Making the A list

From "Beer City USA" to the "Best Place to Retire," Asheville keeps racking up the ratings. Over the last decade, national media outlets have been shining a bright light on our city, and the consensus is clear: Asheville rules.

Dogfriendly.com says Asheville is a top place to bring the pups. Photos by Jonathan Welch

We've got style (American Style Magazine ranks us as the country's "Top Small City"), we take care of business (Forbes ranks Asheville as the No. 21 place in the country to launch a new business or career), and of course, we know how to party (Beer City!). It's enough to make any Ashevillean proud.

But topping so many lists also has practical economic benefits, says Ben Teague, executive director of the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County.

"Asheville continually attracts decision makers, and those people bring companies to the area that bring jobs," he notes. "Those lists might seem like they're only important for attracting tourists, but in reality, they're extremely important to the economic development picture for all of us who live here."

So congratulations, Asheville: Sit back, sip a local homebrew and bask in the glory. After all, we've earned it.

Beer

Asheville was named Beer City USA this year, beating out Portland, Ore in an online poll conducted by the Web site examiner.com. Last year, Asheville ran a dead heat with the Pacific Northwest city and wound up sharing 2009 Beer City USA honors.

A 2009 Internet poll by Imbibe magazine crowned Asheville Best Craft Beer City in America with more than 55 percent of the vote. And speaking of beer, cheers to Bruisin' Ales (rated the No. 3 Best Beer Retailer Worldwide), The Thirsty Monk (rated the No. 41 Best Beer Bar), Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria (the No. 27 Best Beer Restaurant), Mellow Mushroom (the No. 41 Best Beer Restaurant), Highland Brewing (rated the No. 26 Best Brewery to Visit) and the Wedge Brewery (rated the Number 43 Best Brewpub) … all Asheville favorites recognized by RateBeer.com

Food

In Southern Living magazine's Best of the South Travel Awards for 2010, Asheville's Little Pigs BBQ placed second in the "Best Barbecue in North Carolina" category, and The Huffington Post named Asheville as one of its Top 10 Undiscovered Local Food Cities earlier this year.

Cheers: Asheville is Beer City USA.

Asheville was voted America's Best Vegetarian-Friendly Small City in a 2006 poll by GoVeg.com, and USA Today ranked the now-defunct Gold Hill Espresso & Fine Teas one of the 10 Great Places for Caffeine and Conversation in 2002.

Relocation & retirement

Asheville was rated No. 1 in TopRetirement.com's list of the Most Popular Retirement Towns for 2010.

In 2009, U.S. News & World Report named Asheville one of America's Best Affordable Places to Retire. Asheville was crowned No. 1 among the Top 10 Most Popular Retirement Towns in 2007 by TopRetirements.com, and the same year, America's 100 Best Places to Retire included Asheville among the Best Cities or Towns for Modern Retirees.

Pinnacle Living magazine rated Asheville as one of the Top 25 Towns in the Southern Mountains for relocation, second homes and retirement in 2005. In 2004, Where to Retire magazine named Asheville one of Eight Great College Towns.

In 2003, MSN ranked Asheville among both the Top Five Best Places to Retire and the Top 10 Towns for a Second-Home Investment, Blue Ridge Country magazine ranked Asheville in the top three Best Retirement Towns, and AARP The Magazine selected Asheville as one of the Top 15 Best Places to Reinvent Your Life.

MSN HomeAdvisor ranked Asheville among the Best Five Places to Retire in 2002, and Where to Retire magazine listed Asheville as one of the Best Tax Havens in the Country in 2002. Barron's Online listed Asheville as one of the Best Places to Retire in 2002, and Asheville was one of the Ten Great Towns for Retired Singles according to Where to Retire magazine in 2001.

In 2000, Money magazine ranked Asheville in the Top Five Best Places to Retire, and Rand McNally's Places Rated Almanac ranked Asheville one of the Top Five Places to Retire. Also in 2000, Expansion Management magazine ranked Asheville 43rd in a Top 50 Hottest Cities list.

