Asheville is the hippest city in the South. At least that's the claim of its fans, who are legion. Visitors flock to Asheville for its arts and culture, which rivals that of Santa Fe, and to experience its downtown, with myriad restaurants, coffeehouses, microbreweries, museums, galleries, bookstores, antiques shops, and boutiques.Named "the best place to live" by many books and magazines, Asheville is also a destination for retirees escaping the cold North, or of "halfbacks," those who moved to Florida but who are now coming half the way back North. Old downtown buildings have been converted to upmarket condos for these affluent retirees, and new residential developments seem to be constantly springing up south, east, and west of town.As a result of this influx, Asheville has a much more cosmopolitan population than most cities of its size (85,000 people in the city; 435,000 in the metro area). Asheville has a diversity you won't find in many cities in the South. There's a thriving gay community, many hippies and hipsters, young-at-heart retirees, and alternative-lifestyle seekers. Rolling Stone once called Asheville the "U.S. capital of weird" (sorry, Austin), and with more than 20 microbreweries and brewpubs, and two large national craft breweries opening their East Coast operations here, Asheville also earns the title of Beer City USA.The city really comes alive at night, with the restaurants, sidewalk cafés, and coffeehouses; so visit after dark to see the city at its best. Especially on summer and fall weekends, Pack Square, Biltmore Avenue, the "South Slope" area between Biltmore Avenue and Asheland Avenue south of Patton Avenue, Broadway Street, Haywood Street, Wall Street, the Grove Arcade, Pritchard Park (site of a popular drum circle on Friday night), and Battery Park Avenue are busy until late.
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Things You Can't Miss
Hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the Biltmore Estate, a 250-room French Renaissance mansion. Take a custom tour, and don't forget the gardens - stunning in every season.
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The birthplace of American forestry, the Pisagh National Forest has some of the highest peaks in the eastern United States.
Admission to the Asheville Pinball Museum includes free play on nearly three dozen machines. Games date from 1950 to today.
How to make your trip bearable — maybe even pleasant — despite the crowds.
Watch as Moog instruments are handcrafted in a factory that features hands-on tours, music history and a mural of Dr. Moog himself.
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Love beer? Forget the vineyard and take a beer vacation. From Portland brewery tours to Philly Beer Week, you have plenty of beer tasting options.
Leave the driving to Asheville Brewery Tours and take in the city's thriving microbrewery scene. Meet and taste with local brewmasters.
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Amtrak offers scenic train journeys across America that reveal the majesty of the American landscape and glimpses of the heartland.
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