Asheville Travel Practicalities
This section covers the basic practical information -- such as getting cash from ATMs, cell phone service, local radio stations, emergency medical care and getting to and around the area -- that you need when you travel in Asheville and the mountains.
ASHEVILLE AREA CODE
The telephone area code for Asheville and the rest of Western North Carolina is 828.
BANKING AND GETTING CASH
You’ll have no problems getting cash from ATMs in Asheville and Western North Carolina. National and large regional banks with locations in the Asheville include Bank of America, Wells Fargo (formerly Wachovia), BB&T, SunTrust, TD Bank and First Citizens Bank, all with ATMs. Among the larger locally based banks and thrifts are Asheville Savings Bank and Hometrust Bank, which also have ATMs on national networks. There are other smaller local banks, credit unions and savings banks, nearly all with ATMs that accept cards on the major networks such as Plus, Cirrus, MasterCard and Visa. Keep in mind that you will usually be charged a fee for using an ATM that is not a part of your home bank’s system.
CELL PHONE SERVICE
AT&T and Verizon have the best cell coverage in Asheville and Western North Carolina. Note, however, that the mountain terrain can play havoc with cell service. In a deep valley cell service suddenly may drop out. Service in national park and national forest areas with few if any cell towers may be limited or non-existent.
CRIME AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
The crime rate in the Asheville area is generally low. Based on Uniform Crime Report statistics by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, most major crime rates in Buncombe County, of which Asheville is the county seat, and in surrounding counties in Western North Carolina are somewhat to significantly lower than the national average. The exception is burglary, where the rate in Buncombe County is about the same as the national average. Here are statistics on major crimes in Buncombe County, compared with the U.S. national rate (figures are per 100,000 population):
Buncombe County U.S. National
Homicide 2.1 4.7
Rape 18.5 26.8
Burglary 709.2 702.2
Robbery 84.2 113.7
Motor Vehicle Theft 197.8 229.6
Aggravated Assault 147.7 241.1
Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports
Note that crime statistics for Buncombe County include those in the City of Asheville. Asheville rates tend to be higher than for areas in Buncombe County outside Asheville, and higher than in the four-county (Buncombe, Henderson, Haywood and Madison) Metropolitan Statistical Area. The reasons for this include the high day population of Asheville compared to its resident population, because workers and shoppers commute to the city. In addition, Asheville’s residential population is greatly increased by the more than 3 million annual overnight visitors to the city.
The usual precautions for visitors to the Asheville area are the same as those given to travelers elsewhere: Be aware of your surroundings, noting people or places that just don’t “look right.” At night, park and walk in well-lighted areas. Don’t flash large amounts of cash. Avoid walking alone in isolated areas late at night. Protect your PIN when using ATMs. Don’t leave valuables such as purses, cameras or cell phones in view in parked vehicles. If you see a crime or fear being involved yourself, call 911 immediately. Remember, though, Asheville and Western North Carolina generally are safe, friendly places for visitors, and it is highly unlikely that you will experience any crime.
Asheville is more dope-friendly than most other cities in North Carolina or the South, but possession and distribution of even marijuana is still against the law – it has not been legalized or even decriminalized here -- and North Carolina does not yet have medical marijuana laws. In most cases, in Asheville police do not arrest for possession of a small amount of weed, as long as you don’t go out of your way to flaunt it, or if arrested charges will be dismissed. At most you will be charged with a misdemeanor. But using weed in Asheville is still a risk, albeit a small one. A good number of people in Asheville smoke fairly openly at outdoor music events and sometimes on rooftops of garages and elsewhere Downtown. Outside of Asheville, including in Buncombe County, enforcement of marijuana and other recreation drug laws may be more rigid.
Technically, in North Carolina possession of ½ ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by 30 days in jail and a $200 fine. Possession of ½ to 1½ ounces is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 120 days in jail and a $500 fine. Community service is possible for these offenses, and the maximum sentence is 45 days if the offender has no priors. Possession of more than 1½ ounce is a felony, punishable by 1 year in jail and a discretionary fine. Distributing or cultivating 5 grams to 10 pounds is a felony, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Psychedelic mushrooms and acid also are fairly common in Asheville, but police do arrest and charge for possession. Police pursue use and distribution of harder drugs fairly aggressively. For example, in late 2012, Asheville police staged a series of raids on three local shops believed to be involved with the distribution of synthetic illegal drugs. Meth labs are a problem in some rural areas of Western North Carolina and the state.
GETTING TO ASHEVILLE
The vast majority of visitors to Asheville – around 95% – arrive by car. Two interstates go through Asheville: I-40 (a major east-west highway, 2,559 miles long, that connects Wilmington, N.C., with Barstow, Calif., running through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona) and I-26 (a newer interstate connecting Kingsport, Tenn., and Charleston, S.C.) As it crosses the country, I-40 connects with eight of the 10 major north-south interstates.
I-26 to the northwest connects with I-75 and U.S. Highway 23 through Ohio to the Great Lakes, and to the southeast connects with interstates 20, 77, 85 and 95.
The most scenic route to Asheville is the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, which connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Western North Carolina. The parkway has seven entrance/exits in the Asheville area. (See the Blue Ridge Parkway.)
You can also reach Asheville via U.S. Highways U.S. 19/23, 25, 25A, 70 and 74 as well as on a number of secondary North Carolina roads.
