17 Totally Free Things to Do in Asheville NC

When you think of a dream travel destination in the United States, Asheville comes to mind.

Even though a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, seems like it would have to be expensive, you don’t have to spend a lot of cash to have a wonderful visit to The Land of the Sky. Here are nearly twenty free things to do in Asheville NC.

Downtown Asheville

Downtown Asheville is famous across the United States for its eclectic culture. Art Deco architecture, coffee shops, bookshops, and fine dining are just a few of its attractions.

Whether your trip to Asheville is an afternoon or a week, you want an experience to remember long after you return home. Downtown Asheville is the perfect place to find all that for “free.”

Downtown Asheville is full of free — starting with parking that is free for the first hour. Then, you can spend time with your friends enjoying a cup of coffee in a great environment like the Battery Park Book Exchange.

The two floors of old books, furniture, and paintings make for a picturesque location. It’s located in the Grove Arcade, where you can browse the other shops for hours.

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It’s up to you which free things to do in Downtown Asheville, NC, you’d like to try first. Downtown is an interactive experience you should visit with the entire family.

Do your research, connect with the business owners and artisans, and then budget all your resources wisely. In a place like Downtown Asheville, your most limited resource will be time to enjoy all there.

Asheville North Carolina Skyline

Is Asheville Cheap to Visit?

Asheville isn’t necessarily considered a budget destination, but it can be enjoyed affordably with some planning. You’ll find a range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly inns to luxurious resorts.

Enjoying Asheville’s outdoor beauty is often free, and plenty of reasonably priced restaurants offer delicious local eats.

Asheville Visitor Center

Hey there, savvy traveler! You’re reading this article because you do your research! Having a plan to tackle all of the great Asheville things to do for free will save time and energy. That’s why the Asheville Visitor’s Center is the place to start.

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To begin with — the staff here are invested in your travel experience. They want you to come back. These locals will ask you the right questions and then guide you to the restaurants you want, the lodging you’ll enjoy the most, and the attractions that fit with the trip you want.

So, even if you stop and just browse the brochures, this needs to be your first stop in Asheville.

Photo overlooking miles of tress in fall in Pisgah National Forest in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Pisgah National Forest

You will find the city of Asheville to be a fascinating destination, but you must not ignore the area around it–especially the Pisgah National Forest.

This Forest has a direct connection to The Biltmore Estate since much of the land was donated by the Vanderbilt Family as a permanent national legacy.

A large chunk of the half a million acres are “old growth” forests, meaning this may be one of the only times you and your family experience what the woods looked like to past generations.

The National Forest offers outdoor activities for every style, including short hikes, fishing, picnics, week-long backpacking trips, mountain biking, and rock climbing.

Hundreds of waterfalls, thousands of campsites, and too many picnic areas to count make this a great place to visit. Stretching across a dozen counties around Asheville, you can enjoy parts of this national treasure.

Even if you don’t have the time to make it downtown, it’s still possible to enjoy many free Asheville things here.

The Pisgah National Forest is free. Whether your idea of wildlife is a bird feeder outside your window or backcountry hiking, this is the place where you can find that experience at no cost. This attraction is too big for you to miss.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is where to go no matter what you want to do, what you want to see, and how much you want to pay. They’ve been called the most popular national park in the United States, and there are plenty of reasons why.

The Great Smoky Mountains is a vast area with an equally diverse range of attractions. Whether you want to stay in the car or camp in the backcountry for a week, it will meet your vacation requirements.

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In addition, it is very vehicle-friendly since you can drive through Cades Cove in Tennessee or Cataloochee in North Carolina.

Getting out into nature is more important than ever after the past two years, and that’s one reason the Great Smoky Mountains are such a bargain.

You won’t find a greater concentration of biodiversity anywhere else, and you won’t find friendlier folks to help you maximize your visit. Start your trip at one of several Visitor’s Centers—which are free.

View of the smoky mountains in the spring at sunset with white flowers close to the camera near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

French Broad River

The French Broad River has finally received the long-overdue attention it deserves as a tourist attraction. While it isn’t the Mississippi or the Tennessee River, that’s one reason people enjoy it so much.

The depth – around three feet in most areas –provides the perfect place for tubing. Riding a tube up the gentle current is something people love to do.

Fun Fact: The French Broad flows north, unlike all other south-flowing rivers east of the continental divide in the Rocky Mountains.

Blue Ridge Parkway

With so many free things to do in Asheville, some forget to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway. But The Parkway is more than a highway. It’s an attraction in itself.

The Blue Ridge Parkway may be the most valuable free resource in Asheville since it’s the perfect way to get there while having fun on the way. The National Park Service is stringent in allowing no commercial traffic on the Parkway.

