Asheville, North Carolina

Best Places to Retire in North Carolina


Asheville, with a population of nearly 70,000, is located in extreme western North Carolina. The city is on the Asheville Plateau at an elevation of 2,200 feet, not far from where the Broad French and Swanannoa rivers meet.  It is nearly surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and a number of the tallest peaks are visible from the city.  Most notable is Mt. Pisgah (5,721 feet) to the southwest.  Mount Mitchell, almost at an equal distance to the north, rises 6,684 feet and is the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi River. The very well known Blue Ridge Parkway ñ which starts at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia ñ skirts around Asheville and comes to its end about 60 miles west and south of the city at the entrance to Great Smokey Mountain National Park.  Tall oaks, hickory, maple, and basswoods, as well as several types of conifers create a dense forest cover throughout the area.  This provides spectacular fall foliage and attracts many millions of viewers to the scenic mountain drives each year.

Asheville is both a major mountain resort area and a regional resource center for Buncombe County (population 215,000).  It offers manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, retailing, banking and professional services.  It retains the character of a small city, and yet has the amenities associated with a much larger community.  There are nearly two-dozen galleries in the downtown area alone, fine restaurants, a community theater, a symphony, a repertory theater, a number of playhouses, civic center, and an active arts calendar.  Asheville Art Museum, Folk Art Center, Asheville Art League, the Arts Alliance, and Pack Place showcase the visual arts.  There is also the annual Mountain Dance & Folk Festival and the Shakespeare Festival.

There are 14 golf courses in the area, in addition to a number of golf resort communities, and more than 20 tennis facilities.  The mountains offer outstanding opportunities: fishing, hiking, camping, and scenic views.  Great Smokey Mountain National Park, for example, has over 850 miles of trails.

Arts & Culture

Asheville has music from formal classical concerts to spontaneous street performances. It is home to one of the oldest folk festivals, the Mountain Dance & Folk Festival, which is held in August. There are free outdoor concerts at Pack Square and the City/County Plaza during the summer, and the Downtown After Five series features music of all types.  Shindig on the Green, held nearly every Saturday night during July through September, features mountain music and blue grass.  If you want jazz, you can hear it at one of Ashevilleís nightclubs. http:/

The Ashville area has a number of acting companies and theaters.  Among them are Asheville Community Theatre which performs at Charlton Heston Auditorium, numerous college theaters where students perform, the Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place, and Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre which performs in Owens Theatre on the campus of Mars Hill College The Montford Park Players have been presenting free Shakespeare productions at an outdoor amphitheater in Asheville since 1973.

The Asheville Symphony Orchestra has been performing for over 40 years.  It presents a Masterworks Series of six concerts, as well as special pops and choral concerts.   Asheville Art Museum is the single visual arts facility serving western North Carolina.

The Asheville-Buncombe Library System has 11 branches throughout the county.  About 500,000 items are available for checkout.

The Asheville Area Arts Council is an umbrella organization for Buncombe County cultural agencies and an advocate for the arts. http:/

Flat Rock Playhouse/Vagabond School of the Drama produces professional theatre while teaching drama and the performing arts.  Between May and December it produces a nine-show professional series of comedies, musicals, and dramas.  It offers a summer and fall college intern program, a two-show season and cabaret series by Theatre for Young People, and year-round classes and workshops for students from kindergarten through high school.

The Biltmore Estate, just south of the city of Asheville, is a major attraction.  This 255-room French chateau is the largest private residence ever constructed in the United States.  Built in 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt (just 28 years old at the time), it was meant to rival the most magnificent castles of Europe.  It has four acres of space and includes 34 master bedrooms, 43 baths, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens and an indoor pool.  The estate was on 125,000 acres, (today it is 8,000 acres) surrounded by magnificent gardens on a grand scale.  The huge gardens are meticulously maintained and the home contains over 50,000 art objects, antiques and furnishings.


Asheville Parks & Recreation manages parks and play areas with a wide variety of activities.  There are lighted athletic fields and tennis courts, roller-hockey, bicycling and walking tracks, playground equipment, two pool complexes, little league and adult softball, picnic shelters, tables, and grills, grass and sand volleyball courts, McCormick Stadium lighted football field, walking trails, and more. There are also five neighborhood recreation centers and five large multi-purpose centers.  These facilities include more than 35 locations in and around the city.


University North Carolina at Asheville is the only liberal arts school in the UNC system.  It has approximately 2,600 full-time and 700 part-time students.

Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC (53 miles from Asheville) became a part of the 16-campus state university system in 1971.  It has an enrollment of approximately 7,000 students.

Montreat College is a private Christian college that was established in 1916.  It enrolls 1,100 students in its School of Arts & Sciences and Professional & Adult Studies. The school is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.

Mars Hill College, founded in 1856, is the oldest educational institution in western North Carolina.  Its name comes from Acts 17:22:  ìThen Paul stood in the midst of Mars Hill Öî. The school is affiliated with the North Carolina Baptist Convention.  It offers five degrees in 30 major courses of study.

Warren Wilson College is an independent, accredited, four-year liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  It awards Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.  It is located on a 1,100-acre campus 10 miles east of Asheville on the Swannonoa River.

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech) is a two-year college with an enrollment of about 8,000 students.  It has five college-wide divisions:  Allied Health and Public Service Education, Arts and Sciences, Business and Hospitality Education, Continuing Education, and Engineering and Applied Technology. http://www.as

Senior Programs

Buncombe County Council on Aging is a non-profit organization consisting of senior citizens groups, organizations, and individuals that provide services to older people. Services include assistance with medical claims, information about aging services available to seniors, senior sites with activities, volunteer activities, transportation, tax assistance, education programs, and more.

The North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement offers continuing education programs for Seniors, as well as leadership and community service opportunities.  Most programs are in the area, but some are in collaboration with organizations in other parts of the state or across the country. Seniors have full access to the resources of UNC at Asheville and can possibly even teach.  It is a member-led organization focusing on enriching the mind through continued learning.  Courses can range from Chaucer to computers, foreign affairs to opera, etc.  Courses are non-credit and there are no tests or grades.  They are open to anyone over 50 years of age.

Leadership Asheville Seniors is another program sponsored by the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement.  Participants meet during seven day-long sessions with community leaders and activists at various locations around the community.  They gain in-depth understanding of the areaís history, people institutions, challenges and opportunities.


Mission St. Josephís Hospital is licensed for over 800 beds.  It is the regional medical referral center for western North Carolina and parts of adjoining states.  It has a medical staff of over 600 physicians representing virtually every specialty.

Veteranís Administration Medical Center is a 535-bed hospital. (828) 298-7911


Asheville Regional Airport has an 8,000-foot runway and is currently served by several major carriers.


The climate in Asheville is somewhat cooler than other areas in the same latitude, since it is at an elevation of 2,200 feet.  Its first frost is typically October 24 and the last frost is April 10.  The mercury dips below 32 degrees on 100 days each year, and exceeds 90 degrees nine days each year.  Asheville receives an average of 16 inches of snow which melts off quite quickly.  The higher elevations get much more snow.


The Citizen-Times is the local Asheville paper.

Property Taxes

Buncombe County tax information.

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce

State Aging Agency


Hendersonville – 26 miles
Brevard – 34 miles
Chimney Rock – 24 miles
Greenville, SC  – 63 miles
Charlotte – 130 miles
Knoxville, TN – 115 miles

« Back to the City Index
« Back to the State Index