Are we moving to Asheville, NC?
Now that our time has come and gone in Asheville, the question remains….are we moving to Asheville, NC?
Yes! No! Wait…we don’t know yet. We’ve only just begun our yearlong journey of full-time travel to find out where we want to live. While I’d love to have a definitive answer, in the back of our minds we know that there’s still so much we’re going to see in the year ahead. How could we know yet?
We’ve talked a lot about what it is we want in the place we ultimately want to call home. You know how people make a list about what they want in their ideal partner? Yeah, we have that list, but instead, it’s for our dream town. Our soul mate in the version of a city. Here’s what our dreamy pin it up on an inspirational vision board alongside pictures of cheesy but nonetheless motivataional quotes would have:
- Natural Beauty – As former residents of a concrete jungle, we both yearn for a space that overflows with natural beauty. Ideally, it would be close to hiking trails and different bodies of water like rivers, lakes, creeks, or oceans.
- Human Made Beauty – While natural beauty is vital, it’s also essential that the city is created with aesthetics in mind. Is there thought put into the architecture of the buildings? Does the city have a look that makes it entirely it’s own? Does the town put money into planting flowers and trees? Does it have too many billboards that eventually become an eyesore day in and day out?
- Affordability – Affordability is, of course, a subjective thing and will be different for everyone. For us, it means an area where you can buy a beautiful 3 bedroom home for around $300,000. We no longer wish to work so hard that there’s no space for enjoying life.
- Dynamic Food Scene – This is pretty high on the list. We’re a family that likes excellent food. One of the best things about living in LA was having a fantastic food scene and accessible fresh food all year. A place that offers a variety of unique contemporary style restaurants, farmer’s markets, and grocery stores that offer local produce.
- Creativity – We’re both artists and need a city that puts a value on elevating the arts. That’s typically done by having art galleries, places to see live music, education centered around the arts, and shops within the city that are locally owned by area artists selling their work.
- Diversity – We both agree this is really important to us as parents, that our son is exposed to the diversity of life around him. That’s variety in age, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
- Access to Urban Amenities- A nearby airport, shopping, high-quality medical care, good schools.
- Mid Size City – This is our goldilocks moment. We don’t want a big city that begins to feel like a machine, and we don’t want a small town where you’re wondering where all the people are. We want it jussssst right. Enough people so that it feels vibrant but not too much that we feel overwhelmed and begin to hate all of humanity.
- Low Traffic – As former Los Angelenos, where one of us had a one hour commute every day because of traffic, this is important to us. Anyone who has ever had a long commute knows the stress and toll it takes on your mind and body. No more traffic for us.
- Community – We’re looking for a place where the people feel warm and inviting. After living in big cities for so long, we’re both over the standoffish self-absorbed feel that city living can have. Obviously, there’s going to be selfish, rude people everywhere you go. We are, after all, in the social media driven age of narcissism and disconnection. And yet, I have faith that there are places in the US where the more pervasive feeling is one of kindness and connection.
- Chemistry – Lastly, this is the unspeakable thing that can’t be so explicitly pinpointed. It’s a feeling. A hunch. An indescribable excitement that happens when you’re there. Just like that “chemistry” you’re looking to have on a first date, we’re looking for that chemical stir that makes us go… “okay, I want to spend more time here.” Chemistry is the kind of thing that could make us kick off half of the items on this list and say, “screw it, you’re a tiny podunk town, and you have crappy food, but I’m crazy about you, so I’m going for it!”
Dreamy city vibes.
Now that you know what we are looking for in a city, does Asheville rank high on our list of desires for our soul mate city? Does it hold up to Livability ranking it as one of the top places to live in the US? I’m going to break it down for you in a completely subjective unscientific scale of 1-5 stars.
