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Tiptoe Through the Tulips: How to Make the Most of Springtime in AVL

Back to: Blog Vacation Tips
22 Feb 2022

After a frosty winter that was projected to go on even longer (thanks Punxsutawney Phil), just about everyone has spring fever. In Asheville and the mountains of WNC, we are more than ready to spring forward to sunny days and gorgeous blooms. Most consider springtime to be late March through late May, during which you can still experience a few cold spells here and there and plenty of rain. However, while the childhood anecdote "April showers bring May Flowers" certainly rings true for our region, there are also beautiful flowers and springtime activities to be enjoyed as early as March. Below, we’ll outline some of our favorite things to do and see during the spring season in Asheville. 

In Search of Flowers

Biltmore Blooms

A favorite of locals and tourists alike, the annual Biltmore Blooms is an excellent opportunity to see flowers in mass in their most vibrant hues and delicate fragrances. During the height of spring (April and May), the grounds of Biltmore Estate are covered in more than 100,000 tulips along with various other flowers including daffodils and roses. Make an entire day of it by touring the historic home, strolling through the gardens, and touring the winery at Antler Hill Village. This spring, there’s also a special continuation of the new year-long exhibition series called, Legends of Art & Innovation

The series will feature three large-scale, multi-sensory experiences using the very latest in immersive technology to illuminate the magnificent lives and timeless masterpieces of Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Van Gogh Alive will be on display through March 5, 2022 before welcoming Monet & Friends–Life, Light & Color March 9, 2022–July 6, 2022. Leonardo Da Vinci–500 Years of Genius will follow from July 10, 2022–November 20, 2022. Can we just say, is there any better way to ring in the spring than with Monet’s iconic water lilies?

North Carolina Arboretum

If you plan your spring getaway before May 8, you can also catch the latest exhibit at The North Carolina Arboretum, Thanks FLO: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted. This exhibit will allow you to step into the designing game and build a park using interactive tools, and it will show you the design principles Olmsted used while planning and building parks, greenways, campuses, and private estates across the US. In addition to celebrating Olmsted’s 200th birthday, guests can also explore the Arboretum’s early spring color with 65 acres of cultivated gardens. Bloom Tip: Peak time for tulips and azaleas is April to early May!

Elder & Sage Community Garden

Located in Downtown Asheville within walking distance of the Asheville Pinball Museum, Harrah’s Cherokee Center, and Basilica St. Lawrence, this colorful community garden was created by and for the uptown senior neighborhood across the way. While the seniors spearhead this beautiful project, there are also a number of volunteers who help keep the garden alive and thriving. It’s a magical site to stumble onto after being within the bustling city center. Filled with ceramics, garden sculptures, and eccentric art, it will instantly brighten your day and give you a true sense of what community looks and feels like in Asheville. 

Botanical Gardens of Asheville

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville is a 10-acre garden dedicated to the study and promotion of native plants and habitats of the Southern Appalachians. Located on the edge of UNCA’s campus, the Gardens do not charge for admission or parking, and most of the trails (especially in the front of the Gardens) are wheelchair accessible. While every season has its charm, mid-April shows spikes in the number of plant species blooming at the Gardens. Generally, peak wildflower blooms can be experienced from April through May. During this time, you will see slopes covered with thousands of vibrant and fragrant flowers such as Trilliums, Spring-beauties, Crested Dwarf Iris, Green and Gold, Wild Geranium, and Foamflower. 

Lake Lure Flowering Bridge

The historic Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, which stretches over the Rocky Broad River, was completed in 1925. It was given over to the Town of Lake Lure in 2011 after a new bridge was built to handle local traffic, and today it is maintained by a community-based non-profit organization. Easily one of the most charming places in Lake Lure, this bridge is completely decked out with beautiful flowers, quirky installations, and garden sculptures. Always evolving and growing, the Flowering Bridge is an absolute must-see!

