America’s 20 Favorite Buildings

Consider it The People’s Choice awards for architecture. The American Institute of Architects commissioned a public poll on the most popular architectural works in the country. There are a number of well-known superstars including The Empire State Building and Faneuil Hall in Boston, but there is also the obscure and surprising; Seattle’s Safeco Field at #135, Denver International Airport at #57. The top of the list is decidedly skewed towards the northeast, especially New York and Washington D.C. who claim between them 16 of the top 20. Overall New York has 32 entries, while D.C. claims 17 and Chicago a respectable 16. Three of the favorites no longer exist #143 Pennsylvania Station, the original Yankee Stadium of 1923 at #84, and the World Trade Center at #19. Among the architects making more than one appearance are Frank Lloyd Wright with 7 works; Eero Saarinen with 3 and one Thomas Jefferson with 2. Here are the Top 20 American structures that still stand and attract millions of sightseers and pilgrims from around the world:

20. Philadelphia City Hall (Philadelphia, PA)

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A truly magnificent building, it’s widely considered to be the best piece of French Second Empire architecture in the country. It is a massive exercise in granite, sandstone, and marble with muscular columns, some 250 pieces of sculpture including a massive 27 ton bronze of William Penn (as in Pennsylvania) on the clock tower. The 24 foot thick walls hold 4 acres of space with 700 rooms. It took 30 years to build, as only a government building can. Money was no object in a futile attempt to regain the city’s pre-eminence over the upstarts in New York and Washington, it was for a brief time, the tallest building in the world. Demolition was considered in the 1950s and thank goodness rescinded.

19. Brooklyn Bridge (New York City, NY)

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It was a huge deal when it opened in 1883. A sitting President, Charles Arthur, and a future one; New York Governor Grover Cleveland attended. The towers are built of limestone, cement, and Maine granite delivered by schooner. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world for 20 years and like other New York landmarks, it captured the artistic and popular culture’s imagination from Georgia O’Keefe through Jack Kerouac to Wycliffe Jean. Poet Marianne Moore wrote, “way out; way in; romantic passageway first seen by the eye of the mind, then by the eye. O steel! O stone! Climactic ornament, a double rainbow.” Beginning life on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Revolutionary War, the Bridge captures the enormous optimism of the economic boom of the Second Industrial Revolution. On ArchDaily, Cristopher Henry says the Bridge transformed not only bridge-building but the city of New York itself. The Gothic Revival style span lit up at night framed by the Manhattan skyline, does seem like a road to a promised land.

18. Hotel Del Coronado (San Diego, CA)

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What could be more striking, or make less sense, than a perfect example of 19th-century British architecture on the California Pacific coast? A California beach house in downtown London perhaps? Though it may seem to an architectural fish out of the water, it has been a magnet for celebrities, royalty, and U.S. Presidents since it opened in 1888 at the peak influence of the Queen Anne building style. But such was its renown that its guest list includes from the Prince of Wales to Charlie Chaplin to Barack Obama. Queen Anne’s design is ornate and precious and violates every law of the American School which holds that buildings should be organic as if the art of the site on which it’s built. But then architect James Reid apparently never studied law. The jumble of turrets and excess celebrates the Golden Age of decadence. Jay Gatsby would have been a frequent visitor had he actually existed. Gilded Age exuberance.

17. Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City, NY)

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The Met, as it’s affectionately known, has been evolving as an idea and entity since 1866. It has added and subtracted whole sections over the decades and has become imposing if the not terribly harmonious mix of International, Modern, and Contemporary architecture, yet it somehow fits in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Its vast interior holds collections among the best in the world, with a net worth of approximately the Gross National Product of Iceland. Of course, everyone would think of fit fondly. It’s a list of the Faves, not the Bests.