Business

Retirement rocks in WNC.

Forbes.com ranked Asheville No. 21 in its Best Places for Business and Careers in the "Top Metro Areas" category for 2010 and No. 6 in 2009. USA Today's Road Warrior Panel named Asheville as one of its Top Cities for Business Trips in 2009. Asheville got high marks from the panel for its "great arts and music scene; a community mix of mountain folk, bohemians, business people and highly educated locals; wonderful outdoors lifestyle and fly-fishing; and organic Caribbean-Cuban-Mexican-Jamaican food at Salsa Mexican Caribbean Restaurant."

In its 2006 ranking of Best Places for Business and Careers, Forbes ranked Asheville No. 24 in the country.

Travel

In 2010, Byways magazine named Asheville among its Top 50 North American Group Tour Destinations, and the online resource Sherman's Travel named the Blue Ridge Parkway to its list of Top 10 Value Destinations.

In 2009, Asheville was cited as one of the Best Vacation Spots to Visit with Your Dog by DogFriendly.com and that same year, D.K. Shifflet & Associates ranked Asheville as a Top 10 Value Destination for Couples in Search of Romance. Asheville came in third, beating out Nashville, San Diego, San Francisco, Myrtle Beach and Las Vegas.

Asheville ranked in the Top 50 Globally and Top 10 Nationally in National Geographic Traveler's 2008 "places rated" survey, coming in first among North Carolina destinations. NuWire Investor in 2008 named Asheville one of the Top 10 Places to Buy Vacation Rental Homes in the U.S., and Asheville was featured as one of the Top 10 Up-and-Coming Travel Destinations announced by VirtualTourist in 2007.

Frommer's also named Asheville one of Twelve Top Travel Destinations for 2007, and Asheville took first place in the Best Mountain Destination category in Southern Living's 2006 Reader's Choice Awards. The Blue Ridge Parkway also ranked first in the Scenic Drive category, and the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa won the Best Resort & Hotel top spot.

Asheville was ranked first in the Favorite Mountain Getaway and third in the Favorite Golf and Spa Destination in the Southern Accents Reader Travel Awards in 2006, and in '05, Organic Style ranked Asheville seventh in a listing of the 10 Greatest Escapes in America.

Southern Living readers voted Asheville tops in the "Mountain Destination" category in 2005. Men's Journal named Asheville's Early Girl Eatery and The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in its 12 Months of Adventure Expert's Guide to the perfect trip in 2005.

Southern Living calls us a Top Mountain Destination.

In its 15th Anniversary edition (2003), Blue Ridge Country magazine ranked Asheville in the top three Best Mountain Towns, Best Couples Getaway, Best Festival (for Bele Chere), Best Weekend Getaway and Best Shopping Overall. A Southern Living Reader's Choice poll chose Asheville as one of the Top Mountain Destinations and Weekend Getaways in the Southeast in 2003.

In a roundup of its editors' picks in 2003, Parents magazine listed Asheville among the Top Destinations For Family Travel. The National Trust for Historic Preservation included Asheville in its 2002 list of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations, describing it as "offering diverse natural, historic and cultural experiences that preserve generations of the Appalachian tradition."

In the Best of Summer 2002 issue, Men's Journal ranked Asheville among the Top 50 Hot Road Trips that "will make the greatest three months of your life."

In 2001, another Southern Living Reader's Choice poll chose Asheville as one of the Top Mountain Destinations and Weekend Getaways, and National Geographic Traveler rated Biltmore Estate as one of America's Top 50 Places of a Lifetime in 2001. FamilyFun magazine named Asheville one of the Top Five Southeast Cities For Family Vacations in that year.

And in 2000, yet another Southern Living Reader's Choice poll tabbed Asheville as one of the Top Mountain Destinations in the Southeast.

Accommodations

The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa's Donald Ross-designed golf course was honored as a new Gold Medal Winner in the 2010 edition of Golf magazine's Premier Resorts ranking. The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa made Points North's 2010 list of the editorial staff's Top 10 Favorite Resorts in the Southeast and the Caribbean isles, and Asheville's Inn on Biltmore Estate and the now-closed Richmond Hill Inn were named in Travel+Leisure's 500 Best Hotels list in 2010.

