Your Essential Summer Guide to Asheville
Summer in the Asheville area means waterfalls, river fun, outdoor music, open-air dining, and hiking and biking trails for days. Whether you’re here for a week or long weekend, with your girlfriends or your family, you can cherry pick (or berry pick!) your ideal summer getaway from this locally curated list of Asheville summer musts.
The River Arts District (RAD) just got more strollable with the new RAD Wilma Dykeman Greenway. The two-mile stretch runs adjacent to the French Broad River and features a separate two-lane path for cyclists. Pop in and out of more than 20 industrial buildings along the river that have been transformed into artist studios, restaurants, shops, brewpubs and more. Get inspo for your own outdoor space at Art Garden AVL, enjoy pints and ping-pong at Wedge at Foundation and chow down on the iconic blueberry chipotle ribs at 12 Bones. Music lovers, don’t miss Asheville Guitar Bar, a true hidden gem. And keep a camera handy for Insta-worthy public art and murals.
Experience Asheville through a unique lens with a tour that speaks to your personal passions. AVL Lit Tours takes book lovers on a guided literary walk through Asheville’s storied past. Foodies can experience Asheville’s sizzling food scene bite-by-bite with Asheville Food Tours. Hone your hops knowledge while sampling the goods in “Beer City, USA” with a BREW-ed Brewery Tour. And there’s no better time than summer to “sip and see” with Asheville Rooftop Bar Tours.
Asheville’s premier food festival is back and reimagined as a culinary event series that continues all summer long, with experiences for every budget and taste. Meet the movers, shakers, makers and bakers of Southern Appalachia’s diverse culinary culture with tastings, meals, demonstrations and discussions connecting food to important issues, such as climate change, food insecurity and racial equity.
America’s largest home unsurprisingly has an immense, 8,000-acre yard with miles of hiking, biking, and walking trails. Look out for the large-scale outdoor sculpture Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty, and favorite returning exhibit Biltmore Gardens Railway. Kids will love the animals at Antler Hill Farm, and you will also love complimentary tastings at Biltmore winery. INSIDER TIP: Pick an early time to tour the house to avoid the heat – and the crowds, too!
Asheville earns its “Paris of the South” nickname with patios and tables dotting its downtown streets. Sip on a craft cocktail and share small plates in an intimate sidewalk setting at Sovereign Remedies, or head to table-lined Rankin Avenue and savor the authentic Mexican flavors from El Gallo (along with the best margaritas in town!). Baby Bull in the River Arts District has umbrella’d picnic tables where you can try the famous double burger that inspired this new Bull & Beggar spin-off. Or, start your morning off fresh with an alfresco breakfast and specialty baked treats at Open Oven Brunch and Bakery in Black Mountain or at Well-Bred.
Asheville clearly screams for ice cream with several locally owned places to get your summer sugar fix. The Hop has become legendary for their homemade, locally inspired dairy and vegan delights, with five locations in North Asheville, West Asheville, Black Mountain and inside the newly-opened S&W Market, Asheville’s first food hall located in downtown. Baa’d Sheep Burritos in Weaverville gets their ice cream sandwiches from Meadowsweet Creamery, with next-level flavors like strawberry balsamic basil and maple cornbread. Hit the refresh button with a smoothie or cold-pressed juice from Pulp + Sprout in North Asheville, or Mountain Juicery in South Asheville and Hendersonville.
Take the plunge down a 60-foot natural waterslide at Sliding Rock. With water temps hovering between 50 and 60 degrees, you’re guaranteed to beat the heat. Float down the French Broad—the world’s third oldest river! Take a tube (Zen Tubing), try paddle boarding with Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours, or hit up French Broad Outfitters—your one-stop shop for tubing, kayaking and SUP. Favorite air-conditioned indoor activities include shopping at the historic Grove Arcade, making your own glass keepsakes at the North Carolina Glass Center, and channeling your inner child at the Asheville Pinball Museum.
Make your own cool breeze as you zip through the trees at Navitat Canopy Adventures or the Adventure Center of Asheville. Take advantage of your proximity to world-class cycling with a guided bike tour (Asheville Trails and Taps). The Riveter offers indoor and outdoor adventures for all ages and skill levels with a climbing gym, bike terrain park (partially covered for weather), and fitness studio.
There’s no better way to spend your summer than by becoming one with nature in the serene Blue Ridge Mountains. For berry-picking, check out Craggy Gardens or Graybeard Trail for a more challenging, less crowded hike. Head to Daniel Ridge Loop Trail for an off-the-beaten-path waterfall hike along the Davidson River. For the ultimate summer hike, Graveyard Fields has it all: wildflowers, waterfalls, blueberry bushes and a swimming hole. Use Asheville Hike Finder tool to find the perfect path for you and your crew based on difficulty, length, trail usage and handy options like dog-friendliness and views. Whichever path you choose, show your love for the land and leave no trace: pick up your trash, respect wildlife and stay on marked trails!
Immerse yourself in Asheville’s eclectic music scene with live music at one of the area’s premiere outdoor venues. Build an entire trip around a concert with your favorite national act at Salvage Station. Rabbit Rabbit has some big-name bands coming this summer (via The Orange Peel) and also offers weekly outdoor movies and stand-up comedy. Enjoy dinner and a show with the lawn concert series at Isis Music Hall. The Meadow at Highland Brewing presents a wide range of events throughout the summer including concerts, yoga and glow-in-the-dark volleyball.
Asheville loves its free outdoor music! Bring a blanket (and banjo) for Shindig on the Green, a favorite local tradition in the heart of downtown Asheville with Southern Appalachian music, dancing, and storytelling. Or end the day in Black Mountain with Park Rhythms, a free summer outdoor concert series held Thursdays.
Photo credits: Top photo by Reggie Tidwell, River Arts District/Chow Chow photos by Jason Tarr, Biltmore photo by Jared Kay, Outdoor dining photo by Emily Chaplin, Ice cream shop photo by Emily Chaplin, Zen Tubing photo by Jared Kay, and Concert photo by David Simchock.