While there is a plethora of things to enjoy year-round in Western North Carolina, summer is definitely one of my favorite seasons. From arts and crafts festivals to cooling off at a nearby swimming hole to camping with friends, Asheville and the surrounding region are an open playground during the summer, especially during the Fourth of July weekend. For some, the abundance of Independence Day activities and offerings may be a bit overwhelming. Where can I see the fireworks? What are the best activities for my kids? Where can I walk off all those hot dogs I just ate? These may just be a few questions that pop into your head as your prepare for the weekend.

To help guide you, we have compiled a list of our top four Fourth of July “must do” activities for the upcoming weekend – perfect for any family, outdoor enthusiast or simply someone looking to explore the Western North Carolina region:

1.) Enjoy a Cookout

Hotdogs, potato salad, fruit cobbler and a glass of cold lemonade – what else could you ask for during the Fourth of July? What about locally grown ingredients? SavoryThyme_RGBWhen preparing for your family’s Fourth of July cookout, be sure to check out one of Asheville’s 17 local tailgate markets, which offer farm-fresh produce, artisan goods and locally-sourced meats. Want to leave the cooking to someone else this year? The Arboretum’s Savory Thyme Café will be hosting its annual Fourth of July Cookout on Monday, July 4, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. More information can be found here.

2.) Take a Hike!

Still feeling a bit groggy and full after that hot dog eating contest? Walk it off and explore the region’s beauty with a nice day hike. home_hero_Biker_WomanHikersThere are many different trails to enjoy throughout Western North Carolina that vary in distance and difficulty. Hike with a group and learn from the experts during the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Hike of the Week on Friday, July 1, or explore the area yourself on a self-guided hike through the Arboretum’s 10 miles of interlocking trails located in the Bent Creek watershed of the Pisgah National Forest.

3.) Appreciate the Arts

With its longstanding, rich arts-and-crafts heritage, it is no wonder that Western North Carolina’s creative culture is one of the finest in the country. Come see it for yourself at Lexington Glassworks’ July Glasswork Concert Series: Hot Glass, Cold Beer, Live Music on Friday, July 1, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Learn about the beautiful, meticulous art of glassblowing and enjoy the fine tunes of bluegrass from WNC’s own Maggie Valley Band. If glassblowing isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps fine art and watercolors are. JamesMorrisonPhotoThe North Carolina Arboretum is currently offering a special art exhibit titled The Magic of Western North Carolina, which features more than 80 watercolor paintings from artist James Scott Morrison of Hendersonville. On Saturday, July 2, Morrison will host a free demonstration from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. in the second floor gallery lobby of the Arboretum’s Baker Exhibit Center. More information can be found here. If you’re interested in other arts-related events in the area, please check out The Laurel of Asheville’s events calendar here.

4.) Fireworks, Fireworks, Fireworks!

If you’re visiting from out of town or have recently moved to the area, finding the best place to view fireworks can be overwhelming. When?, where?, how long? – these may be just some of the questions you face when deciding on a viewing location. 4thofJuly_FireworksTo help guide you, the Arboretum’s Community Partner RomanticAsheville.com has compiled the perfect go-to resource on all things fireworks, Fourth and more. Be aware that many locations throughout Western North Carolina are hosting their Independence Day celebrations on July 3rd, so be sure to carefully check the event date so that you don’t miss out!

Want to get some exercise in AND enjoy the firework festivities at the same time? The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center will host its annual Independence Day Fireworks Hike on Monday, July 4, starting at 6:00 p.m. Participants will enjoy a moderate hike, finishing off with a beautiful sunset and a view of Black Mountain’s fireworks displays from the peak of Sunset Mountain. The museum will provide watermelon and transport all cargo to the summit. For information on registration fees and event details, please click here.

Whether it’s a family hike or grilling out with friends, there are plenty of things to see, explore and enjoy this July 4th weekend. Did we miss anything from our list above? Comment below and share your long-time Independence Day traditions in Western North Carolina.

Note: The North Carolina Arboretum will be open during normal hours on July 4, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information on Arboretum’s happenings during the Fourth of July weekend, please click here.