The 18 Best Things to do in Asheville in September
If you think that fall in the mountains is just the best, you’re in good company – many would agree that the best time to visit Asheville is in the autumn. Many of the things to do in Asheville in September are the same as the rest of the year, but with the addition of temperate weather, incredible colorful leaves on the trees, and crisp, cool nights perfect for a little backyard fire pit session and a relaxing drink.
However, just because you visit during the beginning of autumn doesn’t stop you from trying everything else the city has to offer beyond fall-related activities – there are just so many options when it comes to what to do in Asheville in September!
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Tips on Visiting Asheville in September
Partially due to the popularity of this season, you’ll find that even the most seasonal of offerings is likely to be open in September. Planning for a trip to Asheville during this popular month should probably start ahead of time since more things need reservations, like Friday night dinners and admission to Biltmore Estate, than during other times of the year.
However, if you’re really just interested in seeing some friends or going hiking, a spontaneous trip when you know the weather will be perfect can also be a great way to experience Asheville in September. Here are some activities to keep you enjoying yourself during your next visit to our incredible city.
What to do in Asheville in September: 18 Fun Ideas
1. Laugh Your Way Through Downtown with LaZoom Tours
If you have a preconception of bus tours of major cities being a bit of a history lecture, you’ll find a totally different experience if you choose to jump on board the LaZoom bus tour. For decades, this goofy staple of downtown Asheville has been filling up their signature bus with people (and their coolers full of booze!) to go for a rollicking journey around the city, learning a little bit and laughing a lot.
I’ll warn you that this tour is substantially PG-13 and may be a smidge more, so don’t necessarily bring anyone who is highly averse to bawdy humor and profanity, but if your crew is game for that, you’ll find that the tour guides are personable and knowledgeable, and the various “characters” you encounter around the city will have you giggling and constantly on the lookout for the next silly step in the tour.
Part comedy show, part Asheville history lesson, and all fun, this tour starts on Biltmore Avenue at the LaZoom Room, a zany bar just for those who are about to take a tour, where you can purchase drinks to take on the bus. Check out their website for themed tours and a less-profane version appropriate for kids.
Location: 76 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville
2. See Early Foliage from the Roan Mountain Section of the AT
In the South, September tends to be more summer than fall, but by the later weeks, you can often start to peep the leaves as they begin their fireworks show for the autumn. A great path if you want to hike your way past early foliage color change is the Roan Mountain section of the Appalachian Trail.
The Roan Highlands are actually five different mountain summits. Hiking from Carvers Gap to Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge will give you a good workout, multiple spectacular views, and beautiful flowers and trees that you may have never seen before.
On your way, you’ll see the Roan High Knob Shelter, the shelter with the highest elevation on the Appalachian Trail. Make sure you’re set up with a good understanding of the elevation change on the section of the trail you opt to tackle, and read up on good gear to bring and footwear before you go – and definitely don’t forget to take pictures!
3. Enjoy the French Broad From Atop a Standup Paddleboard
Did you know that the French Broad River is the third-oldest river in the whole world? While it may seem like just another pretty feature of Asheville, this beautiful ecosystem is actually a great place to try a new water sport and take a different view.
Wai Mauna Asheville is a company specifically dedicated to offering standup paddleboard tours in Asheville, specifically along the French Broad River. The founders were from Hawaii, where using paddleboards to explore was a more common sport.
These surfboard-looking paddleboards are made to be stable for beginners, and you are also given a paddle to keep you stable and moving forward. The company rents you the board and then guides you on its use before taking you exploring on the river.
They also rent out boards for self-guided tours of the area and can even deliver boards right to your dock in certain parts of the river. Don’t be afraid of the potential of getting a little wet in the river – this new adventure is well worth it, especially on the warm early days of September.
Location: 192 Riverside Drive, Asheville
4. Learn to Forage with No Taste Like Home
There are multiple food tour options in Asheville, offering the chance to visit a few restaurants and try a small bite at each one while learning about their process and signature style. However, one of the most rare and interesting kinds of food tours in town is actually a chance to go learn about edible food in the areas around Asheville in the fall.
No Taste Like Home’s foraging tours take you into the woods for three hours of finding and gathering delicious foods that can be prepared and eaten right on the trail. They’ll even direct you to one of five restaurants that can prepare some of your findings into an appetizer before you dine there!
There is also a shorter “food stroll” and a tour that specifically helps you to identify edible plants in the average yard. It’s an unforgettable experience that will change how you see the forest and your yard, making them more of a place of abundance in your eyes.
