It's been a full year since I last covered Asheville’s most resplendent season. So, once again, I am contractually obligated by Big Autumn to draw your attention to these few fleeting months in which my hometown hosts travelers from across the nation, all intent on witnessing the painted Blue Ridge landscape.
It’s a heck of a sight. But one’s vacation cannot subsist on the changing of the leaves alone. Or maybe it could, I guess. You could go camping, stare at the pretty leaves all day, eat them for dinner, befriend them, talk to them, and so on.
But there are alternatives. Fall in Asheville is a delight for both locals and tourists alike, full of amusements and events, plus the simple joy of visiting your favorite cafes and restaurants with some crispness in the air. So, read on, and discover five more of the best fall things to do in Asheville.
This one ought to be at the top of your to-do list. Fall in Asheville means cool weather, clear skies, the crunch of leaves, and rolling vistas bathed in the colors of a sunset.
Current estimates say Asheville will reach peak fall colors this year sometime in late October. Usually, the season starts in late September, and by mid-November it’s wrapping up. If fall leaves are what you’re after, then plan accordingly.
For a relatively easy fall hike—more of a stroll, really—visit the NC Arboretum, about a five-minute drive south of Asheville Cottages. Peruse the gardens at your leisure, explore the Baker Exhibit Center for its greenhouse and rotating art displays, and finally, plunge into those sweet fall leaves via the Arboretum’s rolling trails.
If you want to go further afield, take the Blue Ridge Parkway south to Graveyard Fields or Black Balsam Knob, two of my favorite hiking destinations. On the way, you’ll see the fall leaves from the heights of the mountains. Once you’re there, you can expect plentiful creeks and waterfalls at Graveyard Fields, whereas Black Balsam is known for its sprawling vistas (and high winds).
Either way, you can lose ten degrees or more with elevation, so it's best to dress in layers.
Spirit of the Season: Fortify yourself with a hot cup of coffee, stopping in at the Arboretum’s Bent Creek Bistro, or the Pisgah Inn if you’re taking the Parkway.
Now, hiking may have been how our ancestors liked to enjoy fall leaves in Asheville, but we have technology. If we wanted to say, hook someone onto a massive stainless-steel wire, launch them off a precipice, and watch them go soaring over the fall leaves with all the grace of a chimpanzee, well, we very well could.
I speak of course of ziplining, one of the many peculiar Ashevellian enterprises that makes this city so unique. We looked at our landscapes, our forests, our beautiful leaves, and we said “Sure, it's nice to walk through, but what if you could see it all from higher up, while moving faster?"
If your interest is piqued, check out this article right here, covering all of the best ziplining destinations in and around Asheville.
Spirit of the Season: For some Halloween-ish fun this fall, check out the Haunted Trail at the Adventure Center of Asheville, one of those aforementioned ziplining destinations.
You ever been out on a cross country journey, had your gaze linger on some croplands, whizzing on by, and thought to yourself “Man, I wish I was lost out there”? Well, the thought has passed my mind a couple of times, and luckily, every fall in Asheville you can find exactly what the doctor ordered at the Eliada Corn Maze, about fifteen minutes from downtown.
Open from September 29th to October 29th, every ticket for the annual Eliada Corn Maze and Fall Festival goes to benefit children’s programs in WNC. Featuring hayrides, food trucks, and of course the eponymous labyrinth of maize, a visit here is your one-stop for countrified fall fun for the whole family. Open Friday through Sunday. Buy tickets in advance.
Spirit of the Season: Sing traditional Fallmass carols, like “September” by Earth Wind & Fire.
For more than twenty-five years, Asheville’s been host to the LEAF festival twice annually, featuring local food trucks, lectures, workshops, and musicians from across the globe, convening at the former site of the historic Black Mountain College, known for such talented minds as Buckminster Fuller and Robert Rauschenberg.
This year’s festival takes place from October 19th to 22nd, with both daily and overnight camping tickets selling like hotcakes right now. Their grounds lie about a half hour out from downtown, on the shores of Lake Eden outside Black Mountain itself, one of my favorite small towns near Asheville.
Spirit of the Season: Get yourself booked as one of next year’s performers, so the whole world can hear the music in your soul. Win fame and fortune. Produce a three-hour long concept album, then fade into comfortable obscurity.
With all these great things fall things to do in Asheville, you’re bound to work up a powerful thirst. Perhaps a powerful hunger too. In either case, Asheville’s local breweries have you covered, serving up funky beers, seasonal ciders, and plenty of good eats.
I always recommend starting with the South Slope, close to downtown, with such hip haunts as Burial Beer, the Urban Orchard Cider Company, the Funkatorium, and Asheville Brewing, all within a few blocks of each other. That’s not even to mention all the barbecue on the Slope: Buxton Hall, Daddy Mac’s Hometown Dive, Bear’s Smokehouse, take your pick.
Spirit of the Season: Order a seasonal beer or cider. Don’t just visit Asheville in the fall; taste it.
Eliada Corn Maze
2 Compton Dr, Asheville, NC 28806
Burial Beer Co. (South Slope)
40 Collier Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Urban Orchard Cider Co. (South Slope)
24 Buxton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
147 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Asheville Brewing Company
77 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC 28801