When it comes to summer in North Carolina, I can think of a few wonderful spots: the Outer Banks are great if you’re in search of a great beach day, and there’s lots to do in Raleigh and Charlotte. The best spot, though, would have to be Asheville in July – you get all the fun of hot temperatures paired with mild evenings, and the beautiful backdrop of the mountains makes every day of fun and adventure incredibly picturesque.
While not everyone agrees on the best time to visit Asheville, you’re sure to find yourself in good company if you come to Asheville in summer. Plan both ways to enjoy nature and ways to get out of the sun and relax a bit indoors for the perfect balance. Here are some fun events and activities that are popular in Asheville in July!
A trip to Asheville in July will have you in good company, whether you simply want a great destination for your summer vacation or you’ve been here every year for ages. Figuring out the best things to do in Asheville in July starts with your own interests.
Are you more interested in seeing and experiencing nature, enjoying the artistic community of this city, or eating your way through our dining options? You don’t even have to pick – when it comes to what to do in Asheville in July, you can also answer “all of the above!”
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 16 Best Things to do in Asheville in July
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What to do in Asheville in July: 16 Fun Ideas
1. Beat the Heat at a Local Swimming Hole or Sliding Rock
Between Brevard and Asheville is the beautiful and wild Pisgah National Forest, where thousands of people descend every summer to take a trip down Sliding Rock. This natural waterfall goes over a sloped but mostly flat boulder for 60 feet, creating a natural slip-n-slide that is fun and ends with a plunge into a cold natural pool.
When the weather gets warm, there are even lifeguards on duty due to just how popular this spot has gotten. You’ll likely have to wait your turn, and there is a cost of $4 per person, but it’s a pretty unforgettable ride.
If you want something a little less populated but still popular, places like Skinny Dip Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Canton or the swimming hole in the Swannanoa River in Azalea Park in east Asheville are both options for getting a swim in some natural NC water. Be aware that even in July, the water is fast-flowing down from higher elevations and tends to be very cold!
2. View an Indie Film in Comfort at the Fine Arts Theatre
Fine Arts Theatre is a wonderful find for those of us who have been sightseeing around Asheville and need a little relaxing break. This theater has two screens and is typically showing recent independent films, often those that have won major awards around the world. But no matter what they’re screening, it’s always something eclectic and interesting.
The concession stand features snacks but also beer and wine, so you can drink a craft beverage while you watch a film. The opportunity to take a little break from the hubbub of downtown but also emerge right into a shopping and dining district afterward is a great way to rejuvenate.
Location: 36 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville
3. Go ‘Creeking’ at the Botanical Gardens or Lake Louise
When you want to explore nature but don’t want to head out for half an hour or more on the parkway, there are plenty of pint-sized adventures near town. With my toddler, one of the best hot day activities in Asheville is to go “creeking” or wading in the shallow area of a creek.
Two of the best spots are in the north side of town. First, near UNC Asheville is the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, a beautiful area of plants with a creek running through it that is usually quiet but full of little fish and other wildlife.
Second, many people know about the walking trail and the playground up at Lake Louise in Weaverville, but one of the best parts of this park is actually the old waterwheel and creek area just next door, a perfect spot for a little wading and keeping cool in the summer in Asheville!
4. Visit the Maggie Valley Arts and Crafts Festival
West of Asheville and out into the mountains, you’ll find the charming small town of Maggie Valley. During the summer and fall, Maggie Valley plays host to artisans and crafters from around the Southeastern United States, offering some wonderful and unique items while also keeping the atmosphere festive.
At the Maggie Valley Arts and Crafts Festival, you’ll find tasty festival food vendors and even live chainsaw art demonstrations, an impressive (and loud!) feat of artistic finesse. There are simple handicrafts, and there are museum-quality pieces of fine art, with all kinds of media represented, from yard art and pottery to wooden kitchenware, furniture, and jewelry.
The festival grounds themselves are situated in an incredible flat valley area surrounded by scenic peaks. This jaunt out of Asheville proper will be well worth your while.
Location: 3374 Soco Road, Maggie Valley
5. Watch Independence Day Fireworks
On July 4th, there are two main hubs for enjoying Independence Day in Asheville. First, in downtown Asheville, there is typically a festival-like atmosphere in Pack Square, with entertainment like the Ultimate Air Dogs (dogs that literally do long jumps!) and live music, as well as local food and beverage vendors, and of course, fireworks at dusk.
There’s also a huge gathering at Lake Julian to watch fireworks over the waterfront, and over the years, it has evolved into a daylong celebration of all that Lake Julian Park offers, including various sporting spots like sand volleyball and disc golf, as well as picnicking, listening to a live band, and eating from the food trucks that park on-site.
