Free (or cheap) Things to do in South Asheville

So, last time we discussed free or cheap places to go in East and North Asheville. Well, the roads are better but I’m still staying off of them until March. And I told you I’d continue our conversation this time. So not its time to look at South Asheville and West Asheville.

For purposes of this article I’m defining South Asheville as the area south of the Swannanoa River, east of–and including– Sweeten Creek Road and north of Long Shoals Road. We’ll start in this area’s culturally richest area, Biltmore Village. Biltmore Village is a collection of high-end, picturesque shops spread over several blocks. Here you can window shop to your heart’s content. In fact, if you’re polite I’m certain the merchants wouldn’t mind you popping inside and browsing. There are at least two galleries here–Bellagio and New Morning Gallery– which are like museums. Except everything’s for sale. Once again I don’t believe the merchants would mind you browsing as long as you’re nice and don’t bug them or cause them trouble.

Biltmore Village now extends partially down Sweeten Creek Road with a series of new shops. Don’t forget to check these out. The southern border of Biltmore Village is Fairview Road. To get to the next free attraction follow Sweeten Creek Road south and turn left on Fairview Road. Make a left where you will see a replica of the statue Winged Victory.

Winged Victory

This makes a great photo op and is just really nifty to get out and look at. Here are a few more photos. Hopefully one or two will help you figure out where it is.

This is probably a good time to mention you can follow Sweeten Creek Road south. Sweeten Creek Road is mostly light industrial and commercial. There are three things there worth mentioning. First are several antiques shops right below Biltmore Village. Second is Fun Depot, which is located just south of I-40. Fun Depot is not free, but its not exceedingly expensive. And kids really enjoy it. So it would be worth at least checking out. Finally much further down Sweeten Creek Road there is a large garden store named B.B. Barnes. I’m sure if you’re nice they won’t mind you browsing.

Back in Biltmore Village you can stop at the McDonald’s (don’t laugh). Aside from inexpensive food the building is remarkable and they used to have a special piano. I don’t recall if its a player piano or just a grand. Sometimes they’ll have folks play it. This is a photo of the restaurant. Very nice.

Also on Biltmore Avenue is The Grand Bohemian Hotel, which is worth looking at. I’ve never been inside it so I don’t know if they allow tours or have a gift shop. Still it is an amazing structure worth noting.

On the southwestern edge of Biltmore Village you can see All Soul’s Cathedral. This is a beautiful church which is still in use. I don’t know the hours but I suspect it is open for visitors.

Before we leave Biltmore Village I must mention the Biltmore House, which I visited for the first time recently. I will have to do an entire blog on the Biltmore House soon. It is a remarkable structure filled with an equally remarkable collection on an equally remarkable estate. While the price of a ticket($60) may not seem to qualify it for mention on this blog actually it can be a great bargain. But that is a subject too big for one blog. Still, I encourage you to visit the entrance to the estate. There is a gift shop, gatehouse and group ticket sales center just at the entrance. There is an incredible rack of tourist brochures at the group ticket sales. Proceed through the gatehouse about a mile to the ticket sales center on your left. I encourage you to do this for several reasons. First, you may be able to figure out some of the values at Biltmore yourself. (If not I will blog about them later.) Second, it is a beautiful building. And third it will give you a taste of the estate. Its also worth noting that the first city government in Asheville was convened just past the gatehouse. (That was about two hundred to three hundred years ago.)

I also recommend you to drive south along Hendersonville Road. This is one of the fastest growing areas of Asheville and there are many stores, offices and banks to see. Once you pass under I-40 if you look to the right you’ll see an old school which is worth noting. Further south just past the Ingle’s there are some office buildings on the left which also are pretty remarkable. (At least I think.) But the real gem comes just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This is a bank. It is so remarkable when I first saw it I had to pull over and just look. Once you look at it continue south on Hendersonville Road through the next light. (Or maybe two.) Gerber Village is on your left. As many residents of the area know this was the site of a Gerber baby food plant. Now its the site of an eclectic mix of stores, shops and restaurants. Its also worth stopping to look at the architecture, which is just as diverse. here are a few good examples.

These are a few of the buildings in the Gerber Village.The architecture is varied and impressive. I included the photo of the office supply store to show to what lengths the development has gone to ensure this. I’m guessing the store was designed to evoke a railroad depot. As you leave the Gerber Village look across the street where there is another picturesque development. In fact all along that side of the road are new shops. Here is an example of just one bit of architecture you can see there.

Well, that’s South Asheville, mostly. If you continue south on Hendersonville Road you’ll come to Long Shoals Road which turns off to the right. If you follow it you will see Lake Julian on your left. You can access the lake from Long Shoals Road, or you can continue down Hendersonville Road to the next stoplight. Just past it there is a entrance to Lake Julian on the right. I know there is fishing available there.

If you proceed west on Long Shoals you’ll see a new development on your left with shops and restaurants. But the real treat is waiting for you as you approach I-26. To your right is Biltmore Park Town Square. Although I don’t have any photographs to show you I promise this development is worth visiting. The architecture is amazing. I was particularly impressed by the glazed brick on the front of some buildings, an architectural technique hearkening back to ancient Babylon and the Ishtar Gate. There are many amazing shops which appeal to all ages and tastes. There are also several well renown restaurants and a really good theater with stadium seating. The last time I was there the parking deck just past the theater was free.

I must point out there are apartments, condominiums and homes here, so be courteous. You are these people’s guest and they probably don’t mind you visiting as long as you are nice. As long as you are your visit to Biltmore Park Town Square will be a pleasant one. This is an amazing place I’ve really got to visit again. There are several shops there I need to pop into and of course, there is the stadium seating in the theater.

Well, that’s South Asheville. I had intended to cover West Asheville, but this ran a little long so I’ll do that next time. I hope you enjoy the information I’ve passed along. South Asheville is a booming area which deserves to be visited. Also its very convenient and close.

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