I once read that “when someone falls in love with your flowers and not your roots, they don’t know what to do when winter comes” (Anonymous). Popular wisdom always encrypts some truth. Loving the seasons of the year and the seasons of your life is a crucial element to happiness!
Asheville in January is very special and has a sweet intimacy. The introvert in me (I also have a very loud extrovert who shows up in spring!) loves the quieter streets of downtown, the less crowded restaurants, and the beautiful light in the winter afternoons.
If you want a less touristy and more authentic experience, January is one of the best times of the year to visit Asheville. I guarantee everyone working in the hospitality industry will be more relaxed and have time to interact with you and give you insider tips.
It’s never too cold in Asheville in the winter (50°F/30°F), and there are plenty of sunny days on which you can wear a t-shirt during the day. Asheville doesn’t get a lot of snow – it usually snows twice a year and once in January. Some years we don’t see any snow at all.
Asheville’s Restaurant Week happens every year in January, with the participant restaurants offering special menus that are a great chance to taste local food at excellent prices.
Also, check out hotel deals in January. Even our best hotels have some great options. Airline fares are cheaper during this time of the year, too, as there is generally less travel.
Coming to Asheville in January will give you many chances to reconnect with yourself, your partner, and your family after a busy holiday season – from spending a couple of hours at a spa to clearing your mind outdoors. With the leaves gone, winter offers excellent long-range views, too.
If you’re planning a winter getaway, here are some of the best activities and events to while away those January days in Asheville.
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 13 Best Things To Do In Asheville In January
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What to do in Asheville in January: 13 Fun Ideas
1. Opt Outside at These two New Year’s Day Events
Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to move more and spend more time outdoors? Then, dress in layers, pack your winter gear, grab some locally-made chocolate from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, pack a thermos with a hot beverage, and head out!
First Day Hikes is a national program that features free, guided hiking adventures and other events on the first day of the year. This an excellent opportunity to introduce yourself and your family to hiking and explore the history behind the hiking trails.
The guides are volunteers and park rangers. First Day hikes in recent years have included Chimney Rock Park and Mount Mitchell State Park.
Also, how does watching the first sunset of the year atop Grandfather Mountain sound? New Year’s Sunrise at Grandfather Mountain Nature Park hosts up to 150 people on the Mile High Swinging Bridge. Hot beverages and donuts are included!
Your ticket gives you access to the park, so you can start the year exploring its hiking trails and participating in educational activities for the entire family.
2. Enjoy Holiday Events That Last Until January
While some Christmas lights might be off after New Year’s Eve, most displays continue through the first week of January.
The resort has lovely restaurants, bars, cafés, and boutiques. Only guests can be at the resort on New Year’s Eve and Day. There is a parking fee during the holiday season.
Christmas at Biltmore continues throughout January as well. Visiting the Biltmore decorated for Christmas is a unique experience and a must if you’re in Asheville in early January. You’ll love walking around the estate’s properties decorated with millions of Christmas lights and garlands.
Also, the Grove Arcade will still be in full winter wonderland mode during the first days of January, and its shops will exhibit the Christmas trees that are part of the annual competition.
3. Set Your Intentions in the Solitude of a Floating Tank
Someone once told me that how we spend the first days of the year sets the tone for how the year will go. I can see some truth in that statement. Fortunately, Asheville offers many excellent wellness experiences that help create the perfect mood for going inwards, setting intentions, and taking inspired actions to make them a reality.
Checking out spas is one of the best things to do in Asheville in the winter. Still Point Wellness features a private chamber with an Epsom salt floating tank where you can spend one or two hours alone in a completely quiet environment in the dark.
I won’t say that the experience is not intense, but the result is worth it. The goal is to be fully present with yourself and your inner world and relax more profoundly than ever. The Epsom salt relaxes your muscles, and the lack of stimulation helps you to go inwards. A float specialist will support you the entire time to ensure that you are comfortable.
The Esalen Massage is also incredible, and they also offer packages for couples (or you and your daughter, your best friend, etc.).
Regarding intentions, National Vision Board Day is the second Saturday of January. So grab old magazines at Downtown’s Books & News for photos, and get those dreams going!
4. Expect Special Menus During Asheville Restaurant Week
Asheville Restaurant Week takes place in January. The annual event offers an excellent opportunity to dive into this city’s fantastic farm-to-table food scene. These are special menus and deals all week long, but restaurants also serve items from their regular menu.
In the past, up to 40 restaurants have participated in this event. There are options for everyone, from perfect restaurants for a special romantic dinner to more casual grass-fed hamburgers, hotdogs, and local beer. Search for the hashtag #ashevillerestaurantweek on Instagram, and you’ll get an idea. Please make reservations.
So, of course, you don’t want to come here for just one night when you can eat fantastic food for one week. Most hotels offer special packages and prices during January, the slower month for tourism.