Distance to Asheville by Car
These are distances in miles and time (assuming you drove the speed limit and didn’t stop) from selected cities, via the shortest routes by time, using primarily interstate highways. Your time and mileage may vary.
Atlanta 208 3¾ hours
Boston 917 15 hours
Birmingham 371 6 hours
Charleston, S.C. 267 4¼ hours
Charlotte 127 2¼ hours
Chicago 659 10½ hours
Cincinnati 365 6 hours
Columbia, S.C. 157 2½ hours
Dallas 958 15 hours
Denver 1452 22 hours
Greenville, S.C. 63 1¼ hours
Houston 1001 16 hours
Kansas City 851 13½ hours
Knoxville 116 2 hours
Los Angeles 2300 34 hours
Louisville 360 6 hours
Nags Head, N.C. 444 7½ hours
Nashville 294 5 hours
New Orleans 677 11 hours
New York City 690 11 hours
Orlando 586 9 hours
Philadelphia 628 10 hours
Portland, Ore. 2647 40 hours
Raleigh 246 4 hours
Savannah 311 5 hours
Tampa 642 10 hours
Toronto 788 13 hours
Washington, D.C. 470 7½ hours
Wilmington, N.C. 360 6 hours
Winston-Salem 145 2½ hours
Asheville Regional Airport is the primary airport serving Asheville and most of Western North Carolina. Travelers to the southern mountains near the South Carolina line might also consider the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. Another option is the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, a little over two hours from Asheville, which has flights from most major U.S. cities and a number of international destinations in Europe, the Caribbean, Central America and Canada.
Asheville Regional Airport (AVL, 61 Terminal Dr., Fletcher, 828-684-2226; www.flyavl.com) near Exit 40 of I-26 is about 16 miles or 20-25 minutes from Downtown Asheville, depending on traffic. The airport originally opened in 1961 and has expanded several times since, including major expansions in 2009, 2014-15 and 2017-18. The latest is the addition of a $22 million, five-story 1,100-space parking garage. The garage augments 800 surface parking spaces. In 2014-2015, the airport expanded its taxiway on a 45-acre tract. Currently the airport’s runway is 8,001 feet long, enough to handle most aircraft except heavily loaded wide body equipment such as 747s. AVL operates 24 hours a day, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint opens at 4:30 am. The biggest development project at the airport since the airport was built is now underway, involving a $64 million redevelopment of the airport’s airfield.
AVL is a pleasant, modern, easy-to-deal-with small airport. The airport handled nearly a million passengers in 2017, or an average of more than 2,620 a day. Airlines serving the airport include Allegiant, American, Delta, Elite and United. Most flights are on regional jets, and many flights now have both first and economy class service.
Currently there are nonstop flights from AVL to Atlanta (ATL), Charlotte (CTL), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Denver (DEN), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Fort Meyers (PGD), Newark (EWR), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Orlando Sanford (SFB), Tampa/St. Petersburg (PIE), Vero Beach (VRB) and Washington, D.C. (BWI). Some flights are seasonal or less than daily.
Most flights from AVL are short hops to Atlanta (hub for Delta and a “focus city” for Southwest, and the world’s busiest airport with more than 104 million passengers annually) and Charlotte (major hub for American). From Atlanta and Charlotte, passengers originating in Asheville have access to some 300 total non-stop and direct destinations.
In 2014, an MIT International Center for Transportation study named Asheville Regional Airport the best connected non-hub airport in the United States.
The airport has five on-site rental car agencies including Avis, Budget, Dollar/Thrifty, Hertz, National/Alamo and Enterprise. Dollar/Thrifty has a shuttle to its offsite location. In the terminal are a restaurant, café and bar, ATM, newsstand and gift shop and an art gallery. There is free wi-fi throughout the terminal.
The Asheville Regional Airport does not offer a separate TSA Pre-Check line, but passengers with Pre-Check status get a paper form that shows they are Pre-Check approved, so they don't have to remove shoes or do most of the other things regular passengers have to do.
There are short- and long-term surface parking lots and a five-story parking garage with all covered parking directly across from the terminal, All together, there is a total of about 1,900 spaces. Short-term rates in the surface lot are $1 for the first half hour and $1 for each additional half hour, up to a maximum of $20 a day; garage rates are $2 for the first hour, $2 for each additional hour, flat rate of $12 a day and a $72 maximum rate weekly (seventh day is free); long-term surface parking rates are $2 for the first hour, $2 for each additional hour, $9 a day up to a maximum of $54 per week. All handicapped park spaces are charged at the long-term rates. A cell phone waiting lot is available for those who are picking up arriving passengers. There are two electric vehicle charging stations located in the short-term parking area near entrance to garage; charging is free, but regular parking rates apply. Vehicles parked in any parking lot for more than 30 days will be considered abandoned unless the customer has notified the parking contractor in advance.
Besides rental cars, the Asheville Regional Airport has taxi, rideshare, limo, shuttle and bus service to Downtown Asheville and elsewhere.
Taxi rates are $2.50 per mile plus a $2.50 drop charge, with a 40-cent charge for each 2 minutes of wait time, so a taxi to Downtown Asheville runs about $45 plus tip.
