~ Rooftop Hop at Sunset, Capture the Famed Rhododendron with an Expert Lens, Explore a New Side to Asheville’s Oldest Brewery, See the Sights with Man’s Best Friend + Be at One with the Blooms ~
ASHEVILLE, NC (Feb. 18, 2020) – With the gradually warming weather comes peak exploration time in Asheville, N.C. Creative local tours, both classic and unexpected, guided and DIY, take you to nearly every corner – and touch on most any facet – of this vibrant Blue Ridge Mountain city. https://www.exploreasheville.com/spring2020/
Why Asheville in the spring? Sitting along the famed Blue Ridge Parkway and surrounded by 1 million acres of protected wilderness, Asheville’s backyard has the highest mountain peaks east of the Mississippi; thousands of miles of hiking and biking trails; unmatched biodiversity that brings a parade of blooming native wildflowers; and George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre playground at Biltmore Estate. The southern Appalachians – some of the oldest mountains in the world – provide a landscape rich in flora not found anywhere else. For when and where to spot the daffodils, painted trillium, dogwoods and more, check out Asheville’s Bloom Schedule.
Discover these fresh offerings and longtime favorites while experiencing spring in Asheville.
- Asheville Wellness Tours, known for their guided tours to zen-filled businesses downtown, have greatly expanded their menu to include NEW yoga hikes, sound-healing sessions, forest bathing, food tours, ziplining, flower-crown workshops and group tarot readings.
- Leading yoga, meditation and hiking experiences in the mountains surrounding Asheville, Namaste in Nature offers public and private tours for folks wanting a deeper connection with the nature around them. NEW offerings include mountaintop yoga, waterfall hikes and a “Sunset and Full Moon Yoga Hike” (full moons, March through October) on a scenic mountaintop with guided yoga and meditation.
- Blue Ridge Hiking Company, owned by Appalachian Trail record-setter Jennifer Pharr Davis, is now offering NEW guided daytrips to the Great Smoky Mountains. Lunch and snacks are provided, and hiking spots include places like Cataloochee Valley and Clingman’s Dome. The company’s downtown retail shop will also offer complimentary fit instruction for any of their hiking and backpacking gear.
- Combining storytelling, sightseeing and natural discovery, Asheville Hiking Tours take you on ecotours, led by naturalists, to “secret spots” along the Blue Ridge Parkway and in Pisgah National Forest.
- Wai Mauna leads stand-up paddleboard tours on the French Broad River (one of the oldest in the world!) and also has a massive, six-person paddleboard and whitewater SUP.
- Offering classes, demos and rentals, Bellyak is an Asheville-invented watercraft that allows you to ride the river on your belly with a face-first kayak and webbed gloves for paddles, providing a one-of-a-kind vantage point while gently floating downstream or for more extreme whitewater adventures.
- WNC Photo Tours will offer a NEW “Spring Rhododendron Blooms Tour” in April, May and June focused on capturing the beauty of these native wildflowers with the help of a professional photographer.
- Asheville’s outdoor scene knows no limits! From biking to rock climbing, fly fishing to rafting or kayaking, check out more ways to get outside.
- Starting this spring, Art Connections is offering NEW downtown walking tours that will visit four venues (including a few featuring working artists) and focus on the region’s history of functional craft to the present-day art scene.
- East Fork, the pottery studio and lifestyle brand co-founded near Asheville in 2009 by Alex Matisse (great-grandson of French painter Henri Matisse), has just launched NEW public tours of their factory in Biltmore Village every Friday at 2 p.m. The tours take guests through the full life cycle of a pot, from its origins as raw clay to the vessel on the table. The ceramics-manufacturing facility, which has significantly increased their production capacity, bridges the gap between commerce and community engagement. East Fork’s functional-design point of view can also be found in their original retail space in downtown Asheville (and a second one that has opened in Atlanta).
- Asheville’s Center for Craft – the leading organization in the U.S. identifying and convening craft makers, curators and researchers that just expanded with The National Craft Innovation Hub – joins local food experts for their “Craft City Food & Art Tours” featuring tastings, exhibits and demos of all things small-batch, high-quality and handmade in Asheville.
