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Arts and Culture in Asheville - Art Colony and Architectural Gem

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With a mix of neoclassical, beaux arts, and art deco architecture, Asheville has long attracted artists of all mediums. With its inspiring backdrop of mountains and forests, as well as open-minded local attitudes, the town is a natural mecca for artists. Downtown, around 30 galleries and niche museums invite strolling and visiting. In the evenings, you can soak up Asheville's performing arts at several local theaters and colleges.

River Arts District


Downtown’s adjacent River Arts District (RAD) has over 22 historic buildings that have been renovated into working studios, galleries, and handicraft boutiques. Keeping pace, restaurants, breweries, and residential housing have built up along this riverside community. Biannual Studio Strolls in the spring and fall invite visitors to watch artists in action, or sign up year-round for a class to learn from these experts.


River Arts District (RAD)


Nearly 200 artists have working studios in RAD, creating all types of handicrafts, including furniture, glass, pottery, jewelry, and fashion items. Many of the studios double as galleries or showrooms and are open year-round.


242 Clingman Ave., Asheville 28801Tel: +1 828 552 4723


River Arts District (RAD) website


RAD Studio Strolls


Studio Strolls in RAD are well-loved events that take place every spring and fall. Artists provide special demonstrations for the crowds and are on-hand to answer questions and share their stories.


42 Clingman Ave., Asheville 28801. Tel: +1 828 552 4723


RAD Studio Strolls website

Urban trail and museums


The self-guided, 1.7-mile Urban Trail is a quick, fact-filled journey through downtown detailing Asheville’s history and culture through sculptures and plaques. Start or end at Pack Square Park and pop into Pack Place Education, Arts, & Science Center. This venue houses 3 museums - Asheville Art Museum, Colburn Earth Science Museum, and YMI Cultural Center (Young Men’s Institute) - and offers discounted admission for children.


Pack Square Park


In the center of downtown Asheville, Pack Square occupies nearly 7 acres. On its grounds, a stage, terraced lawns, and lots of bench seating invite visitors to take a break and enjoy the scenery.


1 W Pack Sq., Asheville 28801.


Pack Square Park website


Colburn Earth Science Museum


Exhibits at the Colburn Earth Science Museum reveal information about regional minerals as well as exotic gemstones and fossils. Interactive activities and scavenger hunts make this a favorite stop among children.


2 S Pack Sq., Asheville 28801. Tel: +1 828 254 7162


Colburn Earth Science Museum website


Asheville’s basilica


Basilica of Saint Lawrence, built in 1905, is the only basilica in western North Carolina. It stands out in Asheville’s skyline, and as the largest freestanding elliptical dome in the USA, it gives the city architectural fame. In addition, it’s the only church designed by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino, who also worked on the Biltmore Estate.


Basilica of Saint Lawrence


Visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours most days, but should keep in mind that confession and mass hours can be crowded. Brochures provide details about the art and architecture found at the Basilica.


97 Haywood St., Asheville 28801. Tel: +1 828 252 6042


Basilica of Saint Lawrence website


Public gardens


Asheville depends heavily on its surrounding natural gifts for agricultural, artistic, and recreational purposes. A stop at the free North Carolina Arboretum will help visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the area’s ecological diversity. Also, the 434-acre habitat provides a luscious reprieve with hiking and biking trails, too. Eleven miles away, Botanical Gardens of Asheville shelter 600 Appalachian plant species.


The North Carolina Arboretum


Part of Pisgah National Forest, the North Carolina Arboretum actually resides within Bent Creek Experimental Forest. Admission is free, but there's a minimal parking fee per car.


100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville 28806. Tel: +1 828 665 2492


The North Carolina Arboretum website


Botanical Gardens at Asheville


The Botanical Gardens at Asheville house a large collection of plants native to Southern Appalachia. It also offers classes and nature walks throughout the year (except early December to early March). Entry is free but donations are welcome.


151 W T. Weaver Blvd., Asheville 28804. Tel: +1 828 252 5190


Botanical Gardens at Asheville website




Fifteen community and professional theaters in Asheville give theatergoers a chance to enjoy Broadway musicals, plays, and classical music. You can watch Shakespeare's classics by the Montford Park Players at North Carolina’s longest-running Shakespeare festival at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre. Or, catch edgier shows by Anam Cara Theatre Company or Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective.


Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre


Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre is an outdoor venue maintained by the Montford Park Players, designed in classic Elizabethan Tudor style. Outdoor shows run from May to September.


92 Gay St., Asheville 28802. Tel: +1 828 254 5146


Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre website


Anam Cara Theatre Company


The mission of Anam Cara Theatre Company is to provide a platform for nontraditional contemporary theater, often with a social issues slant.


101 Fairview Rd., Asheville 28803. Tel: +1 828 633 1773


Anam Cara Theatre Company website