Have you ever visited a place that captures your heart and comforts your soul? A place that seems to resonate with every part of your being, down to your very core? One that makes your inner voice tap you on the shoulder and whisper ‘Yeah, I could see myself living here ….’? For me, Asheville, North Carolina is one of those places. My love for this quirky mountain town was validated on my last visit, and I left wondering why I don’t make the 4-hour trip across the state to visit more often.
Asheville can best be described as unique, eccentric and artsy with just enough weird thrown in to peak your curiosity and tantalize your senses. The downtown is a bustling center of activity that is incredibly walkable and pedestrian friendly. There are enough one-of-a-kind galleries, gift shops, restaurants and independent coffee shops to satisfy even the most demanding visitor. Did you say breweries? Asheville’s got you covered. NPR has described Asheville as the ‘Napa Valley of beer”. Choose from a wide assortment of craft breweries and cideries, many of which are adjacent to one another or just a few blocks apart in the downtown district. Music lovers will surely find something to whet their appetite at one of the many venues or festivals any time of the year.
If the Arts are more your thing, the River Arts District is a must-see and only a few short miles from downtown. There you will find close to 200 world-class artists across 22 buildings offering open studios, demos and galleries. Paintings? Pottery? Photography? Glass blowing classes? Check, check, check and check. Regardless of your preferred medium, chances are high you will find it here. The artistic vibe of Asheville is not limited to just the River Arts District. Don’t be alarmed if you find graffiti art on the side of buildings all over the city. These spots are becoming popular attractions and create great photo shoot locations for anything from social media posts to senior portraits or engagement pictures. On this trip, the graffiti art captured my attention and I made it my mission to locate as many of them as possible. I was happy with the results and took advantage of the subtle lighting from the overcast days to indulge in taking quite a few photos of my own.
On the more traditional side, Asheville’s crown jewel is the Biltmore Estate. Completed in 1895 as the worlds largest private residence for George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore estate is one of the best examples of Gilded Age architecture. Still owned by Vanderbilt’s descendants today, the 178,926 square foot residence (yes, 178,926!) is a must-see for first time Asheville visitors, especially in the Spring when the gardens are blooming or the end of the year holiday season. Even by today’s McMansion standards, the Biltmore is nothing short of awe-inspiring and mind-boggling, especially considering it was constructed over a century ago.
Maybe you are looking to just escape the rat-race to unwind and enjoy nature or indulge at a spa or with a Yoga class. Look no further. Asheville has a long history of the Healing Arts and many world class practitioners call Asheville home. Yoga studios are plentiful and Asheville Yoga Center, one of the largest, has some of the best Yoga instructors in the country visiting and offering regular workshops and seminars. Nature lovers – never fear, Asheville has something for you as well. The city is surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest and offers some of the best hiking, backpacking and mountain biking anywhere in the state. And the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail are just a short drive away.
Whatever your desire or interest, opportunities abound in Asheville. Often, the most rewarding part of exploring new places is discovering something that you did not expect or know about beforehand. Asheville is one of those places that will always surprise you. It seems every time I visit, I discover something new. I always leave buzzing with excitement, yearning to stay just a little bit longer with thoughts of my next visit keeping my mind occupied on the drive home. Do yourself a favor and make the time to check out Asheville, you may be surprised by what you discover!