Also, since January in Asheville is slower than other months, it’s an excellent opportunity to eat at some of the most famous Asheville restaurants that don’t accept reservations, like Sunny Point or Chai Pani.
5. Forage Wild Food with an Expert and Sample your Finds
No Taste Like Home has offered “off the eaten path” foraging tours for 27 years. Their family-friendly tours occur year-round and have been awarded multiple times. The tours last three hours, and you’ll walk around wooded and open areas searching for seasonal plants guided by experts.
Western North Carolina’s climate and diversity is the greatest in the Northern Hemisphere and allow many possibilities for foraging wild food. Some edible finds in January are onion grass, bittercress, rose hips, sweet birch twig, sassafras root, dandelion root, honey locust pod, turkey tail mushroom, and chaga fungus.
After your three-hour adventure, you can enjoy a gathering and have a tasting (imagine sassafras root beer, for example!). Or have your food transformed into an appetizer at one of Asheville’s top-notch restaurants, like Rubahrb, Benne on Eagle, Vue 1913 (at the Omni Grove Park Inn), and Bouchon. The meal and the drinks are not included, and dogs are only allowed during private tours.
Be aware: foraging your food and turning it into a meal might spark a new passion; with the proper education, you will start finding your next salad in your backyard!
6. Go Shopping at a Local Farmers’ Market
Asheville has excellent farmers’ markets in great locations, and some are even open in the winter. For example, Asheville City Market in downtown Asheville opens on January 7 and has great vendors, and the River Arts District Farmers Market is also available year-round.
You can find some of everything in these markets, from plants, soaps, and lotions to homemade salsas, hummus, and bread. Plus, it’s a great chance to make new friends and find your new favorite products that can be shipped to your home any time!
You’ll love Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery’s handmade artisan cheeses, the seafood and fish of Mother Ocean Seafood Market, the winter veggies, and the baked goods of City Market.
If you visit the River Arts District Farmers Market, get the amazing pasture-raised heritage pork of Sugar Creek Meats and pick up some baked goods.
Once you’re done shopping, you can cook at home or work on a charcuterie table with your finds so you don’t have to do the dishes (my preferable choice!). If you feel inspired, take a cooking class and get tips from local cooks. Check Cottage Cooking Asheville, Asheville Mountain Kitchen, and The Asheville Kitchen.
7. Sip Creative Mocktails During ‘Dry January’
It’s been 10 years since Dry January began as a public health initiative from the British nonprofit Alcohol Change UK. This sobriety challenge is about cutting down the alcohol intake during January completely to see what happens.
“Mocktails” is the name given to the drinks that mock cocktails – they are creative, delicious, and visually appealing but don’t have alcohol. Mocktails are highlighted during January in Asheville but are a great option all year round.
Little Jumbo in Five Points has good mocktails, and it’s a few blocks from downtown in a quiet neighborhood next to one of Asheville’s greenways. The Buchi Bar at Rosetta’s Kitchen in downtown Asheville also has excellent options and great food.
Have you tried relaxing with a kava beverage? Sovereign Kava is North Carolina’s first Kava Bar. It’s dog-friendly, and it offers many fun social activities in a completely alcohol-free environment.
If you don’t feel like leaving the house on a cold evening, give these amazing Devil’s Foot Brew mocktail recipes a try! Or take one of these awarded Asheville Rooftop Bar tours to taste excellent alcohol-free drinks while watching the sunset.
8. Follow the South Slope Mural Trail
The City of Asheville offers three self-guided tours: the Urban Trail, the Architectural Trail, and the South Slope Mural Trail. The three of them are great activities to do in Asheville in January because you can stop as much as you want to get warm and buy refreshments.
However, the two-mile South Slope Mural Trail is an excellent choice for beer lovers because it passes some of the best breweries in Asheville and takes you to vibrant public art pieces, great restaurants, and cool art galleries.
You’ll enjoy a stop at Asheville Brewing Company, Catawba Brewing Company, Hi-Wire Brewing (home to the most colorful mural in town, celebrating “the circus that is Asheville”), and The Funkatorioum, the East Coast’s first sour beer taproom.
Another place to warm up in this part of town is Vortex Doughnuts. You’ll love the handmade, gourmet donuts. Also: 90% of their donuts are vegan! You’ll be surprised at the unique flavors.
9. Jump on a Purple Bus and Tour Asheville
Asheville has a tour for every interest, but the LaZoom comedy tours are among the most known and fun. They are an Asheville landmark – all locals (kids and adults) wave at them when they drive by, and their festive parties always wave back.
These tours mix comedy and history and are genuinely hilarious. They are a perfect color splash for a cold January night in Asheville. This is a local company founded by two street performers 16 years ago. LaZoom now offers four tours.
