Asheville is a beautiful city with many, many great opportunities to enjoy yourself. However, many of those opportunities are not cheap.
Fortunately, Asheville is a place where a Saturday out on the town doesn’t always mean a huge blow to your wallet. If you plan things right, you can get by on a whole day of activities for less than $20, or even free depending on what your plans are.
Hiking and Camping
If you’ve been a regular reader, you know we are big fans of hiking and camping. It’s a great way to disconnect from all of the hustle and bustle of your everyday life and get back in touch with nature.
The vast majority of hiking trails in Western North Carolina are accessible free of charge. Fantastic trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway or in the Pisgah National Forest are just a quick car ride away from most neighborhoods, including Downtown Asheville, Weaverville, and Hendersonville. Some of the more popular trails (Black Balsam Knob, Craggy Gardens) can get a little crowded during tourist season so they may not be the first pick for hikers looking for a solo walk through the woods, but the views still don’t disappoint.
If you’re making a weekend of it, pack a cooler and head out to a campsite. Most campsites in local parks are available for less than $20, and there are even cheaper options if you opt for backcountry camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway or roadside camping in Pisgah National Forest. Be sure to read the rules and regulations carefully, even when camping is free, it still comes with some responsibilities.
Downtown Asheville on A Budget
Sure, downtown Asheville is known for its top-notch breweries and fancy dining. That doesn’t mean that’s the only thing to do around town. If you’re looking to get away cheap, you’ll need to be a little creative, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.
there are dozens of galleries all within a few short blocks in Downtown Asheville. Most galleries are selling everything on the walls, typically for the high prices you’d expect for a one-of-a-kind oil painting. That doesn’t mean you can’t look, though! The vast majority of galleries allow anyone to walk in and have a look around at the paintings, sculptures, and glasswork they have on display. Gallery hopping is a great way to explore the city and see some beautiful artwork. We won’t give you any recommendations here since wandering is half the fun.
Buskers are one of the many charming aspects of Downtown Asheville. These street musicians set up shop on corners all around town and are often extremely talented. Take a seat on a park bench and enjoy the show. If you’re carrying a couple dollars, tipping is a great way to tell a local artist you enjoyed the show, but it isn’t required. We can’t offer much advice on finding the good musicians. A good place to start is the Flatiron building, and then take off on a walking adventure from there.
This is where it gets a little tricky. Food always costs something and can be a real budget-breaker if you’re with a large group. Fortunately, there are a few options for you. If you’re looking for an affordable restaurant, there are still some options, especially around lunchtime.
- Loretta’s Café: delicious sandwiches, served with chips and a pickle, all for under $10. The sandwiches are massive, so you’ll probably be content with a half.
- Rosetta’s Kitchen: Right next door to Loretta’s, it is just as affordable with entrees under $10 and a rice and beans bowl available on a sliding scale from $2-$6.
- Mamacita’s: tasty tacos and big burritos that are very affordable. Their Taco Tuesday special gets you a two-for-$5 deal on most of their amazing tacos.
- Pack a picnic: Bring your own food! You can lay out a blanket in Pack Square Park and enjoy the scenery for free (minus the cost of groceries, of course).
Asheville Area Parks
Sure, hiking is great, but you’ll spend some gas to get there. Downtown is fun, but it can get a little crowded. Why not just lounge around in the shade for an afternoon? Asheville has plenty of city parks that are free to jog, bike, or just lay around. Lake Louise in Weaverville is this writer’s personal favorite, a beautiful little lake teeming with life. You’ll see families of ducks and geese, fish, turtles, and plenty of people walking their dogs.
You can’t go wrong with any of the other city parks in the area like French Broad River Park, which is also conveniently right around the corner from the River Arts District. Swing by and check out some beautiful artwork, then string up a hammock and lay back with a book for a perfect leisurely afternoon.
Enjoy Asheville on the Cheap
Given its touristy reputation, it’s easy to see Asheville as a place that requires constant spending to enjoy. While breweries and restaurants are a blast, they’re certainly not a necessity. If you’re a long-time resident or a newcomer, it’s great to step outside of the norm and find a couple hidden gems that will expand your list of reasons you love this city. If those plans also save you a couple dollars, even better.
Enjoy, just remember to never stop exploring and to tip your waiter/musician/barista whenever you can!
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