Congratulations are in order for the city of Asheville, North Carolina. The artsy mountain city has earned the coveted top spot on Lonely Planet’s list of the Best Places to Visit in the U.S. in 2017.
“This year, one of the USA’s most eclectic and innovative small cities step firmly into the national spotlight,” reads Lonely Planet's description of the city. “Asheville welcomes everyone with open arms and has been quietly emerging as a haven for creative spirits for decades. More than 200 artists showcase their wares in the River Arts District and the astonishing number of craft beers and spirits produced locally pair nicely with the food served up by the city’s numerous James Beard-nominated chefs. The French Broad River offers a respite from the modern world, whether you want to float, paddle, or kayak away from civilization and the verdant background for all of these delights, the Blue Ridge Mountains, are just waiting to be explored.”
Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Stephanie Brown told the Assocated Press that the city has a "long history as a warm and welcoming place" that makes it worthy of Lonely Planet's honor.
The accolade comes despite North Carolina’s controversial LGBT bill, which has been criticized as discriminatory and has caused a number of businesses and individuals to boycott the state. “While Lonely Planet doesn't condone the political exclusion of others, Asheville thrives on diversity and tolerance,” Lonely Planet Managing Editor Rebecca Warren told the AP. “The city has many LGBT-owned businesses and there has been an outpouring of support this year for its LGBT communities, including signs cropping up around the city saying 'Y'all means all.'"
Atlanta, Ga., Texas Hill County’s wine region, and Florida’s Emerald Coast also made Lonely Planet's annual top 10 list.