A fun fact: Free Fishing Day in North Carolina is July 4th, so you can fish in Lake Julian without a license and the park usually waives the daily fishing fee, too, making this a great day to launch a boat of your own or rent a paddleboat for a tour of the lake. Make July 4th an Independence Day to remember!
6. Swim, Bike, and Run Your Way Through the Asheville Triathlon
You might be like me and think that even running a 5K is a pretty grueling workout, but you also might be a biking, swimming, and running wonder – either way, you actually are still a good candidate for the Asheville Triathlon.
While the biking portion of this race is hilly and can be challenging, the swim portion is in a pool rather than in a lake or other body of water. As a result, people who are just starting out their triathlon journey find this race to be a fun entry into the sport and a good place to set a personal record when you’ve only been at it for a little while.
At the same time, elite and experienced athletes have frequently broken their own established records due to taking the biking downhills at breakneck speeds and a fast 5K route. No matter where you fit into the range (or if you opt to be a cheerleader instead!), this is a fun and energizing July event that will stay in your memory for a long time.
7. Escape the Heat at the Asheville Salt Cave
Before I learned about the Asheville Salt Cave, I never would have known that salt mines contain such fascinating properties. The creators of the Asheville Salt Cave recreated this microclimate by bringing in 30 tons of pink salt and adjusting the temperature and humidity to the levels of a natural cave, giving you the experience of peace and serenity of a real cave.
When you’re ready for a break from the summer heat, head to the salt cave for a session, sitting in a zero-gravity chair or on a floor cushion for your meditation. The Salt Cave also has a Turkish-inspired hammam, a bathhouse with steam rooms for the cleansing and purification of skin, as well as massage therapy services.
You can even book the salt cave for a massage if you want double the relaxation! Overall, trying out this unique offering will leave you feeling pampered and prepared to head back out to tackle more exciting Asheville adventures.
Location: 16 N Liberty Street, Asheville
8. Float the French Broad River with Easy Passage Back to Your Car
I can think of few more iconic options for things to do in Asheville in July than to go tubing on the French Broad River. While heavy rains do occasionally make the river fast, a leisurely tubing day starts with renting a tube from the French Broad Outfitters and bringing along some snacks and drinks to enjoy on the water.
The Outfitters make the trip seamless, offering you clearly marked spots to park, rental tubes, a shuttle to the put-in, and guidance for where the take-out point is down the river. Usually, the trip takes 3.5 hours, give or take, based on the speed of the water that day.
One of the best ways to relax with friends and have a nice conversation (punctuated by occasional fast water that gives you some fun changes in speed!) is to float the river together, and afterward, the Outfitters handle the tubes and get you back to your car – easy-peasy! Between the beauty of the river and the cooling element of spending time in the water, you just can’t beat it.
9. Visit Linville Caverns
Like so many major cave networks, Linville Caverns was completely undiscovered until the mid-1850s when fishing expeditioner Henry E. Colton found a small opening into what turned out to be the enormous cave structure of Linville Caverns.
You can feel the awe of walking into these caverns for the first time and also enjoy the natural cool of a cave tour in the middle of summer – the cave is 52°F all year round, no matter the weather up on the surface.
While you’ll have a guide for your tour, make sure you learn a bit about the rules of the cave before you go, from staying with the group (you don’t want to have to be rescued from a tight spot you wandered off to!) to never touching the rock formations or any cave creatures you witness. Keeping the caverns pristine as you admire them is a great way to preserve them for future visitors!
Location: 19929 US 221 North, Marion
10. Take an Out-and-Back Trip on the Appalachian Trail
Whether you begin a hike near Bryson City at the Nantahala Outdoor Center or pop onto the path near Hot Springs, NC, next to the French Broad River, the Appalachian Trail isn’t far off and is a fun way to plan out a multi-day hike.
If you’ve not encountered a thru-hiker before, these are hearty hikers walk from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail, covering more than 2,190 miles of trail, camping, and leaving no trace along the way.
While most people visiting Asheville in July won’t have time to cross multiple states, a common in-between is to map out a route you’d take that has you head out, camp for one or two nights on the trail, and then hike back to where you originally parked.
Be aware if your journey itinerary takes you into Great Smokey Mountains National Park, you’ll need to pay for a permit to do backcountry camping and make a reservation for an overnight site.
Another great option is to chart a course that begins in the early morning and gets you back to your car in time to drive back to a warm bed – there are lots of options for seeing this well-traveled path and understanding why so many have attempted it.
11. Hop on and Hop off the Trolley Tour of Asheville
Spend any amount of time in Asheville, and you are likely to see one of the cheery Grey Line tours that crisscross the city, showing visitors all our most important sites (my own toddler solemnly says “trolley” whenever one comes by!).
