Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina is known for its natural beauty, particularly in autumn when fall foliage is at its peak. Regardless of the season, these 11 free family friendly things to do will help you have an affordable family vacation there. And they’re all free in Asheville, NC!
Asheville, North Carolina, is regarded as an artsy, environmentally-friendly city with uniquely happy residents. It is also a vegetarian-friendly community. Its weather resembles much of the rest of the southeastern United States, although temperatures are a bit cooler due to higher altitudes. Winter temps often fall below freezing and summer highs hover in the middle 80s.
Looking for free in Asheville? Free activities alternate between the outdoorsy and the artistic, and shine during the warmer months.
11 Free Things to Do in Asheville
1) Great Smoky Mountains National Park – This national park is the most visited park in the national park system. The 2015 statistics were more than 10 million visitors! The Smokies are a nearby natural wonder and always free to explore.
2) The Montford Park Players – Each summer, North Carolina’s longest-running outdoor theatre troupe performs Shakespearean plays for free on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
3) The River Arts District – An old industrial district transformed by a community of working artists into an enclave for creativity. Watch the artists at work for free. And FYI: one of my favorite restaurants called White Duck Taco is nestled between artists’ galleries in the River Arts District. Really you can’t go wrong shopping in eclectic Asheville with vintage shops and artisans everywhere.
4) Biking -Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains are elements conducive to biking – a mild climate, a wide range of terrain and many scenic roads. Bring your own bike to ride for free or stop by one of Asheville’s many bike shops to rent suitable equipment.
5) Dance, Dance, Dance – Head to downtown’s Pritchard Park for the Asheville Drum Circle on Friday evenings in spring and summer. Drums combine in a cacophony of sound and individuals are inspired to dance.
6) Mountain Views – The Blue Ridge Mountain vistas are always free. Take a drive up Town Mountain near the historic Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa or cruise the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway for excellent views.
7) Waterfalls – The hundreds of waterfalls in the mountains surrounding Asheville are ideal for hiking, strolling, or cooling off on a hot summer day. Be sure to throw in comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots. Your feet will thank you later!
8) The Tailgate Markets – Stop by one of Asheville’s many tailgate and farmers’ markets and receive free samples of local flavors and farm-fresh treats.
9) The Asheville Urban Trail – Take a self-guided tour of the Asheville Urban Trail. City streets serve as an art and history museum without walls, where pieces of art tell the story of this town’s heritage.
10) Festivals – Asheville is synonymous with free festivals, ranging from music to arts to mountain sports. These include Downtown After 5 (every third Friday from May-September from 5-9pm), Shindig on the Green, where crowds with lawn chairs and blankets in tow gather on summer Saturday evenings to enjoy the region’s Appalachian mountain music and dance traditions. (Saturday evenings July–September 3rd), and the Big Crafty (July 17th), a revival of the community bazaar tradition with a lively celebration of handmade commerce, featuring local food, beer, music, and fine wares from a juried group of select indie artists and crafters.
11) Grove Park Inn (especially at Christmastime). Even if you aren’t a guest, this historic hotel will welcome you with open arms. Tour the grand lobby with roaring fireplaces in winter. Festooned with Christmas garland and trees galore, plus the National Gingerbread competition, and you’ve got a day’s outing that is sure to put you in the holiday spirit. Check out my review of the Grove Park in for the Holidays.