Wildflower Hikes

If you’re interested in hunting for blooms outside of city gardens in the wild, there’s plenty of natural flora to enjoy during area hikes. Springtime hikes in Asheville will almost always feature native dogwood blooms as well as Carolina Silverbell, a native flowering tree that grows throughout the region. Wildflowers can start to bloom as early as March, but April is usually a safe bet to start your wildflower hunt. A great starting point is taking a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Featuring over 1600 species of vascular plants, 80% of which are wildflowers, you are guaranteed to spot wildflowers along this scenic drive. However, we strongly recommend getting out to experience Craggy Gardens Trail, Pinnacle Trail at Craggy Gardens, and Graveyard Field loop trails. 

Located in close proximity to Asheville, Rattlesnake Lodge and the Craven Gap trail (5-minutes apart on the Parkway) offer some lovely, albeit early, spring blooms. Part of the Mountains to Sea Trail, Craven Gap Trail to Bull Gap offers frequent sightings of violets, trillium, and the often sought-after azaleas. Another great spot to seek wildflowers in The Joyce Kilmer Wilderness area in Smoky Mountains National Park. From mid-March to early May you can spot Cranefly Orchids, Turk’s Cap Lily,  Bloodroot, Dutchman’s Breeches, and a large variety of Violets (yellow round, spearleaf, blue marsh, etc) and Trillium (Little-Sweet-Betsy, Yellow Wake-Robin, Painted, etc) to name a few. The wildflower hunt is definitely in full swing by April, and the options for catching sight of these blooming beauties in Asheville are endless!

Flower Farms

For those interested in a fun excursion that ends with bringing your own curated and vibrant floral bouquet to your home away from home, flower farms are a great way to support local farmers, encourage pollination & regional agriculture, and enjoy flowers in an ethical way. Many flower growers have adopted the “farm-to-vase” concept similar to organic food farmers who have successfully harnessed the idea of farm-to-table cuisine. These local flower farms will allow you to appreciate the beauty of flowers with sustainability in mind: 

  • Carolina Flowers-Located in Marshall, approximately 25 minutes from Asheville, this nearly 8-acre spot grows dozens of varieties of flowers almost year-round. While the farm itself isn’t open to the public, you can sign up for a workshop or visit their floral shop, Carolina Flowers Mercantile, on Main St. in Marshall. 
  • Barn Blossom (Formerly known as Springhouse Flower Farm)-Located in Barnardsville, approximately 25 minutes from Asheville, this family-owned flower farm opened in 2021 and has quickly become a beloved part of the community. Offering flower subscriptions, floral design & balloons, bridal floral planning, dried flowers & wreaths, design workshops, and country crafts. 
  • Never Ending Flower Farm-Located in the Big Ivy community just 20 minutes north of  Asheville, this flower farm specializes in resin preserved bouquets, fresh cut flowers for u-pick, and wedding floral design. In April, they also have a special u-pick tulip event.  
  • Wildcat Ridge Farm-Located in Clyde, approximately 40 minutes outside of Asheville, this flower farm boasts the largest collections of peonies in NC. A proud member of NC Agritourism, they sell cut peonies and plants to the public during the blooming season (the month of May).
  • Flying Cloud Farm-Located in Fairview, you can stop by and check out their self-serve honor system roadside produce stand where they sell only what they grow from early April until late December. In addition to flowers, they also grow vegetables and berries using sustainable methods without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides.
  • Lady Luck Flower Farm-Located in the beautiful Sandy Mush Community just outside of Asheville, this farm hosts public and private events, workshops, and general u-pick.

WNC Barn Quilt Trails

While it’s part of most Southerners’ vocabularies, many visitors are unfamiliar with what quilt blocks are and signify. They are large wooden squares designed, built, painted, and patterned after the colorful squares that make up a traditional mountain quilt. The meaning behind the quilt block varies, but each one’s design is typically inspired by its location or a local resident. In WNC, there are six adjoining counties that host quilt blocks (totaling an impressive 300 blocks and counting), but some of the highest concentrations can be found in Haywood and Yancey County. 

