Blue Ridge Parkway#5 in Best Things To Do in Asheville, NC
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The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway begins in Virginia and meanders through about 250 miles of western North Carolina. With a maximum speed of 45 mph, the highway offers drivers numerous opportunities to stop at overlooks, quaint mountain towns and hiking and biking trails. The parkway is divided by milepost markers that increase as you drive farther south.
The headquarters and main visitor center is located in Asheville at milepost 384. There, travelers can learn about the natural and cultural history of the region, as well as the outdoor activities available along the parkway.
Even if you're not up for road trip along the entire parkway, there are several attractions within 20 miles of Asheville worth exploring. Milepost 355.4 is home to Mount Mitchell, the tallest point east of the Mississippi River. Milepost 364.4 is where you'll find Craggy Gardens with an elevation of 5,640 feet. Meanwhile, milepost 382 is home to the Folk Art Center. Driving along the parkway is free, as is entrance to most of its attractions. Keep in mind: Most attractions along the parkway close during the winter and reopen in April or May.
Recent visitors who traveled along the parkway said the views alone make it a must-do when visiting Asheville. For more information on the parkway, as well as the visitor center, visit the National Park Service website.
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This enormous French Renaissance-style estate of George Vanderbilt has a storied past dating back to 1889. Considered America's largest private home, the 250-room estate – with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and a whopping 65 fireplaces – took six years to construct. The 8,000 acres of gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the same landscape architect responsible for Central Park) and feature 2 ½ miles of walking paths.
Amassing 125,000 acres at its peak, 87,000 acres were sold after Vanderbilt's death in 1914 to form what is now the Pisgah National Forest. But its history doesn't stop there: During World War II the estate stored pieces from the National Gallery of Art, and in the 1970s a winery was added. In the 2000s, inns and hotels were opened on the property.
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