Beautiful and vibrant downtown Asheville is just a mile from North Lodge on Oakland Bed and Breakfast. Artists and street musicians converge with tourists and locals for a vibrancy rarely found in a city of this size.
There are tours of Asheville that are suited to almost any interest. Downtown Asheville features more Art Deco architecture than any other southeastern city outside of Miami Beach.
• Asheville Food Tours – Guided walking tours that lets you taste some of the most exciting and memorable food in the South.
• Asheville Historic Trolley Tours – Enjoy a 90-minute fully narrated tour of the Asheville area that includes all major points of interest.
• LaZoom Comedy Tour – Enjoy a 90 minute comedy tour exploring Asheville’s historic and up-and-coming neighborhoods on-board a rolling theater bus. Cool evening tours.
• Ghost & Haunt Tours – Step into the world of the unknown for a hair-raising ninety-minute tour into the spirit realm of this mountain town.
• Ghost Hunters of Asheville – Three separate ghost tours are offered to paranormal enthusiasts wanting to hunt spirits in Asheville’s supernatural world.
• Historic Asheville Tours – Glimpse Asheville’s history and link the past with the present through walking tours. Architectural history and Riverside Cemetary Tours both available.
• Gray Line Trolley Tours of Asheville – Old fashioned fun for everyone! Hop aboard one of Gray Line’s nostalgic red trolleys for an hour and a half fully narrated journey through Asheville highlighting the history, homes and hot spots of this “City of Surprises”.
• Asheville Downtown Gallery Association Self-Guided Tours – Take a self-guided tour and explore the diversity of art found in downtown Asheville galleries.
• BioWheels Bicycle Outfitter – Bicycle rentals for mountain bikes, road bikes and cruiser bikes. Self-guided tour routes, maps and guidebooks are available for bicycle rides on the area forest lands, on the Blue Ridge Parkway and around downtown Asheville.
• Urban Trail – Walking tour of 30 sculptures depicting the history of downtown Asheville. Rent audiocassette with headset at Pack Place. Guided tours Saturdays and the first Sunday in season.
Shops & Galleries
Downtown Asheville shops and galleries feature a unique mix of locally-owned establishments. Downtown art galleries offer specialized items such as custom jewelry, quilts, furniture and one-of-a-kind gifts. The city is pedestrian friendly, with wrought-iron benches throughout downtown, and many eateries have open-air dining sections that allow visitor to enjoy the city’s mild weather. In downtown Asheville, it is a pleasure – not a stress – to go shopping.
• Grove Arcade – One of the most interesting and inviting spots for downtown shopping is the Grove Arcade. This renovated historic building is worth a visit to admire the architecture alone, but it’s also a wonderful place to wander, shop or visit galleries. The dining options range from Chicago-style hot dogs to frozen custard, wine bars to coffee shops, upscale restaurants to sidewalk cafes. The area nearby the Grove Arcade is also lined with several shops and restaurants.
• Wall Street – This picturesque side street in downtown Asheville features a mix of unique shops like Beads and Beyond, the paint-your-own-pottery spot Fired Up Creative Lounge, or Art Deco-inspired jewelry at Overström Studio. While you’re there, stop off for a bite at Early Girl Eatery for organic Southern cuisine, Laughing Seed Café for vegetarian cuisine or The Market Place for inventive food.
• Broadway to Biltmore – This corridor, with Broadway to one side of Patton Avenue and Biltmore to the other, is lined with several popular downtown Asheville shops and true local institutions like Mast General Store. Along Broadway, the diverse shopping ranges from L.O.F.T. – Lost Objects Found Treasures for interesting finds to Bruisin’ Ales, devoted to beer lovers.
• Lexington Avenue – This funky and eclectic neighborhood is the place to shop for the delightfully unexpected, from political bumper stickers to punk tee-shirts to new age books. While you’re there, sample some French comfort food at Bouchon or some coffee and exciting nightlife.
Downtown Asheville Sightseeing
Downtown Asheville museums and attractions offer something for everyone, whether you seek art museums and historic churches or literary attractions and a children’s museum. Here is just a sampling of the enticing and interesting museums and attractions in downtown Asheville.
• Pack Place Education, Arts & Science Center is a must-see for visitors, where you can find various museums and attractions all in one spot in the heart of downtown Asheville. It houses the Asheville Art Museum, Colburn Earth Science Museum, Diana Wortham Theatre and The Health Adventure children’s museum. A few steps away is the YMI Cultural Center, featuring exhibits on African American life in Western North Carolina.
• Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site is the novelist’s boyhood home and setting for his 1929 novel “Look Homeward, Angel.” In the nearby Montford Historic District, you can visit Riverside Cemetery, the final resting place for Wolfe and O. Henry.
• Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is an exhibition space and resource center dedicated to exploring the history and legacy of the world’s most acclaimed experimental educational community, Black Mountain College.
• Basilica of St. Lawrence, completed in 1909, is one of Asheville’s architectural treasures and spiritual anchors. Designed by Rafael Gustavino and Richard Sharpe Smith, renowned architects on the Biltmore House, this Catholic church has the largest freestanding elliptical dome in the country.
Downtown Asheville Festivals
• Bele Chere – For three days each year, always the last full weekend in July, the central downtown area is barricaded against vehicular traffic and the largest free street festival in the Southeast holds court in Asheville. Festivalgoers from across the country come to celebrate our mountains, our bustling downtown area, our diverse cultures, and the festival that brings it all together once a year.
• GoomBay! Festival – Goombay! Festival brings a variety of entertainment that delights every festival-goer in August. From Steel Drums, African-America Dancers, local Gospel Groups, and Contemporary Rhythm Bands, the activities are geared for families.
• Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands – Over 200 members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild exhibit fine handcrafts at the Asheville Civic Center. A bi-annual event, held in July and October, that draws Guild members from the highland regions of nine southeastern states. Visitors may also enjoy craft demonstrations, childrens activities, mountain music and educational displays.
• Shindig on the Green – On Saturdays through the summer, bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy the beautiful music and dance traditions of Southern Appalachia on a summer evening in the mountains.
• Downtown After 5 – Once a month on summer Friday nights, downtown bursts to life with live music, great food and drink, and dancing.
• Mountain Sports Festival – In early May, pro and amateur atheletes compete in mountain sports. The festival also features live music, food and demonstrations.
• 80th Annual Mountain Dance & Folk Festival – The nation’s longest running folk festival. The 80th annual edition of this three-day event, held in August, showcases the best of the region’s traditional and old-time musicians, mountain dance groups, cloggers, ballad singers and storytellers.