The River Arts District, located minutes from downtown Asheville, is set along the French Broad River and is home to over 160 studios where visitors can meet artists who work in paint, pencil, pottery, metal, fiber and other mediums.
“Visitors enjoy strolling through the district from gallery to gallery and interacting with the artists while they work,” said Dianna Pierce, vice president of sales at Explore Asheville. “The area is also home to restaurants, breweries, theaters, music venues and outdoor recreation outposts.”
While this popular neighborhood has experienced a lot of growth in the last two years, Pierce added there are several local efforts planned for the next few years that will transform the River Arts District further, including connected greenway spaces, bike trails, rooftop event spaces and new river adventures.
Meanwhile, groups who visit this happening area should check out the following.
Asheville Art Studio Tours offers a great introduction to the River Arts District via a guided tour started by a local glass artist, John Miguel Almaguer. During the outing, the group will stop by a handful of galleries and studios to browse original artworks and meet the artists who created it all. Asheville Art Studio Tours offers customized private tours as well as VIP tours that include a hands-on art-making experience.
The Village Potters @ 191 Lyman St., #180 is another place for groups who’d like a hands-on experience. During the Get Your Hands Dirty Workshop, large groups can learn about and participate in making pottery. And during a Create Your Own Workshop, participants work at the potter’s wheel to make a functional piece that they can take home.
After the group has covered the arts in the River Arts District, they can plan on a waterborne river pursuit with Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours @ 159 Riverside Dr. or Bellyak, two outfitters that work with groups during the warmer months.
Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours offers guided standup paddleboard tours on the French Broad River from sunrise to sunset. This window of availability means the group may have the river all to itself, depending on when they book the outing. Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours also offers a six-person paddleboard excursion that’s great for teambuilding.
Bellyak is both a company and an Asheville-invented watersport that takes place on a face-first kayak that one rides on his or her belly. Riders wear webbed gloves to paddle. Bellyak is often used to help those suffering from PTSD, so if it’s a calm river adventure the group is after, this is it.
Among the places to grab a bite in the district is the Smoky Park Supper Club @ 350 Riverside Dr., a newer restaurant situated along the river. It’s the largest shipping container restaurant in the country, made out of 19 containers stacked together. The Smoky Park Supper Club features a wood-fired menu, a great lawn along the river and the Boat House, an increasingly popular event space that accommodates private gatherings for up to 200 people.
And for groups seeking live entertainment, there is Grey Eagle @ 185 Clingman Ave., a longstanding music hall and taqueria where attendees can enjoy live music, a bite and a cold beer. Grey Eagle also accommodates private events.