8 Downtown Asheville Stops You Must See

There are a lot of things to do in Downtown Asheville. From one street to another, you are surrounded by new scenes, architecture, places to eat, breweries, shopping, and some great photography opportunities.

Flat Iron Building & Wall Street Asheville

The Flat Iron Building in Downtown Asheville is a gorgeous piece of architecture, and surrounded by plenty of shopping and restaurants including Chai Pani and World Cafe up on the right side of the building; plus Early Girl Eatery, Market Place Restaurant, Cucina 24, Laughing Seed Cafe, and MG Road to the left down Wall Street.

Basilica of St. Lawrence

The Basilica of St. Lawrence is a beautiful cathedral in Downtown Asheville. The US Cellular Center is to the right, which hosts many grand events throughout the year.

Asheville City Building

The Asheville City Building was designed by Architect Douglas D. Ellington, who also designed the S & W Cafeteria, Asheville High School, and First Baptist Church.

Pritchard Park Downtown Asheville

Pritchard Park is best known for the Drum Circle it hosts every Friday night from Spring through Fall. Plenty to do all around here including eating at Tupelo Honey Cafe, Jerusalem Garden Cafe, Mayfel’s, Red Ginger Dimsum, Kathmandu Cafe, and Jack of the Wood.

Pack Square Asheville NC

Pack Square in Downtown Asheville is the center of the Universe. During warmer months, you will many times see local protests happening in this spot. You can see Asheville’s first skyscraper, the Jackson Building, to the right; along with the French Broad Chocolate Lounge colored in light blue. If you were standing in this spot, all you would have to do is turn around to experience some fantastic restaurants including Posana, Noodle Shop, Salsa’s, Bomba, Rhubarb, and Curate. If you turn to your right here and walk down the street, you will see Limones to the left on Eagle Street; plus Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria, Chestnut, The Blackbird, and Doc Chey’s straight down Biltmore. You can also find the Double Decker Coffee Bus across from Barley’s.

S & W Cafeteria Building Asheville

The S & W Cafeteria Building is an architectural delight. A fine building used as an event venue right across the street from the Drum Circle in Downtown Asheville.

Asheville's Flat Iron

When you hit Wall Street in Downtown Asheville, don’t forget to stop by the Flat Iron itself. You will many times catch a busker or two here performing, as well as lots of other street entertainment. Some call it Asheville’s free circus. It’s good to have a few bucks on hand to tip all of these great performers.

Grove Arcade Downtown Asheville

The Grove Arcade in Downtown Asheville was built by E.W. Grove, the same man who built the Grove Park Inn. He wanted to liven up the downtown area, and it happened, until the Federal Government took it over during World War II. Asheville took it back over about 20 years ago, and it is now home to the famed Battery Park Book Exchange & Wine Bar as well as restaurants like Modesto, Carmel’s, Chorizo; plus a tasty bakery called True Confections. They also have an outdoor market with lots of vendors when the weather permits.

Luckily, Downtown Asheville has so much to offer. Get out there and experience it!

Special thanks to Ashley Susan Photography for these photos!

A Little Bit of Soul

Everyone knows that Asheville has some sort of special “it” quality.  There’s something to the food, the music, the climate, the architecture, and the people.  There’s just a soul present that many other cities simply cannot contend with.  Asheville has held onto a quality many cities have lost in sky-scrapers, public transportation systems, and technology.  It’s funny really, because this apparition, this spirit, draws artists, celebrities, and intellectuals as strongly as a magnet lures metal.  I set out to discover why.

I started researching my city a couple years ago, which prompted me to tour my own city through La Zoom Tours. After the research and the tours, I chocked up the town’s charisma to a couple different things: it’s birth, and it’s death. In the late 1700s Asheville was nothing but a convenient patch of dirt, sitting in a valley at the crossroads of a Cherokee trading route.  They say real estate is all about location, location, location.  This meeting place of sorts just happened to have a nice river running through it, and some trails elevated low enough for the horses to hoof it without falling sideways off a cliff.  The white settlers came in, realized its potential, and noticed it wasn’t hard to look at either.  We all know how the rest of that story went…luckily the hills kept their secrets and preserved a lot of that early heritage with folk art, and a respect for nature unparalleled in much of our country.

The death of Asheville was as important as the birth.  What death?  Some may be wondering how they missed the memo.  Asheville became a huge part of the jazz age, and one of the major hubs of the 20s scene.  It’s this flashy era that Asheville can trace some it’s progressive roots.  The city became a regular stomping ground for the Fitzgeralds and their cronies (I think Hemingway actually made it Beer City U.S.A. back then).  That on top of Thomas Wolfe hailing from here, the city was a literary hot spot.  Intellectuals and writers had now entered the scene.  The ingredients that make Asheville were in the pot and boiling.  People were building new buildings next to the old, rubbing elbows with Vanderbilts, and mixing deep southern culture with new ideas, causing ignition.  It was a city of steam, and it was smoldering from the inside out.

Sadly, Asheville couldn’t hide from the stock market crash in ’29.  Asheville had the most debt per capita of any city in America.  There was no money left, and the charming streets once filled with trolleys, bootlegged liquor, and new money had no more hustle and bustle.  Blood stains from self-inflicted wounds sadly decorated the walls of too many banks, and too many bedroom walls in the upscale Montford neighborhood.  For the next 50 years much of the city looked like a ghost town, a shell of what once was.  The city had died.

