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Asheville is a hidden jewel tucked amid misty mountain peaks.  It has an artistic and culinary creativity and excellence that rivals much larger metropolitan areas.  A vibrant street scene exists with weekly music and events in this “Paris of the South.”  Asheville also hosts huge annual festivals such as the Bele Chere Music Festival.  Six area colleges and universities and numerous professional theatre companies offer much outstanding performing arts. The Southern Appalachian tradition of fine crafting, music and dance has historically anchored the local creative landscape yet hasn’t dissuaded the evolution of a progressive art and music scene.  Asheville offers an exceptional marriage of the two. 

What Asheville lacks in professional sports teams, it makes up for in off the charts access to outdoor adventure sports and wildlife in and around three pristine National Forests; Pisgah, Nantahala and Cherokee. Some like to venture out with only a map; others prefer to book a tour guided by a professional.  The healthy mix of nature, history and fresh contemporary vision energize all that live here and visit.  Listed in Frommer’s Top Travel Destinations for 2007 (each year Frommer’s Travel identifies the “twelve surprising, thriving, or emerging travel destination in the world…the places not to be missed”), there is a reason why tourists flock to Asheville and return often.

 Downtown Asheville is an easy 25-minute drive from Rivers Ridge Lodge.
For detailed information about exploring Asheville, click on any section in bold:

    ART     CLUBS (music)     FESTIVALS     FILM     FOR KIDS 

GARDENS & NATURE     LANDMARKS     MICROBREWERIES

MUSIC        PERFORMING ARTS     RESTAURANTS     SHOPPING     SPORTS
 

For outdoor recreation and extreme sports, click on EXPLORE WNC, OUTDOOR RECREATION section.
For additional information about local music, festivals, clubs and performing arts, visit livewire ASHEVILLE.

ART

Asheville has a thriving art scene.  The Staff at American Style Magazine rated Asheville No. 2 in 2008 and 2009, for Top U.S. Art Destinations - Small Cities and Towns Category. 

The Asheville Art Museum contains a collection of the very best of 20th and 21st century American art, traveling exhibits and works significant to Western North Carolina’s cultural heritage.  The museum is housed in the Pack Place Education, Arts and Science Center known as Pack Place in downtown Asheville and offers exciting programming for children and families, college students and adults.  Special events include concerts, film screenings and the smArt speak:  Distinguished Artist Series.  Visit their informative website for details of all scheduled events.  Tucked into a corner of the Museum Shop visitors will find the best deal in town – a repurposed cigarette vending machine that dispenses original works of art, all priced at $5.

Asheville is blessed with innumerable art galleries.  The Asheville Downtown Gallery Association currently has 24 member galleries (click on the ADGA hyperlink to access the website for each gallery) and organizes an extensive Art Walk 4 times a year that includes a growing number of participating galleries.  Meet the artists and connect with fellow art lovers; admission is free. 

The Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the area’s educational resource for craftspeople.  With historical accuracy, traditional Southern Highland crafts are shared and preserved at the Folk Art Center and Robert W. Gray Library.  Exceptional handcrafted items of glass, clay, fine woods, metal, paint and textiles are on exhibit in the galleries and for sale in the Allanstand Craft Shop. 

The River Arts District is home to the biannual, one-of-a-kind Studio Stroll.  The district wraps along the French Broad River and is an enclave of old warehouses and factories reinvented as studios and galleries with more small restaurants opening all the time.  Only the most adventurous would wander this neglected area to browse on non-Studio Stroll days but they would likely be welcomed enthusiastically.  Some examples of the talent found here are Phil Mechanic Studios and the Potter’s Mark in the Old Cotton Mill Building.

The YMI Cultural Center is a landmark building on the National Register of Historic Places that offers cultural arts programming and facilitates community education and economic development.  The building was commissioned by George W. Vanderbilt in 1892, to provide living quarters for several hundred Negro craftsmen who helped construct the Biltmore House and quickly developed into the center of social, cultural, civic, commercial and religious life for African Americans.  It currently houses a diverse collection of exhibits featuring many prominent African-American artists and highlights the history of African Americans in Western North Carolina. 

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 CLUBS

What’s your preference for nightlife? Visit the blog, Unofficially Asheville, for a taste of the multifaceted contemporary music scene in Asheville.  Here are some of the more popular clubs in town:

The Garage at Biltmore is Asheville’s newest live music venue located near Biltmore Village in the same building as the French Broad Brewing Company and MonteVecchia Music and Arts Studio.  This fresh 4000 square foot site offers a professional stage and sound system, welcomes a 300 capacity crowd and serves beer on tap from the French Broad Brewing Company. 

