Nestled on undulating hills in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the natural beauty of the Asheville area has always attracted the rich, the famous and the artistic. Nowadays, it retains that appeal and has become a trend-setting, liberal, eco-sensitive corner of Western North Carolina famed for historic architecture, an organic local culinary scene, breweries, wineries and lively outdoor entertainments. With a gentle climate, there are many months per year suitable for rafting, hiking, biking, golfing, and other outdoor pursuits.
1. Downtown Asheville
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Walkable Downtown – Anchored by the central Art Museum, downtown Asheville is trendy and artsy with many galleries and museums. Eminently walkable, there’s a mix of new and heritage buildings, staged as boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops (the Chocolate Lounge highly recommended) and market-type stores showcasing local artists, designers and artisans. The River Arts District houses artists’ studios in redesigned factories. Famous for craft beer, the town is liberally littered with brew pubs and taprooms. Footsore visitors can tour the town on the Lazoom Comedy Bus (http://www.lazoomtours.com/) or take the Amazing Pubcycle (http://amazingpubcycle.com/), an innovative bar on wheels propelled partly by pedal power, partly by motor. Remember to BYOB!
Heritage House: With 42 rooms available to the public, the Biltmore House and Gardens (http://www.biltmore.c
3. French Broad Vignerons Bon Appetite Wine and Food Trail
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Award Winning Wines: With North Carolina wines not widely available even in the ritzier restaurants in Asheville yet, their increasingly superior quality is actually even a secret from many of the locals. With craft beer culture prevailing, it is early days for North Carolina’s wonderful whites and reds to be widely distributed. But they are for sale at the chain of fabulous wineries around the state and also in a few shops. And French Broad Vignerons (www.frenchbroadvignerons.org)
4. Sierra Nevada Brewery Mills River
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Brewery Tours and Tastings: When the ubiquitous Sierra Nevada beer outgrew its Chico, California manufacturing facility a few years ago, where else to expand but to Asheville, NC the epicenter of craft beer brewing? The Mills River Sierra Nevada Brewery and Taproom is an impressive, 26-acred Appalachian estate, which you can visit for tours, tastings, dining, hiking and walking trails. There’s also an amphitheatre for live entertainment. For those who don’t have time for a tour, there’s a free self-guided corridor, which provides a sneak-peek at the brewery’s inner workings. And, for an in-depth appreciation of the history and manufacturing of Sierra Nevada beer, make a reservation for the popular, interactive (and free) 90-min tasting tour (http://www.sierranevada.com/b
5. Green Sage Cafe South Asheville
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Food, People, Planet: In a town full of nutritional eateries, the quintessential healthy harbinger is Green Sage Café (http://www.greensagecafe.com/
6. Bone and Broth
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Gastro Pubs: One of the newest places in town, Bone and Broth Neighbourhood Kitchen and Bar (http://boneandbrothavl.com/) is a gastro pub with a down-to-earth but decadent menu and great wine selection. Very meat oriented, fresh cuts come from the local Chop Shop and bakery goods from the City Bakery. Expect Southern classics like mac and cheese combined with premium dry-aged steaks, house-ground burgers, bone-in pork shank specials and even British bangers and mash. Low key ambiance, modern pub décor, great quality – somewhere that locals would go out after work for midweek munch and visitors should include in their itinerary.
7. Chestnut Restaurant Asheville
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Say Yes to Downtown Dining: Where to eat when downtown is full of restaurants of every description – some longstanding, some here today gone tomorrow? Chestnut, which opened this year, (http://www.chestnutasheville.
8. Vinnie’s Neighbourhood Italian Asheville
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Friendly Foodies with Flair: In a more residential area of Asheville, Vinnie’s (http://www.vinniesitalian.com
9. Double Ds Coffee and Desserts
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Double Decker Desserts: An eye-catching icon in Biltmore Ave for the past 8 years, the hip double-decker British bus café is owned by Jeff and Karen Lazzaro. Just outside the bus, they have created a cool courtyard with tinkling water fountains and round stone tables, complete with umbrellas. Visitors can sit inside in the renovated top deck where they also hold special events. Specializing in organic coffee and espresso drinks, Double Ds (http://doubledscoffee.com/) also serves cakes, muffins and cookies from the downstairs floor. Using this brightly painted low decker bus is the ultimate in recycling and reusing, says Jeff. The music ambiance is great, too, and his baristas are all singer songwriters who perform from time to time. With free Wi-Fi and a central people-watching position downtown, this is a happy, hippy, happening hangout.
10. Dancing at Drum Circle
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Music Maestro: Known for its live outdoor music celebrations, Asheville has a dedicated music microsite (https://www.ashevil
11. Grove Arcade at Night
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Ritzy Retail: Built by E.W. Grove, who also created Asheville’s iconic Grove Park Inn, The Grove Arcade (http://www.grovearcade.com/) dates back to 1929. During World War II it was taken over by federal government but reverted to retail in 2002 when it was recreated as a glamorous shopping arcade, housing sophisticated furniture stores, jewelry designers, clothing, arts and crafts and several wine bars and restaurants. Outside there is the unique Portico Market, a dozen stalls housing local farmers and artisans plying their wares directly to the public. Just up the road there is an old F. W. Woolworth store. While the food bar and signage are the only vestiges of the defunct national chain, the building has been repurposed as an art and artisan gallery with multiple outlets over two floors. Opposite is Chocolate Fetish, known for its decadent truffles.
12. Omni Grove Park Inn Golf
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Heritage Hotel: Built in 1913 from native uncut Sunset Mountain granite boulders, this stately golf resort has stupendous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from its terraces, spa and golf course. Plush, elegant, decorated in a historical motif with original Roycroft furnishings and fixtures, Great Hall and gigantic fireplaces, it has been hosting US presidents for decades. Quite recently President Obama went there on a couples’ golf retreat. Don’t miss the elevators cleverly concealed inside the stone of the fireplaces. Other features include the 18-hole 6,400-yard championship mountain golf course, a subterranean cave-like spa with massaging waterfalls and underwater music, an extensive sports complex, five restaurants, three bars, a café and boutiques. Designed to emulate the surrounding natural resources, it’s an unforgettable building with signature architecture including a strangely curved red clay-tiled roof and rugged stone walls, somewhat resembling a child’s picture of a mansion or even a Hobbit’s hotel! (https://www.omnihotels