Henderson County’s Apple Country Transit (828-698-8571, www.applecountrytransit.com) also serves the airport, connecting the airport with the towns of Fletcher and Hendersonville. The service operates Monday through Friday from 6:30 am until 6:30 pm, arriving and leaving the airport parking lot to connect with the Asheville ART. No weekend service. Fare is 75 cents.
Lyft and Uber also pick up and drop off at the airport. The designated pickup area for Uber and Lyft is located past the north end of the airport terminal, where vehicles pull up to the airport terminal at the opposite end from baggage claim. If arriving on a flight to Asheville, walk left after exiting the terminal and walk to the marked Ride App Pickup Zone. Lyft fares between the airport and Downtown Asheville are in the range of $20 to $25 for a basic Lyft vehicle and $35 to $42 for a Lyft XL (not including tip). Uber estimates for the trip between the airport and Downtown Asheville about $21 for an Uber X and $41 for an XL (not including tip). Rates can vary depending on traffic and surge pricing.
Several shuttles and limousines offer flat rate service to different destinations in Western North Carolina including Asheville, Black Mountain, Waynesville and Cherokee. Rates vary, but figure about $40-$50 to Downtown Asheville, $55-$60 to Black Mountain, $75-$85 to Waynesville and $125-$150 to the Great Smokies entrance at Cherokee. Taxis and shuttles pick up passengers on the terminal's south end near baggage claim.
Also, about 10 area motels and hotels have a free shuttle service from the airport. These are mostly airport hotels but include several properties in Asheville and elsewhere. Among recommended properties are Hampton Inn & Suites (18 Rockwood Rd., Fletcher, 828-687-0806, www.hamptoninn.com) and Fairfield Inn (31 Airport Rd., Fletcher, 828-684-1144, www.marriott.com), both near the airport, and Hilton Biltmore Park (43 Town Square Blvd., Asheville, 828-209-2700, www.hilton.com), about midway to Downtown.
The airport’s guest services center (828-209-3660, email email@example.com) can offer assistance on transportation options.
Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP, 200 GSP Dr., Greer, S.C., 864-877-7426; www.gspairport.com), about 1¼ hours by car south of Asheville, has service by Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest and United. A shuttle (Asheville Shuttle, www.ashevilleshuttle.com) provides service between Downtown Asheville and the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport three times daily. Rates range from $35 to $65 one-way depending on the number of passengers.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT, 5501 Josh Birmingham Pkwy., Charlotte, 704-359-4000, www.cltairport.com), about 2-¼ hours southeast of Asheville, was long a major hub for US Airways. When US Air was merged into American Airlines in 2015, American maintained the airport as a major hub. CLT also has service by Air Canada, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Southwest, United and ViaAir. The airport has about 700 daily departures and nonstop service to about 160 destinations in the U.S. and internationally. CLS handled about 46 million passengers in 2017. A shuttle service (Asheville Shuttle, www.ashevilleshuttle.com) provides service between Downtown Asheville and the Charlotte airport five times daily. Prices range from $55 to $85 one-way, depending on the number of passengers.
The nearest Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) stations to Asheville are in Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C., both about 1¼ hours away, and in Gastonia and Charlotte, about 2¼ hours from Asheville.
You can travel from Charlotte to Raleigh on Amtrak’s Piedmont and Carolinian trains; the Carolinian continues up the East Coast to New York City. Beginning in mid-2018, there are four trains daily between Charlotte and Raleigh.
The Piedmont and Carolinian trains are sponsored by the NC Department of Transportation and operated by Amtrak. Passengers in Raleigh use the new Raleigh Union Station on West Martin Street. The Charlotte Amtrak station, an old station that badly needs updating, is at 1914 NorthTryon Street. The trip takes a little over three hours, with fares starting at about $30 one-way.
In Greenville and Spartanburg, or in Gastonia and Charlotte, you can connect with Amtrak’s Crescent, which travels daily between New Orleans and New York City.
Long-considered train service from Asheville to Charlotte and then on to Raleigh was delayed first by the state of North Carolina’s budget woes and then by the anti-public transport bias of the Republican-dominated state legislature.
At present, the only passenger train service in Western North Carolina is on the tourist excursion train, Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (226 Everett St., Bryson City, 828-586-8811, www.gsmr.com), which offers several trips on its 54 miles of track from its main depot in Bryson City.
Greyhound/Trailways (Greyhound Bus Station, 2 Tunnel Rd., Asheville, 828-253-8451, www.trailways.com) has daily service between Asheville and a number of other cities in the region including Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Durham, Spartanburg, S.C., and Lynchburg, Va.
Due to limited public transportation, the best way to get around Asheville and Western North Carolina is by car. Or by shank’s mare or bicycle. Call 511 or visit www.tims.ncdot.gov/tims/ to get current information from the North Carolina Department of Transportation regarding highway and road travel conditions in the Asheville area.
Asheville does have a bus system, ART, that tries hard but often fails to meet the transportation needs of both locals and tourists. Visitors to Downtown Asheville also may want to use one of the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing trollies. Uber and Lyft also operate in Asheville.
