Asheville, North Carolina, is blessed with a lot of clear skies, with 212 sunny days per year on average. However, any trip to our artsy, outdoorsy neck of the woods can still have a wet or snowy day here and there. If you end up facing a rainy day in Asheville, don’t fret! There are many things to do in Asheville in the rain that will be just as memorable as your favorite hike or a wander through downtown.
The top pastime of both locals and visitors alike is definitely eating. With some of the country’s best food tucked into our little mountain paradise, all you need is an umbrella to walk from breakfast to… second breakfast? If a rainy day is on the horizon, it can be in your favor to get reservations early so that you can sit inside since many local restaurants have more seating on their patios on sunny days.
That said, a trip to Asheville isn’t made of tasty food and drink alone. Whether you need an activity for a book-loving crowd, a gaggle of history buffs, a set of shopaholics, or some active kiddos, you can find what you need to enjoy your time, no matter the weather.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the 15 best things to do in Asheville in the rain. Some of these activities may require a quick jaunt between buildings under an ample umbrella, but they’ll primarily keep you warm, dry, and very entertained!
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15 Fun Things to Do in Asheville in the Rain
1. Expand Your Mind at the Asheville Art Museum
If you’re looking for things to do on a rainy day in Asheville, popping into a museum is always a good idea. Perfect for art lovers, the Asheville Art Museum highlights a range of artistic mediums with constantly rotating galleries. While the museum has a permanent collection, that collection tends to be assembled into new exhibits at different times of each year.
Exhibits focused on contemporary art, unique artistic media, and particular local or globally recognized artists are often available. If you’re willing to brave the drizzle, there’s a stunning view of the city from the patio on top of the building, as well as a cafe.
For the little ones, there is the Wells Fargo Art PLAYce, which offers a variety of colors, textures, and patterns to explore, whether a little artist wants to make their own piece of art to take home or just experiment with magnetic tiles, read a book, or explore the regional-artist-created interactive art!
2. Climb and Learn at the Asheville Museum of Science
We’ll be the first to say that the Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS) is not your state-wide science museum or the Smithsonian – it’s a humble spot that holds a surprising amount of fun in just a couple of rooms. If you’re searching for rainy-day activities in Asheville, why not spend some time learning something new at AMOS?
Highlights include exhibits of gemstones and rock formations, a very cool water table illustrating the water cycle using the shape of the local French Broad River, and a hurricane simulator. Small children, in particular, will enjoy learning and then going for a climb on their play structure that has a slide and lots of levels of fun.
In the science lab section, educational programs, summer camps, and individual museum visitors can explore scientific principles in a fun way, falling in love with both science and natural history. Check their website for upcoming outreach since they frequently offer science-based activities both in the museum and out in the community.
3. Step Into History at the Biltmore Estate
Perhaps the most iconic attraction of Asheville, the Biltmore Estate is definitely impressive in the sunshine, but if you get a multi-day or yearly pass, this attraction has much to offer on a rainy day in Asheville too.
From an exhibition space called The Biltmore Legacy that shows more about the lives of the Vanderbilts to the glass conservatory full of plants, there’s lots to explore under the cover of a roof!
Tours through the house itself keep you primarily indoors, and there are a variety of specialized tours that focus on specific aspects of the house, like the Biltmore House Backstairs Tour that shows you some off-the-guided-path aspects of how the staff and the Vanderbilts lived their daily lives.
The Biltmore Estate Winery also offers tastings and a beautiful space to learn about and sample wine. Even if you’ve visited the estate before, you’ll be surprised and impressed by all the ways that you can explore this national treasure, preserved to showcase history and create enjoyment.
4. Sip, Savor, and Shop at the Grove Arcade
The Grove Arcade is so much more than a shopping center, and it’s absolutely one of the most fun things to do on a rainy day in Asheville.
This stately building was constructed in 1928 to be the first indoor shopping mall in the United States! It now carries a variety of fascinating specialty shops, as well as wonderful restaurants and spots for coffee and pastries.
Enjoy the one-of-a-kind furniture shops where local artists create sleek and incredible woodwork and other gorgeous pieces for your home. Venture into the Battery Park Book Exchange for a glass of bubbles at the champagne bar and to climb fun narrow staircases all lined with books for sale. It’s truly one of the coziest spots in the city!
Local artisans frequently hold pop-up stands in the spots just outside the mall, and seasonal decorations can make you forget the outside weather in order to enjoy all that this building and its many shops have to offer.
