New York Times: Asheville an “Appalachian Shangri-La”

Sunday’s New York Times travel section profiled our fair city in an article entitled 36 Hours in Asheville, N.C.. Besides that we’re “an Appalachian Shangri-La,” what did they find?

Well, for starters, shockingly enough, “this year-round resort town, tucked between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, draws a funky mix of New Agers, fleece-clad mountain bikers, antiques lovers and old-time farmers.” The ensuing odyssey starts at the Grove Arcade and ends on the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking time for sojourns to Asheville’s “grittier west side” (the River District), Root Bar No. 1 and a bevy of downtown restaurants (Early Girl, Mela, Table), the WNC Farmer’s Market and coffee shops.

Read the article, which also offers up a slideshow of Asheville images, here.

— David Forbes, staff writer


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32 thoughts on “New York Times: Asheville an “Appalachian Shangri-La”

  1. Very superficial article… I grow weary of Yankee writers raving about the “Southerness” of Asheville … we are NOT Southern, we are Southern Mountain, a totally different and unique culture and heritage.

    But, it’s about all one can expect of a flatlander, be they a Northern or Southern flatlander, they is still a flatlander. ;-)

  2. DonM

    Read it two days ago in the NYT. So what? Get used to it. Adapt or die (move)

  3. hauntedheadnc

    It used to be that we, or at least most of us, would get excited when we got written up with a glowing review in a big city paper. That was when we still felt mostly bemused exasperation toward tourists and newcomers. Ever since that exasperation curdled into undisguised hatred a few years back, when a big city notices us, we all just groan. Short of an outright campaign of hostility toward tourists, or putting up a billboard advising them to either go home or perform an anatomical impossibility, what can you do?

    I’d put money toward that billboard by the way, just to see what the realtors and their ilk would say. Mission Hospital would be deluged with suit-wearing stroke victims an hour after it went up.

  4. Kriss

    Let’s face it. Asheville is a nice place to visit. And some people even want to live here. I wish we could keep that a secret, but alas even our baseball team is aptly named. People just find out these things. When I was growing up in the ’40’s, spotting a car driving down the road in front of us with a Florida tag, which happened all too often in the summer, meant miles and miles of mind-numbing slow driving around curvy mountain roads until we finally got a chance to pass. But we couldn’t keep ’em out then, and I don’t think we can now – even with a sharply worded billboard.

  5. Kelly Homolka

    How about all the downtown merchants raise their prices twenty percent, then give a “locals only discount” back to (or slightly below) their regular prices?

    The tourists won’t know the difference, our LOCAL businesses will thrive and maybe a few people would even be drawn back to shop downtown…

    (And when I say “locals” I mean all of WNC because Asheville is the only major city!)

  6. RingoStarchy

    Even if there was a billboard, the billboard ordinance from 10 years back or so would make them few and far between.

    We cannot win.

  7. Kriss

    A “locals only” discount has been used before to attract local residents to businesses who serve a lot of tourists. I am personally aware of Disneyland in California giving a special rate to those who could prove they live within certain local zip code ranges. Also, Royal Caribbean cruise lines has had programs where discounts were given to the residents of the state from which a cruise embarked. I’m sure there have been others.

    Though I’m not sure how this would necessarily keep tourists away, and it could backfire – converting tourists to residents. If I had a choice, I think I’d rather them go back home after coming here.

  8. Billr

    As an outsider I may offer you a different perspective perhaps.

    I am not a local myself although I had at one time recently considered moving to the Rutherford County area of NC. It really has been a toss up between NC. or Northwest Ar. but due to recent health events neither option is too good at present.

    But what I wanted to say is that I can understand the frustration that comes with an influx of people into an area that has for many years been mostly local population. Some places have chosen to put as many road blocks in the path of growth as they can and the ones who really suffer from that are the residents themselves.

    Growth is in almost all cases very beneficial when not allowed to occur in such a way as to cause environmental issues and overload of the infrastructure that is available. The fact is that growth does expand the job availability which in turn can help in keeping the youth from leaving the area and raising their families far from the family roots.

    I think that many of us often yearn for the simple life where there are no outside influences on our world. However the ability to live such a life style does not exist in this country this day and age no matter where we live.

    Progress is never 100% smooth and it almost never brings all things great but the positives far outweigh the negative.

    Think about this and think about the dollars that tourist do spend in your area and the locals who benefit from those dollars when tempted to throw rocks at those who choose to visit your beautiful state.

  9. craig

    Although I understand the concerns of residents who must deal with the less desirable aspects of a tourist economy, I must admit that I feel quite fortunate to be able to make occasional day trips to the beautiful Asheville area from Winston-Salem.

    And, knowing I could never afford to live in Asheville, I’ve really developed a greater appreciaton of what I do have at home. I realize now that locals are confronted with many issues I’ll probably never have to face.

    My short visits have been both inspirational and educational.

