There is more to Asheville, North Carolina, than the Biltmore House, Biltmore Village, and the Grove Park Inn.
Downtown Asheville was designated All-American City (1997), and known for its eclecticism and free spirits. It is both a tourist town and the region's center of commerce.
Get on the bus * Photo: LaZoom Tours
Asheville's revitalized and growing downtown is literally encircled by the Blue Ridge mountains.
Downtown Asheville is situated along the French Broad River where I-40 and I-26 converge in the southern tip of Appalachia. The main drag through downtown is Highway 25, which changes names numerous times.
Traveling from the south to the north, Highway 25 (where it crosses under the Blue Ridge Parkway) near Biltmore Forest is named Hendersonville Highway. Just after I-40 and Biltmore Village near the Biltmore Estate entrance, Highway 25 becomes McDowell Street.
Through the heart of downtown Asheville, Highway 25 is named Biltmore Avenue, and then turns into Broadway Street just after Pack Square, Vance Monument, and the BB&T Tower (Western North Carolina's tallest building).
After several blocks, traveling north, Highway 25 goes under I-240 and the name changes to Merrimon Avenue. After several miles, upon passing Beaver Lake, Highway 25 turns into Weaverville Highway, which goes though the towns of Woodfin and Weaverville and points beyond, as it parallels I-26 West (which is really going north at this point) as one travels into North Buncombe and Madison County.
Don't ask why and, if you're a bit confused, don't worry. Even residents barely keep up with all the name changes. Just know that if you stay along Highway 25, you can always find your way back to Downtown Asheville. Besides, you're on "mountain time," and if you're running a little late, well, welcome to Asheville.
Noted for its beauty and quality of life, Asheville enjoys four seasons with cool summers and temperate winters. Many say the Asheville area is the best place to live and a must-see stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway through Western North Carolina.
Welcome to Downtown Asheville
Asheville's downtown is pedestrian friendly, unique and memorable. It offers a lively nightlife, colorful festivals, fine independent restaurants, and eclectic shops. It is praised for its art deco architecture, higher education, and excellent heathcare.
With its renowned arts and fine craft scene, downtown has become a mecca for artists, artisans, and creative individuals of every passion and persuasion.
The media has been kind to Asheville. It is regularly listed on many journalists' top places to visit. Others consider it one of the Southeast's most liveable small towns. Part of that attraction can be credited to one of America's top-rated public liberal arts colleges, University of North Carolina in Asheville (UNCA).
Downtown's Diverse Community
Asheville is a city of many currents. Shared by urban entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts, it is also enjoyed by retirees and the semi-retired. Others are known as "half-backs" from Florida, and "snowbirds" from the Northeast and Midwest. Many of downtown's most recent newcomers and greatest admirers hail from California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. All are welcomed, say many, while some wish that the area would stop growing so rapidly. Progress has its price, and just what defines progress is heartily debated by Ashevillians.
Downtown Asheville has no scarcity of boosters and critics, depending on whom you meet and where you go. Loved by some, and reviled by others, this city of diversity and individuality can be cosmopolitan, but at times a bit crass. It is known for its liberal bent, but mountain traditions run deep. Depending on one's perspective, it is artsy and redneck, gay and straight, compelling and repulsive.
All have a place, and all have a say, in what constitutes the best and worst of this much heralded mountain town.
Yet, arguably, it is this richness of diversity--be it funky, fun or intense--that ultimately is its sustaining charm. For that reason alone, Downtown Asheville is worth getting to know better. Explore and enjoy.
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