Explore the Outdoors at these 13 Beautiful Urban Parks in Asheville
I love visiting local parks when I travel, and I love to spend time at a wide range of Asheville parks. Parks are great for pausing, breathing in all the newness when you’re away from home, and getting to know the local crowd. I’m a people person, and I’ve always got the best travel advice from talking to strangers!
When my kids were younger, I used to travel with a list of playgrounds and green areas to ensure our urban adventures were balanced with free running around time. I met some of my current mom-friends while our kids were playing in Mexico City, Madrid, and Asheville parks.
Our city has many urban parks and green areas that offer much to do besides people-watching (my favorite thing to do!) and playgrounds. On this list, you’ll find opportunities to learn about the local history and culture while at a park or outdoors.
You’ll also discover playgrounds for kids of all ages and opportunities to talk to the local friendly folks at the community gardens. While dogs on leashes are welcome in most Asheville parks, I’ve included some of my favorite dog parks, so everyone feels included.
Asheville has a system of greenways that are the perfect way to get to know the city by foot or on a bike (there are many shops where you can rent bikes or e-bikes). These trails will help you understand the city through its urban parks.
In addition, I’ve included some suggestions for where to eat or get coffee along the way and seasonal activities loved by locals and visitors. When in doubt, ask a local – Ashevillians are the friendliest people I’ve encountered!
Most places I included here are free or require a small payment. Please remember that some of the parks’ restrooms close during the winter and reopen in the spring. Here are my picks for the best urban parks in Asheville!
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13 Amazing Urban Parks in Asheville
1. Chill Out at Pack Square Park
Are you tired of walking downtown? Do your kids need a break from all that window-shopping? Then, Pack Square is your spot! This historic area is the heart of downtown and the site of everything from gatherings and festivals to protests and demonstrations.
There is always something going on in Pack Square Park. Think free Zumba classes, spontaneous salsa dancers, entertaining circus performers, and toddlers blowing bubbles. Plus, there is a grass area, perfect for letting the kids run around, throw the Frisbee, or have a picnic.
This 6.5-acre Asheville park is home to Splashville, a splash pad with cool lighting features that’s popular with kids in the summer. There is also a stage, which is the center of dozens of Pack Square festivals. Don’t miss Shindig on the Green (bluegrass), LEAF Downtown (enjoy the performances of dozen of artists from around the world!), and Goombay (celebrates Black Caribbean culture).
Pack Square is in the middle of yet another change right now, with the removal of a confederate monument and a committee to create a new Pack Square that reflects more equity. Your kids will love playing with the bronze pig and turkey statues in the oblong brick plaza where the monument used to be. The park is dog-friendly, and there is a public restroom.
2. Take Time to Celebrate Black Americans in Asheville at Triangle Park
Located just a few blocks from Pack Square, Triangle Park is my go-to place to sit down and breathe my worries away after a long day. I love the shade, the intimacy, and the warmth of the memorial mural that honors the history of African Americans in Asheville.
The Block was once the cultural and business center of Black people in Western North Carolina. Another goal of Pack Square’s current transformation is to make it more physically and mentally connected to the adjacent The Block like they once were.
This historic district is home to the YMI Cultural Center, created by businessman Isaac Dickson and educator Dr. Edward Stephens as a place for Black people to get together. Pay a visit and stop at PennyCup Coffee Co. (inside the YMI building), a small-batch coffee roaster.
This Asheville park is also an excellent spot to picnic after grabbing take-out food from one of the downtown restaurants. Benne on Eagle, the restaurant of The Foundry Hotel, is in The Block, and its excellent cuisine honors the Black heritage of the district. Also, visit the Noir Collective, a fabulous boutique and art gallery, and an opportunity to learn more about The Block.
3. Meet Local Gardeners at the Elder and Sage Community Garden
This is probably one of my favorite Asheville gardens and one of my dearest downtown destinations. It’s beautiful, a communal creation, and I always go back home with free organic veggies, herbs, and one or two new friends.
The garden is on 33-35 Page Ave, across from the Basilica of Saint Lawrence and the Harrah’s Cherokee Center. It was initiated as part of the City of Asheville’s Edible Programs and produces flowers, veggies, and herbs. If you’ve got young kids, they’ll love to stroll around the garden’s funky, eclectic decorations!
Many gardeners are low-income elders from the nearby Battery Park and Vanderbilt buildings. One of the most active gardeners is Arturo, a man from Ecuador with lots of stories to share. He also hosts a free Spanish Conversation Group at the public library across the street. Make sure you stop by and listen to him!
If you love flowers, go across the street to the Basilica of Saint Lawrence and enjoy the beautiful rose garden! Plus, visiting the Catholic temple – North America’s largest self-supporting elliptical dome – is a must while in Asheville.
4. Learn about Asheville’s History on the Urban Trail
The Urban Trail is a two-hour self-guided audio tour that follows 30 bronze sculptures around downtown Asheville. The first station is at Pack Square, close to the Asheville Art Museum’s entrance, but you can start whenever you desire.
