Free fall activities
You don't have to spend a lot of money to have an enriching vacation experience in the Asheville area. In fact, you can enjoy time with your family and friends this fall at many area attractions without spending a penny.
Free Outdoor Adventures
The Blue Ridge Mountains attract visitors throughout the year for the scenic views and adventures that await. Get outside and enjoy some of the area's favorite free attractions and adventures.
- One of the area's greatest attractions is the Blue Ridge Parkway - a 469-mile roadway stretching from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Views in the fall are breath-taking from the overlooks and even better up-close as seen when exploring the many trails along the parkway.
- Located outside of downtown Asheville is the Botanical Gardens of Asheville. Take a break from the crowds and explore the paths that are dotted with flora from the Southern Appalachians.
- If you have a hand-held GPS system, you've got to experience a geocaching adventure. Geocaching is a treasure hunt using satellite coordinates. It's a great opportunity to see areas you wouldn't normally see and learn more about a destination.
Almost free outdoor adventures: The North Carolina Arboretum is home to great hiking trails, beautifully landscaped gardens and the largest Bonsai collection in the Southeast. A parking fee of $6 is all that is charged and that fee is waived on Tuesdays.
Free Fall Romance Ideas
As the temperatures cool and Mother Nature puts on her annual show, there's no better time to reintroduce a little romance in your relationship. And all these ideas don't cost a thing so you can save your money for a special dinner or outing.
- Head over to The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa and head to the Sunset Terrace where you can watch a spectacular fall sunset over downtown Asheville. If it's too chilly to be outside, head to The Great Hall and curl up next to one of their gigantic fireplaces. (If you want to spend a couple dollars, sample one of their signature cocktails.)
- If your idea of romance is a long hike ending with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, then you're in luck! Consider a hike to Looking Glass Rock south of Asheville in Pisgah National Forest. For an up close view of the color head to DuPont State Forest. Hike through amazing fall foliage and you'll soon end up at one of the area's dramatic waterfalls.
- As you stroll around downtown Asheville, you'll find quite a few street musicians playing their own songs or covers of songs you might know. If the music moves you, grab your special someone and dance. Spontaneous dancing in Asheville isn't uncommon. For a group get-down, visit Prichard Park on Friday nights to enjoy the beats of the weekly Drum Circle.
Almost free romantic ideas: Pick up some items for a picnic at area tailgate and farmers markets, like apples, artisan cheeses and freshly baked bread. Then, find a spot under a brilliantly colored tree.
Free Family Fun
The Blue Ridge Mountains is definitely a great place for families in the fall. The mountains are a huge playground and we have natural water slides and pools hidden in the woods to cool off after exploring the colorful mountains.
- Pack up a bite to eat from an area restaurant and head to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a picnic. Pull over at one of the many overlooks or take a hike to have a meal with a view at the highest mountain peak in the Eastern US, Mount Mitchell (milepost 355).
- The Pisgah Center of Wildlife Education features exhibits about wildlife and habitats in the North Carolina mountains. You can even feed some of the mountain trout!
- As part of the creation of Biltmore Estate, Chief Forester Dr. Carl Schenck created the first forestry school in America - now the Cradle of Forestry. Located off Hwy. 276, one of the most picturesque roads in the fall, the Forest Discovery Center offers hands-on exhibits and learning opportunities. It's free on Tuesdays for everyone and free for youth 15 years and younger throughout the year.
Almost free family fun: The Mast General Store in downtown Asheville is a must visit while on vacation in Asheville. In the store, kids (and adults) flock to the old fashioned candy in the candy barrels. Candy is available by the piece and the pound.
Free Stuff for History Buffs
For history lovers, the Asheville area is home to many historic sites that offer engaging, educational experiences.
- Visit the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace State Historic Site in Weaverville, 15 minutes north of Asheville, and see a recreation of the birthplace of North Carolina's Civil War governor.
- Historic Riverside Cemetery, is the final resting place for Vance, Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry as well as other past residents that helped shape the community.
- Located south of Asheville in the Flat Rock area is a national historic site dedicated to Pulitzer prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg. Visit the homestead, walk the five miles of trails or take a tour of the home. (Note: the home tour entails a small fee.)
- To learn more about Asheville's history, embark on a self-guided tour of Asheville Urban Trail. It's an art and history museum without walls throughout the streets of downtown Asheville. Pieces of art represent important times in Asheville's history. Pick up a brochure at the Visitor Center.
- For a taste of local history, visit the Swannanoa Valley Museum in Black Mountain. The museum hosts permanent exhibits as well as special events focusing on the area's history.
Almost free activity for history buffs: Visit the boyhood home of author Thomas Wolfe at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site in downtown Asheville. A tour of the home is $1 for adults and $0.50 for students.