Friday, July 12, 2019 - by Ann N. Yungmeyer
Spending a few days in Asheville leaves me refreshed and inspired, and I find myself planning my next getaway to this other “scenic city” surrounded by mountains. Though Asheville has exploded in popularity, it retains its small town feel – with eclectic boutiques, cozy restaurants and outdoor experiences. I venture to say that Asheville is a place that people love in the same way they love Chattanooga.
Since the late 1800’s, when George Vanderbilt built his country home (Biltmore Estate), Asheville has attracted artists and entrepreneurs and business icons. The fresh mountain air was a draw for health seekers including E.W. Grove from Paris, Tennessee, inventor of the infamous Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic. He built the iconic Grove Park Inn in 1913, which continues to be one of Asheville’s top destinations as a unique spa resort.
In addition to these historic landmarks, Asheville has preserved its Art Deco downtown while adding contemporary hotels and restaurants to the mix. Award-winning chefs have flocked to Asheville and built a booming culinary scene; and with more breweries per capita than any U.S. city, Asheville embraces the moniker, "Beer City USA."And beyond food and drink, it offers many new ways to enjoy the urban vibe.
Taste and Stroll Highlights
Culinary adventures from Farm-to-Table Tours to Asheville Brews Cruise make it easy to sample Asheville’s food legacies and local craft beers. Wicked Weed Pub offers a chauffeured Grand Cru Experience, or if you prefer a discovery tour on your own, head for the South Slope where you’ll find great choices at Bhramari Brewing, Burial Beer, Catawba Brewing, Funkatorium, and more.
With countless great choices, deciding where to eat may be your biggest challenge, but don’t miss the Spanish tapas restaurant Cúrate, a local favorite led by superstar chef Katie Button who recently opened Button & Co. Bagels. A recent James Beard award finalist, she swears by ingredient-driven cuisine and offers the “Spanish Experience” for a wonderful sampling. A new hotspot is Benne on Eagle at The Foundry Hotel, which introduces a new era of Appalachian cuisine with dishes like onion-braised rabbit and fried catfish on waffles.
Follow the Asheville Urban Trail or the Asheville Architecture Trail, which showcase masterpiece buildings from the city’s heyday in the 1920s. You may want to linger at Grove Arcade, an architectural gem with one-of-a-kind shopping where you can lose yourself at the Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, or chill out at Wake Foot Sanctuary with a foot soak and massage.
Bring your canine companion! The newly developed Dog City Tour begins with an urban walk from Asheville’s Dog Welcome Center (the first of its kind in the U.S.) and includes stops at breweries, eateries, and shops that cater to man’s best friend. Aloft Hotel is pet-friendly and conveniently located nearby.
Art, Architecture and Nature
The new Asheville Art Museum will open this summer a slate of novel events and exhibitions including Appalachia Now! and works by 20th-and 21th-century American artists. Asheville’s River Arts District is home to a burgeoning arts scene with more than 220 artists’ studios and galleries. Their repurposed workspaces in a former industrial area once housed a meat packing plant, a chicken hatchery, tannery and various warehouses. Browse on your own or take a guided tour with Asheville Art Studio Tours to meet artists in all genres. Second Saturdays are held each month with demos and events, and the annual fall Studio Stroll draws a crowd for special activities and free trolley rides throughout the arts district.
Pottery lovers - don’t miss a stop at East Fork’s downtown boutique. The pottery/lifestyle brand, co-founded by the great-grandson of French artist Henri Matisse, began with locally made artisan pottery and has now expanded to a new factory in Biltmore Village.
Sign on with Asheville Rooftop Bar Tours for bird’s eye views and tidbits of architectural history while sipping a drink. The newly founded company offers van-chauffeured tours to several scenic rooftop venues, such as The Montford at Hyatt Place, Capella on 9 at AC Hotel, and Hemingway’s Cuba at Cambria Hotel. Tour creator Kaye Bentley is passionate about history and offers a glimpse into Asheville’s storied past, with then-and-now photos of city blocks and notable neighborhoods.
Namaste in Nature offers public and private tours for folks wanting a deeper connection with the nature around them. Guided hikes include a waterfall or mountain-summit view and meditation and yoga instruction for all skill levels. And don’t forget Biltmore Estate for enjoying nature and exploring the grounds with many options – from hiking, biking, and horseback rides to kayaking the French Broad River. Biltmore’s newest outdoor adventures include falconry, fly-fishing from a kayak, and the Outrider Tour via electric recumbent tricycle.
Asheville’s downtown offers several new hotels within walking distance of restaurants and shopping, many which feature the aforementioned rooftop bars.
My choice is the new Foundry Hotel (opened December 2018), which blends luxury and history in renovated buildings that once housed Asheville Supply & Foundry Co. The former foundry, which produced steel and other metal castings for Biltmore Estate and area buildings, features century-old brick walls, contemporary furnishings and vintage-inspired touches in spacious guest rooms and suites in the boutique hotel. Part of the Hilton Curio Collection, it is situated on South Market Street, just a short walk to downtown attractions. But the best hotel amenity is the Tesla Model X house car, available to chauffeur guests around town, on brewery visits, and out to Biltmore.Also of note, Kimpton’s luxury Hotel Arras is scheduled to open summer 2019 in downtown Asheville’s tallest building.
Summer and fall are the most popular (and crowded) times to visit Asheville, but regardless of the season, you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere and new reasons to visit this longtime favorite mountain retreat. www.ExploreAsheville.com.