With the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, the town of Asheville, NC has morphed into more than just a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. This small mountain town, known as the “Paris of the South,” is a hotspot for farm-to-table restaurants, lively music, arts and crafts, upscale shopping and a wide variety of seasonal festivals.
Discover Downtown Asheville
The downtown area is compact and easily explored on foot. Plan your own route or follow the 1.7 mile Urban Trail loupe. Pink granite markers embedded in the sidewalk mark the trail, which includes 30 artworks that depict various aspects of the city’s heritage. Another option—the Gray Line Hop-on/Hop-Off Trolley that offers a 90-minute tour of Asheville.
Pop into the Woolworth Building, which now houses Asheville’s largest venue of local fine art and crafts. For those who grew up in the era of Five & Dime stores, you’ll discover a touch of nostalgia in its restored old-fashioned soda fountain.
Stroll through the marble halls of the Grove Arcade, the largest building in downtown Asheville. In the 1930s it served as one of Asheville’s leading commercial buildings. It reopened in 2002, following a five-year renovation. The building now houses offices and luxury apartments on its upper floors and a mix of locally owned shops, galleries, and restaurants on the ground floor.
The Battery Park Book Exchange is a delightful stop on your downtown tour. Even if browsing through the thousands of new, used and rare books isn’t your cup of tea, you can’t but fall in love with the down-home feel of this place. Comfortable sofas and chairs are tucked into every available space, so take a break and enjoy a cup of java from their coffee bar or a glass of bubbly. Bring your best friend, whether that is a person or a dog. People and doggie treats available.
Drop into the Mast General Store, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. An old-time mercantile emporium, restored to its 1940s heyday, the store was once known for carrying everything from “cradles to caskets.” Today it carries a wide variety of goods from outdoor equipment to clothing, collectibles and colorful barrels of old-fashioned candy.
Where to Eat in Downtown Asheville
Grab an outdoor table at one of Asheville’s flagship restaurants, Tupelo Honey Cafe. Featuring “New South Flavors,” the menu is based around fresh ingredients from more than 25 local farmers. Hot steaming biscuits with homemade blueberry jam are delivered to your table as you peruse the menu.
Try their signature dish—Shrimp & Grits—large shrimp over goat cheese and grits with spicy red pepper sauce. Their pan-seared Carolina Mountain Trout is another local favorite.
Located in a 1925 warehouse, Nightbell Restaurant & Lounge’s dinner menu offers a twist on American classics served small plate style. Begin your epicurean experience with the not-your-typical “Deviled Egg” Bite (Appetizer) with warm sabayon, smoked trout gravlax & trout roe.
Then move on to a variety of small plates such as Soy Glazed Quail, served with Medjool dates, duck fat roasted carrots and crispy duck skin. Be sure to save room for some amazing desserts such as Peanut Butter Cake or Petit Fours served in a cigar box.
Where to Stay: 1900 Inn on Montford
Located in the heart of the Montford Historic District (the premier B&B district in Asheville), the 1900 Inn on Montford is on the National Registry of Historic Houses. This Arts & Crafts style residence offers five elegant guestrooms in the main house, a separate private Griffin Cottage in the back and a five-room, 1,000 square-foot-suite on the third floor. A three-course breakfast is served daily.
Saturday evening social hour, featuring live music with guitar, banjo and Dobro, adds a perfect touch of mountain culture.
Article Written by Sandra Chambers of Southern Traveller
(During a media trip, Sandra was hosted by Tupelo Honey, Nightbell Restaurant and Lounge and 1900 Inn on Montford. All opinions and reviews are completely unbiased and her own.)
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