Other than the normal tourist attractions, downtown Asheville is where the activities are to be found. Unlike some smallish cities, Asheville’s downtown is spread out (as opposed to the re-birthing of nearby Knoxville which covers only a few streets and a square) like a mini-Nashville. Unlike Music City, because Asheville is tucked in the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains, downtown is hilly. Translation: be prepared to walk a lot, but also up and down.
The city is very art-conscious and eclectic, with a variety of local/unique eateries and shops that are homegrown right there. One coffee house is located inside a double-decker bus. The Loft carries trinkets of all shapes and sizes. However if you want to eat something mainstream, feel free to have a pizza at the Mellow Mushroom before you hike across town.
Pack Square Park is in the middle of the city and seems to be a great place to relax and cool off when you aren’t hoofing it down a street in search of the unusual. A few blocks west of the park is the Grove Arcade. Originally built to be the base of a large downtown building, the arcade houses unique (and pricey) stores inside its architectural facade, as well as several restaurants on the outside. The southside entrance has street vendors side-by-side under the canopy, selling magnets, candles, instruments, jewelry, and other handmade items.
*FYI 1 : You will be walking a decent amount, have appropriate shoe attire.
*FYI 2: Parking is somewhat of an Olympic sport in the downtown area. There are tour buses running through (verbal tours included) town at about $20/person; they allow for 2-day passes, where passengers can hop on and off as needed. The streets are lined with parking meters, though Sundays and evenings are free. However, if you plan on simply touring for a day, consider parking in a garage at an all-day fee of less than $10.
*FYI 3 : Asheville’s downtown area is also known as a foodie paradise, but since I am not one of these, you’ll have to turn elsewhere for the appropriate advice.