Downtown Asheville, edition
Christy Evers, 5/27/21
How do you say good-by when you weren’t planning to fall in love?
When I first stepped foot in Downtown Asheville in 2019, I had no idea the impact it would have on me. Yes, I had heard about it, drove past it and even did some of the touristy things in the surrounding areas like hiking waterfalls and exploring the ever-popular Biltmore Estate. All of which I thoroughly enjoyed, yet I didn’t really KNOW the full charm of Asheville until the quirky, artsy vibe of Downtown captured my heart and swept me off my feet.
Asheville, the largest city in Western North Carolina & 12th largest in the state is another world, vastly different from the larger cities like Raleigh/Durham or small rural towns. This is where the mountains meet the valley, where rich history is preserved and the progress of modern culture is celebrated. Where the sunset kisses the Blue Ridge Mountains with a blushing glow that would make a bride jealous and where the community supports individuals as well as local business, but it’s more than that.
It’s the biggest little city that you’ll ever find with an even bigger heart! I’ve personally found nothing but kindness around every corner and each, tourist, local & visitor alike are unashamedly encouraged to embrace their weirdness! It’s a melting pot of varying age ranges, life-styles and nationalities with a carefree vibe of love, peace & music. A world refreshingly free from the confining expectation to fit into a cookie-cutter mold.
You’ll never know who you’ll run into. On this particular day I spied Spider-Man cruising in his Spidey-mobile!
If you ever get the chance to visit I hope you’ll love it as much as I do! I’ll provide a variety of tips and info on the Asheville area in this blog and on my YouTube Channel. Today I’m going to simplify and offer you 5 basic things you may want to know before you visit downtown Asheville in hopes of making your stay all the more enjoyable.
Let the countdown begin!
5. Food and Beverage Mecca!
According to Yelp, a popular online reviewing site, Asheville was dubbed “The Best Food City in America!
‘To generate the winners, Yelp’s Data Science team looked at cities that had the businesses in those cities the customers were loving. In the end, Asheville, North Carolina came out on top, which Yelp dubbed a “regional-food powerhouse” with a slew of restaurants, breweries, and food businesses “powered by generations-old family farms.” Portland, Oregon; Charleston, South Carolina; Maui and Honolulu in Hawaii; and New Orleans, Louisiana also made the list. ” ~Bridget Hallinan, Foodandwine.com
When in Asheville, do yourself a favor and seek out restaurants that tickle your fancy and make your mouth water. Even better news! You can eat out guilt free! The majority of restaurants use locally sourced, fresh ingredients and are created with health and sustainability in mind. I personally feel healthier and like I’ve done the community and the planet a favor after dining out in downtown Asheville.
Don’t even get me started on the craft breweries! Rated #1 in the US for craft Breweries!
There are many gluten free and vegan options as well!
4. Easily Walk-able
Despite hundreds of unique shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, Downtown Asheville is surprisingly compact and walk-able. I haven’t conducted a precise study on measurements and time, but I think it’s safe to say that any able-bodied, healthy person with no mobility issues could easily walk downtown Asheville, end to end, in a half-hour or so.
Weather you’re staying at a central downtown hotel, or you need to park in order to enjoy your downtown activities, you will not need to rely on public transportation or your own transportation to make your way around the downtown area if you don’t mind walking. Quite honestly, walking will most likely be easier than trying to find a parking space.
3. Where to Stay?
Asheville is a wildly diverse city and where you stay can directly impact the enjoyment of your stay. Here’s a breakdown of 4 major areas with pro’s and con’s of which is best and worst for different travel personalities.
So far my favorite stays have been at the Renaissance, Hotel Indigo and Hyatt Place.
- Pros: The upside to staying at a downtown hotel is just as I mentioned above. You can park at your hotel and never have to leave until check out. A Downtown location is perfect for those who want the focus of their trip to be on the exploration of unique downtown restaurants, shops, craft breweries and entertainment and love to walk! A wonderful place to explore for the more liberal and artsy tourists.
