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Asheville: The Most Walkable City in the Southeast?

We’re dreaming of spring: when our windows stay open. In warm weather, nothing beats a morning or afternoon (or heck, even an evening) stroll, awash in the glow of the sun and the sound of birds singing. Well, unless the city you’re in doesn’t make that walk particularly easy or pleasant; it’s hard to enjoy a walk if you have to keep looking out for traffic because there are no sidewalks, and it’s hard to find the time to walk in the midst of your daily to-do list if there’s nothing on that list you can walk to.

A city being “walkable”—meaning the degree to which one can get by without regular use of a car—has become more and more important to residents as the health, savings, environmental, and other benefits have become better known. Research has shown that increases in a city’s walkability leads to increased healthy physical activity and also reduces body mass index on average for residents. It also makes for a healthier living environment, with cleaner air and reduced emissions due to the lower reliance on vehicles.

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, North Carolina is making its case for a scenic, modern, walkable living destination. With lots to do downtown and replete with opportunities in the immediate area for hiking, camping, kayaking, canoeing, and more, it’s perfect for an active, healthy lifestyle, and makes a walkable, car-free life not only possible, but ideal.

Convenience and Comfort

Downtown Asheville is equipped with all that you’d need on a daily basis. Working or living in the city puts residents within walking distance of banks, grocers, shopping destinations, food, and entertainment. Coupled with the city’s ART bus system, Asheville’s destinations, whether they be downtown or in the surrounding neighborhoods, are always just a few minutes away.

Not only is it good for the environment, but not needing a car will help your wallet out considerably too, without becoming an inconvenience. Most of the destinations below are walkable from a downtown location, but the aforementioned buses and wealth of ridesharing options in Asheville are available for the occasional longer trip.

Healthy Asheville

While the health benefits of walking are well documented, it’s important to also keep in mind the value of having destinations like Yoga classes, gyms, and many public parks all within walking distance near the place you live. Asheville’s residents are very health-minded, and meditation centers and healing salt caves are all available for those who seek them.

In addition, Asheville’s immediate proximity to the mountains, plus nearby rivers and lakes, means the outdoorsperson will have plenty to do to stay in shape and take advantage of this beautiful, four-season part of the country. Whether you’d prefer to hike Asheville’s hills and mountains in search of a breathtaking view or a waterfall, or go rafting and ziplining with French Broad Adventures, access to your preferred outdoor activity is right nearby. Stop by the Botanical Gardens at Asheville for a picnic or a walk, and spend some quality time with mother nature without needing to stray far from home.

 

Music, Art, and History: Asheville is a Cultural Hub

Asheville is a city with both a rich past and an exciting today. Here’s just a smattering of activities and sights to be taken in in Asheville—all easily accessible by foot.

  • Take in a concert or show at the S. Cellular Center, or for a more intimate venue, check out the historic Orange Peel—named one of the top 5 rock clubs in the nation by Rolling Stone in 2008, having held concerts by the likes of Bob Dylan, Arcade Fire, Joan Jett, Ice Cube, Macklemore, Cyndi Lauper, and many more.
  • Get a world-class meal at a small-city price; Asheville has emerged in recent years as one of the top culinary destinations in the southeast. With restaurants like Buxton Hall BBQ, Curate, and Cucina 24, all a short walk from anywhere downtown, date nights and foodie excursions are bound to be memorable. And feel free to indulge yourself for desert at The French Broad Chocolate Lounge.
  • Asheville features a number of art galleries, bookstores, and museums to help you keep in touch with your creative side. Take one of the monthly Art Walks through the city’s 25+ galleries, attend a book reading at local favorite Malaprop’s Bookstore, or spend an afternoon in a museum of your choice: science, art, or even a pinball museum! Craving the theatre arts? The North Carolina Stage Company is also located in the heart of downtown to add a dash of drama to your life.
  • Go on a terrifying tour with Ghost Hunters of Asheville, or a much less haunted one with LaZoom’s tour trolleys.
  • Microbrew fan? Asheville is home to more breweries per capita than any U.S. city, including Wicked Weed for the hops fanatics, and the first brewery opened after Prohibition, the Highland Brewing Company.
  • Root for Asheville’s minor-league baseball team, the Asheville Tourists, at the centrally located McCormick Field.
  • Visit the historic Biltmore House—America’s largest home, built by George Vanderbilt—charming Biltmore Village for shopping and food, or learn about the history of weaving and woodworking in Asheville at the Grovewood Village.