- Get a behind-the-scenes look at the River Arts District, home to more than 200 artists in working studios, with Asheville Art Studio Tours, or try their NEW South Slope tour.
- Don’t miss the ultimate open house when the Southern Living 2020 Idea House is unveiled in The Ramble community of Asheville, which was selected as this year’s location by the magazine’s editors as part of the annual celebration of life in the South. Showcasing the latest in innovative design and architecture with inspiration from Asheville's natural beauty and creative energy, the custom showhouse will debut in June, with tickets to tour the home available for sale in late spring.
- Asheville Rooftop Bar Tours give a bird’s-eye view from some of the city’s scenic venues and are now offering a “Rooftop Sunset & City Lights Tour” to capture the magic of Asheville at night. The NEW three-hour jaunt includes sample sips and historical photos of Asheville’s downtown transformation.
- BREW-ed, designed with education in mind, offers walking “Asheville Brewery & History Tours” led by true beer experts. Every one of their guides is a Certified Cicerone.
- Peek behind closed doors at the East Coast operations of national breweries Sierra Nevada (in nearby Mills River) and New Belgium, both of which offer a variety of tours of their production spaces.
- More Ways to Imbibe: Asheville’s Amazing Pubcycle Tours have you pedaling while you partake; Asheville’s original brewery tour, Brews Cruise, takes you from brewery to brewery on a big yellow bus; Asheville Brewery Tours lead walking and mobile explorations; Leap Frog Tours offer beer, cider and distillery tour options.
- Modern Appalachian Culinary Scene: Food culture in Asheville has gained national attention as a small but mighty hub for culinary creativity where Appalachian food traditions, global perspectives and artisan makers have combined to help the city nab more James Beard nominations than many of like size.
- Local food tours allow you to maximize your time (and stomach space!) while hitting several of Asheville’s acclaimed restaurants over the course of a few hours. Get a taste of the award-winning food scene in an afternoon with Eating Asheville Tours. Showcasing some of the city’s top restaurants and chefs, Asheville Food Tours features, among others, the “Food Fan Foot Tour” and the NEW “Night Tour,” led by well-known local food writer, blogger and bon vivant, Stu Helm. Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours let you eat your way through downtown while also learning more about Asheville’s history and transformation into Foodtopia. See all that neighboring town Black Mountain brings to the table with Creative Mountain Food Tours, providing food, beverage and dessert tastings from at least five local eateries.
- No Taste Like Home offers foraging tours highlighting the bounty of wild foods growing around Asheville. Alan Muskat and his team of local guides show guests how to safely identify, appreciate and savor wild plants, mushrooms and other extreme cuisine. Tour participants can take their forest finds to partnering restaurants (such as AUX Bar, The Market Place, Benne on Eagle and more) to have a special “find dining” dish created specially with their ingredients. The company also hosts Wild Food Strolls on the property of the historic Omni Grove Park Inn.
- Learn how cacao is grown, harvested and transformed into chocolate with a tour at French Broad Chocolate Factory & Café, complete with a guided tasting of their bean-to-bar process and a handcrafted bonbon.
- Classics: Hear little-known tidbits of Asheville’s past and present with hop-on, hop-off privileges aboard Gray Line Trolley Tours of Asheville; see the city from your own personal set of wheels with Moving Sidewalk Segway Tours; discover Asheville’s storied history and architectural treasures with Asheville by Foot; come upon hidden gems in downtown, Montford Historic District or Historic Biltmore Village with History at Hand walking tours.
- History with a Twist: LaZoom combines the historical with the hysterical on their wacky and irreverent (and BYOB!) “City Comedy Tour”; Hood Huggers International leads interactive tours focusing on Asheville’s African-American community’s resilient history and future; The Flying Bike Electric Bike Tours allow you to get close to the action downtown while taking in the sights and stories.
