Nestled within the Blue Ridge Mountain corridor, Asheville, North Carolina offers the cultural, economic, and recreational resources of a much bigger city. It is the beating heart of western North Carolina, with a buzzing emanating from downtown and breathtaking vistas of national forests calling from its backyard. If you haven’t yet, visit Asheville — here’s a sampling of what the “Land of the Sky” has to offer.
The Biltmore Estate
You can’t visit Asheville without a stop at the Biltmore Estate. A historic universe unto itself, the 125,000-acre winter compound of 19th-century railroad magnate George W. Vanderbilt includes the 250-room Biltmore House (America’s largest home), extensive gardens and grounds, the adjacent Antler Hill Village with plentiful shopping and accommodation options, and a top notch winery. Given the many sights to see, allow at least a full day for a visit.
Modeled after France’s Château de Blois and constructed with limestone, the main house is an exemplar of Richard Morris Hunt’s Châteauesque architecture. Self-guided tours can be taken across four floors, featuring the library, banquet hall, indoor pool, and bowling alley. Additionally, there are extensive displays of period furnishings, vintage clothing, and an art collection featuring John Sargent and Renoir.
The arts scene
Asheville enjoys two critically acclaimed visual arts collectives – the Downtown Asheville Arts District and the more extensive River Arts District on the French Broad riverfront. River Arts includes more than 200 artists’ studios and galleries in 23 former industrial and historic buildings about two miles outside of the town center. Both collectives offer galleries, studios, and demonstrations. When you need to recharge, hit one of the many restaurants and cafés in either location.
Asheville’s “walking tour of the City’s history,” the Urban Trail, is a spirited introduction to its historical past and notable citizens. Thirty stations trace a 1.7-mile path that covers five eras, including the Gilded Age, the Frontier Period, and the Times of Thomas Wolfe. Be sure to linger at stop #8 — a giant clothes iron that pays homage to Asheville’s own Flat Iron building (built in 1926) and the advent of steam-based laundering. Woven between and among the many stops of the Urban Trail you will find an ample array of independent shops, restaurants, craft breweries, museums, and a lively music scene.
Wine, dine, and recline
Asheville has arguably one of the most exciting food scenes in the region. With its sustainable food movement, wineries, food tours, microbreweries, and some of the best chefs in the nation, Ashville is a foodie’s heaven. James Beard standouts and kitchen titans include Leah Wong Ashburn (Highland Brewing Co.), David Bauer (Farm & Sparrow), Meherwan Irani (Chai Pani), and Kate Button (Cúrate). Culinary themes range from gourmet twists on regional favorites (lovingly dubbed modern Appalachian cuisine) to globally inspired features like Spanish tapas-meets-American classics, Asian fusion fare, and more. Click here for more information on where to eat in town.
When it’s time for a good night’s sleep, Asheville offers a wide variety of lodging options, including three properties on the Biltmore Estate. Whatever your budget and taste, you are bound to find something that suits you. Find choice accommodations here.
Take advantage of Asheville’s beautiful location on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Regarded as “America’s Favorite Drive”, the Parkway offers a host of opportunities to take in the majesty of the Appalachian mountain range via overlooks and vistas throughout.
If you prefer to take in the sights on foot, try a hike in the beautiful Pisgah National Forest, angling on the French Broad, a zip line adventure, or a visit to the Botanical Gardens. Additional information on these activities can be found here.
There’s a lot to take in when you visit Asheville, so take your time and explore. Consider trying something new – you may find you love Asheville more than its devoted natives.