A painting of a mountain sums up Asheville just fine. After all, it's a mountain town full of artists. Of all the Smoky Mountain experiences you can have, Asheville's is the most original, the most... conscious. Asheville tickles all the senses – smell the fresh mountain air, taste the fresh food, hear the birds, see the art work, feel alive. And save money, too. Here's our guide to Asheville vacation deals, from attractions to accommodations.
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Asheville is a refreshing city where artists are actually able to sell their work (imagine that!), the food is actually made fresh and with local ingredients (no posing!), and the interesting, local shops are practically tourist attractions (no cheesy souvenir shops!)... all this with a mountain backdrop. Best of all, you can experience Asheville for cheap.
Cool Neighborhoods & Shopping Districts
- River Arts District: Paintings and sculptures and pottery, oh my! This hopping Asheville neighborhood features the works of 150 artists, as well as shops and restaurants. On Second Saturdays, you can check out workshops and special shows. Riverside Drive
- Biltmore Village: Tickets for a tour of the sprawling Biltmore Estate are $45, but for free, you can linger around the Biltmore Village, where 20th century architecture meets modern shopping. And if you stick to window shopping, you won’t be any poorer for it.
- Grovewood Gallery: While you can shop for jewelry or grab a bite to eat at this 9,000-square-foot retail heaven, the real show stopper is the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum, which you can explore for free. 8 Town Square Boulevard
- Grove Arcade: This historic downtown building is home to many locals, but the first floor beckons all with unique shops and restaurants. While here, why not pick up some body spray at Bath Junkie, satisfy your sweet tooth at Nutz About Fudge, browse fine clocks at Tic-n-Time, and try a wine and cheese pairing at Santé Wine Bar & Tap Room? 1 Page Avenue
Art and History
- Church of St Lawrence: This 20th century Spanish-style basilica is known for its tile structure (no wood or steel). 97 Haywood Street
- Thomas Wolfe Memorial: For just $5, tour the home made famous in the 1929 novel “Look Homeward, Angel” by Thomas Wolfe. 52 North Market Street 28801
- Asheville Art Museum: This museum was founded by real artists in 1947, and its 20th and 21st century works can be seen for just $8. 2 North Pack Square
- Vance Memorial: Among his many roles, mountain man Zebulan Vance was a county solicitor, North Carolina governor, US senator, and local hero. The monument built in his honor may not stand the test of time, though. Money is currently being raised to preserve the obelisk. U.S. 74 Alternate
- The Smith-McDowell House Museum: Asheville’s oldest home sits on a plantation and is also a museum. Meander through the 19th century mansion, learn about the three families associated with it, and discover surprising exhibits. 283 Victoria Rd
The Great Outdoors
- Great Smoky Mountain National Park – The 10 best attractions in the Smoky Mountains are all free or cheap. Head west through Maggie Valley
- Asheville Botanical Gardens: Summer and spring, when most the garden's 600 species of plants and trees are in bloom, is the best time to visit. Admission is free! University of North Carolina at Asheville
- Blue Ridge Parkway: Go for a colorful and relaxing drive, and stop for a picnic or look-see along the way. Drive southwest for the Great Smoky Mountains, or northwest for Craggy Gardens
- Pisgah National Forest: If the Great Smoky Mountains and Asheville's many parks and nature preserves don’t satisfy the explorer in you, head here for even more opportunities to hike and bike. Drive northwest
- Western North Carolina Nature Center: Farm animals and wild animals, you can see it all for $8. 75 Gashes Creek Road
- North Carolina Arboretum: For $8, wander, hike, or bike through sunny gardens, which include an amazing bonsai collection. 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way
- ClimbMax Indoor Climbing Center: Get access to all the climbing stations and more for just $12.50. A fun and safe way to rock climb in the Smoky Mountains – kids welcome! 43 Wall Street
"Locally grown," "made from scratch," "homemade," "farm to table" – many of Asheville's top restaurants have such labels, and they're well-earned. Vegetarians, health nuts, and foodies alike will all find themselves in awe of Asheville's fantastic restaurants and coffee shops.
