Asheville sits in a lush valley below the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s not only surrounded by stunning state parks, national forests, and parkway but includes a few welcoming green spaces within city limits as well. From urban parks that host street performers on Friday nights to one of the most scenic drives in the United States, here are some of our favorite places to enjoy greenery and nature in and around Asheville.

Square Park Pack and Highrises in Asheville, North Carolina

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Pack Square Park — Known as Asheville’s “front yard,” Pack Square Park serves as a multi-use space against the Art Deco city hall. The park’s stage serves as a central point for hosting musicians, open-air theater performances, city events, festivals, and other free occurrences. Check the calendar and don’t miss favorite opportunities like Asheville Art in the Park, Asheville VeganFest, and the Asheville Half Marathon.

Old Tree Hangs over French Broad River near Asheville

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French Broad River Park — Given the ancient age of its rocks, French Broad River is thought to be one of the oldest rivers in the world, predating the Appalachians themselves. This park in front of the river is a great place to sit under an old, shady tree and take in the view or easily access the greenway for longer walks or bike rides. This riverside green space also includes paved trails, a scenic overlook, and two dog parks — one for off-leash large dogs and one for smaller dogs. One event dog-lovers will not want to miss is the monthly pug party.

Cyclists from around the world competing in track race races in Asheville, North Carolina

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Carrier Park — Like the French Broad River Park, Carrier Park includes access to the greenway, river views, and picnic tables. What sets this larger park apart, however, are its sports facilities. With options ranging from roller hockey to lawn bowling, the actively inclined will surely find a sport that suits their taste. Take to the velodrome for cycling or heat things up on the volleyball court.

Pritchard Park — A traditional urban park with tree-lined walkways, a water feature, boulders, and artful landscaping makes up the aesthetic of downtown Pritchard Park. With amphitheater-style seating, this central hub is a local favorite for street performers and other events. Every Friday night a drum circle forms, and drummers loudly lay their beat for all who come to listen. The talented performers — and lively crowd — make for a good time.

The Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina

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Pisgah National ForestPisgah National Forest is located just outside of Asheville and serves as a point of access to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The lush green forests, streams, and waterfalls, which can be reached through any number of hikes, are breathtaking. For an educational visit, the park’s Outdoor Learning Center offers many free exhibits, classes like photography, and the chance to explore historic cabins. A picnic is always a good idea, but the forest is not far from Asheville and other small towns.

Blue Ridge Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway

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Blue Ridge Parkway — Outside of town, running across Virginia and North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s one of the most beautiful drives in the United States, and many people choose to experience this peak-top road by car, motorcycle, or bicycle. There are also plenty of hiking trails along the way, including access points to the Appalachian Trail.

Typically open from spring to late fall, the park is free to enter. Plan ahead and pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the pull-offs or at the top of a trail with a stunning view like Devil’s Courthouse. There are also hotels and restaurants — though few and far between — which are fun to visit and often offer stunning views of the signature blue-hued mountains.