Click for Asheville, North Carolina Forecast Ashevegas!

 

Asheville skyline.  Click to go to Christopher Smith Photography.  Image used with permission.


Visiting Asheville?  Need a guide to good restaurants, with an emphasis on the inexpensive and filling?  Looking for places to eat, drink, dance, or hang out?  Do you need to visit a hospital, pick something up from an outfitter, or rent a boat?  Here are my recommendations.   Each subsection generally consists of links to "authoritative sources" followed by the places my friends and I actually eat, drink, dance and hang out.  If you find the top of the list so enticing you want to move, check out the sections on Colleges and Universities and Employment & Housing.  Looking for places to camp or for lodging information?  Go to the Camping and Lodging page.

Comments on this list are encouraged!  Who did we leave off?  What questions did we leave unanswered?  How would you describe your favorite Asheville restaurant?  Use this link to send your comments:  Comments on the Ashevegas! page.

Food Dessert Drink Entertainment
Hospitals Outfitters Boat Rental Adventure Sports
Area Guide Books Media Colleges & Universities Employment & Housing

 

Food

The following restaurants and cafes are listed in rough order of their likely appeal to visiting paddlers.  Boston Pizza, Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company, and El Chappala are located varying distances out Merrimon Avenue (take I-240 exit 5A and head away from downtown).  The other restaurants, unless otherwise noted, are located downtown, and of those located downtown, all but Laughing Seed Cafe and Zambra are located in the general area of the Vance Monument (the monument on Pack Square).  The Laughing Seed and Zambra are located about five blocks away in the Wall Street / Haywood Street area.  Here's a link to a map of downtown Asheville.  If you look carefully you'll note the interesting but useful fact that Merrimon Avenue becomes Broadway becomes Pack Square becomes Biltmore Avenue as you head up the street that starts out as Merrimon and drive downtown.  Indeed, if you check out this larger scale map of Asheville, you'll note that Biltmore Avenue eventually becomes Hendersonville Road, which means that SEVEN of the restaurants below are strung along what is essentially the same road!

