The Grey Eagle Taqueria
This taqueria located in The Grey Eagle Music Hall & Pub, features Latin-American cuisine with gluten-free and vegan options. Enjoy local brews or a fresh-made margarita with tacos, burritos, rich soups, fresh guacamole and more. Open daily 11 AM-8 PM. 185 Clingman Ave.
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.
Gan Shan West
This relaxed neighborhood eatery serves a diverse array of noodle dishes, along with weekly, varying specials. Their seasonal menu features dumplings, ramen, fresh veggies, kimchi and more to be enjoyed indoors or on their back patio. Mon-Sat, 4-9 PM. 285 Haywood Rd
Located at the corner of the 5 points intersection in the heart of the River Arts District this specialty coffee shop offers a full espresso bar, pastries, paninis, bagels, salads and more. Vegan and gluten-free options available. Enjoy Open Mon-Fri, 7 AM-5 PM. Sat/Sun, 8 AM-5 PM. 242 Clingman Ave
Grey Eagle Taqueria
This taqueria is located inside The Grey Eagle Music Hall & Pub, featuring Latin-American cuisine with gluten-free and vegan options. Enjoy a variety of local brews or a fresh-made margarita. 185 Clingman Ave.
The Asheville Bed & Breakfast Experience
Staying at a Bed & Breakfast offers guests a unique and luxurious experience. Find historic lodgings with expansive choices to retreat with wraparound porches, quaint gardens, cozy rooms, private ensuite bathrooms, and loads of charms. The extras provided to guests at no charge far outweigh the costs when compared to like-quality hotels and vacation rentals.
All Souls Cathedral
Tour this beautiful church in Biltmore Village, built by Biltmore House owner George Vanderbilt in 1896. The sanctuary is open Monday-Friday, 9 AM-4 PM. From April-December, volunteer docents answer questions and provide historical information from 1-4 PM. Free, but donations appreciated.
Global & Fusion Cuisine
Savor cuisine from these outstanding global and fusion restaurants with a focus on fresh, local ingredients - including Indian street food, authentic Mediterranean, global curries, traditional Ethiopian, Asian fusion or something from another corner of the world.
Mineral & Lapidary Museum, Hendersonville
Featuring many diverse underground treasures like raw minerals, meteorites, 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. (400 N Main St)
Winery Visits & Tours
In addition to the nation's most visited winery at Biltmore, take a winery tour in the foothills area including around Hendersonville and Morganton. Sample the local wines while enjoying the mountain views. See our Top Wineries to see in western North Carolina.
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
This pristine, scenic mountain lake is surrounded by a community with many things to do - located near Brevard. Take a lake cruise at Greystone Inn, be a beekeeper for a day, stay at a wellness retreat and see Toxaway Falls.
Sunny Truth Farm, Mars Hill
This camp allows kids to learn and play in an outdoor setting where they interact with nature through games, art, science, and farm animals. It’s held on 150 acres of land comprised of meadows, forest, springs, and trails to explore. Themed weekly sessions run June-August, 2022. 8:30 AM-3 PM, ages 5-10. $100/week
Located in Asheville’s South Slope, this brewpub showcases a rotating selection of small batch beers and late night menu for those nighttime munchies. Enjoy their great indoor & outdoor space. Open Sun-Thurs until 12 AM, Fri/Sat until 1 AM. 101 S Lexington Ave
Mountain Farm Museum, Oconaluftee Visitor Center & Mingus Mill
Located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, see historic farm buildings in an open-air museum and get plenty of great information from rangers. Nearby you can explore Mingus Mill, a historic grist mill dating from 1886.
White Labs Kitchen & Taproom
This brewpub showcases craft cocktails, wine and 32 rotating taps of local beer. They serve wood-fired pizzas, farm-fresh salads and beer-infused dishes and desserts. Their winning cheeseburger features a grain-fed beef patty with smoked gouda, tomato jam, fried shallots, house pickles and special sauce. 172 S Charlotte St
ABYSA Soccer Camps
This summer soccer camp offers three camp options for varying skill sets, from beginner to experienced players. Campers will learn foundational skills like dribbling, passing, receiving, shielding, and shooting. Full day campers will have afternoon pool time. Weekly sessions run June-Aug with full and half-day options, age 7-14. $135-$235/week