Asheville, North Carolina, is a city that likes to celebrate. From natural attractions like stunning tulips in bloom to arts shows and holiday specials, this city feels like an intimate community — even to visitors — through its many events and festivals. While there are more traditional arts, crafts, and music festivals than we can count, such as the Montford Arts and Music Festival, there are a number of unique happenings that are worth planning around.
Outdoor sportsmen will find their enthusiasm for Hook, Line and Drinker Festival, which is centered on fly fishing with the imperative Asheville attributes of beer and music. Gardeners and foodies will delight in Organicfest or the Herb or Ramp festivals due in part to the valley’s incredibly diverse biosphere in which tons of plants and produce thrive. No matter what type of attraction or event travelers are looking to spend their time doing, the Asheville calendar will not come up short.
Brewgrass Festival — In a city known for its beer scene, Asheville’s Brewgrass Festival is among the most exciting events of the year. On a single Saturday, more than 200 microbrewers descend on Salvage Station, an outdoor venue in the River Arts District, to a stage set by bluegrass, Americana, and country musicians. Beer connoisseurs can try new and unusual brews created in small batches. Buy tickets in advance for up to 50 tastings. Those not drinking can buy discounted tickets that do not include beer tastings.
When: One weekend in October
RiverMusic & Riverfest — From June to September, locals converge on the banks of the French Broad River with RiverLink to celebrate the world’s third-oldest river while raising support to help preserve it and keep it clean. The main event, however, is the weekend in August when the “Anything that Floats” parade happens. The event is free and occurs at New Belgium Brewing, so bring an ID and beer money.
When: The first or second Saturday of June, July, August, and September
Biltmore Through the Seasons — The Biltmore House is an Asheville icon and one of the most visited mansions in the United States. Throughout the year near holidays, the grounds are transformed into a celebration of the seasons. From Biltmore at Christmas to Biltmore Blooms, lights and Christmas trees transform the home into a winter wonderland between November and December while the tulips bloom in spring for a cacophony of colors. Check the calendar to ensure correct dates as weather can affect the gardens.
When: Seasonal, often occurring during and around the holidays
National Gingerbread Competition — Every holiday season, gingerbread houses from all across the United States and its territories are entered into a national competition at the Omni Grove Park Resort. Walking through the hotel’s luxurious lobby, which features massive stone fireplaces and hallways lined with photos of the most famous guests, such as Barack Obama and F. Scott Fitzgerald, is reason enough to attend the event. With three categories of entries ranging from children to adults, the free event is covered by national broadcasters like ABC News, the Travel Channel, and Food Network. A popular event among locals and visitors alike, this is a holiday sight to see.
When: End of November through the beginning of January
LEAF — Otherwise known as the Lake Eden Arts Festival, LEAF might be the most popular arts festival in the city. A global culture and interactive art festival, LEAF promises a weekend of family-friendly fun and activities — including more adventurous options like zip-lining, swimming, and hiking among Black Mountain‘s 600 acres of forests and lakes. Take a seat along the banks of Lake Eden to listen to musicians from all across the world and relax after a busy day.
When: Biannually, occurs the second weekend of May and third weekend of October
Asheville Yoga Festival — This four-day event takes place in Pack Square Park of downtown Asheville. As many as 30 speakers present and more than 70 classes and other active events take place across the weekend. All-access tickets can be purchased, or yogis can pay per event to be attended. Of course, there will be music, and thanks to the central location, guests can easily take in the surrounding eclectic gastronomy scene.
When: One weekend in late July
Dirty Dancing Festival — Just a short drive outside of Asheville, followers of the cult-classic movie, Dirty Dancing, can explore the set of that famous lake scene in which Johnny and Baby learn lifts. Though there are actual dancing competitions at this event, guests can expect plenty of dancing fun without being a professional. Those in attendance will watch an outdoor screening of the movie on the banks of the lake, take dancing lessons, participate in movie-inspired summer retreat games like watermelon races, and have access to after parties.
When: One weekend in September
River Arts District Studio Stroll — The River Arts District is the hub of Asheville’s artist community. With more than 300 creating artists, this guided studio stroll takes guests to a number of buildings to visit and watch them at work. From painters and potters to jewelry designers and glass blowers, there are many mediums for visitors to explore and watch in action. Learn about the artists from a guide while walking, and become a patron of the arts by purchasing directly from your favorite artist. Some artists even open their studios to host and teach classes, making this a wonderful opportunity to find a style that speaks to you and book a session.
When: One weekend in November