Learn why I moved to Asheville and haven’t moved out. Asheville has been great – but see my thoughts on some common questions about what it’s like being part of the LGBTQ+ community here, and pros and cons of moving to and living in Asheville.
So why did I land on Asheville? I think a little background is important for context.
I grew up in a medium-sized college town in North Central Florida. We had community there, but the kind of community that you get in an area with urban-sprawl, no real vibrant downtown core, and a small but growing emphasis on art, music, theater, and lack of diversity in the general population.
My hometown had culture, it just wasn’t the culture I was looking for. The gay community felt small. Perhaps it wasn’t, but it felt that way.
A few years after graduating college, I had the opportunity to move to Boston. What a stark contrast to Florida. I finally had the culture that I wanted. Rainbow flags adorned residential and retail shop windows. There were gayborhoods. And pride. Wow.
After a while in Boston, it turns out that despite the deep feeling of acceptance and belonging, I really missed the friendlier, smaller community that I had when I lived in Florida. Boston felt too big for me.
With my mind open to new possibilities, I visited Asheville in the Summer of 2020.
At first, I worried that Asheville would be too small for me, that I didn’t know anyone in the gay community, that the population is not very diverse, and that the surrounding areas are too conservative.
In fact, I wasn’t even really planning on moving at the time, so these things didn’t really bother me.
But, something happened during that impromptu visit: I felt at home. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a big change from Boston – it was. And if you’re considering moving here from NYC or Providence, RI, it is going to be a change.
But for me, for the first time in my life, I felt like I could live some place that wasn’t where I grew up. And that feeling helped me navigate some of the worries that I had during my initial visit.
So, I worked through my worries.
The areas around where I grew up in Florida did not – on the whole – share the ideologies of our liberal college town.
At the end of the day, we all want to live in an area where we feel accepted – not just tolerated. For me, Asheville is that place.
LGBTQ+ Life in Asheville, from a Local Resident
Now that I’ve lived here for a few years, I feel comfortable sharing with others what it has been like living in Asheville, NC. Yes, I’m a gay Realtor, but before that, I was just a guy living in Asheville who happens to be gay.
What is the gay community like? How accepting is Asheville? How accepting are the surrounding areas? Where do gay people move in Asheville? Are there gayborhoods? What is there to do in Asheville?
Hopefully, I can help make your decision about moving to Asheville a little less hard.
For the record, I know that Asheville has earned quite the reputation in the press as a welcoming and inclusive community for LGBT+ individuals.
Asheville has made several “Best of” or “Top City” lists for LGBTQ+ people.
I think a lot of the queer community finds Asheville through these lists, and while I am thankful for the lists, I think they can be somewhat misleading/not paint a full picture.
In 2019, the Human Rights Campaign ranked Asheville as the second most LGBTQ+ friendly city in the Southeast region of the United States. HRC reported that Asheville has a thriving LGBTQ+ community, and that locals and visitors alike enjoy a variety of activities and events that celebrate diversity and inclusion.
What’s my take? I think our LGBTQ+ community does have a good presence in town. We are thriving, but like other cities, we have challenges and barriers to overcome.
Being an LGBTQ+ community in a relatively small Appalachian mountain town comes with it’s own challenges.
And at the end of the day, our community is just as diverse as other communities of individuals living in and moving to Asheville.
But I think it’s important to get a little bit more detailed than just accepting the “Top 10” or “Best of” lists.
Here’s some of the information I wish I knew before moving to Asheville.
Is Asheville LGBTQ+-friendly?
Yes. The consensus is that Asheville is LGBTQ+-friendly, and the community here is friendly and welcoming.
However, discrimination still exists. It took me some time to find my place in Asheville. For about a year, I struggled to figure out where my people were.
Thankfully, I found them, but if you’re a single adult moving to Asheville, it’s going to take a little more time. Moving here with a partner would be a lot easier, I think.
What made the biggest difference for me was joining local LGBTQ+-friendly sports and activity groups. This area is huge for outdoor enthusiasts, so if you’re into that stuff, I recommend finding a gay affinity group for hiking, camping, or doing another outdoor activity.
There are also a good number of welcoming groups. If you check out Meetup or Reddit, there are always things going on during the week (pottery, tea dances, yoga).
Are there community organizations for trans people in Asheville?
Yes, there are peer support groups and community organizations for transgender individuals in Asheville.
Tranzmission and Phoenix both have resources for support for nonbinary and transgender people in Western North Carolinas and are committed to supporting and celebrating LGBTQ+diversity and visibility.
How large is Asheville’s LGBTQ+ community?
Though exact numbers are impossible to determine, some experts estimate 10-15% of the Asheville metro area identify as LGBTQ+.
Is there a list of LGBTQ+-owned businesses in Asheville?
Blue Ridge Pride serves as the chamber of commerce for LGBTQ+-owned businesses in Asheville. You can visit their website for a list of businesses.
Are there LGBTQ-friendly activities near Asheville, NC?
Asheville and the surrounding area offer plenty of activities for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies. From outdoor adventures like hiking and whitewater rafting to cultural experiences like visiting the Biltmore Estate and exploring the River Arts District, there’s something for everyone.
