You don't have to have a budget like Vanderbilt's to enjoy the beautiful mountain charm of Asheville, North Carolina. I grew up not far from Asheville and I know that with all the family and budget friendly things to do, there is no reason you couldn't be a tourist in your own hometown!
Exploring Asheville, North Carolina
The first and most obvious tourist attraction in Asheville is the George Vanderbilt Biltmore Estate. A gorgeous 250 room mansion (completed in 1895), gardens and winery. They have various tour options available as well as Summer outdoor concerts. Get $15 off your ticket by buying 7 days or more in advance, and children ages 0-16 get in free with a paying adult between May 24 and September 2, 2013.
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial, Home, Visitor Center and Museum offers a closer look into the life and work of American author Thomas Wolfe (admission).
The Health Adventure is a fun museum for kids, with special programs, classes and events offered throughout the summer (admission).
The Asheville Urban Trail is a 1.7 mile (2 hour) walking tour of Asheville highlighting the downtown's history with 30 bronze statues and plaques created by local area artists.
June 1 to August 17 nightly (except Sundays) you can experience the outdoor dramatized production Unto These Hills produced by the Cherokee Historical Association. Admission is a little pricey ($13 ages 6-12, $23 adult) but it is an experience you will never forget as the story of the Trail of Tears comes to life before your eyes.
If your family or your children are interested in music, you may want to visit the headquarters of Moog Music, known for making musical instruments for some of the top performers in the industry. Call and make an appointment for a free tour.
Downtown Asheville on Friday nights you can join the Drum Circle. People from the area get together and play all sorts of drums. Bring your percussion instrument and join the fun, or get an ice cream cone at the parlor down the street and just enjoy the music.
The third Friday of each month May – September you can enjoy Downtown After 5 free outdoor musical presentations.
Downtown Asheville is home to 30-plus galleries. Many of the artists welcome you in to observer their work and many offer classes for a reasonable fee. The River Walk Arts District holds a free art event every second Saturday of the month (May-December)
Interested in the performing arts? Why not audition or volunteer for stage crew for one of the Asheville Community Theater's summer productions.
If nature is your thing, you can enjoy walking trails, natural history events, and geocaching at the North Carolina Arboretum. For a small admission or parking fee the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain and Chimney Rock State Park are all not far from Asheville and offer various hiking trails and other interesting attractions and activities.
If you don't live near Asheville, click here for a giant list of staycation ideas for cities all over the USA!