ASHEVILLE: Edgy, Artsy & Inviting

Seeking the peak? Thanks to the region’s rich bio-diversity and wide range of elevations, Asheville has one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the country.”

By Marla Horn Lazarus

So I’ve been told, that there’s more to life than the climb. There’s also the view. Make sure to come up for air when visiting Asheville. There’s something unexpected around every bend.  Welcome to Asheville and immerse yourself in the unmistakable mountain vibe. As summer wanes, cool mountain air ignites a colorful patchwork of autumn hues across the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s truly a breath of fresh air. Whether you choose to hike among fall foliage in search of stunning vistas, take a scenic drive through multi-colored forests, or celebrate the harvest with pumpkin fests, corn mazes, and cups of warm apple cider, you’ll soon come to understand why this season lures leaf peepers back year after year.

Known as an art colony, a healing resort and a home to notable luminaries, statesmen and bohemians, Asheville is one of the most welcoming, vibrant cities in America. This is a great place to explore, hang out and people watch. This thriving mountain city features a funky and eclectic downtown, 30-plus art galleries alone, a burgeoning culinary scene, an up and coming live music scene and, of course, the awe-inspiring scenery of the Appalachian Mountains. The diverse mix of culture, music and art has led to the city center being dubbed by many as the “Paris of the South.”

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You won’t find the usual tacky tourist shops. Instead, we spent the day browsing through the city’s rich architectural legacy with its mix of Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical styles. It is the perfect retro-urban backdrop to the edgy energy that emanates from the locally owned-shops, distinctive restaurants and exciting entertainment venues. While many cities underwent major overhauls in past decades, Asheville’s historic and architecturally diverse downtown remains beautifully preserved. There’s something special here, and the world is just beginning to discover it. As the ultimate playground, with a wide diversity of outdoor adventures, it’s the ideal destination for an active and healthy getaway. Take a walk along the historic Urban Trail, the city’s outdoor history museum along the sidewalks of downtown. We took a self-guided “scavenger hunt” to learn about tidbits of Asheville’s fascinating past. With the help of a map, you can walk 1.7 miles to 30 stations, each with a piece of art and a bronze plaque that commemorates the city’s most significant cultural, educational, social and architecture stories. While the trail could be walked in an hour, we ended up spending much of the day since there are so many tempting and delicious distractions along the way.

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Our favorite place to stay, tucked within Asheville’s historic Biltmore Village is the Grand Bohemian Hotel, a Kessler Collection boutique property and distinct member of Marriot’s Autograph Collection. With the warmth of their 5 star services along with magnificent appointment to detail and breathtaking vista views, you can see why the hotel lives up to their multiple accolades. The hotel was named the “Best Luxury Hotel in North Carolina” by Frommer’s, “Readers Choice” by Conde Nast Traveler and a “World’s Best Hotel” by Travel + Leisure. The Grand Bohemian Hotel is a European lodge-inspired boutique hideaway, reflecting the eclectic, edgy artistry of Asheville, along with the richness of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Tudor inspired hotel boasts 104 luxurious guestrooms and spacious suites. Its Old-World ambiance with antique fixtures, hand-carved furniture and rustic design finishes blends seamlessly with amenities of the modern world. The eclectic fusion of art, music, décor and luxury is the signature of a Kessler Collection hotel experience. “There is a casual richness about the environment at Grand Bohemian Asheville complemented by outstanding service quality that beckons this region’s Southern charm.  Everywhere you look, there is something new to explore,” said John Luckett, GM at Grand Bohemian. Flavors of the region are showcased throughout the hotel, including locally sourced cuisine at Red Stag Grill, a farm to table restaurant offering Asheville’s finest dining with the freshest local ingredients, personally selected at nearby farms by the executive chef. Featuring contemporary European comfort food in a casual and intimate setting, Red Stag Grill offers guests passionate local flavors.

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At the heart of each Kessler Collection hotel is a celebration of the artistic,

Grand Bohemian Hotel Gallery, showcasing stunning works of art, and exhibitions by local, regional, and internationally recognized artists, designed to inspire the collector in all of us.

Pioneered by Kessler, these visually stimulating art galleries, located within most of their hotels, have something for everyone from paintings and sculptures to art glass and jewelry. Rare and original pieces of art are displayed in the awe-inspiring galleries, as well as throughout the hotels, ranging from oil paintings, glass, wood, contemporary jewelry and bronze sculptures. http://www.bohemianhotelasheville.com

Want a place to feel like royalty for the day? Discover an American fairy tale, complete with a castle at Asheville’s crown jewel. The Biltmore, created by George Vanderbilt, was built in 1895 as a retreat reminiscent of the grand castles and estates of France and Britain. Vanderbilt fell in love with the North Carolina mountains after visiting in the late 1880s and immediately began acquiring land. By late 1889, he was ready to build his dream. A French Renaissance castle, then, with sweeping, panoramic views of his estate and the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond. Plans began for the 250-room Biltmore House, its four acres of floor space qualifying it as the largest private home in America. The house is still privately owned by Vanderbilt’s descendants and operates as a for-profit, self-sufficient enterprise. Visiting Biltmore today is as close to time travel as you can experience. It begins with Olmsted’s magnificent three-mile approach road. Entering Biltmore House, you can imagine the thrill of being invited here as a guest on Christmas Eve in 1895 when the home first opened. http://www.biltmore.com

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Asheville is a unique, special place that lingers sweetly in our mind and holds memories for years to come. We look forward to visiting as often as possible and search for the path least travelled.