16. St. Regis Hotel (New York City, NY)

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It was meant to be the lap of luxury, by and for New York’s insanely wealthy aristocracy. A monument to conspicuous consumption built by the Astor family. In his book ‘Built to Last’ the renowned hotel historian Stanley Turkel described the interior like this: “marble floors and hallways from the quarries of Caen, Louis XV furniture from France, Waterford crystal chandeliers, antique tapestries, and oriental rugs, a library full of 3,000 leather-bound, gold-tooled books… beautiful burnished bronze entrance doors, rare wood paneling, great marble fireplaces, ornamental ceilings and a telephone in every room”, a rare luxury at the time. In fact the New York Times reported that St. Regis offered luxury “on a scale of sumptuosity quite without precedent.” The great Russian writer Maxim Gorky visited and remarked, “Neither the Grand Dukes nor even the Czar, have anything like this.” It remains a Beaux-Arts gem in limestone.

15. Supreme Court of the United States (Washington, DC)

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The Supreme Court was 146 years old before it got its own building that opened in 1935. Its austere steel-framed marble-faced exterior on classic Roma temple lines with its thick Corinthian columns gives way to a more ornate interior with brass friezes, extensive statuary of mythical figures, and oak carvings that suggest a place of worship rather than one of sober deliberation. It’s a surprise that makes it is perhaps the last D.C. project to come in UNDER budget. The website says it combines classical grandeur and quiet dignity. The courtroom alone contains 24 columns of Italian marble from the same area Michelangelo sourced him; the walls and friezes of Spanish Ivory Vein marble floor borders incorporate African marble.

14. The Gateway Arch (St. Louis, MO)

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2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the date the final piece was put into place completing the majestic span across the Mississippi and putting the iconic Arch up there with other quintessential American sites like Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty. It is a memorial to the settlers who passed through the Gateway City of St. Louis. It also is a tribute to Thomas Jefferson who as President “championed the Louisiana Purchase and sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition westward. Technically it is a weighted catenary curve of over 17,000 tons of perfectly symmetrical concrete and steel. It is 630 feet high and 630 wide. The Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen is now considered one of the masters of American 20th-century architecture and furniture design. He won the design competition for the Arch in 1948 but sadly didn’t live to see construction begin in 1963 let alone to see it finished.

13. Grand Central Station (New York City, NY)

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A grand European palace masquerading as a New York train station. It looks like a transit point exclusively for the well-to-do but in fact shepherds 750,000 people on their way, merrier for having passed through a great work of art on their way to work and home. On the outside are 50 foot high statues of Roman gods; Minerva Goddess of Wisdom, Mercury; God of financial gain, travelers, luck, trickery, and thieves, eminently qualified to be the patron site of Manhattan not to mention Hercules. Within the classic Beaux-Arts exterior lies a vast interior, larger than Notre Dame in Paris featuring too many masterpieces to list, bronze and stone carvings, Tennessee marble floors, frescoes of zodiac constellations. All illuminated by ten lavish chandeliers of nickel and gold, now containing energy-efficient bulbs. The New York Tribune wrote, “Here is a space like the nave of an Old World cathedral. It compels to silence.”

12. Washington Monument (Washington, DC)

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It’s interesting that plans for a monument to George Washington were first discussed in 1783, construction began in 1848, and completion came in 1884 and the public got in in 1888. His followers wanted to build one as huge as their respect and devotion and many were rejected for being too grandiose for the new Republic. The elevator that was added in 1889 is still what visitors ride to the observation decks and their tremendous views of the capital. Technically, it is a classic Greek-inspired obelisk of 555 ft. in marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss. It also contains some 193 memorial stones donated for inclusion. The donors ranged from the Sae of Utah, the Welsh people of New York to the Ottoman Empire.

11. St. Patrick’s Cathedral (New York City, NY)

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The neo-Gothic Cathedral of St. Patrick is the largest Catholic Church in the United States and certainly among the most beautiful. Its marble-clad brick facade must be a powerful, imposing site when it opened in 1879. Its 330ft twin neo-Gothic towers soared above the neighborhood and were said to be visible for twenty miles since dwarfed by sprouting skyscrapers.
Inside it has the traditional shape of the Latin cross. Its altars were designed by a Borgia, a Medici, and Tiffany &co. Its renowned stained glass was crafted in England but the rose window, in the Gothic tradition was crafted by Charles Connick, a master of stained glass who the New York Times described as “the world’s greatest contemporary craftsman in stained glass.” A Pieta, three times larger than Michelangelo’s in the Vatican was added in 1906. Five million people go every year to worship and just experience this architectural wonder.

10. Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (Washington, DC)

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No doubt full of intangible meaning for Americans, the memorial is a profoundly moving experience wherever you’re from. Simplicity can engender an eloquence the grandest design may not. The façade of the 600-foot straight black wall of Indian granite lists the names of the 58,175 names Americans who died in the war. Its effect is intensified by the decision to build down rather than up, as if to mirror the descent into the depths of the carnage on the descent into the and eventually, after the last name to emerge a touched and changed person, back into the land of the living. Maya Lin, a Chinese American from Ohio was just 21 years old when she won the commission. There are 57,939 names on the original. At last count, that has grown to 58,286. In a
1983 interview published in the AIA Journal, Lin explained her inspiration, “I thought about what death is, what a loss is. A sharp pain that lessens with time, but can never quite heal over. A scar. The idea occurred to me there on the site. Take a knife and cut open the earth, and with time the grass would heal it.”

9. Chrysler Building (New York City, NY)

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Like many masterpieces, the Chrysler Building opened to bad reviews. It was dismissed as a publicity stunt by Chrysler to beat the Manhattan Bank to completion and dethrone the Eiffel Tower as the world’s tallest building at the time. Its architect William van Alen was also dismissed as a “Dr. of Altitude.” But its Art Deco style has grown in stature since its heyday in the 1920s and ’30s. It came to be regarded as over the top kitsch but went to become its own school of furniture, poster art, and telephones. The Chrysler is one of the last of its kind, the Art Deco skyscraper. A counterpoint to the somber Vietnam memorial the Chrysler emits the brash, confident futuristic exuberance of Art Deco at its best. If it had an observation deck, it may well have eclipsed the Empire State building in popularity. Its interior is yet more stunning. Lonely Planet guides suggest the best views are from the corner of 3rd and 44th. Or ironically from the observation deck of the Empire State. Where else could you see gargoyles in the image of Chrysler car parts?

8. Biltmore Estate (Asheville, NC)

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The British writer and Oscar Wilde once said that “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” He might have had George W. Vanderbilt, one member of the wealthiest and influential American families in history, whose contemporary descendants include CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. George W. fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains and bought 125,000 acres of it to build his summer estate. Only the best for a Vanderbilt, he hired Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer, and architect-in-chief of Central Park. The French Renaissance ‘summer home’ has a copper roof monogrammed with the owner’s initials. Just the interior floor covers 4 acres. There are 34 bedrooms, 65 fireplaces and at a time when indoor plumbing was rare, 43 bathrooms. Despite its excess, it is a beautiful piece of work, intended to rival the old estate manors of Europe. The largest private home in America is a Historic Site and open to the public for tours.

7. Lincoln Memorial (Washington, DC)

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It is by no means a late Italian Renaissance piece or the ages but the Lincoln Memorial is a fascinating and compelling structure. Its grand exterior is a stunning Greek temple with 36 sturdy Doric columns, one for each state in the Union in 1865. The expectation that something of this classic magnitude would be a memorial or tomb of a great champion or god even. And there is inside a sculpture of the Great Emancipator himself but if you didn’t know his history you’d wonder if he won or lost the battle. The great American sculptor Daniel Chester French presents not a triumphant demi-God but a man, seated rumpled and not just tired but so weary from having seen too much grief. This was partly aesthetic genius partly astute politics. Construction of the Monument began in 1914, less than 50 years after the Civil War ended and any celebratory construct would have been deeply offensive to the South. The Southern Wall contains an elegant rendition of the Gettysburg Address while the north wall holds his second Inaugural Address which ends with the famous words… “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

6. U.S. Capitol (Washington, DC)

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The U.S. Capitol’s design was selected by President Washington in 1793. Construction quickly began but they had to start over after the British burned it in the War of 1812. Like so many buildings in DC, it is classic Greek and Roman, the neoclassical style favored by Thomas Jefferson as befitting a modern empire. In fact, he wanted the Capitol to be patterned after the Roman Pantheon. It has what might be called an intimidating charm of imposing size, symbolism, and history. Expanded many times to its present 4 acres and 600 rooms, its most famous addition was the cast-iron dome in 1858 weighing almost 9,000,000 pounds. Inside is of course the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the home of the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government. Lesser known is the impressive collection of art accumulated and donated over the years. The Hall of Statuary is breathtaking as is the fresco in the Rotunda painted by Italian Constantino Brumidi in the Di sotto in sù (seen from below) style depicting the Apotheosis of Washington entering heaven with an escort of Roman gods representing among others War, Science and Agriculture.

5. Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, CA)

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One of the greatest engineering and design accomplishments of the 20th century, a rarely surpassed combination of strength and beauty. They said it would be impossible to build a bridge across the Golden Gate Strait. It took four years and the equivalent of $600 million but at its completion in 1937, it was the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world at almost 2 miles long. The two famous towers are 820 feet tall. The distinctive red Art Deco profile framed by the Pacific Ocean has made it known around the world a masterpiece in steel and concrete.

4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial (Washington, DC)

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Jefferson didn’t get his wish for The Capitol to be built after the Pantheon in Rome but his memorial in Washington D.C. certainly is. It was inaugurated by President Franklin Roosevelt on the bicentenary of Jefferson’s birth in 1743. FDR proclaimed “Today in the midst of a great war for freedom, we dedicate a shrine to freedom.” Jefferson’s intellect and influence towered above any of the founders, save for Washington himself. So it is more than fitting that the grand bronze statue of him inside the classic Roman architecture that he loved should tower over the interior showing him at the peak of his powers, with what is believed to be the Declaration of Independence in his hand.

3. Washington National Cathedral (Washington, DC)

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A majestic Gothic Revival work in Indiana limestone, its construction was launched with a speech from President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 and was completed only in 1990. A hallowed place of ecumenical worship the church is also deeply reflective of American history. It was the last pulpit from which the Reverend Martin Luther King preached before his assassination in 1968. The funerals of Presidents Reagan and Eisenhower were held there. Woodrow Wilson is buried there. There is stained glass devoted to the Apollo moon landing with a piece of moon rock. Recently, the church stewards decided to remove two stained glass panels honoring Confederate Generals Robert TE Lee and Stonewall Jackson containing the Confederate flag. The top of the lofty Gloria in Excelsis vault is the highest point in the capital. It tries to be user-friendly, incorporating a young person’s design of a Darth Vader gargoyle on the roof. Still, really more popular than the Golden Gate?

2. The White House (Washington, DC)

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Construction of the original Presidential residence began in 1702. It was nothing like the current version, especially being not white but a grayish Georgia mansion. Its first tenants were the second President, John Adams, and wife Abigail. The British torched it in 1812 and Hoban rebuilt it but it wasn’t until a major renovation in 1824 that the portico and pillars turned the modest Georgian home into a neoclassical white building. The West Wing burned in 1929 and with its rebuilding, it became what we know today. The whitewashed sandstone walls are the originals. Inside it contains 132 rooms, 28 fireplaces, and 32 bathrooms, Interesting trivia: running water was not installed until 1835.

1. Empire State Building (New York City, NY)

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Honestly, if you were making King Kong in 1933 and deciding on which building in the entire world on which the huge protagonist to meet his dramatic demise, what other choices could you make but the Empire State, the tallest most glamorous building in the world? It has appeared in 250 movies from the sublime (An Affair to Remember) to the ridiculous (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas). The 86th-floor observation deck has had over 100 million visitors, among the most popular in the world. While there are superstar architects with multiple entries in the list (Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen), the New York firm that built the Empire State has just one. At the very top. It’s not just the view or the gorgeous Art Deco façade. It is the architectural version of swagger, the iconic image that says you are in the home of the Leader of the Free World. When Canadian Far Wray, the actress who played King Kong’s love interest, died in 2004, the Empire State went dark for 15 minutes in silent, eloquent tribute.

The Top Things to See and Do in Asheville, NC

Planning on traveling to Asheville, North Carolina for a vacation destination? They promise not to disappoint. The natural beauty that is contained in and around Asheville is a sight to behold and a pleasure for the senses to experience. From the beautiful Appalachian Mountains featuring the highest peak of all at Mount Mitchell to the colorful, aromatic NC Arboretum, the scenery will both delight and astound. Don’t forget about the rich artistic heritage of the people and make sure you make time to take in some live performances at one of their many local theaters or at their annual music festival and check out some incredible folk art. Not being totally outdone by Mother Nature, Asheville also offers historical buildings worth your time and energy.

