Asheville goes by many names. It's been called the "Paris of the South," the "New Age Mecca" and even "America's New Freak Capital." It's also known as the "Happiest City" in America and included in the AARP list of the "Best Places to Reinvent Your Life." Its many monikers give a glimpse of what's in store in this little city nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains in the western part of North Carolina. The architecture, art galleries, museums, music and outdoor recreation opportunities offer engagement for the artsy, jazzy and sporty visitor.
The first stop on your itinerary should be the Biltmore Estate, considered the largest home in the country, with 250 rooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. It also has expansive and well-manicured gardens as well as a winery, stables and hiking trails. The Grove Arcade is another architectural landmark worth seeing, as are the Drhumor Building, Flat Iron Building and the Vance Monument. The Basilica of St. Lawrence is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a nice place to spend a couple hours. The Central United Methodist Church is beautiful in its own right. You can go on a LaZoom Comedy Tour for a more engaging way to see the city or, alternatively, on a self-guided walking tour of the 27 stations of the Urban Trail. Hiking enthusiasts can go to Chimney Rock Park, where a hike around the cliffs takes you to a picturesque waterfall. Other good venues for a hike are the trails of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Botanical Gardens at Asheville and the North Carolina Arboretum.
In the Downtown area, many of the restaurants are clustered along North Lexington Avenue and Biltmore Avenue. Merrimon Avenue in the North neighborhood also has a variety of dining establishments. In the West, the eateries can be found along Haywood Road. Grove Arcade has a number of restaurants as well.
While there is no shopping district per se in Asheville, Merrimon Avenue is known as the Strip, with its numerous shopping malls. The Grove Arcade has a lot of craft stores, while Lexington Avenue has many hip shops that sell vintage clothing, records and other unique stuff. If you have a sweet tooth, you can chocolates and truffles at the Chocolate Fetish. For ceramics and jewelry, head to the New Morning Gallery at Biltmore Village.