Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains just one hour from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the hills of Western North Carolina, Asheville is one of the most spectacular, inviting, and quirky cities in the country.
Described by some as having been “put on the map by a Vanderbilt,” Asheville offers so much more than its most famous attraction. The “Vanderbilt” referred to here would be George Washington Vanderbilt III who, at the time of his birth in 1862, became the youngest child of wealthy industrialist William Henry Vanderbilt who made the family fortune through various business enterprises including the railroads and steamboat trades (older brother Cornelius is the namesake for Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN).
The family property, The Biltmore Estate, still owned by the younger Vanderbilt’s descendants, encompasses an astounding 8,000-acres and features nine stunning gardens, a winery, three overnight properties, 15 dining venues, 13 shops, an equestrian center, a lagoon, and more than 20 tours and outdoor activities, in addition to special, seasonal and annual exhibits and events. As America's largest home, the Biltmore House is mind-blowing, displaying a wide array of family memorabilia and artifacts including art, furniture, books, vintage clothing, accessories, and other items.
Historic Biltmore Village, located just outside of the estate property, was designed and built as an independent planned community for the hundreds of estate workers. Overtime it changed from a residential community into a contemporary shopping destination where visitors will find one-of-a-kind independent shops, national retail outlets, some of Asheville's finest restaurants, and great examples of the Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical architectural styles found Downtown and in other areas of the city.
The Village is one of the 10 exciting stops and attractions dotted along the Gray Line Asheville Hop-On Hop-Off fully guided narration tour which starts at the Explore Asheville Convention & Visitor Bureau main building.
Other iconic landmarks on the tour include The Omni Grove Park Inn, an over a century old historic hotel encompassing 513 luxurious guest rooms, an 18-hole, mountain golf course, and a 43,000-square-foot subterranean spa; and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site, and homage to its namesake, considered by many to be one of the giants of 20th-century American literature, where you’ll find his childhood “Old Kentucky Home,” visitor's center and museum.
Pack Square is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with 6.5 acres and home to the historic park by the same name, the Art Deco City Hall and other historic buildings, open green space, an entertainment stage, water features, a Veteran’s Memorial, and original art by regional artists; and the Asheville Art Museum is home to an outstanding collection of American art of the 20th and 21st centuries.
At the Basilica of Saint Lawrence visitors will find guided and self-guided tours of this historic structure’s world-famous art and architecture; Grove Arcade is an historic Asheville architectural jewel featuring boutique shopping, services, and diverse dining options; and the River Arts District (“RAD” to the locals) is where some 200 artist studios occupy the former mill warehouses.
Because Asheville sits so close to the mountains and rivers, both locals and visitors alike can find and enjoy a wealth of outdoor activities including ziplining, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, rappelling, paddling and kayaking, camping, and more.
Solo, couple, group, and family friendly activities can be found at places like the Western North Carolina Nature Center, home to over 60 species of wild and domestic animals and hundreds of species of plants unique to the Southern Appalachian Mountains; the Asheville Treetops Adventure Park, Chimney Rock State Park, featuring Chimney Rock (“The Rock”), the park’s signature granite outcropping; and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, home to the deepest gorge and highest waterfall and mountain in the eastern U.S., the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, two of the most visited National Park lands in the country, and the oldest river in North America, to just to name a few.
All of this and more makes Asheville, North Carolina a popular destination year-round and unlike any other city in the U.S.
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