By J. Hancock

This is not your stereotypical let’s-go-to-the-Biltmore-and-hiking Asheville travel piece.  By now, if you are a gay man living in the Southeast and have never at least heard of The Biltmore, you might need to get your gay card recalibrated. Yes, it’s a great place to visit. A must-see.  However, Asheville is a great place for today’s modern gay man for many other reasons.

Often referred to as “Ashvegas,” Asheville, North Carolina is a very gay-friendly city. Frequently landing on lists of most gay or gay-friendly cities, it’s about a 3 and ½ hour drive from Atlanta. Just head up 85 North into South Carolina, hang a left in Greenville, and follow the signs.  This time of year, the beautiful fall foliage provides relaxing, spectacular scenery.

In addition to the famous Biltmore House and Gardens, Asheville’s other main attractions are its folk music scene and food culture. From street performers to some of the best food ever to festivals to great breweries, there is so much to see and do, probably too much to accomplish in one weekend.  Downtown and the surrounding areas are very gay friendly.

When it comes to restaurants, you won’t be short of choices.  Asheville is full of great restaurants and chefs. You might want to try Edna’s of Asheville. Its owners, Tom Cash and Mike Zukoski, claim to be Asheville’s only “out” owners. Oh, and it’s dog friendly, in case you want to bring along your four-legged furry friends. You should also try Tupelo Honey Café. It has amazing cuisine, and you should definitely try the custard.

 If you’re into celeb-spotting, and if you’re lucky, you might bump into Zach Galifianakis, James Franco, or Woody Harrelson, all of whom are spotted in Asheville from time to time.  You might also see a Vanderbilt or two. According to many Ashevillians, the Vanderbilts basically built the city. Even the Obamas love Asheville. President Barack Obama is said to have fallen in love with Asheville while he was preparing for a debate against then-opponent John McCain at The Grove Park Inn. 

The best place to see nature is definitely The Parkway. Stop at various mileposts along the way to tour historic mansions, enjoy lunch with your beau, take a romantic hayride, put your Instagram skills to work, or walk, hike or bike beautiful trails. Go to www.romanticasheville.com for a great listing of mileposts to explore all throughout Asheville.

If you’re looking for the bar scene, Scandals is the best-known gay club in Asheville.  Located at 11 Grove Street, Scandals is part of the Grove House Entertainment Complex – three bars in one. The other two bars in the complex are Club Eleven and Boiler Room. With a combination of dancing, live music, and fabulous drag shows, this is a great spot for gay men of all ages.

If you’re into art, one place in Asheville you’ll definitely want to check out is the River Arts District. There you’ll find more than 180 functioning art studios. Many of the studios have showrooms and galleries, and they are open every day, all year round. The artists work in paint, pencil, pottery, metal, fiber, glass, wax, paper and more.  In the River Arts District you’ll also find a great variety of stores, art galleries, and a brewery that also makes fantastic cider.

Ready to go yet? Before packing the car, you may also want to check out www.gayashevillenc.com for more information about the many gay-friendly places to stay, Asheville’s fall and holiday festivals, and other gay/gay-friendly businesses.