Surrounded by some of the finest mountains in the Southeast, Asheville has made a name for itself as a hiking destination of utmost esteem.
Unfortunately, by the fickle hand of Mother Nature herself, one’s mountain-scouring adventure is at times damper, colder, and rainier than desired.
Speaking as someone familiar with hiking through rainstorms, I can tell you that it is worth a try, but probably not a second try. How does one solve this problem? Umbrellas? Rubber boots? Absurdly broad hats?
Personally, I propose somewhat of a radical angle: forget about the hike.
Asheville is full of amusements and diversions on par with any mountain-trail, and many of them are undisrupted, or even enhanced by a day of rain. Thus, I invite you, dear reader, to read on, and acquaint yourself with some of the best rainy day things to do in Asheville.
1: Watch a Movie
If through unimaginable machinations, the universe was to partially collapse, leaving in existence only one of the many indoor things to do in Asheville, that indoor-thing would have to movie-going.
Movies detest fresh air and clear skies; they thrive on any excuse to hide indoors. Furthermore, for a relatively small town, Asheville has a surprisingly vibrant cinema-scene, providing different experiences for movie-goers of different tastes.
The Regal Biltmore Grande
No matter where in the country one originates, its not unlikely you’ve enjoyed a movie at a Regal Cinema.
Personally, I have many fond recollections of Asheville’s own Regal; there’s very little about them to dislike. Their grand size ensures entry under most any conditions, their confection counters are extensive, and their seats are comfortable.
Moreover, the Regal Biltmore Grande lies at the epicenter of Biltmore Park, south Asheville’s most dense collection of restaurants, shops, ice cream, and parking spaces.
Asheville Pizza & Brewing (North)
It is exactly what the name suggests, and much more. Asheville Pizza & Brewing boasts a trio of locations scattered across the city, but only one of them warrants entry into this conversation on rainy day things to do in Asheville.
In proximity to the UNCA campus lies Asheville Pizza’s north location, where one can enjoy their pizza in front of the big-screen. Showing both classics and the season’s latest, Asheville Pizza’s film selection is on par with the Biltmore Grande, and their menu presents cinema-fare superior to any other.
Although perhaps in possession of less real-estate than their peers, Asheville Pizza is a true slice of Ashevilleian culture, and well worth a visit.
Although widely enjoyed by the public, certain individuals take an especial interest in movies, diving into the unfathomed depths of alternative and indie film. For such avid filmonauts, I suggest the Grail Moviehouse.
Sitting on the edge of downtown, do not venture into the Grail with the hopes of watching The Fast and The Furious; you’ll be sorely disappointed.
However, I ask you to consider the following narrative: your outdoor plans have been ruined, so you look for indoor things to do in Asheville. You find a film playing at the Grail, a film you’ve never heard of, and never seen advertisements for. You go to the Grail and watch that film. Once its over, you go back out into the rain, and in that moment, you are struck by an existential revelation, and you also realize you forgot to feed the parking meter.
If that experience sounds at all intriguing, the Grail Moviehouse’s obscure selection of alternative films are just what you need.
2: Visit a Museum
Of all the rainy day things to do in Asheville, I actually finding museum-going to be the most uncertain. After all, they’ll put just about anything in a museum nowadays, and shuffling through curated collections of art, history, antique socks, etc. may not appeal to every age, taste, or disposition. However, as in all things, Asheville may just hit the right note, so long as you know where to go. And museums usually have roofs, so there are worse places to be when its raining.
Asheville Museum of Science
Despite what may seem like a morose introduction to the subject of museums, this particular museum carries with it many good memories.
With exhibits relating to a variety of natural sciences (paleontology, astronomy, etc.) the Asheville Museum of Science is designed to be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
As such, I recall with great clarity rainy afternoons of perusing scientific displays from the height of three feet or lower and being terrified of the museum’s biological mannikins.
I cannot attest to the whereabouts or wellbeing of these mannikins today, but I can say that the Asheville Museum of Science is an excellent outlet for curiosity, and probably the most educational of all rainy day things to do in Asheville.
Asheville Pinball Museum
Although similar in name to the Asheville Museum of Science, the Asheville Pinball Museum is quite different.
For instance, whereas in the Asheville Museum of Science you hear such things as “Please stop touching that,” and “Madame, did your son steal a rock from this exhibit?” the Asheville Pinball Museum is the epitome of interactive museum-going.
For the price of a single ticket, one is granted access to a cornucopia of classic video-game sets and pinball machines, and thus hours of amusement. However, due to the museum’s limited space, I feel it pertinent to repeat their brassy admonition: “If you are saving us for a rainy day activity, well, so is everyone else.”
