If you have yet to smell the mountain air drifting over Asheville, North Carolina consider this your invitation. After visiting Asheville for the first time you too will ask yourself why no one in your history courses ever brought up such a significant monolith in U.S. history. This hidden treasure acts as the finale to the Blue Ridge Parkway’s nearly 500 miles of jaw-dropping beauty. A swirl of southern hospitality, clean mountain air, and historical structures abound. A truly unique experience awaits you only a days drive from Indianapolis.
Only setting eyes on this calming respite from the outside world will accurately convey the response one feels upon first arriving. Becoming quickly swept into the trees and witnessing the mountains stretch up all around you suddenly leaving a state of calm, surrounded by wildlife and countless mountain overlooks. Tiny little mountain towns dot the surroundings, acting as cultural stops as well as local favorites.
Asheville is a town inviting to the tourism that is frequently flowing in and out. A true commitment to hospitality and acceptance can be felt here between the southern style dinners and the weekly drum circles in the city center. Students and generations of Asheville families share the space and their culture for the betterment of all those present.
The underlying commitment to wellness and providing relief from the world’s stresses carries through the region like the Blue Ridge Parkway itself. Ever present, the calm and communal nature of this piece of North Carolina reverberates off people and businesses alike. Even the famed Biltmore Estate was painstakingly planned as a the perfect country home to entertain guests, who upon arrival, would forget every earthly worry and escape to views of the Blue Ridge mountains and every comfort the era could provide.
This 250 room marvel took 6 years to bring to life (1889-1895) and is made up of a dizzying 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The enormous floor plan of the largest private residence in the country includes 135,280 square feet of living space costing $5 million to construct, equivalent to $90 million in today’s market.
This private residence feels more like a 5 star hotel flowing from room to room, priceless arts and period modern conveniences meet you at each turn. Restorations have maintained original 15 watt limits on lighting allowing for a real conveyance of a visit to Biltmore in the early 1900’s. This Vanderbilt family home hosts countless guests including author Edith Wharton and Thomas Edison, a personal friend of Mr. Vanderbilt, who helped with the homes plans for electricity, an unheard of residential utility at the time.
The Asheville area has been a retreat for the likes of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Harry Houdini, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. The Grove Park Inn, sitting just outside the city center, has offered luxury respite for over 100 years. This landmark has been frequented by celebrities, nearly a dozen U.S. Presidents, and countless others looking to sink into the beautiful mountains that surround their view. Today visitors from around the world stop to view this iconic hotel and its resident ghost The Pink Lady even if they don’t book a stay.
The sale of 5,600 acres following Mr. Vanderbilt’s untimely death by provided the land which would become the nucleus of what is now Mt. Pisgah forest. The Vanderbilt’s purchased and transformed depleted farm land into lush forest creating the birthplace of U.S Forestry. The birth of the “Cradle of Forestry” was supplemented by the Vanderbilt’s educational works and landscape architects Dr. Carl A. Schenck and Frederick Law Olmsted’s reforestation efforts.
The establishment of the first school of “practical forestry” in 1898 spurred educational programs nationwide and his family home of 28 years provided hundreds of jobs for North Carolina locals and still does today. The Cradle of Forestry mountain outlook allows visitors a view of the center of this landmark forest. Some of the names on the Biltmore payroll are the descendants of original staff, an extension of the southern hospitality found in the mountains hiding Asheville away.
The home of literary giant Thomas Wolfe and the Asheville Ghost Tours are great ways to start your adventure in Asheville. The guides, both transplants and locals, readily offer insights to favorite stops and must see history in the area. No internet searches required, rocking chairs on every corner, enjoy the respite and relief that Asheville has offered for over a century.
Where are you planning your next weekend adventure?