As an Asheville native, I know what makes it possible to visit Asheville on a budget. And I’m here to show you how—so you can visit cheaply without having to compromise on experience.
Visiting Asheville can put a dent in your wallet, but it doesn’t have to if you follow the local tips I’ve included in this article. This guide also covers low-cost and free things to do in Asheville, budget-friendly places to stay, and affordable eats.
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6 Tips to Do Asheville on a Budget
Take Advantage of Outdoor Attractions
Asheville’s best attraction is also its most affordable one: nature. For free, you can drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, enjoy numerous hiking trails near Asheville, and chase all the waterfalls you can imagine. Popular outdoor attractions include Craggy Gardens, Mount Mitchell State Park, Pisgah National Forest, and the French Broad River.
Visit During the Low Season
The best time to visit Asheville is during the spring through fall. However, Asheville’s low season, winter, is still a great time to visit. Weather is typically mild and accommodation prices tend to be cheaper, especially after the holidays. You can still enjoy activities like hiking, visiting breweries, and driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. Plus, there tend to be fewer crowds.
Know Where and When to Park
Metered street parking in downtown Asheville is $1.50/hour. But parking is free on Sundays and after 6 pm Monday through Saturday. Another tip to note is that parking in parking garages is generally cheaper than parking in lots. The first hour in parking garages is free, and the daily maximum is $20.
Consider Staying at a Hostel or Going Camping
Asheville has two hostels: Bon Paul & Sharky’s Hostel in West Asheville, and Sweet Peas Hostel in downtown Asheville. Lastly, Lake Powhatan Recreation Area & Campground is conveniently located half an hour from downtown Asheville.
Look into Regional Flights
A few regional, budget airlines fly direct to Asheville Regional Airport. This includes Allegiant Air, JetBlue, and Sun Country Airlines. Airfare can be quite cheap if you buy tickets with these airlines ahead of time. So, be sure to check if your city has direct flights. It’s possible to fly roundtrip to Asheville from many major cities for around $100.
Save Money on Food
Asheville has some seriously delicious restaurants, but the cost of eating out can add up quickly. To save money, consider eating breakfast at your accommodations and packing food for the road. There are so many scenic lookouts and nature spots to enjoy a picnic during the day. For dinner, you can try a downtown Asheville restaurant and take advantage of free street parking.
Another creative way to save money while still enjoying Asheville’s food scene is to buy from farmers’ markets. You can purchase items to cook and pick up local goodies that are ready to eat.
8 Cheap & Free Things to Do in Asheville
The Blue Ridge Parkway
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best things to do in North Carolina—and it’s free. You can easily make a day trip out of the parkway. There are countless scenic lookouts, beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains at every turn, and plenty of hiking trails to explore.
The River Arts District
The River Arts District (RAD) is one of Asheville’s coolest neighborhoods. It’s artsy, eccentric, and filled with local art galleries to wander around. Some of my favorite spots include Marquee and Pink Dog Creative. RAD is also home to some great coffee shops and breweries.
Walk Around the Grove Park Inn
The Grove Park Inn is one of Asheville’s most beautiful and historic buildings with an interesting history. But you don’t need to be a guest to visit! The hotel is open to the public during the day and through dinner. You can enjoy Blue Ridge Mountain views from the terrace, sit by the large lobby fireplaces, or eat at the hotel restaurants.
👉 Pro Tip: Depending on the season and availability, the spa at Grove Park Inn occasionally offers day passes.
Exploring downtown Asheville is one of the simplest, yet cheapest ways to enjoy Asheville. There are tons of interesting shops to browse. Lexington Ave is one of my favorite areas in particular.
You can also walk the Asheville Urban Trail, which is a self-guided tour of Asheville’s history. Pack Square is the best place to start the tour.
Go on a Brewery Tour
Asheville’s beer scene is infamous. But did you know you can tour some local breweries for free? New Belgium Brewing and Wicked Weed’s Brewpub offer free brewery tours with tastings at the end. Highland Brewing, Burial Beer Co., and Sierra Nevada Brewing also offer tours ranging from $9 to $75.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains are only a 2 hours drive from downtown Asheville. This US national park is free and is an incredible oasis for wildlife and natural history. Overall, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best places to visit in North Carolina.