The Grey Eagle is located near the River Arts District not too far from downtown.  The Eagle offers a general admission, listening room-style concert experience.  The club is known for its crystal clear sound, bluegrass, Zydeco, and contra dancing. Harvest Records recently presented a series of Indie rock concerts here.  Proudly serving Twin Cousins Kitchen’s delicious Cajun specialties and a great selection of beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages, The Grey Eagle welcomes guests of all ages unless otherwise specified.  Capacity is approximately 600. 

The Grove House, an Asheville landmark constructed in 1924, now houses three nightclubs under one roof.  Head out to one, or all three, for an entertaining evening of live music and dancing.  (See LANDMARK section for info about WNC Ghost Tours at The Grove House.) 

The Orange Peel Social Aid & Pleasure Club is downtown Asheville’s premier live music club.  In 2008, The Orange Peel was chosen by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Top 5 Rock Clubs in the Country and by Bob Dylan and Smashing Pumpkins as the locale for their 9-show reunion.  State of the art sound and lighting, a smoke free environment and a great line up of local and nationally known artists makes The Orange Peel an Asheville hot spot.

For an elegant, old New Orleans experience, head to Tressa's Downtown Jazz and Blues for live music six nights a week and a diverse crowd. Tressa’s earned the 1997 Griffin Award for historic restoration of their 1913, Richard Sharpe Smith building and was voted Western North Carolina's Best Bar in 2001.  Tressa’s has recently added a handsome 2nd floor VIP room with a cozy fireplace.

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FESTIVALS (listed consecutively by date)

Looking for the avant-garde in the dead of winter?  Take in the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival whose mission is to provide “artists with opportunities to explore the edges of their work, collaborate across genres and bring new and innovative performances to culturally adventurous audiences.”  Founded by Artistic Directors Susan and Giles Collard from Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre, the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival brings pioneering art to numerous venues throughout Asheville over a weekend in January.  The Fringe Advisory Board holds an open call for prospective artists each fall.  

Winter Warmer is a winter beer festival created by Mark and Trish Lyons, Asheville Brews Cruise, and held on a Saturday afternoon in January.  No matter the weather, get out and enjoy exceptional live music, food, friendship and beers from around the Southeast.  Last year the Haywood Park Grand Ballroom rolled out the red carpet for Winter Warmer.  Purchase tickets early as the event has sold out each year.

Asheville Artisan Bread Festival bakes to perfection at the Greenlife Grocery on Merrimon Avenue each March.  The festival features baking classes and workshops taught by local and nationally recognized Master Bakers and authors.

HATCHfest is the first international mentoring festival held in Asheville for the creative and media arts communities.  Expectation is high for this uniquely innovative collaboration of professionals from the film, music, fashion, photography, architecture, journalism, design, technology and fine arts industries.  HATCHfest is scheduled for 4 days in April in downtown Asheville and is offered at no cost to the public.

Calling all herb lovers!  Don’t miss the Asheville Herb Festival held each spring at the Western North Carolina Farmers Market (operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture).   The festival attracts over 25,000 fans and sells the largest assortment of herbs, herb plants and herb products in the southeast.  A wide range of awesome educational centers will be offered and Master Gardeners will be on hand during the festival to answer gardening questions.

Because Black Mountain is in the “backyard” of Asheville, we will include the popular Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) here.  LEAF International “is a non-profit collaborative outreach program that empowers youth globally through music and performance arts by pairing them with instruments and mentors and connecting them to their cultural traditions.”  The LEAF Festival is held biannually in the spring and fall at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain.  Advanced ticket purchase is required; children under 9 are free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.

From beginner to Iron Man, Asheville’s Mountain Sports Festival offers something for every type of athlete.   Participate in skateboarding, Ultimate, paddling, rock climbing, kayaking, cycling and backpacking clinics, all free to the public, or enter one of the many races and competitions scheduled over the 3-day weekend in May.  Visit the festival website for tons of detailed information.

For over 6 decades, area crafters and educators have presented the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands in Asheville.  The fair takes place biannually (in July and October) downtown at the Civic Center on Haywood Street where over 200 craftspeople fill 2 floors with fine handcrafted items.  Musicians keep it “live” on the arena stage and educators share their knowledge and lore.  Admission charged; children under 12 are free with an adult.  Group discounts available.

The Bele Chere music and arts festival has been held in downtown Asheville for over 30 years. Produced by the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department, it attracts over 350,000 people the last weekend in July and is the largest free festival held in the Southeastern United States.  For 3 days, participants revel in 4-5 stages of free live music scattered throughout downtown, street entertainers, arts and crafts, food and a lively children’s area.

Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and Shindig on the Green events are coordinated by the Folk Heritage Committee of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.  Their mission is to preserve and present the musical heritage of the Southern Appalachians.  Both musical events have been recently added to the special collections archive of the UNCA Library.