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The Parkway follows the Blue Ridge Mountains from Washington, DC, down to Cherokee. Asheville is the largest city along the way.

The Overlooks dotted along the way mean you’re not going to be stuck in the car all the way–you’re going to pull off and take selfies.

What Do People Usually Go to Asheville For?

People flock to Asheville for its unique blend of mountain charm, vibrant arts, and outdoor adventure.

They come to marvel at the Biltmore Estate, immerse themselves in the lively River Arts District, and hike in the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville’s thriving food and craft beer scene also draws crowds seeking a delicious and memorable experience.

Blue Ridge Mountains Upstate North Carolina

Folk Art Center

Looking for other things to do in Asheville NC, for free? The Folk Art Center of the Southern Highland Guild is an underrated attraction in Asheville.

Take an afternoon to visit the Fine Arts Center, although the weekend is good, too, since they have craft demonstrations featuring the best regional artists.

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Their rotating and permanent exhibits are informative, fun, and of the best quality you’ll find anywhere. But, of course, you can’t forget their library, tucked away on the second floor.

Whether you’re casually browsing or looking for technical information about crafting, you can spend hours there.

Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate was not the original tourist attraction in Asheville, but it quickly became the area’s central tourist attraction.

If you have not been to the Estate, you have to go at least once. America’s largest private home is a throwback to a different, slower, more elegant time.

Looking to score free Biltmore tickets? Admission is not free, but there are ways to get the price to almost free, and there are plenty of freebies at Biltmore.

To begin with, the Season Pass Perks make up for its price. For example, I paid nothing for my parent’s visit to the Biltmore House because of my Season Pass.

Although I financed my original ticket to the Biltmore House with a Christmas bonus from work, I immediately upgraded to a Season Pass because it made financial sense.

The Estate is a destination itself, and that is free. Locals with Season Passes visit The Estate every weekend—or daily—to hike the trails and forests.

Recently, The Estate’s gallery has begun consistently bringing experiences like Van Gogh and Monet to the area.

fall foliage surrounding Biltmore Estate

Can You See the Biltmore From the Road?

Yes, depending on your location, you can catch glimpses of the Biltmore Estate from various roads in Asheville!

The most scenic vantage point is along the Blue Ridge Parkway, offering stunning views of the mansion nestled in the rolling hills. Remember, for a full tour experience, you’ll need to purchase tickets and actually enter the estate grounds.

Can You Visit the Biltmore for Free?

Unfortunately, you cannot visit the main areas of the Biltmore Estate for free. To explore the historic house and gardens and access other on-site attractions, a paid admission ticket is required.

However, visiting the surrounding Antler Hill Village, including the Winery and shops, is free to the public.

Can You Visit the Biltmore Winery for Free?

Yes, you can visit the Biltmore Winery for free! While wine tastings require a fee, you can explore the grounds, browse the shops, and enjoy the Antler Hill Village area without needing a ticket.

Complimentary wine tastings are included with a Biltmore Estate daytime admission ticket, should you choose to visit the house and gardens as well.

Photo of the door to the Art Garden with a sculpture to the right of it at the River Arts District in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Art Galleries

The gallery owners offer quality articles that serious customers collect. Afternoons spent browsing the galleries are what folks do in Asheville.

These owners value clients who take their time before buying and will welcome you as you admire what they are offering. This is a great way to enrich your trip to Asheville with your friends.

River Arts District

Asheville’s River Arts District may be the greatest success story in the past decade. The development has completely changed the old warehouse district into a diverse, must-visit area with incredible walkability.

Unquestionably, this is one of the fun, free things to do in Asheville NC. And since it’s open daily, a trip to the River Arts District is one of the best free things to do in Asheville today!

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The restaurants, galleries, and parks provide an engaging experience for visitors and residents alike. So whether you want to pick up lunch or art or stroll by the River while watching artisans at work, the River Arts District is the place to go.

Biltmore Village

The Biltmore Estate is by far the most famous part of Asheville, and it’s well worth a visit. But you’ll want to spend the day there, and sometimes all you have is an hour.

When you want to visit the Biltmore Village– it’s an extension of the Estate, built by George Washington Vanderbilt for the Estate staff.

Between the All Souls Cathedral, the shops, the Grand Bohemian Hotel, and other historic buildings, this is a fantastic Biltmore-esque experience.

The Village hosts Dickens-esque “caroling” every Christmas along their cobbled streets. But you don’t have to wait for the holidays to enjoy these streets. Some made it a habit to take afternoon strolls past the shops and restaurants in this amazing shopping district.

Visiting Biltmore Village is a great, free way to experience some of the grandeur on a budget!

Is Biltmore Village Free?

Biltmore Village itself is free to visit. This charming area just outside the Biltmore Estate offers shops, restaurants, and historic architecture.