 

As cities modernize and put walkability atop their priority lists, many of them will try to emulate the mix of convenience, excitement, and centrally-located layout of Asheville.

Of course, the city is already is a leader in walkability, and it’ll be hard for others to copy the perfect geographic location and historic, vibrant allure that makes the city such a destination. Who can say which city is the most “walkable,” but what is easy to see is how much residents and visitors love downtown Asheville, with everything you could need to live, work, and play just a few blocks away.

Why Asheville’s South Slope Is One of the Hottest Addresses in NC

Picture a jelly doughnut. It’s delicious enough on its own, right? But—in the center is an extra-sweet filling, making something good even better. That’s how I like to think about Asheville and its South Slope neighborhood, respectively; a place that’s already amazing, yet there’s something more at its core that is not to be missed.

Just a few minutes’ walk from downtown Asheville, South Slope typifies the best of what Asheville is known for. This upscale, trendy part of town is packed with the city’s top restaurants, galleries, breweries, and more. Modern amenities and attractions co-mingling with a city of rich history is Asheville in a nutshell, and South Slope is the epitome of this combination. With luxury living spaces and high-class restaurants alongside beautiful parks, one of the most legendary music venues in the southeast, and more, South Slope is the place to be, even within this already popular Western North Carolina destination.

And don’t worry, if you’re now craving a doughnut after that intro, South Slope’s Vortex Doughnuts has you covered.

Brewery City

When I mentioned breweries above, how many did you picture? Two? Three? Well, hold on to your hops—Asheville has more than a few; it has the highest number of breweries per capita in the US, and South Slope is the epicenter of that scene. Hi-Wire Brewing, Wicked Weed, Catawba Brewing Company, Green Man Brewery, Twin Leaf Brewing, the Asheville Brewing Company, Burial Beer…all are located a short walk from any point in South Slope. And for the avid bicyclists who enjoy a cold pint after a ride, Beer City Bicycles provides a place for cyclists to talk shop over local brews. If you’re not into the microbrew scene, worry not; Asheville has a lot more to offer for both food and entertainment.

Healthy Living

Asheville is an extremely walkable city. Anyone living in South Slope can easily access all they’d need on a daily basis: grocers, banks, shopping, you name it and it’s available downtown. Not only does this walkable space help save transportation and vehicle maintenance costs, it’s great for the health-minded individual. With gyms, parks, yoga studios, and more within walking distance, staying in shape has never been easier, and with Asheville’s immediate proximity to outdoor activities—hiking, kayaking, camping, ziplining, and more—it’s never been more fun. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and right on the French Broad River, Asheville is a four-season city that provides healthy living options at every turn.

More the sporting type? Play a tennis match at Aston Park, or catch a baseball game. South Slope is host to Asheville’s minor-league baseball team, the Tourists, and their home stadium, McCormick Field. Pro tip: on Thirsty Thursdays at Tourists games, craft brews are just $2 a pop.

Feed Your Brain…

Asheville attracts creative types from all over, and the city is host to a number of top-notch galleries, theatres, and music venues. Though downtown is only a few blocks away, South Slope residents don’t have to go that far to check out some great art. For music, check out the legendary Orange Peel, a music venue that has hosted the likes of Bob Dylan, Arcade Fire, Joan Jett, and Macklemore, and in 2008 was named one of the top 5 rock clubs in the nation by Rolling Stone. A memorable night out in South Slope is only a few minutes from home.

…and Your Body!

And if you’re on a night out, you’re in luck! In Asheville you can find some of the best food in North Carolina and beyond, in a variety of cuisines and price points. Downtown Asheville has world-class restaurants for date nights, and for a more casual meal, a number of the breweries are also well-regarded eateries. It does seem like a new, terrific restaurant is popping up every week! Not to be missed is Ben’s Tune-Up in the South Slope, one of the most unique establishments you’ll ever come across: it’s a Japanese beer garden (built in a converted auto shop) that brews its own sake, offers a full Japanese-American fusion menu, and has live music on-site. If you love BBQ, you can’t miss nationally-renowned Buxton Hall. And for a cozy couples’ night, try Bartaco.

The South Slope is Only Going Up

Asheville as a whole is rapidly progressing and growing, and the South Slope gives you a front seat to the action. It provides the perfect location for a residence or vacation home, with some of the most stunning living spaces in the city, surrounded by lots to do and see (and eat). Comfort, convenience, and character; that’s the South Slope filling in the center of the treat that is Asheville living.