Shindig on the Green is a free outdoor summer concert/dance series performed weekly July-early September in downtown Asheville.  For over 40 years, this mountain tradition has included Big Circle Mountain dancers, Clog dancers, Bluegrass and Old Time string bands, ballad singers and storytellers. Bring your instruments, families, friends, lawn chairs and blankets “along about sundown” for an evening of Southern Appalachian music and dance in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival takes place annually for three evenings (Thurs – Sat) the first weekend in August. Bascom Lamar Lunsford founded the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in 1928, “as a means for people to share and understand the beauty and dignity of the Southern Appalachian music and dance traditions that have been handed down through generations in western North Carolina.”  Performers take the stage at 7pm at Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place in downtown Asheville.  Buy tickets in advance as the festival frequently sells out. 

Goombay! has been presented by the YMI Cultural Center since 1982. Goombay! is a centuries’ old celebration originating in Bermuda.  Enjoy steel drums, African-American Dancers, local Gospel Groups, Contemporary Rhythm Bands and authentic Caribbean Cuisine.  The festival is scheduled each year in August and all activities are geared for families.  Sponsored by the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department, North Carolina Arts Council, Community Arts Council of WNC and the Friends of the YMI Cultural Center.

Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival (LAAFF) was created in 2001, to celebrate the culture and the renaissance of Lexington Avenue. It was founded mostly by a cooperative of Lexington Avenue business owners.  Join Asheville locals downtown in September for a day of free music, dance and art appreciation.

Organicfest celebrates everything organic and green!  Held in September at Battery Park in downtown Asheville, the festival promises great music, prizes, educational information and lots of fun for the kids.

Asheville’s Brewgrass Festival, held at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, has all the ingredients for the perfect beer day in September.  With over 40 American breweries on hand to showcase more than 120 unique brews, great musical talent and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains – what could be better? 

Fungifest is a daylong celebration and exploration of mushrooms offered by the Asheville Mushroom Club. It is held every other year at the North Carolina Arboretum.  The next Fungifest is scheduled for September 18, 2010.  See fascinating mushroom displays, participate in educational workshops and talk with club members. 

The Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) and Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands both occur again in the fall.  Please see previous description in this section or click on link for details.

Asheville Film Festival:  Filmmakers have made movies in Asheville since the early days of film.  Dirty Dancing, Hannibal, My Fellow Americans, The Last of the Mohicans and Thunder Road were all shot in and around Asheville.   Each November, the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department in conjunction with the Asheville Film Festival Committee brings the film industry to Asheville for four days of competition, educational opportunities and Apple Workshops. All educational series programs are free and open to the public.

The Biltmore Village Dickens Festival in Historic Biltmore Village commences in December with three days of merriment and music that transports festival goers back to Dickens-era England.  Shops remain open late with many of the shopkeepers clothed in Victorian-era garb. 

Asheville also hosts the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam in December. The event raises money for Habitat For Humanity and attracts several major touring acts each year.  Also offered are daytime concerts, an Art Show and Film Festival.  

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FILM

Asheville’s Fine Arts Theatre is the only cinema downtown.  Dedicated to first-run, independent films, the theatre offers two screens in a stylish Art Deco building.

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FOR KIDS

Asheville’s Fun Depot is Asheville’s 64,000 square foot wonderland of adventure.  Choose from indoor and outdoor go-carts, 2 story laser tag, bumper cars, climbing wall, 18-hole indoor mini-golf, mini-bowling, batting cages, arcade or soft play area. The new and improved outdoor go-cart track is two stories tall and 1/4 mile long.  Rain or shine, there is action-packed fun for everyone.  Asheville’s Fun Depot offers a la carte attractions, affordable play packages and day passes.

ClimbMax Climbing Center is Western North Carolina’s full service indoor/outdoor Rock Climbing Facility.  The center offers indoor & outdoor rock climbing walls, instruction, parties, guided climbs in Pisgah National Forest, climbing competitions, ice climbing and overnight climbs.  Visit their website for more information.

Food Lion Skate Park is an awesome 17,000 square foot skate park facility created by Food Lion, Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department with input from the skateboard community, professional architects and skateboard designers from Team Pain.  The Park features separate beginner, intermediate and advanced areas and hosts organized summer camps. A signed waiver and completed registration form are required before skating.  Skateboarders must wear proper safety equipment as effective October 1, 2003, the State of North Carolina mandates public skateboard parks in North Carolina to require all skaters to use proper safety equipment. It allows municipalities to afford liability insurance needed to operate skateboard parks.  Visit their website for more information and to download the waiver/registration form.

