Asheville’s Got a Quiet Cool Factor Amidst the Smoky Mountains

Asheville’s Got a Quiet Cool Factor Amidst the Smoky Mountains

By Burt Carey

 

Tourists have been coming to Asheville, N.C., for decades to see such famous attractions as the Biltmore House, the internationally acclaimed Grove Park Inn, and to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Great Smoky Mountains.

But there’s another culture growing here that today is drawing thousands. Locally crafted brews, culinary delights, art galleries and a thriving eclectic community have transformed downtown Asheville into a funky mountain city that features outdoor adventure, shopping and sightseeing during the days mixed with a robust nightlife.

Pisgah National Forest Looking Glass Falls  Photo:  Anja Disseldorp

Pisgah National Forest Looking Glass Falls
Photo: Anja Disseldorp

Who among us could turn down hiking along the Appalachian Trail, or the more than two dozen trails leading to exciting vistas in the Pisgah National Forest? While peak season for the nature-hearted seems to draw leaf watchers each fall, the wisps of fog that give the Great Smoky Mountains their name are apparent throughout the summer months.

If you need more than a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to satisfy a adrenalin rush, there are zip line canopy tours, trail riding by horseback, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and outdoor tours. Whether you’re into extreme sports or adventures with a softer appeal, the mountains surrounding Asheville offer adventures that the editors of Outside magazine rank highly among its top destinations for outdoor recreation.

Virtually every downtown street is dotted with unique businesses, including shopping malls and shopping districts for everything from antiques, toys and children’s shops to outfitters, clothing and jewelry stores. You’ll also find 17 tailgate farmer’s markets. For one full block the Grove Arcade is a shopping/dining destination you won’t want to miss, and the historic Biltmore Village, built as a planned community in the 1890s, features exquisite restaurants, boutiques and galleries.

Asheville’s performing arts scene is unlike anything you’d expect to find in a city of 90,000 people. The Altamont Theatre presents the works of inspiring professional musicians, actors, singers, directors and designers in a stunning 120-seat auditorium. The Asheville Chamber Music Series celebrated its 60th anniversary season in 2013, and features performances by acclaimed artists. There’s also the Asheville Choral Society, the Anam Cara Theatre Company, Asheville Community

Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate

Theatre, and the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, to name a few.

The city boasts of Art Deco designs, and the childhood home of native author Thomas Wolfe. Of course, George Vanderbilt’s 250-room Biltmore House is a favorite of Gilded Age enthusiasts, while the Victorian era is celebrated at the Smith-McDowell House-Museum. Built in 1840, it is Asheville’s oldest home.

Ah, but when the sun goes down is when this mountain jewel really shines and the local music scene takes over. Go anywhere near Patton Avenue on any Friday night and you’ll hear a distinct roll of drums. The popular Asheville Drum Circle is free and open to anyone who wants to come join the drum line. It’s also a great place for people watching.

Walking downtown poses no problem, and there’s always another wine bar, brew pub, sidewalk café or coffee shop to wet your whistle or give your legs a rest. Boasting more breweries per capita than any U.S. city, Asheville and the surrounding area is home to 21 craft breweries that on any given day offer up to 100 different local brews, both on draft and in bottles.

Asheville is and has been a lot of things: an art colony, healing resort, architectural wonder, home to notable luminaries, statesmen and bohemians. And today it is one of the most vibrant and welcoming cities in the Southeast.

Source:  Baret News Wire

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