  • 2001 Mountain Express Best of WNC:  Restaurants
  • Mountain Express Dining Guide
  • Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company,  675 Merrimon Avenue, (828) 254-1281.  AKA " The Brew and View."  Movies and non-smoking on the left, smoking and a theater-sized game room on the right, the canoe in which the Rootzman won the 2001 world C-1 freestyle championship in a diorama over the door.  More paddling-oriented stickers stuck over more surfaces than would seem possible.  Frequent host to "boater bashes" and whitewater porno premiers.  The preeminent paddler's bar east of Moab.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville.
  • Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria, 42 Biltmore Avenue, (828) 255-0504.  Pool upstairs, pizza and beer downstairs, live music many evenings.  Forty-two taps, Highland  Brewing located in the basement.  No paddling stickers, but definitely popular with the boating crowd.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • Boston Pizza, 501 Merrimon Avenue, (828) 252-3474.  Quieter, cleaner and with more diverse menu than Barley's or the Brew and View.  Better place to talk.  Popular with boaters and UNCA students.  Frequent dinner stop for NOC instructional trips.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville.
  • El Chappala Mexican Restaurant, 868 Merrimon Avenue, (828) 258-0899.  In the mood for some heavy carbo loading but not for pizza or Italian?  Check out El Chappala.  Endless chips, bottomless margaritas, and the hottest mariachi band in Western North Carolina Sunday evenings.  Yours won't be the only boat in the parking lot.  Located around the corner of the strip mall on the left side of the street just before the intersection of Merrimon Avenue and Beaverdam Road.  You know you're getting close when you pass the Blockbuster Video store on your right;  you know you've gone too far when you approach the Ingles Market on your right.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville.
  • Urban Burrito, 640 Merrimon Avenue, (828) 251-1921.  Located on the second floor of the mini-strip mall at corner of Edgewood and Merriman (on your left as you drive out Merriman towards the Brew and View, about a block before the Brew and View).  Since this restaurant opened in mid-2002 my family's visits to El Chappala have taken a hit.  Not necessarily better, just different.  Good food, inexpensive.  Wine & beer.  Smoke free.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville.
  • Laughing Seed Cafe,  40 Wall Street, (828)252-3445.  Popular with vegetarian boaters.  If you really need spiralina in your smoothie, they have it.  Easy access to the Jack of the Wood Celtic style pub downstairs.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • Salsa's, 6 Patton Avenue, (828) 252-9805.  Culinary wizard Hector Diaz's extremely popular Mexican Caribbean Restaurant.  Unusual and delicious.  The food is well worth the wait, but by the time you get off the river the line to get in may be snaking well down the sidewalk.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • Zambra, 85 Walnut Street (off Haywood Street), (828), 232-1060.  Hector Diaz's newest creation, this tapas bar is so hip and trendy that even local celebrity Rose Qualley has to wait in line to eat.  Here's a review from Southern Voice.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • Tupelo Honey, 12 College Street, (828) 255-4863.  Southern cooking with a twist.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • The Noodle Shop, 3 Pack Square, (828) 250-9898.  Hearty, wholesome, unusual.  Sit outside and watch the human circus pass by on the Square.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • Rio Burrito, 11 Broadway Avenue, (828) 253-2422.  The name says it all.  Convenient downtown location.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • Earth Fare Supermarket, Westgate Shopping Center, (828) 253-7656.  Founded by paddler Roger Derrough, Earth Fare's parking lot on the east end of the Smoky Park Bridge (first exit off I-240 after crossing the bridge from downtown) makes a great meeting place for paddling trips.  Buy some food for the road and lunch for the river, hit the road, and eat dinner in the cafe on your way back!  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville;  note location of I-240 exit 3).
  • Tomo Japanese Cuisine and Sushi Bar, 2 Regent Park Boulevard (off Patton Avenue after crossing the Smoky Park Bridge), (828) 252-7177.  My favorite Japanese restaurant.  Keep going straight after crossing the Smoky Park Bridge, rather than turning to the right to stay on I-240.  Regent Park Boulevard will be your first right after the stop lights.  Not a good place to carbo load, and not cheap, but satisfying sushi.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville;  note location of I-240 exit 3).
  • China Palace, 4 South Tunnel Road, (828) 298-7098.  Not the most convenient location for visitors wishing to savor downtown Asheville, but the best Chinese food.  Take I-240 exit 7.  Turn right at the bottom of the ramp to head west, then turn left onto South Tunnel Road.  The restaurant is across the street from the Asheville Mall.  You can get back downtown by retracing your steps to T-intersection with Tunnel Road, then turning left to get onto Tunnel Road.  Follow it the mile or so to the tunnel and continue on downtown.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville (you want to be across the street from the Asheville Mall).
  • Mother India Restaurant, 1996 Hendersonville Road, Skyland, (828) 687-7082.  Out of the way unless you are returning from the Green, and my wife the Indian cooking snob claims the food isn't quite up to snuff, but I like it and so do a number of other local paddlers.  Take I-26 exit 6, head east to Hendersonville Road, then turn left.  The restaurant is on the right side of the busy street.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville.

Dessert

  • Old Europe Coffee House, 18 Battery Park, (828) 252-0001.  Owned by a Hungarian couple who make all the desserts, what I find coolest about this place is the Russian emigres playing backgammon at the table near the door.  Serves pastries, coffee and liqueur.  Conveniently located near the entrance to the building in which AW's Asheville offices are located.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • Double Decker Coffee Company, 41 Biltmore Avenue, (828) 299-0991.  Baked goods, specialty coffees, smoothies and milkshakes served out of a transplanted double decked British bus.  Dates with Daddy at the Red Bus are a big hit with my girls.  Conveniently located across the street from Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • The Hop, 507 Merrimon Avenue, (828) 252-8362.  Not quite what it used to be, but still a hop'n place for ice cream.  Conveniently located next to Boston Pizza.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville.
  • Ultimate Ice Cream, 1070 Tunnel Road, (828) 296-1234.  Not as convenient as The Hop, but definitely "The Ultimate."  All handmade ice cream and other goodies.  Leland Davis, the world's foremost expert on all that is important in life, claims "it's the best in the world.  Worth driving out of your way for."  To test Leland's claim, take I-240 to exit 7.  Turn left when you can to head east on the ramp down to Tunnel Road.  The ice cream parlor is in the big red and white building near the intersection of Tunnel and Swannanoa River roads.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville (you're looking for the intersection of the roads coming from I-240 exits 7 & 8).