2 Stars – Below average and leaning towards no.
3 Stars – A little, but I’m not bragging about it on social media.
4 Stars – Yes, solid yes.
5 Stars – Wowza, holy moly you’re perfect!
Asheville, NC is perfectly nestled along the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains, so there is no shortage of natural beauty on display. The city very much feels like it’s built into the forest, with tall, stately trees presiding over every corner. The areas surrounding Asheville are jam-packed with waterfalls, and Western North Carolina is considered the most biodiverse region of the entire country.
The month we spent in Asheville, we went hiking 3 to 4 times a week and we BARELY even skimmed the surface of all the different hiking trails available to us. Not to mention, we stuck to easy 3-4 mile hikes since we had a toddler in tow. The weather was too cold to do all the fun water-based activities like tubing down the French Broad River or cliff jumping in waterfall swimming holes. Although we were able to slide down the all too fun natural Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest.
Each season in Asheville offers something amazing. Whether it’s the wild rhododendrons in the Spring, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Fall, the mild snowy Winters that blanket the town in a soft powdery white, or the vibrant heat of Summer that sends everyone flocking to the water. There is no question that Asheville, NC is one of the top destinations in the United States for a nature lover.
HumAN Made Beauty
While Asheville’s natural beauty is outstanding, it has a unique architecture and style that for us uplifts the entire experience of the city. The homes are beautiful and it’s clear there is pride of ownership in areas like the Montford district and Kenilworth. Downtown Asheville is awash in Art Deco buildings that give extra charm to all the local businesses that reside there.
There’s also the illustrious Biltmore Estate, the biggest privately-owned home in America, that lends an extra gravitas and allure to the city as a whole.
Overall, it’s a beautiful city that holds it’s own.
For such a coveted city, Asheville is definitely an affordable city if you’re comparing it to living in Los Angeles or New York. The cost of living in Asheville is 4% lower than the national average. The question is, with all of its popularity and growth, is it going to stay that way? Prices are steadily rising, and it stands to reason that the cost of living will increase there. Currently, real estate prices have leveled out after prices started to rise far too quickly. Here are a few stats on living in Asheville:
-Median Home Price is 308.000
-2018 Average rental for a 2 bedroom apartment is 1,169
-If you were making 60,000 a year salary in LA you would need a 40,000 salary in Asheville.
As always, affordability is based upon one’s own lifestyle and what you deem necessary for your standard of living. For us, Asheville is absolutely more affordable than what we had been used to. It’s not outrageously affordable, but certainly better than Los Angeles.
DYNAMIC FOOD SCENE
Asheville is where you go to eat. The hip, soulful, quirky vibe makes Asheville a slam dunk for its food. It’s a farm to table favorite, and there are a generous amount of restaurants that focus on clean, healthy eating. Plus, it’s the reigning champion for the most microbreweries per capita in the US. Basically, if you’re coming to Asheville, be prepared to eat and drink. We got to try a good amount of food while we were there, and Asheville did not disappoint. Our favorites being 9 Mile and the original Tupelo Honey.
Our first night in Asheville, we pulled into a gas station, tired and exhausted after driving for hours with a toddler. I asked the guy at the pump next to me if there was somewhere to eat close by. He paused and looked at me a little bit like I was a country bumpkin who had lost her way. After recovering from what was to him a stupid question, he said, “This is Asheville. There’s a restaurant on every corner. Over there. Over there. Over there.” He then abruptly left.
So yeah, it’s got a great freaking food scene.
Asheville is also one of the biggest producers of apples. If you’re visiting in the Fall, it’s an absolute must to go apple picking at one of the many U-Pick farms near the Asheville area. Another fun option is to go on a wild foraging tour. A guide takes you out on a hike, and you forage for food that you can then take to a local restaurant where they’ll make an appetizer for you. Honestly, I’m still upset that I didn’t get to geek out on wild foraging.
Dubbed the “Paris of the South” the art scene in Asheville is alive and kicking. There’s an entire area of Asheville, The River Arts District, dedicated to housing and nurturing local artists. While their visual art scene is strong, there’s also a sense there that Asheville is fiercely dedicated to preserving its eclectic mix of characters. While Portland will forever be known as the place that strives to “keep Portland weird,” Asheville could come in at close second for a creative art scene that is loud and proud. Also, if you’re going to mention the creative zest of Asheville, you have to include the weekly drum circle that happens every Friday in Downtown Asheville. Anyone is welcome to bring a drum and everyone from young to old join in or dance along to the old school jam session. It’s a pretty spectacular event that’s not to be missed.
