Asheville, North Carolina is the perfect spot for book lovers filled with a rich literary heritage and connections. If you actively seek out literary tourism, Asheville offers The Hunger Games waterfalls, a champagne bookstore, and the gorgeous Vanderbilt library.
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Are you planning a trip to Asheville, NC, and looking for a more cultural experience? Plus, if it is a rainy day, maybe you need a few more go-to places before you hit up the breweries.
As a book lover and biblio-tourist, I actively search for all things libraries and bookstores while traveling in the United States and abroad. You can bet that this English major and former librarian is in heaven with Asheville’s literary tourism.
Asheville is the perfect place for book lovers and writers. The city boasts of numerous literary homes, famous authors, bookstores you can spend all day in, literary festivals, and even some bookish waterfalls.
Grab a literary cocktail and get your book nerd on with our specially tailored Asheville for book lover’s itinerary–from a local and book blogger.
Asheville For Book Lovers Itinerary
These are many of the must-see stops on any Asheville literary itinerary. Most locations are in downtown Asheville or nearby neighborhoods. We’ve added a few bookish destinations less than one-hour away, too.
Best Asheville Bookstores
Battery Park Book Exchange
I’m not going to lie: One of the reasons why we moved to Asheville included the Battery Park Book Exchange. Yup, I said it. If you know me from The Uncorked Librarian than you already get it. Books and BOOZE? Yes, please!
The Battery Park Book Exchange is a champagne book bar. Located in the Grove Park Arcade in downtown Asheville, they sell used books and have extensive wine, cocktail, and champagne collections. Battery Park Book Exchange also hosts readings, live music, and themed events.
Order a literary cocktail with a charcuterie and meet up with friends. Circulate two floors of eclectic books, and eavesdrop in on a book club.
Read more about Battery Park Book Exchange.
Book lovers will adore Asheville’s bookstores. One of the most famous NC bookshops, Malaprop’s, is a must for readers. Of course, local book displays and bestsellers greet native and tourist visitors. But, don’t miss their unique book recommendations and fun bookish schwag, too.
Malaprop’s hosts numerous author events and has a fabulous newsletter, which points out new releases and notable indie reads. They have a cafe for the afternoon perk-up, book clubs, and children’s storytime.
Malaprop’s founder, Emoke B’Racz, is a local Asheville writer and poet who emigrated to the United States as a Hungarian refugee. The bookstore is iconic in Asheville, and I am pretty sure it’s impossible to leave empty-handed.
Read more about Malaprop’s Bookstore.
Literary Residences In & Near Asheville, NC
Thomas Wolfe Memorial
If you are looking for an Asheville literary tour, don’t skip the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, even if you have never read his books. In fact, if you don’t know who Wolfe is, GO. Everyone we have ever taken on a tour of the Wolfe boarding house has loved it.
Thomas Wolfe is most famous for his Asheville-based novel, Look Homeward, Angel. Although a well-known, American historical fiction novel, the story is a loose retelling of Wolfe’s life growing up in Asheville, NC. Most notably, Wolfe barely changed the names and spellings of his Asheville community.
Needless to say, Asheville residents weren’t too thrilled to see their dirty laundry aired out for the world–until Wolfe’s fame grew. Although a bit long-winded, Look Homeward, Angel paints a vivid picture of Asheville in the early 1900s. The story is about a young boy dreaming of escaping ‘provincial’ life through higher education.
The home on Market Street is Wolfe’s mother’s boarding house. His childhood home nearby no longer stands. However, Wolfe spent most of his youth in this business home, and his mother was quite the character. Independent and entrepreneurial, her story is both inspirational and a tad frustrating. You’ll laugh, too.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the home and also drop into the museum as well as watch a short film.
Visit the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.
Carl Sandburg Home
Deemed the “Poet of the People,” Carl Sandburg lived in Connemara, NC (Flat Rock), right outside of Hendersonville. Although technically not in Asheville, Hendersonville is 35-minutes away with a fun historic downtown.
In his lifetime, Sandburg won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry, and a third for his biography of Abraham Lincoln. Sandburg was also a Civil Rights activist. Born in Illinois, Sandburg and his wife moved to Connemara in 1945.
The Carl Sandburg Home along with “The Hunger Games waterfalls” and downtown Hendersonville makes for a great Asheville day trip. Visitors of the home can take a guided tour, walk the park, or visit the bookstore. Be sure to say hello to the goats at the barn, go for a hike, or come for a special event.
Check out the Carl Sandburg Home.
It’s no secret that I completely recommend visiting Biltmore during your time in Asheville. George and Edith Vanderbilt’s grand home–the largest in America–is an Asheville must.
You can easily spend all day at Biltmore, touring the gardens, eating lunch in the old horse stables, checking out their indoor pool, and of course, wine tasting. Not to mention the endless trails and pathways around the estate.
