North Carolina mountains

On this Perceptive Travel blog we write a lot about places we go, but often the most helpful posts are on places where we actually live. Today I want to welcome guest blogger Shelly Schmidt. She’s someone I’ve worked with professionally at a gear site I run and her home town is a small city some people can’t help moving to soon after visiting: Asheville, North Carolina. I asked her to give us the scoop on what makes it so special, so take it away Shelly!

I’ve lived in Asheville, NC for about 6 years and have resided in 6 different homes and neighborhoods during my time here. So, you could say I’ve been around the block, and certainly know what this town has to offer. Since my time in Asheville, I’ve watched its reputation change from “A nice place to visit” to “A place you MUST visit” (thanks to all those all too frequent “Top 10 places you must visit/live” lists). I’ll admit that they’re right: the longer I live here, the more I realize that when I travel outside of my little Asheville bubble, I’m quickly anxious to return. It’s just that good. For so many reasons.

A Foodie Magnet Minus the Snobbery

First off, Asheville is hands-down one of the best locations in the country to enjoy real, homegrown fare. Walk into any of the popular, independent restaurants that have stood the test of the oh-so-picky natives, and you’ll find a list of local farms and vendors that the produce, meats, breads, and booze hail from.

Sunny Point Cafe

Sunny Point café (comfort food from dawn to dark) in West Asheville is well established and uses over 15 different local farms and vendors AND has a large garden in its backyard from which they harvest daily! It’s a hot spot for locals, and the constant line out the door speaks to the deliciousness of the food. Their website is impressive: you can get free recipes from them here, and buy their book here. I could go on and on about the food in this town, but I’ll spare you. Here are a few other stellar restaurants to visit though: 12 Bones BBQ, Nine Mile, Cucina 24, Laughing Seed, and Rosetta’s.

A Golden Ratio: 85,000 People, 50 Local Beers

Second (to none) is the craft beer. For four years (2009-2012), Asheville was honored with the title of “Beer City USA.” In other words, it’s a Brewtopia. Come to Asheville and enjoy 50 of the local beers on draft or in bottles—just don’t try to enjoy all of them in one day, please.

Asheville brewery

A prime example is the Wedge Brewery. You can’t get their beer in any place other than the brewery, which makes you want it/crave it/need it so much more, of course. The beer is palate-tantalizing, but it’s about more than the beer at this neighborhood pub. Head down to the River Arts District, find the Wedge, snag a seat in their metal art jungle. Watch the trains roll by while munching on salty peanuts and sipping on the most delightful Iron Rail IPA (7% ABV), Golem (9% ABV), Porter (6.9% ABV), or Abbey Ale (7.2% ABV). As you can see, the ABV stats don’t bode well for lightweights. The Wedge’s motto “Beer is Art” explains the reason for their great success. Ashevillians love this place.

Asheville skyline

Quality of Life and Getaways

Third, which is the main reason I’m here, sums it all up nicely: Quality of Life. You won’t find very many hot shot investment bankers or top dog lawyers here, but you will find plenty of satisfied, happy people – even if they’re not making loads of cash. The happiness lies in knowing I can hop on a green, lush, peaceful trail within 15 minutes (or less) of leaving the office helps me breathe easier throughout my day. I love the fact that I can just grab my pack and some camping gear and spend the night in the wilderness, even if only a few miles from my home.

It’s said that the color green is favored by well-balanced people, and I’d say that’s one of the greatest attributes of the folks here. They’re sensible. They know what’s important in life, and it’s certainly not the rat race. I love this town. I’m a lifer now. Come visit and you’ll probably wish you were one too.

Find the best hotel deals in Asheville at Trivago.com (USA).

Shelly Schmidt works at Darby Communications, a PR firm in Asheville, NC that is focused on centered public relations for the outdoor industry. When not in the office, she’s busy enjoying all the good things that Asheville has to offer.

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Tim Leffel is author of five travel books, including Travel Writing 2.0, and A Better Life for Half the Price, on living abroad. He is editor of Perceptive Travel webzine and this blog. He splits his time between Guanajuato, Mexico and Tampa Bay. See his writing portfolio, awards, and links to his books at TimLeffel.com.