Asheville and the neighboring towns and cities around Western North Carolina are known for being a mecca for all kinds of artists, from the Campbell Folk School and Penland School of Craft to the Black Mountain College history in this area and the many individual artisans who make WNC home.
The beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains has been a draw for inspiration and enjoyment to all who see them for many decades now, and the iconoclastic and self-determined nature of those who live in these mountains encourages a bit of avante garde spirit as well. The people of this area are well-versed in making do with what they have and what they can find in nature, leading to beautiful but functional crafts from ceramics to woodwork.
As a result, you can generally find incredible art and crafts at every price point around here. One of the best ways to see a lot in a little time is to visit one of the many craft markets and festivals in the Asheville area.
While some festivals focus on a single type of craft and others are a more street-festival atmosphere with a little bit of art available, they will all make for a fun and memorable experience that is very Asheville – perfect for both locals looking to enjoy their hometown and visitors who want to experience all this region has to offer!
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Spring Craft Fairs and Art Festivals in Asheville
As Asheville starts to wake up from the mild but still quiet winters, many spots nearby offer craft fairs to wake up the locals and draw in the tourists to see something new and find a fun thing to enjoy.
1. Attend the Arts & Crafts Conference at the Omni Grove Park Inn
This Arts and Crafts Conference is technically in winter (not spring) and more of a conference than a festival, but no matter how much it defies categorization, it’s worth knowing about. This festival is, first and foremost, a spot to learn about one’s trade: if you are an artist or craftsperson, there is likely to be a workshop, small group discussion, or lecture that will intrigue you.
However, there is also a truly enormous antiques and contemporary crafts festival. One of the main draws to such an illustrious conference is also the location: the Omni Grove Park Inn is a huge feat of art and craft itself. Some of the tickets include the option to stay on-site, keeping everything very convenient and truly luxurious while you shop and learn.
The show is extremely curated, with every dealer bringing their best treasures to offer to the discerning crowd that comes to this incredible event. Even though you might have to brave a February flurry or two, it’s well worth seeing the view from the Grove Park as you walk through the incredible variety of top-quality antiques and crafts.
2. Go Wild at the Weaverville Art Safari Studio Tours
Weaverville has become a go-to for artists and families, a quieter town that is only minutes from the bustle of Asheville. That makes it a great spot for a little art-studio scavenger hunt (hence the safari – you have to go find your art instead of having it all brought to you under a bunch of canopy tents).
In addition to the shopping and crafts available, a studio tour lets you really understand all the work that goes into handmade sculptures, jewelry, painting, fiber art, pottery, wood art, and glasswork.
You’ll meet the artists, view their spaces, and see them creating works of art, all while also having the opportunity to go and purchase items and support the studios. It’s an exciting way to really connect with the work behind beautiful craft pieces.
3. Support Locals in Need at the Lake Lure Arts & Crafts Spring Festival
The Lake Lure Arts & Crafts Festival is held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, in beautiful Lake Lure, NC, near Chimney Rock State Park. Crafters of all kinds gather to share their wares in a beautiful place: you’ll find jewelry artisans, bakers of dog treats, beautiful glass beadwork, paintings and graphics, pottery, soap, candles, hats, and woodwork of many kinds, all in one place.
Learn about the traditions that guide different artisans as you chat with them about the treasures they’ve created. A nice feature is that the festival donates proceeds to a local helping organization, Hickory Nut Gorge Outreach, in order to help eliminate hunger in the region, so your purchases support working craftspeople as well as help to reduce poverty.
These two-day festivals are well-established and allow visitors to shop all day Saturday and Sunday, so if something sticks in your mind after exploring on Saturday, you’ve got another chance to go buy it before you finish your trip.
Summer Craft Fairs and Art Festivals
Many of the biggest and most popular festivals in Asheville are in the summer, as the warmth encourages more time outdoors, and open-air markets full of great art and crafts can be part walking tour and part shopping trip. Whether you’re looking for the perfect birthday gift, adding color to a new vacation rental you’re outfitting, or making your own home look and feel more to your taste, you’ll find options galore.