In 2008, Travel+Leisure magazine ranked Richmond Hill Inn No. 9 in its list of Top 10 Hotels: $250 or Less; The Inn on Biltmore Estate ranked No. 36 among the Top 100 Hotels in the Continental U.S. and Canada; and the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa ranked No. 13 in the magazine's list of Top 20 Hotel Spas.

In 2008, Forbes Travel included Asheville Green Cottage in its list of Top Green Hotels in America, and Condé Nast Traveler recognized the Inn on Biltmore Estate on its 2008 Gold List.

American Style mag liked our look.

The Inn on Biltmore Estate was recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the Top 100 best hotels in the world in 2007 and the 2007 Condé Nast Traveler Gold List recognized the Inn on Biltmore Estate and Richmond Hill Inn. Condé Nast Traveler named the Inn on Biltmore Estate to its Gold List: The World's Best Places to Stay in 2006 and 2005.

The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa was named to the 2005 Gold List Reserve. In 2004, Travel+Leisure named The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa as one of The Top Resort Spas in the World. In a 2003 reader survey, the magazine named Grove Park as one the World's Best Golf Resorts.

Quality of life

In 2008, Yahoo! Real Estate named Asheville as one of the Top Ten Places to Live, and Asheville was recognized as one of the Top 25 Green Cities in America by Country Home magazine.

Outside magazine ranked Asheville as Best Southern Town in 2007, and Cities Ranked & Rated listed Asheville seventh that year among more than 400 metro areas in the U.S. and Canada on the following criteria: economy and jobs, cost of living, climate, education, health and health care, crime, transportation, leisure, arts and culture, and overall quality of life.
Relocate-America.com rated Asheville No. 1 in the Most Popular Places to Live for 2007, and Men's Journal named Asheville one of the 50 Best Places to Live in the "Singles Scene" category in 2006. Asheville ranked seventh in the 50 Smart Cities list in a 2006 Kiplinger's Personal Finance poll: The magazine combed the country for cities that embody a reasonable cost of living coupled with a great quality of life.

In 2006, Cottage Living magazine chose Asheville's Albemarle Park neighborhood as one of the Top Ten Cottage Communities in the U.S., and Blue Ridge Outdoors named Asheville as one of the Greenest Towns in the South and a southern town Leading the Green Revolution in 2006.

Asheville was designated as a Preserve America Community by first lady Laura Bush in 2006 because of the way we preserve and use our heritage resources for community economic, educational and cultural benefit and development.

Asheville was named as one of 10 small towns by Vegetarian Times as one of the 20 Greenest Spots in the Country and RelocateAmerica.com named Asheville ninth in America's Top 100 Places to Live in 2005 and fifth in the 2004 ranking. The nominated towns were compared against education, crime, employment and housing data for the prior year.

Country Home recognized that we're living green.

In 2004, Frommer's Travel Guides rated Asheville the No. 8 city in America to live in. The designation was determined by a number of factors, including the economy and jobs, cost of living, climate, education, health and health care, crime, transportation, leisure, arts and crafts.

In 2002, Self magazine named Asheville the Happiest City in the United States. Asheville made the New York Times/Harris poll of Most Desirable Places to Live in 2002.

Hemispheres, the popular United Airlines magazine, featured Asheville in a select list of The World's Most Visible and Visited Cities in 2002. That same year, Wallpaper* magazine's Annual Round-Up Edition ranked Asheville the No. 1 Urban Haven in the World, combining rural life, urban sophistication and energy.

Asheville was named one of the Ten Top Small Cities in America's Best Places to Live and Work in 2001. In 2000, Rand McNally's Places Rated Almanac ranked Asheville one of the Best Places to Live in the United States among metropolitan areas with fewer than 250,000 people.

Music & the arts

In 2006, 2008 and 2009, AmericanStyle Magazine awarded Asheville the No. 2 spot in the "Small Cities" category in its annual Top 25 Arts Destinations readers poll. This year, we got No. 1.

