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Asheville is heralded as the San Francisco of the east coast.
It’s a very liberal-minded town. The locals are very adamant about their city being friendly towards regular folks and have been fighting against gentrification for the last decade or so.
I’d say it’s a medium-sized city. Since it’s still in the mountains it’s very spread out — but there are only around 90,000 people that live within city limits.
I highly recommend it. The whole of western North Carolina, and as has been mentioned in other comments, the entire Blue Ridge is an absurdly beautiful place.
I’m pretty sure it was one of the most recent Dalai Lamas who said something along the lines of, “If there’s anything closer to heaven than the Blue Ridge mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, I haven’t seen it.”
Have fun if you come to visit! I grew up in these mountains. I highly recommend checking out some of the nearby small towns and the Blue Ridge Parkway if you get the chance. The city is magical and all, but the really rural, country areas are truly enchanting.
Edit: Oh yeah! What there is to do for tourists! Find a trail and hike some mountains! 😀
Editx2: There are two thru-hikes that pass relatively close to Asheville (driving distance). The [Appalachian Trail](http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home/explore-the-trail/explore-by-state/north-carolina) is a thousand mile trail from Georgia to Maine with almost 100 miles through parts of western North Carolina, including the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, Mt. Mitchell. The [Mountains-To-Sea](http://www.ncmst.org/) trail goes from Clingman’s Dome, the highest peak in Tennessee — which is right on the NC/TN border, around a thousand miles to the highest sand dune in NC in the Outer Banks. Either one of those trails have awesome little segments that make great day hikes. Most of the western NC portion of the MTS is along the Blue Ridge Parkway.