Pack Place Education, Arts and Science Center known as Pack Place is in downtown Asheville in the Pack Square Cultural District.  This landmark facility is home to the Asheville Art Museum, Colburn Earth Science Museum, Diana Wortham Theatre, The Health Adventure and the YMI Cultural Center.  (click on the ART section of this webpage for a description of the AAM, DWT and YMI-CC)

The Colburn Earth Science Museum is the legacy of Burnham Standish Colburn, an engineer and banker.  He and his brother, William B. Colburn, helped found the Southern Appalachian Mineral Society (SAMS) in 1931.  Burnham S. Colburn had amassed a significant collection of North Carolina minerals including the world's largest collection of hiddenite.  Upon his death in 1959, the Colburn family shared many of his specimens with SAMS.  In 1960, after adding items from their own collections, SAMS members opened the Burnham S. Colburn Memorial Museum. The museum has gone through various name and site changes.  It became the Colburn Earth Science Museum in 2002 to reflect the museum's broadening Earth Science mission “to foster an appreciation for the Earth and its resources and environments through exhibits, educational programs and the care of its collection.”

The Health Adventure, now a regional health and science education center, has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings in a small storage room at Memorial Mission Hospital in 1968.   Its primary focus at that time was to reduce children’s fear of hospital settings. It was one of the first health education centers of its kind in the country and quickly gained national and international recognition for its excellence in health and science education. It has outgrown multiple locations, but has always featured hands-on, interactive centers that utilize dynamic exhibits and programs to teach school and community groups.  THA has enjoyed its Pack Place location since 1992, where it offers two levels of hands-on exhibits, a changing exhibits gallery and a broad mosaic of timely programs. Accredited by the American Association of Museums in 1985, The Health Adventure is a member of the Association of Science and Technology Center, the NC Museums Council, and the Southeastern Museums Conference.

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GARDENS & NATURE CENTERS

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville, located on a 10-acre preserve just south of the UNC Asheville campus (and quite near the Grove Park Inn), offers an appealing place to take the family for a walk or picnic.

The beautiful 434-acre North Carolina Arboretum, an environmental leader, engages visitors with indoor and outdoor exhibits, 65 acres of cultivated gardens and 10 miles of hiking and biking trails.  Explore traveling exhibits, the Education Center, Production & Exhibit Greenhouses and much more.  The gardens boast one of the finest bonsai collections in the United States and a self-guided Art Walk that celebrates the natural heritage of the region.

The Western North Carolina Nature Center is a living museum of plants and animals native to the southern Appalachian region and offers fun hands-on experiences.  One of only 32 facilities in the country participating in the Red Wolf reintroduction program, the WNC Nature Center offers other exciting educational programs and special events.  Visit their website to ask Professor Hoot or Ollie Otter questions about the animals or to listen to Animal Podcasts.

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LANDMARKS

A visit to Asheville would not be complete without an excursion to the Biltmore Estate.  Leave as much (or more) time to tour the Winery, Gardens and Riverbend Farm on the Estate as you do the 250-room family home. These areas are as interesting and as beautiful as the grand Vanderbilt home and are included in your admission ticket.  The Biltmore decorated for Christmas is a special treat, but nature lovers will want to plan their visit during late spring, summer or early fall as the grounds and gardens in bloom are magnificent.

Travel up the hill from downtown Asheville to The Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa.  Built in 1913, it has a very interesting history and the innumerable photos on the walls remind us of the many prominent figures that have enjoyed this landmark. Walk into the lobby where the fireplaces are large enough for an adult to stand within; often a musician is there, strumming on a harp or hammering the traditional dulcimer of the region.  Continue to walk through the lobby to the backside of the hotel where the view of Asheville is superb. 

Make an appointment (in advance) for a spa treatment at the Spa at Grove Park. Try to spend several hours just enjoying the different pools, saunas and amenities of the Spa before or after your treatment. The unique subterranean design of the spa and its outdoor hot tub and leisure areas are so aesthetically pleasing, it is worth the price tag.  If you love a custom deep tissue massage, you’ll be disappointed with their one size fits all approach, but they offer many other treatments and one has full access to all spa amenities with any treatment.  Spa passes may also be purchased separately for entrance without a scheduled treatment; these should also be purchased in advance to assure availability.

Hidden on a quaint side street beside the Vanderbilt Wing of the Grove Park Inn are several historic buildings that have housed the Biltmore Industries since 1917.  George and Edith Vanderbilt created the Biltmore Industries in 1901, for the area youth “to become productive and useful citizens.”  The Industries trained them in the creation of fine handmade traditional crafts, in particular, woodworking and the production of fine wool cloth.  Don’t miss these little jems:  the North Carolina Homespun Museum, Grovewood Studios (open only by appointment) and the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum.  While there, a fabulous place to browse and shop is the Grovewood Gallery (see SHOPPING section) and for the best food at the GPI, the Grovewood Café (see RESTAURANTS section).

