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Planning a trip to Asheville

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A friend and I are planning a quick roadtrip to Asheville this weekend. Aside from The Biltmore Estate which we will visit, what else should we hit while there? We're both in our early twenties so I'm talking about bars, theatre, cultural/historical attractions. I've been to Asheville a couple of times and have been OK at just going into downtown and finding a decent place to hang out but specific suggestions would be appreciated.

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A friend and I are planning a quick roadtrip to Asheville this weekend.  Aside from The Biltmore Estate which we will visit, what else should we hit while there?  We're both in our early twenties so I'm talking about bars, theatre, cultural/historical attractions.  I've been to Asheville a couple of times and have been OK at just going into downtown and finding a decent place to hang out but specific suggestions would be appreciated.

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A great resource for finding places to go and things to do in Asheville is the Mountain Xpress. It's a weekly, independent local newspaper targeted at the younger crowd that covers the entertainment aspect of the region better than anyone else. Their webpage, found here is OK too, but it's best to just pick up a (free) copy when you get into town. You should be able to find one just about anywhere. And as you've already discovered, just walking around downtown might be the best way to find something to do.

The Chamber of Commerce could tell you some interesting places to go, too, but in my experience they're more directed at the "mature" crowd.

Bars: I'm a big fan of pizza, so I usually end up at Barley's Taproom on Broadway, or Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co up north on Merrimon. They both, of course, serve pizza and beer. Barley's kind of got in on the ground level in the revitalization of downtown, and they have a pretty big customer base as a result. They probably have more beers on tap than anywhere else in town - local, domestic, and import. Jack of the Wood on Patton downtown is pretty popular too, though I've never been there. There's a new place called "The Usual Suspects" up north on Merrimon that's frequented by college students, but I've never been there either. Once again, just walking around with no specific destination in mind and isn't a bad idea either.

If you like coffee, there are probably 20 locally owned, uniquely Asheville coffee shops downtown. Don't you DARE go to Starbucks! ;)

Historical attractions: check out the Thomas Wolfe home, recently reopened after a fire that gutted the place back in 1998. It's a bit out of place, right next to the Radisson Hotel downtown. Wolfe is regarded as one of the more important American novelists of the 20th century, and his most famous work, "Look Homeward Angel," is based on his experiences in Asheville during the "roaring 20s."

Theater: there's the Asheville Community Theater (ACT) downtown, and the Flat Rock Playhouse (about 45 minutes to the south, near Hendersonville) but I'm not sure specifically what they're going to be doing this weekend. Check the Mountain Xpress.

Cultural: There's always some sort of live music going on in town; the Orange Peel is the largest venue, but there are countless bars around with smaller acts that are often worth seeing. Once again, check the Mountain Xpress.

You might also check out the New Morning Gallery in Biltmore Village. They've got lots of funky artwork, furniture, housewares, jewelry, etc. made almost 100% by local artists. Pretty neat place. There are, of course, bunches of other galleries with various and sundry items of interest downtown, so check that out too.

Also check out the Grove Arcade. There's some restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries - all with a distinctly "Asheville" flavor. Even if you're not interested in the shops, etc, the building itself is still worth a look. It's very impressive, but it's (unfortunately) sometimes overlooked since it's in a somewhat less traveled part of downtown.

And, for something entirely different, you might spend the afternoon hiking instead. The weather this weekend is supposedly gonna be great. You could head downtown afterwards, as well.

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There is a fairly nationally well known vegetarian restaurant there called the Laughing Seed.  It is worth a try if you are even remotely interested in vegetarian dishes.  There are also a couple of noodle shops. They are very good as well. 

Ditto on the coffee houses.  There is a European style one there one street over from Wall street that I like. 

Personally I felt that Biltmore was a big disappointment.  It was nice, but it certainly wasn't worth the Disney World prices they charge to get in there.  And the food and wine they sell there is way over rated.  If you would like to try some good wine, stop at the Waldensian winery in Valdese off I-40.  It is worth the small detour.

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I think the place you're talking about is Old Europe. That's on Battery Park Ave., right near Wall Street and the Grove Arcade. Never been there myself. There's also a bar/coffee shop called "The New French Bar" right across the street, which I've been to quite often. It's on the ground floor of the Haywood Park Hotel building, and it has a very classy feel to it. Not a place to "get drunk and shoot pool with the boys" - but a great spot to take your date after a show or something. It's just a quick walk from the Civic Center / Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, too.

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It was nice, but it certainly wasn't worth the Disney World prices they charge to get in there.

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Yeah, I went in seventh grade on a fieldtrip (it's one of those practically required trips in NC along with Old Salem) . Luckily our tickets will be free this weekend thanks to my friend's roommate.

