Asheville changed drastically in the half-century following 1880. Railroad workers broke through the Appalachian Mountains' natural barrier and connected the city to the world, forever changing its culture and social zeitgeist. Though decades have passed, Brenda Seright Williams still feels the impact of this period, and the tour guide isn't content to let it fade into history. As it says on her website, she believes "the study of those who came before can inspire us to stretch our own limits."
Her Urban Trail walking tours not only explore the 19th century’s Gilded Age but also tiptoe through four other time periods, including the Frontier Period and the Age of String Cheese. Alternatively, Brenda shifts the spotlight to Asheville's pivotal female figures during the aptly named Herstory tours. However, neither of these excursions are cookie-cutter adventures. To weave her stories, Brenda has conducted more than 100 interviews and spent countless hours researching minute details and the correct pronunciation of the word "pioneer."
Alexandra Tait is a Level 2 professional Archery Instructor with USA Archery, has been certified by radKIDS?a children's safety and empowerment organization?and also has over 20 years of experience as a wilderness guide and holistic health and transformation practitioner. She opened an archery academy, named after and inspired by the ancient Greek moon goddess Artemis, and there she teaches traditional archery lessons and leads a women's group that introduces participants to survival skills.
Matthew Altbuch started learning the art of circus performance at the tender age of eight, quickly mastering the unicycle, juggling, and the trapeze. Throughout school, he performed in talent shows, ultimately going on to spend time with the Florida State Flying High Circus after college. Eventually, he realized his passion lay in sharing the circus arts with others, so he founded Aerial Trapeze Academy to carry out his mission of training performers around the world. He now lives his dream, joined by three other teachers as he holds trapeze classes for the next generation of gravity-defiers.
Heralded by Cycle World, American Motorcyclist, and comedian Jay Leno, the Wheels Through Time Museum recently picked up even more exposure on an episode of History Channel's American Pickers. In "The Belly Dance," hosts Mike and Frank come to the museum in need—they've found a rare belly-tank racer, but unless they can get it to run, the find will have cost them more money than it's worth.
That's where museum founder and curator Dale Walksler, automotive enthusiast par excellence, comes in. In 1993, Walksler invited crowds and fellow bike buffs to join in the astonishing details of his obsession: more than 300 rare and historical classic motorcycles amid a collection of tens of thousands of related artifacts. Free from the ghosts of vengeful traffic cops, the double-decker garage resembles a fever-dream cycle showroom gleaming with vintage and contemporary models by Harley Davidson, Indian, and Excelsior, and one-of-a-kind machines that include the handsome Traub. The ahead-of-its-time machine was discovered bricked up inside a Chicago wall in 1967, built by a brilliant designer who apparently never built another bike before or after. Despite dating back to the 1910s, nearly all of the machines can still run—often zooming straight through the 40,000-square-foot museum floor¬—and lecture passersby on four-way intersection etiquette.
Display cases filled with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are a treat for the eyes at any jeweler's, but at Colburn Earth Science Museum, they dazzle visitors intellectually as well. More than 1,000 cuts from around the world make up the museum's extensive gemstone collection, which guests learn about via a gem-mine replica featuring a faux dynamite charge and gem pockets. The museum's additional exhibits showcase mineral specimens from the museum's collection of more than 4,500, as well as fossil specimens including teeth from a wooly mammoth complete with calcified floss.
Guests can take a more hands-on approach to scientific discovery during the museum's school programs and spring-break camps, which focus on subjects such as fossils, gravity, and space rocks. Voyage deeper into the galaxy during Spaced-Out Saturdays, when a digital spaceship whisks passengers on journeys throughout the solar system. After expeditions, stop by the Museum Gift Shop to pick up your own minerals or crystal-filled, 44-million-year-old geodes that museum staff can crack in half for you during your visit.
Grovewood Cafe could very well be a cottage from a fairytale. Greenery seems bent on overtaking the restaurant and completely surrounds its patio, where whimsical sculptures from Grovewood Gallery pop up from the ground. On the inside, flowers bring color to tables bathed in light from oversized windows. And, like many a Brothers Grimm character, chef and owner Larry Waldrop depends on local farms for sustenance.
Larry believes that the best meals are made from scratch, and without too much help from machinery. He prefers to chop his meat by hand, for instance, rather than use his government-issued butcher robot. His menu of Southern-inspired plates gives credit to several area farms?there's grilled meatloaf from Hickory Nut Gap Farm, pork from Heritage Farms, and chicken breast from Ashley Farms, which arrives encrusted in crunchy walnuts. Every day, there's a special free-range omelet available for lunch. And if you're in the neighborhood on a Sunday morning, stop by for the Grovewood's take on eggs benedict with fried green tomatoes, grilled Sunburst Farm trout, and swiss chard.