By Hannah Wallace May 31, 2008

June is bustin’ out all over, especially in Asheville, N.C., a postcard hamlet that has it all: a strong arts and crafts tradition, Blue Ridge mountain air, history, architecture and America’s grandest gilded estate (which makes today’s McMansions look like tenements). Everything’s in bloom this month, too, so grab some graceful hospitality! (

SEE: First up, George Vanderbilt’s regal 250-room Biltmore Estate. This living example of America’s Gilded Age remains America’s largest house, with gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and an on-site winery. Then revel in downtown Asheville’s richly preserved architectural legacy—original Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical buildings. Make sure to stop at the Smith-McDowell House Museum, Asheville’s oldest home, and revel in the Asheville Art Museum’s bounty of the best of 20th- and 21st-century American art.

STAY: Grove Park Inn in town is authentic and romantic, with in-room fireplaces and Jacuzzis. The four-diamond Inn on Biltmore Estate is an elegant hostelry; the only one on the grounds and worth a stay.

DINE: June is prime time to sample the region’s “farm to table” restaurants, where a talented bunch of chefs pump up the bountiful volume of local seasonal ingredients. Among the highlights: Bouchon for Lyon French, Laurey’s for sophisticated comfort vittles, Zambra for Spanish tapas, Tupelo Honey Café for Southern fusion.

SHOP: Asheville is a primo destination for lovers of arts and crafts—traditional and cutting-edge. Begin in the River Arts District; the Grove Arcade Arts and Heritage Gallery dates from the late 1890s heyday and has crafts, stores and music of the Blue Ridge. And Woolworth Walk in downtown exhibits 150 artists in more than 30 galleries. Stop by the Biltmore Village Company for original gifts. – Mary Alice Kellogg

INSIDER’S TIP: Asheville has a strong literary heritage. Make sure to visit native son Thomas Wolfe’s boyhood home and memorial—the inspiration for Look Homeward, Angel—and the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site.

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