Asheville, NC

Asheville named America's fifth-best small city for 2021 in latest report

Peter Watson

Asheville in North Carolina has been named America's fifth-best small city in a ranking of the 100 most desirable places to live, visit and invest in over the coming year.

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Asheville in North Carolina has been named America's fifth-best small citySean Pavone/Shutterstock

Asheville was recently ranked fifth on a list of America’s best small cities. The report described the city of over 400,000 inhabitants as an "arts and music city with uncommon spirit and smarts".

Resonance Consultancy has published the report ranking the nation's cities with metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) of populations above 100,000 but under 500,000.

The report uses a unique combination of statistical performance and qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors in 23 areas grouped into six core categories.

Taking the top spot was Reno in Nevada closely followed by Naples in Florida in second place, Santa Fe, New Mexico, in third place and Georgia's Savannah in fourth place.

Asheville celebrates its bohemian spirit and artsy roots year-round, with cultural events, festivals and good times... Unsurprisingly, the after-hours scene is a launching pad for musicians, offering what artists of all ages crave in a city: affordability, local beer and good eats. Live music born of the region’s bluegrass roots harmonizes with new talent and innovative sounds to the tune of almost $400 million in the region’s tourism economy. – Resonance Consultancy

How is the ranking calculated?

The ranking uses a unique combination of statistical performance and qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors in 23 areas grouped into six core categories.

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Diners relaxing on Page Ave. in downtown Asheville, North CarolinaNolichuckyjake/Shutterstock

The six categories and 23 factors are:

  • Place: weather, safety, sights & landmarks, parks & outdoor
  • Product: airport connectivity, attractions, museums, university ranking, convention centre, pro sports teams
  • People: diversity, educational attainment
  • Prosperity: Fortune 500 companies, household income
  • Programming: culture, nightlife, dining, shopping
  • Promotion: Facebook check-ins, Google search, TripAdvisor reviews, Instagram hashtags, Google trends
"What distinguishes our methodology from all others is that we also incorporate user-generated data to quantify the number of quality restaurants, shops, nightlife and other experiences that make urban living so alluring. Based on the data we have collected over the past five years, we know that a city’s performance for factors such as Facebook Check-ins, Instagram mentions, recommended culinary experiences, museums, nightlife, culture and shopping, have some of the highest correlations with not only the number of visitors a city receives, but investment and economic growth as well. Rebooting this software of urban experiences will be as important as improvements to the hardware in terms of investments in infrastructure when it comes to a city’s recovery from this crisis." – Chris Fair, President & CEO, Resonance Consultancy

What makes Asheville so special?

Despite being the irrefutable ‘capital’ of the North Carolina mountains and the largest city in Western North Carolina, Asheville is simultaneously a prominent tourist destination and one of the trendiest small cities in America's South.

Described by its tourism board as "Edgy, Artsy and Inviting," Asheville is that type of unique city that lingers sweetly in your mind and memories for times to come.

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The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as "America's Favorite Drive"Zack Frank/Shutterstock

Nestled amidst a sweeping curve of "America's Favorite Drive" – the 469-mile long Blue Ridge Parkway – Asheville offers easy access to myriad outdoor adventures, while the historic downtown art-deco buildings lay host to stylish New Southern restaurants, indulgent chocolate shops, and a clutch of homegrown microbreweries that give Asheville the moniker 'Beer City.'

The city's rich architectural legacy with its mix of Art Deco, Beaux Arts and Neoclassical styles is the perfect retro-urban backdrop to the edgy energy that emanates from the locally owned-shops and art galleries, distinctive restaurants and exciting entertainment venues. 

A bastion of cutting-edge art and technology in the Blue Ridge, the city also prides itself on its fascinating Appalachian past and celebrates this culture with annual events such as Shindig on the Green.

While many cities underwent major overhauls in past decades, Asheville's historic and architecturally diverse downtown remains beautifully preserved.

The city also makes for an ideal base for outdoor pursuits such as hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, camping and even watersports including kayaking, white water rafting and stand-up paddleboarding among others

There's something special about Asheville, and the world is just beginning to discover it. This thriving mountain city features a funky and eclectic downtown, 30-plus art galleries downtown alone, a burgeoning culinary scene, a thriving live music scene and, of course, the awe-inspiring scenery of the Appalachian Mountains.

Asheville is the ultimate playground, with a wide diversity of outdoor adventures and the ideal destination for an active and healthy getaway.

America’s 100 Best Small Cities

Resonance Consultancy is a leading advisor in tourism, real estate and economic development. They produce a number of reports and rankings assessing the world’s top cities' strengths and weaknesses.

1. Reno, Nevada

2. Naples, Florida

3. Santa Fe, New Mexico

4. Savannah, Georgia

5. Asheville, North Carolina

6. Anchorage, Alaska

7. Boulder, Colorado

8. Trenton, New Jersey

9. Myrtle Beach, South

10. Ann Arbor, Michigan

11. Santa Cruz, California

12. Napa, California

13. Atlantic City, New Jersey

14. Hilton Head, South Carolina

15. Lansing, Michigan

16. Lincoln, Nebraska

17. Kahului, Hawaii

18. Charlottesville, Virginia

19. Fort Wayne, Indiana

20. Santa Maria, California

21. Mobile, Alabama

22. Fort Collins, Colorado

23. Bloomington, Illinois

24. Ithaca, New York

25. Green Bay, Wisconsin

26. Wilmington, North Carolina

27. Springfield, Missouri

28. Midland, Texas

29. Davenport, Iowa

30. Bend, Oregon

31. Pensacola, Florida

32. Gainesville, Florida

33. State College, Pennsylvania

34. Salinas, California

35. Champaign, Illinois

36. Burlington, Vermont

37. San Luis Obispo, California

38. Punta Gorda, Florida

39. South Bend, Indiana

40. Iowa City, Iowa

41. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

42. Tallahassee, Florida

43. Kalamazoo, Michigan

44. Fargo, North Dakota

45. Medford, Oregon

46. Erie, Pennsylvania

47. Corpus Christi, Texas

48. Evansville, Indiana

49. Athens, Georgia

50. Las Cruces, New Mexico

51. Rochester, Minnesota

52. Sioux Falls, South Dakota

53. Lawrence, Kansas

54. College Station, Texas

55. Huntsville, Alabama

56. Columbia, Missouri

57. Manchester, New Hampshire

58. Eugene, Oregon

59. St. George, Utah

60. Vallejo, California

61. Flagstaff, Arizona

62. Columbus, Georgia

63. Yuma, Arizona

64. Redding, California

65. California, Maryland

66. Kennewick, Washington

67. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

68. Amarillo, Texas

69. Lubbock, Texas

70. Appleton, Wisconsin

71. Oshkosh, Wisconsin

72. Port St. Lucie, Florida

73. York, Pennsylvania

74. Merced, California

75. El Centro, California

76. Greeley, Colorado

77. Laredo, Texas

78. Waco, Texas

79. Billings, Montana

80. Olympia, Washington

81. Springfield, Illinois

82. Burlington, North Carolina

83. Rapid City, South Dakota

84. Bloomington, Indiana

85. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

86. Blacksburg, Virginia

87. Montgomery, Alabama

88. Prescott, Arizona

89. Lafayette, Indiana

90. Missoula, Montana

91. Peoria, Illinois

92. Bismarck, North Dakota

93. Panama City, Florida

94. Logan, Utah

95. Norwich, Connecticut

96. Wenatchee, Washington

97. Yakima, Washington

98. Bellingham, Washington

99. The Villages, Florida

100. Bremerton, Washington

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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