North Carolina

Signature City Asheville

Discover Asheville’s unique qualities as you join experts to explore Art Deco and Arts and Crafts architecture, delve into the arts district and learn the story of this American gem.
Rating (5)
Program No. 21758RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Head for the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to discover the Art Deco architecture, thriving arts scene and unique history that make Asheville a signature American city. Hear expert analysis on the Vanderbilt family’s influence on the city, and learn why the preservation of the downtown makes it a living museum of mid-century architecture. Join experts on explorations of Asheville’s most significant sites and historic properties like the lavish Biltmore Estate, and enjoy the artistic and culinary delights of Asheville’s thriving downtown.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to two miles daily. Elevations up to 5,722 feet. Getting on/off trolley and bus. Standing for some lectures in museums. One mile hike in mountains over uneven terrain.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Experience the best of Asheville on a host of field trips, including an expert-led discovery of the revived River Arts District.
  • Enjoy a daylong visit to the magnificent Biltmore Estate with plenty of time to soak up the home and gardens on your own.
  • Survey Appalachian history and culture at iconic sites like the Blue Ridge Parkway and renowned downtown landmarks, and dine at the historic Grove Park Inn.

General Notes

You may be interested in a lower-priced program based 20 minutes outside of Asheville, "Discover the History and Charm of Western North Carolina" (#18073). You may also be interested in a more leisurely version of this program, "Asheville at a Slower Pace: Historic Treasures in a Mountain Town" (#23833).
Featured Expert
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Kevan Frasier
Kevan D. Frasier is an Asheville native whose family settled in the area in the late 1700s. A longtime member of the UNC-Ashville faculty and administration, Kevan had a keen ear for absorbing stories of the history of his hometown told by his grandfather, a long-serving detective for the Asheville Police Department. Kevan loves to help people — visitors and locals alike — learn about his lovely mountain town that has been transformed into a trendy small city while holding tight to its traditional roots.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Kevan Frasier
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Lee Knight
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Asheville's Historical Architecture
by Richard Hansley
Asheville's Historic Architecture (NC) [Paperback]
by Richard Hansley
Asheville, known for its architectural diversity and intriguing Art Deco style, has been fortunate in attracting brilliant architects who, with imaginative foresight and design expertise, have created lasting testaments in brick and stone. Local architectural enthusiast Richard Hansley recounts the history behind dozens of Asheville's most prominent buildings and historical neighborhoods in Asheville's Historic Architecture. Discover how Douglas Ellington, Richard Sharp Smith, James Vester Miller and Tony Lord influenced this busy metropolis, as landmarks like the Jackson Building, the Grove Park Inn and the Art Deco City Building were constructed along the city's thriving streets. These buildings have stood the test of time and remain as breathtaking in concept and appearance today as when first completed.
Asheville Mountain Majesty
by Lou Harshaw
"Sometimes called the Paris of the South, Asheville is known for its grand mountain views, rich and diverse culture, deep-rooted artistic heritage, historical architecture, and the legendary Biltmore Estate. Author Lou Harshaw - historian, teacher, lecturer, and lifelong resident of Asheville - gives a firsthand look at the history and development of this magnificent city by drawing upon a host of historical sources and an extensive oral tradition. The result is a journey through time that documents the emergence and evolution of one of America's most attractive and intriguing cities."
Built for the Ages: A History of the Grove Park Inn
by Bruce E. Johnson
Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon
by Howard E. Covington Jr.
From Publishers Weekly: Set amid thousands of lushly landscaped acres in the North Carolina mountains, the Biltmore estate is a 250-room Gilded Age mansion stuffed to the rafters with objets d'art. Writing a very authorized business history rather than an architectural appreciation, journalist Covington celebrates the estate's transformation from quasifeudal folly to lucrative tourist mecca. Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, who played lord of the manor to hundreds of tenant farmers and servants, the estate passed in the 1960s to his grandson William Cecil, whose tight-fisted budgets, canny marketing initiatives and rapt attention to customer service turned it into a profitable museum of robber-baron privilege, selling more tickets than Colonial Williamsburg. The author's sycophantic account of this not unduly exciting saga is mainly a tribute to Cecil, who wrote the afterword. Covington defends the Biltmore owner's model of private, for-profit historical preservation against charges of commercialism leveled by nonprofit preservationists, repeats his complaints about inheritance taxes, extols his entrepreneurial daring, salutes his Biltmore restoration projects ("surpassed what many had seen anywhere") and raves about "customer satisfaction reports... comparable to those enjoyed by a five-star resort." This anodyne hospitality-industry success story will find a place in the Biltmore gift shop, but probably nowhere else. (Mar.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Rise of Asheville: An Exceptional History of Community Building
by Marilyn Ball
As newcomers flocked to Asheville over the last fifty years, they joined with locals to breathe new energy into the city. Sometimes called the Asheville One Thousand, these folks didn't necessarily intend to be entrepreneurs, community organizers and business leaders, but when they saw a challenge, they rose to it. Stone Soup became a gathering place and laid the foundation for Asheville's natural food culture. MANNA Food Bank emerged to help solve hunger. And the River Arts District turned into a vibrant cultural center for upcoming artists. Join author Marilyn Ball as she traces the bonds of community that gave rise to Asheville today.

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