Drink Entertainment Hospitals

It should go without saying that you should peruse this list before your visit, perhaps downloading the directions and maps to store with your first aid kit.

Request for help:  I would like to put together a list of hospitals in areas frequented by paddlers in South Carolina, North Georgia, Northeast Alabama, East Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and, of course, Western North Carolina.  Ideally, I'd like to have a list of the rivers a paddler using a hospital might be coming from, directions, and recommendations, as in, "if you have no other choice, use this ER room, but if it can wait you are better off going to __."  Plus anything else I may have forgotten.  Please email me your thoughts on hospitals.

Outfitters
  • Asheville Citizen-Times Outfitters List
  • Diamond Brand Outdoors, 2623 Hendersonville Road-Arden, NC 28704. (828) 684-6262.  General outfitter with excellent paddling department.  Rents demo boats with credit towards purchase.  Call for prices, models, availability and the waters the boats can be paddled on.
  • Black Dome Mountain Sports, 140 Tunnel Road, (828) 251-2001.  General outfitter specializing in climbing equipment and great deals on factory closeouts.  Located off exit 6 in Asheville.  Lost?  Consult the larger scale map of Asheville.
  • Diamond Brand Outdoors, 2623 Hendersonville Road-Arden, NC 28704. (828) 684-6262.  General outfitter with excellent paddling department.  Rents demo boats with credit towards purchase.  Call for prices, models, availability and the waters the boats can be paddled on.
  • Bluff Mountain Outfitters, 252 Bridge Street, Hot Springs, (828) 622-7162.  Conveniently located just feet from Spring Creek's gauge.  Click here for a description and photos of the store.  Located about 45 minutes north of Asheville (US 19/23 to US 25/70).  Lost?  Consult the map of Western North Carolina.
  • Nantahala Outdoor Center, Highway 19 West, Wesser (near Bryson City), (828) 488-2175 or (800) 232-7238.  The NOC defines the standards in the paddle sports industry, and for good reason.  Always a willing contributor to good causes, the NOC has been a major sponsor of the boatingbeta.com page from the start.  Located on the Nantahala river, 85 minutes east of Asheville (I-40 to US 19).  Map to NOC.  Lost?  Consult the map of Western North Carolina.
  • Endless River Adventures. Highway 19 West, Wesser (near Bryson City), (828) 488-6199 or (800) 224-7238.  Located on the Nantahala river, 90 minutes east of Asheville (I-40 to US 19).  Map to ERA.  Lost?  Consult the map of Western North Carolina.
Boat Rental
  • Southern Waterways, 521 Amboy Road, (800) 849-1970 or (828) 232-1970.  Rents canoes for trips on the French Broad, Bent Creek to Hominy Creek (Biltmore) run.  Here's a map and directions to Southern Waterways.  Note that if you are driving west, take I-240 exit 1B, get back on I-240 heading east and take exit 1C.  Driving east, simply take exit 1C.  You'll be able to see Southern Waterways from I-240 and from the exit.
  • Headwaters Outfitters, intersection of US 64 & NC 215, Rosman, NC (828) 877-3106.  Rents canoes, kayaks and tandem kayaks for trips on the French Broad, Rosman to Bent Creek.  Offers shuttle service and guided trips on Lake Jocassee.  Here's a map and directions to Headwaters Outfitters.
  • Diamond Brand Outdoors, 2623 Hendersonville Road-Arden, NC 28704. (828) 684-6262.  General outfitter with excellent paddling department.  Rents demo boats with credit towards purchase.  Call for prices, models, availability and the waters the boats can be paddled on.
  • Nantahala Outdoor Center, Highway 19 West, Wesser (near Bryson City), (828) 488-2175 or (800) 232-7238.  Demos boats with a credit toward purchase .  Call for prices, models, availability and the waters the boats can be paddled on (I think use is restricted to the Nantahala in the immediate vicinity of the store).  See the directions to this shop in the outfitters section above.
Adventure Sports
  • 2001 Mountain Express Best of WNC: Outdoor Places
  • Mountain Express Outdoor Sports Calendar
