For a fun, immersive way to learn about Asheville’s rich history, spend an afternoon following the Urban Trail, a 1.7-mile loop in downtown Asheville. The free, self-guided walking tour is marked by 30 stations, each telling an important story integral to Asheville’s past. Bonus: With the trail weaving through Asheville’s commercially vibrant downtown district, it’s easy to take breaks along the way to enjoy the unique music, food and art for which the area is famed.
Statues, plaques and art
Started by the City of Asheville in the early 1990s and designed by volunteers as part of a program to improve the quality of the city through displays of public art, the Asheville Urban Trail is divided into five time periods signified by pink granite markers in the sidewalk: a feather for the Gilded Age, a horseshoe for the Frontier Period, an angel for the Times of Thomas Wolfe, the courthouse for the Era of Civic Pride, and an eagle for the Age of Diversity.
Stations along the trail, which starts and ends at Pack Square, are marked by statues, plaques and art. Exploring all 30 landmarks will take about two hours – or if you’re simply meandering through downtown, you can expect to come across at least a few of the landmarks.
The people, places and things that shaped Asheville
The various spots the Urban Trail highlights offer an intriguing peek into a number of topics, featuring a range of people, places and things that make Asheville what it is today: Famed Asheville writers Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry, architect Richard Sharp Smith (responsible for a number of historical buildings in Asheville), the city’s cultural and commercial achievements, even Asheville’s last remaining brick street are all honored along the trail. Everything from a giant flat iron sculpture reflecting the neighboring architecture, to a bronze version of Thomas Wolfe’s shoes, to an art-in-motion sculpture honoring the evolution of transportation dots the trail.
Printed Urban Trail maps are available at the information center at Pack Square Park. Or you can download one from https://www.exploreasheville.com/urban-trail/ to bring along with you.
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