4. Visit the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands by the Southern Highland Craft Guild
One of the factors in many artisan and craft markets is that the events are held outdoors. While fun on a breezy day, summer storms can really make them harder to attend. Avoid the problem by making plans to visit the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, held twice a year at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville.
This indoor arena space allows you to peruse the fine craftsmanship of the many vendors at your leisure. There is a small ticket price to enter, but it’s well worth it even to just look around at the incredible art.
The Southern Highland Craft Guild has been gathering craftspeople to learn from each other and find a market for their work for many decades now, and they began holding craft fairs in 1948. If you happen to be visiting town when a craft fair isn’t happening, stop by the Folk Art Center, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, where there are both galleries and a shop where you can find some of the same kinds of art featured in the craft fairs on sale.
5. Expect Excitement at the Summer Extravaganza for Uncommon Market
Every craft fair has a little bit of a different flair, even if similar types of work are represented. If you tend to always enjoy the offbeat and unique vendors at markets, you’re going to love Uncommon Market.
This once-a-month street craft fair was designed by the couple who own Marquee, a design-filled curated market in the River Arts District. While there are art and jewelry makers involved, much of the market is for antiques and vintage decor, items that aren’t necessarily handcrafted by the vendors themselves but which are nonetheless works of art and well worth your time if you’ve got a love for all things vintage.
The Summer Extravaganza is one of their larger events, held in August, with free parking and admission at the Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center, bringing together lots of vendors for a truly unique combination of artistic styles and tastes. Your home will be transformed by your finds here!
6. Adorn Those Walls with Asheville Art in the Park
One of my favorite features of going downtown in Asheville as a local is that I will find some kind of excitement in Pack Square fairly reliably if the weather is good and we’re talking a weekend. One of the main sources of this excitement is Art in the Park, a market series that brings vendors of handmade goods out for three Saturdays in June and three Saturdays in October: the first includes some of the nicest mild-to-warm weather in Asheville, and the second includes beautiful leaf-change views on nearby mountains!
It’s a great backdrop for a stroll through the park, where you can support local professional artists who work throughout the year creating pottery, jewelry, wood, glass, metal, and paintings that they then show at their booths.
Art in the Park is certainly a great feature for guests and locals, but they have also determined that this market creates over $1 million in economic impact for artists. It’s much more effective to sell to a bustling crowd on one day and get back to the studio the next.
7. See the Chainsaw Power at the Maggie Valley Summer Arts and Crafts Shows
Three times each year, the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds fill up with vendor tents and lots of people having a great time at the Maggie Valley Summer Arts and Crafts Shows as they shop among artisans and crafters. From yard art and goat milk soaps to wooden bowls and framed photographs, you’ll find beautiful items for gifts, for your home, or to give personality and character to your office or store.
They keep the atmosphere fun with the tasty smells of festival food vendors (definitely stop and get a meal here at the very least!) and live demonstrations, including chainsaw artists who can turn a wooden log into an object of beauty with precise slices from their powerful tools.
If you haven’t been out to Maggie Valley, not far from Asheville, consider pairing a visit to this charming community with a wander through their arts and crafts shows because it’s really quite a good time.
Fall Craft Fairs and Art Festivals
“Leaf peeping” season is an institution around Asheville, so even if you didn’t make it to all the arts and crafts fairs of the summer, visiting Asheville in the fall can still get you many options for places to go to review dozens of artists’ work at once.
8. Soak in the Biltmore Legacy at the Village Art & Craft Fair
While the Biltmore Estate itself is a ticketed location that draws more than a million visitors each year, nearby is the picturesque Historic Biltmore Village, a community and shopping district that has grown up in the area immediately outside the Biltmore gates.
The Cathedral of All Souls church plays host each year to an outdoor arts and crafts fair with more than 100 exhibitors, representing Historic Biltmore Village and drawing crowds to enjoy the beautiful September weather at the same time.