  • Citizen-Times Mountain Travel Guide
  • Western Carolina Paddlers website
  • Asheville Mountain Sports Festival.  A major and growing annual event. Features pro and amateur level competitions in paddling, cycling, running, climbing, triathlon, and many other events.  First weekend in June.
  • ClimbMax Indoor Climbing Gym, 43 Wall Street, (828) 252-9996.  Get too much sun out on the water?  Too little burn paddling the Narrows?   Stop by the climbing gym, conveniently located across the street from the Laughing Seed Cafe.  Lost?  Consult the map of downtown Asheville.
  • Food Lion Skate Park.  If you board or inline skate, bring it/'em.  If you don't, stop to watch -- this place keeps my four-year-old and her friends mesmerized for hours.  This city park is located on the corner of Flint and Cherry Streets, next to I-240 and across the highway from the Civic Center.  Due to one way streets and traffic barriers, there is no obvious and easy to get there from the I-240.  Consult the map of downtown Asheville, get yourself to Flint Street, and take its intersection with Cherry Street (near the 240 shield in the upper left quadrant of the map).
  • MTB WNC.  Western North Carolina is as well known for its mountain biking as it is for its paddling. If you mountain bike, bring it.  J. Mitchell's MTB WNC provides the definitive guide (and an inspiration for the boatingbeta.com page!).
  • Riverfront Park, Amboy Road.  Roller hockey rink, wooden climbing structures and park for kids, sand and grass volleyball courts, and cycling around a banked, 3/10ths mile former motor sports speedway.  Race, or watch, the Asheville Speedway Criterion Series every other Tuesday night in the Spring through mid-summer.  Conveniently located just down Amboy Road from Southern Waterways.  Here's a map and directions to Southern Waterways.  Note that if you are driving west, take I-240 exit 1B, get back on I-240 heading east and take exit 1C.  Driving east, simply take exit 1C.  The park will be on your right about half a mile down Amboy Road.  One of a number of greenways and parks initiated by Riverlink.
Area Guidebooks Media
  • Mountain Express.  Asheville's leading alternative paper.
  • Asheville Citizen-Times.  Asheville's Gannett franchise.
  • FreakinAsheville.com.  Asheville's alternative website.
  • Mountain Area Information Network.  Western North Carolina's online community.  One of the few non-profit internet cooperatives in the US.  Host to the boatingbeta.com (don't click, you're already here!) and Western Carolina Paddlers websites.
  • Asheville.com.  Asheville's city.com franchise website.
  • WNCW-FM 88.7.  Nationally recognized public station carrying an eclectic mix of music throughout Western North Carolina, East Tennessee and South Carolina.  Powerful signal (88.7 FM-Spindale, NC), five translators (95.5 FM-Beech Mountain, NC;  92.9 FM-Boone, NC;  100.7 FM-Charlotte, NC;  97.3 FM-Greenville, SC;  96.7 FM-Knoxville, TN), and an online presence (WNCW Listen Live).  I just wish they'd put a translator up in my neighborhood -- we must be the only place within 150 miles of Asheville with lousy reception!  Don't miss David Dye's World Cafe (weeknights from 7-9PM) and Larry Groce's Mountain Stage (Saturdays from 6-8PM).
  • WCQS-FM 88.1.  Asheville's traditional public radio station.  Some interesting local programming (Conversations call-in show Wednesdays from 6-7PM, Byline interview show with local reporters including paddler Harrison Metzger Fridays from 6:30-7PM) and Ira Glass' singular This American Life (Thursdays from 6-7PM), but signal doesn't carry much beyond the county line.
Colleges and Universities

Thinking about moving to Asheville to go to school?  Great!  Asheville is an excellent place for a boater to live and we have a diverse assortment of schools to choose from.  There are, however, many other excellent places for boaters to live, some with schools offering programs of study and campus cultures that may better suit your needs.  Here are some of your options, plus a few thoughts on how to sort it all out:  Great Colleges and Universities for White Water Paddlers.

