Asheville Introduction Walking Tour, Asheville

Asheville Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Asheville

Asheville, North Carolina, a picturesque city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a vibrant cultural and commercial hub that draws inspiration from its stunning natural surroundings. The city traces its origins back to the late 18th century, when it was incorporated in 1797, and was named after Samuel Ashe, the North Carolina Governor at the time.

Asheville's complex history is marked by significant milestones and transformations. In 1880, the Western North Carolina Railroad ushered in a new era for Asheville. The city's expansion was driven by industrial development, with textile mills processing local cotton, manufacturing plants producing various goods, and the completion of the Asheville and Spartanburg Railroad in 1886.

Asheville's progress continued with the introduction of the first electric street railway lines in North Carolina, in 1889. The city grew further and by the early 20th century became a thriving hub for arts and culture, earning the nickname "The Land of the Sky." It was also home to important figures like author Thomas Wolfe, whose house now stands as a museum dedicated to his literary legacy.

After decades of prosperity in the 1910s and 1920s, the Great Depression brought economic hardship, leading to a period of stagnation. In the mid-20th century, Asheville enjoyed urban renewal and in recent years has implemented actions to address historical injustices, including a 2020 city council resolution for reparations to Black residents and initiatives to remove or rename monuments honoring the Confederacy.

The busy Downtown area is filled with indie boutiques, cutting-edge galleries, historic houses, and specialty shops in the elegant Grove Arcade. Farm-to-table and Southern restaurants dot the area, alongside breweries, chic cocktail bars, and storied music venues. Eclectic attractions include the unusual Pinball Museum, a paradise for gaming enthusiasts, and the Basilica of Saint Lawrence with its vast domed ceiling.

Throughout its history, Asheville has weathered challenges but has always managed to reinvent itself. Today, it stands as a diverse and dynamic city striving for equity and progress, whose storied past combined with a vibrant arts scene and deep appreciation for the great outdoors makes it a captivating destination.

Asheville beckons you to experience its unique charm firsthand. Come to uncover the tales and sights that make this city an exceptional place, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Asheville awaits your visit!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Asheville Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Asheville Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Asheville (See other walking tours in Asheville)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Author: HelenF
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Asheville City Hall
  • Pack Square
  • Thomas Wolfe House
  • Young Men's Institute Building
  • Lexington Glassworks
  • Doctor Elizabeth Blackwell Memorial
  • Woolworth Walk
  • Basilica of St. Lawrence
  • Asheville Pinball Museum
  • Grove Arcade
Asheville City Hall

1) Asheville City Hall

The Asheville City Hall building is a historic structure and one of the most famous buildings in the city. Construction on the building began in 1926 and was completed in 1928. Architect Douglas Ellington designed the Asheville City Hall in the Art Deco style that was popular at that time.

The unique color of the building is based on the color of the soil in the region. Pink clay mixes with red terra cotta tiles and pink marble with accents of green and gold. The octagonal roof is outfitted with strips of terra cotta rather than the more typical rectangular shingles to accent the angular design.

The City Hall building is located in the Downtown Asheville Historic District, which makes it an ideal stopping spot for all self-guided walking tours. Visitors can appreciate the view of the building from nearby Pack Square Park. They are also welcome inside during regular business hours.
Pack Square

2) Pack Square (must see)

Pack Square Park is part of the Downtown Asheville Historic District. Its location makes it a good starting point for visitors to the city who are embarking on a self-guided walking tour. The park offers excellent views of historic buildings and has its own features that should not be missed.

The history of Pack Square dates to 1797 when it was simply the convergence of trading paths. It wasn't until 1896 that the 6.5 acres of land was donated by George Pack. The area was renamed in his honor in 1903. However, it wasn't until the 21st century that the park was designed into the current public green space that is enjoyed today.

Pack Square Park includes a large green space that is open to the public for relaxing, exercise and some events. The park includes a spray ground for children that is open during the summer months. Other features include a stage for performances, public exhibitions of art and seating areas.

The Veterans Memorial pays homage to local veterans. It includes a series of engraved monuments, a memorial archway, a statue and seating.

Festivals are common at Pack square Park. Most are held in the spring and summer months when weather is at its most cooperative.

