Gay and lesbian visitors to Asheville, North Carolina, find a very friendly atmosphere, especially in the eclectic and artsy downtown. Home to the famous Biltmore Estate, Asheville is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains with limitless outdoors activities. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which rides along the ridge tops, is one of most beautiful drives in the country. You will find a diverse population, with a large gay and lesbian community that enjoys meeting visitors (since most of them were once visitors before they fell in love with the area and moved).
RomanticAsheville.com is a 500-page online travel guide (free) with 1,600+ photographs with plenty of “insider” travel tips, including a special gay and lesbian Asheville guide. Find guides to accommodations, hiking, waterfalls, art, Biltmore Estate, Blue Ridge Parkway, shopping, restaurants, nightlife, events, and more. To help you plan a trip, here are ten favorite outings for gay and lesbian visitors to Asheville:
1. Romantic Dinner: The farm-to-table craze is full steam in Asheville with dozens of locally-owned restaurants that work closely with local farms.
2. Bed & Breakfast or Cozy Cabin: There are many gay-owned or gay/lesbian friendly grand bed and breakfast inns and cabin vacation rentals to choose from that offer plenty of privacy and romance. Many B&Bs are near downtown, while secluded log cabins can be found in the mountains right outside the city.
3. Drinks: From beer to wine to coffee, there are many options downtown. Since Asheville is Beer City USA, you will find quite a few brew pubs downtown. For the most beers on tap (and great pizza), head to Barley’s Taproom at 42 Biltmore Avenue. For a glass of wine, go to Sante Wine Bar in the Grove Arcade. Smokey Tavern is a friendly, cozy gay bar in the middle of downtown at 18 Broadway. You don’t have to be an overnight guest to enjoy a cocktail at the famous Grove Park Inn. You will find 10 coffee shops in downtown Asheville with local flavor and great atmosphere. Don’t miss the French Broad Chocolate Lounge with French press coffee.
4. Shop: Downtown Asheville is a shopper’s paradise with a wide variety of 200 locally-owned shops. To experience a true slice of Asheville, stop by Malaprops, voted “Best Independent Bookstore in the Southeast.” Lesbian-owned, it has a spirited atmosphere which draws a diverse crowd for readings and live music at 55 Haywood St.
5. Biltmore Estate: Don’t miss seeing the largest home in America, with an amazing collection of art and antiques, grand gardens, wine tasting at the winery, and the outdoor equestrian center. And there are numerous places to escape from the crowd for a romantic picnic or walk. Christmas decor is definitely over the top!
6. Live Music or Theatre: To listen and dance to some great jazz and blues, go to Tressa’s at 28 Broadway, which has a mixed straight and gay crowd. For a variety of music headliners, check out The Orange Peel at 101 Biltmore Avenue. In the mood for the theatre? There are several community and repertory theatre groups in town, with several choices for professional theatre. Or see a first-run independent film or often a gay-themed film at the Fine Arts Theatre at 36 Biltmore Ave.
7. Antique Shopping: The Biltmore Village area has a great variety of antique stores and malls, including the Antique Tobacco Barn. Plan a visit to Asheville around a Robert Brunk Antique Auction, one of the premier auction houses in the southeast.
8. Gallery Hopping: John Cram owns the two biggest galleries in Asheville, Blue Spiral I downtown at 38 Biltmore Ave and New Morning Gallery in Biltmore Village. Blue Spiral has an incredible collection of fine art and crafts. Walk to 30 galleries in downtown or explore the River Arts District, home to many studios and galleries.
9. Hikes & Waterfalls: Choose from hundreds of great trails (see the Hiking Guide), many taking you to a beautiful waterfall. Find something for all skill levels, from a short stroll to a strenuous full-day hike.
10. Dance Bars: The premier nightclub for dancing is Scandals, downtown at 11 Grove Street near Patton Avenue in a brick building (Grove House). It has a lively dance bar and various areas to escape the madness of the dance floor. There are two other gay clubs nearby, Club Hairspray at 38 N French Broad Ave and O.Henry’s at 237 Haywood Street.
If you are thinking of moving to Asheville, find an Asheville Gay Real Estate Agent.
For more information on vacations in the North Carolina mountains, go to our Asheville Gay & Lesbian Travel Guide.