Since the quilt block driving trails are mostly self-guided, they’re a great socially distanced activity that you can enjoy throughout the year, rain or shine. In the south, there’s no better pastime than driving on backroads with the windows down and music up, and if you’re looking for a true taste of mountain heritage, driving through the countryside to find colorful quilt blocks adorning historic barns, buildings, and churches is the best way to experience that pastime.

Haywood County: Waynesville

Located just a few blocks from downtown Waynesville, The Shelton House, a Charleston-style farmhouse constructed in 1875, memorializes the rural origins of the town and promotes Western North Carolina heritage and crafts. Today, it houses The Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts, a beautiful Pennsylvania-Dutch-style barn, and 4+ acres of grounds and gardens. The Shelton House is the first stop of 50+ along the Haywood County Quilt Trail which highlights the patterns, styles, and techniques behind the vibrant quilt patterns painted onto pre-built wooden squares ranging from 2-8 ft. in size. Its custom pattern incorporates the traditional Star, Milk Maid, and Arrow patterns. Locate all of the barn quilts along the trail to learn the interesting stories behind them, or just stick to
checking out the 18 quilt blocks in Waynesville

While there, catch a show at the acclaimed HART Theatre (Haywood Arts Regional Theatre), an active community theatre with a calendar chocked full of Broadway shows, plays, and concerts year-round, and browse some art at Twigs & Leaves Gallery which offers a variety of little treasures that include exotic teas, candles, and photography or Earthworks Gallery which offers hand-built furniture, Native American pottery, and handmade clothing and scarves. Finish out your day by sitting down to a delicious dinner at The Sweet Onion or Frog’s Leap Public House accompanied by a refreshing artisan soda crafted by local company, Waynesville Soda Jerks.

Yancey County: Burnsville 

Burnsville is home to nine quilt block trails in the North Carolina mountains, and its trails showcase approximately 150 blocks—one of the largest concentrations anywhere in the US. Below you’ll find brief descriptions of all nine trails in and around Burnsville, along with links to a basic map (complete with quilt block icons): 

☐ Arbuckle Trail–This trail features 18 blocks and has an estimated drive time of 1.5 to 2 hours. Arbuckle Road, which is on this trail, was named by a local who loved Arbuckles’ roasted coffee from Arizona. The Arbuckle Coffee Pot block pays homage to it. View map

☐ Bee Log Trail–The shortest of Burnsville’s trails, this one features 9 blocks and has an estimated drive time of an hour. It follows US 19W along the Cane River and goes through the Bee Log community. View map

☐ Burnsville East Trail–This trail features 21 blocks and has an estimated drive time of 2 hours. Several of the blocks can be found on various businesses. View map

☐ Burnsville West Trail–This trail includes 28 blocks and has an estimated drive time of 2 hours. One of the highlights of this trail is the “Burnsville Sundial” block on the Yancey Times Journal building. It is the only quilt block sundial in the world, and it accurately tells time! View map

☐ Celo and Parkway Trail–This 25-block trail focuses on the artists’ enclave of Celo and has an estimated drive time of 3.5 to 4 hours. Since several blocks are on artist studios in Celo and the Toe River Valley, this is a great trail for artists and art appreciators. View map

☐ Green Mountain and Relief Trail–One of the most scenic trails, this 25-block trail has estimated drive time is 3.5 to 4 hours. The trail follows the Toe River into the mountainous communities of Green Mountain and Relief where the Toe River becomes the Nolichucky and flows into the Tennessee River. View map

☐ Lickskillet to Westside–Located West of town, this trail features 17 blocks and has an estimated drive time of 1 to 1.5 hours. The Cane River is predominant, especially with the block on Cane River Middle School. View map

☐ Pensacola Trail–This trail also interacts with the Cane River and flows through the Pensacola community. It has 19 blocks and has an estimated drive time of 2 hours. One of the highlights of this trail is the “Fish” block on Pensacola Road which was the 100th block erected in the Burnsville area. View map

