Asheville has definitely become one of America’s most popular cities, and while that might mean it’s becoming increasingly expensive to live there, there are still plenty of inexpensive or even free activities for budget travelers to take advantage of.
Heading to Asheville soon and hoping to not break the bank? Here are 11 things to do in Asheville for $11 or less.
Urban Walking Trail
Follow this self-guided walking tour for a thorough introduction to the city’s history. If you’re a fan of architecture, you’re in luck; Asheville has the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the entire country.
The trail is divided into five sections, each with its own symbol: a feather marking the Gilded Age, a horseshoe marking the Frontier Period, an angel marking the Times of Thomas Wolfe, a courthouse marking the Era of Civic Pride, and an eagle marking the Age of Diversity.
At each of the trail’s ~thirty stops you’ll see the landmark being highlighted along with a plaque describing its importance. You’ll also be able to follow pink granite blocks with the trail’s five symbols carved into the city’s sidewalks.
Download the map here.
Street Art Photo Shoot
Asheville has a vibrant street art scene. Before our trip, I took note of a few pieces I wanted to try to see. Through a combination of good timing and pure luck, we were able to find all of them and more, despite not being exactly sure where they were all located.
This actually turned into one of the most fun parts of our time in Asheville; it felt like a city-wide scavenger hunt and every time we found another – or a great piece that we hadn’t been expecting – it felt so satisfying.
Cost: Free – the only thing at stake is your camera battery!
Malaprop’s Bookstore and Café
This independent bookstore on Haywood St. feels instantly inviting, and any book lover will want to pay it a visit after hearing their mission statement: “A place for readers who concern themselves with humanity and her development; where the best reads, the best company, and the best coffee complete the picture; where the books are the stars.”
Grab a drink from the café and browse the staff recommendations to take mental note of your next read, check out the banned books display, or sign up for their free newsletter, Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers.
Cost: Free to browse, $3-6 for a beverage or a pastry
Treat Yourself at Hole Doughnuts
These freshly fried, made-to-order doughnuts will leave you wanting more, and that’s a promise. We split one with toasted almonds, sesame seeds and cinnamon and I couldn’t stop talking about it all day. (Several weeks later, I’m still talking about it!)
The beautiful café space boasts large windows and an open kitchen, and there’s even a little blue truck outside you can sit in if you prefer.
As an added bonus, the shop is within walking distance of two of my favorite murals in the city, shown below, as well as being right down the street from the Urban Orchard Cider Co. (Keep reading!)
Read more about Hole (and see some seriously drool-worthy pics) here.
Cost: $2.75 per donut
Break for Beans
Coffee lovers will be spoiled for choice in Asheville. We started our day at High Five’s Rankin Ave. shop and took a break from exploring a few hours later at PennyCup Coffee Co., a small batch roaster that provides beans for many other Asheville spots, including the aforementioned Hole Doughnuts.
Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway and beyond
Not only is Asheville a beautiful city, it’s surrounded on all sides by countless opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature-centric activities of every kind. One of the country’s most famous scenic drives, the Blue Ridge Parkway, is literally minutes away from the downtown area, offering quick and easy access to waterfalls, scenic viewpoints, historical landmarks and more, including the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell.
Cost: Gas (and maybe a few snacks)
Nature in the City
If you prefer staying closer to the city, the Botanical Gardens at Asheville are a great option. Located just north of the downtown area by the UNC Asheville campus, you can enjoy walking trails lined with native wildflowers; you can even check their website to time your visit during peak bloom times.
Cost: Admission and parking are both free
Flight of Fancy
I’m more of a cider lover than a beer fan, so I loved visiting the Urban Orchard Cider Company. All of their ciders are made from local apples and aged for a minimum of eight months.
Cost: $9 for a flight of four
For my hop loving readers, there’s plenty in Asheville for you, too! The city is famous for its craft offerings, with more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city. Click here for a list of options and here to read more about the city’s epic beer scene.
The ever-changing and increasingly popular neighborhood of West Asheville boasts a daunting number of great restaurant options. We had a delicious breakfast at Sunny Point Café, an independent, family-owned Asheville institution utilizing fresh ingredients, many coming right from the garden adjacent to their restaurant.
Cost: My breakfast biscuits and gravy came in at $10, but that didn’t count coffee or tip. Never fear, though: on Wednesdays they offer craft beers for $3 and on Sundays starting at 10 am they offer their Nooner Cocktail (vodka, espresso syrup, orgreat syrup, lemon cordial and housemade cold-brew coffee concentrate) for $7. As you can see from the adorable coffee station above, bottomless drip coffee is also an option (and always a great idea) at $2.75 a cup.
…Exploring the garden is totally free!
Wander the River Arts District
Some of the city’s best street art is located in the burgeoning River Arts District, where former factories and warehouses have been converted into art galleries and studios, all situated along the banks of the city’s French Broad River. In addition to the actual galleries, the colorful and industrial buildings that house them are pieces of art in their own right.
No Farms, No Food
One of the best ways to get to know a new place is to visit a local farmers market, and Asheville has almost twenty “tailgate” markets to choose from. See a full list here to determine the one that best fits your needs.
Have you been to Asheville before? What was your favorite part?
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I’m sharing this post for the Wanderful Wednesday blog link-up, hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Marcella of What a Wonderful World, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This, and Van of Snow in Tromso. Follow the links to look through their sites!