Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Asheville featured in the Toronto Sun

Asheville was recently featured in the Toronto Sun in an article that explored the High Country of Western North Carolina. Below is an excerpt of that article.


On the way to Asheville, there are (at least) two places worth stopping.

- Mount Mitchell: It's the highest point in North America east of the Mississipi River. When I was there, it was closed because of a landslide. There are still detours but you can get there now by taking Hwy. 80 off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The main entry point is expected to re-open by mid-June. See virtualblueridge.com.

The second place to stop on the way to Asheville is the Blue Ridge Arts Center (blueridgeartscenter.com) where mountain crafts, both traditional and contemporary, are on display.

Now Asheville. Ahh, Asheville. It's Funky Town in the Mountains. It seriously reminds me of Key West in the '70s -- but with mountains instead of ocean -- before the super-rich took it over and destroyed it.

With about 75,000 people, Asheville is home to Billy Graham, seven colleges and two universities. So it has soul, no matter how you look at it -- but I think the colleges win.

Asheville makes every U.S. magazine's list of "Top 10 Places To Do This Or That," so get there quick -- before the super-rich take it over and ruin it.


- Biltmore Estate: Everyone goes there but I skipped it because self-important faux monuments bore me. But as it is the biggest privately owned house in North America (Loire chateau style, more than 250 rooms) you should probably go. Built by one of the Vanderbilt heirs in the 1890s, it's twice as big as Aaron Spelling's mansion in Hollywood. Go wild.

- The North Carolina Arboretum has 26 hectares of cultivated gardens and 15 km of forested trails.

- More to my taste is Sliding Rock, a natural 20-metre waterslide that plunges you into an ice-cold pool. It's loads of fun on a summer afternoon for $1 park admission fee. It's about 10 km down Hwy. 276 off the Blue Ridge Parkway, about an hour's drive south of Asheville.

- One of my favourite mountain places is Chimney Rock, a half-hour drive southeast of Asheville on Hwy 74. A filming location for 1992's Last of the Mohicans, it's a magnificent hiking area with great vistas. There's a 26-storey elevator cut through the rock if you don't feel up to hiking to the top. Some of the more spectacular paths will be closed for the spring while they are upgraded, but it's still well worth a visit.

You can read the full story here.

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