From Pack Square Park, visitors can go in one of many directions to see the sites of Asheville. There is plenty to see and do thanks to its location in the Downtown Asheville Historic District. The Asheville City Hall is nearby, as is the Young Men's Institute Building, the Thomas Wolfe House and many others.

Why You Should Visit:
Pack Square Park is the heart of the Downtown Asheville Historic District and should be on every visitor's itinerary. It is also a great place for people watching, especially during the warmer months of spring and summer. As an added bonus, you get to enjoy a large expanse of green space right in the center of the city.

It is okay to make a rough plan for a visit to Pack Square Park. Its location is so convenient that you might find yourself returning repeatedly while exploring the Asheville downtown.
Thomas Wolfe House

3) Thomas Wolfe House

The Thomas Wolfe House is located in the Downtown Asheville Historic District among many other notable buildings and interesting places. This house is a state historic site and museum that was once the home of author Thomas Wolfe.

Also known as the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, the Thomas Wolfe House was built in 1883 in the Queen Anne architectural style. The Wolfe family were not the original owners. The first use of the home was a boarding house called "Old Kentucky Home." Thomas Wolfe's mother, Julia, bought the house in 1903. She continued operating it as a boarding house but eventually moved in with her son.

The Thomas Wolfe House is the setting for the Wolfe novel "Look Homeward, Angel." It was designated a National Historic Monument in 1976, more than 20 years after first being used as a museum. In 1998, an arsonist set fire to the building causing damage to the structure and about 200 artifacts. A costly and lengthy restoration project was completed in 2003.

Visitors are welcome to tour the grounds and the interior of the Thomas Wolfe House. Guided tours are open Tuesday through Saturday for a nominal fee. Most tourists can arrive without a reservation. Large groups should call in advance.
Young Men's Institute Building

4) Young Men's Institute Building

The Young Men's Institute Building is an important part of Asheville history. The YMI Building was created with the purpose of providing a multipurpose space for the African American community. It housed meeting rooms, a library, reading rooms and a gymnasium.

Special programs were brought to the YMI Building in its heyday. Those programs included musical performances, stage plays and speeches. Local African American owned businesses were supported in the YMI Building as well. The bulk of those businesses were retail and office space.

The YMI Building now functions as the YMI Cultural Center. It continues to feature African American owned businesses as well as art and photography. The YMI Cultural Center provides programs to Asheville residents who want to increase their knowledge and appreciation of culture.

Visitors to Asheville can find the YMI Building in the historic downtown area near many of the city's other important sites. It is a short walk from places like Pack Square Park and the Grove Arcade.
Lexington Glassworks

5) Lexington Glassworks

Lexington Glassworks is a glassware and glassblowing studio in Asheville, North Carolina. Visitors can explore the 5,000 square foot studio where they can shop, observe glass art being made or enjoy local brews from the studio's taproom.

Visitors are welcome to watch as the craftspeople create each work from start to finish. Visitors can place custom orders or simply watch the artists in awe as they create their own unique pieces.

Lexington Glassworks is located on Lexington Avenue in the heart of Asheville's art district. Its excellent location makes it a great stop for anyone exploring the city by foot.
Doctor Elizabeth Blackwell Memorial

6) Doctor Elizabeth Blackwell Memorial

Born in England in 1821, Elizabeth Blackwell went down in history as the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree. She received it in 1849 from Geneva Medical College in western New York.

Blackwell began her medical studies in Asheville in 1845 under Dr. John Dickson, a former physician, for whom she worked briefly as a music teacher at Dickson Private School for Girls located in what is now known as the Drhumor Building.

Although Blackwell lived in Asheville only for a short period, her impact on medicine and women's history is now duly commemorated. The memorial marker on the side of the Wachovia Bank Building, across the street from the Drhumor Building, was placed in 2019 by Buncombe County Medical Auxiliary and Buncombe County Medical Society.

It features a metal arbor of medicinal herbs housing a bench and the bust of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. The medicinal plants represent wild yam, Virginia creeper, sycamore, sweet gum maple, oak sassafras, witch hazel, and tulip poplar. Each of the plants incorporated is native to North Carolina and was used for medicinal purposes. The seats on the bench are made to resemble ginkgo leaves. Also, if you look down, on the pavement, you will see a bronze plaque providing a brief biography of Dr. Blackwell.
Woolworth Walk

7) Woolworth Walk

Woolworth Walk is an art gallery and crafts space in downtown Asheville. It is a privately owned gallery that is held in the Woolworth Building. Lovers of art should visit Woolworth Walk to see pieces from local artists, purchase souvenirs to take home or visit the Woolworth Soda Fountain.

