The lush Appalachians and purple Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville have defined this city for years. However, western North Carolina's biggest city has its share of cultural attractions as well. The Biltmore Estate preserves museum-quality artworks in a crystal and marble mansion south of Asheville, and Thomas Wolfe's former home memorializes the great American author. It's impossible to resist Asheville's untamed landscape: it's bound to draw you outdoors sooner or later, with the sounds of rushing mountain streams and the call of the Appalachian Trail.

Things to Do

A massive limestone-and-marble estate reigns as this Appalachian city's most-visited attraction: Biltmore. This French Renaissance ch√Ęteau, former home of George Vanderbilt, is decked out with crystal and silk, and art by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. After touring the industrial giant's digs, turn to Ashville's literary giant at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Set in the former home of one of 20th-century America's most beloved writers, the museum displays his typewriter and writing table. Imagine him churning out pages to his novel Look Homeward, Angel.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Live music thrives in Asheville, but no club compares to The Orange Peel, a favorite venue for acts ranging from Bob Dylan to country music standard-bearer Merle Haggard. The club's intimate surroundings make performers feel at home, and its handsome stainless steel bar and dance floor keep customers coming back. You'll also find good, live jazz, blues and rock at Barley's Tap Room -- and never a cover charge.

Restaurants and Dining

The views alone are enough to draw hungry diners to the Blue Ridge Dining Room. Look out over the mountain range's shades of lavender and gray while eating at the restaurant's large, farm-to-table breakfast, seafood or prime rib buffets. For a more folksy, regional menu, check out the modest but crowded Tupelo Honey Cafe. This is the place to go for sweet potato pancakes, creamy-cheesy shrimp and grits, and Cajun-fried catfish.

Active Pursuits

Asheville forms the center of North Carolina's thriving Appalachian outdoor pursuits. Spend at least one day walking along one of the world's most famous footpaths, the Appalachian Trail. In springtime, the trail is brightened by airy white dogwood buds and bold flashes of purple redbuds. For an adrenaline rush, fast-forward your way through the lush mountain landscape, rushing along the Green, French Broad or Ocoee Rivers on whitewater rafting excursions.