Our Go Green series showcases destinations working to protect the environment.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Asheville, North Carolina is a grownup playground. The quirky downtown boasts an eclectic assortment of shops, restaurants and other amusements. There are dozens of art galleries, many conveniently congregated in the funky River Arts District. There’s a world-class culinary and craft beer scene—of special note to the 21 plus crowd, Asheville has been named Beer City USA multiple times (a title bestowed by an online poll during American Craft Beer Week). There’s a vibrant live music scene, several historic attractions and museums, and a lively nightlife. And there’s the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains that give the city its picturesque setting and extend a beckoning invitation to get up, go outdoors and explore, whether it’s to hike, mountain bike, raft, zip-line, rock-climb or ski (as suits your mood and the season).
The City of Asheville also takes a decidedly grownup view to its environmental responsibilities, implementing comprehensive sustainability initiatives like changing all streetlights to LEDs, launching improved recycling programs, redesigning HVAC systems at government facilities for increased efficiency, installing solar thermal hot water systems at fire stations and much more. The city reported that such efforts helped reduce its municipal carbon footprint by 8.42% in three years while simultaneously reducing its energy spending. “To date the City’s carbon reductions equal the positive environmental benefit of planting 76,026 trees,” states one official report.
Some environmental efforts may escape notice of the common tourist. But not all of them.
Claiming the title “Greenest Restaurant Scene in America,” Asheville now has 16 Certified Green Restaurants, making it the nation’s greenest dining destination per capita. “Farm to table” is a way of life in Asheville—not just at restaurants, also in homes; there are 13 farmers markets—but to be certified by the Green Restaurant Association, a restaurant must demonstrate water and energy efficiency, reduce waste, have a full-scale recycling program, use sustainable foods, ban Styrofoam, show continuous improvements in green initiatives, and more. The best news: Of the more than 250 restaurants in Asheville, the 16 that are certified green also happen to serve some of the tastiest menus in town, from Southern to French, Irish to Persian, Latin to Asian and more.
Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park, a AAA Four Diamond hotel, earned Silver certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a process that measures building sustainability in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Things like low-flow plumbing, a solar-powered hot water system, state-of-the-art air filtration systems, recycled building materials and more all helped the hotel achieve LEED certification, yet don’t detract from the luxury of its 165 guest accommodations.
Sure, you can grab a map and walk around by yourself in any city. But Asheville, home to scores of artists who work in all mediums, gives the average walk a more creative and enlightening spin. The Asheville Urban Trail, a 1.7-mile self-guided walking tour, tells the city’s story while highlighting historic sites, stunning architecture and several public art sculptures. Prefer a guide? Savor the city one bite at a time with Asheville Food Tour, a two to two-and-a-half hour stroll through this Southern culinary treasure. Running, electric bike and segway tours are also available—all earth-friendly options. You can also step out of the city and hike the mountains where waterfalls and 2,000 miles of trails await discovery.
While Asheville is the largest city in Western North Carolina, with more than 83,000 city residents and more than 238,000 residents in Buncombe County, it’s surrounded by natural beauty. About 20 miles northwest of Asheville is Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet. Nine of the state’s 11 major waterfalls are located nearby in Transylvania County, including Whitewater Falls, the highest in the eastern U.S. at 411 feet. Bridal Veil Falls, Cullasaja Falls, High Falls, Rainbow Falls, Connestee Falls, Looking Glass Falls, Maiden Hair Falls and the natural waterslide Sliding Rock are also nearby. The Great Smoky Mountains Park, located about 50 miles southwest of Asheville, is the United States’ most popular national park with more than 514,000 acres—and 400 to 600 black bears.
There are more reasons to fall in love with Asheville, North Carolina than you’ll discover in one weekend. Offering proof that you can care for the earth and still have fun is just one of them.
****Odds of Encountering Children: Of course children live in Asheville, North Carolina. But you’ll encounter retirees more often than youngsters, college grads still “finding themselves” more often than tweens, and adult vacationers more often than young families. Few towns are better suited to a grownup getaway.
Asheville Visitor Center
36 Montford Ave., Exit 4C off I-240
-Photos Courtesy ExploreAsheville.com
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.