Now for the triumphant part.  Here in Asheville, we believe in ghosts.  We believe that the soul of the city that hosted so much life would not go gently into the night.  A city that produced singers like Roberta Flack, war heroes like Kiffin Rockwell,and awe inspiring evangelists like Billy Graham would not simply succumb to becoming a “once upon a time”.  This was a city with too much presence.  People started pouring in, enamored with what was left behind. The city was like a beautiful, intricate bees nest preserved by time, built in a season that thrived.  However, those bees work was done, and they had laid down their duties.  They became Zelda Fitzgeralds dying in fires on a knoll in Montford, or artists knowing moonshine all to well, or angels knowing they could never go home again.  They didn’t thrive, but instead left legacies in the form of art deco buildings, great literary works, soulful music, and museums.  We were left untouched French gothic buildings, art deco masterpieces (one of the greatest collections in the nation), and the largest privately owned home in America; ours to tour.  Why?  We couldn’t afford anything else, so we held onto that abandoned space and filled it with art, breathing sweet honeysuckle scented life back into its spirit, and gave birth to this town once again.  If you ask me, this Mecca of art and humanity should be one any bucket list in the world.

I got more acquainted with this when I toured my own city on a La Zoom tour, and feel I’ve truly tasted it now.  La Zoom is a comedic tour featuring all the hot spots I mentioned.  Tours run daily, and meet on Biltmore Avenue right outside the French Broad Food Co-op (which is a great place to buy your local beer to take on the tour)!  After this tour you’ll have a lengthy list of places to visit time and time again.  Bring a change of pants though, in case your pee yourself laughing! 


My husband and I having a great time!


ph2          ph1


Post by:  Lorna Hollifield

http://www.lornahollifield.com Click here for more on aspiring author, Lorna Hollifield!



Join the Asheville Community Content Team

We are putting together a Community Content Team for the new AskAsheville website and blog that we are launching in a few weeks. A team of 10 is already in place, but we are looking for more people who would like to contribute and share information about a variety of topics. Sections of the new site include News, Women, Beer, Food, Wine, Hotels, Photos, Videos, Business, Events, Music, Entertainment, Neighboring Towns and much more. We are interested in getting a great diversity of contributors that will share Asheville from their “point of view” on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

You may be a Writer or Blogger in the WNC area that would like to post a weekly story to AskAsheville. Maybe you are a Photographer or Videographer in the community that wants to share a photo or some videos each week with a quick description on the blog. You may be a marketer and have a few clients or business connections that you would like to write about on a monthly basis. Or maybe you just like to go out and eat, drink, tour, dance, shop and have a good time; and you want to start documenting the experiences, making them count more, and building a portfolio of your work. You post it… and we distribute it online through our social media audiences which reach so many focused on the Asheville area.

Team meetings (online & offline) and full support will be offered including educational opportunities for you to teach your area of expertise, and learn from other teammates. We are implementing a mentorship and internship program as well, so if there is an area of media that you would like to learn more about or improve on; we can help you with training. We can also assist you with credit and a certificate for the work you complete. This could mean extra-credit for you in College and this will give you more credibility to potential employers and clients.

Building a community takes a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Some of you, some of me, some of all of us. Can you write 200 words per month or per week about something that pertains to Asheville NC? Can you provide one featured photo per week or month with 25 word description? Can you draw a weekly or monthly cartoon? Maybe you want to do an Asheville Short Story series? We’ve got your back! We will feature you on our new website, link to you, promote you and your content, and the whole team will support you. We invite you to apply to be on our Asheville Community Content Team.

Contact AskAsheville

And the leak goes on and on and on!

Readers may recall a story posted in February 2010 wherein I attempted to bring attention to the challenges of Asheville’s aging Asheville water distribution system infrastructure. The story focused on a particular section of large diameter iron pipe with lead packed joint seals. This pipe is part of the primary water distribution system that transmits water from the North Fork and or Bee Tree reservoirs to Asheville and beyond.

In my previous reporting the visible water leak from this pipe was calculated at approximately 200,000 gallons per year. During my most recent inspection, on September 5th 2011, I again found a leak, considerably worse than I had seen during any of my prior inspections. The current rate of leak was measures at approximately 650,000 gallons per year or 1780 gallons per 24 hour period. On September 4th 2011, I measured the rate of leak at approximately 630,000 gallons per year.  The leak shown in this video is worsening on a daily basis. Keep in mind the rate of leakage increase as water usage diminishes at night which and pressure builds within the system.

Asheville’s water maintenance department has again been alerted of the condition and they will certainly act to address the leak. The effort will likely be no more than previous, which is to re-pack the existing lead seal, rather than replace the failing pipe joint. During the 8 years that I have been monitoring the section of piping, this routine has played out several times, and each time the leak has resumed worse than the previous. This type of repair is a temporary fix and will not last; the leak will reoccur with a couple months. Sections of Asheville’s antiquated system can not accommodate the pressures necessary to meet growing consumer demands.

As this system continues to age, the risk of catastrophic failure rises. If we take into consideration the added potential stresses caused by recent movements in Eastern fault lines that have been quite for decades, our worry is even greater. Asheville’s 10 year strategic plan does not include replacement of this failing water distribution infrastructure. Surely Asheville has this in their Planned Obsolescence Strategy? Even if this necessary upgrade were in their plan, current financial conditions would almost certainly prevent implementation for many years to come. Catastrophic failure is likely to be the catalyst that will bring about upgrading Asheville’s failing water system.

I wonder if they are better prepared for such an occurrence than they were when flooding of Asheville occurred in September 2004. The severity of the flooding that occurred in 2004 was due to the failure of a primary transmission line that draws from the North Fork reservoir. Emergency release of water from the reservoir washed away a section of this very old pipe. As I recall the majority of Asheville residents were without water for a more than week. The reason it took so long to repair the pipe was due to a lack of available materials due to its age. Does Asheville have a stock of materials to make emergency repairs to this section of piping when we have the next catastrophic failure?