August 31, 2020
Walking Guide to Asheville’s Downtown Landmarks
Posted by: Asheville BBA
Asheville’s downtown is a blend of historic 1920s charm, rich colonial history, award-winning breweries, and artistic displays. You could let your curiosity guide you through, but if you want to learn more about the exciting history or immerse yourself in the local culture, you can take a walking tour through the town. From DIY trails to guided tours, here are some of the best walking guides to Asheville.
If you want a walking tour that incorporates architecture, art, and history all while telling the story of this beautiful town and the characters that shaped it, the Urban Trail is for you. This DIY walking trail can be done on your own schedule and includes 30 different points of interest. Follow the trail or let your curiosity guide you through the city. It is more than acceptable to get lost following the scent of a bakery, popping in for a brew, or getting lost in a local shop along the way. You can print off a map or listen to the audio guide to get a feel for this amazing mountain town.
The Biltmore Estate isn’t the only stunning piece of architectural history in this town. Asheville is gifted with numerous historical structures and art deco buildings from victorian churches to buildings with 1920s grandeur. This DIY walking tour leads you through the town while stopping at some of the most important architectural buildings. You can learn about the history behind each building by reading the descriptions of each site and reading the plaques on the sides of most buildings.
Start your walking tour at 1889 WhiteGate Inn and Cottage in the historic Chestnut Hill neighborhood. This romantic retreat is a sight to behold. Stay for a while and enjoy the timeless charm of this stunning B&B.
Learn about the pasts, present, and futures of African-Americans in Asheville. This intimate guided tour brings together music, art, grassroots initiatives, and history together to paint a rich story in an educational and dynamic setting. With activist, artist, and poet DeWayne Barton as your guide, you’ll see Asheville with a new set of eyes.
If you love beer, then Asheville is the place to be. You could hop from brewery to brewery and create your own special tour or you could take it to the next level with a guided tour from BREW-ed. These tours are more than your average pub crawl. A beer expert takes you on an engaging tour of the city while educating you on the local history and culture. At each brewery, your beer expert will give you the stories behind the pints and educate you about what makes your favorite brews so special. See why National Geographic and TripAdvisor named this tour one of the best in the world.
The ‘Sweet Biscuit’ Tour
Brought to you by Asheville’s one and only Sweet Biscuit Inn, this tour combines a little of everything that makes our mountain town so special. With a rich history, colorful murals, delicious restaurants, and everything in between, this is a local’s DIY tour that will make you fall in love with Asheville.
The area known as The Block in downtown Asheville was the thriving central business district for the African-American community during the late 19th century through the early 20th century. In just a short walk south of Pack Square, visitors can see some of the remaining buildings of historical significance including the YMI Cultural Center, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, The Foundry, and Triangle Park. The interesting area is currently striving to reconnect with its historic and colorful roots.
Near the corner of Eagle and S. Market Streets stands the YMI Cultural Center. The Young Men’s Institute was established in 1892 as a center of social, moral, and religious influence for African Americans working at Biltmore. At one time, businesses thrived in the complex. The building now houses the YMI Cultural Center, a venue that also offers programs to promote interculturalism and the preservation of cultural identity.
Continuing down the pedestrian portion of S. Market Street, you will see colorfully painted picnic tables outside the tasty Penny Cup Coffee shop. From there walk down to Triangle Park on the right. The small park is flanked by a wall of murals depicting the history of the area. Start at the beginning where the mural reads, This mural is dedicated to the history of this area, the Block & the East End, Asheville’s oldest African-American neighborhood and business district. Follow along with the captivating artwork on the walls for a pictorial history of the lively people and the prosperous businesses that once existed.
From Triangle Park walk across to S. Spruce Street and follow the road along the outer edges of The Foundry. Once a plant that manufactured steel for the Biltmore and other Asheville buildings, the complex now houses The Foundry boutique hotel.
Mt. Zion Baptist Church will be on your right as you approach Eagle Street. The stately red-brick late Victorian Gothic structure is on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1919 church not only has a rich history, it still serves one of the largest congregations of African Americans in Asheville.
Taking a left back on to Eagle Street and keeping in the spirit of The Block, you might want to try a delicious meal at Benne on Eagle. The restaurant team includes the owner, Chef Fleer who works hand-in-hand with his Chef de Cuisine, Ashleigh Shanti, and Culinary Mentor, Hanan Shabazz, to shape the flavors. The restaurant offers tribute to the once hotspot of Eagle Street for food, drink, live music and entertainment. Commune with the ghosts of James Brown and Percy Sledge playing at their favorites, the Kitty Cat Club and The DelCardo Club, while enjoying menu items “steeped in soul.”
Stay at the Sweet Biscuit Inn during your trip to Asheville. This colonial revival home has become one of Asheville’s finest bed & breakfasts. Situated between Biltmore Village and downtown Asheville, you can explore the entire town without lifting a finger.
Asheville is a city that you can really lose yourself in. Don’t be afraid to wander down an alley, stop and smell the flowers, or let your curiosity guide you. You’ll find small pieces of art spread across the city, whether it’s a historic statue or a small painting in a cracked brick. The Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association boasts several B&Bs, inns, and hotels within walking distance to downtown. Find one for your trip and fall in love with this wonderful city.