Budget-Friendly Ways to Cool Down
By Cat Kessler
Asheville's beat-the-heat adventures
In the heart of the summer, with warmer temperatures still creeping into the forecast, there's no better time than now to find unique ways to cool down.
Fortunately, you can escape to the mountains of Asheville to find relief from the hot days. Even better, you can leave your wallet at home because these refreshing adventures won't break the bank.
Asheville's interactive water fountain is located downtown in Pack Square Park. With arching sprays of water that fly up randomly, this is a perfect way to get soaked and cool off. Let the summer sun dry you off while relaxing on the rolling green field that the park provides. The fountain generally runs daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. April through November.
Take water sliding to a whole new level. This 60-foot natural water slide has been providing entertainment long before water slides were standard fare. There is a $2 per person fee to help maintain the area so be prepared for this nominal cost. Lifeguards are on duty 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
French Broad River
Asheville's own river is not only one of the oldest in the world, it is also one of the most versatile when it comes to go-with-the-flow adventures. Ride the river in a whitewater raft, on a stand-up paddleboard, in a tube, on a Bellyak (a kayak you ride on your belly) or in a canoe. Area outfitters can prepare floaters for any sort of trip. Don't forget to take a float break for a pint of craft beer at The Bywater bar, right on the banks of the French Broad.
The tallest peak east of the Mississippi River offers both an oasis from the summer heat and stunning 360-degree views from the summit's observation deck. Drive or hike to the top of Mount Mitchell State Park, and be sure to pack a sweater--the weather can be surprisingly chilly compared to what you may experience in town or along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Secret Swimming Holes
Shhhh... Don't tell anyone we told you about these. Check out these great swimming holes around the Asheville area.
- Looking Glass Falls: Just down the road from Sliding Rock, off U.S. 276 heading south off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the base of this 80-foot falls is popular for cooling off and wading. Caution should always be exercised around the falls.
- Graveyard Fields: A short hike through native rhododendron takes visitors to the lower falls where large slabs of rock become choice spots for sunbathing or picnicking. A short distant further, the Yellowstone Prong of the Pigeon River becomes shallow, slow and lazy, dotted with small gravel islands that make it a cooling off spot for even the youngest family members. Parking is located at mile marker 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 40 minutes from Asheville.
- Carolina Hemlock Campground: Along the South Toe River you'll find a campground where adults and children can cool off in the chilly water that comes off Mt. Mitchell. Large slabs of rock are ideal for sunbathing or jumping, as the deepest part drops to 14 feet. The river runs along NC 80 North off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Take a break from exploring downtown and seek out a frozen snack. Local hot spots like The Hop, Ultimate Ice Cream and French Broad Chocolate Lounge are known for their quirky and locally inspired flavors. And traveling carts can often be found serving up cups of gelato, cooling popsicles or homemade ice cream sandwiches.