10. Learn on the WNC Cheese Trail

The WNC (Western North Carolina) Cheese Trail offers visitors an opportunity to see and sample freshly made cheeses. Because of the diversity of the cheese-makers and scenery, travelers can make it an afternoon trip or a weekend trip to soak it all in. You will have the chance to meet the cheese-makers personally and after sampling their wares, you can even purchase directly from those manufacturers. You can’t get fresher than that.

The different cheese-makers also demonstrate different cheese-making operations varying from pioneers in the artisan cheese movement, to cow and goat milk cheese-makers. The Trail itself is a cooperative effort by farmstead and artisan cheese producers to promote the purchase of artisan cheese and to educate and promote tourism in the area. Though not all cheese-makers on the map of the trail are open for visitations, all support the effort and benefits of the trail. Sunday, April 26, 2015 marks the date of the very first Annual Carolina Mountain Cheese Festival at Highland Brewing which will benefit the WNC Cheese Trail.

Cheeses

9. Have Fun at Splasheville

Splasheville is one of the newest free local attractions in Asheville offering people a fun, family-friendly place to cool off during a hot summer day. Located in Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville, Splasheville is an interactive water park made to be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Splasheville features random spraying arches of water that fly up and are specifically designed to soak you and cool you off in the heat of summer. Since it’s located within Pack Square Park, you can enjoy the fountain and then lay in the warming and drying summer sun on lush green grass on the rolling fields. There is also a pavilion with drinking fountains and restrooms available and the best feature of all is that it’s all free. The park is generally open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. but sometimes closes for special events, so be sure to check their calendar.

Pack Square Park Asheville

8. Enjoy the World Coffee Cafe

The World Coffee Cafe is housed in a 1920s nine-story skyscraper called the Flatiron Building with the completely restored building itself being something to behold. It is located on the corner of Battery Park and Wall Street in the heart of downtown Asheville. The World Coffee Cafe’s Sky Bar, located on the top of the building, provides heated balconies and a breathtaking view of the city.

While enjoying the scenery, you can enjoy your choice of a drink, appetizer or dessert to stimulate all your senses. The Flatiron Building which is home to the World Coffee Cafe and Sky Bar is also home to over 60 other businesses including a spa and salon, attorneys’ offices, church and youth ministries, engineers and all kinds of healers and therapists. A pleasure for all five senses lies at the World Coffee Cafe so it is a definite must stop and enjoy destination while visiting Asheville.

Photo by: Flatiron Building Organization
Photo by: Flatiron Building Organization

7. Discover the Asheville Urban Trail

The Asheville Urban Trail is 1.7 miles long and is a walking tour through the downtown area of the city. There are 30 stops along the trail with public sculptures that serve as landmarks along the trail. The trail was built by volunteers with donations from various business and private sources as a way to promote the display of public art and support the improvement of the quality of city life.

This self-guided tour offers a riches of historic information spanning five distinct time periods. There are granite markers defining the five time periods – a feather representing the Guilded Age, a horseshoe illustrating the Frontier period, an angel representative of the Thomas Wolfe period, a courthouse for the Civic Pride Era and an eagle meaning the Age of Diversity. Walking the Asheville Urban Trail is a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while learning about the rich heritage of the city and its people. Trail maps are available at many locations throughout the city.

Statue Asheville

6. Visit the Basilica of St. Lawrence

The Minor Basilica of St. Lawrence was built in 1905 and is a minor Basilica of the Roman Catholic Church. It was elevated to minor basilica status by Pope John Paul II in 1993. It has the largest free standing dome in North America measuring 58 x 82 feet.

The interior of the Basilica is graced by ornate statues of St. Lawrence, St. Cecilia, St. Rose of Lima, St. Patrick and St. Peter the Apostle. It also features a high marble altar with a fresco painting of The Last Supper predominately featured. Above the altar is a wood carving of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Beloved Disciple mourning the crucifixion. It is also well-known for its many elaborate stained-glass windows featuring important biblical events and people, casting a rainbow of beautiful colors throughout the building. The three largest windows feature Christ healing the afflicted on one, another featuring the Transfiguration of Christ and the third one located over the organ loft features the Resurrection.

