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What You Can Still Do in Asheville—A Local’s Perspective

As the weeks drag on, I find myself missing the basic pleasures of life in Asheville: the cafes, the hikes, the buskers. But with an abundance of time on my hands, I’ve been able to consider what businesses and institutions are core to local culture and as it turns out, you can still find a healthy dose thereof, if you know where to look. Here I’ve put together a list of five things to do in Asheville, that hopefully should break up any self-isolation blues.

Generations have remarked upon the transportive powers of books and what better time to get transported? Right now, I’m digging my way through a personal backlog heavy enough to sink a kayak, but once I’m through with all that, I’m headed to Malaprop’s. Metaphorically speaking, that is.

Malaprop’s may have closed their downtown location, but they’ve expanded their delivery apparatus, ferrying books throughout Buncombe County. Orders arrive on Tuesdays and Fridays, the boxes left at your door front.

Now you could order a book from a big-name retailer like Amazon, but frankly, that wouldn’t be very Ashevilleian of you. Malaprop’s has been a defining feature of downtown for near forty years and browsing the “Staff Picks” section is a surefire way to tap into Asheville’s shared conscious. For booklovers, those looking to support local business, and newcomers to the area alike, I heartily suggest Malaprop’s.

Confront the Monotony: Write a story. Don’t worry about thing like vocabulary or grammar. Nobody really knows how those things work anyway. An interesting idea, some self-amusement, and a little bit of elbow grease can go a long way.

As is the age-old Asheville motto: “whether light of day or dark of night, we will never stop serving our craft beer flight.” A smattering of local breweries—mostly clustered in West Asheville and the South Slope—have moved to pickup and delivery services through the pandemic.

Admittedly, the ordering procedures tend to be a bit arcane—assumably in the interest of protecting Asheville’s most precious beverage—but it’s still comforting to know that Asheville wont’ be losing its “beer city” moniker anytime soon. If you’re within about ten miles of the South Slope, there’s a good chance you can get your order delivered to your door. Otherwise, you’ll have to drive there yourself. Personally, in times like these, when long hours of contemplation have led me to memorize every nook and cranny of my ceiling’s moonlike surface, I would welcome a drive to the South Slope.

Confront the Monotony: Assemble an itinerary of local craft brews. Try them all. Hone your beer-lore to a razor-sharp edge. Once the quarantine has lifted, guide your friends on a cruise through the South Slope. Impress everyone immensely.

Countless local music-events have bitten the dust these past couple months, but Asheville’s artistic soul is irrepressible. Many artists have taken to livestreaming their performances on YouTube, in collaboration with the “Keep Music Live” project.

If you’re interested, you can check out their website in the link above. Simply RSVP and show up on the stream once its running. No payment is required but audience-members are encouraged to leave ten-to-twenty-dollar donations. Upcoming performances include Muriel Anderson on April 30th, playing the harp-guitar. If you don’t know what a harp-guitar is, I’d suggest checking out the livestream as an educational opportunity.

Confront the Monotony: Get in touch with the Keep Music Live project and volunteer yourself as a performer. You might not be a professional but the world needs to hear your saxophone/kazoo/washboard solo. Just trust me.

I’ve felt as if Old Europe—one of my favorite downtown cafes—might as well be in actual Europe. Recently though, I was surprised to find that this small, yet skilled café has adapted to the times rather well. Old Europe delivers their Continental deserts throughout the Asheville city area, operating weeklong from 7am to 730pm.

Now half the café experience, of course, is the café—the coffee. Unfortunately, their selection of drinks remains out of reach, but that’s not stopping them from selling bags of dynamite coffee and Appalachai mix. Naturally I’ll have to learn to make lattes myself, given their ingredients. Maybe I’ll come out of all this with a new, employable skill.

Confront the Monotony: Learn some rudimentary French. Order some eclairs. Sit on your balcony (or someone else’s, if you don’t have one) and pretend you’re far, far away, in a different time and place. Call everyone “Monsieur” and “Mademoiselle” until they force you to stop.

That’s right, a farmer’s market. When I told my non-Ashevilleian connections that our local farmer’s market was still operation, I was met with astonishment. “How can you hold a farmer’s market amidst all this?” they asked.

Well, ASAP manages with gloves, masks, social distancing, and online payment. They’ve temporarily moved to a parking lot off of Fernihurst Drive on the A-B Tech Campus, where shoppers line up their vehicles in an orderly fashion and are let in a few at a time. The market runs from 9am to noon on Thursdays and Saturdays, with longer wait-times the later you get in line.

Between you and me, I actually like this change. By some incident, the market’s waiting-line has some of the best mountain views in the area. I usually find myself sitting in line for about a half-hour and I don’t mind a minute of it. Eventually, I may grow tired of the wait, but right now, I find I can manage with a little conversation, an audiobook, or some music.

That’s not to mention the rewards at the end of the wait. Fresh produce, locally baked bread, and Shanti Elixer’s jun, which is the nectar of life so far as I’m concerned. For a taste of Asheville, and a chance to shake up the regular quarantine food-shopping experience, ASAP farmer’s market has you covered.

Confront the Monotony: Start a garden. Sell what you grow at the farmer’s market. Expand your operations. Quit your job. Return to the land.

Businesses Mentioned

Malaprop's Bookstore

(828) 254-6734

55 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801

Old Europe Pastries

(828) 255-5999

13 Broadway St, Asheville, NC 28801

Asap Farmer's Market

Near 30 Tech Dr, Asheville, NC 28801


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