Herstory Asheville - A Tour That Tells the Rest of the Story... will introduce you to the women who contributed to Asheville history.  Asheville has attracted and produced strong, independent females; this 90 minute walking tour of downtown Asheville will introduce you to them.  One Asheville City schoolteacher remarked, “Stories about shrewd business women, political ground-breakers, medical icons, and brave mothers kept my high school students spellbound for 90 minutes – an amazing feat.”  It is fitting that the walking tours depart from Julia Wolfe’s boarding house (mother of Thomas Wolfe) at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.  Call or visit their website for a reservation.

Cross Interstate 240 heading north from downtown Asheville, and you’re in the residential neighborhood of Montford.  Historic Montford has its own waking tour, History @ Hand.  Montford is one of the largest historic districts in the state with over 600 contributing structures mostly built between 1890 and 1925.  History @ Hand also offers walking tours of Asheville, the Riverside Cemetery and a unique tour, The Family Store Tour, an account of the history of Jewish Businesses in Asheville.

Tired of the standard text book-type tour?  Then you’re a candidate for the La ZOOM Comedy Tour, a zany historical tour of Asheville.  It is entertaining and informative although not exactly G Rated.

The Smith-McDowell House Museum, a nonprofit museum, was rescued from demolition in 1974, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The four-story home is the finest surviving example of brick antebellum architecture in Western North Carolina.  James McConnell Smith, believed to have been the first white child born west of the mountains in North Carolina, built this extraordinary home around 1840.  Almost a decade earlier, he had established a state-licensed toll bridge over the French Broad River on the Buncombe Turnpike.  His monopoly on the bridge brought him great wealth.  He later became one of North Carolina’s most influential businessmen.

Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville in 1900, and was one of North Carolina’s most prominent authors.  Learn more about his life and works at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in downtown Asheville. 

Asheville’s Urban Trail was organized in 1991, by a group of dedicated Asheville citizen volunteers and has evolved into an informative and entertaining 1.7-mile historical walk through downtown Asheville.  The trail actually marks the location of the original old Indian foot trail from the French Broad River to the Swannanoa River that ran though the center of the original town named Morristown at its creation.  Begin the trail in front of the Asheville Art Museum, located on Pack Square, with the story of Asheville’s frontier origins in the late 1700’s.  Asheville became a city in 1883, saw its first streetlights in 1888, and in 1889, became the second city in the US to have electric streetcars.  The trail, scattered with handsome bronze statues marking noteworthy items of historical significance, gives much deserved attention to Thomas Wolfe and spotlights the architecture of the city.  The Grove Arcade (built by E. W. Grove, creator of the Grove Park Inn) was the first indoor mall in America, and several buildings are beautiful examples of the Art Deco style of architect Douglas Ellington.  The Urban Trail is owned by the City of Asheville and maintained by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.  To embark on your own self-guided tour, obtain Urban Trail maps at Pack Place, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center and many stores downtown.

Visit the WNC Ghosts – Ghost Tours Like No Other for reservations to two frightfully interesting tours in Asheville.  The Grove House Tour (recommended for ages 7 and up) takes you inside one of Asheville’s most haunted buildings and lasts approximately 90 minutes.  The Spirits Pub Crawl (age 21 and over only) lasts approximately 2 hours – giving you time to sip some local ales while you attempt to summon ghosts and goblins! Call or visit their website for a reservation.

MICROBREWERIES

The city of Asheville has an amazing 7 microbreweries, numerous brewpubs and one of the highest rates of craft brew consumption in the Southeast.  Sample gold medal brews and even certified organic beers in various pubs and restaurants around town or climb aboard the Asheville Brews Cruise which tours three of Asheville’s breweries.  In May 2009, over 16,000 readers of Examiner.com voted from 46 countries to choose their favorite Beer City in the US - Asheville and Portland, Oregon tied for favorite 2009 Beer City USA.  The Great Smokies Craft Brewers Association hosts the Brewgrass Festival each September in Asheville.  (See FESTIVALS section.)  In October, the Asheville Downtown Association presents Asheville Oktoberfest.

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MUSIC

The musical energy in Asheville is tremendous.  Live music is played nightly in many clubs, bars and restaurants.  The available genres can be as diverse as the food.  Live music outdoors is often enjoyed gratis in the downtown area.  Drum Circle is one such event organized in 2001.  The Asheville Drum Circle is a regular seasonal (warm weather) happening on Friday nights in Pritchard Park (corner of Patton Avenue and College Street).  Percussionists gather around 7 pm in an informal atmosphere to share a unique experience with music and dancing.  The Asheville Downtown Association recently donated a number of new percussion instruments to the Circle.  The new instruments will enable newcomers to more easily contribute and connect with the group.  Come one, come all, as Drum Circle encourages participation.

Jazz After Five, Asheville’s live jazz winter concert series, is scheduled for February 19 and March 12, 2010 (5-8pm) at Pack Place.  The music is free and food from downtown restaurants, local beer and Biltmore wines are available for purchase.

