The North Carolina Mountains: Places to Explore

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Asheville

Asheville is the hippest city in the South. At least that's the claim of Asheville's fans, who are legion. Visitors flock to Asheville to experience the arts and culture scene, which rivals that of Santa Fe, and to experience the city's blossoming downtown, with its myriad restaurants, coffeehouses, microbreweries, museums, galleries, bookstores, antiques shops, and boutiques.

Named "the best place to live" by many books and magazines, Asheville is also the destination for retirees escaping the cold North, or of "halfbacks," those who moved to Florida but who are now coming half the way back to the North. Old downtown buildings have been converted to upmarket condos for these affluent retirees, and, despite the housing slowdown, new residential developments are springing up south, east, and west of town. As a result of this influx, Asheville has a much more cosmopolitan population than most cities of its size (85,000 people in the city; 430,000 in the metro area).

Asheville has a diversity you won't find in many cities in the South. There's a thriving gay community, many aging hippies, and young alternative-lifestyle seekers. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have named Asheville the most vegetarian-friendly small city in America.

The city really comes alive at night, with the restaurants, sidewalk cafés, and coffeehouses; so visit after dark to see the city at its best. Especially on warm summer weekends Pack Square, Biltmore Avenue, Broadway, Haywood Street, Wall Street, Pritchard Park (site of a popular drum circle on Friday night), and Battery Park Avenue are busy until late.

Asheville at a Glance

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