WHAT MAKES A TOWN “THE COOLEST”? In the end, it’s the same as what makes travel the coolest: the people. And yet there seem to be a few common patterns that attract cool people to certain areas, or perhaps it’s the other way around: people’s creativity and innovation helps lead their towns in a cooler direction.
Either way, the kinds of towns we like:
Are not just bedroom communities or suburbs, but have their own economic / local “heart.” (We like to walk around downtowns, not just drive everywhere.)
Have strong DIY or local movements around agriculture / food / drink / farm to table. (We like to eat and drink well.)
Have cool natural features close by, and ideally a significant part of their local economy is outdoor recreation. (We like to surf / paddle / hike / chill in the woods.)
Have cultural diversity to the point where even if the town is small it still has a “global citizenry” feel. (We like it when we can speak more than one language; we like it when the place is LGBT friendly.)
And that’s pretty much it. Size didn’t matter too much. Some places could qualify as small cities. Others are tiny. What matters really, is the feel. So without further ado:
Visitors strolling around the cool art deco buildings or finding farm-to-table cuisine and craft beer everywhere they turn may presume Asheville has long been an affluent place. In reality, Asheville suffered decades of shuttered buildings, areas with a full-on “ghost town” feel. But starting in the mid-80s, a group of visionary citizens led one of the most amazing economic transformations in the US. Fwd to 2015: Calendars full of next-level music / arts / culture festivals, boutique hotels popping up all over downtown, and pound for pound the most thriving craft beer and local food scene in the country
Why it’s so cool
1: Location: Appalachian highland terrain with wilderness options left and right.
2. An almost ridiculously welcoming, supportive local community. Want to come and start a craft meadery? An archery shop? An electronic music collective? A wildcrafting camp? An integrative medical practice? You’ll find people stoked you came, and going out of their way to help.
3: A chill Southern family-friendly culture. Kids are welcome everywhere and there’s a total lack of pretension. The girl you chatted up at WALK? You’d never guess she’s a world-champion kayaker. The bearded bro who served you an IPA? You’d never know his brewery made a million dollars last year.
Early power breakfast at Sunny Point. Then go run the Green. Bonus points if it’s fall. If you’re not a boater, go on a day hike along the Horsepasture River. Come back for dinner at Chorizo, then cocktails at the Crow and Quill if you want it laid back or next door at Tiger Mountain if you want it rowdy. If there’s someone you like playing the Orange Peel, don’t miss it, or just roll the dice at New Mountain.
Asheville has often been voted #1 Beer City USA, with a plethora of craft breweries.
Fantastic food abounds in Asheville's growing culinary scene, with emerging celebrity chefs serving farm to table food. Some of our favorites:
Curate - This award-winning restaurant serves traditional Spanish tapas. It is run by Executive Chef Katie Button, who was a semi-finalist for the "Rising Star Chef" 2012 from the James Beard Foundation.
Bouchon - French Bistro with great French comfort food
Corner Kitchen - known for hosting President Obama. Contemporary American
Admiral - Contemporary American, get the home brewed ginger in their amazing cocktails!
Black Mountain's Que Sera - 20 minutes from Asheville, in the town known as the 'front porch of America. Contemporary American with a Southern flair
Where to start! Sliding Rock is a 60ft smooth rock that is a water slide that dumps you into a natural swimming hole. Pisgah National Forest with hundreds of hiking trails. Horseback riding, mountain biking, every outdoor activity you can think of. Finish up at the Sky Bar, a multi-level bar tavern on Battery Park in Asheville.