Saturday, May 12, 2012

Visiting Asheville before and after the Fling

Asheville is a tourist destination from spring to fall, because of our setting and the surrounding mountains.

And it's been that way for a long time.

From George Vanderbilt (at the turn of the last century) and E.W. Grove (builder of the Grove Park Inn, the Grove Park neighborhood, and the Grove Arcade downtown), Asheville flourished through the end of the logging era, right up to the Great Depression.

The art deco buildings and historic neighborhoods (Montford, Kenilworth, Albermarle, Chestnut Hill, and Grove Park) all derive from that period.

The renaissance of downtown Asheville has happened over the last 20+ years, or so, as the formerly deserted downtown was gradually repopulated with restaurants, galleries, and shops.  The distinctive architecture of downtown was saved through Asheville paying off (or not taking on) depression-era debt (as I understand it), then mouldering along until revitalization.  There was even an early urban renewal suggestion (yikes) to convert part of downtown to a mall, I think, that was turned back by voters, probably because of cost, but I don't remember the details of the story.

My gardening companion and I started visited Asheville near the beginning of that time, in the early 80's, and it's been a remarkable transformation to see.

There's lots more to learn about Asheville at the Asheville Visitor Center, just off highway 240 at the Montford Avenue exit (it's an easy walk from the Four Points, too).  They have helpful folks and excellent information for visiting Asheville and beyond.

If you're coming early or staying beyond the Fling, here are some places not to miss.

~ Botanical Gardens of Asheville (a wonderful 50+ year old garden adjacent to UNC-Asheville devoted to native plants)

~ Grove Park Inn and surrounding neighborhoods

~ Blue Ridge Parkway (there's easy access up Town Mountain Rd., with a nice hike either way along the Mountains to Sea Trail)

~ River Arts District ( a former warehouse and industrial area being transformed to art studios and galleries)

~ Biltmore Village (a historic area full of interesting shops and restaurants-- my favorite is the Compleat Naturalist -- they're great supporters of exploring the natural world of the Southern Appalachians).

And if you have time, or want to come back, explore the rich botanical diversity and natural gardens that the Southern Appalachians provide -- you'll have a taste in Christopher's garden and beyond, but there are wonders beyond.

Have fun exploring.

(P.S.  My gardening companion, Tim Spira, will be doing a couple of native plant walks at the NC Arboretum on Friday afternoon as part of the Fling, if you're interested in learning more about native plants and their ecology in the Southern Appalachians.)  But there's lots to explore there on your own, too.

Enjoy Asheville!  We're looking forward to your visit. Ask me for more visiting suggestions, if you like...

Natural Gardening