Great tips on the coffee shops and such. I'm imagining the trip will be fairly fluid. I'm not going to over schedule my time but I certainly wanted to be familiar enough with my options and the territory to have a worthwhile trip. Plans so far are Biltmore House/ Vlliage. Grove Arcade, Downtown (dining, bars, and shops in general), Grove Park Inn (just because it's famous although too pricey too stay in), I thought about the Thomas Wolfe house, I saw a ghost tour that looked interesting. I plan on hitting the visitors center when I get into town. At the very least they can familarize me with downtown. Like I said though, it's fluid, if we change our minds or see something interesting we're going for it. Thanks for the tip about the Mountain Xpress I'll be sure to pick one up.

One big question is (I know I should get a map) how do these districts relate to one another. I read about Pack Square. Are Wall Street, Battery Park Ave. and these other places of interest located closely together? If I park my car downtown can I walk to these various streets? From my reading online it appears that there are two districts to hit, Downtown and Biltmore. Is that right?

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One big question is (I know I should get a map) how do these districts relate to one another.  I read about Pack Square.  Are Wall Street, Battery Park Ave. and these other places of interest located closely together?  If I park my car downtown can I walk to these various streets?  From my reading online it appears that there are two districts to hit, Downtown and Biltmore.  Is that right?

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Exactly. Battery Park Ave, Wall St, the Grove Arcade, and all of the attractions downtown are all located within a half-mile radius of Pack Square, and all the streets downtown are great to walk on. There are several parking decks; the largest and most centrally located is the one next to the Civic Center. There's also one on Wall Street, and another on Rankin Ave.

Biltmore Village (and the entrance to the Biltmore House) is located about 2 miles south of Downtown, by way of (wonder of wonders) Biltmore Ave. I wish Biltmore Estate had a shuttle service that picked people up at the gate, but they don't - so you'll probably need your car to get around. There are no parking decks in Biltmore Village, but there's free on-street parking that should be adequate for this time of year.

There are a few other districts worthy of note. The river district, down the hill on the west side of Downtown, is where a whole bunch of artists have their studios. I'm not sure if they're open to the public or not. If I were into real estate speculation, I'd buy here: this is probably going to be Asheville's next "hot spot." The Merrimon Avenue, Haywood St., and Charlotte St. corridors are all somewhat interesting in that they're fairly old and have some neat shops & restaurants here and there, but if your time is limited it might be best to stick to downtown and Biltmore.

Finally, if you like malls, big box retail, and chain restaurants (in other words, stuff that can be found in every other city in the country) head down Tunnel Rd. and South Tunnel Rd., to the east. I don't recommend it, for the same reason I suggested that you stay away from Starbucks. There's plenty of better, more interesting, locally owned stores and shops around, and they'd appreciate your patronage way more than any mega-corporation ever would. Besides, the traffic out there is terrible. ;)

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Just wanted to post back and say that the trip was great. I never really knew how fleshed out Asheville's downtown was with retail and dining. I was impressed there was a ton of downtown retail. We took a ghost/history tour of downtown Asheville Friday night. It was OK. The stories and history were not the problem it was the tour guide's style (or lack of it) that was the problem. He just didn't really "sell it" if you catch what I mean. (By the way orulz, I don't know you and I'm going to feel like a real jackass if you happen to be an Asheville tour guide that was working on Friday night.)

We started off Friday just hanging around downtown, going through some shops, eating, and checking things out. Nice tip on The Laughing seed monsoon, we had dinner there and everything was great. The architecture was amazing, of course there's no way anyone could think it wasn't. There was a much larger bulk of historic buildings then I thought there would be. Congrats to Asheville for doing such a great job on preservation.

Biltmore was Biltmore. We had a great time there. The free tickets had expired but since they were having Carolina Days we got in for $19.00 and only paid $3.00 each for an audio tour. We also got in the Winery tour and the free wine tasting. So, all in all, I think the whole day at Biltmore was certainly worth the $22.00.

I had a great time, the city was awesome and I will definitely be back to visit more often. Thanks for all of your tips guys.

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What high school did you attend? I graduated from West Henderson (Falcons!) and now attend UGA - Athens. I also attended Rugby Middle (go Raiders!). :D

Yes, the city was too broke to afford urban renewal. In 1985, an Atlanta developer purchased the Jackson Building block and restored it. This renewed interest in Downtown and fueled a rebirth. The success of that project led to others. It was slow here, just like other places. Many attempts were made to revitalize Downtown, including a proposed Mall and the completed Biltmore Building in 1980. It's odd how the early ideas back then were to demolish and build new to revitalize. It turned out the best ideas included restoration.

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I agree that Asheville really lucked out by being too broke for "progress", but the revitalization of its downtown was a real struggle and took a lot of work from a lot of real visionaries. Asheville's revitalization really started in the late seventies and early eighties. Developers bought up a lot of older buildings in DT to block big projects, and community organizations fought for major investment in infastructure with public-private projects like Wall Street, Pack Place. etc. Revitalization really seemed to be struggling to catch on for a long time, but has finally blown up in the last 10 years.

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