 Mt. Mitchell Scenic Byway Trail–This trail begins (or ends) at Mt. Mitchell State Park, the highest point east of the Mississippi River. It features 50 quilt blocks that can be seen in an estimated 3 hours. You can follow the scenic byway via the Blue Ridge Parkway. N.C. Hwy. 80 and U.S. 19E. One thing to note: 6 of the 50 quilt blocks are not on the main roads and require a short side trip. View map

​The Mt Mitchell Scenic Byway is a great route to take if you’re interested in seeing other types of art, hiking, dining, or even shopping in addition to seeing quilt blocks. On this route, Toe River Valley is the cultural heart and soul, as it's an area saturated with artist studios, where you’ll experience the bulk of the quilt blocks, and where you’ll find some of the best-known glass blowers on the East Coast. The N.C. 80 portion of the drive concludes in Micaville, and from there, the byway passes into Burnsville’s Town Square and continues down its Main Street, which has been likened to a living Norman Rockwell painting, brimming with plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy.

If you’re into old-school driving maps you can actually hold in your hand (that also come with detailed descriptions of each block), stop by One Of A Kind Gallery (affectionately known as OOAK gallery by the locals), to purchase one before setting out on your epic journey!

March Festivals & Events 

  • March 3-7: Ingles SoCon Basketball Championships-The Madness of March begins in Asheville on March 3. Join basketball fans from near and far and watch your favorite SoCon team while vacationing in Asheville this year. Tickets are on sale now!
  • March 5: MakeHER Market at Reynolds Village-In its much-anticipated return, MakeHER Market will raise money for HelpMate, a domestic violence advocacy organization, and feature 20 female, independent creatives, makers, and designers and their unique, hand crafted goods. At the market, you'll find Fair Trade coffee, botanicals, and locally-made jewelry, home décor, art, and accessories available for purchase.
  • March 9-July 10: Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore: Monet & Friends-Immerse yourself in Biltmore's newest exhibition series titled Legends of Art & Innovation. The second of 3 total installments, begins March 9 and will pay homage to Claude Monet & the Impressionist painters of the mid-19th-early 20th century. The Impressionists’ masterworks will come to life in a rich display of light, color, and sound! The annual Biltmore Blooms celebration also runs from April 1-May 26. Be sure to check out the beautiful display of flowering plants, including nearly 100,000 tulips and 250 varieties of roses.
  • March 15-28: Spring Concerts in Asheville

Yola at The Orange Peel. Tues. Mar. 15. 

Shovels & Rope at The Orange Peel. Wed. Mar. 23. 

Penny & Sparrow at The Orange Peel. Thurs. Mar. 24. 

Gregory Alan Isakov at The Orange Peel. Sun. Mar. 27. 

Glass Animals at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Mon. Mar. 28. 

Tame Impala at Harrah's Cherokee Center. Mon. Mar. 21 & Tues. Mar. 22.

  • March 19: The 5th Annual Lucky's St. Patrick's Day Crawl-Are you ready for a Shamrockin' Saturday night on the town? Don't miss out and be green with envy. Check-in at Twin Leaf Brewery in Asheville from 4-6 PM before beginning your lucky St. Patrick's Day Crawl. Visit 5+ venues, enjoy 2 drinks or shots, attend the lively after-party, and compete for the coveted $1,000 costume contest!
  • March 31: Harlem Globetrotters-The World-Famous Harlem Globetrotters are bringing their newly reimagined Spread Game tour to Asheville's Harrah Cherokee Center at the end of March. Experience ankle-breaking moves, jaw-dropping swag, and rim-rattling dunks at this thrilling and fully modernized show. Part streetball from the players who defined it & part interactive family entertainment, the new tour will show off the best of the Globetrotters in a dazzling exhibition of talent and game!

Treat yourself to a spring getaway in Asheville to experience the flourishing landscape and culture and to take advantage of all of the upcoming area events.

With 120+ homes on special this March, you’re also bound to collect your very own pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!