1. The mountain views.
Coming from WNC, we were definitely spoiled by the astounding views of the Blue Ridge mountains. Living away from them now is very different and we have come to appreciate them more each time we visit home.
2. The hikes.
Hiking, biking and camping are simply second-nature to those that were born and raised in the mountains. City folk just don't understand how satisfying it can be to sit by a warm fire under the stars, roasting hot dogs while friends and family jam out on their guitars. We know all of our favorite swimming holes and rope swings and most of us were basically hiking without our parents before we could drive. You can't really do that anywhere else.
3. The music venues.
Music is a huge deal in the 828, especially closer to Asheville. Anything that isn't mainstream is 100% acceptable and embraced by everyone. We were all basically raised at bluegrass and grassroots festivals and, as we grew older, branched out to enjoy different types of local independent artists and bands. Nowhere else quite compares to the musical atmosphere of the mountains.
4. The artsy vibe.
It's no secret that Asheville is a super artsy place, but that doesn't account for the rest of the mountains. So many artists live in that area we grew up in, so we were easily able to get our hands on "locally crafted" items that helped add to our unique style. It seems now, the term "locally crafted" refers to a little boutique in the mall.
5. The food and drink culture.
Beer and wine aside (though Asheville and WNC have a HUGE beer culture), the food of the mountains is nothing but superb. Small-town restaurants are the big deal and unique tastes are the game. From all the Indian and sushi places in downtown Asheville to the BBQ and "home style" restaurants in Waynesville, large chains just don't do it for us. We find ourselves constantly craving a pizza and soda while viewing a movie at Asheville Pizza and Brewing.
6. The Asheville people.
Asheville is known for being freaky and unique, and that's why we love it. Whereas some stare at the man dressed as a nun riding his unicycle through Downtown, we simply shrug him off--we're used to it. Now that we've spent time away from home, though, every time we're back we find ourselves dying to see something that reminds us of home: street performers, people walking barefoot, nuns on unicycles, people playing chess in the middle of Downtown etc.
7. The fall leaves.
Western North Carolina is well known for it's beautiful fall foliage and we didn't fully appreciate it until moving away. What we wouldn't give to see the beautiful oranges and reds gracing the horizon.
8. The small businesses.
Most of us know people who are artists and make a living selling their life's work, most of us know someone who owns a business. "Un-chain Asheville" is a serious movement looking to keep chain stores and restaurants out of Downtown. We take pride in local entrepreneurs and we always make sure to support them over large-scale businesses when we can. The small shops lining the streets in all the little cities such as Waynesville, Weaverville, Asheville, Boone and Sylva are more unique and "hipster" than any Urban Outfitter or Anthropologie. We miss the feel of friendly faces and quirky outfits that we can find in boutiques back home.
9. The uniqueness of it all.
Over 200,000 people visit Western North Carolina each year and there's a reason for it: the area is so unique and unlike any other in the country. You can't really replace or copy-and-paste it anywhere else. For those of us that feel like we fit in well with the unique culture, withdrawals are a real thing when away from home.
10. That urban-southern hospitality feel.
I think I just created a new term: "urban-southern hospitality." Though traditional southern hospitality is abundant throughout all of WNC, it is still seen in larger cities like Asheville and Boone. There's nothing quite like smiling at everyone you pass by and recognizing the face of the cashier at your favorite coffee hangout (and them surprising you with extra chocolate-covered espresso beans with your order). That's the thing about WNC; though it's becoming more urban and chic, it still maintains the friendly values that the South has embraced for over two hundred years and that's definitely not something you can find in a larger city.
Lead Image Credit: Hannah Ramirez Photography