ASHEVILLE BUS SERVICE
Asheville Redefines Transportation or ART (Asheville Transit Center, 49 Coxe Avenue, Asheville, 828-253-5691, www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/Transit.aspx), operated by the City of Asheville, provides bus service to some areas in Asheville, to Asheville Regional Airport and to the town of Black Mountain. Ridership averages around 5,500 persons per day. Asheville has a fleet of more than two dozen buses painted dark blue and light green, with the ART logo prominently displayed; the newer buses are 30-foot, low-floor diesel-electric hybrids. There are about 16 bus routes on five major corridors (Tunnel Road, Biltmore Avenue, Haywood Road, Patton Avenue and Merrimon Avenue) running from 5:30 am to 10:30 pm, Monday through Saturday (no service on Sunday.) Routes originate from the ART Station, located at 49 Coxe Avenue in Downtown Asheville (next to the U.S. Post Office). The ART Station has restrooms and indoor and outdoor seating. A staff person is on duty until 10 pm and can provide maps and schedules. Fares are $1 (50 cents for seniors 65 and over and students 6-19). Eating, drinking and smoking are prohibited on ART buses. Bicycles may be carried on buses, on front racks, at no extra charge. All ART buses have wheelchair lifts and other features to accommodate riders with disabilities.
TAXIS AND RIDESHARE
Several of the Asheville cab companies, including the largest, J&J Cab, are switching to Prius hybrid fleets. There’s also an electric bike taxi in the Downtown area. You’ll usually have to call to get a cab, or have your hotel or restaurant do it, as taxis in Asheville usually don’t drive around looking for fares.
Taxi fares in Asheville generally are $2.50 to $3.50 drop charge plus $2.50 per mile for up to four persons, with an additional amount, usually $5, for each person over four.
Asheville Bike Taxi (828-777-5115, www.ashevillebiketaxi.com). An electric pedicab charges $5 each for two persons to most parts of the Downtown area. Asheville Bike Taxi also offers tours.
Asheville Taxi Co. (828-333-1976, www.avltaxi.com) has set point-to-point fares. For example, $10 from Downtown Asheville to UNC-Asheville, Biltmore Village or the Omni Grove Park Inn, or $45 to the Asheville airport. It also will carry passengers on metered fares ($3.50 drop charge plus $2.50 per mile, with 33 cents per minute wait time with a $5 minimum.) Rates are for up to four passengers.
J&J Cab Company (393 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, 828-253-3311, www.jandjcab.com) became Asheville’s largest cab company by purchasing New Blue Bird Taxi Company, Yellow Cab Company and others. Some of these companies still operate under their old names but are book through J&J Cab.
Lyft (www.lyft.com) and Uber (www.uber.com) also have service in Asheville and surrounding areas. Generally their rates are lower than cab fares, but surge pricing late at night or during rush hour can increase their fares significantly. Like regular taxis, Lyft and Uber now allow tipping, and drivers usually expect it.
The Asheville Regional Airport has five car rental agencies in the airport terminal, plus one at a nearby site. Some companies also have locations in or near Downtown Asheville.
Car rental companies in Asheville typically have a decent inventory of vehicles, although there can be shortages at peak tourism times such as weekends in October or on holiday weekends in summer. To be more likely to get a vehicle, reserve ahead. Use the websites to compare rental rates and discounts, which can vary widely. Many new car dealerships also rent cars, mainly for those who are having car repairs done at the dealership.
Avis (Asheville Regional Airport, 828-684-7144 and 1 S. Tunnel Rd., Asheville, 828-299-3644, www.avis.com).
Budget (Asheville Regional Airport, 828-684-2273, www.budget.com).
Enterprise (Asheville Regional Airport, 828-684-3607; 579 Tunnel Rd., Asheville, 828-298-6914; 770 Patton Ave., Asheville, 828-255-0236; 168 Smoky Park Hwy, West Asheville, 828-665-2389; www.enterprise.com).
Hertz (Asheville Regional Airport, 828-684-6455; 31 Woodfin St., Asheville, 828-225-1776; 891 Patton Ave., Asheville, 828-225-1776; www.hertz.com).
GPS navigation devices generally work well here, but there are some important exceptions. First, mountainous terrain, long tunnels and heavy tree canopies can at least temporarily disrupt contact with satellites. Second, because Western North Carolina is predominantly a rural area, not all destinations have a specific street address, so GPS navigation systems may tell you that you’ve arrived at a destination when it fact you could be hundreds of yards or even miles away from the true location. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, roads and trails in national and state forests, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and on the Blue Ridge Parkway may not be adequately or accurately mapped in GPS databases. Use an extra dose of common sense when interpreting GPS navigation directions in remote government lands.
For all crime, fire, health and other emergencies in Asheville and the rest of the region, dial 911. In addition, here are other direct numbers for selected first responders:
Asheville Police Department (100 Court Plaza, Asheville, 828-252-1110; www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/Police.aspx) has about 250 employees, plus around 150 volunteers.
Asheville Fire Department (100 Court Plaza, Asheville, 828-259-5636; www.ashevillenc.gov/Departments/Fire.aspx) has a total of 12 fire stations. Buncombe County has an additional 24 fire stations and volunteer fire departments.
Buncombe County Health Department (40 Coxe Ave., Asheville, 828-250-5000; www.buncombecounty.org) is primarily for Buncombe County residents. In rankings of all 100 North Carolina counties, Buncombe's overall health rankings have steadily increased from #25 to #14.
Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department (202 Haywood St., Asheville, 828-255-5555; www.buncombecounty.org) has around 360 full-time employees. In 2011, the department answered 58,000 calls for service. As in other North Carolina counties, the sheriff, currently Van Duncan, is elected by county voters. Elections are every four years.
Carolinas Poison Control Center (800-222-1222; www.ncpoisoncenter.org) is a 24-hour hotline that provides advice on what to do in case of a possible poisoning.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (151 Patton Avenue, Suite 211, 828-253-1643; www.fbi.gov) has a small satellite office in Asheville, working out of its main regional office in Charlotte.
North Carolina State Highway Patrol (600 Tunnel Rd., 828-296-7260; www.ncdps.gov) has around 1,800 officers in North Carolina who patrol the state’s 78,000 miles of roads, the most roadways of any other state except Texas. North Carolina had 912 traffic fatalities in 2012.
The Highway Patrol made almost 24,000 arrests in 2012 for driving while impaired. The legal blood alcohol level in North Carolina is 0.08. For a 200-pound male, that’s about four 12-ounce beers, or the equivalent, consumed over a two-hour period; for a 140-pound female, that’s about two to three 12-ounce beers or the equivalent consumed in a two-hour period. The exact blood alcohol level depends on the percentage of alcohol in beer or wine, on the amount of alcohol and its proof in mixed drinks and on other factors. Driving while impaired is a very serious offense -- always err on the side of being conservative. The Highway Patrol and local sheriffs’ offices do set up check points, especially around holiday periods but at other times as well, to check on licenses, registration and possible driving under the influence.
In Asheville, the major internet service providers are AT&T and Charter Cable, now branded as Spectrum. There are also about a half dozen other local internet providers. AT&T has service with downstream speeds of up to 50 Mbps and with fiber optic service in a few areas with speeds up to 1000 Mbps down. Spectrum offers downstream speeds of up to 100 Mbps.
Most lodging places provide internet service for guests, with most providing it at no charge. Many coffee houses and bookstores and some bars and restaurants have free internet service, as do some fast food restaurants including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Bruegger’s Bagels.
The Asheville-Buncombe Library System, with 12 locations in Asheville and Buncombe County, has computers and internet service at all locations, free for local library cardholders and with a small charge ($1 per hour) for guests without local library cards.
In Asheville you have access to excellent, nationally recognized health care. The main hospital in the Asheville area is Mission Hospital (509 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, 828-213-1111, www.mission-health.org), a not-for-profit independent community hospital. (In 2018 Mission announced it plans to merge with HCA, a large national for-profit hospital chain.) It is the tertiary referral center for the Western North Carolina region. Together with its sister campus, St. Joseph Hospital, (St. Joseph was merged into Mission in 1998) it is licensed for 800 hospital beds and currently has 730 beds. Mission has around 550 physicians on the medical staff licensed in some 50 specialties, plus more than 1,800 RNs. Mission currently has about 40,000 hospital admissions per year, and that’s expected to grow to nearly 50,000 over the next 10 to 15 years. The hospital, on a 90-acre campus on Biltmore Avenue just south of the main Downtown area, has more than 8,500 employees in the metro area, making it the largest private employer in the region. Mission is building a new $350 million tower to replace aging facilities on the old St. Joseph Hospital campus. It recently opened a new cancer center and a new office complex off Biltmore Avenue.
The Mission system includes Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, McDowell Hospital in Marion, Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard and Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville. CarePartners Health Care, a 1,200-employee company that offers rehabilitation services, is affiliated with Mission. Mission is the state’s sixth largest hospital system and is the busiest surgical hospital in North Carolina. Its recognized centers of excellence include cancer, heart, orthopedics, pediatrics, women’s health and neurosciences.
Thomson Reuters has ranked Mission Health Systems as one of the top 15 hospital systems in the U.S. Based on surveys of recently discharged patients, about 84% of patients would recommend Mission to friends and family, well above state (71%) and national averages (70%). Only 2% of recent patients would not recommend Mission.
For emergency care, you can go to Mission Hospital Emergency Room (509 Biltmore Ave., 828-213-1948, www.missionmd.org). The emergency room is busy, with more than 100,000 visits a year, but generally patients are seen quickly. You can drive to the main entrance off Biltmore Avenue and a valet attendant will park your car. The emergency room entrance is well-signed, but drivers unfamiliar with the area may still be confused. Mission has a Level II trauma center. (Level I offers the highest level of surgical care whiles Levels IV and V offer the lowest.) Mission’s is the only Level II center in Western North Carolina, with two helicopters for quickly transporting trauma patients to Asheville from 17 WNC counties. The nearest Level I trauma center is at Carolina Medical Centers (www.carolinashealthcare.org/cmc) in Charlotte.
In addition, Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care walk-in health care services have several locations in the greater Asheville area (1201 Patton Ave., West Asheville, 828-210-2121; 1833 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-274-1462; 155 Weaver Blvd., Weaverville, 828-645-5088; 22 Trust Lane, Brevard, 828-883-2600; www.urgentcares.org). Anther doc-in-a-box clinic is FastMed Urgent Care (160 Hendersonville Rd., Asheville, 828-210-2835; www.fastmed.org).