I have to say, we were visiting during Halloween and I’ve never seen such an impressive display of decorations and Halloween spirit. It felt like we were in some movie version of Halloween. Hundreds of kids out trick or treating and every house decked out to the fullest. To me, that speaks to a zany creative streak that enjoys the expression of this annual holiday.
While I looked up the stats on diversity in Asheville, we are striving to get a FEEL for what the experience of diversity is in a city. Statistics give you cold hard numbers, but they don’t tell you the whole story. Also, getting updated, accurate statistics on current diversity can be challenging. Statistically, Asheville is one of the least diverse cities in North Carolina, with Charlotte, NC being the most diverse. We visited in the Fall, the busiest time of the year in Asheville, so visitors can skew the perception of what it is like to live in Asheville and make it appear more diverse. I found this article to present the best conversation around racial diversity in North Carolina.
Overall, Asheville prides itself on being a liberal, open-minded community, so there is a lot of freedom within the city to openly be who you are. That belief system is what helps Asheville to feel like a more diverse place to live.
access to urban amenities
For us, it’s a yes. It has everything we need. It has a strong selection of locally owned shops, good healthcare, interesting fitness classes, as well as a Target when I need it. Sorry but not sorry. I like my Target and Whole Foods.
It doesn’t have an international airport, which for us is a bit of a downer, but there is a quality regional airport.
Mid Size City
Asheville is kind of perfect since its population is under 100,000, which would technically be considered a small city. Still, its access to bigger city amenities bumps it up to the feeling of a mid-sized city. But…as I said before, how long will that last? But look, we’re coming from a city that has 10,000,000 people in it. Let me say that again…10,000,000 people. Short of moving to Mexico City, any place is going to feel smaller.
Asheville is growing in development and popularity, so traffic is on the rise as the city isn’t entirely equipped to handle that kind of growth. We never experienced any hard to manage traffic, but if you’re a local resident who has lived there for 20-30 years and witnessed the growth and subsequent traffic, I’m sure the perspective is different. For us, it wouldn’t upset our quality of life, since our work is digital and not reliant on a 9-5 schedule. We know we can dictate our schedules around heavy traffic. Something we’re incredibly used to doing as former residents of L.A. Overall, Asheville traffic is a minor nuisance that would never stop us from moving there.
Ahh, the last, but perhaps the most important one, how did Asheville FEEL to us? We loved our time there, but I can’t say we felt an overwhelming sense of YES about moving there. Oh my gosh, it hit so many of the critical things we want in a city, but there’s just the nagging feeling like why am I not more excited about you? You’re mighty nice to look at, and you’re so good on paper, but it just isn’t right. Perhaps it’s the community feeling. We wonder to ourselves, is this where we’ll find people we can relate to and create lasting bonds with? While there was a great sense of artistry in the city, we also noticed an apathetic nature that is a big turn off for me. I crave people who are vibrant and vulnerable enough to be excited.
Final Thoughts About Moving to Asheville, NC
With Asheville’s offering of stunning natural wonders, outstanding cuisine, and a heavily valued art scene, there’s plenty to offer for a resident or a visitor. While we’re not necessarily ready to throw caution to the wind and “say yes to the dress,” we haven’t said no yet either. We’re just taking our time and seeing what else is out there. We’re dating around okay.
I will say that after three solid weeks of heavily exploring Asheville, we did begin to have a change in our tune. The city had started to have its way with us, and without prompting, we both realized that maybe just maybe we could make a life here. Who knows? A year from now we might be saying, “We’re moving to Asheville, NC!” There’s magic in Asheville, that’s for sure. Whether it’ll be where we end up…verdict’s out.