You’ll learn about Asheville’s history and some of the people who made the city what it is today, like Edwin Grove, Isaac Dickson, George Vanderbilt, and Rafael Gustavino, the Spanish architect of the Saint Lawrence Basilica.
Kids will love the gigantic iron on Wall Street (Station 8) and the Appalachian Stage outside Harrah’s Cherokee Center (Station 13), featuring five adorable bronze figures playing music and dancing. My favorite stations are the bench with a bower of medicinal herbs honoring Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn an MD in the US (Station 6), and the mysterious Immortal Image (Station 5).
This is a kid-friendly activity, even if it’s two hours of walking. But if you frequently stop to get snacks, dessert, or ice cream, they’ll make it through! For example, Station 7 is an Art-Deco building that hosts a food court with excellent options, including some of the best fried chicken in town, a brewery, grass-fed hot dogs, and the famous The Hop ice cream shop.
5. Get to Know Asheville through Its System of Greenways
Asheville offers 10 miles of beautiful greenways connecting different areas of the city. These trails are accessible, stroller and dog friendly, and perfect for walking, running, skateboarding, riding bikes and scooters, and people-watching.
Reed Creek and Glenn’s greenways are connected and just a few minutes from downtown. They go through Montford and North Asheville, passing by the Botanical Gardens (see #6 on this list!).
Look out for High Five Coffee and Le Blon Café (a lovely tiny coffee trailer parked on Broadway by the greenway). There are two playgrounds nearby: Magnolia Park (perfect for toddlers and fig-picking in the fall) and Weaver Park (next to Luella’s Bar-B-Que and YOLO frozen yogurt ice cream!).
The shaded Hominy Creek Greenway connects Carrier Park to Hominy Creek River Park and offers river views. It’s also an excellent spot to start your French Broad River tubing adventure!
The French Broad River greenway follows along the river. It starts at Hominy Creek Park and ends at Craven Street. Look out for Carrier Park (the best Asheville park) and the French Broad River Park’s dog park. You can access this greenway from the New Belgium Brewery.
The newly developed Wilma Dykeman Greenway in the River Arts District (the trendiest area in town) follows the eastern banks of the river and connects with the French Broad River Greenway.
6. Walk the Easy Trail of the Asheville Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville in North Asheville is a favorite location for photo sessions, weddings, and laid-back picnics. Entry is free, but since it’s a conservation garden, bikes and dogs are not allowed.
The gardens are beautiful all year round, but spring is one of the best times to visit. You can check the peak bloom times here. The small creek is perfect for kids, with plenty of places to play by the water, cool down, and go rock-hopping. One of my favorite things to do is to sit down on the deck that oversees the big bird feeder.
You’ll love to learn more about the local flora and fauna. If you have kids, please ask about the educational activities at the Visitors Center. The gift shop is perfect for buying your Asheville souvenirs while supporting the Asheville Botanical Gardens.
The Glenn’s Creek Greenway starts here and borders the UNCA campus, going to Weaver Park (an excellent playground for younger kids next to a BBQ restaurant!).
7. Relax, Practice Yoga, Meditate, or Play Pickleball at Montford Park
This hilly Asheville park is the perfect definition of an urban oasis. It has many ancient trees that offer shade in the summer and peace all year round. It also has a tiny little creek and many private spaces to sit down and do your thing. Also, its flowering trees in the spring are astonishing!
It’s located in the historic neighborhood of Montford, just three blocks from the Reed Creek Greenway and very close to Montford Avenue. There are excellent restaurants nearby, like Nine Mile and All Day Darling (on Montford Ave). While there is no playground, another Montford park is perfect for kids (see #8 on this list!)
Montford Park is one of the best parks in Asheville for locals to go sledding when it snows and the hills become a big party that includes lots of friendly off-leash dogs frolicking around. (Please keep the secret and help us keep Asheville weird!)
It features a basketball court and two tennis and pickleball courts. There are public restrooms, but they close in November and reopen in March.
8. Enjoy an Evening of Shakespeare in the Park
Tempie Avery Montford Center is a 17-acre park with a community center offering excellent programs for kids and a fantastic new playground for kids of all ages. There are also ping-pong tables and a basketball court. This is one of the best Asheville parks near downtown.
Your kids will love the climbing structures, relaxing on the rounded, gigantic swing, and the hills full of fruit trees ready to be picked in the fall. The community center has restrooms, which is an added perk.
We love having dinner delivered to us by Kick Back AVL (a kind of Uber Eats but local and with better restaurant options) before walking for five minutes to get to the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre to watch the Montford Players perform under the stars.
This 50-year theater company features Shakespeare and other classics on the weekends from June to October. Because it’s outdoors and has plenty of places to walk around, this makes the perfect introduction to theater for little kids (my kids would also love to play hide-and-seek in the empty amphitheater during the day).