Asheville also has a large veterans hospital, Charles George VA Medical Center (1100 Tunnel Rd., 828-298-7911; www.ashevilleva.gov) serving the approximately 100,000 military veterans living in Western North Carolina. Services at the VA hospital include hospital and home-based primary care, extended care and rehabilitation, emergency services, pharmacy and hospice care. The hospital was named after a Cherokee Indian U.S. Army veteran, Charles George, a Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in the line of duty in Korea.
Hospitals in other areas around Asheville include Margaret R. Pardee Memorial Hospital in Hendersonville (800 N. Justice St., Hendersonville, 828-790-9355; www.pardeehospital.org); Park Ridge Hospital in Fletcher, (100 Hospital Dr., Hendersonville, 828-684-8501; www.parkridgehealth.org); MedWest-Haywood in Clyde (262 Leroy George Dr., 828-456-7311; www.haymed.org) and MedWest-Swain in Bryson City (45 Plateau St.,
Bryson City, 828-488-2155; www.westcare.org).
The Buncombe County area has more than 1,000 practicing physicians. There are large practice groups in cardiology, arthritis, oncology, orthopedics, family medicine, endocrinology, dermatology, vascular medicine, various surgical specialties and in other areas. Buncombe County also has more than 200 dentists.
For medical and dental emergencies, your hotel should have the names of physicians and dentists on call.
For those with limited English proficiency, the Western Carolina Medical Society operates and helps fund Western North Carolina Interpreter Network (WIN), which offers trained medical interpreter services in approximately two dozen languages.
NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES
You may decide to subscribe to home delivery of your new hometown newspaper, pay for online access or in a few cases get it free online or, in the case of giveaways, get a free paper copy. Here is contact information for the major newspapers in Western North Carolina. Not all weekly or monthly newspapers are listed here.
Asheville Citizen-Times (14 O. Henry Ave., Asheville, NC 28801, 800-672-2472, www.citizen-times.com), owned by Gannett (“with the emphasis on the net”), is the largest daily newspaper in the region. The Scene, a tabloid section devoted to local entertainment, is published on Friday. Daily print circulation is around 27,000, and the Sunday edition print circulation is 41,500. The on-line edition has a pay wall. Subscription rate for home delivery start at around $13 a month, and the on-line edition is $10 a month. Rates plus sales tax. The daily print edition goes for $1.50 on the street, and $2 on Sunday. Check with the newspaper on mail subscription rates.
In 2018, Gannett sold the Citizen-Times Building that had been the home of the paper for more than 80 years. Sales price was $5.25 million. Reportedly, the newspaper will lease space on the second floor of the building for its remaining editorial and advertising staff for three years.
Mountain Xpress (2 Wall St., Asheville, NC, 28801, 828-251-1333, www.mountainx.com) is a popular free alternative tabloid with extensive coverage of local politics, entertainment, restaurants, clubs and music. It is published weekly on Wednesday. Print circulation is around 29,000 with distribution at about 800 locations in Asheville and the region. The paper claims a total readership of 75,000. The on-line edition, which gets 112,000 unique visitors a month, also is free. If you want to subscribe to the print edition by mail, send a check to Subscription Department, P.O. Box 144, Asheville, NC 28802. An annual subscription is $115, and a six-month subscription is $60.
Hendersonville Times-News (106 Henderson Crossing Plaza, Hendersonville, NC 28792, 828-692-0505, www.blueridgenow.com), is a daily formerly owned by the New York Times Company and now a part of the GateHouse Media group. It has a circulation of around 11,000 daily and 12,000 Sunday. Subscription rate for both print home delivery and online access is about $20 a month.
Black Mountain News (14 O. Henry Ave., Asheville, 800-672-2472, www.blackmountainnews.com) is a weekly, published on Thursdays, owned by the Asheville Citizen-Times. Home delivery of the print edition plus access to the online edition is less than $2 a month.
Cherokee Scout (89 Sycamore St., Murphy, NC 28906, 828-837-5832, www.cherokeescout.com) is a weekly published on Tuesdays with news of Murphy and Cherokee County. For Cherokee County residents, a combination print and online subscription is $30 a year. For out-of-county residents it’s $50 a year.
Graham Star (774 Tallulah Rd., Robbinsville, NC 28771, 828-479-3383, www.grahamstar.com) is a weekly published on Thursdays serving Robbinsville and Graham County. It has a circulation of around 3,500. In-county residents pay $26 for a combination print and on-line one-year subscription, while out-of-county residents pay $40.
High Country Press (www.hcpress.com), formerly a weekly print newspaper serving Boone and the surrounding area, is now a free web-only daily. The company also produces print and online magazines including High Country Magazine, Home Magazine and High Country Visitor Guide.
Smoky Mountain News (144 Montgomery St. Waynesville, NC 28786, 828-452-4251, www.smokymountainnews.com) is a weekly paper published on Wednesday covering news in Waynesville, Sylva and surrounding areas. It distributes about 16,000 copies a week at 600 locations in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties and on the Cherokee reservation. If you want to receive the paper by mail, an annual subscription is $65.
Tryon Daily Bulletin (16 North Trade St., Tryon, NC 28782, 828-859-9151, www.tryondailybulletin.com), established in 1928, bills itself as the “world’s smallest daily newspaper.” It covers the town of Tryon and Polk County and claims a readership of 4,500. The newspaper has reporters on staff, but many articles are contributed by readers. Annual subscription is $84.
