Photo by Rosabees
Photo by @restless_russells
Foundation Walls in the River Arts District
With a vibrant art, food, and culture scene and a plethora of immersive outdoor activities, there’s a lot more to Asheville than its famous landmarks.
It’s no secret that Asheville frequently appears on top travel lists, with icons such as Biltmore Estate drawing upwards of one million visitors a year. But what’s lesser known is just how many still-hidden gems this remarkable city has to offer travelers who are searching for a local, empathetic way to tour one of the country’s top destinations.
After originally developing a reputation as a health resort in the late 19th century and a playground for the rich during the Jazz Age, over the past few decades Asheville has become a burgeoning arts destination, attracting visitors with its thriving art galleries, live music, and award-winning restaurants, all centered around a close-knit creative community and jaw-dropping natural beauty. From yoga with goats to a boutique record press, here are some of Asheville’s under-the-radar sites and experiences that travelers shouldn’t miss.
Part of Asheville’s ever-evolving River Arts District, Foundation Walls started out as a sanctioned spot for outdoor muralists to create supersized, colorful street art on abandoned warehouses. Now this area around Foundy Street is also home toFoundation Studios, a community arts center with galleries, workshops, and frequent exhibits, as well as popular hangouts likeWedge at Foundation brewery,Summit Coffee Co., and the sprawlingRiverview Station artist studios. Visitors can tour the site to see potters, glassblowers, sculptors, and more at work, or for a more hands-on experience, book a basket weaving, oil painting, or printmaking class.
Hawaii and North Carolina may not seem like a natural cultural fit, but after dinner atRosaBees, you’ll understand how Hawaiian specialties and Asheville flair make a delicious culinary match. After an inspiring vacation to the islands, local pastry chef Melissa Gray teamed up with chef Cookie Hadley, who grew up eating Polynesian food thanks to his Hawaiian-raised stepfather. Together they built a menu of Hawaiian dishes and sweet Asheville treats, including crispy duck wings with a ginger BBQ glaze and ube scallops with yuzu edamame succotash. Make sure you save room for dessert; the right side up pineapple butter mochi is a highlight.
Located in the historic Citizen-Times building,Citizen Vinyl—a hybrid record press, boutique, cafe, recording studio, and event space—taps into the community’s buzzing art and music scene. During your visit, watch records being made, indulge in coffee, hearty sandwiches, and Amari-focused cocktails at Session Cafe and Bar, and browse Coda Analog Shop, which displays a rotating roster of work from top Western North Carolina artists, alongside midcentury home decor, and new and used records. If you time it right, you can also attend an art talk or show by a local musician.
Just 10 miles from downtown Asheville,Franny’s Farm provides the opportunity to get away from it all in an unusual way. Experienced and new yogis alike can book a class with the property’s family of frisky goats. (Just don’t expect them to respect your personal space.) After your session, fill a basket at the U-pick blueberry hill, make friends with a whole host of chickens, donkeys, and bees, and enjoy a private tour of the 33-acre organic, regenerative farm, where the team grows hemp for a range of applications, from medicinal CBD products to pet treats. If you care to stay awhile, you can even rent a solar-powered rental cabin and cozy up for the night.
Founded by a former science teacher who turned his collection into a beloved business,Asheville Pinball Museum is a haven for fans of retro arcade games. Boasting a selection of 35 pinball machines and 35 classic video games, the young—and young at heart—come to this quirky establishment to show off their skills on favorites like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Purchase an unlimited session, fuel up on soda and candy, and play the day away. The museum even features several display-only vintage machines from the 1930s including Gottlieb’s Humpty Dumpty, the first pinball machine to feature flippers.
Craggy Gardens, a rocky, rhododendron-covered forest located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, has long been a favorite place for outdoor adventure. But the well-known area has a hidden secret: a trailhead for a hike toDouglas Falls, a magnificent, 70-foot waterfall within the Pisgah National Forest. At the end of the strenuous, 6.6-mile roundtrip hike, travelers jump at the rare (and refreshing) opportunity to walk behind the cool cascades and admire the massive rock wall behind them. (Pro tip: Remember toleave no trace.)
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