Basilica of St. Lawrence Asheville

5. Play at Sliding Rock Waterfall

Sliding Rock Waterfall on Looking Glass Creek is quite aptly named since the main aspect of the waterfall is an all-natural water slide providing the ability to slide on the rocks into the pool below. It is a beautiful natural phenomenon not to be experienced anywhere else. The gentle slope is about 60 feet long leading down into a 6-7 foot deep pool below.

The waterfall is a popular place for adventuresome visitors to slide down (in a seated position only) and cool off in the very cold water in the summer. It also features 2 viewing platforms, a parking lot at the top of the falls, stairs down to pool, and railings to help with the climb. There are restrooms and change rooms provided and occasionally, there is a lifeguard on duty (mostly on summer weekends). Otherwise, the natural slide is used at your own risk and it is advised that small children should only go down the slide on an adult’s lap for safety reasons. There is a $2.00 per person charge for this once in a lifetime experience…a small price to pay for such a great attraction.

Photo by: Adam Rice
Photo by: Adam Rice

4. Enjoy Live Music and Theater

Asheville, NC’s passion for the arts does not end with arts and crafts. Being a very vibrant people, Asheville residents and visitors have the pleasure of enjoying live music and theater as well with several acting companies and theaters to visit. There is an abundance of riches in live music and theater in this lovely city and no lack of something to enjoy. It covers all kinds of music and theater. Below are just a couple of examples. Be sure to explore to get your tickets for MUST NOT MISS shows.

The Brevard Music Center is a 45 minute drive from downtown Asheville and hosts the Brevard Music Festival which features an abundance of musicians to enjoy.  Over 400 students aged 14 through post-college age are anxious to eat, sleep and breathe music for seven weeks over the summer performing in over 80 shows. Many shows are free of charge, so be sure to check it out when you are in Asheville. Asheville Community Theater, one of many located in Asheville, offers a plethora of theater performances. It is one of the oldest theaters in the nation and the oldest in Asheville, with their performance lifetime spanning over 60 years. Featuring comedies, musicals and dramas, your theater experience will be second to none.

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

3. Visit the Folk Art Center

The Folk Art Center located just outside of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a museum that features Appalachian arts and crafts. It’s home to the offices of Southern Highland Craft Guild, the National Park Service and Eastern National (EN). The Southern Highland Craft Guild, the National Park Service, and the Appalachian Regional Commission cooperatively run the center which is the most popular attraction on the Parkway.

The center contains three art galleries, a library, auditorium, bookstore and information center. The Allanstand Craft Shop is one of the main features of the center and showcases more than 3,500 pieces of craft objects dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Frances Goodrich, a Yale student was instrumental in the development of the Allanstand Craft Shop which was originally known as Allanstand Cottage Industries. During the arts and crafts movement in the late 1920s, Southern Highland Craft Guild was formed and then chartered in 1930 growing to one of the largest craft organizations in the country. The Guild later partnered with the National Park Service and permanently located their headquarters to Asheville in 1980.

Photo by: Folk Art Center
Photo by: Folk Art Center

2. Climb Mount Mitchell

The most prevalent feature in North Carolina are the Appalachian Mountains with the highest peak belonging to Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet. Located about 32 miles northeast of Asheville, it’s an adventure just waiting to be experienced. Elisha Mitchell named the mountain after measuring its height and later fell to his death when he returned to verify his earlier measurements.

There is a 4.6 mile road off the Blue Ridge Parkway and a 980 foot trail ascending the mountain now, making it a much easier task to reach the summit than it was in the time of Elisha Mitchell. At the summit, you will find the tomb of Dr. Mitchell as well as an observation deck to peer down at all the breathtaking landscape around you. The mountain is coated in fir and spruce forest creating an exquisite lush green covering in the summer. Wild flowers, blackberries and blueberries provide an abundant food source for birds in the area making this a natural paradise to visit.

