Called the "Paris of the South", Asheville is the cultural center of the Blue Ridge region. Wherever you go around town, you'll see Blue Mountains as a backdrop. A true city of the arts, Asheville offers plenty to do for a city its size. George Vanderbilt chose Asheville as the spot for his mammoth estate, Biltmore, for a reason: it's beautiful here.
When the railroad came to Asheville it brought growth and George Vanderbilt to town. His home, Biltmore Estate, is the largest privately-owned house in the world with more than 255 rooms. Visitors come in droves from around the country to view the mansion's splendor and its gardens. Plan to spend the day when you visit; there's a restaurant, luxury inn, shops and wine-tasting from the vineyard to enjoy. Just outside the gates is Biltmore Village, constructed in 1898 and featuring eateries and small shops.
Downtown Asheville includes over 170 buildings, some built as early as 1840 around Pack Square. With museums such as Colburn Gem and Mineral and Asheville Art Museum, the YMI Cultural Center featuring African American exhibits and The Health Adventure, a biology museum, Pack Place is a center of Asheville activity. The area is undergoing a transformation into an "arts park" to be called Pack Square Park and will feature works by artists throughout the park.
For traditional arts, visit the Folk Art Center, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with craft demonstrations and exhibits. The Western North Carolina Nature Center is home to bears, cougars, skunks and more. The Botanical Gardens of the University of North Carolina at Asheville occupy 10 acres on the campus and feature 26,000 plants. Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site is the author's childhood home and one of Asheville's top attractions.
Accommodations range from chain motel/hotels to the historic Grove Park Inn and Spa, built in 1913 featuring golf and a new spa. Dining options range from chain restaurants to Caf‚ on the Square for pasta and seafood. Nightlife is mainly downtown at the Asheville Civic Center featuring big-name acts as well as the Asheville Symphony.
Asheville is located in western North Carolina about four hours west of Raleigh, NC off I-40 west.