LGBT Asheville

LGBT Asheville


Asheville is a gay-friendly small city. Period.


According to the latest United States census, the Asheville area has 83% more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) identified people than the typical American city or town. Another study, in 2011, also based on census results, found that Buncombe County (with 15.5 same sex couples per 1,000) and Asheville (19.7 per 1,000) are the most gay-friendly county and city in the state of North Carolina. On a per-capita basis they're well ahead of places like Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro. In 2010, the gay-oriented publication, The Advocate, ranked Asheville as the “12th gayest city in America.” (Atlanta was ranked #1.)


LGBT visitors increasingly are discovering Asheville, with its great natural beauty, innovative dining and drinking gigs, heavy-duty gallery, arts and crafts scene, interesting shops and numerous gay-owned or gay-welcoming B&Bs and inns. You are likely to see a number of openly lesbian and gay couples around town, especially Downtown and in West Asheville.


Asheville also was named one of "10 Great Places to Retire for LGBT People" by in December 2015.


Downtown Asheville has several LGBT bars and clubs, including Scandals, the largest gay and lesbian club in the city, with three dance floors and four bars, O. Henry’s (one of the oldest gay bars in the state). Smokey’s, a well-known gay dive bar, unfortunately had to close in 2015 due to heavy construction going on around its Broadway location. Tressa’s, formerly a mostly lesbian bar, now draws a mix of straight and gay jazz and blues fans. Virtually all Asheville restaurants and bars welcome LGBTQ patrons.


Nearly all the many B&Bs and small inns in the Asheville area are welcoming to gays, and more than a dozen local B&Bs are gay-owned, including Hill House B&B, North Lodge on Oakland, Cedar Crest Inn, Cottage on Town Mountain, Honey Hill Inn & Cabins (in Candler), Compassionate Expressions Mountain Inn (in Leicester), Bittersweet Cottage, 1899 White Gate Inn, 27 Blake Street B&B, ASIA Bed and Spa and others. Note that this is not a complete list, and ownership may change.


Many businesses in Asheville are LGBT-owned. One of the best known is the lesbian-owned Malaprop’s Bookstore, one of the top independent bookstores in the South.


Tammy Hooper, Asheville's first female Chief of Police, is gay. She and her wife live in West Asheville.


Blue Ridge Pride ( is an umbrella organization promoting gay pride. It holds a variety of events and meet-and-greets year-round, including a pride event in October that typically draws more than 10,000 attendees. In July it sponsors a Gay 5K run and “Rainbow Romp” in Carrier Park. GayAsheville ( is an online site and  directory of gay local businesses and activities. The Association of Lesbian Professionals ( brings together Asheville’s lesbian professionals. Asheville QFest ( is Asheville’s LGBT film festival, usually held in October.


Asheville has no one gay residential neighborhood or “gayborhood.” Downtown, Montford, North Asheville and West Asheville are all popular with LGBT residents, but you may just as easily find LGBT couples living in a rural mountain cove.


The City of Asheville has offered domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples since 2011, and Buncombe County began doing so in 2013. Mission Hospital, by far the largest employer in the region, has offered same-sex domestic partner benefits to its employees since 2012.


Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, whose office is responsible for marriage licenses, led the way in granting same-sex marriage licenses for LGBT couples. Reisinger was the first government official in the South to take this action after the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.


In October 2014 Federal U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. in Asheville overturned North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage in a case filed by members of the clergy seeking to marry gay couples.


Of course, in a long-sought victory for the gay rights, in June 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage for residents of all states, including North Carolina. Asheville remains one of the most gay- and lesbian-friendly visitor destinations in the South, if not in the entire country.


All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.

We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.