The city also hosts a number of LGBTQ+ focused events, including the Blue Ridge Pride Festival and the LGBTQ International Film Festival.
If you’re looking for a queer-friendly bar or brewery, we have those.
What are the best gay neighborhoods in Asheville?
If you ask a gay person in Asheville where the gay neighborhood is, you’ll most likely get the response “We don’t have a gay neighborhood, the whole city is gay friendly.”
I think that’s pretty accurate.
When moving to a new city, obviously one of the single most important factors in creating a special place to call home is how comfortable you feel under your own roof.
If you happen to be gay and in a new city, finding the right type of neighborhood is of the utmost importance.
There are a variety of gay friendly neighborhoods. They range from the historic charm of the Montford neighborhood, to the hip district of West Asheville, to urban condos in Downtown Asheville. Many folks also find a place just outside of Asheville, where you can get a little bit more for your money (not a lot, though).
As I mentioned before, when I moved to Asheville, I wanted to be in an area where a car wasn’t necessary. I landed on West Asheville.
But, I also spent considerable amounts of time looking in South Asheville and North Asheville. I couldn’t stand the drive from South Asheville into the urban core, so West Asheville ended up being the perfect fit for me.
West Asheville and the River Arts District
Because of its proximity to downtown, the hike and bike trail along the river, new restaurants from Asheville’s top chefs, locals bars, and entertainment, more and more LGBTQ+ residents are living in the West Asheville and River Arts District.
Montford – Historic Asheville Homes
Just North of Downtown Asheville and adjacent to UNC Asheville, Montford is home to many of Asheville’s oldest homes. With a mix of turn-of-the-century and mid-century homes, you will find UNC students, professors and creative types living in this area. Coffee shops and restaurants are located through out the neighborhood and make for one of the coziest and embracing communities in Asheville.
Other LGBTQ+-friendly neighborhoods/areas in Asheville
There are dozens of other neighborhoods and areas to consider as well. One of the things I love about Asheville is that there are very few “cookie cutter” neighborhoods. You know, those neighborhoods where houses look like they’ve been copied and pasted a hundred times over.
If you spend some time exploring, you’ll start to notice we do have lots of smaller pocket neighborhoods within larger “catch all” areas, like the Town Mountain road community within North Asheville, or Crest Mountain just West of Asheville. The Kenilworth area including Beaucatcher Heights in East Asheville is another great area to consider.
Are there gay-friendly Lodging / AirBnBs / Hotels Near Asheville, NC?
The best way to get to know any of these areas is to spend some time there. Drive, walk, or bike around them. Visit at different times of the day. What does it feel like? Do you see yourself living there?
I often get asked for recommendations on places to stay during these types of reconnaissance missions. There’s really not a shortage of good options for hotels/AirBnBs/Bed and breakfasts.
If you’re looking for LGBT+ friendly lodging options, here are some of my recommendations: in West Asheville, consider Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins; in Downtown, consider Arras (which also is Arras Condos) or The Foundry; and in North Asheville, consider the Omni Grove Park Inn.
Gay Campgrounds Near Asheville NC
If you’re looking for a unique vacation experience, consider staying at one of the many gay campgrounds near Asheville. Campgrounds like The Woods Campground and Campfire Lodgings offer a range of accommodations, including cabins and tent sites, as well as plenty of activities like hiking, swimming, and campfires.
Gay Bars Near Asheville NC
Asheville has a lively nightlife scene, and there are plenty of gay bars and clubs in the area. Popular spots include Banks, Scandals Nightclub, and O.Henry’s. These bars offer everything from drag shows to karaoke nights.
My favorite queer friendly spaces, however, are not really the “popular spots.”
If you’re looking for the right vibe, check out one of these places on my list of queer friendly bars and breweries in Asheville.
Asheville LGBT Center
The Asheville LGBT Center is a community organization that offers a range of resources and support to LGBT+ individuals and their allies. The center hosts a variety of events, workshops, and support groups, and is a great place to connect with others in the community.
Asheville Gay Men’s Chorus
The Asheville Gay Men’s Chorus is a non-profit organization that provides a safe and supportive space for gay men to express themselves through music. The chorus performs at various events throughout the year, and is a great way to connect with other LGBT+ individuals who share a passion for singing.
Asheville Gay Pride
Asheville Gay Pride is an annual event that celebrates the LGBT+ community in Asheville and the surrounding area. The festival features live music, food vendors, and a variety of activities and events that showcase the diversity and inclusivity of the city’s LGBT+ community.
Gay Sports in Asheville
Asheville is home to several LGBTQ+ sports leagues and organizations, including the Blue Ridge Rollergirls and the Asheville Gay Men’s Bowling League. These groups offer opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals to come together, connect, and have fun through sports and physical activity. Additionally, Asheville has a number of sports and recreation facilities open to all, including the Asheville Racquet Club and the Asheville YMCA.
Gay Bowling in Asheville
If you’re looking for a fun way to meet other LGBT+ individuals, consider joining a gay bowling league in Asheville. The city has several leagues, including the Asheville Rainbow Bowling League and the Asheville Gay Bowling League.
If you’re stopping through or considering relocating here, I’m happy to offer recommendations during your visit. Feel free to reach out to me.