For Asheville literary tourists, though, the Vanderbilt library will sing to you. Yes, yes: it’s a tad ominous and creepy. However, at Christmas, the library is stunning with festive decorations and trees.
A few fun facts: At the age of 12, George Vanderbilt started recording everything that he read in a journal. He would send the books he collected to a bookbinder and ultimately accumulated over 22,000 volumes.
I still also need to check out The Library Lounge, located within the Biltmore’s Inn. They serve lunch, snacks, and cocktails. Sounds bookish to me!
Don’t miss visiting Biltmore.
Pack Memorial Library
Although one of the local libraries, Pack Memorial Library in downtown Asheville is a must for biblio-tourists. Just don’t forget that this is a working public library and reprieve for locals. Pack is also the main Buncombe County public library and was first built in 1911. The space you see today is the newer building designed in 1978.
Drop in and head to the used bookstore and see what art exhibits they are showcasing throughout the library. You will find Asheville history scattered throughout, too.
While you are spending time in downtown Asheville, you will see references everywhere to Pack. Head into High-Wire Brewing – South Slope, for example, and you will spy photo archives from Pack hanging in the restrooms.
Literary Connections In Asheville
Omni Grove Park Inn
The Omni Grove Park Inn is well-known for its gorgeous sunsets over the mountains. In fact, the Grove Park Inn was the inspiration for Uncorked Asheville’s logo. You can sit on top of the terraces on Sunset Mountain while looking upon downtown Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Grove Park Inn used to be the rising destination–during the Vanderbilt’s time–of the elite who wanted to escape into the mountains and also cure their ailments. Nothing beats fresh mountain air and quinine for tuberculosis…
So what is the Omni’s mark in literary history? My personal favorite: F. Scott Fitzgerald spent two summers here in 1935 and 1936. Rumor has it, he drank a lot and got booted out for shooting at the ceiling…
Today, you can stay over on this luxurious property or just go for food, including dinner and drinks. The fireplaces will you warm your soul for an Appalachia Christmas filled with gingerbread house displays. In the fall, the foliage will blow you away. You don’t have to be an overnight guest to visit the property.
Stop by The Omni Grove Park Inn.
Former Highland Hospital
Along with F. Scott Fitzgerald, let’s not forget his wife, Zelda, who was also a writer. Zelda suffered from mental health issues and stay at Highland Hospital. Unfortunately, she perished in the 1948 fire, a story that Lee Smith captured in her novel, Guests On Earth.
Relocated to Montford in 1912, psychiatrist Dr. Robert S. Carroll founded “Dr. Carroll’s Sanatorium” or Highland Hospital. He believed that diet, therapy, and exercise could help cure sick and anxious patients.
Highland Hospital no longer exists today, but is, instead, a commercial district filled with businesses on Zillicoa St.
Asheville For Book Lovers In Nature
The Hunger Games Waterfalls Near Asheville
One of my favorite outdoor Asheville recommendations for book lovers is visiting The Hunger Games waterfalls at Dupont State Forest. DuPont around 40 minutes from Asheville.
Triple Falls is both breathtaking and famous for the filming of The Hunger Games. Remember the scene where Katniss almost steps on Peeta’s face in the waterfalls? That’s Triple Falls. Further along the forest, find Bridal Falls where Katniss cools her burning leg from the fireballs.
Producers shot a few more scenes around the Craggy Pinnacle Trail area at the tip of North Asheville, including the Arena. Much further away in Henry River Mill Village, you can find the filming for District 12. AND, parts of the Capitol were filmed at the Charlotte Convention Center. The list goes on and on.
Hike The Hunger Games waterfalls at DuPont.
Gravestone Hunting For Famous Literary Figures
Wha?!?! Yesss, you heard me, right. This post took a dark turn… Many famous Asheville authors and writers are buried around the city.
Let’s start with Thomas Wolfe. Head, respectfully and reverently, to Riverside Cemetery to find tombstones for Thomas Wolfe and his parents.
Another famous writer, O’Henry is also in eternal slumber at Riverside. You’ll need to look for his real name, William Sydney Porter, though.
Dykeman grew up in the Beaverdam area of North Asheville and attended Biltmore Junior College, which is now UNC-Asheville. She advocated for the economic protection and development along the French Broad River.
Literary Festivals In & Near Asheville
Asheville is a writer’s dream with those wistful Blue Ridge Mountains. A few literary festivals include the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in nearby Burnsville, NC and the WNC Spring Literary Festival.
Asheville Is A Book Lover’s Dream, Right?!
So, are you ready to take a literary pilgrimage in Asheville, NC? Why not when there are books, booze, and travel involved? Asheville’s literary heritage is wild, inspiring, and thirst-quenching. Don’t hesitate to comment below with questions or places we’ve missed that you love.
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A Special Thank You To Sarah Resta Photography
Many of the pictures featured in this post are from Sarah Resta Photography.
Sarah Resta is both a local and international engagement and wedding photographer available for hire.
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