The guides who founded Better Tours of Asheville draw on experience leading excursions in far-flung locations in Puerto Rico, France, and Italy. Now, they accompany groups past the basilica and other historical buildings in the town, delivering stories developed through constant research and an ability to smell fossils. The guides divulge colorful tidbits of local history during pub crawls through storied taverns with group drink specials and allude to haunting tragedies along ghost tours that occasionally yield eerie photos of orbs, wisps, and buildings an inch from where they normally are.
Electro Bicycle Tours’s Kettler Twin electric bikes assist riders with a motor that provides extra power to match how hard they’re pedaling. Three “assist” settings allow riders to customize the added speed, from a minimal boost to a high setting that helps bikes easily mount Asheville’s hills and then laugh at them. Alternatively, riders can switch the assist off to pedal using their strength alone. Sightseers can rent the bikes to carve their own paths through the city or let someone else do the navigating on scenic tours of Asheville that include a stop at the Asheville Botanical Gardens. Electro Bicycle Tours also teams up with the Asheville Brewing Company to offer Bike and Brew capers about town.
Ask a census taker and you’ll hear that Asheville is home to more than 85,000 inhabitants. But according to the three “ghost hosts" at Ghost Hunters of Asheville, that number is even higher when the city’s spirits are taken into account. Blending Asheville history with spine-tingling ghost stories, the detectors of all things spectral unveil the apparitions that haunt everything from Riverside Cemetery to the turn-of-the-century inns and dwellings of historic Montford. During their tours, the hosts equip guests with complimentary ghost-hunting tools such as EMF meters and dowsing rods to help attendees make contact with the deceased. Along with its main nightly tours, Ghost Hunters of Asheville also offers “Ghost & Grapes,” which combines wine tastings with hunts for the spirits of squashed grapes.
Since 1981, third-generation sky engineer R. Addison M. Brown has hoisted panorama-junkies into the heavens by harnessing the power of hot, blustery air. Prospective serenity-seekers meet just before dawn and usually lift off a few miles north of downtown Asheville, weather permitting, in time to watch the sun rise over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rising up to 2,000 feet above the surrounding forests, passengers might even be treated to an intimate and peaceful view of the city as Captain Addison points out local landmarks, such as the historic Biltmore Estate and the mysterious Mothra-shaped crater. Group size is limited to four riders, or three riders and an overweight scarecrow. After your descent back to Earth, riders will return to R.O. Frank's headquarters in the historic Grove Arcade at the center of the Asheville, in time for breakfast at one of the many downtown eateries within walking distance. Bring a warm hat and coat, and be sure to book as early in advance as possible, especially for next autumn's fall leaf season rides.
Asheville changed drastically in the half-century following 1880. Railroad workers broke through the Appalachian Mountains' natural barrier and connected the city to the world, forever changing its culture and social zeitgeist. Though decades have passed, Brenda Seright Williams still feels the impact of this period, and the tour guide isn't content to let it fade into history. As it says on her website, she believes "the study of those who came before can inspire us to stretch our own limits."
Her Urban Trail walking tours not only explore the 19th century’s Gilded Age but also tiptoe through four other time periods, including the Frontier Period and the Age of String Cheese. Alternatively, Brenda shifts the spotlight to Asheville's pivotal female figures during the aptly named Herstory tours. However, neither of these excursions are cookie-cutter adventures. To weave her stories, Brenda has conducted more than 100 interviews and spent countless hours researching minute details and the correct pronunciation of the word "pioneer."