Gateway Towns

Asheville is a Haven for the Creative Soul

An hour east of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll find yourself in the eclectic city of Asheville, N.C.

George Washington Vanderbilt II, American businessman of the prominent Vanderbilt family, felt the pull of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He built the largest home in America there in Asheville in 1895. The Biltmore Estate is more than 8,000 acres featuring beautiful gardens designed by the same mastermind behind Central Park in New York City, a vineyard, a working farm, the country’s most complete collection of azaleas and a castle with over 650 rooms. The estate is one of the biggest attractions in Asheville. Certain peak season days are reservation-only, and tickets sell out quickly, so advance purchase is highly recommended. Spend the day exploring the estate from an audio-tour of the castle to complimentary wine tastings in the vineyard. The 8,000-acre estate offers horseback riding, fly-fishing, river-rafting, mountain biking and more on 22 miles of trails. Make sure to stop by Antler Hill Village to meet the farm animals and get a taste of what life was like for workers at Biltmore. Six restaurants, a multitude of shops and three lodging options on-site make it easy to spend a whole weekend there. Make sure to check the calendar for special events like summer concerts and Christmas at Biltmore.

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.
The Biltmore EstateDeposit Photos

If you’re a foodie, Asheville is the place for you. Start by getting hyper-local and experiencing the bounty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Join a No Taste Like Home tour offered daily, year-round to learn how to identify and forage local wild plants and mushrooms. These tours will also teach you about cooking with wild foods, home remedies and home brews.

While we promised we wouldn’t get into the barbecue debate, a stop at Buxton Hall is a must. Named one of Bon Appetit magazine’s best new restaurants in 2016 and rated Southern Living’s best barbecue in North Carolina in 2019, we won’t sing the praises of their meats and sauces. The number one, must-try item on the menu? The collard greens. This humble side is amped up a notch with pork fat and pork broth and a finishing touch of cider vinegar. Don’t forget to try the desserts.

Asheville and craft beer go together like peanut butter and jelly. To really sample all the city has to offer in the form of brews, jump on a pub-cycle, a human-powered engine to get you from craft brewery to craft brewery.

The Amazing Pubcycle in Asheville, N.C.
The Amazing PubcycleiStock

Ashville is a haven for creatives of all types. After experiencing architectural, food and drink wonderment, head to the River Arts District, known to locals as RAD, to take in the arts scene. Full of working art studios and galleries, you’ll be inspired as you trek through the district. Start with a coffee from Ultra Coffee Bar to fuel your journey and pop in and out of spaces, watching makers create and perusing finished pieces. If you’re feeling ambitious, stop by the Odyssey Center for the Ceramic Arts for a drop-in class.