When you head to the River Arts District — aka the RAD — you’re visiting one of Asheville’s coolest, quirkiest + artistic communities. The neighborhood has grown since our city’s early days, so we wanted to check out what’s currently brewing here. If you haven’t explored in a while, it might be time to rediscover why so many people — maybe even you — love to call it home.
Need to know
You’re not the only one with your eyes set on this artsy oasis. Over the last decade, the artist population has nearly doubled — and there are now 15 restaurants/coffee shops in the neighborhood (up from three).
Wondering why? The completion of the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project in 2021 has much to do with it. The $35 million project rebuilt the transportation network along the east side of the French Broad River, which has supported the growth of new businesses + residential spaces.
The early days
Before this mile and a half section of Asheville became a mecca for artists, outdoor recreation, and craft beer, it was our city’s first industrial hub.
Then, a devastating 1916 flood (plus economic ruin brought about by the Great Depression) led to decades of downturn — with many of the once booming factory buildings becoming shuttered + abandoned.
In the 1970s, creatives were drawn to the area for its cheap rent + abundance of warehouse spaces, and thus the neighborhood’s artistic renaissance began.
Running low on time? A trip to the RAD isn’t complete without a stop at Foundy Street, so be sure to factor it into your day. You’ll thank us later.
From vintage goods and outdoor gear to local art, there’s plenty available for purchase.
- Wander through the RAD’s extensive selection of art galleries + studios.
- Explore globally-sourced textiles, vintage furniture + other unique antiques at Sunnyside Trading Co.
- Shop sweet vintage + upcycled clothing at the House of Kismet, Sugar Britches, and Wildflowers.
- Stock up on affordable, gently used outdoor adventure gear at Second Gear. And while you’re there, be sure to snag a treat from the attached Sugar and Snow Gelato.
With abundant greenways, several outfitters + the nearby French Broad River, the RAD is the perfect playground for outdoors lovers.
- Walk, run, bike, or skate the 3.5 mile Wilma Dykeman Greenway.
- Take an e-bike adventure with Asheville E-bikes, Asheville Adventure Co., Flying Bike Tours, or one of these other rental services.
- Try your hand at bouldering or indoor rock climbing at Cultivated Climbing‘s riverside gym.
- Tube the French Broad River with help from Asheville Adventure Co.
Eat + drink
The food and beverage scene in the RAD is just as creative as the graffiti, tattoo shops, and artisan makers.
- Enjoy a toasted marshmallow latte, dalgona, or another specialty coffee drink at Grind AVL.
- Taste a buttery, delightful fusion of Southern + European culinary influence with dinner at Vivian.
- Sample flights or glasses of NC-made wine at plēb urban winery.
- Snag a pitcher of beer and check out an array of rotating food trucks at Wedge Brewing‘s two RAD locations.
- Eat a legendary double cheeseburger (paired with a chocolate malt) at Baby Bull.
- Load up on an array of sourdough loaves, bagels, babka, fluffy focaccia, and jambon beurre at artisan bakery Mother.
From indie concerts and art house films to a nonprofit playhouse, there’s plenty of unique entertainment to experience.
- Watch an affordable indie flick at the beloved independent Grail Moviehouse.
- Check out an intimate and experimental live performance at The Magnetic Theatre.
- See a concert at The Grey Eagle, Asheville’s longest-running live music venue.
The RAD is constantly growing. Just this past year, several new establishments opened their doors + there are plenty of new apartment units in the works.
- Black Wall Street opened its headquarters at 8 River Arts Pl. The space showcases Black-owned businesses, accommodates community programs, and hosts the annual multi-day GRINDfest.
- The River Arts Apartments, a 237-unit mixed-use development, broke ground at 147 Roberts St. in January 2022.
- Marquee Asheville, a massive marketplace of design-focused vendors, opened in Foundy at the end of 2021.
- Tyger Tyger Gallery, which features exhibits with an emphasis on “historically underrepresented” artists, opened in August 2022.
- And in the near future, Cuban comfort food will be on the menu at the forthcoming Guajiro at 122 Riverside Dr.
Where to live
If you’re sold + looking to buy a home in the area, here are some housing options currently on the market:
- 120 Bartlett St.| 2 BD, 1 BA | $419,000 | Beautifully restored 1927 bungalow with hardwood floors and abundant natural light.
- 12 Tahkieostie Trl.| 3 BD 2.5 BA | $619,000| This brand-new house wraps up construction in January 2023
- 21 Pearl St. | 2 BD 1 BA| $1,150,000 | 1905 Arts and Crafts bungalow with hardwood floors and an outdoor deck.
Where to work
Don’t live here, but want to spend as much time as possible in the RAD? Check out some current job openings in the area.
- Retail Sales Manager, Sunnyside Trading Company | Serve as a lead salesperson + help source product designs and textile creations.
- Industrial Sewer, Sew Co. | Construct home and apparel textile goods on an industrial machine (on-job training available).
- Various positions, Wedge Brewing | If you love great beer, art, and community, this could be the place for you.