Lunch & Dinner
- Papa's & Beer: Kid-friendly diner with great margaritas and salsa. Three locations on Tunnel Rd, Brevard Rd, and Hendersonville Rd
- 12 Bones Smokehouse: This family-owned BBQ spot serves up the classics, but also has something different on the menu every day. 5 Riverside Dr
- Doc Chey's Noodle House: Lots of options for vegetarians, and located in a charming, historic building. 37 Biltmore Ave
- White Duck Taco Shop: This family-friendly spot encourages “you to eat with your hands,” with tacos like “Mushroom Potato” and “Bangkok Shrimp.” 1 Roberts St #101
- Zambra: Spanish tapas bar with a splash of the Carolinas. 85 W Walnut St
- Nine Mile 233: Vegetarian-friendly restaurant specializing in Caribbean dishes like jerk chicken (you can substitute tofu). It also has a great selection of wine and microwbrews. 233 Montford Ave
- Roman's: Light, homemade burgers, sandwiches, and salads. 75 Haywood St
- The Market Place Restaurant: You may not know what to expect on the menu, but you know it will be fresh. This farm-to-table restaurant has a nice selection of affordable, small plates, all thanks to local farmers. 20 Wall St
- Rosetta's Kitchen: There’s something for everyone here – from the “organic tofu avocado sandwich” to the “nacho platter.” 116 N Lexington Ave in Whole Foods
- HomeGrown: Just what it sounds like – food made fresh by local farmers. As a result, the menu is always changing. 371 Merrimon Ave
- City Bakery Café: Great breakfast and lunch spot (bagels, sandwiches, etc). Two locations at 60 Biltmore Ave and 88 Charlotte St
- Sunny Point Cafe & Bakery: No matter what time it is, you can get an omelet, breakfast taco, or waffle at this diner. Lunch, dinner, and dessert are also served. 9 626 Haywood Rd
Coffee, Tea, & Dessert
- The Gourmet Chip Company: While you can fill up on a panini here, the real stars of the show are the sides: sweet potato and kettle style chips of all varieties. 43 Broadway St
- World Coffee Café: Coffee, drinks, and desserts – check out the rooftop Sky Bar for great views. 18 Battery Park Ave
- Dobra Tea: Sip some authentic green tea and nibble on a slice of pumpkin spice bread. 78 N Lexington Ave
- The Hop Ice Cream Café: Homemade milkshakes that suit a vegetarian or gluten-free diet? That's guilt-free ice cream eating, right there! Free entertainment and wifi, too. Two locations at 640 Merrimon Ave #103 and 721 Haywood Rd
When it comes to booking your accommodation, Asheville vacation deals are everywhere you look. If you book a vacation home, that is. Unlike hotels, vacation cabins and homes offer up a lot of space and amenities (like a private pool and mountain views). But for the same price as a hotel! Why pile your family into a small bedroom when you can all sprawl out in a big cabin? As well, with features like a full kitchen and dining area, you can save money by cooking up your own breakfast, lunch, and dinner when you feel like it.
Plus, if you’re vacationing with a big group, everyone can split the bill of a big house, instead of overpaying for individual hotel rooms. Vacation rentals are located all over Asheville, so you can stay downtown near all the museums, shops, and restaurants, or you can stay just outside it and wake up to fantastic mountain views.
Make sure to check out our current last minute deals, cancellation specials, and other unique offers for Asheville vacation homes. You may be able to save extra cash by visiting during a different week or weekend than you originally planned.
Looking for additional Asheville vacation deals? Here are some tips for keeping your Smoky Mountain vacation on a tight budget:
- Visit during the off season: The winter time can get rather chilly in Asheville, but it’s a much cheaper time to visit. With all of the indoor attractions, and a busy downtown scene, there’s still plenty to see and do in November, December, and January.
- Location, location, location: What do you plan to do in Asheville? Are you looking for a great city to base your mountain getaway in, or are you looking for a great city? Stay downtown if you plan to spend time in shops, restaurants, and museums, but stay around the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of downtown if you plan to explore the Great Smoky Mountains or Pisgah National Forest. By staying near the attractions you're most interested in, you won't have to fill up the tank of your rental car very often.
- Pack snacks and water: Make sure you’re armed with snacks and a water bottle while you’re out and about, so you’re not tempted to overspend on these items when thirst or hunger hits unexpectedly.