Asheville, North Carolina, is a quietly cosmopolitan Southern city offering much in the way of art, culture and outdoor living. The state’s 11th-largest city has been included on “best of” lists for its career opportunities, aesthetic beauty and a tame hipster vibe. These attributes are bringing more and more visitors and residents to the “Land of the Sky.”
Top among Asheville attractions is Biltmore, business mogul George Vanderbilt’s 250-room estate. Completed in 1895, the largest private home in the U.S. contains luxuries from high art to everyday entertainments. The wealthy Vanderbilt displayed original works of art by American and European masters and elaborate 16th-century tapestries in his halls and indulged in indoor swimming and bowling long before most people could even dream of homes with these sport facilities. Explore part of the 8,000 acres surrounding the French Renaissance grand château by walking among neatly landscaped gardens or taking a carriage ride across the grounds. Today, the estate is part of a complex that encompasses an inn and Antler Hill Village and Winery, a collection of restaurants, historic exhibits and shops.
Biltmore Village, located next to the entrance of Biltmore, was founded as a planned community for workers of the estate. It remains as a leisurely place to stroll and shop, with a charming inventory of independent shops and eateries lining brick and tree-lined streets.
Downtown Asheville is home to an array of boutiques, restaurants and bars. The Grove Arcade is among Asheville top retail attractions, comprising art galleries, restaurants and a compact museum. Vendors sell local products at the open-air Portico Market, on the south side of the arcade. A vast, ornate building with a Palladian exterior, the arcade has been carefully renovated to reflect its 1929 origins.
The emphasis on live music and innovative, often global, cuisine here expands the number of things to do in Asheville. The family-friendly East Asheville neighborhood boasts a number of authentic Greek and Italian restaurants, while curious culinary types are drawn to revitalized West Asheville, a funky neighborhood known for cafés and restaurants serving soul food to vegan fare.
Asheville is an architecturally distinctive city, boasting many buildings that date from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The eye-catching Asheville City Building, completed in 1928, rises from a marble foundation and is capped by an octagonal roof tiled in bright terra cotta. One of many notable Art Deco buildings in the city, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also on the register is the Grove Park Inn, constructed in 1913 of granite stone culled from nearby mountains.
No itinerary of things to do in Asheville is complete without a side trip to the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Explore a slice of the ridge up close, selecting from popular local activities such as hiking, rafting, biking and horseback riding. Or hop on a stretch of the nearly 500-mile Blue Ridge Parkway to coast along an ever-shifting display of pastoral fields, soaring overlooks and color-soaked vegetation.