Each third Friday from May to September, join the Downtown After Five concert celebration.  Enjoy great food and beverages available for purchase, and of course, a great lineup of free musical performances at their new open-air site on North Lexington Avenue between Hiawassee and the I-240 overpass.

(See a description of Shindig on the Green, a free summer outdoor concert series, and Bele Chere Music Festival, the largest free festival held in the Southeastern United States, in the FESTIVALS section.)

For over half a century, the Asheville Chamber Music Series has brought the world's finest musicians to Asheville.   This all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization is one of the longest lasting chamber music organizations in the United States. 
Founded in 1952, by Joe Vandewart, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and ten other music lovers, ACMS concerts are performed at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, the perfect setting to enjoy chamber music.  A special fund allows students to attend concerts free of charge.

Asheville Choral Society is Asheville’s volunteer, auditioned chorus, 140 voices strong.  The ACS presents three concert programs per season and has been performing choral masterpieces in Asheville for over three decades.

The Asheville Symphony, established in 1960, presents seven full orchestra concerts per year in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at the Asheville Civic Center.  They also offer a Holiday Pops Concert, Symphony Chorus, Children’s Chorus, concert lectures and music education in the schools. 

The Western North Carolina Jazz Society presents world-class jazz concerts in Asheville's Diana Wortham Theatre.  Their mission “is to develop the roots of jazz, America’s original art form, through performances, education and community outreach activities.”  The WNC Jazz Society is committed to bringing great jazz music to all by offering concerts at modest prices and giving complimentary tickets to all groups of chaperoned students.  They believe strongly that “the jazz art form has universal appeal and the transformational power to bring people of all ages, races and ethnicities together.”

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PERFORMING ARTS

Asheville Bravo Concerts is a non-profit organization consistently presenting international acclaimed performers of classical music, opera and ballet to Asheville audiences since 1932.  Asheville Bravo Concerts were organized during the Great Depression (under a different name).  Early concertgoers brought bagged dinners to enjoy during the world-class show.  The goal of Bravo is “to branch out past socioeconomic lines and cultural barriers, to create within the community a cultural exchange with one another and the world of classical performance.”  To meet this objective, Bravo selects artists with a popular appeal and has created the Music Education Partnership Program (MEPP).  MEPP subsidizes or donates tickets to traditionally underserved populations and promotes music education in the public schools and community.

Since 1946, the Asheville Community Theatre, has been dedicated to promoting the talents of local artists.  The Mainstage theatre, Heston Auditorium, is named after the theatre’s most famous Director/Manager, Charleton Heston.  The 35below theatre seats 40 and offers a unique black box experience for performances and special events.  ACT is also devoted to education and community outreach programs. 

Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre presents both traditional and experimental forms of dance in their own intimate 99-seat black box theater in downtown Asheville, The BeBe Theater.  Western North Carolina’s first professional modern dance company, ACDT performs up to 80 times a year in Asheville, the southeastern United States and abroad.  Performances include full-length modern dance theatre productions, smaller modern dance works and educational dance theatre performances for children

For over a decade the Asheville Lyric Opera has delivered exceptional opera at the Diana Wortham Theatre in Pack Place.  Offering a variety of opera styles from the light operatic comedy to the high drama of classic opera, the ALO has typically performed three fully staged professional operas a year.  The ALO is committed to community outreach “to broaden the horizons and stretch the imaginations” of young people.

Capoeira Asheville, located in downtown Asheville, uses “the traditional Afro-Brazilian art of Capoeira Angola to promote the health, well-being and development of the Asheville community through capoeira classes, performances and community outreach.”  The basic elements of Capoeira include acrobatics, theatrics, song, dance, improvisational dialogue, music, tradition, ritual, communication and cooperation. Capoeira Asheville seeks to preserve the traditional form of Capoeira Angola and facilitate a cultural exchange between Brazilians and Americans.

The Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place is a state-of-the-art, 500-seat proscenium theatre built in 1991. The Mainstage Series presents a wide range of top touring artists in music, theater, dance and other performing arts.  Visit their website for a current schedule of performances and to purchase tickets.  The Diana Wortham Theatre and Pack Place are both accessible.  Infrared assistive listening devices are available and wheelchair seating is located on the orchestra level of the theatre.

For nearly a decade, the North Carolina Stage Company has provided exceptional Mainstage theatre in downtown Asheville.  Voted Best Local Stage Company three years running, it is the only resident professional theatre in the downtown area.  The NCSC provides vital community arts education to students in Western NC through its classroom residencies and school tours.  Visit their website to learn more about the Catalyst Series, (For)Play Series and No Shame Theatre events also scheduled for this season.

Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance is Asheville’s professional contemporary ballet company.  The company operates a summer season from June to mid-August and presents two concert performances at Pack Place.  Asheville’s Citizen-Times called Terpsicorps “dance at its best...high budget shows have nothing on the level of stimulus and reward offered by Terpsicorps.”  Terpsicorps also offers community outreach with a special emphasis on providing educational opportunities to children of all income levels.

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RESTAURANTS

Because of its strong farm-to-table history and culture, Asheville has been dubbed the Foodtopian Society.   This city celebrates food!  It has 17 active farmers’ markets, nearly 250 independent restaurants, 7 microbreweries, 15 bakeries and 11 annual food festivals.  Wow!  You don’t want to read about all of that, we’ll list just a few of our favorite eateries:

Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria on Biltmore Avenue is very popular with the locals, it’s a great place to meet friends or take the family.  Come as you are – Barley’s likes to brag they are the place “where the suit and tie meet tie dye.”  Barley’s boasts over 40 American craft brewed beers on tap, great chow, live music most nights and no cover charge.   The upstairs bar features four regulation slate billiard tables and five dart lanes.

fig bistro, in historic Biltmore Village, is a cozy bistro serving modern French cuisine.   The staff at fig staunchly supports local, organic, and sustainable agriculture and joyfully brings that level of excellence to the table.  Fig is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and for brunch on Sunday.

A visit to the Grovewood Café is like walking into the pages of history and eating there!  The Grovewood Café is a well-kept secret located on a quaint side street adjacent to the Vanderbilt Wing of the Grove Park Inn and housed in the Homespun Shops of Biltmore Industries.  The Grovewood Café features excellent food in a lovely setting for lunch and dinner daily and Sunday brunch.  They offer a children’s menu and are happy to secure your reservation over the phone or request one online.

The Laughing Seed Café, is a refreshing vegetarian café on Wall Street voted Best Vegetarian Restaurant in WNC eight years in a row (as voted by the Asheville Citizen Times and the weekly Mountain Express).  They offer an “eclectic international approach to vegetarian dining” as well as fresh fruit smoothies, elixirs and locally brewed Ales.  Weather permitting; diners enjoy eating on the sheltered patio.  The Laughing Seed is closed Tuesdays. 

Table on College Street delivers market-driven seasonal New-American cuisine.  Serving lunch and dinner six days a week and brunch on Sunday, Table offers an “urban comfortable” experience and a daily written menu.  Chef Sessoms and Dawes hail from the French Culinary Institute and Johnson and Wales respectively and follow a farm-to-table philosophy in the kitchen.

Rezaz Mediterranean Restaurant, in Biltmore Village, specializes in the fine cuisine and traditional flavors from North Africa, Italy, Spain, Morocco and the Middle East.  Chef Reza loves to present his dishes in a fresh eclectic manner, offers a seasonal menu, and daily specials.  The wine selection has been hand-picked from the great wine making regions of the Mediterranean and California.  Book a table in the main dining room or a chef’s table in the kitchen to get a behind the scenes taste of Reza’s busy kitchen.  The Benedetto Room is available for private parties of 15-24.   Rezaz Mediterranean Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and Sunday brunch.  Make a reservation for dinner, even during the week, as they are almost always busy.

Enoteca is an Italian Wine Bar handsomely connected to Rezaz serving Monday through Saturday 10am until late.  The feel of Enoteca is dress casual like Rezaz, yet it is more of an informal gathering place to share a glass of wine and a small bite to eat.    

Chef Reza’s newest foray as a restaurateur is Piazza, a family friendly wood-fired pizzeria located off highway 74 between Asheville and Fairview in Eastwood Village.  Piazza is open for lunch and dinner daily.

The Market Place Restaurant on Wall Street in Asheville is dedicated to preparing upscale farm-to-table cuisine with creativity and sustainability.  The Market Place serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 and requires a reservation for parties of six or more.

Wasabi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar on Broadway Street in Asheville was voted Best Sushi the last 5 years in a row (2005-2009).  Wasabi serves lunch and dinner daily.

See a description of the WNC Farmers Market, in the SHOPPING section.

Zambra Tapas Bar & Restaurant on Walnut Street serves flavorful tapas from Spain and North Africa and distinctive wines from the Iberian Peninsula.  Zambra uses all natural meats and source local organic products when available to create superb dishes in a beautiful setting.  The atmosphere at Zambra encourages guests to slow down and enjoy the pleasures of time and shared cuisine.  The staff at Zambra wants you and yours to experience the Spanish saber vivir – “knowing how to live.”

