Asheville town (one hour east of TN)
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Asheville is a hilly town with great restaurants. The scenic Blue Ridge Parkway runs through here, and the famous Biltmore Estate draws visitors. Asheville has pleasant summer temperatures compared to much of the south, and therefore attracts those looking for a comfortable summer climate.
Famous for its hippy population, Asheville is quite an odd place. The hippies here aren't of the gentle-looking California kind that I'm used to, but more rugged with lots of tattoos, a sort of hippy meets goth. There is a large lesbian population in the town. Interesting coffee shops, a used bookstore that sells wine, stores selling organic cotton mattresses, shops filled with new age home decor...all these make for an interesting explore.
The main streets, Lexington and Broadway (which turns into Biltmore Ave) in Asheville town are a fun place to walk around. The architecture is quite unattractive, with strict rectangular 1920s brick buildings of utilitarian Commercial style. But the storefronts are bright and enticing. There are plenty of great places to eat or grab a cup of coffee, and you won't have any problem finding organic or gluten-free food. I recommend Mela Indian Restaurant, for the most incredible dipping sauces and a lovely interior with huge windows looking out on the street. It feels wonderful to eat dinner in the breeze of an open window, after being in air-conditioning in most of the rest of the south during the summer.
Walk to the Basilica of St Lawrence, with its lovely reddish-brown exterior and glimmering stained glass windows and tiled dome inside. There is a Mary Garden behind the church.
The Grove Park Inn (9 minutes drive north of downtown) is another landmark, built in Arts and Crafts architecture with incredible views of the Blue Ridge mountains.
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Mela Indian Restaurant, 70 N. Lexington Ave, Asheville NC 28801, call (828) 225-8880. There is free parking along the road but you sometimes have to search for it.
Basilica of St. Lawrence, 97 Haywood St, Asheville NC 28801.
Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Ave, Asheville NC 28804, call (828) 252-2711.
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Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.