Located in Buncombe County and nestled at the foothills of the Appalachians, Asheville is a unique mountain town. This is a place that has always been beloved by the artistic and the weird. In the early 1900s, Asheville was a leader in Art Deco architecture and in the 1980s, the community started attracting artists and authors from all over with an art museum that boasted art films every two weeks, farmers markets, and several fantastic bookstores. In 2000, the city’s eclectic mix of hippies, neohippies, pagans, punks, performance artists, and so much more earned it the intriguing title of “Freak Capital of the US” by Rolling Stone.
Today, Asheville has diversified even more as people choosing it as a top place for microbreweries and whitewater rafting. Thus, bringing an even greater diversity of people to the area. So if what you like is a town with an eclectic past, then Asheville out to be on your must-see vacation list. And if you are interested in learning more about Asheville’s unique past, then the following key historical sites ought to be on your travel itinerary once you arrive:
Quick Guide to Premier Asheville Historic Attractions
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial
American author Thomas Wolfe left an indelible mark on the country’s writing scene throughout the 1900s and onto today. His best-known book is an autobiographical novel Look Homeward, Angel that has never been out of print. This novel’s setting centers upon Wolfe’s mother’s Asheville boarding house. A decade after his premature death in 1938 from tuberculosis of the brain, that boardinghouse became a memorial to Wolfe, his works, and the history of Asheville in the first decades of the 1900s.
While the Thomas Wolfe Memorial is obviously a go-to location if you love Wolfe’s materials or are otherwise a fan of early 20th-century literature, plenty of other history-loving individuals will find a lot to appreciate at this location. This is a living museum of that time period that all history buffs will appreciate. See for yourself how life was like during those early, wilder days of Asheville, NC.
After you’ve finished visiting the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, you might consider heading over to the Montford Area Historic District. This neighborhood boasts many gorgeous homes and was a lively place during Wolfe’s time. This is also where you will find Asheville’s prestigious Riverside Cemetery, a must-stop for history-lovers. This cemetery is where Thomas Wolfe is laid to rest as well as many other famous Asheville residents boasting interesting gravestones, such as that of O. Henry.
The Biltmore Estate
Have you always wished to see the glorious castles and rich estates of Europe? If so, then what if we told you that there is something very similar right here in Asheville? For nearly 150 years, the 250-room Biltmore Estate has stood tall as a gorgeous château in Asheville’s countryside.
This gorgeous French Renaissance chateau is as much of a marvel today as it was when first built. It took a significant amount of craftsmen over six years to build this gorgeous home and gardens. Originally designed as a country retreat of George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore Estate officially opened to friends and family on Christmas Eve 1895. One of the plans Vanderbilt had for his massive estate was to make it an inn and share the beauty of the chateau and the greater Asheville area. Unfortunately, that dream was not realized in its time, but it has been realized since.
Today, the Biltmore Estate boasts a ton of exciting attractions and activities for guests. There are, of course, guided and self-guided tours through the massive estate. Visitors can also visit and enjoy the onsite winery, book a room at the Inn, have the kids play on the Pisgah Playground, enjoy one of the site’s many seasonal events, or so much more. There’s even a unique craftsmanship village in which guests can visit farm animals and watch craft demonstrations such as blacksmithing. The Biltmore Estate is fantastic for history, but it also is a place that is very much also in the present as seen by the many activity and events here.
Asheville Ghost Tours
Both the above historic sites are within the Asheville area, but they aren’t in the downtown sector. To learn more about the downtown of Asheville, you might consider going on a tour. And if you consider a tour, why not make it an interesting one via a ghost tour? Ghost tours, especially walking ghost tours, are a wonderful way to explore the city but explore it in a unique way so that you learn things you aren’t going to get from your average travel guide.
For example, Asheville Ghost Tours offers visitors a fantastic way to learn more about the spookier side of Asheville. Take the Classic Walking tour around the downtown streets of Asheville to learn more about the different shops and the spooky history behind each one.
Another great tour option, especially if you either have or are planning to visit the Biltmore Estate is to do the Biltmore Village Mystery Tour. This tour takes place in the historic Biltmore Village which is a neighborhood just south of Asheville’s downtown that was established as a place to house the employees of the sprawling Biltmore Estate located further out of town. The walking tour here offers guests a history of the more mysterious and darker side of estate living.
History, Outdoors, Southern Hospitality — When’re You Booking Your Trip to Asheville?
Asheville is one of those places that has a little bit of something for everyone. This place has fantastic restaurants, gorgeous outdoor activities, a plethora of historic neighborhoods and museums, tons of artistic and craftsman locations, and so much more. If you have a family with a lot of interests or are yourself a person who likes many things during their travels, then Asheville, NC is certainly a place to go. Learn more about what this city has to offer by visiting our other pages and book your Asheville adventure today.