President Obama Heads to Asheville, North Carolina for All-American Vacation

President Obama and his wife head to Asheville, N.C., this weekend for a short vacation that is vastly different from last summer's trip to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts and the Christmas journey to a luxurious vacation rental in his childhood home state of Hawaii.

The city on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains features a funky and eclectic downtown, more than 30 art galleries, a large culinary scene and one of the most spectacular estates ever constructed in this country.

Its location just off the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, which connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with the Shenandoah National Park, makes it a great launching point for tourists looking to hike, bike or go rafting.

VIDEO: Biltmore and Ashville, North Carolina
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For Obama, the city also offers something else: a chance to appeal to everyday families and generate favorable publicity in a potential swing state.

"Asheville has the virtue of being a place where average Americans go on vacations," said Darrell M. West, director of governance studies at the nonprofit Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

"It's not an upper-income place like Martha's Vineyard. And so it's a much safer vacation spot from the standpoint of public perception. Asheville will have more mainstream demographics and political affiliations. It's more of a snapshot of America than Martha's Vineyard."

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Obama got 49.9 percent of the vote in North Carolina in the 2008 presidential election (vs. 49.5 for Sen. John McCain), the first Democrat to win the state in more than three decades. President Bush won the election there by 12 percentage points four years earlier.

Democrats have their sights set on the Tarheel State for 2012 and would love to keep it in their column, a point driven home by the numerous visits in the past 16 months by the president, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden.

But the party faces challenges there within its own base from union members disappointed with three moderate Democratic congressmen who sided with Republicans against Obama's health-care bill. Labor groups have formed a third party and are seeking candidates for the ballot.

Also, unemployment in the state was at 11.1 percent in March, compared to 9.7 percent for the country.

Obama spent a few days in Asheville in October 2008 preparing for the second presidential debate against McCain.

During that trip, he stayed at the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa and is rumored to be staying there again this time. During his last stay, the hotel's grand ballroom was transformed into an exact replica of the debate hall so that the he could better prepare for the debate. This trip is likely to be a bit more relaxed.

48 Hours in Asheville, N.C.

The Obama family has no public schedule for the weekend but here are some suggestions for what they -- or anybody else -- can do with 48 hours in Asheville.

The city of 69,000 residents has more art deco architecture downtown than in any other southeastern city outside Miami. But the real architectural masterpiece is the nearby Biltmore Estate.

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