When I first visited Asheville, North Carolina in 2013, I was obsessed with the vortex — but it surprisingly took a backseat on my most recent trip. I found 6 new reasons to visit Asheville, North Carolina now.
This time around to Asheville, I was happily distracted by the dozens of amazing new restaurants, hotels (almost 20 new small hotels since my first visit), emerged art scene and myriad attractions.
Asheville has come a long way, notable for a small city with a small population (about 90,000), for it not only reflects growth but offers more reasons to visit — 6 really good ones. Asheville is truly standing out in the South and thankfully still has a lot of heart.
Here are 6 reasons you should visit Asheville, North Carolina now.
1. The vortexes are amazing.
I know this sounds strange, and well, sure… it is, but vortexes exist here the same way they’re a big lure for visitors to Sedona. The vortex is the best attraction in Asheville because it makes the other attractions even better. Yep, that’s another weird thing to say. Lastly, you can’t see a vortex, but you can feel it (weirdest!).
Let me explain.
Vortexes are strong energy points across the world, so people are spiritually and naturally drawn toward them. When you’re in a place with a vortex, it simply amplifies your mood. The easiest explanation: You feel great. The vortexes (there are 24 in Asheville) are located in the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround the city, and the feeling you get in Asheville is what I’ve coined as “effortlessly positive.” I’ve been to Asheville three times, and each time, I learn the population increases and *sticks* (meaning residents in Asheville never really move somewhere else… in fact, have you ever met a new neighbor in your city who moved from Asheville? It’s rare). That’s the power of the vortex and how it fills you with its good energy.
One of my favorite vortex stories of all time involves George Vanderbilt.
George Vanderbilt (of the famed Vanderbilt family in New York) was driving through Asheville with his mother in the late 1800s. She got sick, so they had to stop while she recovered. While here, George felt like a new person, completely inspired, and fell in love with Asheville. A few years later, in 1895, he builds the Biltmore Estate, the largest private residence in North America and now a museum, right in Asheville.
Random, right? Nope. It’s the power of the vortex. Why else would Vanderbilt build an estate in a place he had absolutely no connection to?
I truly believe there’s great energy in Asheville, vortex or not, and others agree. I guess you’ll have to determine this for yourself with a visit.
2. The Biltmore Estate.
Speaking of Vanderbilt and Biltmore, the Biltmore Estate is one of the best attractions in the state, if not the South. Sprawling 8,000 acres (it takes about 15 minutes to drive from the entrance to the actual parking lot just next to the Biltmore House), the estate receives approximately one million visitors a year.
In the early 1900s, it was uncommon to have home gymnasiums, but George Vanderbilt outfitted Biltmore House with the most up-to-date equipment of the time including parallel bars, a chain-driven rowing machine, and wall mounted pulleys with adjustable weights. #Biltmore pic.twitter.com/QAbE5qQpt4
— Biltmore Estate (@BiltmoreEstate) January 3, 2020
Visitors journey more than a hundred years back in time through elegant and over-the-top bedrooms, lounges and basements with actual antiques furnishings. If you’re into old-world charm and decadence, I would make Biltmore a priority. Downton Abbey fans are also making a beeline with the new exhibition, which runs until April 2020.
And, hey, if you’re really obsessed, you can now stay at the Biltmore, which opened an inn, hotel and cottage in the past few years.
3. The dining scene has gone next-level.
On my previous visits to Asheville, I ate through many terrific restaurants serving Southern food, including one of my favorites, Tupelo Honey, which has branched out to other cities. I remember only one notable restaurant didn’t serve American cuisine at the time of my visit, and that was Curatè, which serves Spanish-inspired tapas, and it’s delicious.
Now, there’s so many great restaurants celebrating all types of cuisine, and many are reminiscent of NYC or Chicago dining scenes. This is credited to the imaginative, progressive and talented young chefs serving up elevated dishes.
I didn’t have enough time to visit them all, but I dined at a few that prove Asheville is still a competitive foodie city. Two notable restaurants include:
Cultura. The dining experience is truly exceptional. Chef Jacob Sessoms, a native chef who worked with Jonathan Waxman in New York City, is a young local hero in the dining scene and made a name for himself after opening Table.
Cultura, which opened in April 2019, serves new-agrarian cuisine, and quite possibly the only restaurant in the state to do so. Expect creative, farm-fresh dishes merging with traditionally Southern family-style dining (ie: huge portions), like Colonel Hester’s Bucket of Birds smoked & fried (for 2-4 people, $65.00), which won’t include boring chicken.
I’d also recommend Sovereign Remedies, which is actually a bar, but there are a few tables for dining upstairs in a rustic attic setting (think vintage furniture and a French balcony overlooking the bar).
In a way, it reminded me of Napa Valley, and I’m not completely shocked considering the restaurant is helmed by Chef Graham House, who spent time in Northern California. The New York Times loved the restaurant, and the dishes are truly elevated and thoughtful, so don’t expect typical bar fare. In fact, Sovereign Remedies serves up organic, local and sustainable ingredients in beautifully plated dishes. The Bavette Steak with wildflower butter and radicchio hit all the right spots for me, one of the reasons to visit Asheville, North Carolina!
4. There are more hotels than ever before.
As I mentioned earlier, almost 20 hotels have opened since my visit in 2013. Not all of them are notable, but visitors have more options. At the time of my last visit, the only hotels you’d even consider are Grand Bohemian Asheville and Omni Grove Park Inn.
5. You can bring your dog basically anywhere.
I travel often with my pup Ruby, and I consider all the pet-friendly factors when visiting a city. Asheville checks off all the boxes. Most Asheville hotels are pet friendly (we stayed at Kimpton Hotel Arras since Kimpton is the most pet-friendly hotel chain in the world, and we rarely saw a guest without a pup here), there are ubiquitous green lawns and yards and parks, shops are incredibly pet-friendly (and there are tons of boutique pet shops) and even restaurants that have patios allow dogs and offer dog menus, like Sunny Point Cafe, Daphne at Twisted Laurel and Posana.
What made Asheville even more pet-friendly is that you can book Asheville dog city tours. On the tour with Dog Door, which you can book here, we stopped at local shops with dog goodies, breweries that love pups and even dog concept shops.
I also met up with a pet psychic at Heart Alchemy who offers pet companion readings. This was truly interesting, and I’m sure I’ll write a longer story, so look out for that.
In the reading, the psychic Lewisa basically communicated some of Ruby’s thoughts to me, and even psychoanalyzed some of her behavior (why she does it) and some valuable techniques to better our relationship. Wow, sounds weird when I write it out, but it seriously blew me away. It’s one of the great reasons to visit Asheville, North Carolina.
6. Asheville is affordable.
Asheville is an affordable city. The restaurants are reasonably priced, there’s very little high-end shopping, and hotel rates won’t cost you an arm and a leg. The fact there are more hotels means rates will remain competitive, which means you won’t spend a lot.
It’s also a great walking city. Downtown is compact, and you can stroll the streets with plenty of window and people watching, hop in a brewery for a cheap beer and browse tons of galleries for free. Even the art shops are reasonable. We stopped by Zapow, an art collective featuring the amazing work of young contemporary Asheville artists, and I left with a great framed artwork and a sticker for under $40.
I also recommend heading to West Asheville and River Arts, an emerging district along the river that feels inspired by Brooklyn with its industrial design, food trucks and range of galleries and studios.
Have you been to Asheville? Tell me your experiences below!
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