Nestled high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a sophisticated-yet-funky, hip-yet-historic city that makes for a great long weekend getaway for Cincinnatians.
First stop: The River Arts District. In the 1980s, artists began transforming some 22 former industrial buildings along a mile of the French Broad River into studios. Now more than 200 artists have work spaces there and work in media from paint and pencil to metal, fiberglass, and wax. Studio guides and walking tours are available.
Next, check out Downtown Asheville, especially the boutique/honey bar Asheville Bee Charmer. The city is actually known as Bee City USA thanks in part to a homegrown pollinator protection initiative that has since been picked up by other cities.
Malaprop's Bookstore is worth your time if you're looking for a good read while visiting, or if you're interested in being set up on a ‘blind date’ with a book there.
Be sure to pop into the Moog Music Factory, which carries on the innovative spirit of Dr. Bob Moog, the "Father of Electronic Music." Throughout the 1960s, Moog collaborated with over 100 artists to develop the Moog Synthesizer. And you can make your own music at the Moog Store—the only place in the world where all of Moog’s instruments are in one room.
For a wild, BYOB tour, sign up for a LaZoom Band & Beer Bus Tour. A live, local band plays on their big purple bus as it carts you around to multiple breweries.
A stop at The Block (a historic district somewhat reminiscent of OTR) is next. Hood Huggers International offers tours highlighting food and entertainment central to The Block and local historic sites, including the Young Men’s Institute Cultural Center. The YMI opened in 1893 to provide social, cultural and business opportunities for African-American construction workers building the Biltmore Estate.
Speaking of the Biltmore, no trip to Asheville is complete without stopping by the largest private residence in the country. The main house alone boats 250 rooms over four acres of floor space and was inspired by French Renaissance chateaus. Built for George Washington Vanderbilt, the original estate was a stunning 125,000 acres. While now a ‘mere’ 8,000 acres, you can tour elaborate gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The house itself includes a 10,000-volume library, original art by Sargent and Renoir, an enormous banquet hall, an indoor bowling alley, and 16th Century tapestries. You can lunch at the estate (Cedric’s Tavern and Village Social are recommended), take a free tour of the winery (including tastings), or tour the estate’s backroads on an electric recumbent tricycle.
The nearby Blue Ridge Parkway is another stop you might want to make since it offers beautiful, scenic drives, numerous hikes, rafting, zip-lines, and mountain biking. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail begins at the Folk Art Center downtown and takes you to Lunch Rocks, which is a large rock with an amazing overlook of the greenery surrounding you. For more extreme views and waterfalls, head south to Graveyard Fields. Companies like Blue Ridge Hiking Company or Asheville Hiking Tours can create custom hikes for you that include a picnic lunch.
This only scratches the surface of everything you can do in Asheville. Whether you're trying to get outside to enjoy some North Carolina nature or take a unique tour to relive history, you can do it all in Bee City USA.
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Asheville, NC is about five and a half hours from Cincinnati. Learn more about planning your trip at their tourism site.