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SHOPPING

Biltmore Village, located across from the entrance to Biltmore Estate, was conceived and built by George W. Vanderbilt in the late 1800’s.  Vanderbilt wanted to recreate the quaint atmosphere of Old England and a home for his cottage industries at the entrance to his beloved estate.  Biltmore Village was declared a historic area and a local historic district in 1989.  The village is now a distinctive collection of more than 40 shops and 10 eating establishments housed in these original historic buildings along beautiful brick sidewalks and tree-lined streets.  Biltmore Village is two miles south of downtown Asheville on Biltmore Avenue

The Grove Arcade was built by E.W. Grove in 1929, as the first indoor public market in America. The Arcade thrived for years until it came under the possession of the Federal Government during World War II.  It remained under Federal ownership for several decades and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980’s.  There was a public struggle for many years over the building.  Ultimately, the City of Asheville acquired the title to the building under the National Monument Act in 1997, and signed a 198-year lease with the Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation.  The fully restored Grove Arcade reopened in late 2002, and now contains shops, restaurants, offices and 42 luxury apartments. The Arcade remains Western North Carolina’s largest commercial building and happily, has been returned to its original grandeur. 

The Grovewood Gallery is a 9,000 sq ft 1917, English-style cottage located on a side street adjacent to the Vanderbilt Wing of the Grove Park Inn.  More than 500 artisans contribute to the Grovewood’s collection of fine art, gifts and exceptional hand made furniture pieces. Grovewood Gallery was Awarded 2008 Craft Retailer of the Year by NICHE Magazine.  Also on the Grovewood grounds are the Grovewood Café (which we love, see RESTAURANTS section), the North Carolina Homespun Museum, Grovewood Studios (open only by appointment) and the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum (see LANDMARKS section).

The Chocolate Fetish at 36 Haywood Street is a European-style chocolatier with some of the best truffles to be found anywhere.  Our independent research indicates that chocolate eaten on vacation contains 70% less calories than chocolate consumed at home!

Spend some time window-shopping on Lexington Avenue as it is one of Asheville's trendiest streets.  Visit Hip Replacements for great, albeit pricey, vintage clothing, while up the block, Spiritex specializes in a wide variety of organic cotton products. For used books, try Downtown Books and News.  On the next block, the Chevron Trading Post and Bead Company is a fun place to go, and don’t miss Tops for Shoes, the biggest shoe store in Asheville. This is just a small sampling of what downtown and Lexington Avenue has to offer.  There are many terrific gift and vintage shops on and around Lexington Avenue.  You’ll just have to wander around to discover your favorite.

Malaprop's Bookstore & Cafe at 55 Haywood Street is an independent bookseller with a great selection and first-rate recommendations.

Mast General Store at 15 Biltmore Avenue is an icon generally found only in rural areas.  It has a little bit of everything and a charm from an era past.  Now you don’t have to drive for hours to enjoy all that Mast General Store has to offer.

The WNC Farmers Market is held on an incredible 36–acre site near downtown Asheville and is now open year round and seven days a week .   Admission is free and open to the public.  The retail area features displays of high quality fruits and vegetables, mountain crafts, jams, jellies, preserves, sourwood honey, and dozens of other farm fresh items.  Visit Jesse Israel & Sons Garden and Nursery Center for top quality plants, trees, and shrubs.  Grab a bite to eat at the The Moose Café located south of the main market entrance.  The cafe features a mouth-watering menu of farm-fresh produce, a beautiful view and is open daily serving three meals.

Click on the ART section of this webpage for information about the many art galleries that sell original art and local crafts.  Visit our EXPLORING WNC page, SHOPPING section, to learn about charming retail shops in communities neighboring Asheville such as Black Mountain.

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SPORTS (Local Teams)

Get out to famed McCormick Field on the eastern edge of town to see Asheville’s minor league baseball team, the Asheville Tourists.  A Class A farm team of the Colorado Rockies, the Tourists play in the South Atlantic League.  ESPN.com has recommended Asheville’s McCormick Field as one of the website’s 10 quintessential road tours that capture the best of the majors and minors. Ballparkreviews.com gave McCormick Field and the Tourists a thumbs up recently, “The setting is cool, the atmosphere is focused on baseball and the prices are cheap. You just can’t get this type of authentic minor league experience at too many parks these days.”  Scenes from the movie Bull Durham were shot at McCormick Field and baseball greats Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson and the immortal Babe Ruth have played here.

The Civic Center hosts the Blue Ridge Rollergirls, an up and coming team in the sport of Women's Flat-Track Roller Derby.  Check out the local news video clips on their website!

Visit the UNC Asheville Bulldogs site for up to date information on all Big South Conference UNC Asheville teams and games.

Warren Wilson College, a small liberal arts college just beyond Asheville’s eastern edge, is home to the Fighting Owls.  The Fighting Owls compete in basketball, cross-country, soccer, swimming and mountain biking. The Warren Wilson College mountain bike team finished third at the 2009 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in Truckee, California.  The mountain bike program has now finished in the top three of the Division II portion of the past seven National Championships.  Home basketball games are played in the Hooter Dome and swimmers compete in the DeVries Aquatic Center.  Visitors may use the aquatic center facilities for a small fee.

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