Asheville Mountain Attractions
Photo courtesy of Biltmore Estate.
Dan & Nancy whitewater rafting.
If you can imagine our valley as a pendant, then Asheville would be an Art Deco gem held by a setting of blue-green mountains. It’s easy to think of Asheville and Western North Carolina in artistic terms. Arts and crafts have been a way of life here since woodcarvers and quilters used their creativity to supplement farm income. That tradition lives on in the rich handiwork of area artists for sale at the Folk Art Center and dozens of galleries. It’s greatest manifestation is in the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home and an icon of the Gilded Age. Manmade creativity blends perfectly with the mountains’ natural outdoor attractions, including Chimney Rock Park.
Asheville and surrounding villages are artwork themselves. Fine craftsmen and architects outdid each other in the days of opulence and speculation at the dawn of the last century. The Great Depression ended the boom, but the buildings lived on, escaping the urban renewal that brought a sameness to America’s other cities. In Asheville, you can walk the Urban Trail and learn more about the rich history of our city, from drover crossroad to the era of the grand hotels to today’s colorful cosmopolitanism.
These mountain downtowns offer unique opportunities for shoppers. Fine arts and crafts, antiques and a delicious assortment of restaurants are all clustered in central business districts.
In the case of Weaverville, the rich assortment of attractions include Mangum and Miya galleries; and fun dining at Blue Mountain Pizza, Twisted Laurel, Stoney Knob Cafe, Well-Bred Bakery and Cafe, Glass Onion and Bavarian Restaurant. You can learn more about what’s happening in our town at visitweaverville.com.
Indulge your taste buds. Asheville has some gourmet specialties, including mountain trout cooked 47 ways, Southern barbecue and some of the finest microbrew beers in the Southeast. But the gastronomic attraction here is the diversity of dishes to be found, ranging from curry and couscous to Caribbean to aged steaks. As in Europe, dining in Asheville is an event where one lingers to enjoy the flavor and texture of life as well as dinner. For a sampling of the best dining, consider taking the Asheville Food Tours.
Savor the contrasts. Snack on sushi before giving clogging a try at Shindig on the Green. Try on the latest hiking boots before the opera. Dine at a cool sidewalk table, then burn the calories off dancing at a steamy nightclub. There’s a good reason that both Modern Maturity and Rolling Stone called this the place to be.
For a calendar of upcoming events, visit ExploreAsheville.com.
To learn more about local attractions, visit RomanticAsheville.com, AshevilleNC.com, Ashevillelist.com and AshevilleNow.com. To learn more about North Carolina attractions, see North Carolina Division of Tourism.
Nancy and Dan’s Top 10 Asheville Cheap Thrills
This list isn’t meant to be a suggestion of how to spend your limited vacation time. But it does give you an idea of how local folks have fun off the beaten path without spending a lot. Check out our Area Attractions page for specifc directions to these thrills.
- A soak in the woods at Hot Spring Spa. A gurgling brook, a Jacuzzi full of hot mineral-rich water, your sweetie and a whole lot of privacy under the stars are the attraction here. And it barely costs more than a lap past the McDonald’s drive-thru.
- Gourmet pizza and some of the finest microbrew on the planet would be reason enough to visit Asheville Pizza and Brewing Co., one of more than a dozen micobreweries in the Asheville area. But they also show recently released (but not quite first-run) movies for $3. What a deal.
- Picnic on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 1.5 mile hike to the top of Craggy Gardens and back is just long enough to work up an appetite for lunch at one of the most beautiful, sunny and pleasantly breezy picnic areas around. If you make the hike around Labor Day, bring a bag for wild blueberries.
- Become a flower child. Admission to the N.C. Botanical Gardens at UNC-Asheville is free but priceless. The collections of wildflowers and enchanting paths are pleasant for even the most botanically challenged.
- The Urban Trail. What a fun and educational way to make your acquaintance with Asheville. And each stop along the self-guided walk is marked with a whimsical sculpture guaranteed to make you smile.
- DuPont State Forest. North Carolina’s newest state forest, snatched from a developer by a conservancy group and turned over to the state. What were intended to be roads are now trails for hikers, horses and wheelchairs, making it one of the most comfortable and accessible hiking areas. And with good reason: There are several spectacular waterfalls within a short hike. Look for backdrops from the movie “Hunger Games.”
- Weaverville Art Safari. OK, so it only happens twice a year. But this self-guided studio tour is a great opportunity to pick up bargain artwork while getting a peek at how creative mountain dwellers live. Last weekend of April and last weekend of October.
- Farmers Market. One of the only retail places open on Sunday morning, it’s also a fun source of plenty more than ‘taters and ‘maters. Pick up some canned jams, whirlygigs and gee-haw whimmydiddles, Amish cheese and sourwood honey. Sears doesn’t sell this stuff.
- A trip to the mall. Except this time it’s the Grove Arcade, the first shopping mall in the Eastern United States, which spent the past several decades as a drab government office building. It has been restored to its ’20s glory with marble, brass, leaded glass and reconditioned Art Deco details, and hosts dozens of charming little shops.
- Folk Art Center. Another rare shop open on Sunday morning, is on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s the retail outlet for the Southern Highland Craft Guild, some of the most talented craftspeople in America. Often you can watch demonstrations on chair caning, spinning wool, making brooms or any of dozens of other skills and crafts of Southern Appalachia.