Downtown Asheville: An Urban Trail of History & Culture
Idyllic downtown Asheville is nestled in a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains at 2216 feet, just east of the French Broad River. Its ginkgo-tree-lined streets and historic storefronts make it easy to imagine what it must have looked like 100 years ago. Always pulsing with visitors, local office employees, shoppers, buskers and other street performers, as well as locals just seeking entertainment, downtown’s streets and sidewalks provide never-ending interest.
Asheville’s 28801 is simultaneously the city’s business and entertainment center, and an eclectic district featuring murals, off-beat boutiques, and plenty of independent arts and crafts. Its local-centric business philosophy means very few chains, but rather a vast array of locally-owned shops selling primarily locally-made goods. Many downtown restaurants focus on farm-to-table cuisine using meats and vegetables from nearby farms.
Downtown Asheville Lifestyle
Nearly all of downtown’s residential neighborhoods are historic. Some homes have been restored, like Montord’s Tudors, Colonials, and bungalows, while other areas are up-and-coming, such as South French Broad and MLK. Upscale apartments and condos are peppered throughout the business districts, and most are brand-new units in beautiful, historic buildings.
Many of the city’s schools and major employers are located in areas farther afield, but downtown is conveniently situated just inside the I-240 loop, making it easy to arrive just about anywhere in Asheville within 20 minutes. Isaac Dickson Elementary, Asheville Middle, and Asheville High School are all within a few miles. Self-employed or remote workers can find an endless variety of coffee shops to post up and work, and several co-working offices have opened their doors over the past few years. Parking downtown isn’t as daunting as one might think—the city’s four public garages are inexpensive.
Nearby grocery stores include Trader Joe’s, Greenlife (owned by Whole Foods), Hopey and Co., Harris Teeter, and the downtown anchor French Broad Food Co-Op. And, of course there are two farmers markets: Asheville City Market and the French Broad Food Co-Op Tailgate Market.
Comfortably packed with restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, bars, theaters, shops, concert venues, and parks, downtown will likely never let you get bored. Enjoy Pritchard Park’s chess games or weekly drum circle, Pack Square’s monthly concerts, or a stroll through Carver Park’s edible forest; or, take a hike just one mile north to UNCA’s beautiful Arboretum. Visit the Art Museum, Colburn Earth Science Museum, aSHEville (A Museum for Her Story), Asheville Pinball Museum, or the Thomas Wolfe House. Browse art and crafts at Woolworth Walk, Kress Emporium, the Grove Arcade’s Outdoor Artist Market, the semi-annual Big Crafty, or one of downtown’s many galleries. Attend a yoga, dance, or pilates class at one of downtown’s many studios.
Countless boutiques with character dot Lexington Avenue and Broadway, including a handful of vintage and antique shops; and the Grove Arcade offers shopping a little on the fancier side. Topps peddles all the latest shoe fashions, and even Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters have found homes downtown.
Dining possibilities are seemingly endless. Venture out at dinnertime and choose from Italian, Korean, Thai, Japanese, South American, Mexican, Southern, Cajun, Ethiopian, Himalayan, Moroccan-Mediterranean, Irish, farm-to-table, gluten-free, vegetarian, and tapas options. It isn’t all exotic though—bar food, pizza, and inexpensive tacos are plentiful too. And, Tupelo Honey, Over Easy, and Early Girl offer scrumptious breakfasts. No fewer than three chocolate specialty stores sell truffles and candies; add to that a sprinkling of top-notch bakeries, and you will not go hungry.
Night owls will find plenty to keep busy nearly any night of the week. Catch a flick at the Fine Arts Theater or Grail Movie House, a concert at the Orange Peel, or a more intimate showing of live music at 5 Walnut or Tressa’s. Hop on the Amazing Pubcycle to ride around downtown and sip beer, while sitting at a traveling bar, powered by riders’ pedaling. More stationary bars downtown range from the private-membership watering hole Broadway’s, to local craft beer with pretzels and mustard at Thirsty Monk, to Nightbell’s speakeasy feel and craft cocktails, to wine by the glass at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne bar, to Sky Bar’s elevated view of sunsets and city nights.