I think of the best time to visit Asheville as, honestly, any time of year, but there is a lot to recommend visiting Asheville in May as the top-notch choice. Yes, October has the changing leaves, and summer has concerts and festivals, but there is something about seeing the mountains in all their spring glory. In May, the weather is still fairly mild, even during the day, and there are plenty of prime hiking days – it’s just a perfect combination!
Another great feature of visiting during the month of May is that, with nature waking up, downtown gets busier, and you’ll tend to find more things to do compared to the earlier and colder months. Theater companies, music venues, and festivals all tend to pick up, and with them comes a downtown full of smaller special events and activities to keep you enjoying yourself and having new adventures.
If you’re planning a spring trip, here are some of the top options for what to do in Asheville in May!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Things to do in Asheville in May
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What to do in Asheville in May: 15 Fun Ideas
In April and May, tourism really starts to pick back up in town after the lull of the early part of the year. This does mean more people and sometimes more traffic, but it’s worth it because there are also more activities, more events, and generally more things to do in Asheville during the month of May!
You’ll find that we start getting more non-muddy days out on hiking trails, and destinations like the NC Arboretum are in full bloom, ready for you to enjoy all the wonders of spring. Here are just a few items to add to your list of what to do in Asheville if you’re planning a May trip.
1. Take a Cooking Class
If you happen to get some of the cooler or wet days in May, a great way to still make your visit memorable and fun is to eat your way through Asheville – there’s always another exciting meal to have!
Ready to take it to the next level? A great part of visiting Asheville in May is the many cooking classes on offer at various local cooking schools! Asheville Mountain Kitchen, Cottage Kitchen Asheville, and The Asheville Kitchen – among many private chefs who do personalized lessons – are all great places to find your newest favorite dish and learn techniques along the way that you can apply to other parts of your life as a cook.
Not only is a cooking class a great way to bond with a romantic partner or a friend, but you’ll also meet a few other people at most of these classes, which can make your trip to Asheville just that much more sociable and fun.
2. Check What’s Next at the Diana Wortham Theatre and other Venues in Town
May is the start of the high season for Asheville tourism, and with that comes more main-stage shows. Some of the biggest and best acts to come to Asheville play at the Diana Wortham Theatre, from major touring dance companies and singing groups to plays and musicals.
Every year is different, and there are also plenty of local productions in the mix. Other large venues in town to check for upcoming shows and events include Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, ExploreAsheville.com Arena, and outdoor music venues like Rabbit Rabbit and Salvage Station. This is the first month of the year when there are tons of things to do in Asheville if you like live entertainment, so see what’s coming up!
3. Go Waterfall Hunting at Graveyard Fields
While there are plenty of sights to keep in mind when you’re headed out to hike in Asheville in May, one of the most boisterous and impressive are the local Western NC Waterfalls. The combination of melting ice from higher elevations and spring rains makes these features particularly merry in May, and taking a trek out to see one or more of them is a great way to enjoy this local landscape.
Try a hike out at Graveyard Fields, for instance, off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The area has lots of spring-blooming rhododendrons and mountain laurels and passes by many creeks and rivulets, as well as two major waterfalls. You’ll encounter some rough terrain and upward climbs, but you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the upper falls, with an out-and-back distance of 3.3 miles.
While it’s possible to see waterfalls on many other hikes, this one is exceptionally beautiful. Consider visiting in the later months, and see if you can spy some of the blueberry and blackberry bushes along the trail full of fruit!
4. Get a Grounds Pass to See all of Biltmore Estates’ Spring Blossoms
Biltmore Estate is the largest private residence available to tour in the United States and a real destination when it comes to visiting Asheville in May. However, many people who love the estate don’t want to spend all their time there touring the house again if they’ve done so recently.
A nice option for Asheville’s frequent visitors is to get a Gardens and Grounds pass, which often is a discounted price compared to the tickets that include the tour of the house itself. With this pass, you can spend the whole day exploring the incredible gardens that demonstrate the glory of Asheville in spring, as well as enjoying 75+ miles of hiking, biking, and walking trails through the extensive property.
The pass still includes complimentary wine tasting and access to Antler Hill Village, so this ticket is perfect for an active visit on a sunny and mild day! Check out the different Biltmore Estate ticket options for April and May.
5. See the City and More on an E-Bike Tour
It’s completely fair to recognize that even biking on city streets in Asheville is basically mountain biking, and the ups and downs can lead to a sweaty, if quite exhilarating, ride. One way to make your bike journey a little less taxing, leaving you with more focus for enjoying the scenery, is to rent an e-bike.
