Think of Asheville, N.C., as Greenville’s bohemian mountain neighbor. Infused with an independent Appalachian spirit, Asheville lies just 63 miles north of Greenville. That free spirit is what fuels Friday evening drum circles in downtown’s Pritchard Park, alternative medicine practices, and an army of artists who seek out Asheville (population 92,500) as the best place to pursue their craft.
More than 200 of these artists ply their trade in the River Arts District (or RAD, as the locals say), in renovated industrial warehouses that border the French Broad River in West Asheville. You could easily spend an afternoon here, chatting with artisans working in media from clay to copper and grabbing a bite at White Duck (tacos), 12 Bones (barbecue) or a beer at Wedge Brewing Company.
That independent spirit boils over into the city’s food and beverage scene, which brags Katie Button, John Fleer, Jacob Sessoms, and rising star Ashleigh Shanti among its celebrity chefs. Not to mention the fact that Asheville claims more breweries per capita than any other city in the U.S.
Asheville’s most famous attraction, Biltmore is the 8,000-acre estate built for George and Edith Vanderbilt in 1895. A day is barely enough to tour the mansion, stroll the gardens and indulge in a tasting at the on-site winery.
While you’re exploring downtown, with its outstanding collection of Art Deco architecture, note how the Blue Ridge Mountains wrap their arms around the city. This lofty location promises an outdoorsman’s wonderland of hiking trails, waterfalls and other excursions. Some of the area’s best hiking trails and scenic views lie along the Blue Ridge Parkway, as it weaves past Asheville on its way from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smokies.
Nature lover, history buff, art and architecture fan, or foodie: Whatever your pleasure, you can soak it all in here, intermingled with the edgy atmosphere that defines this mountain town.
Asheville Art Museum
2 S. Pack Square, Asheville
A recent expansion added 70% more space in which the museum can display its collection of 20th- and 21st-century American Art.
1 Lodge St., Asheville
The largest private home in the U.S., George Vanderbilt’s 1895 chateau-style mansion reveals the luxe lifestyle of the Gilded Age.
French Broad Chocolate Factory
821 Riverside Drive, Asheville
Chocoholics young and old will enjoy seeing how bean-to-bar chocolate is made, and sampling the irresistible results at the adjacent café.
River Arts District
Clingman Avenue at Lyman Street, West Asheville
Old industrial buildings along the French Broad River now hold a wealth of artist’s galleries and studios, restaurants, and breweries.
Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site
52 N. Market St., Asheville
Tour the childhood home of writer Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), who immortalized the house in his autobiographical novel, “Look Homeward, Angel.”
Benne on Eagle
35 Eagle St., Asheville in The Foundry Hotel
In the historic Asheville neighborhood known as The Block, Chef Ashleigh Shanti deliciously fuses her African-American culinary heritage with Appalachian food traditions.
22 Battery Park Ave., Asheville
Head to Meherwan Irani’s little eatery for some of the best — and most affordable — Indian street food around.
24 Wall St., Asheville
From pizza to wood-fired entrées, chef/owner Brian Canipelli crafts regional Italian dishes using ingredients from local farms.
13 Biltmore Ave., Asheville
Award-winning chef Katie Button is justly acclaimed for her superb interpretation of traditional Spanish tapas.
168 Haywood Road, Asheville
What’s more satisfying than a made-to-order donut, proofed overnight and served warm, right from the fryer?
Carolina Bed & Breakfast
177 Cumberland Ave., Asheville
Six lovely rooms plus a cottage make comfortable accommodations in this 1901 Arts and Crafts-style home in the Montford Historic District.
51 S. Market St., Asheville
Rooms with hardwood floors and brick walls preserve a piece of Asheville history in a restored steel factory.
Inn at Biltmore
1 Lodge St., Asheville
On the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, the inn reflects Gilded Age style against a backdrop of panoramic mountain views.
Kimpton Hotel Arras
7 Patton Ave., Asheville
Local artwork complements the mountain modern décor at the Arras, which enjoys a prime downtown location on Pack Square.
The Omni Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Ave., Asheville
Now owned by the Omni, this venerable resort hotel embraced by the Blue Ridge Mountains has been an Asheville mainstay since 1913.