From the Sunday, September 8, 2002, NY TIMES
Asheville, N.C., is experiencing a boom not seen since the 1920's, when Thomas
Edison and Henry Ford enjoyed good hotels set in some of the highest mountains
on the East Coast. Part of this city of 68,000 people looks much as it did in
that early heyday: downtown boasts more than 170 vintage buildings, including
a stock of distinctive Art Deco and Gothic Revival structures.
A boy on stilts and two bronze pigs are among the 27 sculptures on the Asheville Urban Trail, a recently completed 1.7-mile meander through the architecture, history and culture of downtown. Audio cassettes for visitors who want to take a walking tour are available for $5 at the Asheville Art Museum, 2 South Pack Square; guided tours, Saturdays at 3 p.m. through November, are also $5. Call (828) 258-0710 for tour reservations or a brochure with map.
|The beautifully restored Grove Arcade Public Market, 1 Page Avenue,
(828) 252-7799, is worth a visit even apart from the 33 shops, stalls
and restaurants that will be opening this fall. A grand opening will be
held Nov. 2 with a circus, fireworks and local bluegrass music. Returned
to its original use, this Gothic Revival fantasy is elaborately
decorated with gargoyles, rams' heads and entwined hearts, both inside
and out. Two six-foot-tall griffins stand guard over the north entrance.
Biltmore House, the 250-room estate of George Vanderbilt completed in 1895, was modeled after Loire Valley chateaus and is filled with European furnishings and art, including eight 16th-century Flemish tapestries. It is surrounded by 250 acres of gardens and grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, plus 8,000 acres of woodland, farmland and vineyards. Open daily 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to house, gardens and winery is $34. Information: (800) 543-2961; http://www.biltmore.com .
The new Explore Biltmore Estate program allows visitors to see its scenery and wildlife by bicycle, kayak, raft, horse, carriage or on foot. Two-hour guided trips on the gentle French Broad River are $25 (plus the regular admission fee of $34); horseback riding is $45 an hour. A regular ticket can be extended to a second day for $8. Call (888) 428-8260.
Asheville is easy to get out of. The billboard-free Blue Ridge Parkway skirts the eastern and southern edges of the city on its way from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, about 85 miles west of Asheville. Along the 469-mile scenic highway are trails, picnic areas, campgrounds and dozens of places to stop and gaze at the layers of blue ridges. Information: 298-0398; http://blueridgeparkway.org .
Another way to tour the countryside is to visit craftsmen who open their studios to the public. A good place to start is the Penland School of Crafts, about an hour north of town. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from noon on Sunday; 765-6211.
Where to Stay
Rates are based on double occupancy and do not include a 10.5 percent tax.
A downtown setting and unusually large rooms are the appeal of Haywood Park Hotel, 1 Battery Park Avenue, (800) 228-2522, fax (828) 253-0481, http://haywoodpark.com . Originally a department store, the hotel has 33 rooms and suites, most with a vaguely Deco feel. Rates: $175 to $190 with Continental breakfast delivered to the room.
Deep in a high forest 10 miles from downtown is the handsome Sourwood Inn, 810 Elk Mountain Scenic Highway, (828) 255-0690, fax (828) 255-0480; http://sourwoodinn.com The cedar and stone Arts and Crafts-style building seems much older than its four years. The 12 guest rooms are simply furnished, some with quilts, rag rugs and wicker furniture. Each room has its own balcony, fireplace and deep tub with a view. Rates: $140 to $170, including tax and full breakfast. Closed January and weekdays in February.
Budget: Recently renovated, the 149-room Best Western, 22 Woodfin Street, 253-1851, fax (828) 252-9205, is within walking distance of downtown attractions. Rooms are standard motel style. Rates: $79.95 to $109.95, with Continental breakfast.
Luxury: The Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Avenue, 252-2711, fax 253-7053, http://groveparkinn.com , has recently redone 344 of its 510 rooms and suites. They are now much more in keeping with the hotel's 1913 Arts and Crafts origins, yet have CD players and microwave ovens. The spa, with six pools and 24 treatment rooms, has become an attraction unto itself. The lobby's huge stone fireplaces and the long view from the veranda's rockers remain as appealing as ever. Rates: $209 to $429; suites start at $599.
The Inn on Biltmore Estate, 1 Antler Hill Road, (828) 225-1660, fax (828) 274-6396, http://biltmore.com, overlooks a valley, with Biltmore House rising through hills three miles away. The 213-room hotel, opened in 2001, is a starker, modernized interpretation of the mansion. Rooms are small but attractively furnished with tall carved beds and lush, richly colored fabrics. Rates: $149 to $369.
Where to Eat
Savoy Cucina Italiana, 641 Merrimon Avenue, (828) 253-1077, is Asheville's restaurant of the moment. It specializes in seafood with an Italian flair, like grilled mahi-mahi on a crisp Parmesan capellini cake, topped with calamari arrabiata. Despite being in a former gas station, Savoy is elegant, with Tuscan colors and touches of copper and wrought iron. A meal for two with wine is about $150. Lunch Tuesday through Friday; dinner daily.
Zambra, 85 West Walnut Street, (828) 232-1060, is a tapas bar offering creative Gypsy cuisine. The colorful, cavernous space has keyhole-shaped doorways and plush banquettes stacked with pillows. Among 18 tapas on a recent menu was an artichoke stuffed with pistachio and eggplant caviar. A meal for two with wine is about $85. Evenings only, Tuesday through Saturday.
Tupelo Honey, 12 College Street, (828) 255-4863, serves Southern food, often with an unusual twist. Collard greens are seasoned with toasted garlic and soy, and cornbread is dotted with candied ginger. The banana pudding, strictly traditional, sells out fast. The place resembles an old-fashioned tearoom, with ceiling fans and fluttering curtains. Dinner for two with wine is about $50. Breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday; dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Breakfast is served all day, and long into the night on weekends, when the place stays open till 3.
Freshness is the appeal of Early Girl Eatery, 8 Wall Street, (828) 259-9292, named for a tomato popular with gardeners. The long list of vegetables may include baked lima beans and squash casserole. Entrees like roast chicken with herb gravy are straightforward and flavorful. The uncluttered dining room is decorated with jars of home-canned vegetables and plants hanging in the windows. Dinner for two with wine is about $50. Breakfast and lunch weekdays; brunch Saturday and Sunday; dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
Among the side-by-side restaurants on downtown's busiest block, the Noodle Shop, 3 Pack Square SW, (828) 250-9898, is a flavorful bargain. The bright white interior is rather sterile, but most diners prefer to sit outside on the sidewalk under an awning for people-watching. A bowl of spicy wonton soup contains fresh spinach leaves and chopped herbs. A meal for two, without drinks: about $20. Lunch and dinner daily.
see Asheville Magazine