5. Learn About a Literature Legend at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial
The historic Thomas Wolfe Memorial is actually the childhood home of Thomas Wolfe, the novelist who wrote Look Homeward, Angel. His fictionalized story is highly autobiographical, discussing “Altamont,” North Carolina, in a way that anyone living in Asheville at the time would immediately recognize.
He grew up in a boardinghouse, with many interesting characters coming and going, and a tour of the property with a knowledgeable guide shows parallels between the real home and the book.
Anyone who reads the book, which is a popular high school assignment, will see literature come to life, and aspiring or accomplished writers of all ages will welcome a chance to learn a bit about Wolfe’s life and inspiration. If you have a daydreamer in your crew, this tour is the perfect place to let their books become reality.
6. Meet the Artists in Action at the River Arts District Studios
The River Arts District began organically with a variety of Asheville artists seeking community and also finding a place to work on their craft. As a result, many of the region’s most wonderful artworks are crafted right there on site.
At first, these studios and gallery spaces were simply a way for artists to work while allowing shoppers to browse, but the popularity of the zone has grown these shops, galleries, and studio spaces into very interactive experiences. It’s not uncommon to wander into places like the North Carolina Glass Center to shop or browse the blown glass art while glass is being blown in the studio right beside you!
Whether you want to spend your rainy day in Asheville in awe of the artists making items that could be for sale in just a few days or want to try your hand at one of the many arts and crafts classes available, the River Arts District is the perfect place to let your creativity blossom.
7. Pick Up Produce and More at the WNC Farmers Market
Are you sad because a rainy day in Asheville made visiting one of the many outdoor farmers markets too sopping to be enjoyable? Never fear! The WNC Farmers Market is open seven days a week and offers covered stands full to bursting with whatever is in season in Western North Carolina.
You’re not limited to produce right off the tree, bush, or vine – plenty of spices, sauces, jams, and teas are all available. You can also purchase crafts, homemade wooden furniture, and other items.
It’s a great place to shop for gifts and know that your dollars are staying local, and the best thing is that you can explore under the covered areas of the market and only venture out to the next area of the market between bursts of rainfall.
If you’re only in town for a few days and are staying somewhere with a kitchen, there’s truly no pastime more “Asheville” than buying up local ingredients and spending some time cooking with those you love. Eating here is also one of the best things to do in Asheville in the rain!
8. Beat the Clock at Breakout Asheville or Other Escape Rooms
The idea of an escape room sounds fun from the beginning – especially on a rainy day in Asheville! You’ll find a room designed with lots of details and places to look and clues and puzzles to solve in order to, ultimately, end the game and get out of the room.
With a certain amount of time on the clock, you and your group listen to helpful hints from a supervising employee (if you’re lucky!). The adrenaline of solving a clue that unlocks a secret door or panel in the wall is unmatched!
While there are multiple escape rooms in Asheville, one centrally-located company is called Breakout Asheville and is located in the heart of downtown. You can also check out A-Escape Asheville, which is northwest of the city, and Fox-n-Otter Adventure Escapes, with locations in the Asheville Mall and south in Arden.
Each company offers different themes, so book early to make sure you get your favorite!
9. Go Full Willy Wonka on a French Broad Chocolate Factory Tour
If you’ve walked around the beautiful Pack Square in downtown Asheville on a nice day, you’ve likely seen the line out the door at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. This tasty treat-ery serves up all things chocolate: ice cream, single-origin bars, pastries, truffles, and a zillion other confections alongside drinks.
What you might not know is that this well-known lounge also has a location a bit closer to the river that is their main factory. If you dream of being taken behind the scenes of a chocolate factory like Charlie Bucket, you’re in luck!
A 45-minute tour gets you out of the rain and into the cocoa-perfumed air of their production facility. Themes include single-origin chocolate, understanding the process from bean to bar, and even a wine and chocolate tasting.
If you have a group of eight or more, it’s fun to do a private tour where you can pick your time from those available and your theme. Prices vary, and remember to book ahead to ensure you have a spot if you see rain in the forecast.
10. See the Sights With Hilarious Commentary on the Lazoom Comedy Bus
LaZoom is a bus tour of the city, but it isn’t like any bus tour you’ve ever done before. The LaZoom signature purple bus is full of actors and actresses that dress up, tell jokes, perform little skits and sketches, and, yes, teach you a thing or two about the Asheville sights you’re seeing through the windows.