E-bikes include an electric motor that helps turbo-boost your pedaling, meaning that uphills don’t have to be such a battle. Companies like the Asheville Adventure Company and The Flying Bike offer guided e-bike tours that take you all over Asheville. You can see scenic vistas, find the best pizza in Asheville, or get to know downtown.
You’ll cover a lot of ground, but you’ll also be right at city-view level, making it a tour that connects you to the city. There’s also Asheville E-Bikes, a rental company that provides some self-guided tour ideas if you’d prefer to take the whole experience at your own pace with room for exploring side streets and going where the pedals take you.
6. Join the Classic Asheville Drum Circle
Since 2001, when about 10 drummers convened in Pritchard Park to celebrate the beauty of percussion, the Asheville Drum Circle has become a symbol of the Asheville community spirit.
Each summer/fall week, on Friday evening around 6 pm, dozens, if not hundreds, of kindred spirits gather to send up thunderous, exuberant music and give downtown an energetic atmosphere. People can bring their own drums, but many more people join to listen to the music and see how a spontaneous band forms, since the group doesn’t have a designated leader or plan.
Dancers join in from every age group, and other instruments like bells add to the sound, creating a totally unique sound every time by virtue of who chooses to participate. It’s incredible to watch, whether you join in, watch from the sidelines, or let the sound become the backdrop of your dinner at one of the restaurants that border the park. Soak in the Asheville vibes!
7. Hit the Local Wineries For Natural Beauty and a Few Flavorful Glasses
Asheville’s known for its beer culture, but that doesn’t mean we’re lacking in the wine culture department! Right in downtown, you’ll find multiple wine bars, and out by the French Broad River in the River Arts District, you can sample locally produced young wines at Pleb Urban Winery.
Just south of town in Henderson County, a new American Viticultural Area known as the Crest of the Blue Ridge has been designated due to its distinctive climate, elevation, and soil. Within a 45-minute to 1-hour drive of the Asheville area, there are seven local wineries, including Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, Burntshirt Vineyards, and Point Lookout Vineyards, with four more also in the area.
Give yourself a little wine tour, or find a local tour guide to create a custom itinerary for you. The views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular from these natural havens, and it doesn’t hurt to have a great wine flight in front of you while you bask in the May weather.
8. Shop Till You Drop at the Asheville Outlets and the Asheville Mall
With occasional May rain showers or just a passion for fashion, it can pay off to spend the day out shopping in town. There are lots of unique boutiques, art shops, and antique stores to explore in downtown, but if you want some of the more familiar favorites, head to East Asheville for the Asheville Mall.
While indoor malls aren’t always hopping, the Asheville Mall remains a hub, with multiple anchor stores and lots of specialty shops. My personal favorite element is the old-school food court, where a kids’ play spot provides a free chance for toddlers to get their wiggles out and interact with each other, even on cold and wet days. Even without kids, though, it’s a great place to do some gift shopping, and there’s a large Barnes & Noble Booksellers if you are in the market for a great new read for your trip.
If you’re located closer to South or West Asheville, you’re not too far from the Asheville Outlets, formerly the Biltmore Square Mall. This open-air outlet mall boasts dozens of shops, including many that offer high-quality brands for excellent discounts.
I particularly like to check the Crate and Barrel Outlet when I need a piece of furniture, since some of their deals are incredibly good. There are also plenty of clothing stores where you can get higher quality brands for lower prices. There’s also a food court and plenty of room to roam if you’re bringing kids along.
Asheville Mall: 3 S Tunnel Road
Asheville Outlets: 800 Brevard Road, Asheville
9. Go Horseback Riding in DuPont State Forest
There’s something about communing with nature while riding a patient and gentle horse that makes for a totally different experience than just walking along on your own. If you love the opportunity to spend time in nature but prefer to be on horseback when you’re there, DuPont State Forest is a great place to go when visiting Asheville in May.
Local guides offer guided horseback trail rides, or you can review DuPont Forest’s rules and policies yourself if you happen to be traveling with a horse or to a horse farm where this is possible.
Taking a horse out on the trails can help you get some incredible waterfall views and can be a fun way to bond with other horse lovers like yourself. One local company to contact is Rusty Spur Trail Rides, but you’ll need to call them for availability and to get scheduled.
10. Visit the Spring Herb Festival at the WNC Ag Center
Start your month right with a visit to the Spring Herb Festival at the WNC Ag Center. Workshops, admission, and parking are all free for this three-day event celebrating all things botanical and herbal.
Perhaps you make your own herb and spice blends or tinctures of some kind for homeopathic remedies – you’ll find everything you need here, as well as lots of help from experienced gardeners and farmers.
Every year, vendors who either grow fresh herbs or create products out of those herbs gather to share the work of their craft and give workshops on the best uses of these incredible bits of local flora.