The tour showcases downtown Asheville as well as multiple historic areas like Biltmore Village and the Grove Park Inn, as well as the River Arts District. If you stay on the tour all the way through, you’ll hear 90 to 100 minutes of interesting information about our city while seeing many of the important sites.
However, one of the coolest features is that it is a hop-on, hop-off tour, covering 15 miles and 10 stops. You can plan your day for one parking location and use the tour to both get some interesting knowledge and to get around town to each of your destination locations.
Even better, when you buy a one-day pass, they throw in a second day for free, meaning that you may be able to see twice as many of the locations on your must-see list. Particularly if you’re traveling with someone who wants to see a lot without walking miles and miles, this is a great in-between that helps you cover more ground.
12. Enjoy Pack Square Park for Shindig on the Green
The Folk Heritage Committee puts together an amazing downtown outdoor concert series that tends to take place in July and August each year. Around sundown, or 7 pm, people gather to hear traditional bluegrass and old-time string bands, watch clog dancers and other Appalachian-related dances, and listen as storytellers share tales of this area.
The festive atmosphere of Shindig on the Green continues with ice cream from The Hop available on-site and lots of restaurants within a block or two of Pack Square Park. Bring your own lawn chair or blanket and let the little ones run wild and dance to the music while they get to know the music that is so distinctive to Western NC. It’s a great coming-together of both locals and tourists for a fun and occasionally educational evening.
13. Visit and See the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
In the shadow of Grandfather Mountain outside Boone, NC, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games are one of the largest gatherings in celebration of Scottish culture in North America. The four-day weekend festival brings together musicians, dancers, and skilled athletes for the field games and so much more.
Whether you spend much of the time sampling Scottish foods, watching the Caber Toss, or shopping for tartans and kilts, you’ll find lots to learn about Scottish heritage and enjoy lots of family-friendly fun. While a good bit north of Asheville itself, the scenic drive north is likely to get you in the mood for the excitement and energy of the games.
14. Book Dinner Reservations at Open-Air Restaurants
July is prime season for patio dining, and many restaurants expand their capacity because they can seat folks at sidewalk tables, rooftop patios, or other outdoor areas. Restaurants downtown often have large windows that can open to make the whole restaurant feel like a treehouse – breezy and open.
When you make reservations ahead of time, you can check for the option to book a patio table or ask for one when you arrive. While busy nights like Friday and Saturday tend to be booked nearly solid in Asheville in July, if you opt for a quieter night of the week or head out past downtown to Montford, West Asheville, River Arts District, or any of the other neighborhoods, you may be able to stroll up and get a spot at a cafe like you were just wandering through a European capital. It’s quite the romantic way to enjoy Asheville in July!
15. Watch Live Glassblowing Demonstrations at Lexington Glassworks
It’s hard to miss Lexington Glassworks on a beautiful day – the front of the building has three garage doors that are raised during open hours, and you can see the incredible variety of both functional and fine-art items made in their glassblowing studio.
Part of the draw of Lexington Glassworks is the fact that working artisans are blowing and shaping glass during open hours, making it a working studio that allows you to see exactly how many of their products are made by hand. The process needed to work with glass precisely before it hardens after being heated creates truly a masterful dance, and I could stand there watching them make these treasures for hours!
One of the particularly cool features of their product line is the way they can create custom lighting. With their expert knowledge of glass color and pattern, they can help you create custom art-style lighting for your home that will be completely one-of-a-kind and a total conversation piece. Or just watch and admire their skills!
Location: 92 S Lexington Avenue, Asheville
16. Test out the New Blue Ridge Snorkel Trail
Maybe you’ve donned a snorkel to see a coral reef, but have you ever considered snorkeling in a river or creek? Just below the surface, these ecosystems teem with life, creating a haven for fascinating plants and animals.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has coordinated the creation of the Blue Ridge Snorkel Trail, a selection of sites where you can visit during warm weather months. There will be informational signs posted at pilot sites like Canton Recreation Park Boat Ramp, Mills River Park, and Black Mountain Veterans Park, as well as a variety of other Western North Carolina waterways.
While you’ll be able to participate in a self-guided fashion, one of the best ways to try snorkeling in a river for the first time is to join a guided hiking and snorkeling tour with a company like Oxbow River Snorkeling, who have strong knowledge of these ecosystems and can help you both treat the river with respect and have a better chance of seeing some of nature’s most interesting creatures.
(Be aware that this project is in a pilot state at the time of writing but is likely to expand with interest over time.)
There you have it! The 16 best things to do in Asheville in July. What are your favorite July activities and events in Asheville? Let us know so we can add them to the list!
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