We ranked No. 5 in 2007, eighth in 2005, 10th in 2004, 18th in 2003, 13th in 2002, eighth in 2001 and sixth in 2000.
Where to Retire magazine honored Asheville in 2008 as one of its Eight Enriching Towns for Art and Music Lovers, touting the many wonderful art studios, seasonal art walks and Bele Chere.

The Orange Peel was named one of America's Best Rock Music Venues by Rolling Stone in 2008. Asheville placed third in a ranking of the nation's Top 10 Great Literary Trips in 2002.

Best Fests: We're a top arts destination.

Outdoors

Asheville was rated the No. 1 Whitewater Town in the country by Outside magazine in 2006. Pisgah Forest was voted by Mountain Bike magazine in 2004 as one of the Best Trails for Mountain Biking.

Asheville was listed as one of the 10 Great Adventure Towns in 2004 by National Geographic Adventure, and the same year, Men's Journal listed the area as one of The 10 Best Fall Mountain Bike Rides in North America. Asheville was also chosen in 2004 by Southern Living as one of the Top Mountain Destinations in the Southeast in a Reader's Choice poll.

In 2004, Men's Journal called Nantahala Outdoor Center the "Harvard of Paddling Instruction" and included the outfitter in a list of the 100 Best Trips on the Planet.

Where to Retire magazine selected Asheville in 2003 as one of Eight Great Walking Towns. In 2003, Mountain Bike Action named Asheville one of the 10 Best Mountain Bike Towns. In their Best of Adventure 2003 issue, National Geographic Adventure named Asheville as one of the Top Mountain Biking Destinations in the Southeast. They said that Asheville "is fast becoming the Boulder of the Southeast — with better riding."

The Blue Ridge Parkway was listed as one of noted cyclist Greg LeMond's Best Scenic Routes To Train by USA Weekend in 2002. The same year, USA Today ran two stories a week apart featuring Asheville as a Top 10 Literary Destination and a Historic Town That Invites You To Stroll.

In nominating 2002's premium places to live and ride, Asheville was ranked by Bike magazine as one of America's Top Five Best Mountain Biking Towns in 2002. That year, Outside magazine named Asheville one of the Ten Best Outdoor Towns. And Whitewater Paddling Magazine rated Asheville a Top 10 Whitewater Town.

Canoe and Kayak Magazine named Asheville one of the Top 10 Paddle Towns in April 2001. Mountain Bike Magazine named Asheville one of the 10 Best U.S. cities for Mountain Bikers in 2001.

And if that's not enough for you

The Grove Park Inn keeps racking up awards—and a recent presidential visit.

Southern Living magazine announced its 2009 Best of the South Readers' Choice Awards, which recognized these Asheville favorites: Best Breakfast or Brunch Restaurant: Moose Café (placed ninth out of 10); Southern Favorite Restaurants: Moose Café (placed tenth out of 10); Best Splurge Restaurants: The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa (placed third out of 10); Best Scenic View: Grandfather Mountain (placed No. 2 out of 10) and Chimney Rock Park (placed third out of 10); Best Public Gardens: Biltmore Gardens (placed third out of 10); Best Southern City: Asheville (placed eighth out of 10); Best Hotel: The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa (No. 1 out of 10) and The Inn on Biltmore Estate (No. 8 out of 10).

In 2008, Southern Living recognized these Asheville favorites: Best Resorts/Hotels: The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa and The Inn on Biltmore Estate; Best Mountain Destination: Asheville; Best Scenic Highway: Blue Ridge Parkway in the Asheville corridor.  In 2007, readers of the magazine recognized these familiar spots: Resort/Hotel: The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa; Mountain Destination: Asheville; Scenic Drive: Blue Ridge Parkway; Public Gardens: Biltmore Estate; Country Inn/ Bed & Breakfast: The Red Rocker Inn, Black Mountain.

Jake Frankel can be reached at jfrankel@mountainx.com or at 251-1333, ext. 115.

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