“Hey Asheville” is a city tour and vaudeville on wheels. You can expect lots of historic info presented in a comedy style. You’ll depart with a guide but meet many unconventional (and so representative of Asheville) characters along the way.
“Fender Bender” offers live music on the bus and beer tasting in different breweries around town. This is a fun alternative to bar hopping.
“Ghosted” is a haunted comedy tour. You’ll learn the stories of our famous ghosts – like Thomas Wolfe’s brother and the Pink Lady of the Grove Arcade – and hang out with some spooky characters. “Lil Boogers” is LaZoom’s family-friendly option. It’s very fun, and my kids loved the magic tricks on board.
The lounge space, where you’ll hang out before your tours, is equally fun. All the tours are dog-friendly, too.
10.See a Frozen Waterfall ice Formations
Waterfalls are beautiful year-round. Fresh in the spring, refreshing in the summer, full of colors in the fall, and frozen (or partially frozen) in the winter. Also, during January in Asheville, the trails are quieter, so you might have the landscape all to yourself.
Get your redemption of Elsa the Ice Queen outfit (plus a warm hat) and drive to Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest. The best thing about this 60-foot waterfall is that it’s accessible and visible from the parking area.
Looking Glass Falls is near Brevard, a fantastic town that’s home to one of the biggest populations of white squirrels. Go to the Brevard College, Silvermont, and Franklin Park campuses to spot one. Then, have lunch at Rocky Grill & Soda Shop for a sixties vibe.
Other waterfalls nearby are Moore Cove Falls, Daniel Ridge Falls, Log Hollow Falls, Cove Creek Falls, and Slick Rock Falls. The Forest Discovery Center at the Cradle of Forestry is also very close to Brevard.
11. Explore the Asheville Art Museum
There is no better match than a cold afternoon and a museum (well, maybe cold weather and books). The Asheville Art Museum is in the heart of downtown, and its collection features an overview of the art trends in American and Southwest art of the 20th and 21st centuries.
This is the best place to learn about regional art history, including the work of the experimental artists associated with the revolutionary Black Mountain College. There is also a collection of 65 objects from the 19th century to the present that feature Cherokee artists and Cherokee art history.
The museum has been remodeled recently, and it offers classes, workshops, many exhibitions throughout the year, and live music performances, so be sure to check the calendar. It even has a weekly yoga class among art pieces!
The Art PLAYce is an “intergenerational makers space” that your kids (and you!) will love. The art materials, books, interactive games, and opportunities to create art are perfect for a chilly January afternoon in Asheville.
The gift shop has a broad selection of cool art-related souvenirs and art books for kids and adults. They also offer inquiry-based guided tours for groups (you have to call in advance).
The rooftop Perspective Café offers a grand vista of downtown, and it’s the perfect spot to end your visit. It serves lunch and snacks from local businesses.
12. Visit the Thomas Wolfe Memorial
January in Asheville is one of the best months to explore Asheville’s historical landmarks without many tourists walking around. So, go to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, a museum located in the home where the writer spent his childhood.
The wide-porched Queen-Anne-style building used to be The Old Kentucky Boarding House. When his mother took charge of the school, Wolfe moved in with her while the rest of the family stayed in their Asheville house (near the downtown YMCA today).
Wolfe portrayed his early years in Asheville in Look Homeward, Angel. Back then, some locals recognized themselves in the characters and got offended by how they were described. So, the book was banned from the Asheville library for a long time.
A replica of the angel of Look Homeward, Angel (taken from Wolfe’s father’s monument shop downtown) is in front of the Asheville Art Museum. The original is in Hendersonville.
You can tour the memorial house and enjoy the views from one of the rocking chairs on the porch. The novelist is buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Montford.
Are you a bookworm? Check out this Asheville literary tour!
13. Spend the Day Exploring Black Mountain
Black Mountain won TripAdvisor Readers’ Choice Award for “Prettiest Small Town Vacation in America” in 2017. The reason? It is the prettiest small town (at least around here!). Visiting this jewel is one of the best things you can do in Asheville in the winter.
The downtown is full of locally-owned independent shops, art galleries, street art, trees, flowers, and good places to eat. Have brunch at Louise’s Kitchen, one of the best off-the-tourist track brunch spots. Then, if it’s not too cold, you can hike Graybeard Trail or Lookout Trail. Both hikes are moderate, and they’ll gift you amazing views.
The Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center, located in a 1921 firehouse, is worth a visit. It’s the best place to learn about the local history, and it’s free! Lake Tomahawk Park is beautiful and features a playground and a walking trail.
Go to Dripolator for coffee and Black Mountain Cider + Mead for some of the best craft beverages. Then, when you get hungry, head out to Trailhead Restaurant for excellent burgers and Open Oven for an awesome brunch and incredible baked goods.
No visit to Black Mountain is complete without spending an hour at the bookstore Sassafras on Sutton. They have a great Harry Potter section!