Mount Mitchell NC

1. Experience the North Carolina Arboretum

Spanning 434 acres, the North Carolina Arboretum is located within the boundaries of Bent Creek Experimental Forest just southwest of Asheville and is both an arboretum and botanical garden. Admission to the arboretum is free but there is a charge for parking. The arboretum is still being developed and features hiking and biking trails as well as a bonsai collection, stream garden and holly garden to name a few.

Some of the gardens featured in the arboretum are: Blue Ridge Quilt Garden which is really self-explanatory in its name…quilt designs of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Cliff Dickinson Holly Garden featuring American and non-native hollies, Heritage Garden which is actually a demonstration garden for crafts, Plant Professional Landscape Garden which is used to study, train and test for the Certified Plant Professional exam, National Native Azalea Repository featuring numerous azalea species native to the United States, Plants of Promise Garden demonstrating residential gardens, Stream Garden which consists of trees, shrubs and perennials in a formal setting and the Support Facility Perennial Border consisting only of perennial flowers.

North Carolina Arboretum

9 Most Overrated Cities in the US

Moving – or traveling – to a new place is something that can really make life worth it. While traveling in any form is pretty amazing, there just are some cities in the United States that aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they should be skipped altogether, it just means that a person should temper their expectations should they choose to visit them.

Here, we’ll list the top 9 cities that we consider to be vastly overrated.

9. Boston

Most Americans love their history. If you’re planning to visit Boston for that aspect, you’ll assuredly appreciate the city. It’s beautiful in that regard. For many, that’s kind of where it ends. Not only has it been viewed as one of the least friendly cities in the US, but it’s also one that has a massive superiority complex. A lot of this has to come from their cultural significance, as well as their perceived excellence of their sports teams.
Boston

8. San Francisco

Admittedly, there’s a lot to love about San Francisco. It’s a very good looking city, and there’s plenty to do. However, it makes this list because it’s definitely fit for certain types of people – those who really love to protest and those who have long been referred to as hipsters. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make for a city that has an air of pretentiousness. Couple that with some of the highest rents in the country, you have a city that will definitely make many overrated lists.
San-Francisco

7. Portland

If you’re a young person, Portland is basically Mecca. However, if you’re not – you may not find all that much to love about it, provided that you’re not into outdoors-y kind of things. One of the biggest things is the fact that there isn’t much in the way of employment there. Of course, this isn’t a big deal if you’re just visiting. However, should you decide to move, you may want to bring your own job.
Portland Oregon 1

6. Austin

Keep Austin weird. This is something that has become a slogan for the city. That’s something to appreciate for many, especially in a state that is as rigid as Texas. While that’s commendable, Austin is also uncomfortably hot. It takes a spot on this list because it does seem to try too hard to stand out from the pack, and it shows in many of the residents that make it their home.
Austin Texas 1

5. Asheville

Asheville is probably one of the prettiest smaller cities in the southeast. Very culturally similar to Portland, Asheville has something that Portland doesn’t – disgruntled residents. They just don’t seem to be very happy that you’re there, unless you happen to fit a certain mold. The reasons are understandable – it’s a city that has become the “it” place for younger people across the southeast, which amounts to massive traffic and other stresses on a city that doesn’t have the ability to accommodate it.
Asheville North Carolina

4. NYC

You would think that New York City would be higher on the list, especially considering how big it is. However, that’s the very reason why it’s not higher. You can essentially hide yourself in a certain community and not feel as if you’re not in New York at all. However, the city as a whole is overrated for a couple of reasons. It’s expensive, rude, and boisterous. Yes, all the time.
New York City

3. Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a city built on debauchery. Copious gambling and drinking? That may be fine for some, but it would be redeemable if the city wasn’t known as being one of the cheesiest in the US.
Las Vegas Nevada

2. Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a city that’s all style, but it’s also the one with the smallest amount of substance. To find the semblance of substance that it does have, you’ll have to drive at least an hour to get to it.
Los Angeles

1. Miami

Admittedly, Miami probably has the best nightlife on the planet. Unfortunately, you probably can’t afford it. By many lists, Miami is the most vain city in the United States. The interesting thing is that it’s not a city where people are rude, but they are most definitely judging the quality of your clothing and vehicle. This makes it much like LA. However, Miami is also a city where there isn’t much in the way of gainful employment.
Miami Florida