I love Oakland, I really do. But I’m nursing a hot little town-crush on Asheville right now. We just got back from a trip to North Carolina, where we visited my dad and his wife in Charlotte, and then, on the advice of a ton of people who have told us it’s a great town, we spent a couple of days in Asheville. We weren’t really sure what to expect – it’s a long drive through a lot of green (beautiful!) countryside, and it seemed like it would be pretty small and remote. Well. It is small, but it has enough energy and bustle and music and good restaurants to give a major city a good reputation. One walk through town on a Friday evening and this was what I saw: lots of interesting, bustling restaurants (with outdoor seating, my favorite), music on every block (many good street musicians, live bands in many restaurants and most bars, and a weekly drum circle made up of about 20 drummers and what looked like half the town out shaking their booties), a large number of great pubs with serious beer at good prices (at least by SF standards), and tons of galleries and public art. Oh, and more chocolate shops than I’ve seen in recent memory. What more could you want? It’s a beautiful town full of old brick and art deco architecture, combined with a hippy/punk vibe and an emphasis on handcrafts and organic food and clothing. Pretty much up my alley. Granted, it was Labor Day weekend, and there may have been more going on that usual, but I thought it was a gem.
We stayed at a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast (oh yeah, that’s the other thing – there are about a million of these. They seem to be the accomodations of choice and, at least on Labor Day, seemed to run about the same price as the scarcer hotels) called the Hill House, built in 1885. The porch alone totally won me over, and I tried to spend as much of the short time we had in a rocker looking out over the gorgeous gardens. It was fun to play “South” for a bit. I could definitely get used to that.
The Hill House was just a few blocks from town, so we were able to get around almost entirely by foot. This was ideal, because you really get to appreciate all the amazing murals and public art that covers Asheville – pretty much every block had some cool mural or indie art exhibit, or just beautiful graffiti art, starting with the overpass when you come into town.
Oh, and did I mention the street musicians? There were probably 3 per block on Friday night – gypsy accordion bands (my favorite), old time fiddlers, songwriters, trios, a skillet player (I kid you not – see photo)… tons!
We got to try a few great restaurants, including Tupelo Honey, which specialized in local and organic southern food with a twist and offered flights of local brews, and Zambra, which served some of the best and most interesting tapas I’ve had.
There were also a few sweet urban gardens like this one dotted around town. I loved the innovative planters.
On Saturday we drove north to Hot Springs and spent some time hiking the Appalachian Trail. My mom had told me that my ancestors trekked over the Appalachians to Kentucky after the Revolutionary War, and I was trying to imagine covered wagons traveling that terrain. Amazing that they made it, but I’m sure glad they did. The trail we took went along the French Broad River for a bit (before shooting straight up and then plunging straight down) and all I could picture was a hefty dame with marcel curls and a feathered cap drinking a pastis. I wonder why they didn’t call it the Broad French?
Sunday was an arts festival downtown, and there was yet more (great) music, art and handmade stuff.
We saw The Swayback Sisters first thing, and I was totally enchanted by their harmonies.
Blackjack. Possibly the best rock and roll cover band I’ve ever seen, and they’re only 14. My jaw dropped when I saw who it was making all that sweet noise.
Something about “handmade hot dogs” totally cracks me up.
It was all I could do not to buy the Beatles dress.
Sunday afternoon we headed back to Charlotte, but too
k a detour so we could drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, through lots of these:
Not bad for a weekend adventure.
David14 years ago
One thing Jen forgot to mention…we were having lunch at a little restaurant in Hot Springs and asked “where do we go to find the Appalachian Trail?” The waitress responded “step out onto the sidewalk.” That answered cracked me up…I guess the trail rolls right through town. We then went to the rafting store and got directions to the “real” trail and hiked a mountain.
Linda B14 years ago
This is so cool! You completely make me want to go there!! Do you work for their travel company? LOL! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this awesome adventure:)
John14 years ago
Thanks for visiting my blog today! I hope I can provide some inspiration for your husband : )
Glad to hear you had such a great time here in the Tar Heel state. We lived in Charlotte for several years and have been trying to plan a weekend jaunt to Asheville for a while now, but just haven't gotten there. We're in Raleigh now, so it's still not too far. You've inspired me to make it happen!
Anonymous14 years ago
cool pics- glad to hear you liked A-Ville!…perhaps you'll want to make a return visit since you enjoyed it so much, and you can bring me sans crutches 🙂
Susanna Mendiola14 years ago
How fun! The city looks so full of life!
Anonymous14 years ago
Wow–your best blog entry ever. I think you could develop a spin-off career as a travel writer and photographer (perhaps for the chamber of commerce of less-well-known cities!–to echo the other comment) I'm convinced I've got to visit Asheville sometime soon. Love, K
Anonymous14 years ago
Glad you enjoyed your visit to Asheville – it's a great city. While you came on a holiday weekend, it would be the same nearly any weekend – or even weekday – from spring through the fall leaf season. You did very well to capture the spirit of Asheville. Come back and visit us anytime.
Clara14 years ago
Glad to hear that you enjoyed Asheville. My husband and I moved here from Washington, D.C. in 2001. I'd been yearning to move here since the late 80s, but could never figure out how to transfer my big-city career to a “smaller, kinder” place. Luckily for me, and to my employer's great credit, for the last three years I worked there, they let me have my home base here.
What you saw and heard Labor Day Weekend is not exclusive to holiday weekends. What I love about my new home town, 'though, is the warmth and good humor of my friends and neighbors.
Hope you come back.
Shannon13 years ago
I'm a Silicon Valley native, and we moved here from the west coast a little over five years ago. Missing the accessibility to our beloved Bay Area – we found Asheville to be our mini-San Fran cure (art + diversity + good food + music) to keep us happy.
And it's true…. every weekend is pretty much like this. Come back soon to enjoy all of our local goodness!
Anonymous13 years ago
And to think, you only barely scratched the surface of magic that is Asheville any day of the week!
Beth13 years ago
Hi from Asheville,
I enjoyed your photos and comments. My husband and I moved here 14 years ago from Poughkeepsie, NY after early retirement from IBM. We're glad we did.
Spring and fall last much, much longer than they did in NY (and in the mid-West). Winter is shorter and November and December are fun here, with lots of pre-Christmas happenings, including the national gingerbread house competition at the Grove Park Inn (visit it at sunset!) and at the Biltmore Estate, which goes all-out to decorate. Come on down (or over, or up) to visit or move to here! We get lots of Florida “half-backs” who live here for half the year, or move here permanently. We get humidity in the middle of the day in summer, but the mountain breezes clear it away most evenings. I'm active teaching and taking courses at the College for Seniors at the NC Center for Creative Retirement at UNC-Asheville – which is a national leader in life-long learning. Life is good here!
LaNita Cloninger13 years ago
Being an Asheville native – I get a kick when folks come here, love it as much as I do and decide to stay! If you ever decide to make our mountains your next home, give me a call – let me help you find a place in “the land of the sky!”
Beverly-Hanks & Associates
“Professionalism with a Southern Flair”
monaluna13 years ago
Wow – thanks for all the comments, guys! It's great to hear from all you Asheville natives! We will definitely go back… hopefully soon!