Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina not only plays host to the famous Biltmore Estate, but it also boasts an eclectic arts and cultural scene and some of the South’s best restaurants, not to mention a wealth of outdoor recreational activities within an hour of downtown. Follow this route to hit some of Asheville’s must-see sights.
1. Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate is a testament to the luxurious lifestyles enjoyed by America’s wealthiest at the turn of the twentieth century. Built in the Chateauesque style for George and Edith Vanderbilt, Biltmore House is the largest private residence in the U.S., covering four acres and encompassing 250 rooms. In addition to 199 bedrooms and 65 fireplaces, guests can marvel at the Banquet Hall, with its splendid 70-foot ceiling, a gallery of exquisite sixteenth-century tapestries and the Vanderbilts’ 10,000-volume library. Not to be overlooked are the Estate’s many gardens, including the 15-acre Azalea Garden, home to a fine selection of native azaleas, evergreens and Katsura trees.
© Blake Lewis
2. Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Center
Highlighting the Appalachian’s arts and crafts tradition, the Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Center is a must when in town. This museum and gift shop celebrates the region’s crafting heritage, from furnitures and textiles to traditional musical instruments, paintings and sculptures. From March to December, tourists can enjoy demonstrations by members of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, ranging from yarn-making to glassblowing and woodworking. It is well worth the visit.
3. Asheville Pinball Museum
Visitors can park their cars in one of the city’s many parking garages and stroll through downtown to 1 Battle Square, home of the Asheville Pinball Museum. This interactive museum and arcade showcases games dating back to the 1930s, with operational pinball machines from the ‘60s to today. Aspiring pinball wizards can test their skill on games such as Space Invaders and Atari’s ambitious “Hercules” from 1979. Also featuring classic video games, this place is not to be missed.
4. Pisgah National Forest
About 40-miles north in pastoral Transylvania County near the town of Brevard, Pisgah National Forest immerses tourists in the region’s stunning natural beauty. Visitors can hike the many miles of trails to admire waterfalls such as Twin Falls, Looking Glass Falls and Moore Cove Falls, along with a plethora of flora and fauna. The national forest is also home to Sliding Rock, a 60’ natural waterslide popular with vacationers during the summer months.
© Jeff Gunn
5. Mojo Kitchen and Lounge
Mojo Kitchen and Lounge is an offbeat restaurant with a wide menu ranging from crawfish macaroni and cheese to pita bread pizzas, tacos and more. The Latin-inspired blackened and grilled North Carolina catfish with a side of tostones, or fried plantains, is definitely a must-have. Live music aficionados will enjoy the myriad performances at Mojo, including an acoustic Grateful Dead tribute band on Friday nights.
6. Double D’s Coffee and Desserts
This quirky yet charming coffee shop housed in a converted double-decker bus is an ideal place to finish up a day of sightseeing in Asheville. In addition to two levels of seating within the vehicle, there is an outdoor patio where guests can enjoy mocha lattes and locally made brownies while taking in the city’s sights and sounds. It is an experience seldom found elsewhere.
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Cover photo © Ken Lane