Explore the best car, science, and art museums in Asheville, NC. Plus, visit famous historic sites and spooky cemeteries.
Asheville isn’t only famous for its craft beer and foodie scene – although those are huge perks.
Asheville also fosters a lively art, music, and performance culture.
The art museums in Asheville celebrate contemporary, abstract, and classic American art. You cannot miss the newly renovated Asheville Art Museum. It’s gorgeous.
And did someone say Super Mario Kart and Frogger? Yes, please! Just head to the Asheville Museum of Science and Pinball Museum; big kids are welcome too!
Not to mention that Biltmore Estate – America’s largest home – has a little bit of something for everyone.
Think wine, food, special exhibitions, gardens, trails, and a creepy old house with a bowling alley.
Along with quirky and eclectic museums, you cannot skip Asheville’s historic sites and tours like the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and Riverside Cemetery. Who doesn’t want to hear Asheville’s juiciest gossip?
So, what Asheville museums should you add to any itinerary?
As locals, we are sharing the best museums in Asheville you don’t want to skip.
We’ll also briefly showcase a few museums around Western North Carolina. Let’s get started!
Be sure to head over to our complete guide of things to do in Asheville.
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8 Must-Visit Museums In Asheville, NC
1. Asheville Art Museum
Visiting Asheville’s museums is one of the best indoor activities for couples. In fact, we’ve spent many dates walking through captivating art galleries.
With a gorgeous new renovation, head to one of the best art museums in Asheville.
The Asheville Art Museum showcases an expansive collection of 20th and 21st-century American art.
With three stories of pristine galleries, you’ll also find a MakerSpace and numerous community and family events.
Be sure to check out the rooftop sculpture terrace complete with a cafe serving food and bevies, local beer included. The views of Downtown Asheville are stellar up here.
Next to the Asheville Art Museum, don’t miss French Broad Chocolates – one of the best places for dessert in downtown Asheville.
Afterward, dine at one of Downtown Asheville’s stellar restaurants. We highly recommend Itto’s Ramen Bar, Shanghai Dumpling House, Posana, and Limones.
Asheville Art Museum | 2 South Pack Square, Asheville, NC 28801
2. Asheville Museum of Science
For popular children’s museums in Asheville, head to the Asheville Museum of Science. This is one of the best kid-friendly things to do in the city.
A small warning, though: This downtown Asheville museum isn’t as fun for childless adult travelers – we toured the facility in under 30 minutes.
The Asheville Museum of Science is an exploratory children’s museum featuring an enormously cool Teratophoneus dinosaur skeleton, Teratophoneus Curriei.
You’ll also find a STE(A)M lab and interactive French Broad River water display. Little geologists will appreciate the rock and gem displays.
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3. Asheville Pinball Museum
Along with the Thomas Wolfe Memorial/House, the Asheville Pinball Museum is one of the first museums in Asheville we ever visited. What a blast.
Visitors purchase a wristband – no coins required – to play endless vintage pinball, classic video arcade, and older and contemporary gaming console games.
Donkey Kong on Super Nintendo, anyone? We had to pull the husband away from Frogger.
Asheville Pinball Museum | 1 Battle Square Ste 1b, Asheville, NC 28801
4. Biltmore Estate
One of the most well-known Asheville “museums,” head to America’s largest home: Biltmore Estate.
Biltmore is fantastic for history lovers and ambitious gardeners. And, contrary to popular belief, the grounds even provide endless family-friendly activities.
Constructed in the 1890s, you’ll love George W. and Edith Vanderbilt’s grandiose residence and mountain escape.
Both Vanderbilts had a special interest in forestry and politics. They helped put Asheville, NC on the map.
Start with a self-guided tour of Biltmore House. One of our favorite rooms includes the massive library with 22,000 volumes of books.
George started the original Goodreads, journaling what he read. Keep your eyes out for the chess set that belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte as well.
Novelties of their time, Biltmore’s indoor pool and bowling alley add extra luxury and fun to the somewhat creepy-cool ambiance.
Then, head to the gardens for some sun and blooms after your 1.5 to 2-hour house tour.
Devour lunch at Cedric’s Tavern or the Stable Cafe before enjoying a complimentary wine tasting. You may wish to pay for a few extra special Biltmore tours too.
Biltmore hosts many special and rotating exhibitions like Downton Abbey period clothing and Van Gogh Alive. Candlelight Christmas at Biltmore is truly magical.
Lastly, Biltmore has 22-miles of beautiful walking and biking trails and gardens. You can even stay overnight on the property.
Learn how to get the most out of that Biltmore ticket here.
Biltmore Estate | 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
5. Thomas Wolfe Memorial
One of our personal favorite museums in Asheville as literary tourists, the Thomas Wolfe boarding house tour is terrific.
We are serious! Sure, Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel is a little…dry, but the history is fantastic.
As you may know, Wolfe wrote about his Asheville neighbors in this classic and fictional yet largely autobiographical novel, Look Homeward, Angel.