From all the magazines that are published here, you wouldn’t know that people say print is dead. Here are a few of the local pubs:
The Laurel of Asheville (P.O. Box 2059, Asheville, NC 28802, 828-670-7503, www.thelaurelofasheville.com) bills itself as a magazine of lifestyle and the arts. It is published monthly, and an annual subscription by mail is $37; the digital edition is $13 a year.
Rapid River Magazine (85 N. Main St., Canton, NC 28716, 828-646-0071, www.rapidrivermagazine.com) says it is the area’s oldest arts and culture magazine. It was established in 1997. Distributed at local stores, it claims a readership of 35,000.
Sophie Magazine (www.sophiemagazine.com), focused on local women, is distributed free at various locations around the Asheville area and also has an online edition.
WNC Magazine (33 Patton Ave., Suite 201, Asheville, NC 28801, 828-210-5030, www.wncmagazine.com), published every other month, covers local people, history, travel, dining, the arts and other subjects. Six issues by mail are $20.
WNC Woman (P.O. Box 951, Marshall, NC 28753, 828-649-9555, www.wncwoman.com) is a monthly magazine about local women. It is distributed free at locations throughout the region and available by mail for $20 a year.
Within the city of Asheville, the political scene is progressive. The city voted heavily for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. It voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Despite blacks making up only about 13% of the city’s population, Asheville elected its first African-American major, Terry Bellamy, in 2005, and she overwhelmingly won re-election in 2009. All of the current city council members are registered Democrats, although Republicans have had seats on the council in the past. The immediate former chief of police was a black man, and the current chief of police is a lesbian woman.
Buncombe County is somewhat more conservative, although the county voted for Obama in the in 2008 and 2012 and for Hillary Clinton in 2016, albeit by smaller margins than the city. The county was one of only eight of 100 counties in the state to vote against Proposition One, an amendment to the state constitution in May 2012 defining marriage between a man and a woman as the only legally recognized domestic union. Statewide, the amendment, seen by many as anti-gay, passed with a vote of around 60%. The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) did away with the state's Prop One law.
Where Can I Find a Loo in Asheville?
Many shops and restaurants have notices posted “Restrooms for Patrons Only.” So where to find a loo Downtown? The Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau satellite office Downtown on the north side of Pack Square Park Pavilion, open April-November, has six nice either-gender restrooms. The main Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau location (36 Montford Ave.) in the Montford area just north of Downtown has well-maintained restrooms. The Grove Arcade has public restrooms. ART Station, the bus station for Asheville’s public transit system (49 Coxe Ave.) next to the U.S. Post Office provides restrooms. Most Asheville City Parks, including Aston Park (336 Hilliard Ave.) Downtown and Carrier Park (220 Amboy Rd.) in West Asheville, have restrooms. Downtown hotels such as the Aloft, Indigo, Haywood Park and Radisson have restrooms in their lobbies or other public spaces. Government buildings, such as the Asheville City Building, Buncombe County Courthouse and the Federal Building, have restrooms, but you may have to go through a metal detector and other screening to gain admission. Of course, you can always pop into a store, bar or quick-service restaurant, act like a patron, and use the restrooms, despite what the signs say.
The Buncombe County board of commissioners currently is made up of four Democratic and three Republican members. The now Republican-controlled state legislature changed the way in which Buncombe commissioners are elected. The changed allowed Republicans to make gains in the commissioner race in the 2012 election, but the GOP made no further gains in 2016.
Outside Asheville and Buncombe County, voters in Western North Carolina tend to be more conservative. Due in part to Republican-led redistricting, both U.S. representatives for the western part of the state are Republican.
The state has swung to the right in recent elections and as of 2012 Republicans control the state house and senate. The legislature passed the highly controversial HB2 in 2016. The so-called "bathroom" bill actually was an attempt by the GOP to limit LGBTQ rights and to undermine local control. The bill cost the state billions of dollars in new business development and tourism, but it cost the GOP the governorship in 2016. The bill now has been repealed.
Obama took the state in 2008 but lost narrowly in 2012. Trump won NC in 2016. However, Democrats won the governorship in 2016, with former Attorney General Roy Cooper beating the sitting Republican Pat McCrory by 10,000 votes. Dems also won the office of the Attorney General and Secretary of State. The state Supreme Court was flipped to progressives in 2016. Ten of 13 North Carolina representatives in the U.S. congress are Republican, and the state has two Republican U.S. senators. How long conservatives will rule state politics is a matter of debate, as social trends and demographics – increasing influx of well-educated voters from more liberal areas and the growth of the Hispanic and African-American population, for example – appear to favor progressives.
Politically, Western North Carolina is a big tent, and under it are everyone from gun-toting survivalists to Libertarians to moderate Republicans and Democrats to Tea Party members to old lefties and never-give-up progressives.
A special election for the North Carolina legislature has been called for 2017, a year early, due to a ruling by the courts that the Republican-drawn legislative districts discriminated against African-Americans, Democrats and others.
RADIO AND TV STATIONS
Here are some of the radio stations you may want to listen to when drive to or around Asheville.
Note that Sirius/XM satellite radio (www.sirusxm.com) may drop out in heavy tree canopies along roadways and in the steep mountain terrain.