- Pick Your Specialty: The Dog City Tour starts at Asheville’s Dog Welcome Center (the first of its kind in the country) with stops at local shops and breweries catering to pups, plus a special dining experience for people and their canine companions; Asheville LIT Tour is a walking tour of locations with literary themes and authors with ties to downtown; Asheville Detours lead scavenger-hunt-style tours downtown, including the NEW “Authentic Asheville Detour,” designed to get guests off the beaten path while they solve clues.
- Wander the cultivated gardens and groomed trails of The North Carolina Arboretum. In May, the arboretum is opening its NEWEST outdoor setting, Willow Pond, a learning site focused on salamanders, frogs, aquatic insects and other reptiles and amphibians. Southern Appalachia is known as the salamander capital of the world (20 percent of all the world’s species can be found in the Southeastern United States), and the arboretum’s ponds host an abundance of salamanders, including the rare mole salamander.
- See the manicured grounds of America’s Largest Home, Biltmore. Check out Biltmore Blooms, April 1 – May 21, which showcases thousands of tulips, acres of azaleas and rooms full of orchids celebrating the beauty of the estate (including gardens and landscapes designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape architecture).
- Take a stroll through a wooded retreat as Highland Brewing Company, Asheville’s oldest brewery, launches the first phase of ALL-NEW walking trails this spring just steps outside the taproom on its 40-acre campus, with sections along a creek and old railroad. To coincide, the brewery will release its spring seasonal, Wanderlush, a Hazy Adventure Ale.
- One of Asheville’s most beloved festivals now has a NEW brick-and-mortar location downtown. LEAF Global Arts Center just opened, offering educational experiences for guests rooted in music, art, community and culture via a mini-theater and global-immersion room using virtual reality, unique musical instruments and a stage for performances and interactive artist workstations. See the Club Del Cardo Music Trail map (LEAF’s new space is in the former Club Del Cardo), which highlights music connections to Asheville’s lost African-American communities while spotlighting local legends such as Nina Simone and Roberta Flack. Learn about historical performance spaces and other music-themed points of interest, and play songs chosen by community elders from that time period.
- From Times Square back to the Blue Ridge Mountains: Experience “Wake,” a giant animatronic sculpture by Western North Carolina-based conceptual artist and MacArthur Fellow Mel Chin, on display March 15 – Sept. 7 in the South Slope district. The work was commissioned as part of a multisite survey of his works from across many decades that took place in several New York City locations last summer. Designed by the artist and engineered, sculpted and fabricated by an interdisciplinary team of University of North Carolina at Asheville students, faculty, staff and community artists led by Chin, the interactive sculpture will feature decks and places to sit.
- Sample some of the South’s best cheeses and meet participating farmstead and artisan cheese producers (and baby goats!) on the WNC Cheese Trail. Asheville-area stops include Looking Glass Creamery, Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery and Round Mountain Creamery. (Be sure to check visiting hours in advance.)
- Immerse yourself in Asheville’s art scene, rich craft history, musical legacy and iconic architecture with explorations along the Appalachian Mural Trail (don’t miss the NEW fresco at Haywood Street Congregation); the NEW Blue Ridge Craft Trails (a system of drivable trails highlighting the diverse traditional and contemporary crafts found in the North Carolina mountains, with an exhibit of regional works also on display Feb. 10 – May 15 at the Western Office of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in Asheville); the Blue Ridge Music Trails (directing visitors on where to find bluegrass, old-time and other styles of traditional music in the area); and the Asheville Urban Trail that takes you straight through the heart of downtown with a collection of sculptures and plaques underscoring the unique history, architecture and people that shaped Asheville’s vibrant culture over the years.
- From West Asheville to Biltmore Village, or the River Arts District to the South Slope, Asheville’s many neighborhoods have a distinct vibe all their own. Charming nearby towns Weaverville and Black Mountain are also not to be missed. More info.
- INSIDER’S TIP: Looking to find a hike tailored perfectly to your needs? Try Explore Asheville’s NEW Asheville Hike Finder, which allows you to filter results based on difficulty, length and distance from downtown. Also pick out your view of choice from stunning waterfalls, wildflowers or mountain skylines.
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