Named the best toy store in Western North Carolina by Mountain Xpress for five years running, Dancing Bear Toys overflows its two locations in Asheville and Hendersonville with an ever-evolving stock of high-quality playthings from top designers. Co-owners since the first store’s opening in 1993 and sisters since well before, partners Erika and Sarah routinely travel to the New York City International Toy Fair to scope out the latest and most exciting boons to kids’ imaginations, from wooden trains to broccoli-eating robots. Within the shops’ colorful walls, giant stuffed animals from Melissa and Doug smile down on Playmobil action figures, educational kits and puzzles, and a variety of children’s books, movies, and games.
The owners of Feelin Great Healthy Marketplace choose their multivitamins and supplements based on the minerals and nutrients contained within. But just as many items in the Hendersonville shop find a place on the shelves based on what they don't contain. Visitors peruse a large selection of foods free of gluten, dairy, sugar, and other potential allergens, or shop for paraben-free and cruelty-free beauty products by brands such as Aubrey and Nature's Gate. Raspberry ketones, garcinia cambogia, and other products recommended by Doctor Oz help patrons to lose weight without having to throw away pocketsize anvils.
Owned and operated by Greg and Sheila Paul, Carolina Ace Hardware adds comfort and convenience to daily life with products, tools, and project-solving expertise. Secure sheds, trunks, and Fabergé egg display cases with an Ace 2-inch padlock ($11.99), and illuminate midnight-snack paths with mood lighting using dimmable GE Energy Smart 100-watt CFL light bulbs ($13.99 each). Messy projects clean up their act with a six-pack of ultra-strong Scott shop towels ($17.94), retiring soiled materials to Glad Odor Shield kitchen bags ($8.99) after their heavy-duty absorption is done (prices and availability may vary).
A vast wooden bucket—printed with the words "world's largest gem mine bucket"—dominates Elijah Mountain Gem Mine's landscape. The immense receptacle, standing at 7 feet high and 8 feet wide, holds up to 30,000 pounds of dirt strewn with gems, jewels, and fossils. Families fill their buckets with the gem-studded dirt, strap on their prospector hats, and sift through the loot with the help of wooden flumes. The flumes, all-weather and wheelchair-accessible, wash away dirt to reveal fossils, quartz crystals, uncut emeralds, and other treasures to take home. Miners can opt for specialty buckets that contain higher concentrations of certain stones and fossils. A rock shop and 3,000-square-foot antique mall are stocked with sundries from the United States and Europe that, unlike precious stones or the White House's water slide, are displayed in plain sight.