Blue Ridge Public Radio, which consists of WCQS Asheville, 88.1 FM, National Public Radio programming mostly classical music and NPR news, and a sister station, BPR News at 107.9 FM, broadcast NPR news and talk programs, along with BBC News. WCQS also broadcasts on the following frequencies, among others, in towns around Asheville:
88.5 WMQS, Murphy
91.3 WFQS, Franklin and North Georgia
91.5 Dillsboro, Sylva
94.7 Bryson City
95.3 Cherokee, Waynesville
102.9 Cullowhee, Waynesville, Clyde, Webster
107.5 Black Mountain/Montreat
WFLA Asheville-Greenville, S.C. 91.3 FM, Christian contemporary
WHKP Hendersonville, 1450 AM, local news, talk, sports and country music
WISE Asheville, 1310 AM, sports
WKSF Asheville, 99.9 FM, owned by Clear Channel, programs country music
MAIN Asheville, 103.7 FM, [AMAZING] community radio
WMIT Black Mountain, 106.9 FM, religious station affiliated with Billy Graham organization
WNCW Spindale, 88.7 FM, a Public Radio community station licensed to Isothermal Community College, programming an eclectic “crossroads” mix of independent, alternative and other music
WOXL Asheville/Biltmore Forest, 96.5 FM, adult contemporary
WPVN Asheville, 103.5 FM, progressive talk radio
WWNC Asheville, 570 AM, owned by Clear Channel, is a talk/news radio affiliated with Fox News, has a right-wing slant with Limbaugh and Hannity.
Television stations in Asheville:
WLOS-TV (Channel 13), owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, is the dominant Western North Carolina TV station. It is an ABC-TV affiliate. WLOS-TV also operates WMYY-TV through a local marketing agreement.
WHNS-TV (Channel 22) is a Fox affiliate.
WUNF-TV (Channel 33) is the Public Television station, a part of the University of North Carolina system.
Asheville is part of the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson (S.C.)-Asheville television market, the 36th largest television market in the country. WYFF-TV (Channel 4, NBC, Greenville), WSPA-TV (Channel 7, CBS, Spartanburg) and six other South Carolina stations have service in the Asheville area. Charter Communications (Sprectrum) is the major cable company in the Asheville area.
North Carolina’s statewide sales tax is 4.75%, and in addition local counties and municipalities charge local sales taxes. In Asheville and Buncombe County, which levy a 2.25% local tax, the total state and local sales tax is 7%. It is slightly lower in neighboring Henderson and Madison counties, at 6.75%. Most grocery food items are subject only to a 2% sales tax, and prescription drugs are exempt from sales taxes.
Hotel or room taxes in Asheville and Buncombe County are the 7% sales tax plus 4% local room occupancy tax, for a total of 11% tax on the hotel room rate. The 4% local occupancy tax mostly goes to fund tourism promotion.
The state gasoline tax is 37.5 cents per gallon, not including federal gas taxes, currently 18.4 cents per gallon.
The state income tax rate for individuals is now a flat 5.4999% regardless of income, but the state's large standard deduction means that lower income residents pay little or no state income tax. The state corporate tax rate is a flat 3%.
TRAVEL AND TOURISM INFORMATION
American Automobile Association (local AAA offices at 1000 Merrimon Ave., Suite B, Asheville, 828-253-5376 and 1550 Hendersonville Rd., Asheville, 828-274-2555; www.aaa.com) offers free travel maps, trip planning and guidebooks for members.
Amazing Asheville (www.amazingasheville.net) has comprehensive information for prospective visitors, retirees and relocatees.
Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau (36 Montford Ave., 828-258-6129; www.exploreasheville.com; open Mon.-Fri. 8:30-5:30, Sat.-Sun. 9-5, a satellite visitor pavilion is in Pack Square Park, open 9-5 daily) is a terrific source of information on Asheville and the mountains. Visit online or in-person at the modern visitor center near Downtown on Montford Avenue near Downtown. A Downtown satellite visitor pavilion is now open in Pack Square Park. A free travel guide to Asheville is available in both digital and paper versions. The main visitor center offers a souvenir shop, The Asheville Store, and a concierge to help you find accommodations. Both the main and satellite visitor centers have clean public bathrooms.
Blue Ridge Parkway (Parkway headquarter is 199 Hemphill Knob Rd., Asheville off Milepost 384, 828-271-4779 or 828-298-0398 for recorded information; www.nps.gov/blri; open daily 9-5) has helpful staff, informative literature and a 3-D map of the parkway.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Park headquarters: 107 Park Headquarters Rd., Gatlinburg, TN 37738, visitor information line 865-436-1200) www.nps.gov/grsm) has a complete visitor information center on the North Carolina side of the park at Oconaluftee on U.S. Highway 441 near Cherokee (open daily, hours vary seasonally).
Hendersonville Tourist Information Center (201 S. Main St., Hendersonville, 828-693-9708 or 800-828-4244; www.historichendersonville.org; open weekdays 9-5, weekends 10-5) offers a free travel planner brochure both online and in a paper version. A relocation package is available for $25.
High Country Host (www.highcountryhost.com) is a non-official online guide to Boone, Blowing Rock and other areas of the North Carolina High Country.
Romantic Asheville (www.romanticasheville.com) is a non-official online travel guide to Asheville with more than 600 pages of information and 2,500 photographs. Besides covering Asheville, it has information on the area within about 85 miles of Asheville.
All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.
We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.