Our travel editor shares the people and pleasures of locally made gifts in this mountain town.

Jewels That Dance, Asheville, North Carolina
Paula Dawkins's Jewels That Dance
| Credit: Chris M. Rogers

When I need a good antidote to the ordinary holiday shop-a-thon, I head to my favorite mountain town, Asheville. Surprisingly urbane yet comfortably artsy, this Blue Ridge hamlet is a vibrant community of locally owned shops, galleries, and cafes that provide a refreshing alternative to a mega-mall Christmas. Plus, it's home to the opulent Biltmore Estate. December is when I love Asheville best—the leaves have blown off the trees, and snow, dusting knobby hillsides like powdered sugar, turns the city into a living greeting card.

In search of unusual, meaningful gifts, I work my way through the shops. I meet artisan chocolatiers Jael and Dan Rattigan, who learned their craft in Costa Rica before moving here to raise their family and open French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Their hangout—a heady mix of truffles, pastries, and drinks, all made from local ingredients when possible—is like a microcosm of Asheville.

It feels good to support entrepreneurs who make a living doing what they love. Each gift you buy comes with a face and a story. The conflict-free diamond pendants at Jewels That Dance are made by self-taught goldsmith Paula Dawkins, a pioneer of the arts community. The edgy knit clothes at Curve Studios & Garden show the handiwork of Pattiy Torno, who helped found the city's River Arts District. At Hip Replacements, the vintage-inspired fashions by independent designers are curated by owners Franzi Charen and Kip Veno, a duo with as much personality as their collection.

The people, the places, the pleasure of shopping local in a mountain town—it's worth a trip to remember that the season of giving means so much more than a trip to the mall.

Editor's Picks: Goods Made in Asheville
French Broad Chocolate Lounge: Dreamy artisanal truffles, salted caramels, and sipping chocolates. 10 South Lexington Avenue, frenchbroadchocolates.com

Jewels That Dance: Sparkling necklaces and bracelets by self-taught goldsmith Paula Dawkins. 63 Haywood Street, jewelsthatdance.com

Curve Studios & Garden: Pattiy Torno's art quilts and eclectic clothing. #6 Riverside Drive, curvestudiosnc.com

Hip Replacements: Stylish clothing in a variety of classic styles by designers from Asheville and beyond. 72 North Lexington Avenue, hipreplacementsclothing.com