Mount Mitchell State Park
Mount Mitchell State Park is home to the highest point east of the Mississippi River. You can see panoramic views of the surrounding mountains from the observation deck, which is over 6,000 feet above sea level. Mount Mitchell is only an hour northeast of downtown Asheville. It can be accessed via the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The North Carolina Arboretum
The North Carolina Arboretum is a fantastic place for families traveling on a budget. The arboretum is made up of 434 acres of landscaped gardens and nature exhibits, as well as hiking and biking trails through the forest. There is no admission, just a $20 fee for parking.
Where to Stay in Asheville on a Budget
One of the best ways to save money is to stay outside of downtown Asheville. Hendersonville and Brevard are two charming mountain towns within an hour of Asheville. Both are great places to stay and offer more affordable accommodations, as well as unique attractions.
👉 Best Area For Staying Near Asheville | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Mountain Inn & Suites Airport – Hendersonville
Hendersonville is one of the best Western North Carolina towns, located 30 minutes from downtown Asheville. Staying in this small, vibrant community is a fantastic way to save some money on accommodations. But it still keeps you close to everything Asheville offers.
From here, you can easily visit DuPont State Forest and enjoy seasonal activities like apple picking. Downtown Hendersonville is filled with local shops and wonderful restaurants. It’s also an ideal place to avoid crowds, but still get that charming, mountain town experience.
👉 Best Area For Hiking & Waterfalls | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Comfort Inn & Suites
Brevard, North Carolina is a quaint but beautiful small town just under an hour’s drive from Asheville. It’s known as the “Land of Waterfalls” and is ideal for those wanting to explore all the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer.
Pisgah National Forest is Brevard’s backyard. It’s home to infinite hiking trails that range from forest walks to mountain peaks. You can also find attractions like Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock here.
Overall, Brevard is a great place to stay and visit for a day trip from Asheville. It’s perfect if enjoying the Blue Ridge Mountains is your top priority, but you don’t want to spend Asheville prices.
Cheap Eats in Asheville
Asheville is filled with amazing restaurants, and not all of them are expensive! Below are a few of my favorite Asheville restaurants. These are all casual dining options that show off Asheville’s foodie scene, as well as North Carolina food favorites.
White Duck Taco Shop
White Duck Taco is a personal favorite restaurant for a quick, cheap, and delicious meal. The tacos here come in a variety of unique flavor combinations. A few examples are jerk chicken, Bangkok shrimp, and lamb gyro tacos. White Duck Taco has locations in downtown Asheville, South Asheville, and along the French Broad River.
Loretta’s is a downtown Asheville cafe that serves up large, hearty sandwiches. All specialty sandwiches and Reubens are full-sized and under $15. Its menu also includes vegetarian options. Overall, Loretta’s is a great spot for splitting a big sandwich for lunch.
12 Bones Smokehouse
12 Bones Smokehouse is one of my favorite barbecue spots in Asheville. You can get a barbecue sandwich for $9 or a barbecue plate with two sides for $15. There are two locations. One is in the River Arts District and the other is in South Asheville.
FAQs About Asheville on a Budget
Is Asheville, North Carolina cheap to visit?
Asheville, North Carolina isn’t the cheapest destination to visit, as things have gotten pricier in recent years. This being said it’s very possible to visit Asheville on a budget.
Why is Asheville, North Carolina so expensive in October?
Asheville, North Carolina is so expensive in October because this is the peak season for fall foliage and leaf peeping.
Is it worth going to the Biltmore Estate?
It is worth going to the Biltmore Estate. However, it’s not the only thing Asheville, NC has to offer. Adult admission at Biltmore starts at $69.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments. I hope this guide helped you plan your Asheville itinerary! Careful planning can certainly go a long way when you’re visiting Asheville on a budget.
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