- Trip Ideas
- Nature Travel
Head for the hills: these cool mountain towns beckon with outdoor adventures, festivals, and local color.
No. 16 Asheville, NC
America's Favorite Mountain Towns
No. 16 Asheville, NC
Asheville could well be the Portland, OR, of the South, with its abundance of microbreweries, art and live music venues, coffeehouses, and committed locavores. (There’s an edible park planted with fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, and lettuces, all free for the plucking.) The Biltmore château is the biggest attraction, but plenty of tourists head straight for Asheville’s live-music bars, restaurants, even the Friday-night drum circle downtown, a weekly institution. Cradled by the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountains, Asheville offers plenty of outdoor options; you might start with a canoe ride down the French Broad River.
For Jackie Jones Heninger, a perfect day in Asheville, NC, unfolds with breakfast at Tupelo Honey Café and hiking in Pisgah National Forest, followed by a cold beer at the Highland Brewing Company.
And if it’s a Tuesday, live music caps off the evening. “Check out the bluegrass jam at the Isis Restaurant and Music Hall in West Asheville, and you will hear some great local musicians,” promises Heninger, who regularly makes the four-hour drive to Asheville from Clayton, NC—especially in summer.
Related: America's Best Mountain Resorts
As the weather heats up, there’s no better time to head for the hills, where the air is a little fresher and the breezes a little cooler. Asheville ranks as one of the nation’s top mountain towns, according to Travel + Leisure readers, who voted in our annual America’s Favorite Towns survey. They evaluated hundreds of towns on everything from burgers to adventure-travel opportunities to friendly locals.
Some mountain towns were built from scratch as resorts, such as Lake Placid, NY, and Eureka Springs, AR. Others, like Leadville, CO, and Park City, UT, were mining towns that found new life as tourist destinations after silver prices tanked or the gold ran out. But visitors flock to all of them for similar reasons: outdoor activities, laid-back festivals, outstanding food, and plenty of local color.
Related: World's Prettiest Mountain Towns
Andrea R. Vaucher, a journalist and travel author based in Santa Monica, CA, fills with anticipation whenever she makes the hair-raising descent into Telluride airport. “Once you’re ensconced in this Colorado paradise, digging into a pizza at Baked in Telluride in the historic town center, watching a foreign film at the Telluride Film Festival, or tapping your toe at the Bluegrass Festival—you just have to pat yourself on the back for being in precisely the right place.”