STAY Richmond Hill Inn (Richmond Hill Drive; 888-742-4536 or 828-252-7313; $275+)
Asheville's crowning jewel is this 36-unit North Carolina bed & breakfast in a splendidly restored Southern mansion, three miles northwest of downtown. The mansion's common rooms provide for private moments (in the well-stocked library) or informal gatherings (around the parlor piano). The Seven Oaks Cottage Suitefeatures a separate bedroom and sitting room and two fireplaces. The luxurious Thomas Pearson Suite (in the Garden Pavilion) with private balcony overlooking the garden and two-person jetted tub is our choice for the swankest accommodations, extraordinary breakfasts and dinners. The romantic inn is set on eight acres of proper Victorian gardens and is adjacent to 40 wooded acres with walking trails, providing easy, eye-pleasing, fragrant strolls.
EAT Market Place (20 Wall St; 828-252-4162; $14-32) is one of Asheville's excellent, local restaurants. For dinner they serve delicious continental cuisine and a wide selection of by-the-glass wines. Their Sunday brunches are highly recommended. Closed Sunday nights.
The Laughing Seed (40 Wall St; 828-252-3445; $5-15) delivers downtown Asheville's best vegetarian food. Delicious Mexican/Asian concoctions grace the menu, from sweet tangy barbeque roll ups to East West quesadillas. Closed Tuesdays.
Flower-adorned plates of Southern home cooking with an uptown twist are the specialty of Tupelo Honey Caf? (12 College Street; 828-255-4404; $10-17). Every morsel is delicious, from the biscuits and apple butter to Creole Cassoulet and Tupelo honey frozen custard.
Creative and colorful cuisine are the draw at Early Girl Eatery (8 Wall Street; 828-259-9292; $11-15) where produce provided by area farms is on every day?s bill of fare. Get a taste of the south with Early Girl's black eyed pea cakes, yellow tomato chutney, pumpkin soup, or catfish spinach salad or sample their sumptuous breakfasts, if you are indeed an early girl.
Delicious Laurey's Catering (67 Biltmore Ave; 828-252-1500; dinner to go $10-35, casseroles $28-35 per pan) will pack up a Gourmet Dinner to go for those desiring a picnic on the Parkway.
Malaprops (see below.)
Bars Hairspray (38 North French Broad Ave; 828-258-2027)
A primarily lesbian bar, which shares its space with Metro, a smaller disco, has free pool every Monday and drinks specials nightly.
Tressa's (28 Broadway; 828-253-7072)
A mixed gay/lesbian/straight jazz and cigar bar, open six nights.
O. Henry's (237 Haywood St; 828-254-1891)
Asheville's other lesbian/gay dance club. Mostly gay men.
OTHER VENUES Biltmore Estate and Village (828-274-6333 or 800-295-4730)
A glamorous 8,000-acre estate, which includes the 250-room Biltmore House, Biltmore is America's largest home. Toast your passion with samples from the nation's most visited winery.
EXTRA Stores New Morning Gallery (7 Boston Way, Biltmore Village; 828-274-2831) is a gay-owned store with remarkable functional crafts and art for the garden.
Malaprops (55 Haywood St; 828-254-6734) The friendly, lesbian-owned bookstore and the hub of the women's community in Asheville has a caf? with sidewalk seating. Often voted as the best independent bookstore in the Southeast.
The Blue Ridge Parkway (828-298-0398) Stroll through some of this 469-mile greenbelt with hiking trails and scenic picnic sites.