Amidst the green mountains, just off the interstate in North Carolina, lies Asheville – a city that has tons of arts, culture and food, all packed into the small area that makes the city’s vibrant downtown. It’s a place where people celebrate the colors in clothes, the sounds in music and the taste in food/drinks. It is a city where people love the Earth enough to stick their hand into garbage cans and sort out recycling from landfill. It’s a place where you are not surprised to see buses which are labeled ‘Brew Bus’ and ‘Canna Bus,’ or see Kermit the crab makes rounds in his trailer. Asheville, I believe, is a hidden gem on the East Coast.
The city’s streets, particularly in the evenings are filled with musicians at every corner who bring the city its vibrancy. Restaurants have their doors and windows open, inviting a passerby to join in on the magic of their live performers. On Friday evenings, a drummers circle gathers around at Pritchard Park and beats rhythms on their instruments, while people sway to the sound that fills the area. Even kids come out to play their guitars in exchange for admiration and some pocket money.
In Asheville, thanks to welcoming people we got to know quite a bit about the locals around town. (There is something about being on vacation that makes me more chatty than usual. I speak and interact more freely, with all the people that greet me in stores and serve me at restaurants.) We discovered that most of the people living around there were from somewhere else. Something about the place drew them from Boulder, Co, from Florida. Of course some lucky few were just ‘born and raised in Asheville.’. Most people seemed very politically inclined and eager to share their democratic views on the current electoral head and the state of the country. And people seemed very comfortable asking us, on more than one occasion, if we were democrats ourselves. Signboards in some store even read, “Republicans use the back door.”
Speaking of stores, every store in Asheville carries unique, local and handcrafted goods- be it organic cotton clothes or hand made earrings. Locals take pride in their town and most stores have some form of signage that reads,
“Asheville. Put your $ where your is”
We found some of the most fun and interesting t-shirts not just in stores, but being worn by people visiting and living in, Asheville. Wonderful one-of-a-kind jewelry in several stores, made for perfect exploration.
Some shops that I enjoyed shopping at and browsing were:
T shirts – Gallery MIA ( To get your custom made t-shirt designs on your choice of tees.)
— And the store next to it, which has fun catchy saying on the t-shirts.
Clothes- Spiritex ( Locally sewn, bohemian and comfortable, organic cotton clothes.)
tchotchkes– aSHEville Museum and Kress Emporium
General & outdoor– Mast Store ( Such fun! It’s where I would go shop all the time for clothes, jewelry and fun books on the south.)
Most times my philosophy about visiting a place is, if there is no good bookstore, don’t bother visiting. Coincidentally, Asheville has several to choose from. The Wine and book idea at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, is great. They have several large tables and book nooks for small office meetings, book clubs and writing groups, or possibly, just a place to meet a friend. A good book and wine – What could be better? Malaprop’s Bookstore is very popular and quite well loved. A well stocked store with a good selection on local authors and several books about the area make this a stop for every person. Their sister concern Downtown Books is where we went to get local magazines and used books. You never know whet you are going to find at a used bookstore. In this one we found fun books and stadium seats to enjoy them in.
Every person we spoke to each had their own special thing they loved about their city. Weather it was easy access to hikes in the mountains, the art and crafts or just the Biltmore Mansion, there is a strange character that draws people with similar ideas to live and work in Asheville.
I am not sure what particularly, it was that I fell in love with –The comfortable colorful clothes, the music, the happy attitude, the hikers, the delicious food, the shopping, local crafts or the mountains. I felt like I belonged and a when I left, I had a strong desire to remain and become a part of that community.
More on food in Asheville at www.plantsandgrains.com
- I discovered a hidden gem, that I fell in love with almost as much as New York.
Choose an unusual place to go explore!
- Talk to locals to figure out what they enjoy doing. You might chance uponn something that you missed when you were planning your trip.
- Eat different food and try everything ( within reason.) 😉
- Shop local
- Go on a hike. We went to Pisgah Forest’s catawba falls
- Biltmore mansions is a high up on everyone’s list, but we chose to skip it. We decided to do it on another visit, when we can spend a who day there, rather than go just for lunch.
(Admission $75 per person to get in, even just to dine at one of the restaurants.)