5. Spend the Day Picking Apples at a Local Orchard
About an hour south of Asheville, a whole zone of the foothills has the perfect conditions for growing apples of many different varieties. While some of the orchards focus on supplying apples to farmer’s markets and selling them more widely, a few orchards have embraced the fun and family atmosphere of the u-pick apple experience.
At orchards like Stepp’s, the autumn ripening schedule is mapped onto a big diagram where visitors can see which varieties of apples are ripening, available to pick now, or will be able to be picked in the next few weeks. Then, groups buy some buckets and boxes and pull a wagon around the different orchards, gathering the best specimens of each kind of apple they love.
In addition to the apples themselves, many of the orchards include fall festival activities that are open on the weekends: these include features like a bouncy pillow for kids to jump on, apple cannons for practicing your aim, and hayrides, as well as truly impressive corn mazes – don’t get too lost!
Don’t miss the fried or baked treat of the season either – apple cider donuts make a crisp fall morning just that much better.
6. Experience Art at the Asheville Art Museum
For the size of Asheville as a city, the downtown Asheville Art Museum is a rare gem. With both a beautiful building, a gorgeous permanent collection, and high-quality visiting exhibitions, you’re likely to really enjoy a trip to see the art here.
Whether you visit on a date or to cool off on a hot early-September day, there’s always something interesting to see and prompt new thoughts. You’ll find that there are spectacular views of downtown from the cafe and patio on the top floor and a cool children’s area that includes supplies to make their own art as well as interactive art that is meant to be touched.
Location: 2 S Pack Square, Asheville
7. Experience All Things Caribbean at the Goombay Festival
Few events have as much infectious energy (and excellent food!) as the Goombay Festival, a relatively recent addition to the many activities that take place in Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville.
This festival celebrates all things Afro-Caribbean, bringing together food, music, and dance from the Caribbean and encouraging locals who have this heritage to share their talents and favorite cultural elements.
There are also lots of local vendors and nonprofits on hand with booths for outreach to the thousands of people who pass through the festival, snacking on delicious Jamaican food and dancing along to traditional dances down by the amphitheater stage.
8. Try Your Hand at Falconry
Asheville’s outfitters frequently plan and guide trips for fishing or water sports, but Curtis Wright Outfitters offers a particularly unusual and exciting option: falconry classes! Journey with licensed falconers and learn how to handle a raptor by having them perch on your gloved fist.
You’ll learn about the history and equipment used in falconry and how the interactions between human and bird go. If you’re more academically interested, a less-expensive observer pass is allowed, but the main event (a great gift option!) is to get a 90-minute training session where you experience the basics of falconry and learn to appreciate this complex and fascinating connection.
Pass holders at Biltmore can also sign up for falconry classes through Biltmore.
9. Combine Passions with a Yoga Hike
Does it feel hard to walk into a studio from your busy life and immediately sink into a great meditative space for a yoga class? In Asheville in September, you can find instructors who will take you for an amazing hike so that you’re truly prepared when you get to the mountaintop and begin a beautiful practice of yoga.
Groups like Asheville Wellness Tours choose the perfect length and difficulty level of the hike to get your mind focused and then lead you through your yoga practice. It’s a great way to combine multiple activities into one, and Wellness Tours also offers other practices, like Forest Bathing/Nature Therapy and even yoga with goats on farms!
If you love practicing yoga anyway and want a fun Asheville experience, try one of these opportunities.
10. Shop Local in Downtown Asheville’s Boutiques
Asheville is big enough to have malls and outlets, which can make for a great day of shopping for very specific finds, but one of the real shining special features of downtown are the many excellent boutiques, antique shops, vintage shops, and curiosity shops.
The ability to get adorable outfits in one spot and classic vintage wear in the next, a unique and beautiful toy for a children’s gift in one shop while trying on a handmade hat in the shop next door, are all great reasons to take yourself out on the town for some retail therapy sometime during your September visit to Asheville.
11. Find Your Flavor at Biltmore Estate Winery
While there are a variety of local wineries in the area around Hendersonville to the south, one of the largest and most iconic wineries to visit in Asheville proper is Biltmore Estate Winery. This working winery is part of the estate’s goal to continue producing award-winning products even as they went from being the Vanderbilt’s private residence to a major tourist attraction over the past decades.
In doing so, they both grow grapes and create wines of many different varieties, and you can sample them at a complimentary wine tasting included in your ticket to visit the estate. While not every wine may be your instant favorite, when you do find your favorite, you can explore the grounds and see the grapes being grown for your next bottle – they harvest about 250 tons of grapes every year!
It’s a fun way to get the full experience of a wine. Plus, a good wine tasting is always a great conversation starter.