The entrance is free (donations are encouraged), there are restrooms, and there are wine, drinks, and snacks for sale. You can also bring your food and beverages. Please remember the bug spray and the blankets (chairs are not allowed).
9. Spend the Day at the Ultra-Popular Carrier Park and Playground
Asheville has many wonderful playgrounds for all ages. But Carrier Park is the most popular and unique. Located in West Asheville by the French Broad River, it’s huge and has something for everyone.
This Asheville park’s landmark is the former DIRTcar race track transformed into a velodrome bicycle track, perfect for scooters and strollers. In addition, there is a wooded, entertaining playground for young kids to play for hours, with lots of climbing features and (safe) hiding spaces.
There is a ball field, a basketball court, two sand volleyball courts, and lots of green space to run around. In addition, Carrier Park connects to the West Asheville Greenways.
Once you get tired, head out to one of the many West Asheville breweries or some of the favorite local restaurants (Taco Billy, Sunny Point Cafe, Pupuseria Patty, 12 Bones, Biscuit Head, or the vegan-friendly Gypsy Queen). If you still have some fuel after dinner, check out the next entry!
10. Walk Around These Other West Asheville Parks
The Peace Gardens in the Burton Street Community – a historically African American neighborhood established in the early 1900s – are the perfect place to keep learning about the history of African Americans in Asheville while strolling around flowers, butterflies, vegetable beds, and sculptures.
The Peace Gardens are open from dawn to dusk every day all year round. They welcome volunteers during the summer (a fun family project!), or you can buy their products by paying what you can.
Foundation Skate Park is a one-of-a-kind community skate park built and maintained by local volunteers. It’s worth the visit, even if your party doesn’t have skateboarders. It’s a funky, 100 percent Asheville sight. The RAD indoor skate park is next door. In addition, the City of Asheville skate park is in downtown Asheville.
Curve Studios in the River Arts District (RAD) has a charming hidden garden. You can visit from dawn to dusk, even if the studio is closed. But I highly recommend you check out this and some of the other 200 art studios of the RAD.
Finally, Malvern Hills playground is perfect for young kids. It has picnic tables, tennis courts, and a public recreational pool in the summer.
11. Go to a Park Where Kids and Doggies Will Have Equal Fun
Every family member deserves to have fun in the park, and this includes your dogs, of course. I used to love announcing that the entire family was going to the playground and having my then-little kids and the dog jump excitedly around me!
The French Broad River Park and Azalea Park have features for kids and adults but also offer dog parks. The French Broad River Park is one of the most beautiful Asheville parks.
It connects with the other West Asheville’s Greenways (perfect for walking, running, and biking). It features a small, shaded playground, ancient trees, a wildflower garden, grills, picnic tables, and a dog park for your dog to run around, socialize, and play.
Azalea Park is by the Swannanoa River in East Asheville. This big Asheville park has a playground with a large wooden structure that offers endless fun. There are covered picnic areas, and it’s away from traffic. Unfortunately, the dog park can be muddy after the rain.
12. Spend the Entire Day at the Gorgeous North Carolina Arboretum
The NC Arboretum is one of the most beautiful Asheville gardens, alongside the Biltmore Estate gardens (but we’re talking about urban parks here). It offers 10 miles of manicured, easy trails that are perfect for the entire family.
In addition, there are special events, exhibitions, programs, and kid-friendly activities. The G-scale model train will brighten up your kids’ eyes! There is an on-site bistro open from March to December, in case you’re feeling peckish.
The beautiful National Native Azalea Collection is in full bloom from mid-April to May, and don’t miss the Bonsai Garden. There is no admission fee, but the parking fee is $16 per standard vehicle (there is a 50% discount on the first Tuesday of the month).
If you plan to visit the arboretum often, it might be better to become a member. Also, Henderson County, Buncombe County, and Polk County library card holders can reserve one free ZOOM parking pass per library card.
13. Check Out These Other Fun Asheville Parks
Aston Park in downtown was “Asheville’s first truly modern park.” It sits on grounds donated by George Willis Pack, who also donated the land where Pack Square Park, Magnolia Park, and Montford Park are (these are some of the oldest Asheville parks). It features 12 clay tennis courts, a clubhouse, and many activities for the community. In addition, it has a fun playground for older kids.
Kenilworth Park is a cute, secluded little park located in the historic Kenilworth neighborhood. It features a slide built on a hill that your kids will adore!
It has a basketball court, a tennis court, and two pickleball courts. Take some time to walk around the tree line sidewalks and the pretty houses in this area located in the south of downtown between the city center and Biltmore Village.
Richmond Hill Park in West Asheville is the largest wooded Asheville park. It is located on 183 acres of forest and offers a multi-use trail system perfect for walking, running, or mountain biking within the city limits. It also features the 18-hole disc Richmond Hill Golf course.
The Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary in North Asheville is an 8-acre wetland park that’s the habitat of many species of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies. It gets busy during the day, so plan to visit early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Dogs are not allowed.