Singer, club owner, legendary drag queen and huge personality Cookie LaRue knows Asheville is — believe it or not — more than just "Hippie Town USA." Interested in traveling 130 miles to visit the picturesque, and often-misunderstood, mountain city? Well, you'll never find a better tour guide than Ms. Cookie. Check out her picks for Asheville's most must-see/must-not-see stuff.
Best Places to Shop
"It depends on what you are shopping for. If you need a blender or a lovely pair of acid-washed pleated jeans, go to Goodwill on Patton; and if you are a guy, don't be afraid to try on those lovely (although gently used) size 14 pumps, no one is going to even bother noticing. If you're hungover as fuck -- and really, you are on vacation, so chances are you just might be -- go to Izzy's on Lexington for a kick-ass cup of coffee. And if you suddenly decide you need eyelashes -- and really who doesn't? -- go to Hip Replacements two doors up from Izzy's! The only other thing you could possibly need while in Asheville is a massage or a high colonic. Contact me personally for either of these."
Best Places to Hear Live Music
"OK, I know you want to know about the Orange Peel or the Grey Eagle -- but really, that's where everyone goes. If you hang out in Pack Square (it's the huge phallic monument in the middle of the city) in front of the Noodle Shop, you will hear some amazing music by some of Asheville's most interesting bands: Sirius B, Now You See Them, Mad Tea Party and many more bask on the street, working out new songs or just trying to get rent money. Don't forget to tip."
Best Nightlife Spots
"Tressa's on Broadway is a great mix of every aspect of Asheville: gay, straight, bi, high and drunk. Some of my fondest and foggiest memories may have happened there. But now, well, maybe, I don't know. Live music every night ... [and] if you are dancing with a boy and you ARE a boy or a girl dancing with a girl and you ARE a girl, it won't matter one bit. Truly the best slice of Asheville. If you are there and meet Tressa, ask her to sing 'White Rabbit' and get her to tell you the story of how we allegedly sang it one night at karaoke. One thing to remember: Tressa makes shit up!"
Places to Avoid
"West Asheville. Just in general, maybe have brunch at the Sunny Point (if you can wait two hours for breakfast) but it is the sort of neighborhood that charges $6 for Genesee Cream Ale! 'Working-Class Chic' was ironic before the recession!"
Asheville's Best-Kept Secret
"LaRue's Backdoor! I mean really, it is the sort of place that finds you more than you find it. Word of warning: Since it opened, the door has had a sign that reads 'Asshole Free Zone' -- they mean it."
"Well there is ME, but my final show is slated for July. It may sound crunchy but the Blue Ridge Parkway is really the best part of living in this area. I don't care who the fuck you are, there is no way you can look at these mountains and not somehow be changed somewhere deep in your soul. Really. No bullshit."
• Izzy's Coffee Den: izzyscoffeeden.com
• Tressa's Downtown Jazz and Blues: www.tressasdowntownjazzandblues.com
• Hip Replacements Clothing: www.hipreplacementsclothing.com
• Blue Ridge Parkway: www.blueridgeparkway.org
• Cookeie LaRue: www.myspace.com/misscookielarue