  10. Carrie

    There are many great points made in this blog. I would like to touch on a few. Asheville is growing and there is no way to stop it. But instead of fighting it so hard maybe we should all pick our battles and share in, “cough”, capitalism. Open businesses, start things that make the community continue to thrive, take advantage of the influx of people/money in the city. That way, it all remains “Asheville” if that’s what you want. If you want to confront this than do something about it in the way of businesses that help people (long time locals) thrive. If you don’t, step aside. I’m so happy about the NYT coming here. I welcome everyone, including flatlanders.

  11. Eric

    “What did they find?”…Looks like a hack with a deadline hangin’ over his head like the sword of Damocles found an electronic brochure from the Chamber of Commerce online and transcribed it verbatim.


    It’s not just about tourists. To read that crappy piece, like most others about Asheville, one walks away with the distinct impression that only the most yuppie bourgeoise fare is worth comment… a pseudo-Appalachian holiday play pen/theme park of quaintness for the rich.

    Please forgive the bitter feelings of many of us who helped make the city appealing and who now cannot afford to live there because once again the bullish elite rob the less fortunate of their place and culture…but ain’t that America?

  12. Eric

    PS: I’d be really curious to see a roll call of the “professional occupations” of all those positivist capitalist posters above. Some perspectives are more convenient than others, aren’t they?

  13. Eric

    PSS: Oh, by the way…there is nothing “inevitable” about Asheville or WNC’s development. Just ask all those poor suckers who lept to their deaths in Asheville decades ago. They had stars in their eyes too. That “inevitable” point of view serves a class consciousness that needs to be placated to justify one’s sense of entitlement and class privilege. It’s kind of like the attitude of someone foolishlishly thinking that they were lucky enough to grab one of the last deck chairs on a sinking ship and they’re not budging for anybody because it’s more comfortable or it has a better view. Right underneath the membrane of “If you don’t, step aside” and that other blather about trickle-down economic theory, is the puss of cognative dissonance protecting a marrow of fear and greed.

  14. youbettie

    I am one of “those” people…the ones that moved here after falling in love with the area on a visit. Well it is some three years later and I gave it my best, but my best is having a hard time paying all of my bills. Sure, I have plenty of artistic endeavors to partake in but skyrocketing rent and even higher property values have made it very difficult to thrive here.

    So, upon a road trip I happened on a broken down/yet beautiful steel working town up on the ohio river, Wheeling WV. It is so ready for so creative change and positive community influence. I hope to take all that I have learned here in Asheville and help to makeover a town that desperately needs it. Plus, being able to buy a beautiful victorian home for 50k doesn’t exactly make it that hard to leave either.

    Thanks for the memories! Anyone with me?

  15. The Wine Mule

    When I got to the part about Asheville’s hip young professionals hanging out at the Old European I knew whoever wrote this probably never set foot in town.

    Anyway, I’ll have a double macchiato with a shot of class consciousness and a sprinkle of entitlement, please.

  16. missemmalee

    I consider myself extremely lucky to have moved to Asheville when I did. It was a huge risk, and ten years later, it is just now paying off. I started a business, employed (with healthcare) 7 hip, young professionals, bought a house in a sketchy part (West Asheville) of town, and learned everything I could about what it takes to make it here..all with two babies in tow.**pats back**

    It really bothers me to hear people say they “can’t make it here, it’s too expensive, rich people, tourists..” – how many excuses do you need?

    What I’m hearing is “I can’t find funky West Asheville Bungalow, while I e-commute and go mountainbiking during the rest of the time and still afford that Smashing Pumpkin ticket..”

    Buck up, buttercups..

  17. you bettie: (and any others who cant afford the ville any longer):
    Spartanburg, SC!!! It’s like Asheville in the 80’s! Get on the Ground floor of the Next Big Thing! Houses are a small fraction of what they are in the mountains, and the winters are much warmer. And, no yuppie tourists at all. just loads an dloads of building that can be remodeled into whatever you wish. They even have a burgeoning arts center! I even spelled ‘burgeoning’ right on the first try!

  18. oh, and good point about the article seeming silly, Wine Mule. It was definitely written for a class of folks far more financially advanced than your typical ashevillian. And i get the impression the author probably didnt really come here, either. Or perhaps in the past, but not for this article.

  19. DonM

    You have pounded the proverbial nail squarely on the head. Congratulations to you and your success that you achieved through your efforts.

    From all of the class warfare, anti-capitalist drivel that seemingly self-spawns on these boards, it appears that many posters are on the way out of here. Bye-bye.

    You said it very well. Thank you, too.

  20. RingoStarchy


    Congratulations on getting out there and finding a jewel. We should all be so lucky.

  21. youbettie

    Thanks soulfetishdeux for the well wishes…

    as for this…

    “What I’m hearing is “I can’t find funky West Asheville Bungalow, while I
    e-commute and go mountainbiking during the rest of the time and still
    afford that Smashing Pumpkin ticket..”

    I didn’t mean for my post to reflect negatively on my time here in Asheville, if any of you took it that way. It is an amazing place and I am sad to leave it.

