The Great Outdoors of Asheville, North Carolina
In between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smokey Mountains, the city of Asheville, North Carolina has one of the most scenic and visually stimulating landscapes in the country. The scenery is beautiful at all times of the year; making it a great place to visit summer, spring, fall, or winter. Asheville has become known for its local hippies, new age movements, artsy folk, vegetarians, granola munching outdoorsman, and liberals in general.
However, it is also a very popular place to retire because of the areas amazing beauty, and a destination for anyone who loves the outdoors. The atmosphere in the city can be felt immediately. It is one of the happiest, accepting, and creativity locations in the southeast. Even for those who are not the most extreme hippies or new age followers, there is a wide variety of things to see and do during a stay in Asheville.
Top Ten Places to Go in Asheville:
1. The Biltmore Estate
2. The Biltmore Village
3. Bon Paul and Sharky’s Hostel
4. The Grove Arcade
5. Western North Carolina Farmer’s Market
6. Blue Ridge Parkway
7. Chimney Rock Park
8. Old Europe Bistro
9. Root Bar No. 1
10. Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company
The Asheville Regional Airport, located about twenty minutes from downtown, receives flights from a few select cities. Traveling by car to Asheville has its benefits, however. The mountainous scenery and curving roads make the drive to Asheville an experience to enjoy all in its own.
The Biltmore Estate:
One of the most popular reasons many people visit Asheville is to tour the breathtaking Biltmore Estate, also called the “castle on the hill”. As the name infers, this is a chateau-style mansion built in the 1800’s, which is the largest privately owned home in the entire world. The estate includes gardens, a vineyard, hiking trails, waterfalls, and an equestrian center. Admission is $33-$59 for adults. The Biltmore Estate is just one incredible example of the Art Deco architecture found in Asheville. Outside the estate is the Biltmore Village, which is a village of picturesque stores, shops, and restaurants.
There are several options for lodging in Asheville, including bed and breakfasts, inns, hotels, and even the Inn at the Biltmore Estate. However, for college students, there are less expensive alternatives, such as The Mountaineer Inn or the Bon Paul and Sharky’s Hostel. The latter is the most budget friendly option in Asheville, with dorm style rooms at $22 per night and camping for $13. If you prefer a private room, when available, they are $59-$65 per night. Bon Paul and Sharky’s Hostel is perfect for travelers, backpackers, and anyone wanting a laid back and cheap place to stay while visiting the city. There is a full kitchen, air conditioning, free dog kennels, a hot tub, foosball table, internet, and television. There are bikes to be loaned out and front porch rocking chairs to relax in. The hostel is within walking distance of plenty of restaurants, shops, and bars.
While Asheville tends to take pride in the fact that there are few American chains in the downtown area, Merrimon Avenue is the typical modern shopping area, known to many as “The Strip”. There are a million quirky and eccentric little shops to visit in Asheville with unique collections and artistic flair. Patton Avenue is like the Main Street of Asheville. There is a tunnel that passes through Sunset Mountain leading to Tunnel Road, which is the most commercial area of downtown with skyscraper hotels. Lexington Avenue holds many vintage clothing stores and record shops, making this section of town one of the hippest. Within the downtown area there are several cafes, museums, art galleries, historical buildings, and antique shops. The Grove Arcade is a newly renovated historical building, with local craft stores and unique eateries. Outside of downtown, the Western North Carolina Farmer’s Market is a large market where one can find anything from produce to one-of-a-kind pieces by local artists.
Asheville is a backpacker, hiker, or outdoor lover’s paradise. Grab your fleece and head to one of the many trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains or Great Smokey’s surrounding the city. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers a scenic drive through the mountains and several places to stop for hiking and climbing trails. There are places to fly fish, go white water rafting, or do indoor rock climbing. Outdoor activities are endless in the area. Chimney Rock National Park is one of the most popular sites
in Asheville for hiking and climbing, although there is an admission fee. This park contains a large jutting rock spanning several hundreds of feet in the air that offers an overwhelmingly beautiful view from the top. Adventurers can climb or take the elevator to the top of this natural lookout point.
Due to the hippy influences in Asheville, the city is one of the most vegetarian friendly cities in the country. Specialty foods and organic treats can be found throughout the area. For example, Rosetta’s Kitchen has a wide variety of organic vegetarian and vegan food options and is open all night, until the early morning hours. Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company offers pizza, locally brewed beers, and movies for only $2, played on a large screen on the outdoor patio. After lunch, stop by The Hop for some handmade ice cream, at this local parlor, which even offers vegan options.
Bars and Music Venues:
The Asheville Brewing Company is a most-do for beer connoisseurs looking to taste a few local blends on tap. The French Broad Brewing Company and the Highland Brewing Company are a few other local breweries. Old Europe Bistro is one quintessential Asheville bars, due to its European and hip alternative atmosphere. The front the Old Europe Bistro provides tables for chatting over coffees and deserts in the true Parisian manner. However, in the back is Z lounge, a favorite dance club for young people, where techno and hip hop is played all hours of the night. Thanks to the liberal attitude of the residence of Asheville, there is a large gay and lesbian population and several bars and nightclubs, some of the best being the Smokey Tavern and Club Hairspray. For live music, one does not need to search long here. Root Bar No. 1 houses many local musical performers. The Rocket Club, the Emerald Lounge, and Grey Eagle Tavern & Music Hall are some other popular music venues. For music, art, and food combined, Asheville is the continuous home of many yearly festivals. Some of these festivals include the Mountain Sports Festival, Organicfest, Asheville PrideFest for the LGBT, and Bele Chere, a large street festival held in July.
When planning a trip to the laid back and inviting city of Asheville, North Carolina, be sure to bring your hiking and mountain climbing attire, your open attitude, and soak in the amazing topography of the surrounding areas. It is a truly unique city of the Southeast with a thriving artistic movement. Whether you plan to backpack through the Blue Ridge Mountains, go for a light hike, tour the Biltmore, or shop and go out to eat, there is something to please every traveler in Asheville.
By Carrie McCloud