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Asheville Travels: River Arts District

Take an eight-minute drive from Asheville to the River Arts District to check out the vast array of art and working studios. This eclectic area of the French Broad River is a great place to explore artist studios and restaurants for the afternoon. You may walk over to the river and jump in with your inner tube and float the river, as the summers can be sweltering.

The River Arts District is home to old industrial and historical buildings spread out over a mile of the river. Once a booming town along the river’s edge in 1920’s, it soon felt the hit of the Great Depression. Later many of the industrial businesses left this area and the buildings sat deteriorating. A group of business people, artists, and landowners decided to bring life back into these buildings and started the River Arts District. For the past 27 years, the artists have laid claims in establishing working studios in this once dying industrial area of Asheville.

The city of Asheville has done an outstanding job and very smartly offered incentives to area artists and entrepreneurs to open shop in this “forgotten” area. Such incentives resulted in converting it into a very attractive and thriving area of the city. Make sure before you go to check out their hours as some days they are not open or have shorter hours.

In some of the studios we visited, the artists were inside designing and sculpting their work. We had the opportunity to visit with a few of them as we admired their artistic skills. Some of the artists will walk you through the process of what they are designing and share with you what inspires them in creating a new work of art. We saw several large art pieces that were commissioned by restaurants in the city of Asheville and elsewhere in North Carolina.

It was great fun photographing this artist as she was working with clay to create her work.

You will find more than 100 artists who work in paint, pencil, pottery, metal, fabric, glass, wax, paper and much more. All the galleries we visited offered some stunning and unique art pieces. I was very tempted to buy few of them to bring back to Texas, but thankfully my husband helped me restrain my wallet.

One of my most favorite discoveries while visiting was the graffiti mural located next to the parking area of White Duck Taco. These old silos have been converted into colorful canvases with sayings such as “Good Vibes” and many others. Some of the murals tell a story of the area and others are artistic expressions. As a photographer I found myself working all angles to capture these beautiful images.

We managed to visit every one of the galleries that were open on the day we visited. It took us a little over 6 hours to see everything inside one alone.  I had no idea how fast time had passed, so we decided to seek out a place to eat shortly after.

There are few restaurants to choose from to grab a bite to eat in the River Arts District. I strongly recommend White Duck Taco Shop. The line of people was out the door and into the street, all waiting to get one of their unique and yummy tacos.

The place looked like a hole in the wall and I must say I was a bit skeptical, but once I took a bite of my taco, I discovered that it was quite tasty! By the time I finished my taco I was glad that I waited in line.  One thing to be aware of is that the restaurant is small and most of its seating is outside. All in all, this is a great dining spot while visiting the River Arts District.

We did not have plans nor came prepared to float the river. Many locals were enjoying the cold water on this hot summer day. However, this activity will be in our travel plans for our next trip to Asheville.

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16 Comments

  1. Aw this looks like such a fun, quirky town. The White Duck Taco Shop seems right up my alley.

  2. I love how quaint and inviting this town looks! I’d love to visit one day. Loving the “good vibes” on the tower!

  3. I have been to North Carolina, but not to Asheville. I’ll have to visit! Great pictures!

  4. Asheville is such a fantastic city! So much to do!

  5. Looks like a fun trip, I’ll have to check it out sometime.

  6. Oh wow, beautiful artwork. That’s awesome you could see some of the artists actually working and talk to them.

    -Lauren

  7. I love Asheville, but have only been once and didn’t get a chance to visit the Art district. But I’m putting it on my list for next time!

  8. White Duck! I’ve been there! I went to college in Montreat and we went to Ashville pretty frequently.

  9. I love Asheville!! And the White Duck Taco Shop is amazing!!!

  10. It looks like a fun city with friendly people. You’ve taken great pictures!

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