That said, if you have the gusto to overcome your fellow pinballers in some kind of rain-drenched street fight, visiting the Pinball Museum is one of the more exciting indoor things to do in Asheville. If the street fight doesn’t pan out, the museum lies nearby to the Grove Arcade; more on that later.
Lexington Glassworks may not be as well known as the Biltmore House or Asheville Museum of Art—indeed it is not technically a museum at all—however, I find the glassworks enter too seldomly into the subject of rainy day things to do in Asheville.
Boasting craft beers, seating, nearby parking, and a leak-free roof, Lexington Glassworks invites you to stay and watch their craftsmen at work, creating local pieces of functional art before your very eyes. For those of you who haven’t yet witnessed glassblowing in-person, I highly suggest it.
For those of you who have seen glassblowing, you already know how cool it is. Furthermore, there’s something to be said for the contrast of a rainy day, and the bright heat of the glass furnaces.
3: Go Walking Anyways
To clarify, I do not encourage walking the wilds under rainfall. People slip on rocks, they fall off cliffs, and they get sucked into alarmingly deep mud-puddles. A walk downtown, however, poses none of these dangers, and offers the glorious opportunity to brandish one’s umbrella with urban style. Along the way, there will be plentiful chances to duck into art galleries, cafes, and vintage clothing-stores, so long as you’re walking the right street. To that end, I’d like to illustrate some of my favorites.
Stretching the length of Asheville’s west side, Patton Avenue happens to bear some of the destinations mentioned earlier in this article, such as the Asheville Museum of Science, as well as a monumental selection of restaurants. Indeed, it was on a day of walking Patton Avenue, rain pouring about my ears like a misplaced ocean, that I had the privileged of watching a friend of mine devour upwards of 20 pounds of roasted lamb at Jerusalem Garden Café. If lamb isn’t to one’s liking, I’d suggest just about any eaterie on Patton Avenue; they range from Tupelo Honey’s southern comfort to Red Ginger Dimsum. Parallel to Patton runs Wall Street, host of Well Played Board Game Café, wherein I have amassed a horde of well-spent hours, losing at board games to friends far smarter than I. There are worse ways to spend a rainy day.
North Lexington Avenue
Note that I refer specifically to the north end of this street: parking on the south end will result in a long, wet walk. Luckily, my go-to downtown parking lot sits on the northern edge of Lexington, nearby to a number of worthy destinations. Asides from a bevy of restaurants, a rock-shop, and bohemian stores of every stripe, North Lexington holds the privilege of harboring Dobra Tea. Whether one enjoys their tea from Dobra’s window-side seating, or in the back, stretched across floor-cushions like some kind of New-Age Roman, Dobra is immensely popular among locals due to the quality of their beverages, and their overall ambience. Paired with gray skies, a visit to Dobra, and the street it lies on, is by far the most romantic of all rainy day things to do in Asheville.
The Grove Arcade
An architecture-savvy reader will already have detected what’s special about this street: “arcade” refers to a covered passageway.
That’s right, you can go walking in downtown Asheville while indoors. Spectacular. In this marvelous construction, one may find venders of clothing, furniture, and art alike, as well as opportunities to procure fudge and pastries.
While not as extensive as a proper, open-air street, The Grove Arcade is more desirable for anyone who’s forgotten their rain-gear, or wishes to enjoy a spot of literature and wine at the Arcade’s book-exchange.
Finally, the Arcade also shelters a few restaurants, nearly all of which I have visited, and would suggest. In particular, Carmel’s Kitchen offers spring rolls with cheerwine sauce; if you haven’t tasted such a sauce, frankly you’re missing out.
4: Go Nowhere
Precipitation is an amusement unto itself, with the right company and quarters. For optimal rain-enjoyment, I suggest a residence with 1) windows and 2) a kitchen, for tea, popcorn, etc.
Further suggested accoutrement include a covered porch, hot-tubs, and perhaps a heated bathroom floor. Of course, finding someplace to stay with such impressive amenities is no small task. I wish you luck in your search for such a location, and the advice that Asheville Cottages may just be exactly the quarters I describe.
Regal Biltmore Grande
292 Thetford St, Asheville, NC 28803
Asheville Pizza and Brewing Co (North)
675 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804
45 S French Broad Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Asheville Museum of Science
43 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Asheville Pinball Museum
1 Battle Square #1b, Asheville, NC 28801
81 S Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Jerusalem Garden Cafe
78 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
12 College St, Asheville, NC 28801
Red Ginger Dimsum & Tapas
82 Patton Ave Suite 100, Asheville, NC 28801
Well Played Board Game Cafe
58 Wall St, Asheville, NC 28801
78 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
1 Page Ave, Asheville, NC 28801