2. Cons: Due to the obvious high cost of Downtown real estate, most downtown hotels will be pricier than than a hotel outside of the city proper. The downtown area has a visible homeless population and is unapologetically liberal, so bear in mind where that lies on your political spectrum. Where ever that may be, it’s still worth your time to take time to dine in one of downtown’s spectacular restaurants and browse the unique shops even if it’s not your preferred area to stay.
Biltmore Estate/Biltmore Village
1. Pros: If the main focal point of your Asheville visit is Biltmore Estates, it may be worth your time to stay at a property in Biltmore Village, or directly on the Biltmore Estates. There are also some extra perks and discounts for exploring the Biltmore Estate and enjoying all it has to offer when you stay at one of their onsite properties.
It’s still well worth your time to venture into the downtown area to experience the cuisine, culture and atmosphere unique to the downtown area. Only an approx 5-8 minute drive away, you can experience the best of both worlds.
2. Cons: It’s not advised to walk from the Biltmore area to downtown. Traffic makes it unsafe. Motor transportation is advised so going into downtown will require additional driving, parking, Uber or taxi expenses. Staying onsite at Biltmore is more pricey. Biltmore Village is a better option if you’re on a budget.
Shopping/ Airport/ Outlet Areas
- Pros: These area’s are obviously convenient to shopping, transportation and tourist areas and will most likely be less expensive.
- Con’s You won’t get a true feel for “authentic Asheville”
Natural, Surrounding Area’s
1. Pros: This is for the traveler that is visiting Asheville for the hiking, waterfalls, nature and outdoor activities. or maybe you’re looking for more affordable lodging. You can camp, find Tree houses, airbnb’s and hotels surrounded by Asheville’s natural element or in nearby cities like Cherokee, Morganton and anything in between. These are usually in the more economic price ranges.
2. Cons: Again, even if your aim is to dive into nature, but you still want to explore Downtown Asheville for a bit, the only con of staying in a more natural area is the additional drive time and parking expenses in order to do so.
2. Pet Friendly
This for for my fellow dog lovers! Downtown Asheville may be one of the most dog friendly cities in the US that I’ve ever encountered. Know as “Dog City USA” Dogs are not only welcome in many of the shops and restaurants, but many hotels are dog friendly and have doggie programs, such as the Hotel Indigo that offers pet beds available upon request.
That’s not all. Check this out. Downtown Asheville has their own official DOG WELCOME CENTER, currently the only in the US with doggy potty area, water fountains, free goody bags, doggie ice cream, and info on their Top 100 dog-friendly attractions, restaurants, and things to do.
It’s across from the Grove Arcade at 1 Battle Square.
The Dog Welcome Center is open Mon-Wed 9-5, Thurs-Sat 9-7 and Sun 11-5.
They also have doggie CBD shops!
1. Embrace the Weird!
Dress how you want to dress, play music, make art, explore the metaphysical. Bring a sense of kindness and you’re good to go.
You’ll find drum circles, art, sculptures, street murals, fairy doors and you never know who you’ll run into. If you’re lucky you’ll spot Spiderman cruising around in his Spidey-mobile too.
Art is everywhere in Asheville! Search alleyways, walls and corner for artistic urban gems. Search on your own or check out this Guide from ExploreAshveille.com
I read an online review that said they didn’t think Asheville was culturally diverse enough to be weird. (whatever that means) I’m not up on the cultural statistics, so I don’t know how correct or incorrect that statement is, but I can say one thing . . . from what I’ve seen, the downtown area will embrace all peace-loving people equally. If someone wants Asheville to be more culturally diverse, my perception is that Downtown Asheville is totally open for that to happen.
In downtown Asheville you’ll dine on locally sourced and farm to table food, listen to street music, watch artisans at work, maybe even participate in a drum circle or discover your favorite shop filled with unique clothing, exotic teas, blown glass and beaded jewelry, all hand-crafted by locals.
In Asheville, there’s an energy in the air. Maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s the quirky and artsy charm. Whatever it is . . . I’m hooked!
So how do you say, “good-bye” once you’ve fallen in love with Asheville? The good news is you don’t have to!
Instead, like me, take a piece of it home with you in your heart and instead say, “see you later & Stay weird!”