Admission is free and visitors find all kinds of media represented in a single spot, with easy access to the many other shops in Historic Biltmore Village. As you plan your visit, consider stopping by or supporting some of the art- and craft-centric shops, like New Morning Gallery and Bellagio Art to Wear, the cosponsors of the event.
9. Stroll in September at Art in Autumn in Weaverville
Weaverville offers a second major art-centric fair each year, Art in Autumn, in September. Only a few miles north of Asheville, this sweet town has recently become both a bedroom community and a bustling town in its own right, but once a year, they shut down Main Street to car traffic and instead make it a walking art and craft festival.
Over 100 artists show off their goods after a jury process that picks the best of the best and live local musicians offer a lively musical backdrop to the shopping experience. Watch and see which artists take home the top prizes in the judging process, with distinguished guest judges evaluating the many artisans and sending folks home with cash prizes.
September is a smidge early for some, but if you know you want truly unique holiday gifts that support locals, you can often find something for everyone on your list and spend the months before Christmas in bliss, no trips to the mall necessary on Christmas Eve!
10. See How the Clay is Formed at the North Carolina Ceramic Arts Festival
Another Pack Square classic event, the NC Ceramic Arts Festival focuses on shaped and fired objects, but the variety is still there in spades. There are so many techniques for making beautiful pottery that seeing them all laid out in vendor booths around Pack Square will be an education in itself.
They also offer workshops for potters and ceramicists and live demonstrations that show you just how much finesse and care goes into every vessel created by a ceramic artist. Whether you’re looking for a unique serving dish to give as a wedding gift or trying to outfit your entire cupboard with artistically designed functional ceramics, you’ll find both the variety and the knowledgeable folks to help you choose the right objects.
11. Watch Craft in Action at River Arts District Studio Stroll
The River Arts District really began its transformation from industrial sector near the river to walkable tourism district when artists moved in. Seeking affordable studio space, many artisans and craftspeople opted to work in the same space where they sold their pieces. If someone stopped in, they’d get to a stopping point, wipe the clay or paint off on their apron, and make a sale as needed – very scrappy!
While many of the studios are now so successful that they have both sales and artist staff, visiting the River Arts District Studio Stroll lets you into the studio spaces, allowing you to see the art as it is being created with forges, glassblowing furnaces, and painting easels.
In addition, there are plenty of already-made items to purchase and a free trolley to help you get to as many of the studios as possible. Between the live demos, the options for holiday gifts, and even new gallery openings, the excitement is contagious!
Year-Round Craft Vendors
We don’t want to leave you high and dry if you aren’t in town for festivals that are just one or two days in a big park. Luckily, there are monthly markets during the warm months in downtown’s always-open art galleries (and you can make your own by looking at the list of participants and just visiting during their standard hours!), and there’s a fun and unique ongoing market just outside the Grove Arcade that often has treasures that delight Asheville’s foot traffic. Don’t miss out just because you aren’t here on the perfect weekend for a craft fair in Asheville.
12. Peruse Makers Market Outside the Grove Arcade
If I have no exact plan for what to get, such as a gift for an artsy friend, but I know there aren’t any big Asheville craft markets open right then, it’s often best for me to stroll my way over to the Grove Arcade’s Makers Market.
These distinctive covered trays look like architecturally interesting street kiosks and allow local artisans and artists to sell their wares with a little shade overhead. You never quite know what you’ll find, even if some vendors are consistent mainstays, and they often have a fun story or a moment to chat with you – a real way to experience Asheville’s friendliness and local artistic community.
13. Attend a First Fridays Art Walk in Downtown Asheville
First Friday Art Walks offer locals and visitors alike the chance to visit downtown galleries for extended hours. If you work during the day or simply haven’t seen all the galleries by Friday at 5 pm, a First Friday walk gives you open doors.
Some galleries may have light refreshments, others may have live music, and many opt to open new exhibitions or art shows during this event due to the increased art-lover foot traffic. In general, it’s a great way to see downtown with a little scavenger-hunt purpose, and downtown is so compact that if you find a work of art you simply need to own, you can get it back to your car and still make your dinner reservation!