However, to enter the Biltmore Estate and tour the house and gardens, you’ll need to purchase a ticket.

Close up photo of bronze statues dancing and playing music on the Urban Trail in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Asheville Urban Trail

The Asheville Urban Trail is the perfect feature for a city full of galleries. Around 30 sculptures carefully document Asheville’s history, beginning in Pack Square with bronze statues of turkeys and pigs, celebrating the crossroads that the city is built on.

Most sculptures delve into other well-known parts of the Land of the Sky, such as the bronze watch from O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi and a bronzed pair of Thomas Wolfe’s shoes.

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Other sculptures look at Asheville architecture and lesser-known residents, such as Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in American history. The Urban Trail is a no-lose proposition for a rewarding and free afternoon in downtown Asheville.

Asheville Drum Circle

Asheville’s Drum Circle is one of those free things to do in Asheville NC. This local gathering is an eclectic outpouring of creativity.

As a result, it has gained national acclaim. Events like these are one reason you need to plan your trip to enjoy the experiences you’ll only find in Asheville.

Looking down over the railing at the Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center with people looking at the exhibits and quilts lining the walls in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Asheville Guided Tours

When I took art history in college, our teacher spent the first few weeks focusing on Asheville itself.

From the Basilica of Saint Lawrence to Robert Morgan flying a B-17 between the Courthouse and City Hall, she shared terrific details about the city with her students.

It was proof that the greatest attraction of Asheville is the city itself, and guided tours are the best way to enjoy it. These are crafted by people who have done careful research to learn the most interesting details about the city.

Many of these tours–like the ghost tours–are available from folks who do this professionally. However, in this age of podcasts, there are numerous free tours you can enjoy.

Downloading a tour of the city and then streaming it through your headphones is a perfect way to enrich your visit to Downtown Asheville. Or you stream it through your car’s speakers as you drive through some of the storied neighborhoods.

highest peak east of mississippi river sign at Mount Mitchell State Park with view overlooking the valley near Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Asheville’s Art Center

Looking for free things to do in Asheville, NC, this weekend? Make it a day full of art and inspiration!

The area around Asheville is famous for the arts, and no visit to the area is complete without a visit to these art centers. Most offer free experiences shouldn’t minimize the value they offer.

The Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Folk Art Center is the place to start, but it’s not the only one. Not many people know Buckminster Fuller was a faculty member at Black Mountain College.

The University of North Carolina in Asheville, Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, and Warren Wilson College are other institutions in the area famous for their history of arts education.

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While their galleries are full of unique exhibits, the River Arts District is the epitome of free art studios. So stop searching for “free things to do near me”! The open studios along the river are a perfect way to get a feel for the art scene in Asheville for free.

Of course, don’t forget the world-famous John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown and the Penland School of Craft near Burnsville.

Photo over looking Craggy Gardens with a road running through it with a blue cloudy sky in Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Mount Mitchell State Park

Mount Mitchell is the highest point in the Eastern Continental United States, but that’s only one reason people want to go there.

At just over a mile high, it’s a great place to visit, with a vibrant schedule of events and various activities.

Picnics, camping, and hiking are only a few things folks love to do here. A selfie on the highest point in the Eastern United States is something not everyone can share.

Craggy Gardens

The Visitor’s Center itself was worth the drive, which was enjoyable even in that weather. Take the drive up from Downtown Asheville, past the Governor’s Western Residence, and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. On the way back to Asheville, take Ox Creek Road down for lunch in downtown Weaverville.

However, as enjoyable as the Craggy Gardens Visitors Center was, the Gardens themselves are even more impressive.

The views are gorgeous, and–depending on the time of year–the flowering bushes are well worth the drive, making them some of the best free things to do in Asheville, North Carolina. This is only one reason the Blue Ridge Parkway is an incredible drive any day of the year.

What Free Things to Do in Asheville, NC, Did We Miss?

Do you know other free things to do in Asheville, NC? Please share them with us below!

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Written by Anne Joyce Raymundo

Anne is a Filipino writer who formerly managed and created marketing strategies and materials for numerous websites and eCommerce platforms. Now, her voice...

2 comments about “17 Totally Free Things to Do in Asheville NC”

Suzanne Meyer

November 14, 2022 at 9:37 pm

Please correct your answer to “Is Biltmore Village free?”. Yes Biltmore Village is free. It is a small planned community which now consists of beautiful little cafes and unique shops among the cottages built to house some of the higher level workers who built Biltmore House. Those shops need all the business they can get and your answer may be costing them plenty of customers!! Please correct asap.

avatar of Teresa in blue tripster shirt


November 22, 2022 at 8:21 am

Hi Suzanne! We have updated the content to clarify that the Biltmore Village is a free experience. Thank you for reading!

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