Asheville –

Nestled amidst North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains lies the city of Asheville, a wonderfully diverse community that affords its residents a unique quality of life. This friendly, eclectic, small city, population about 80,000, has an artist’s passion, a Parisian independence, and a deep, inclusive sense of community. The French Broad River flows through town, reminiscent in look and feel to the Seine in Paris. Small cafes offering fresh organic food, delicious pastries and outdoor seating are prevalent throughout downtown. Street musicians and inspired local music clubs offer talented entertainment options. Art galleries and local shops offering diverse merchandise deliver days of shopping delight.

With excellent schools and institutions of higher learning, first rate healthcare, and the built recreational options, which include hiking, biking, white-water rafting skiing and canoeing, among many others, the quality of life in Asheville cannot be matched. The Appalachian Mountains permeate Asheville’s culture. It’s hard not to see the mountains no matter where you are. The views, climate and the steepness of the terrain help define the city. Fall leaves, winter snow and the vibrancy of Spring all factor into the daily life of Asheville’s residents.

Years ago, Asheville was known primarily as a retirement location because of its laid back lifestyle, wealth of recreational opportunities, and spectacular natural beauty. Although still a draw for retirees, Asheville attracts thousands of potential new residents each year. While the views are spectacular, that isn’t the only reason people flock to Western North Carolina. They’re coming here-and choosing to stay here-because the area offers a better quality of life than other North Carolina cities. More people are purchasing their first homes in the city because of its proximity to airports, major interstates, colleges and universities, and quality healthcare.

Asheville is a culturally diverse area. Down town is home to many art galleries, boutiques and fine restaurants. The city is known for the Biltmore Estate, a sprawling 250 room French Renaissance chateau built on 8,000 acres, and the Grove Park Inn and Spa, both of which provide guests with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville and its surrounding neighborhoods, are smallish and friendly. The city is truly an ”Old World” town, one that’s environmentally friendly, health conscious and has superb quality of life.

Downtown Asheville –

International attention was focused on the city when George W. Vanderbilt decided to build his 125,000 acre Biltmore House and Estate on the city’s doorstep, and by the early 1900’s the haut monde from around the globe began flocking to Asheville for its cool climate, spectacular scenery and invigorating mountain air. Many of the architects and artisans imported by Vanderbilt later transformed downtown Asheville with buildings comprising a spectrum of styles that fused Continental culture and fine living.   But the Great depression brought Asheville’s growth to a screeching halt, and the once vibrant downtown began a decades long economic decline. However, in the 1970’s, an influx of newcomers-many of them free-spirited, cash-strapped artists-were drawn to Asheville by its cheap rents and available business space. Slowly but surely, the heart of the city once known as the “Paris of the South” was transformed into what could more aptly be described as the “SoHo of the Blue Ridge”. Shops, restaurants, and especially art galleries began springing up in long-shuttered buildings.

Downtown Asheville is a natural starting point for those looking to explore the arts, and there’s probably no better way to begin the journey than on the Urban Trail, a 1.7 mile paved walkway with information stations featuring artwork chronicling Asheville’s art history. The trail passes by a number of architectural restorations, many completed in the past few years, that were spurred by the city’s need to accommodate its burgeoning art industry. In 1929, the Grove arcade opened as the nation’s first shopping mall; today it’s home to arts and crafts outlets as well as restaurants and other stores.