Goofy, irreverent, and unforgettable, the LaZoom bus is perfect for the day when rain foiled a plan to wander downtown. The acting is fun, too, delighting theater lovers in a way that a quick mention just wouldn’t.
Some tours are themed, including one just for kids, so read up on the latest seasonal options and book ahead. Their central location has space for comedy shows and offers a beer bar for those who want a taste of the local suds before or after they head out for their tour.
11. Get Pampered and Relieve Stress at the Asheville Salt Cave
Maybe you’re in the mood to find some inner serenity and feel relaxed while the rain softly falls outside. The Asheville Salt Cave uses pure pink salt (30 tons of it!) as well as temperature and humidity calibrations to mimic the conditions of the oldest salt mines in the world.
Salt and minerals are thought to be helpful to the body, and the beauty and calm of this space helps people to relax in their zero-gravity chairs while listening to soothing music. For the ultimate relaxation, sign up for a massage before or after your appointment in the salt cave! There are also steam room sessions in the hammam.
There are a variety of other spas and massage therapists in town, so don’t fear if the Asheville Salt Cave is booked up. No matter which place you choose, a day at the spa is one of the most relaxing things to do in Asheville on a rainy day.
12. Take In a Reading at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe
A bookstore is such a cozy spot when it’s cool and gray outside, and Malaprop’s, one of several independent bookstores in the area, makes for one of the best rainy-day activities in Asheville.
Not only do they carry a wide variety of popular, local, and off-the-beaten-path tomes, they even have a fun section called “Blind Date With a Bookseller,” where books are wrapped up to obscure their covers, and the bibliophiles that work at Malaprop’s write clues to who might like this book: “mystery, murder, secrets,” or “adventurous, otherworldly, insightful.”
While you browse, sip a tasty drink from the cafe, which also has a to-go window if you need to get java and dash away to another activity. In the evenings, book clubs and author readings give you a fun way to enjoy beloved or new literature and expand your mind.
13. Shop and Scamper at the Asheville Mall
If you’ve got the itch to find a great new outfit or browse for the perfect gift, the Asheville Mall offers dozens of retailers to satisfy your shopping itch.
In the food court, a Fisher-Price-themed playground lets the littlest visitors jump, slide, and climb all over Thomas the Tank Engine and his green train friend Percy, burning off some steam even on the wettest of days. There’s even a Build-a-Bear Workshop to create memories of Asheville that your child can hug and snuggle all the way home.
A large Barnes & Noble and multiple major department stores offer a variety of options for your shopping needs. Stop to eat at the food court or step out to one of the restaurants in the nearby shopping centers.
Special events, from a visit with Santa to special pop-up shops in the POP-UP Marketplace, keep things exciting even if you’ve visited before. Even if all you need is a good mall walk to feel a little peppier after a delicious gourmet meal, a trip to the Asheville Mall is one of the best things to do in Asheville on a rainy day!
14. Burn Off Some Toddler Energy at PlaySpaceAVL
If you’ve got the kids in tow, we feel you! Traveling with small children isn’t for the faint of heart. Anyone with a child under four years old knows to check for playgrounds and wide-open spaces when they head out for a road trip. But if you find yourself spending a rainy day in Asheville with the kids, you can head for PlaySpaceAVL!
Located in a local church, this space is open and has playground equipment for climbing, rocking, and sliding but also a variety of developmentally-appropriate toys. Some days feature all open play, while others include a basic circle time to start children learning movements, songs, and stories.
The goal of this spot is to give families a place where children can enjoy fun activities safely while parents or caregivers take a minute and drink a cup of coffee while observing their little ones as they explore.
15. Crawl, Jump, and Explore at Mountain Play Lodge
Traveling or just living life with children can be tiring, especially if a lot of the activities on your list require being quiet and not touching things, such as the Biltmore Estate. If you’re traveling with kids and you have a range of ages in your group of children, you might find that Mountain Play Lodge is the perfect place for them to burn off some steam and just be kids – you can touch everything at this fun indoor playground!
There are plenty of indoor activities in Asheville’s Mountain Play Lodge, including a massive jungle gym for exploring but also a variety of themed rooms and spaces for pretend play, from a little town to a castle.
A pirate-themed party room and a castle-themed party room allow you to easily create a wonderful indoor birthday party, whether for friends or family. Their soft-play area for toddlers lets even the littlest explorers play safely while the bigger kids scamper and invent stories. Adults can relax more knowing their kiddos have lots to enjoy.