Asheville and Western North Carolina offer accessible mountains, cooler summers, seasonal foliage color, and impressive natural and man-made attractions less than a four-hour drive from Atlanta.
Once famous mainly for its mild climate and the Biltmore Estate, Asheville has emerged as a sophisticated destination with a burgeoning foodie and craft beer scene. It is in the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway and offers gardens, museums and a pleasant downtown art district.
The Biltmore Estate remains a major attraction. It is the nation’s largest private residence. Developed by railroad magnate George Vanderbilt, it was designed by Richard Morris Hunt and has a garden designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The 250-room French Renaissance-style chateau is on an estate of more than 8,000 acres.
Touring the mansion using a self-paced audio recording takes several hours. Guides are also available.
The property has 10 eateries on the property, including a wine bar. The Biltmore also boasts a working winery: Antler Hill Winery, in a converted dairy barn in Antler Hill Village, is the most visited winery in the nation, complete with a bustling tasting room.
The estate has 94 acres of vineyards, and the winery also brings in grapes from other North Carolina vineyards and from several top-notch West Coast vineyards. More than 75 percent of the grapes used by Antler Hill come from outside North Carolina, mostly from California.
Biltmore Village, a shopping area adjacent to the estate, offers dining options, and many good restaurants are downtown.
Chimney Rock State Park is a 45-minute, 25-mile, scenic drive east of Asheville in a quaint mountain village along the Broad River, which flows into Lake Lure as well as through Asheville.
The park’s namesake and chief attraction is a 315-foot monolith on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, high above Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. It has 75-mile views in all directions.
The park offers hiking, a waterfall and lots of natural North Carolina.
Driving another 15 minutes along Route 64 brings you to the town of Lake Lure, which has Flowering Bridge, a marina, shops, lodging, restaurants and boat tours of the lake.
Before You Go
Check out these sites:
• By car, Asheville is on Interstate 240, off I-40 and I-26, about 200 miles from Atlanta. You can take I-85 and U.S. 25 through Greenville, S.C., or I-985 and U.S. 23 through the Chattahoochee National Forest.
- By air, Asheville Regional Airport is a 55-minute flight from Hartsfield-Jackson and is 13 miles from downtown.
On a Day Trip
- Tour the Biltmore Estate.
• Check out downtown Asheville restaurants and craft beer emporia and the Downtown Asheville Art District.
- Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Southern Highlands Craft Guild Folk Art Center.
Staying Two or Three Days
- Drive farther along the Blue Ridge Parkway to see gorgeous scenery.
• Take a day trip to Chimney Rock.
- Spend a few days at a cabin or resort at Lake Lure.
• Take a day trip to Hendersonville (25 miles away).
• Explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park (37 miles away).
• Ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad at Bryson (65 miles away).
How to Dress
Smart casual is appropriate for touring the Biltmore or exploring downtown. Chimney Rock and Lake Lure are more outdoorsy and informal. Comfortable shoes are a must.
At a Glance
- Required mobility — Low to moderate. Some easy walking is required.
- When to go — Year-round. Summer is beautiful, fall color is gorgeous, and winters are cold.
- Where to stay — In Asheville, choose the Inn on Biltmore Estate or the Omni Grove Park Inn for luxury. Many national brand hotels are near the Biltmore. In Lake Lure, cabin rentals and resorts are available.
- Special travel interests — Appalachian scenery, craft beer, the Biltmore, and author Thomas Wolfe, who grew up in and wrote about Asheville.
According to One Jewish Asheville, the area’s umbrella Jewish organization, more than 4,700 year-round residents live in Jewish-connected homes in Western North Carolina, and the area has at least 1,000 seasonal Jewish residents.
About three-quarters of the area’s Jews live in greater Asheville. About 60 percent moved there in the past decade, and almost 80 percent moved there in the past two decades.
Western North Carolina has a Jewish Community Center, a Jewish Federation, a Jewish Family Service, some Jewish social and business organizations, and congregations covering the spectrum of Jewish observances.
Asheville’s first congregation, Beth Ha-Tephila, organized in 1891. A split over the degree of orthodoxy soon followed, leading to the founding of Congregation Bikur Cholim in 1899.
The Ramsey Library of the University of North Carolina at Asheville maintains an excellent summary of the area’s Jewish life at toto.lib.unca.edu/collections/jewish_life_wnc.htm