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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.