Cooling off on a luxe Asheville getaway

No matter where you live in the northern hemisphere, it’s hard get away from summer’s annoying — and at times downright oppressive — heat and humidity. As a former resident of Charleston, South Carolina, I can attest to the crankiness that takes over in June and lasts until late September, when daily life becomes a sprint from one air-conditioned space to another.

Fortunately for us in the Southeast, we had an easy respite in nearby Asheville, North Carolina, a fun and funky town nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. From outdoor hikes to spa forays, dips in cool creeks to whitewater trips on Class Four rapids, a retreat to this cool clime was unarguably built in to nearly everyone’s hot weather schedule. And although Asheville has always been on Southerner’s collective summer radar, only in the last several decades has the rest of the country—and indeed the world—discovered the quaint region, resulting in a boon of new luxury resorts, boutique hotels, and an eyebrow-raising dining scene that is quickly finding its way onto “best of” lists from coast to coast.

So when it comes time to escape Mother Nature’s wrath, head for the mountains around Asheville, and check out these five cool sights and scenes.

Art to start

It’s hard to miss the giant purple bus zooming around the city, as well as the obviously riotous time going on inside it. LaZoom offers over-the-top tours mixing history with vaudeville, thrills with theater. New this summer, the company will run art tours around the city, paying visits to dozens of galleries in the River Arts District and West Asheville. Led by local artists, the two-and-a-half hour tours feature live music on board, food and drink, and discounts on purchases at any of the studio stops.

Settle in

Grab a room at the 1913 Grove Park Inn, an Arts and Craft-style icon with a 40,000-square-foot subterranean spa, a 110-year-old golf course, dual world-class restaurants, and unparalleled mountain views. A retreat for presidents and princes, celebrities and sports stars, the spa offers equal parts solace and energy, from long massages to hot soaks to aromatherapy treatments.

Take a drive

Should you be fortunate enough to have a room at one of the decadent resorts around Asheville, inquire as to the possibility of renting a convertible— the Grove Park offers up BMWs for guests — and take a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the planet’s most beautiful spots. If you’re feeling hearty, park near one of the dozens of trailheads and take a picnic lunch on top of a soaring peak, in a gorge crisscrossed with tranquil creeks, or under a tree in a sprawling field of wildflowers.

Eat, drink, and be merry

With the burgeoning reputation of Asheville as a world-class destination, the restaurant industry has responded with a host of new places to indulge your gourmet tendencies. Some of the newest are Curate — Catalonia-style tapas paired with sangria made tableside; Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro, which offers up some truly scintillating entrees alongside a dizzying array of tequilas, rums, and hand-crafted cocktails; and The Magnetic Field, where dinner and a show takes on a whole new meaning with all-original plays as well as poetry slams, storytelling nights, comedy, and live music.

Get an altitude adjustment

Imagine three hours of zip-lining across valley floors and lush forests and rappelling down hundred-foot cliffs. Now imagine doing it at night. For the ultimate taste of adventure, book an excursion with one of the half-dozen outfitters scattered around Asheville, the perfect complement to a vacation of high living.

Peter Rerig is a Senior Writer for Vacations.com.

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