|The home of famous American author Thomas Wolfe
Asheville is a friendly, warm southern state filled with colourful stories, great restaurants and even more colourful characters. On arriving in Asheville, North Carolina, I encountered a group of musicians picking up their instruments from the baggage carousel. That’s not something you see every day in London, Ontario where we try hard to hide our artsy secret lives beneath business suits or day jobs. Cab driver Tom Grandy confirms Asheville is a liberal, artistic, outdoorsy, community surrounded by states that are much less liberal in their politics. In fact located between mountain ranges the area is known as an energy mecca for artists of all sorts. It draws legions of practicing pagans and wiccans every year as well. Asheville is the largest city in Western, North Carolina, with great picturesque mountain ranges and hiking trails. In the winter there is skiing and in summer the rivers and golf courses draw some to the area. There is no end to the number of fun outdoorsy activities to enjoy with family. Zip Lining, mountain biking, sightseeing and hiking are healthy ways to spend the afternoon. From the street performers to the cab drivers, everyone has a story to tell. Some famed Hollywood stars are rumoured to have homes here, like Sandra Bullock and Andie McDowell. Cabby Tom Grandy is often called on when celebs like Gladys Knight and her family fly into the small town. About 70,000 people call this city home. It is tricky to get to for those of you, who, like me, are from Canada. There are no flights without stopovers and the drive from most places in southern Ontario is well over 12 hours straight through. But it is nonetheless a popular spot for other Americans and Canadians who don’t mind the drive. I flew to Asheville for the Type A Mom conference recently and wished I’d brought family with me when I heard of the enjoyable hiking trails. If I were to travel here agin I would be tempted to drive with the whole family as flying was an ordeal with numerous stopovers and delays. A slower scenic drive might be more fun, when done with a group and with a couple of strategic tourist stops on the way. A fall trip to the mountains is majestic especially if timed to witness the changing foliage. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, the climate in Asheville is temperate. Snow falls in the winter, but there are few snowstorms. Downtown Asheville is a thriving and beautiful spot to visit, whether on foot, by car, or inside one of the fun tourist buses. Street performers and artists lend the dynamic core a vibrant tone and life. Downtown there is an amazing drum circle every Friday evening that is brilliant. The small shops and mom and pop operations have lasted for years. Remarkably they have resisted change and the overall effect is a powerful lesson in civic planning. Asheville’s downtown doesn’t contain the big name stores that some places rely so heavily on, but it is vibrant and magnificent, one of a kind. Asheville architecture is unique, with many buildings remarkably preserved from the 1800s. Restaurants are plentiful and also varied in their themes. One evening we had the chance to dine at Chai Pani on Indian food. The atmosphere was fantastic, prices and service good and the food itself even better. Before you leave take a trip to the top of Skybar, also on Battery Park Avenue. Inside, there is a quaint old fashioned elevator, equipped with an operator, and a ride to the top will net you the best view in town.
|A street performer on Thursday night
Asheville is a place know for its art galleries, and is one of the only airports I’ve ever been in that boasts its own gallery. Culturally, it is a distinct community that offers a lot and takes some of its homespun flavour from the Appalachians. The Biltmore Estate is located here in Asheville, and if time permits, it is a piece of history that should be taken in. Known as the biggest home ever built in the United States and once lived in by the VanderBilt family, it has over 200 rooms and the house itself is a grand, opulent, chateau – an American castle. It has been temporary setting to many movies over the past sixty or so years and was opened to the public as a tourist attraction back in the 1930s. I didn’t know what to expect of this city before I visited. It was a charming place to visit and I would recommend it for a fun family adventure, especially if your family enjoys getting outdoors. A jewel of the Carolinas, Asheville is well worth the visit.
|Some of the architecture is well preserved and dates to the 1800s