Here are links to your local options.  If you are a graduate, current student, parent of a graduate or current student, or connected with one of the schools below in some other way I want to hear from you!  I'd like to create a page on each school with descriptions of and testimonials from some of the paddlers who have attended each.  Should a high school senior who loves to boat choose your school?  Why?   Use this link to send me your thoughts:  thoughts on schools.

  • UNC-Asheville.  One of a handful of public liberal arts colleges, we like to think of ourselves as offering a Davidson education at K-Mart prices.  UNCA's Environmental Studies program is especially popular with paddlers.  Notable graduates include Kevin Colburn (AW staff), Leland Davis (the Pyranha guy), Hugh Kelly (Adventure Quest instructor), Tom Visnius (first to run the Green Narrows in its entirety), and Becky Weis (1991 Pre-Worlds K1-W Co-Champion, national junior slalom team member, and first woman to run Gorilla).  Located in Asheville.  I know a lot about this school, but from the perspective of a faculty member.  I would like to know more.  Email me:  thoughts on schools.
  • Warren-Wilson College.  Unique combination of the liberal arts, service, work, and the sixties.  Like most private liberal arts colleges, Warren-Wilson college is affiliated with a religious denomination, in Warren-Wilson's case, the Presbyterian Church. Though its religious roots are reflected in many aspects of campus life (its commitment to service, for example), "religion" is not the first word that comes to mind when most think about this school.  Offers a program in Outdoor Leadership in cooperation with North Carolina Outward Bound.  Notable graduates include Eli Helbert (1999-2001 World Open Canoe Freestyle Champion) and Philip Curry (Lotus Designs founder).  Located about 15 minutes east of Asheville.  I do not know much about this school and would like to know more.  Email me:  thoughts on schools.
  • Mars Hill College.  Self-described Christian liberal arts school with a Baptist orientation.  Located about 20 minutes north of Asheville.  I do not know much about this school and would like to know more.  Email me:  thoughts on schools.
  • Montreat College.  Self-described Christian liberal arts school with a Presbyterian orientation.  Located about 20 minutes east of Asheville.I do not know much about this school and would like to know more.  Email me:  thoughts on schools.
  • Brevard College.  Self-described Christian liberal arts school with a Methodist orientation and a definite tilt toward the outdoors.  Home to the Voice of the Rivers project.  Located about 45 minutes south of Asheville.  I do not know much about this school and would like to know more.  Email me:  thoughts on schools.
  • Western Carolina University.  Unlike the first five schools on this list, all of which are small schools with liberal arts orientations, Western is a full-scale University.  Especially popular with paddlers is its Nursing program (some of whose classes are taught on the UNCA campus).  Notable graduates include Woody Callaway (Liquid Logic), Eric Young (West Prong pioneer), Trip Kinney (the Tall One), and Gordon Grant (former head of instruction at NOC, current award winning Asheville Middle School teacher).  Located about 45 minutes west of Asheville.  I do not know much about this school and would like to know more.  Email me:  thoughts on schools.
  • Appalachian State University.  Another full-scale university, Appalachian's Recreation Management program is popular with paddlers, as is the fact that it is close to the Watauga.  Located about 135 minutes northeast of Asheville.  I do not know much about this school and would like to know more.  Email me:  thoughts on schools.
Employment & Housing

To every silver lining there is a cloud, right?  Asheville is a great place to live, no question about that, but it can be a hard place to make a living.  There are jobs here (the unemployment rate is generally well under the national rate), but unless you have a professional job lined up before you move here you may wind up underemployed for an uncomfortable length of time.  In addition, pay scales are low, on the order of 80% of the national average.  This would be fine if the cost of living here was on the order of 80% of the national average.  It is not.  After taking into consideration differences in taxes and the costs of goods and services, Asheville's cost of living is almost exactly the national average.  What this means is that the average person has a material standard of living about 20% lower than is the norm for people in similar occupations nationally.  A classic consequence of a job market in an attractive place with people willing to "eat scenery" until the money completely runs out.  Those of us who live here like to think that the non-material attributes of life more than make up lower material standard of living.  Do you really need the latest DVD player and digital television when the Green Narrows is only 35 minutes away???

 


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