Asheville named ‘America’s Quirkiest Town’ by Travel + Leisure Magazine

Pictured here: Fire spinners at the Aug. 31 Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival. Coming the day after that celebration of Asheville's creative culture, the town was named the "quirkiest" in America. Photo by Jake Frankel.
Pictured here: Fire spinners at the Aug. 31 Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival. Coming the day after that celebration of Asheville's creative culture, the town was named the "quirkiest" in America. Photo by Jake Frankel.

Since being named the “new freak capital of the U.S.” by Rolling Stone 14 years ago, Asheville has arguably only gotten weirder. And on Sept. 1, Travel + Leisure Magazine further burnished the town’s eccentric credentials, naming Asheville the No. 1 “Quirky Town” in America.

“Is it the thinner mountain air or that the locals are standing too close to a vortex? Either way, these North Carolinians are tops for eccentricity thanks to both old and new charms: the vortex-laden terrain, which purports to send off good energy; the Friday night drum circle in downtown’s Pritchard Park; and the seemingly bottomless love of local beer,” the influential travel magazine reports. It goes on to recommend that visitors sample the beer-and-moonshine “hop tails” at the Grove Park Inn, “the BRÖÖ shampoo at the Earth Fare shop, or the port cake at Short Street Cakes.”

The magazine also quotes local wild food scout Alan Muskat as saying, “Asheville sits smack in the middle of the most biodiverse temperate bioregion on the planet. …So even our plants are freaky.”

Following Asheville on the list of quirky towns are Provincetown, Mass. and Ithaca, N.Y.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning writer and reporter who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

9 thoughts on “Asheville named ‘America’s Quirkiest Town’ by Travel + Leisure Magazine

  1. Did the person writing this article actually visit Asheville or just read some online comments about the town and cut and paste this together? Of all the places to have a drink, they mention the Grove Park Inn? (actually the Omni Grove Park Inn, which is part of a chain, not exactly an oddball retreat) Try the Broo shampoo at Earth Fare? Yes both of those businesses are based, but both can be experienced in many other states. A Top 10 bakery town – really? And they mention a business that hasn’t even opened yet. Granted Vortex may be a good place in the future, but they have yet to add anything to the town or its ‘quirkyness’. Actually after reading the rest of the cities in the piece, they miss the mark on a few others as well. A very lazy article.

  2. Geraldine Peterson

    That’s why I live here!

    This city has some amazing energy, mountain vistas, outdoor activities, bars and excellent restaurants, arts and culture. It’s one of this country’s best kept secrets. Oh, and let’s not forget that it is “Beer City USA” and will always be due to the number of excellent craft breweries here.

    Keep Asheville weird! Keep Asheville “Beered”!

    Prost! und Zum Wohl!

  3. bsummers

    “Sell crazy someplace else, we’re all stocked up here.”
    Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets

    • Roger McCredie

      Want to see quirky? How about the grammar in the last sentence? The dual subjects of the sentence are “Provincetown” and “Ithaca,” not “Asheville.” The verb should be “are,” not “is.”

  4. I miss Asheville terribly and everything I read indicates it is de-freakifying itself by leaps and bounds…getting rid of Bele Chere, becoming home to chain restaurant after chain restaurant, willingingly taking on the moniker “Beer City” (ick), etc, etc, etc. The last time I went home (and I really mean home as I am a native) the traffic in west Asheville, where previously only working class saps deigned to live, was frightening. It was heartening to see that. like Grant’s Army, (perhaps somewhat literally), the hippies and freaks or what my genetic relatives see as the greatly unwashed have crossed the bridge into West Asheville finally, probably because that was the only place left uncolonized by “outsiders”. There is still a class divide that most non-natives are blissfully unaware of; one of my family’s most repeated topics of conversation is how afraid they are to go downtown and how they ‘hate’ the drum circles and the rasta- (trusta-) farians and all other manner of strange invaders of their little mountain town…for those folks pre-hippie influx it is the Asheville of the 1950s that they see as ideal. For me the heyday of Asheville was the late 80′s to mid-nineties, pre micro-brewery onslaught when you could expect to see a reggae band headlining Bele Chere on a Saturday night, before the powers that be began underhandedly trying to sanitize the city for tourists and McCarthy-era loving locals and natives. The cultural push-pull in Asheville that most transplants seem oblivious to has always been very interesting to me, over the years it’s been like watching a game of perpetual tug of war with an invisible rope that no one really acknowledges but no one puts the rope down either. I have been getting worried lately hearing Ami James opened a tattoo shop branch there and Kristin Wiig talking about my city of birth to the whole world on David Letterman. Each time something like this happens I get a knot in my stomach and want to yell ‘shut up, people, I want to move back there someday’. I hope it will still be a desirable place to live when I finally am able.

    • Jeff Fobes

      Hello, Credy Stevens. I think you make a number of interesting points. But I’d like to challenge you on some others.

      Speaking as someone who moved here in the ‘80s and has a number of “native” Asheville friends, I think you overstress the native vs. nonnative polarity. Natives are not all cut from the same cloth; they don’t all see the world (or Asheville) in the same fashion. Plus, the non-natives themselves are of many ilks and types. And what’s more, each generation of non-natives settles and tends to spawn native children.

      You seem to place the responsibility for change on the non-natives. But it’s the natives who are selling their land to non-natives. We’re all part of the change.

      In any event, change in Asheville (and elsewhere) is not only inevitable, it’s been going on for generations. Who are we to say it should stop in 1950, 1980 or 2005?

      You say you no longer live here. The history of Asheville is being written daily. The players live here. Some are natives, some non-natives. If you really want to impact what happens to this town, you’re going to have to get back here and get into the game. And when you do, I’ll wager that you’ll sometimes find yourself allied with non-natives and arguing with fellow natives.

      I guess my point is that each of us values one set of changes and hates others. It’s natural to stand up for what you believe and oppose what you don’t. But it’s oversimplistic to imagine the struggle is between native and nonnative.

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