Glass, jewelry, photography, painting, metal, pottery, digital media and mixed media are all on display at Woolworth Walk. The bulk of the art is available for purchase, though it can also be simply admired.

The Soda Fountain is a prime example of history come to life. Visitors love stepping back into the past where they can recreate the experience of dining in a 1950s era Woolworth luncheonette. It is open seven days per week serving full meals, beverages and ice cream.

Woolworth is open Monday through Thursday from 11am to 6pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 7pm and Sundays between 11am and 5pm.
Basilica of St. Lawrence

8) Basilica of St. Lawrence (must see)

The Minor Basilica of St. Lawrence the Deacon and Martyr is a Roman Catholic church that was completed in 1905. The church was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino in a Catalan architectural style.

Guastavino worked together with architect R.S. Smith and local residents of Asheville to create a catholic church that was in keeping with the city's preferred style. The exterior of the church has a visible display of many ornate stained glass windows.

The interior of the church is as ornate as the exterior. It includes an Italian marble relief of the nativity of the Christ, a Marian altar with carvings of a number of female saints, wood carvings and terra cotta panels.

Visitors are welcome to tour the church, which was named a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II. They can attend services or enjoy the beauty of the church grounds. The Basilica of St. Lawrence includes a Catholic library and a gift shop, both of which are open after church services on weekends.

Why You Should Visit:
Basilica of St. Lawrence is a rare example of Catalan architecture in North Carolina and you get to appreciate the beauty of many religious artifacts in the church.

Daily masses are available. Confessions are offered in the church vestibule on a daily basis. The library and gift shop are only open on weekends.
Asheville Pinball Museum

9) Asheville Pinball Museum (must see)

The Asheville Pinball Museum is a spot where visitors can play pinball, learn about pinball machines or take a look through the wide variety of machines that are on display. Visitors are welcome to walk through the museum to see how pinball machines have changed through the years. They can enjoy the sounds and sights of pinball machine from days gone by.

Playing pinball is all part of the experience at the Asheville Pinball Museum. The cost of of admission covers playing most of the machines that are on display. More than 40 pinball machines are in working order. Classic video games are available as well.

The Asheville Pinball Museum is conveniently located in the downtown historic district across from the Grove Arcade. It is a great place to stop by for a couple of hours of pinball-style fun.

Why You Should Visit:
- To reminisce about the early days of arcades
- To enjoy playing pinball machines from previous eras

This place gets full quickly, especially on weekends. Go early!
Grove Arcade

10) Grove Arcade

The Grove Arcade goes by many names. Some refer to it as the Arcade Building or the Asheville Federal Building. Regardless of what it is called, the building is a beautiful and historic piece of architecture that is a worthwhile visit on your tour of the city. The building was designed by architect Charles N. Parker who adapted a Tudor Revival and Late Gothic style.

Construction on the Grove Arcade lasted from 1926 to 1929. It was created with the intent to serve as a base for a skyscraper that was never completed. Over time it served a variety of purposes. It was at one time one of the world's first indoor shopping malls. It was also home to the National Climatic Data Center.

Today, the Grove Arcade has a combination of dining, retail and residential space. Visitors are welcome to tour the portion of the building that is open to the public.

Walking Tours in Asheville, North Carolina

Create Your Own Walk in Asheville

Create Your Own Walk in Asheville

Creating your own self-guided walk in Asheville is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Shopping Walking Tour in Asheville

Shopping Walking Tour in Asheville

Shopping in Asheville, NC is an elaborate activity, so one will definitely need a good deal of time to prepare for this exciting adventure. The city's streets are packed with a diverse and eclectic range of stores, little outlets, and craft galleries, catering to the diverse tastes and preferences of shoppers.

One notable destination is the Grove Arcade, an architectural gem that houses a...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Historical Churches Walking Tour

Historical Churches Walking Tour

Those interested in quaint religious architecture are in for a pleasant surprise while in Asheville. The city is home to a number of Baptist churches, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, as well as Churches of Christ, not to mention a few non-Christian places of worship too, so it is safe to claim that practically each street corner here is a door to another denomination.

Among...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles