Asheville is in one of the country’s most scenic natural areas between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. Thankfully, the city’s impressive Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical architectural diversity survived a period of “urban renewal”— moments in history when magnificent structures that defined countless American cities were erased from time in the name of progress.
This retro-urban environment creates a unique backdrop that embodies the city’s edgy, bohemian energy of art galleries, boutique shops, farm-to-table restaurants and a lively music scene. Asheville also has a progressive spirit that comes, in part, from being home to nine college campuses, including the University of North Carolina. The city’s unique blend of rural beauty, historic architecture, progressive values and funky energy caused Rolling Stone to call it the “New Freak Capital of the U.S.”
Asheville boasts one of the most tight-knit, dynamic and visible LGBTQ communities in the South. While you won’t find a gay district here, you’ll discover a town with a vibrant gay community that’s integrated into every aspect of the city’s culture. Be sure to visit during the Blue Ridge Pride Festival (Sept. 30, 2017) when Asheville’s LGBTQ community takes to the streets to celebrate its rich diversity. The weekend is filled with pageants, parties and a street festival dubbed by CNN as “one of the world’s best places to celebrate pride.” Book your stay at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, a gay-friendly hotel located in the heart of downtown, which is mere steps away from the Thomas Wolfe House—the Asheville Community Theatre—and some of the city’s most buzz-worthy restaurants.
If you like to get out and enjoy nature, Asheville and its surrounding areas boast magnificent outdoor activities ranging from hiking and mountain biking to whitewater rafting and zipline canopy rides. Asheville is famous for its plethora of specialty vintage stores. Check out Désirant for one-of-a-kind home décor, Rock Doll Vintage for stylish dresses from yesteryear and the Antique Tobacco Barn, a huge warehouse dedicated to treasure hunting!
A trip to Asheville isn’t complete without visiting America’s largest home, the Biltmore. This sprawling, 8,000-acre estate offers everything: outdoor adventure, arts, culture and history, plus an incredible garden designed by Frederick Olmsted.
After a day of antiques, art, culture, food, history, outdoor fun and (if you plan your trip right) Pride, round out your evening with a trip to Scandals, a legendary late-night gay club that’s billed as “the hippest, most fabulous, exciting, almighty dance club in the history of the world.”
Asheville is a beacon of diversity
Visit Woolworth Walk— a private gallery that exclusively features local artists. This gem is located in a gorgeous 1938 Art Deco building in the heart of downtown.