Saturday, April 13, 2013

5 Reasons to Visit Asheville, NC - 1st of 5: Vibrant and Historic Downtown Asheville


Asheville may be just a big little town, yet it is has a fantastic vibe along with an amazing culinary and microbrewery scene, all set in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina - with easy access on the crossroads of two interstates, I-40 and interstate I-26.  There are numerous reasons to visit this little city - I'll focus on my top 5 reasons over the next 5 blog posts:

1) Vibrant Downtown Asheville

2) Amazing Food and Beer Scene
3) Stunning Blue Ridge Parkway
4) Historic Biltmore Estate
5) Abundant Outdoor Activities


Here's the first of five - Look for blogs about the other 5, coming soon!

Vibrant & Historic DowntownAsheville:

Fans consider Asheville to be the "hippest city" in the south, with it's downtown vibrancy, street scene, abundant musicians (live on street corners), local arts and crafts, fantastic restaurants with farm to table culture, sidewalk cafes and microbreweries.  And, the historic downtown center is made for walking. 


Where to start?  Be sure and visit Asheville's Visitor Center on Montford Avenue.  This is an exceptional Visitors Center, with extremely knowledgeable staff and volunteers who are there to help. You can also catch the  Trolley Tour from the Visitors Center (with 2 day hop on hop off privileges) - a great way to get a quick overview of this charming city.  And perhaps, for a real glimpse and flavor of Asheville's history and charm, try the Lazoom Comedy Bus Tour - "get on the [purple] bus" for a hilarious view of Asheville.  




Historians and Architects will want to check out the Urban Trail, a 1.7 mile trail noting the history and architecture of Asheville as it meanders through and around the downtown blocks of Asheville.  Sculptures big and small, sidewalk markers, historical plaques, all point out little nuggets about Asheville.  As you walk you will have the opportunity to see street musicians and artisans, smell delightful hints of the fabulous culinary scene and shop at galleries and gift shops, many featuring local arts and crafts wares, and other fun and whimsical items.  

City parks and green spaces offer entertainment, people watching and often a moment of needed rest.  In summer months and with Children (or without), enjoy Pack Square Park and Spl-Asheville, or perhaps a special event, band or other entertainment that will often be featured in this City Park.  Pritchard Park, on Patton Avenue, is another not to miss park, (just across from the S&W Art Deco building) always a great people watching park - Tuesday evenings enjoy "hoop jam,"  and Drum Circle on Friday evenings.



For history and architectural buffs, be sure and check out are the St. Lawrence Basilica, if it is open, boasting the largest free standing elliptical tile dome in North America, built in 1905 by Spanish Architect, Rafael Guastavino.  The Basilica is located just across the street from the US Cellular Center (formerly the Asheville Civic Center).  Additionally, Asheville boasts having the 2nd largest number of Art Deco Buildings (2nd to Miami's South Beach) in the world, which are enjoyable to view as you walk through the downtown streets.  The old S&W Cafeteria is a favorite, as well as Asheville's Town Hall with it's iconic dome with pink granite accents. 

Literary buffs will likely enjoy visiting the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and Boyhood Home, which costs $5.00 to tour.  There is limited and designated free parking at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, and it can be a little hard to find, as the front of the home is located on a wide park-like sidewalk between the original boyhood home and the Renaissance Hotel.  The back of the home is the front of the Museum, with parking located on Market Street, just behind the Asheville Community Theater (great little local theater, be sure and find out what is playing there).  

Don't miss the revived warehouse area reclaimed by artists, now the River Arts District - view local artists right in their studios at work on their arts. Purchase small or large works of art. The Jonas Gerard Studio is often alive with interesting demonstrations, often combined with live music.  Or watch glass blowers at work at the Asheville Glass Center.  You can even blow your own glass ornament there.  Look for special Studio Stroll weekends, held on 2nd Saturdays and twice yearly, although studios are always open and welcoming to visitors.  Fun and funky restaurants are in and about the River Arts


District, including 12 Bones, White Duck Taco Shop, The Junction and Clingman's Cafe.  Walking through the River Arts District is enjoyable, but we recommend having your car, as it is quite spread out.  And, when your feet are tired and your tongue is thirsty, take a rest at the Wedge Brewery on Roberts Street.  No food here, but often one of Asheville's food trucks will be selling their sandwiches and other food delights.



Music and entertainment venues to consider include, The Orange Peel, a wonderful Music Hall on the south side of downtown, so be sure and check out their impressive music schedule.  For a variety of entertainment opportunities be sure and find out what is happening at The US Cellular Center and the Diana Wortham Theatre.  Additionally, many restaurants and breweries around and about town will have live music acts integrated into the evening.  And, for the baseball fan, or if you just want to have a fun evening out, be sure and take in a baseball game in at the Tourist Stadium, on the edge of Downtown.  "Thirsty Thursdays" are always a favorite!

Smaller venues to check out are The Grey Eagle, on the fringe of the River Arts District, is a smaller music hall venue, featuring many excellent local musicians,  the Magnetic Field Theatre is also a smaller theatre venue located in the River Arts District, and The Altamont Theatre, nestled on Church Street is in the middle of downtown, all featuring smaller more intimate acts. 

If you are looking for a place to stay in Asheville, be sure and check out Oakland Cottage Bed and Breakfast, which is within 3 miles or less of all the places mentioned here.  Reservation and information offices are open daily from 9am - 7pm, just call 828 994 2627.