In addition to regular herbs, you’ll find vegetable starts, fruit bushes, ornamental plants, trees, and even yard art on display and for sale. The expertise gathered in this spot will be invaluable for both expert and novice herb users and growers.
11. Trek to Local Town Festivals like Marion for the Bigfoot Festival
All over Western NC, small towns offer weekend festivals that have a similar theme: there’s arts and crafts vendor booths, local food and drink, excellent live entertainment, and even dancing or competitions to keep everyone engaged and enjoying their day.
One festival stands out, though, among the festivals in the Asheville area in May. Just east of the city over in Marion, the annual Bigfoot Festival draws Sasquatch enthusiasts to enjoy Bigfoot-themed food (?), dress up as Bigfoot, and learn about legends of Bigfoot in the nearby mountains.
Tens of thousands of people come to enjoy the open-air festival but also to learn more about the legends and sightings of Bigfoot in the Marion area that have given rise to a group of enthusiasts who first started the festival.
There’s even a Bigfoot Calling Contest! Enjoy the quirky tales of Bigfoot sightings and “come as a skeptic, leave as a believer” about Bigfoot’s existence.
12. Shop and Enjoy the Lake at the Lake Lure Spring Arts and Crafts Festival
Located 45 minutes southeast of Asheville is the charming community of Lake Lure, with a beautiful manmade lake right in the foothills of the mountains. Lakefront stays in this adorable town are fun on their own, but you can add to the enjoyment by visiting during the weekend of the Lake Lure Spring Arts and Crafts Festival (they also hold a festival in October).
This gathering brings together many different unique craft vendors and artists that share their skills and talk about their work while people enjoy the beautiful May sunshine. Nearby, you’ll find Lake Lure dining options, and there are often performances of music and dancing at the festival.
All proceeds beyond the costs of running the festival support a local food pantry and aid organization, Hickory Nut Gorge Outreach, helping you feel even better about spending your weekend in Lake Lure as part of any trip to the Asheville area.
Asheville in May for Locals
Maybe you’ve decided to rent a house in the Asheville area for a month or two, or maybe you’ve lived here for years and are trying to make this month a time to take full advantage of the wonderful place where you live. No matter why you’re in search of things to do in Asheville in May, there are many great one-off experiences you can share with the tourist crowd, but also ways to spend a longer time engaging with your local community.
13. Check out the Murals of Asheville
One of the creative things that make the city a little brighter is the effort to paint beautiful, fun, or thought-provoking murals on the sides of buildings around the city of Asheville. South Slope, Downtown Asheville, and the River Arts District all boast a variety of murals that are either art specifically for a business as part of their own beautification or commemorating important moments or people.
While it’d be a long trek to see all the murals around the city in one go, consider doing a long walk on a beautiful May day in Asheville and really going up and examining each mural you find, including murals in parks, alleys, and the fronts of stores. Many will include some kind of placard acknowledging the artists and explaining some of the meaning behind the art – make our beautiful outdoor environment your art museum and see the town at the same time!
14. Join a Community Board or Commission
Whether you’ve officially worked as part of a city or town government before or are just a concerned citizen ready to lend a hand, the City of Asheville and the small towns all around it need people to advise them and help them truly get the pulse of the community.
In Asheville alone, there are more than 30 boards and commissions that advise the Mayor and City Council, bringing valuable research to the table that would be too time-consuming for a few select elected officials to gather by themselves.
As a board or commission member, you’re likely to attend meetings, learn about the topic of the commission, like the Downtown Commission or the Multimodal Transportation Commission, create suggestions for policy that could help the city, and solicit feedback on new relevant policies from the wider public.
Overall, you’ll find yourself with a lot of input right at the same time that you are connecting with other people in the community, creating a bond of friendship that is based on being neighbors as well.
15. Try a New Asheville Independent Restaurant
Asheville boasts beloved chain restaurants and major franchises of high-quality restaurant groups, but one of the coolest elements of the restaurant scene here is that Asheville has many chef-owner and otherwise independently-owned restaurants in town.
So much so that there is Asheville Independent Restaurants, or AIR, an association that comes together to support and publicize the incredible work being done in these local restaurants. Each year, AIR creates a passport that raises money to continue their work. For a fee that might be less than two or three meals out, you get a booklet that gives you valuable coupons to a bunch of Asheville’s independent restaurants.
Didn’t get an AIR passport this year to guide your way through eating in our fair city? Don’t fear! Just play a little restaurant roulette the next time you want to have a special occasion meal. Surf the AIR website to find a great local spot you’ve never tried and take advantage of the foodie paradise right in your backyard.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Asheville in May. What are your favorite springtime activities in Asheville? Let us know so we can add them to the list!
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