Our very brief stop in Asheville was focused on arts, crafts, and the downtown core of the city. This was our last stop of the summer with urban amenities like Whole Foods and a walkable historic downtown, so we tried to take full advantage of the opportunities.
Quick Montage of Asheville
The arts scene in Asheville dates back generations, and we got a sense of that history by visiting the Folk Art Center along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This centerpiece of the Southern Highland Craft Guild has a permanent exhibit of historic works, rotating exhibits of new works, and a shop occupying an entire floor selling works made by the hundreds of members of the guild. Membership is by juried application only, so the guild members’ store is basically a gallery of the best artists of the mountain regions working in traditional media like wood, pottery, and textiles.
Meanwhile the downtown area is packed with galleries showing everything from traditional crafts to contemporary pieces. We started our day at Lexington Glassworks, admiring their outstanding creative works and even seeing a little glass blowing in action. Over the course of the day we probably visited eight other galleries. Some of our favorites were Blue Spiral 1, Momentum Gallery, and the Woolworth Walk, set in an old Woolworth building complete with a functioning old-fashioned soda fountain. We haven’t seen this many high quality galleries since our stop in Taos in 2019! In between gallery visits, we admired the engaging mix of historic and newer buildings that sit shoulder to shoulder in Asheville. Several of these relate to Asheville’s native son Thomas Wolfe, including the boarding house owned by his mother and now part of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. After slogging through Look Homeward, Angel in high school it was only right for me to pay a visit to the place that inspired the book. We capped off our day with a stop in the historic S&W Cafeteria Building, now restored and operating as a food hall and the downtown taproom of Highland Brewing, Asheville’s first craft brewery.
Where We Stayed
Campfire Lodgings is a small private campground with fewer than 20 sites located atop a mountain about 5 miles north of downtown Asheville. Being a very short drive from downtown made it easy to enjoy the city’s amenities, while being on a mountain gave us lovely views west into the Blue Ridge. The campground is set up nicely, with a sunset viewing area furnished with benches and Adirondack chairs. It even has some trails running down the mountain from the campground, which we explored one afternoon. The only negative is the treacherous one-lane road running up the mountain to the campground. We only left and entered once each day, just to avoid extra trips on this white-knuckle route.
Next: Two short stops in Georgia before we get home.
6 thoughts on “Two Days of Arts and Crafts in Asheville”
It’s definitely a beautiful area. Asheville was, we thought, on our list of possible places to live. It didn’t win out, obviously, but it was apparent why so many folks find it pleasing. Did you get ice cream at the place with that really cool sign? I think that sign would’ve compelled me to get some!
We found Asheville very appealing, and I can see why you did also. The arts (especially things like classes and guilds for makers like you guys), the hiking opportunities, and the mountain views all seem like things you would find enticing. We did not get the ice cream, but that sign sure is compelling!
What a great tour of arts and crafts in Asheville! You did a LOT in only a couple of days. It’s so cool that both traditional crafts and contemporary art are so well-supported in the area.
I think you know how much we like Asheville and the surrounding towns. Not only the art scene, but also the hiking, gardens, creative restaurants, music, and of course, the craft breweries. Would you go back and spend more time there? And would you return to the same campground, or is the road too daunting?
As you suggested, we were particularly impressed by the diversity of artistic media and styles that were represented in the galleries. And from what we saw the gallery quality was pretty high — not just glorified craft show items.
We would definitely return to Asheville, but I think the best way to enjoy it is with a vacation rental property. Being in an RV (and the huge tow vehicle that comes with the trailer) didn’t add anything positive to the overall experience. We’ve found that to be true of many of the more populated areas we visited this summer.
For some reason, Asheville really didn’t resonate with us. We thought we’d love it, but it just didn’t click. On the other hand, we missed all of these places you visited, So maybe we just messed it all up for ourselves? I don’t know. Everyone else loves it, so there must be something. I’ll be interested to see what else you find if you do return some day.
I actually remember looking at that campground. It looked beautiful but a couple read throughs of various first person accounts quickly disabused me of the notion that we could stay there. LOL. I’m glad you guys made it up and back, safe and sound.
There’s no question that Asheville has plenty of problems, and they are the kind that usually stem from being a progressive city: a large population living on the streets, massively overpriced housing thanks to an anti-development culture, etc. For us, in a short visit, that was balanced out by the high concentration of quality arts venues, but over the long term I’m not sure it’s a place that would be comfortable to live.
We did really like our campground, but I was a little surprised to see much larger rigs than ours in the campground — like big Class As and enormous toy hauler 5ers — but I guess everyone has a different tolerance for difficult driving conditions.