Asheville is cool. In fact, if you google ‘coolest small cities in the US,’ Asheville’s on the first page — right above Portland. Among its many honors Asheville is #1 Beer City USA, one of the most beautiful places in America (according to Good Morning America), a top-25 small arts destination and a top-ten dog-friendly resort town (the list of accolades goes on). So what makes Asheville one of the premier travel destinations around? Maybe it’s that sweet combination of good ol’-fashioned country mountain roots mixed with a healthy dose of counter-culture and pizzazz. Just be careful; Asheville has also been called the cesspool of sin.
This small city is tucked smack dab in the middle of some of the oldest mountains in the world — the Southern Appalachians. Considerin’ this here’s a film festival, what’s the first film that comes to mind when you think of the Southern Appalachians? Did you say Deliverance? You’re right! But don’t be deterred. The similarities are benign: beautiful mountain wilderness full of outdoor fanatics, tough rock climbing locales, one of the oldest rivers in the world (the French Broad, not the Cahulawassee), a love of old time music, moonshine, barbeque, and, of course, charming locals!
These days locals do much more fly fishing than noodlin’. They drink craft beer instead of white lightnin’, and the music scene includes everything from diddle diddle to electronica to death growls. And the barbeque comes in tofu and tempeh too!
Photo credit: Creative Commons
Outdoor sports is one of the biggest reasons people flock to Asheville. The landscape is unmatched in beauty and diversity. Asheville claims the highest mountain east of the Mississippi, the greatest biodiversity of plant and salamander species than anywhere else in the US, epic rock climbing sites, whitewater rafting, backpacking, hot air ballooning, and more.
These are just a few of the reasons why the producers of the epic The Hunger Games movie decided to film in Asheville, NC. The Hunger Games may not be featured in this film festival, but it’s an epic action film of its own with no shortage of kickass stunts and fights. If you’ve read the books you’ll know that the Hunger Game itself is a battle to the death within a deadly outdoor arena. That deadly arena? Asheville. More specifically, Western North Carolina.
Photo credit: Dominic Smith
There are more places in Asheville to scrape your knees, bloody your knuckles, and rupture your spleen than Mad Max in the ThunderDome.
Want waterfalls? How about checking out DuPont State Forest where The Hunger Games was filmed.
Rock Climbing? Looking Glass Rock is not far from Asheville and a climber favorite.
Maybe you’d prefer to experience the forest from the tree tops. Navitat is the region’s premier zipline tour just 20 minutes north of Ashevillle.
For more Asheville outdoor adventures check out Asheville Now‘s local guide.
Beer & Culture — ’cause you can’t have one without the other
OK. So we’ve discovered that adventuring in Asheville is easier than takin’ out lesser ninjas. And what’s better after a long hard day of havin’ fun outside than drinking amazing local craft beer. Second to none (that means you, Portland), Asheville proudly holds the title of Beer City USA! There are over eleven Asheville-grown craft breweries and other breweries are moving in all the time.
BREWERIES TO VISIT
Asheville Pizza and Brewing [http://ashevillebrewing.com/] — this small brewery doubles as one of the coolest second-run theaters ever! Home-made craft beer? Check. Sweet theater with comfortable seats and table? Check. Amazing specialty pizza? Check. Are we forgetting anything? Oh yeah: and this brewery sponsors ActionFest with our very own beer called the ActionFest Ale — a light, yet full-bodied pale ale that refreshes after a long day of Action.
The Wedge [http://wedgebrewing.com] — This gem of a brewery is located in Asheville’s river district: former industrial wasteland reclaimed, recreated, and decorated by local artists. If you go, be sure to check out the front step wrought iron art creations.
Want to try a lot of breweries but would rather not drive?
And of course after you’ve had your fill, why not take some home? Bruisin Ales is rated #4 best beer retailer worldwide! This shop is part of what makes Asheville the envy of traveling beer maestros. Bruisin Ales has all the local favorites as well as a fine selection of international, specialty, and seasonal brews.
More Music, Art, and Comedy
OK. So we’ve discovered that you can drink more beer in Asheville than Rooster Cogburn in a cheap saloon, but what else is there to do? Plenty. Asheville’s premier music venues include the Orange Peel, the Grey Eagle, the Asheville Music Hall, Diana Wortham Theatre, the Asheville Civic Center, the Get Down, and many more.
Art galleries are a-plenty as well. Asheville’s got everything from fine arts to graffiti artists to incredible murals to comic book shops (we call that an Art Museum). In fact, our 2011 ActionFest poster was designed by kickass Asheville artist Gabriel Schaffer.
Be sure to visit these art spaces:
The comedy scene in Asheville has been growing by leaps and bounds. Almost every night you can find a different downtown club featuring local and regional comedians. You’ll laugh harder than your first viewing of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie (an accomplished feat). An absolute MUST, however, is riding the purple LaZoom bus. The tour guides on this unique ride teach you Asheville history. Beware. You may pee your pants from laughing. No joke.
Get your Tickets!
Are you still reading? Hurry up and get your tickets to ActionFest in Asheville, North Carolina!