Practically no matter what neighborhood you’re at in Asheville, there’s a place you can spot the Blue Ridge Mountains, even if just a sliver. These mountains have a powerful effect on locals and visitors alike, constantly reminding people of the beauty and power of nature and of all the adventures that await atop and between the ridges.
Hand in hand with the Blue Ridge Mountains is the gateway through it – the Blue Ridge Parkway. From Asheville, drivers have several access points to jump on one of America’s Favorite Drives and take it South toward the Great Smoky Mountains and Tennessee, or north toward North Carolina’s tallest peak, Mount Mitchell, and Virginia. Bonus: Mount Mitchell ranks as the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet. Fall season can see crawling traffic on weekends, but it’s worth packing your patience to witness the unbelievable foliage firsthand.
Speaking of fall, the ones in Asheville truly deserve to make anyone think twice before deciding to leave Asheville. Perhaps the fact that Western North Carolina, where Asheville resides, is one of the most biodiverse temperate locations in the world. This distinction means that many different varieties of trees and vegetation exist here, and much of it lights up in rich hues come September.
Another Asheville asset that folks miss is the vastness of Pisgah National Forest. Established in 1916, this forest’s historical significance includes being home to the first school of forestry and being dubbed a Treasured Landscape in 2017. Highlights include Mt. Pisgah and some of the Asheville area’s most popular hikes like Looking Glass, Black Balsam and Graveyard Fields.
To the south, Nantahala Forest’s 500,000+ acres stretches from south Asheville all the way to Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It, too, earned distinction as a Treasured Landscape in 2017, and its vast array of possible outdoor activities has helped Western Carolina University’s campus earn Best Outdoor School nods several years. Must-sees include the 400-year-old trees in the Kilmer Memorial Forest, Whiteside Mountain hikes and the Nantahala River Gorge.
One reason why Asheville and Western North Carolina make a great home base for adventurers is the temperate climate. The short winter gives a small two–three month window to enjoy some skiing near Boone or at Cataloochee Ski Area, but the rest of the year enjoys evenings laced with cool mountain air and 60–70 degree weather throughout spring and fall. Summers see temperatures in the 80s, but even the hottest days have the promise of cooler nights, with lows typically in the 60s throughout the summer.
Nearby Transylvania County also goes by the Land of Waterfalls, a fitting tribute to the 250+ waterfalls in the area. Yet, waterfalls can be found in every direction from Asheville, from powerful rushing waterfalls like Looking Glass to trickling tall falls like Hickory Nut Falls. Those that leave Asheville certainly miss jumping and splashing in these beauties.
Locals certainly get spoiled by the abundance of quality craft beer in Asheville and miss the variety and quantity when they leave The Land of the Sky. Stalwarts like Highland Brewing Company and Asheville Brewing Company helped pave the way for the now 30+ craft breweries that call Asheville home, and the city’s beer culture has truly shaped the personality of this Southern mountain town.
Music halls. Breweries. Amphitheatres. Rock clubs. Dive bars. Buskers. Asheville wouldn’t be what it is today without its storied musical history, and music lovers can find live concerts almost daily showcasing local talent, touring acts and even local heroes like Steep Canyon Rangers and part-time Brevard resident Steve Martin.
Every city likes to boast about their food options, but Asheville’s leaders have gone so far as to nickname Asheville’s food scene Foodtopia. However, this bold moniker works because the city has several James Beard recognized chefs, practically every type of cuisine and has made a commitment to keeping chain restaurants out of downtown and supporting locally owned and operated independent restaurants instead.
Speaking of variety, most of Asheville’s restaurants include vegetarian and vegan options to please the city’s health-conscious crowd. But vegetarians or those just trying to eat less meat surely miss the vegetarian-specific options like Laughing Seed, Rosetta’s Kitchen, Elements Real Food and Plant, an upscale vegan hotspot that only serves dinner and has been called one of the best vegan restaurants in America.
On the other hand, meat lovers can’t get enough of Hickory Nut Gap’s quality meats. Many local restaurants rely on Hickory Nut, and the farm also has its own country store for people to drop in and buy supplies.
In every direction, a small, charming mountain town awaits for epic day trips. While each place, like Black Mountain, Waynesville and Brevard, have their own personalities and vibe, they share a welcoming spirit, love of nature and quirkiness with Asheville as the Paris of the South has quite an impact on the region and its communities.
People in Asheville take their hobbies and interests pretty seriously. Whether it’s enjoying the many outdoor activities, trying out homesteading or learning how to homebrew, practically any passion can be pursued in Asheville as a hobby and perhaps even grow into a small business. Plus, tons of workshops, classes, programs and other educational events happen on a weekly basis for those who want to dive into a new interest. Not every city has quite such an array of possibilities for how to spend free time.
Interstate I-40 making runs west and east through Asheville, connecting the city to Nashville and Raleigh in about four hours, while I-26 makes traveling north and south a breeze, too. Plus, major Southern hubs like Charlotte and Atlanta are less than 200 miles away, and Asheville’s airport is one of America’s most well-connected regional airports, while two international airports lay within easy drives, too. So, getting to and from home certainly registers as a loss for many who leave this mountain town.
Lastly, people absolutely miss the stunning viewpoints that allow for hours spent admiring the Blue Ridge Mountains and national forests. Several rooftop bars and restaurants downtown, like Greenmansion and The Montford, offer sweeping views from downtown, while the Blue Ridge Parkway and the hundreds of hiking trails offer overlooks, summits and peaks that take your breath away.