Black Mountain, North Carolina, offers a charming alternative to nearby Asheville

Nestled in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Black Mountain boasts a quaint downtown district.

Nestled in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Black Mountain boasts a quaint downtown district.

STORY: H.M. Cauley

Ready for some fall foliage viewing but sort of over the Asheville scene? That mecca for food, music and the Biltmore can get crowded with tourists, but just 15 miles east is another option with a bit less bustle.

Black Mountain calls itself “the little town that rocks,” and the nickname has a number of interpretations. It covers the cool vibe of a downtown dotted with locally owned boutiques packed with handbags, scarves, clothing and all sorts of footwear. It’s an apt description as well for the plethora of galleries that showcase jewelry, sculptures, paintings, pottery and handcrafted creations by local artists.

Milton’s in the Monte Vista Hotel is an outpost of the popular Alpharetta eatery.

Milton’s in the Monte Vista Hotel is an outpost of the popular Alpharetta eatery.

Shoppers in the market for camping gear or gifts for the folks back home will find rockin’ ideas at the Town Hardware and General Store, a throwback to the “we stock everything” emporiums from days gone by. Before heading into the woods or to the lakeside campsite, pick up lanterns and fireproof frying pans, as well as nostalgic toys and games to keep the kids entertained.

The small town’s dining scene also rocks, with a range of options that run the gamut from Southern style biscuits and barbecue to traditional German dishes and wood-fired pizzas. Get a jolt of energy at The Dripolator Coffeehouse or Sassafras on Sutton, where books are sold alongside espresso shots. Drop by The Artisan Gourmet Market for a wine tasting after picking up local, organic goodies at the Roots & Fruits Market or the Black Mountain Tailgate Market, held every Saturday morning from May through November.

The town also rocks, literally. Tucked into a number of home decor and specialty shops are rocking chairs ready to take home as your own slice of North Carolina. They also dot the porches and patios of various bed and breakfast inns and private mountain homes where outdoor living is possible almost year-round.

The historic Monte Vista Hotel has 45 guestrooms, a courtyard and a porch perfect for rocking.

The historic Monte Vista Hotel has 45 guestrooms, a courtyard and a porch perfect for rocking.

One of the most charming patios surrounds the firepit behind the Monte Vista Hotel, a three-story, restored historic property within walking distance of the commercial area. If the red-brick facade reminds guests of a community school building, it may be because the original Monte Vista morphed out of an old school structure. As a nod to those simpler times, the hotel’s 45 guestrooms and suites feature hardwood floors, cast-iron beds and colorful quilts. (There are no TVs to draw attention from the mountain views, but there is Wi-Fi for those who need technological connections.)

The hotel has an Atlanta connection as well. Its dining room is an outpost of the North Fulton-based Milton’s, an upscale restaurant specializing in contemporary Southern cuisine. Pimento cheese, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken share the menu with filet mignon, brown butter-roasted cod and glazed duck breast.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Black Mountain is also a base for hiking or biking along the Blue Ridge Parkway or spending a day gawking at Chimney Rock State Park’s stunning vistas. But if you’re still craving the big-city vibe, Asheville is only 20 minutes away.

BLACK MOUNTAIN, N.C.
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