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Asheville, North Carolina - History, Attractions, Things To See & Do

Updated on November 30, 2007
Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate

Asheville is the largest city in western North Carolina and the county seat of Buncombe County. The city is known for its natural beauty, partly because it is located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville serves as a hub for community events and festivals in the western part of the state.


The area where Asheville now exists was once in Cherokee territory. The origin of Asheville as a town can be traced to 1784, when Colonel Samuel Davidson and his family settled in the Swannanoa Valley. After the arrival of more settlers, the county of Buncombe was established in 1792. Morristown became the county seat in 1793 on a plateau where two Indian trails intersected. Morristown was renamed to Asheville after North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe in 1797.

Asheville grew in the early 1900s, but the city was hit hard by the Great Depression. Economic growth slowed until the 1980s, and many of the buildings in the downtown area went unaltered. This explains why Asheville has an impressive collection of Art Deco architecture.

A Popular Destination

The Asheville area is very popular in the autumn, especially when the foliage peaks in October. The route of the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway takes it through the area and near the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned home in America.

Asheville is frequently mentioned in national rankings for many reasons. It was recently listed as one of AARP Magazines's "Best Places to Reinvent Your Life." American Style magazine had it as one of "America's Top 25 Arts Destinations," and Modern Maturity included it in their list of "The 50 Most Alive Places To Be."

For 2007, Frommer's Cities Ranked and Rated had Asheville as one of the top seven places to live in America, and Frommer's also named Asheville as one of the top 12 must-see destinations in their travel guide. The city came in at number 23 out of 200 metro areas for careers and business according to Forbes.

Area Colleges & Universities

  • Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (Asheville, NC)
  • Brevard College (Brevard, NC)
  • Mars Hill College (Mars Hill, NC)
  • Montreat College (Montreat, NC)
  • South College (Asheville, NC)
  • University of North Carolina at Asheville (Asheville, NC)
  • Warren Wilson College (Swannanoa, NC)
  • Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC)

Area Attractions / Things To See & Do

  • Asheville Film Festival
  • Asheville Lyric Opera
  • Asheville Symphony
  • Asheville Urban Trail
  • Bele Chere
  • Biltmore Estate
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Botanical Gardens at Asheville
  • Grove Park Inn
  • Mountain Sports Festival
  • North Carolina Arboretum
  • Pack Square
  • Riverside Cemetery
  • Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center
  • Smith-McDowell House
  • The Health Adventure
  • Thomas Wolfe Memorial
  • Vance Monument

The economy of Asheville depends a great deal on tourism, and live music contributes a great deal. Seasonal festivals and a large number of nightclubs provide opportunities for local residents and visitors with a variety of events to attend. A popular annual event is the "Shindig on the Green," which takes place on Saturday nights during July and August. It takes place near the courthouse and showcases local bluegrass bands and dance teams.

Sports & Outdoors

  • Asheville Tourists - Baseball (Class A Minor League Affiliate of the Colorodo Rockies Playing in the South Atlantic League)
  • Asheville Grizzlies - Football (Professional Minor League Football Team Playing in the North American Football League)

Asheville is a major hub for whitewater recreation, particularly whitewater kayaking. Many kayak manufacturers have operations in the Asheville area.

Interesting Fact

Asheville has a long tradition of live theatre, dance, and opera, and the potential for growth in the TV and film industries is very strong.


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    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 7 years ago from Louisiana, USA

      I am planning on moving their hopefully early of next year. it seems like a wonderful city with lots to do.

    • profile image

      Tim Burleson 9 years ago

      When you go to Asheville to visit, try to stay at the Asheville Cottages. My wife and I went last month and have never stayed in a better place. The problem is that you have to book early. We tried to book a month in advance and still had to change our plans a day because they were book. It was WELL worth the change!!!