    I got involved with the community here from both a social and artistic level. And was self employed for the majority of my stay, hoping to make my own business work. But self employment income and single status do not a mortgage loan make. Actually my last ditch effort was the hopes of maybe opening a true, down and dirty, blues venue…something that I think Asheville is lacking….but the massive amount of red tape involved squashed any hopes of that for me.

    I am excited to take the spirit of this city and try and make it happen in a place that isn’t so established…giving me the opportunity to get in on the ground floor, instead of trying to reach the ever increasing glass ceiling here.

    I am sure that the job market and income levels for Ashevillians will raise sometime soon, with all of the increased development, but I can’t hang on until then.

  22. youbettie

    Oh, and missemmalee…

    Your effort is to be commended, for sure, I hope to do/provide the exact same thing at some point.

    But 10 years makes a BIG difference when talking about Asheville and making things happen when you are small time. You could have walked into downtown 15 years ago, moved aside all of the prostitutes and bums, and purchased any building you wanted for 75K.

    I don’t have any issue with the tourists or “rich” people. Afterall, its their money that keeps all of the underpaid industry workers going.

    No excuses being made here other than it is getting too expensive to live comfortably and not have to work 2+ jobs. I was this close to buying a small home, near town, in rehabbing shape but my already 700 rent payment would have almost doubled in my mortgage payment. Debt like that makes me not want to sleep at night.

    I don’t know how you all do it.

  23. hauntedheadnc

    Tourism can take care of itself. Asheville’s leaders need to stop wasting time on trivial things like a green roof for a Civic Center which should probably be condemned instead, and start concentrating on getting some industry in here. Clean industry that can fit well into the existing city of course, or industries such as software firms that might even be able to fit into the new downtown towers that will come when Asheville embraces the reality that dense urban growth in a dense urban district such as downtown is the best way to grow, rather than sprawling toward every compass point.

    But tourism? Asheville can attract tourists in its sleep. This needs to become a city for its residents and its visitors as opposed to what it is now: a city for tourists.

  24. hauntedheadnc

    Wow… that came across as disjointed. Sorry about that. What I mean is that city leaders need to stop dithering about stupid things and fawning over the tourism industry and get serious. There are too many concessions made for the tourism industry, and in the meantime, the city council is obsessed with what amounts to dotting little rosettes of icing on thorough stale cakes, such as when they talk on (and on and on and on) about what to do about the Civic Center, while taking the utmost care to never actually do anything about the Civic Center. We need city leaders willing to act for city residents.

  25. Orbit DVD

    My situation is almost exactly the same as missemmalee’s. Are you my wife?

    You CAN make it here, it just takes patience. Lots and lots of patience. We worked crappy jobs for about seven years waiting for the right opportunity to open a place of our own. That too has been a struggle but the most rewarding experience in my professional life. All the while we knew that we are doing the best thing for ourselves and our children. The quality of life is so much better here than any other place that we’ve lived.

    I welcome people moving here, but who I don’t like is the complainers. Not the people complaining about making a living here, I understand that. It’s those that bitch about there being no restaurants, nothing to do, the place being lame, etc. If you come from a big city, realize that you are moving to a town that is anywhere from 10 to 100 times smaller than where you’re moving from. Oh, and bring a dvd player!


  26. missemmalee

    No, not your wife, but I think I still owe your for a late rental fee.. ;)

    And Bettie..first thing about trying to make it in life as a whole, not just Asheville, it’s freaking HARD. Social and artistic endevors should be secondary. Hate to say it, but it’s true.

    10 years does make a difference. The reason I am here is because the same thing happened to me in Charleston, got too expensive, and I missed the boat. I tried to buy one of those 75K buildings, but couldn’t – because, surprise, I didn’t have any money. Asheville is bumping for entrepreneurs right now..If you can’t make it here, you’re not being creative enough. You have to think like a republican, party like a democrat..

    Good luck, and keep your eyes open and don’t skimp on the coffee…

    We need a Mayor Riley – big time..

  27. dresstoimpress

    This article is really nothing new at all.

    Every couple of years, major magazines and newspapers, do profiles of various cities for their travel destinations. The NY TIMES did a very similar piece on Asheville about 4 years ago.

    Lots of other small cities and resort areas get similar profiles regularly in the NY TIMES.

    What is interesting is that the TIMES advised readers to fly to Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) Airport, not into Asheville (AVL). Seems that the high fares and limited service to AVL are major drawbacks to flying here. Mostly, Asheville and Western NC are drive-to destinations.

  28. Nam Vet

    I for one would have been happier if the NY times didn’t know Asheville existed. All we need is more NYC transplants here? Ellington-type boosters? NO WAY. New York is the polar opposite culture to our dear Asheville culture. Asheville and the South would be better off remaining unknown to these locusts.

  29. the henge

    Thankyou Nam Vet,my thoughts are the same except they are not just locusts they are northern locusts with their fast paced no it all attitude please leave us alone.The south fought one war for southern independence ,looks like we are being invaded again and some of us are standing around with open arms as if the invaders are welcome ,our mountain communities are to precious to just lay down and give in ,stand your ground and resist the invasion

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