Location: 1 Lodge Street, Asheville
12. Tour the Thomas Wolfe Memorial
There’s something quite magical for readers about walking into a building that inspired an important book, even if it was “anonymized” a bit. This is how Thomas Wolfe readers feel about touring the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, which is located in the very boarding house building where Thomas Wolfe both grew up and based his Look Homeward, Angel story upon.
While the literary connections are many, there’s also a big part of the tour that shows you how Thomas Wolfe has influenced Asheville, particularly right in the early years after the book was released when it was seen as a very thinly veiled reference to Asheville’s own residents and controversies.
You’ll see how this town has been through many different eras while touring a fascinating boarding house, and if you happen to be a writer yourself, you might just be inspired to go home and write a few lines!
Location: 52 N Market Street, Asheville
13. Check Out the Cutting Edge at Chow Chow Festival
Asheville is already known for putting great food center stage, and their festivals are no exception. However, in 2019 some of the most well-known chefs in Asheville got together to create a cultural and food event series known as Chow Chow, one that celebrates how Southern Appalachia in general and Asheville in particular are food communities with their own unique collection of incredibly creative dishes.
The festival offers programming that is both about how to make food and what to eat, offering participants a feast of epic proportions for both their learning soul and their stomachs. Every year the festival has a slightly different focus and structure, building on past festivals, so keep an eye on the website so that you can take full advantage of the creative and community-minded chefs who put this event on.
14. Celebrate Inclusion at Blue Ridge Pride Festival
Each September in Pack Square Park, the LGBTQ+ community gathers alongside allies, vendors, and resource providers to celebrate inclusion and value for all sexual orientations and gender identities. The atmosphere of the Blue Ridge Pride Festival is energetic, with food vendors, crafts and art displays, drag shows, musicians, and colorful outfits of all kinds.
A march in the early part of the day celebrates and commemorates the struggle for equality, and the main festival offers a space for people to be themselves and celebrate inclusion, all on a beautiful Asheville September day. There are always great vendors with lots of fun items for sale and a kids’ area with a bounce house and art projects.
15. Taste the Culture at Asheville Greek Festival
If you happen to be lucky enough to plan a trip to Asheville during the Asheville Greek Festival, save a moment to go pick up some incredible eats at this gem of a festival. An outreach of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, this festival focuses on the tastes, sights, and sounds of Greece.
Lately, it has involved a drive-through option where you pick from five plates, offering dishes like chicken riganato, Greek meatballs, spanakopita, and moussaka to-go due to COVID-19. However, as festivals have returned to the Asheville scene, you may see a return to the music, festival atmosphere, and Greek heritage celebrations of the past. Check the website for this year’s dates!
16. Make your Latest Feathered Friend at Flock to the Rock
Asheville has a thriving bird-watching community, with so many areas of nature that have been conserved and other areas that simply attract rare and beautiful songbirds. The Bird Sanctuary in North Asheville is a great example of a place to go birding any time of year, feeling the quiet and solitude as you look for a glimpse of bright color among the leaves and trees.
One way to get a major dose of bird-watcher fever is to join Flock to the Rock at Chimney Rock State Park. From early morning bird walks to live bird programs where trained bird enthusiasts will show off incredible creatures, you’ll find something for everyone to enjoy, and there will always be something else to learn.
There’s also classes that show you how to spot raptors, how to go birding as a family, and so much more. Become a bird identification pro with your friends or family at Flock to the Rock!
Location: 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock
17. Get to Know ASAP at their Annual Farm Tour
Both locals and visitors who love botany and agriculture will appreciate the mission of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, a nonprofit that wants to help local farms thrive while linking them to markets and supporters so that our communities will thrive because of this local food.
A big part of valuing local food is understanding just what it takes to make the foods that us non-farmers simply eat without growing ourselves. A great place to get to know their work is at the annual farm tour.
This event takes place at various local farms that will each have guided tours, demonstrations, tastings, and hands-on activities that can help adults and children really connect to the ways their food is created.
Each year, the selected farms are published, and events will be described on the ASAP website, giving you the chance to plan your personal itinerary. Although, there are farms that can be visited all year round as well!
18. Admire the Asheville Quilt Show
When you visit Asheville with a big group or a group that has diverse interests, it’s always a good idea to check the calendar at the WNC Agricultural Center. They host a lot of big events that offer some intergenerational appeal, including the Asheville Quilt Show.
Quilting artists are incredible with their sewing needles and thread, creating works of interconnected cloth that are then displayed in the show and compete for awards. Bring your family and decide on your own personal favorite quilts while enjoying learning about how different quilters use machines and quilt by hand and how they’ve learned the intricate skill.