Travel Itinerary: Asheville, N.C.
Urban sophistication meets mountain tranquility in this charming southern city.
By Greg Melville | From Preservation | July 1, 2014
Etched high into the Blue Ridge near the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, Asheville, N.C., has served as a fresh-air getaway for holiday-seekers for more than 130 years. Touring this eclectic, cultured city is like leafing through the pages of a history book that's yet to be completed.
You’ll pass beautiful brick storefronts, impeccable 1920s Art Deco facades, boxy office buildings from the city's 1960s building spurt, stately Victorian and Georgian-style homes on oak-shaded streets, and tobacco warehouses-turned-art-studios lining the French Broad River. Punctuating it all are street artists performing on the sidewalks and trendy couples flitting from tapas bars to the hottest new gastropubs.
There's also, of course, the 8,000-acre Biltmore property, which draws more than a million visitors each year. This French Renaissance-style chateau, built for George Washington Vanderbilt and designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, was completed in 1895 and remains the largest privately owned home in the United States. Just exploring its sprawling grounds, created by Frederick Law Olmsted, could fill an entire weekend.
Preservation has rounded up travel tips from three Asheville experts: Troy Winterrowd, a real estate agent and writer of the Modern Asheville blog; Martha Walker Fullington, an architectural historian and board member of the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County; and Darren Poupore, the Biltmore’s chief curator.
Martha Walker Fullington
EAT: I always take guests to Biltmore Village. My No. 1 choice is the Corner Kitchen. Despite its simple name, the food is complex and delicious. It’s in one of the original Biltmore Village cottages that George Washington Vanderbilt had constructed as a real estate venture at the turn of the 20th century. I recommend people sit by a window, because you get a sense of the village as you eat and watch people walk by.
STAY: Asheville has abundant wonderful bed-and-breakfasts tucked into its neighborhoods. There are several among the Victorian and Arts and Crafts homes of Montford — which was one of the first streetcar neighborhoods in the Southeast — like the 1900 Inn on Montford.
Downtown, I love the Haywood Park Hotel [a Historic Hotel of America] in the old Bon Marché and Ivey’s department store, built in 1923.
DO: Explore the Grove Arcade, built in the late 1920s at the cusp of the depression by E.W. Grove, who also owned the Omni Grove Park Inn [a Historic Hotel of America]. It was one of the first indoor shopping malls in the country. And don’t leave Asheville without looking at the historic churches. The Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village is the only church designed by Richard Morris Hunt still standing. The Basilica of St. Lawrence downtown was built by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino. Its incredible dome is one of the largest freestanding elliptical domes in the country.
Real Estate Agent & Author of the Modern Asheville Blog
EAT: Though the Market Place Restaurant & Lounge in a 1920s building on quiet, leafy Wall Street downtown is Asheville’s original farm-totable restaurant, it’s not always talked about.
Around the block by the Grove Arcade is Chai Pani. I love the Indian street food and casual music.
You’ll find a cross-section of Asheville folks and good gourmet food and drink at The Bull and Beggar, located in an old warehouse in the city’s River Arts District. The entrance is through a door atop the former loading dock.
STAY: I’d recommend the landmark Mountaineer Inn on Tunnel Road. It has a kitschy, midcentury motor lodge vibe and a proximity to town that make it fun. Hotel Indigo sits on the edge of downtown, a couple of blocks from the Grove Arcade.
DO: Drive up Town Mountain Road to the Sunset Mountain neighborhood above the historic Omni Grove Park Inn. You’ll find many Midcentury Modern homes tucked into the hillside that are well-preserved and have dramatic city and mountain views.
Take the antiquing route that wraps around Biltmore Village. You can start at the Local Antique Market and Oddfellows. Both are on Swannanoa River Road. Then visit the 77,000-square-foot Antique Tobacco Barn, which is in a former tobacco auction house. You’ll end up at Mix Vintage and the ScreenDoor, both on Fairview Road.
Chief Curator of The Biltmore
EAT: The food at The Junction in the River Arts District is fresh, local, and inventive. The surrounding area is gritty though historic, with a railroad running through it. I love the old factories that have been converted into artists' studios, restaurants, and the Wedge Brewing Company.
STAY: Originally built in 1924, the Princess Anne Hotel was completely restored recently. It has the feel of a B&B. Its location is in a residential neighborhood, and you can walk to City Bakery.
The Inn on Biltmore Estate was built on a hillside that allows for long-range views of Biltmore House in one direction and the Blue Ridge Mountains, plus some wonderful views of downtown, in the other.
DO: Going to an Asheville Tourists Minor League Baseball game on a warm spring or summer evening is one of my favorite things to do. Games take place at historic McCormick field, where a few scenes of the movie Bull Durham were filmed.
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