Needless to say, the people of “Altamont” weren’t impressed.
Wolfe barely changed their names, and he aired everyone’s dirty laundry. A story about growing up and craving more, his mother’s boarding house brings to life his novel.
Wolfe’s original home is no longer standing, but he mostly resided at the boarding house with his mom, Julia. Julia Elizabeth Westall Wolfe was quite the entrepreneur.
Tour the home and hear the hilarious, salacious, and sometimes devastating stories about growing up in the south in the 1900s.
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial also plays a short film and has a quaint museum with Wolfe portraits and household items.
Read more about Asheville’s best writers, poets, and authors – Wolfe isn’t the only one!
Thomas Wolfe Memorial | 52 N Market St, Asheville, NC 28801
6. Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center
One of the only free art museums in Asheville, the Black Mountain College Museum is small and donation-based. Explore two stories of frequently rotating exhibitions.
Since the museum is small, budget under an hour for your visit. If you love unique and creative art, definitely drop in here.
A forerunner in progressive and interdisciplinary education, Black Mountain College (1933-1957) impacted the way we approach, speak, and create modern art today.
Black Mountain College wanted to ensure that the arts were central to the learning process. This museum honors the former college’s legacy.
Afterward, take an Asheville day trip to explore Black Mountain itself.
Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center | 120 College St, Asheville, NC 28801
7. Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum
Another one of the small and free museums in Asheville, you’ll sometimes see the Antique Car Museum’s gorgeous cars sitting in front of The Omni Grove Park Inn.
Head back in time with these antique and vintage automobiles.
The museum boasts of a rare 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham and Asheville’s 1922 American LaFrance fire truck.
Next to the car museum, also find the free Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum to learn a little more about Biltmore’s history.
The Grove Park Inn opened on July 12, 1913, with the intent to cure (wealthy) visitors of their ailments with the fresh mountain air…and quinine.
F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed here while Zelda resided at Highland Hospital for her mental health.
After his completion of the Grove Park Inn, E.W. also began construction on the historic Grove Arcade.
Completed in 1929 and later used by the military during WW2, today Grove Arcade is a shopping center filled with restaurants, a Champagne used bookstore, and artisan shops.
If you enjoy transportation museums, you might enjoy the low-key The Right Track Toy Train Museum in Lake Lure.
Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum | 111 Grovewood Rd, Asheville, NC 28804
8. Riverside Cemetery
Walk the 3.5 miles of paved roads in this beautiful Victorian cemetery, especially if you toured the downtown Thomas Wolfe Memorial.
Opened in 1885, Riverside Cemetery encompasses 87 acres of picturesque grounds filled with flowers overlooking the French Broad River.
Grab a walking guide at the gates to learn more about Asheville’s history — both good and bad.
An active cemetery – please be respectful – visit the graves of Thomas Wolfe and his family as well as O. Henry.
Look for W.O. Wolfe’s famous ‘angels,’ too. The cemetery is said to be a little haunted.
The Historic Montford neighborhood is also known for its magical Shakespeare in the Park evenings.
Riverside Cemetery | 53 Birch St, Asheville, NC 28801
A few more museums near Asheville that you might enjoy:
Oconaluftee Visitor Center With The Farm Museum (Cherokee)
The Carl Sanburg Home (Flat Rock)
Western North Carolina Air Museum (Hendersonville)
Museum of the Cherokee Indian (Cherokee)
Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum (Maggie Valley)
Where To Stay In Asheville
Explore the best places to stay in Asheville. A few of our top suggestions:
- Aloft – Downtown Asheville – Centrally located and recently renovated, enjoy a rooftop pool, gorgeous bar, and trendy rooms.
- The Omni Grove Park Inn – Treat yourself to a luxury resort in North Asheville, complete with breathtaking sunsets, terrace bars and dining, and loads of Asheville history.
- Hampton Inn And Suites Asheville Biltmore Area – A budget-friendly but renovated hotel on busier Brevard Road that’s perfect if you wish to stay between Biltmore Estate, Downtown Asheville, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Asheville Cottages – Gorgeous 1 to 3-bedroom cottages with a private deck, housing a grill and hot tub. Find luxurious heated-floor bathrooms with rain showers, a well-stocked kitchen, and the cleanest rooms in town.
- Foundry Hotel – An oasis in Downtown Asheville, Foundry Hotel is a nod to AVL’s industrial history. Find famous restaurant Benne on Eagle while sleeping ensconced in charm and elegance.
- Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Asheville Westgate, NC – Located off of the highway as you enter AVL, find a sleek and clean hotel at a great price.
- Black Walnut B&B Inn – Designed by Biltmore’s supervising architect, Richard Sharp-Smith, this 1899 inn is close to Downtown AVL and serves afternoon tea. Two rooms are pet-friendly.
Don’t miss out on these Asheville properties on Booking.com, too.
Save Your Favorite Asheville Museums For Later:
Which museum in Asheville is your favorite?
What are your favorite Asheville museums and historic sites? Let us know in the comments.