Almost everyone knows Asheville, N.C., is home to the Biltmore House and its spectacular gardens, the historic Omni Grove Park Inn, a gorgeous section of the Blue Ridge Parkway and a zillion ~ more or less ~ arts and crafts galleries, craft beer breweries, super cool eateries, mountains that encircle the city and books at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe. Less than 100 feet more above sea level than Blacksburg (Asheville–2,165; Blacksburg–2,080), the city sits in 45 square miles with its 87,000 population. Folding in all of Buncombe County bumps the population up three-fold to around 250,500. It’s been described as the hippest city in the South, top dream town for vegan living, most romantic, one of best places to reinvent yourself, sunny place to retire and best city in America for locavores.
With more breweries per capita than any U.S. city, Asheville has carved quite a reputation as Beer City USA. Some 100 local beers are waiting to be discovered on draft or in bottles with 27 breweries in the city and a few more than that in the county. Beer festivals are abundant, and you can find beer in cake, shampoo, dog biscuits, ice cream and mustard. Beercations in this western North Carolina enclave are rivaling wine tours in other regions. But the city also boasts dozens of tours, and this is where you can save a lot of time and learn, see and experience a whole bunch of quirky, fun facts and sights. Before you leave for Asheville, you don’t have to read anything. Just show up, buy a bunch of tour tickets, tip the guides generously, and let the experts tell you more than you can read about this uber cool, small mountain city.
The Amazing Pubcycle is rated #1 of outdoor activities by The guide doubles as comedian and DJ, and the 1 1/2 hour tour is unique for its 13-person pedal trolley on wheels. “It’s like a picnic table going sideways through the downtown streets,” explains owner Shawn Verbrugghe. “It’s the most fun you can have on wheels.” This tour guide does pay the rent with tips, and the comedy component is a huge part of the draw. It’s not scripted, and it’s hilarious. You can bring on board some of that local brew or pick it up with your handful of $1 bills at one of the two pub stops. []
French Broad Outfitters offer a 3-hour urban float which takes you through the River Arts District, home to more than 200 artist studios, on the French Broad River. You choose your transport from among canoes, SUPs, kayaks and tandem kayaks. []
Food and culture walking tours through eclectic neighborhoods are 3-hour excursions for the gourmand and culinary crowd. The lunch tour includes half a dozen tastings at least from classic Southern dishes to cutting-edge modern cuisine and tasty morsels in between. Beyond that you’ll learn about chocolate making, botanical medicine and using herbs along the way. []
LaZoom offers unique comedy and haunted comedy tours among others. “Historical and hysterical, our City Tours feature outrageously entertaining tour guides, outlandish comedy skits, loads of Asheville information and incredible views of downtown. You’ve never had a ride like this. It’s like a vaudeville show on wheels!”

Segway tours of downtown run up to 2 1/2 hours and leave three times a day from the visitor center. You get up to half an hour of training and see the city from the comfort of your own two wheels on this unique, self-balancing, personal transportation device. []
Asheville by Foot Tours allow you to see and experience Asheville downtown, the Montford Historic District or Biltmore Village Historic District with an experienced tour guide. “Whether you’re visiting Asheville for the first time or the 10th, you’ll develop a deep appreciation for Asheville’s rich history, stunning architecture and unique culture.”

For the light outdoor adventurer who doesn’t feel like listening to the GPS personality, book a Tumblestone tour of waterfalls. You’ll visit three wonderful, nearby waterfalls, ride in comfort, walk perhaps three miles over the course of the 5-hour tour and experience the kind of gorgeous photo ops that only waterfalls can deliver. []
Ghost Walking Tour is a hauntingly eerie adventure that ends at the Asheville Mystery Museum. []
Star Watch Night Vision Tours provide the ultimate night vision experience away from the city lights with Alpha Generation 3 military-issue night vision goggles. Combine that with transportation, comfy camping chairs and snuggly blankets, and this is an Asheville treat not be missed. []
Other Asheville places to visit …

? Grovewood Village (including antique car museum)
? New Morning Gallery (est. 1973, largest single craft
gallery in the U.S., bridal registry)
? North Carolina Arboretum (434 acres, 65 acres of
gardens and 10+ miles hiking trails)
? Enter the Conundrum (escape room that defies the
ordinary and aims to astonish)
? Lexington Glassworks (hand blown glass, gift shop,
taproom – drink local beer in handblown glass glasses)
? Thomas Wolfe Memorial (author of “Look Homeward
Angel” and others)
? Asheville Pinball Museum (pay entrance fee and play on
75+ pinball machines without coins or tokens)


Text by Joanne M. Anderson

Photos courtesy of