Ahhh, Asheville. A town so relaxing it literally makes you take a deep sigh of relief at the mere thought. Peaceful, incredibly community orientated, proudly politically left wing, home to the most incredible drumming circle you’ve ever seen in your life, and, for a more practical statistic, the eleventh largest town in North Carolina.
It also happens to be frequented by over 1 million tourists each year, the majority of which drive up for the weekend and transform this usually quaint town into something of a bulging bohemian Mecca, where arts, locally grown and made food, that famous Friday night drumming circle, and Gray Line Bus Tours reign supreme.
It’s little wonder then that Asheville is fast becoming one of the country’s most popular retirement destinations. They really do have it all here; mountains, arts, amazing culture, and some of the best medical facilities in the region.
Since I have recently embarked on my own early retirement/dream following expedition, it’s only natural that I too have slipped into the cruisey life here in Asheville with arguably a little too much ease. Long hikes in the woods, 5pm wine time, organic market shopping, and thrice weekly yoga classes have all become common practice over the past six weeks in this gorgeous little town. The fact that my husband’s parents live here is merely a bonus, because if it wasn’t for them, I may never have found this heaven in a hinterland.
If you ever find yourself needing a hiatus away from the busyness of your life, or merely want to come to a town where young college students mix happily with oldies; hippies and doctors share stories over a local brew; and tubing on blow-up mattresses down the French Broad River with your mates and an ESKY (read: Cooler) of Bud sounds like your idea of perfection, may I suggest taking part in one, or all, of these local adventures.
1. The Friday Night Drum Circle
Clearly this is worth seeing if I’ve mentioned it, what, three times in this blog already. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a ‘drum circle’ (I had no idea) it is exactly as the name suggests: A circle of drummers, cow bell bangers, bucket hitters and any-instrument-you-can-get-your-hands-on enthusiasts who literally sit around the edge of the local square (that’s shaped like a circle) and make music. While all this is happening, people dance in the middle in a crazed-like state, while others simply watch on in bewilderment. It’s FABULOUS! I adore this whole catastrophe simply for the fact that I love seeing all the different people joining in without any judgement or pretension. Everyone is welcome here and encouraged to go completely bonkers. Hilarious!
I have been meaning to take my camera up for weeks now and haven’t, so here’s a video I got off YouTube for you to see for yourselves…
If you look hard enough, you might even see me bobbing around in the background there. Not for the faint-hearted, or ultra conservative, but one way to sum up Asheville perfectly. Visit the drumming circle every Friday night from 7-10pm in the centre of town opposite Urban Outfitters.
2. Tubing down the French Broad River
For something slightly different I can’t recommend tubing down the French Broad River enough. There’s a slow current and no rapids, so there’s no need to pack your helmet, but on a hot summer’s day there’s nothing more refreshing that packing your blow-up devise (normally a tube, but we took blow-up mattresses), an ESKY filled with beers (if you’re a Corona fan, they are ridiculously cheap in the States. Winner!), and your sunscreen because you’ll be floating for around 2-3 hours.
We were lucky enough to have some locals take us, and they were smart enough to leave a car at the beginning and one at the end. Find your entry point anywhere along the river, start floating, drinking, and laughing, and pop out the other end a little more wobbly than when you arrived. Note: A designated driver is also a key piece of the puzzle; so don’t forget to point the finger at someone before setting off.
While the French Broad was closest to us, there are plenty of other areas around Asheville where tubing is a must. I know there are more areas in the Pisgah National Forest, so be sure to grab a map and hiking guide for more options.
3. Hike. A lot
There are more national forests and hiking trails in the areas around Asheville than Maccas restaurants in Texas, so if you like to wander around the woods and enjoy the fresh mountain air, this is the place for you.
The more touristy hike up to Chimney Rock is pretty, albeit a little busy, and definitely worth your time. I would recommend parking in the carpark where you buy the tickets and walking the whole way if you really want a good walk, as the walk from the upper parking lot isn’t all that long, or scenic, for that matter.
The Blue Ridge Parkway, however, is home to more picturesque hikes than you could dream of, all of which are worthy of a look. Pack your water bottle, a snack, and your camera, because you’re bound to need it for this place.
One of the more favoured walks among the locals (and vistors) on the Blue Ridge is the hike to Graveyard Fields – the place where wild blueberries grow in abundance. Take a bucket and get ready to feast on the tastiest berries you’ve ever seen. Keep an eye out for black bears though, as they enjoy these tasty snacks, too.
Over in the Pisgah National Forest there are also plenty of walks. Our favourite was Daniel’s Ridge Loop, a pretty walk through your typical American forest that is sure to blow you away. I mean, look at this beauty…
Asheville is a place you come to recharge, repair, and remember what’s amazing in life. Nature, good food, family, and friends have all suddenly taken the steering wheel in my life, simply because being in a place like this forces them to. In the best way possible. All you have to do now is come and see for yourself…but be careful, you might just never want to leave.
Tell me Happies…
Do you want to come to Asheville?
Have you ever been?
Where’s your ‘special place’ that reminds you of the good things in life?